1699 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Bankes

Charles Gildon, in Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets (1699) 6-7.



This Author is now living, and was once a Member of the worthy Society of New-Inn; who quitted the more profitable Practice of the Law, for some Years, in pursuit of the Bays, till Experience convinc'd him of his Error, and that the ingrateful Stage, like other Friends we often esteem, forgets the Obligations it has to one. And tho' of late he has given us a Cyrus, yet it was writ some Years ago, he wholly applying himself to a more gainful employ. If the Golden Age of Poetry carried him from that in the Luxurious Reign of Charles II. when more People run Mad after the Muses than even now; the Iron Age that soon ensu'd, recall'd him from so fruitless a Pursuit. Tho' by his Episodes, being generally inartificial, we may conclude he has not much studied Aristotle, and the Art of the Stage, yet in Two of his Plays he has gain'd the true End of Tragedy, the moving Terror and Pity, which many more celebrated Authors are so far from, that they seem never to have aim'd at it: And this indeed makes some Amends for the Defects of Language, in which he seems to me very faulty. He has Seven Plays in Print, of which the Alphabetical Order brings the last first.

Cyrus the Great, a Tragedy, Acted at the New Theatre in Lincolns-Inn-Fields, Dedicated to her Royal Highness the Princess Ann of Denmark, 4to. 1696. The Plot of this Play is taken out of Scudery's Romance of the Grand Cyrus, and for the true Story of Cyrus, you may consult Herodotus, Justin, Xenophon's Cyropaideia, &c. Tho' this Play had been formerly refus'd the Action, yet it held up its Head about Six Days together, and has been since Acted several Times.

Destruction of Troy, a Tragedy, Acted at his Royal Highness the Duke's Theatre. London, Printed 4to. 1679. and dedicated to the Right Honourable the Lady Katharine Roos: This Play wanted the Success the Poet desired on the Stage. For the Story you may read Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Dares Phrygius, Dictys Cretensis, &c.

The Innocent Usurper, or the Death of the Lady Jane Gray, a Tragedy, 4to. London, Printed 1694. and dedicated to Mr. Bently the Bookseller that Publish'd it, in which he complains of the mistaken Cause of its Prohibition of the Stage, appealing from the false Insinuations of his Enemies, to Mr. Bently's Knowledge of its being writ Ten Years before, so that he could design no Reflection on the present Government. His Defense 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, and that he's confident it wou'd move the Ladies Tears. He assures us, he has nicely follow'd the Truth of the Story, which you may find in our Chronicles. This Play I look on to be much better than any of the late Tragedies; tho' in his Metaphors, he seems not to 've consulted that Justness which the Rules of good Rhetorick requires; but like all other human Performances, as it has its Beauties, it has also its Faults, but not enough of the later to over-ballance the former.

The Island Queen, or the Death of Mary Queen of Scotland, 4to. 1684. This Play too had the ill fortune to be denyed the Justice of appearing on the Stage, but Published by the Author in defence of himself and the piece. The Story you may read in Buchanan, Speed, Camden, Du Chesne, Brantons's Memoirs, Causon's Holy Court, &c.

Rival Kings, or the Loves of Oroondates and Statira a Tragedy, 4to. Acted at the Theatre Royal, 1677. Dedicated to the Lady Catharine Herbert. For the Plot consult the Romance of Cassandra, Quintus Curtius, and Justin.

Virtue Betray'd, or Anna Bullen, a Tragedy, Acted at his Royal Highness the Duke's Theatre, 4to. Lon. Printed 1682. Dedicated to the illustrious Princess, Elizabeth Dutchess of Somerset; for the Plot consult a Book call'd, The Novels of Elizabeth Queen of England, &c. Speed, Herbert, Du Chesne, Dr. Burnet's History of the Reformation, &c.

Unhappy Favourite, or the Earl of Essex, a Tragedy, Acted at the Theatre Royal by their Majesties Servants, 4to. Lon. 1682. Dedicated to the most High and most Illustrious Princess, the Lady, Ann, Daughter to his Royal Highness. This has always been Acted with Success, and never fail'd to draw Tears from the Eyes of the fair Sex. For the Story, see the Novel call'd, The Secret History of the most Renowned Queen Elizabeth, and the Earl of Essex. Camden's Elizabeth, Speed, Du Chesne, Stow, Baker, &c.