1719 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Nathaniel Lee

Giles Jacob, in Poetical Register: or the Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets (1719) 160.



An eminent Poet, the Son of a Clergy-Man, was educated at Westminster School under Dr. Busby, from whence he went to Trinity-College in the University of Cambridge. He writ Eleven Plays, and has shewn a Master-piece in LUCIUS JUNIUS BRUTUS, which scarce any of his Contemporaries equall'd, and none has excell'd. In his MITHRIDATES and THEODOSIUS, the Love Scenes are extremely moving. His Plays are as follow.

I. NERO Emperor of Rome; a Tragedy, acted at the Theatre Royal, 1675. Dedicated to the Earl of Rochester. This Play is writ in a mixt Stile, Prose, Rhime and Blank Verse. For the Plot consult Nero's Life in Suetonius, Aurelius Victor, Tacitus, &c.

II. SOPHONISBA, or HANIBAL'S Overthrow; a Tragedy, acted at the Theatre Royal, 1676. Dedicated to the Dutchess of Portsmouth. Plot from Sir Walter Raleigh's Hist. of the World, Livy, Florus, Appian, Diodorus, Polybius, Justin, &c.

III. GLORIANA, the Court of AUGUSTUS CAESAR; a Tragedy, acted at the Theatre Royal, 1676. Dedicated likewise to the Dutchess of Portsmouth. The Story you may find in Cleopatra, Part I. Book 3. Part V. Book 3, &c. under the Characters of Caesario, Marcellus and Julia.

IV. The Rival Queens, or The Death of ALEXANDER the Great; a Tragedy, acted at the Theatre Royal, 1677. Dedicated to the Earl of Mulgrave. This Play was acted with very great Applause, and was allow'd by Mr. Dryden, in a Copy of Verses prefix'd to it, to be a Master-piece. The Plot is taken from Quint. Curtius, Plutarch's Life of Alexander the Great, Justin, Josephus, &c.

V. MITHRIDATES King of Pontus; a Tragedy, acted at the Theatre Royal, 1678. Dedicated to the Earl of Dorset and Middlesex. This Play was acted with general Approbation: It is founded on History, as Appian of Alexand. Roman Hist. Flours, Vell. Paterculus, and Plutarch in the Lives of Scylla, Lucullus, Pompey, &c.

VI. THEODOSIUS, or The Force of Love; a Tragedy, acted at the Duke of York's Theatre, 1680, with great Applause. Dedicated to the Dutchess of Richmond. The Plot is taken from Pharmond a Romance, Euseb, Hist. Ecclesiasticua, Varenius, Martian and Theodosius.

VII. CAESAR BORGIA; a Tragedy, acted at the Duke of York's Theatre, 1680. Dedicated to the Earl of Pembroke. See Guicciardine, lib. 5, 6. Mariana, lib. 27, 28. Sir Paul Ricaut's Lives of the Popes, in the Reign of Alexander VI.

VIII. LUCIUS JUNIUS BRUTUS, Father of his Country; a Tragedy, acted at the Duke's Theatre, 1681, with great Applause. Dedicated to the Earl of Dorset and Middlesex. For the Story see Junius Brutus, in Clelia, a Romance, Part II. Book 1. and Part III. Book 1. And for the original History, consult Florus, Livy, Dionysius, Hallicarnass. Eutropius, Orosius, &c.

IX. CONSTANTINE the Great; a Tragedy, acted at the Theatre Royal, 1684. The Plot from Euseb. de Vita Constantin. Socrates, Zonarus, Eutropius, Baronius, Ammianus Marcellinus, &c.

X. The Princess of Cleve; a Tragi-Comedy, acted at the Queen's Theatre in Dorset-Garden, 1689. Dedicated to the Earl of Dorset and Middlesex. This Play is founded on a Romance of the same Title.

XI. The Massacre at Paris; a Tragedy, acted at the Theatre Royal, 1690. For the Story see Thuanus, Pierre, Mathieu, Davila, Mezaray, &c. in the Reign of Charles IX.

Mr. Lee likewise join'd with Mr. Dryden in two of his Plays, viz. The Duke of Guise, and OEDIPUS.

This unfortunate Gentleman was under Confinement some Years in Bedlam; but at length obtaining his Liberty, died in the Street in one of his Night-Rambles: And as Mr. Langbain observes, his Lunacy exceeded that of the Divine Fury, mention'd by Ovid, and which oftentimes accompanies the best Poets: "Est Deus in nobis, agitante calescimus illo."

The following Description of Madness in his CAESAR BORGIA is inimitable,

To my charm'd Ears no more of Woman tell,
Name not a Woman, and I shall be well:
Like a poor Lunatick, that makes his Moan,
And for a while beguiles his Lookers on;
He Reasons well, his Eyes their Wildness lose,
He vows the Keepers his wrong'd Sense abuse:
But if you hit the Cause that hurt his Brain,
Then his Teeth gnash, he foams, he shakes his Chain,
His Eye-Balls rowl, and he is Mad again.