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THOMAS OTWAY (1652-1685)

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Originally appearing in Volume V20, Page 377 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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THOMAS OTWAY (1652-1685), English dramatist, was born at Trotton, near Midhurst, Sussex, on the 3rd of March 1652. His father, Humphrey Otway, was at that time curate of Trotton, but Otway's childhood was spent at Woolbeding, a parish 3 M. distant, of which his father had become rector. He was educated at Winchester College, and in 1669 entered Christ Church, Oxford, as a commoner, but left the university without a degree in the autumn of 1672. At Oxford he made the acquaintance of Anthony Cary, 5th viscount Falkland, through whom, he says in the dedication to Caius Marius, he first learned to love books. In London he made acquaintance with Mrs Aphra Behn, who in 1672 cast him for the part of the old king in her Forc'd Marriage, or The Jealous Bridegroom, at the Dorset Garden Theatre, but he had a bad attack of stage fright, and never made a second appearance. In 1675 Thomas Betterton produced at the same theatre Otway's first dramatic attempt, Alcibiades, which was printed in the same year. It is a poor tragedy, written in heroic verse, but was saved from absolute failure by the actors. Mrs Barry took the part of Draxilla, and her lover, the earl of Rochester, recommended the author of the piece to the notice of the duke of York. He made a great advance on this first work in Don Carlos, Prince of Spain (licensed June 15, 1676; an undated edition probably belongs to the same year). The material for this rhymed tragedy Otway took from the novel of the same name, written in 1672 by the Abbe de Saint-Real, the source from which Schiller also drew his tragedy of Don Carlos. In it the two characters familiar throughout his plays make their appearance. Don Carlos is the impetuous, unstable youth, who seems to be drawn from Otway himself, while the queen's part is the gentle pathetic character repeated in his more celebrated heroines, Monimia and Belvidera. " It got more money," says John Downes (Roscius Anglicanus, 1708) of this play, " than any preceding modern tragedy." In 1677 Betterton produced two adaptations from the French by Otway, Titus and Berenice (from Racine's Berenice), and the Cheats of Sea pin (from Moliere's Fourberies de Scapin). These were printed together, with a dedication to Lord Rochester. In 1678 he Duc (Diet. de l'architecture) gives a diagram of such an oubliette produced an original comedy, Friendship in Fashion, popular at at the castle of Pierrefonds, France. Many so-called " oublithe moment, though it was hissed off the stage for its gross I ettes " in medieval castles were probably outlets for the disposal indecency when it was revived at Drury Lane in 1749. Mean- of drainage, refuse, &c., which at times may have served for the while he had conceived an overwhelming passion for Mrs Barry, getting rid of prisoners. who filled many of the leading parts in his plays. Six of his OUCH, a brooch, clasp or buckle, especially one ornamented letters to her survive, the last of them referring to a broken with jewels, enamels, &c., and used to clasp a cope or other appointment in the Mall. Mrs Barry seems to have coquetted ecclesiastical vestment. It is also used, as in Exod. xxxix. 6, of with Otway, but she had no intention of permanently offending the gold or silver setting of jewels. The word is an example of the Rochester. In 1678, driven to desperation by Mrs Barry, misdivision of a substantive and the indefinite article, being Otway obtained a commission through Charles, earl of Plymouth, properly " nouche," " a nouche " being divided into " an ouche," a natural son of Charles II., in a regiment serving in the Nether- as a napron into an apron, a nadder into an adder, and, reversely, lands. The English troops were disbanded in 1679, but were an ewt, i.e. eft, into a newt. " Nouche " was adapted into O. Fr., left to find their way home as best they could. They were also whence English took the word, from the Late Lat. nusca, brooch; paid with depreciated paper, and Otway arrived in London late probably the original is Celtic, cf. O. Irish nasc, ring, nasgaim, in the year, ragged and dirty, a circumstance utilized by Rochester fasten. in his " Sessions of the Poets," which contains a scurrilous attack OUDENARDE (Flemish Oudenaerde), a town of Belgium in on his former protege. Early in the next year (February 168o) the province of East Flanders, 18 m. S. of Ghent. Pop. (1004) was produced at Dorset Garden the first of Otway's two tragic 6572. While it is best known for the great victory gained by masterpieces, The Orphan, or The Unhappy Marriage, Mrs Barry Marlborough and Eugene over the French under Vendome in 1708, playing the part of Monimia. Written in blank verse, which Oudenarde has many features of interest. The town hall, which shows a study of Shakespeare, its success was due to the tragic took ten. years to build (1525–1535), has after that of Louvain pathos, of which Otway was a master, in the characters of Castalio the most elaborately decorated facade in Belgium. It was and Monimia. The History and Fall of Caius Marius, produced in designed by H. van Peede and G. de Ronde, and is in tertiary the same year, and printed in 1692, is a curious grafting of Shake- Gothic style. The belfry tower of five storeys with three terraces, speare's Romeo and Juliet on the story of Marius as related in surmounted by a golden figure, is a striking feature. The council Plutarch's Lives. In 168o Otway also published The Poet's chamber contains a fine oak door and Gothic chimney-piece, Complaint of his Muse, or A Satyr against Libells, in which both c. 1530. There are also two interesting old churches, St he retaliated on his literary enemies. An indifferent comedy, Walburga, partly of the 12th and partly of the 14th century, The Soldier's Fortune (1681), was followed in February 1682 by and Notre Dame, dating from the 13th century. The former Venice Preserved, or A Plot Discover'd. The story is founded on contains several fine pictures by Craeyer and other old Flemish the Histoire de la conjuration des Espagnois contre la Venise en masters. 7678, by the Abbe de Saint-Real, but Otway modified the story The Battle of Oudenarde (June 3oth–July 11th 1708) was fought considerably. The character of Belvidera is his own, and the on the ground north-west and north of the town, which was then leading part in the conspiracy, taken by Bedamor, the Spanish regularly fortified and was garrisoned by a force of the Allies. ambassador, is given in the play to the historically insignificant The French army under the duke of Burgundy and Marshal Pierre and Jaffier. The piece has a political meaning, enforced Vendome, after an abortive attempt to invest Oudenarde, took in the prologue. The Popish Plot was in Otway's mind, and up a defensive position north of the town when Marlborough Anthony, 1st earl of Shaftesbury, is caricatured in Antonio. and Eugene, after a forced march, arrived with the main Allied The play won instant success. It was translated into almost every army. The advanced guard of the Allies under General (Lord) modern European language, and even Dryden said of it: Cadogan promptly crossed the Scheldt and annihilated an out-" Nature is there, which is the greatest beauty." The Orphan lying body of French troops, and Cadogan established himself and Venice Preserved remained stock pieces on the stage until on the ground he had won in front of the French centre. But the 19th century, and the leading actresses of the period played the Allied main army took a long time to defile over the Scheldt Monimia and Belvidera. One or two prefaces, another weak and could form up (on the left of Cadogan's detachment) only comedy, The Atheist (1684), and two posthumous pieces, a poem, slowly and by degrees. Observing this, Burgundy resolved to Windsor Castle (1685), a panegyric of Charles II., and a throw forward his right towards Oudenarde to engage and hold History of the Triumvirates (1686), translated from the French, , the main body of the Allies before their line of battle could be complete the list of Otway's works. He apparently ceased to formed. This effected, it was hoped that the remainder of the struggle against his poverty and misfortunes. The generally French army could isolate and destroy Cadogan's detachment, accepted story regarding the manner of his death was first given which was already closely engaged with the French centre. in Theophilus Cibber's Lives of the Poets. He is said to have But he miscalculated both the endurance of Cadogan's men emerged from his retreat at the Bull on Tower Hill to beg (amongst whom the Prussians were conspicuous for their tenacity) for bread. A passer-by, learning who he was, gave him a f and the rapidity with which in Marlborough's and Eugene's guinea, with which Otway hastened to a baker's shop. He began hands the wearied troops of the Allies could be made to move. too hastily to satisfy his ravenous hunger, and choked with the Marlborough, who personally directed the operations . on his first mouthful. Whether this account of his death be true or not, left wing, not only formed his line of battle successfully, but also it is certain that he died in the utmost poverty, and was buried on began seriously to press the forces that had been sent to check the 16th of April 1685 in the churchyard of St Clement Danes. his deployment, Before long, while the hostile left wing still A tragedy entitled Heroick Friendship was printed in 1686 as remained inactive, the unfortunate troops of the French centre Otway's work, but the ascription is unlikely. and right were gradually hemmed in by the whole force of the The Works of Mr Thomas Otway with some account of his life and Allies. The decisive blow was delivered by the Dutch marshal, writings, published in 1712, was followed by other editions (1757, Overkirk, who was sent by Marlborough with a large force (the 1768, 1812). The standard edition is that by T. Thornton (1813)• last reserve of the Allies) to make a wide turning movement A selection of his plays was edited for the Mermaid series (1891 and 1903) by Roden Noel. See also E. Gosse, Seventeenth Century round the extreme right of the French, and at the proper time Studies 1883) ; and Genest, History of the Stage. attacked them in rear. A belated attempt of the French left
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