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count of the productions by which the name of Aphara Behn is entitled to a rank in English literature. No considerable labour of criticism is required to do justice to the task; for the interest of this article, and the modern reputability of the authoress, will be answered by little more than an enumeration of the nature and titles of her works. She is chiefly to be known then, for a paraplırase of the celebrated letters between a nobleman and his sister-in-law, (Lord Gray and the Lady Henrietta Berkeley); for a couple of volumes published in twelves, and consisting of minor histories and novels ; for three volumes of miscellaneous poetry composed by the Earl of Rochester, Sir George Etherege, Henry Crisp, and herself. The first of these latter volumes appeared in 1684, the second in 1685, and the third in 1688; the contents of the whole are principally composed of songs, and pieces light and short, as those effusions usually are. The most bulky portion of her works consists of her plays, seventeen in number, which have been long dead to the stage, and are most remarkable for a display of passion, even to licentiousness, such as few would expect from her sex, and no second age ever tolerated in this country. The majority were successful, but a further detraction from their merit is to be noticed, in the arrant plagiarisms with which they abound; for not only whole plots but particular passages of energy, wherever they suit her wants, are freely taken from other writers. These liberties some eulogists have been at the pains of trying to excuse, by representing that she borrowed less from any stinted resources of her own imagination, than from the urgency with which, in general, she was necessitated to produce; but even this, when taken for truth, in no respect lessens the wrong done, and only goes to show, that one who might have essayed better, was too remiss for the trial.
The following list of titles distinguishes styles and order of publication :- The Amorous Prince, or Curious Husband,' a comedy, founded on the story of the ‘Curious Impertinent’in Don Quixote, acted at the Duke's Theatre, and printed in 4to. 1671. “The Forced Marriage, or Jealous Bridegroom,' acted at the Duke's Theatre, and printed in 4to. 1671. Abdelaza, or the Moor's Revenge,'a tragedy; taken from “Marlowe's Lust's Dominion,'acted at the Duke's Theatre, and printed in 1671. "The Dutch Lover,' a comedy, founded on a Spanish novel, called “Dor Jenise,' by Coveras, acted at the Duke's Theatre, and printed in 4to. 1673. "The Rover, or the Spanish Cavalier,' a comedy, in two parts, the first printed in 4to. 1677, and the second in the same size, 1681: it was acted at the Duke's Theatre, and is in a great degree borrowed from Killigrew's ‘Don Thomaso.” The Town Fop,'or Sir Timothy Tawdry,' a comedy, after the “ Miseries of Enforced Marriage,' by George Wilkins, acted at the Duke's Theatre, and printed in 4to. 1677. "Sir Patient Fancy,' a comedy, taken from Moliere's • Malade Imaginaire,' acted at the Duke's Theatre, and printed in 4to. 1678. "The Feigned Courtezan, or a Night's Intrigue,' a comedy, very appropriately dedicated to Nell Gwynn, the favourite mistress of Charles II. and considered the best of the series ; it was acted at the Duke's Theatre, and printed in 4to. 1679. * The Roundheads, or the Good Old Cause,' a comedy, adapted from John Tatum’s ‘Rump, or Mirror of the Times;' acted at the Duke's Theatre, and printed with a dedication to the Duke of Grafton, in 4to. 1682. - The City Heiress, or Sir Timothy Treatall,' a comedy, taken from Middleton's “Mad World," and Massinger's “Guardians'; it was acted with applause at the Duke's Theatre, and printed with a dedication to the Earl of Arundell, in 4to. 1682. "The False Count, or a New Way to play an Old Game,' a comedy, taken from Moliere's Precienses Ridicules ;' acted at the Duke's Theatre, and printed in 4to. 1682. "The Young King, or the Mistake,' a tragi-comedy, taken from the story of Alcnenes and Menalippa, in Calprenede's Cleopatra, and dedicated to a friend under the name of Philaster; acted at the Duke's Theatre, and printed in 4to. 1683. "The Lucky Chance, or the Alderman's Bargain,' a comedy, dedicated to the Earl of Rochester, and very unfavourably received ; acted by the King's company, and printed in 4to. 1687. "The Emperor of the Moon,' a farce, originally from the Italian, but thus translated from a French version, entitled “Harlequin, Empereur dans le monde de la Lune;' acted at the Queen's Theatre, and printed with a dedication to the Marquis of Worcester, in 4to. 1687. The catalogue closes with the Widow Ranter,' a tragi-comedy; and the “Younger Brother, or Amorous Jilt,' a comedy; both posthumous publications, edited in the year 1790.
To the particulars already given, nothing more is known of the life or actions of Aphara Behn beyond the belief, that the letters to
Lycidas, inserted in her Memoirs, were addressed to no fictitious character, in which case her passion must have been as hapless as it was strong. Her last illness was protracted and painful, and terminated in death on the 16th April, 1689; as the date of her birth is not preserved, so the extent of her age cannot be calcul'ated. She was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey, and the spot was marked by a plain stone of black marble, on which appeared this doggerel truism and bombast, by way of epitaph :
Here lies a proof that wit can never be
The complimentary testimony borne by Dryden and Southerne to the talents of Aphara Behn, has been already mentioned ; but she has received other tributes from her literary cotemporaries, which, if not as high in authority, are yet higher in amount. Of these, Charles Cotton may be mentioned first, and after him Langbaine, who writes, in false prophecy, that her name must long be cherished among the lovers of the drama. Gildon, her publisher, who lived in habits of great intimacy with her, is far more particular and encomiastic.' He describes her as strong of mind, and so commanding her faculties, that she used to write in the midst of company, and at the same time share in the conversation. Though in her temper choleric, yet friendly, and incapable of wilful injury; witty, yet good-natured; honourable in her actions, and in sentiment frank'; and though gayer than allowed by the strict, yet always tender of the rules of modesty.
Exhibiting this character to the world, who can avoid regretting that her private life should be marked with incidents, and her writings with passages, which neutralize and disfigure a paragon.
Thomas BETTERTON, actor and author, and the Roscius of his age, was the son of an under-cook in the household of Charles I. and born in Tothill-street, Westminster, during the year 1635. Early instructed in the rudiments of polite letters, he evinced such a passion for reading, that his parents determined to educate him for one of the liberal professions ; but being reduced in fortune by the wreck of their master's royalty, they were necessitated to content the literary ambition of young Thomas with an apprenticeship to a bookseller. This man's name was Rhodes; he kept his shop at Charing-cross, and by publishing for Sir William Davenant, obtained something of a dramatic connexion, and the place of wardrobe-keeper at the theatre in Blackfriars. To this subsidiary employment of the bookseller, Betterton owed his first acquaintance with the stage ; but we are possessed of no particulars which show either the rise or the developement of his histrionic attempts; though we are told, that while yet a boy, he was encouraged by the praises of Sir William Davenant.
When the spirit of the times changed with the government of the unfortunate Charles, the glory which encircled the stage during the reigns of Elizabeth and James, set into a long night of inactivity and persecution. At the outset of the battle between the royalists and presbyterians, almost all the actors who were not disabled by the infirmities of age, followed the buoyant impulse of their profession; and highly to their honour, took up arms with the monarch, in whose service they had so often exercised the arts of war in its least afflicting guise. Of those who survived the slaughter of that terrible period, the fortune was decided by the fate of the contest. The morose insanity of Puritanism shut up the play-houses, and ascetically denounced all scenic representations as so many deadly sins. One attempt, in
deed, to preserve the drama, was made during the winter of 1648, at the Cock-pit in Drury Lane; but the performer was soon interrupted by the preacher, and the company marched off to jail by a file of soldiers. Some few actors also contrived to hang together under the connivance of the commanding officer at Whitehall; and now and again an entertainment to divert the public was tolerated at the Red Bull in St. John's Street, Smithfield; but with these raw exceptions, the natural wit of the cause was persecuted into an ague of fears, and languished in the last hectics of dissolution.
Auspiciously, however, for the lovers of the drama, those signs in the times which facilitated the restoration of royalty, also served to inspire hopes for the resuscitation of the Comic Muse; so that when General Monk assembled his army in Scotland, and began to march for London, the retainers of the theatre ventured to group themselves together; and in the year 1659, Rhodes, the bookseller already mentioned, revived the playhouse in its proper state at the Cock-pit in Drury Lane. Foremost in the list of his performers ranked his apprentices Betterton and Kynaston, who were soon after invited to place themselves under a more promising management, when the Crown patents for acting were once more regularly issued, and the performers formally sworn in as the King's servants. Two companies were thus established; the one styled the King's, which removed from the Red Bull to the Tennis Court, near Clare-market; and the other distinguished as the Duke of York's, which from the Cock-pit fixed itself in a new house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, during the year 1662. Killigrew, the notorious caterer for the follies and vices of his sovereign, had the former licence, and Sir William Davenant, by virtue of an old promise, the latter : Betterton's talents in these changes became the Knight's property.
The performances in Lincoln's Inn Fields recommenced with Davenant's comedy, in two parts, of the Siege of Rhodes,' in which Betterton acquitted himself with so much talent and effect, that he grew rapidly in public favour, and was even personally noticed by the King. Such was the progress of his reputation, that he was soon after thought worthy of being selected by Charles as the fittest person to visit Paris, and after a judicious view of the French stage, model such improvements on our own boards