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is a skilful piece of painting from the life, and very probably from the author. In Jaffier we have a vivid portrait of the man who is entirely governed by the affections, and who sways from ardent resolution to a weakness hardly distinguishable from treachery, as friendship and love alternately incline him. The little we know of Otway warrants the impression that he was such a man, and assuredly he could not have excited such warm interest in a character so feeble in his offence, so abject in his repentance, and in general so perilously verging on the despicable, without a keen sympathy with the subject of his portrait. Tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner. Pierre, though an imposing figure, is much less subtly painted than his friend ; and Belvidera, her husband's evil genius, interests only through her sorrows. The despicable scenes of low farce' which eke the drama out, are a grievous blot upon it. M. Taine may be right in deeming some comic relief allowable, but such trash is neither relief nor comedy. The language of the serious portion of the play, however, is in general dignified and tragic. Perhaps the best conducted, as it is the best known, is that in which Pierre spurns the remorseful Jaffier :
• Jaff. I must be heard, I must have leave to speak.
Pier. What whining monk art thou ? what holy cheat,
Dissemble and be nasty: leave me, hypocrite.
Jaff. Not know me, Pierre ?
No, know thee not : what art thou ? Jaff. Jaffier, thy friend, thy once loved, valued friend, Though now deservedly scorned, and used most hardly.
Pier. Thou Jaffier! thou my once loved, valued friend ?
Jaff. I have not wronged thee, by these tears I have not,
Pier. Hast thou not wronged me? Dar'st thou call thyself
Jaff. All's true, yet grant one thing, and I've done asking.
To take thy life on such conditions
Pier. Life! ask my life ? confess ! record myself
To lose it, may be, at last in a lewd quarrel
Jaff. By all that's just-
Swear by some other powers,
Jaff. Then, by that hell I merit, I'll not leave thee,
Pier. Not leave me!
No; thou shalt not force me from thee.
Pier. Art thou not-
A traitor ? Jaff
A villain ? Jaff. Granted. Pier.
A coward, a most scandalous coward, Spiritless, void of honour, one who has sold Thy everlasting fame for shameless life ? Jaff. All, all, and more, much more: my fanlts are number
No; 'tis to me that's granted.
Pier. I scorn it more, because preserved by thee :
Relieved thy wants, and raised thee from thy state
Jaff. Say thou wilt live then.
For my life, dispose it
Jaff. O Pierre!
My eyes won't lose the sight of thee, But languish after thine, and ache with gazing. Pier. Leave me.—Nay, then thus, thus I throw thee from
me, And curses, great as is thy falsehood, catch thee!'
The only tragic dramatist of the age, Nathaniel Lee
after Dryden and Otway, who had any pre(1653-1691).
tension to rank as a poet, was Nathaniel Lee, and his claims are not very high. Notwithstanding his absurd rants, however, there are fire and passion in his verse which lift him out of the class of mere playwrights. After receiving a Cambridge education, Lee came up to town to seek his fortune. Thrown on the world, it is said, by the failure of the Duke of Ormond to redeem his promises of patronage, Lee became an actor, but obtained no success, although celebrated for the beauty of his elocution as a dramatic reader. The transition from actor to author was easy. Lee produced three bad rhyming plays in the taste of the time, and in 1677 did himself more justice in The Rival Queens, a tragedy on the history of Alexander the Great, which kept the stage for nearly a century and a half. Mithridates (1678) was also successful, and Dryden thought sufficiently well of Lee to combine with him in the production of an Edipus, which continued to be acted until 1778, when the situation, rather than the diction, was found unendurable. Kemble wished to revive it so late as 1802, but was prevented by the reluctance of Mrs. Siddons. It is true that on a modern stage the piece must want the religious consecration which accompanied it on the Greek. Lee wrote on, enjoying the notoriety of the prohibition by authority of his Lucius Junius Brutus, in which allusions, merely imaginary, to the vices of Charles II., were discovered by the Court, and regaining his lost favour by the tragedy of The Duke of Guise (1682), a play full of political allusions, in which also Dryden had a hand. In 1684 he was disabled by an attack of insanity, brought on, it is alleged, by his intemperate habits; and although he recovered sufficiently to be released from confinement, he wrote no more, his last two published plays being compositions of an earlier date. He died miserably in returning from the tavern on a winter's night, fallen down and stifled in the snow.
That Lee was a poet, a passage quoted by Mr. Saintsbury would prove, had he written nothing else : ,
• Thou coward ! yet
Which day and night are still unbarred for all?' A variation of this thought in Lee's Theodosius might well have inspired Beckford with the conception of his Hall of Eblis, nor would it be difficult to find other impressive passages. Lee's rants of mere sound and fury are unfor.