1719 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Bankes

Giles Jacob, in Poetical Register: or the Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets (1719) 9-11.



This Gentleman was originally a Member of the Society of New Inn. His Genius led him to make several Attempts in Dramatick Poetry, with different Success; but when he had the greatest Encouragement, he was very sensible of his Error in quitting the more profitable Practice of the Law, to pursue the Entertainments of the Stage; tho' he is thus far to be excus'd, that he aspir'd after the Bays in the Golden Age of Poetry in the Reign of King Charles the Second. His Genius lay wholly to Tragedy: His Language is not the best, and his Episodes shew, that he never much studied Aristotle; but in two of his Performances he has gain'd the true End of Tragedy, the moving Terror and Pity; which some, more celebrated Authors, are deficient in. He has seven plays in print, which I insert in their Order of Time.

I. The Rival Kings, or The Loves of OROONDATES and STATIRA; a Tragedy written in Heroick Verse, and Acted at the Theatre Royal, 1677. This Play is Dedicated to the Lady Catherine Herbert; and is chiefly founded on the Romance of Cassandra: As to what relates to Alexander, see Quintus Curtius and Justin.

II. The Destruction of Troy; a Tragedy, Acted at his Royal Highness the Duke of York's Theatre, 1679, and Dedicated to the Right Honourable the Lady Catherine Roos. This Play met with but indifferent Success on the Stage. For the Story consult Homer, Virgil, Dares Phrygius, &c.

III. Virtue Betray'd, or ANNA BULLEN; a Tragedy, Acted at the Duke's Theatre, 1682, and Dedicated to the Illustrious Princess Elizabeth, Dutchess of Somerset. In this Play and the Earl of Essex the Author has had the good Fortune to please the Fair Sex. The Plot is taken from a Book call'd, The Novels of Elizabeth, Queen of England, &c. Speed's Chron. Herbert, Du Chesne, Bp. Burnet's History of the Reform. &c.

IV. The Unhappy Favourite, or The Earl of Essex; a Tragedy, Acted at the Theatre Royal, 1682, Dedicated to the most High and most Illustrious Princess, the Lady Anne, (the late Queen) Daughter to his Royal Highness. This Play was Acted with great Applause, and is so moving, particularly the Scene of the parting of the Earl of Essex and his Dear Friend, that whenever it is represented, the Fair Sex have some Difficulty to refrain from Tears. The Prologue and Epilogue were written by Mr. Dryden: And the Play is founded on The Secret History of the most Renowned Queen Elizabeth, and the Earl of Essex; Camden's Elizabeth, Speed, Du Chesne, Stow, Baker, &c. There are Two French Plays on this Subject.

V. The Island Queens, or The Death of MARY Queen of Scotland; a Tragedy, publish'd in the Year 1684. This Play had the ill Fortune to be denied the Justice of appearing on the Stage; for which Reason it was published by the Author, in Defence of himself and the Piece. The Story is taken from Buchanan, Speed, Camden, Du Chesne, Branton's Memoirs, Causin's Holy Court, &c.

VI. The Innocent Usurper, or The Death of the Lady JANE GRAY; a Tragedy, printed 1694. This Play was likewise prohibited the Stage on account of some mistaken Censures, and groundless Insinuation, that it reflected on the Government. In his Dedication there is a Defence setting forth its being writ Ten Years before; so that it could design no Reflection on the then present Government. And as a certain Author has observ'd, his Defence seems reasonable; and I think him as much in the right when he tells us, that this Tragedy is inferior to none of his former. Mr. Rowe has written a Tragedy likewise on this Subject, which has met with very great Success; but the Story does not seem to be so exactly pursued by him, as by Mr. Banks, tho' his Language is abundantly more beautiful. The Story you may find in our Chronicles.

VII. CYRUS the Great; a Tragedy, Acted at the New Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and Dedicated to her Royal Highness, the Princess Anne of Denmark, 1696. This Play was also refus'd Acting at first, but afterwards it came on, and met with very good Success. The Plot is taken out of Scudery's Romance of Grand Cyrus; and for the true Story of Cyrus you may consult Herodotus, Justin, &c.