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OR, THE DEATH OF
BY NATHANIEL LEE.
AS PERFORMED AT THE THEATRES ROYAL, DRURY LANE AND COVENT GARDEN
PRINTED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE MANAGERS
FROM THE PROMPT Book.
BY MRS, INCHBALD.
PRINTED FOR LONG MAN, HURST, REEs, or ME, AND BRown
Nathaniel Lee, the author of this tragedy, was the son of Dr. Lee, minister of Hatfield. He received his early education under Busby at Westminster School, and was afterwards a student at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Disappointed in some hopes which he had formed upon the munificence of King Charles the Second, he turned his thoughts towards the stage for his support, and ventured his abilities as a performer. Discouraged in this attempt, yet enthralled by the charms of a theatre, he encountered the perils of a dramatist, and was successful.
Cibber has mentioned, with wonder, the talents which Lee discovered in reading, as he was wholly destitute of eloquence in public speaking. He was so excellent a reader of his own plays at the rehearsals, Cibber says, that the very first actors have thrown down their parts, in despair of giving equal force or pathos in performing them ; yet, as an actor, he had neither the one requisite nor the other. To persons well acquainted with theatrical qualifications, there is nothing wonderful in this intelligence.
The relater of it himself must have known, from long experience, that many a fine reader cannot act; and that many a fine actor cannot read. This observation, of course, applies to a superlative degree of excellence in either art.
Amongst all the plays which this author produced, “The Rival Queens, or Alexander the Great," has been, and still remains, the most popular: there is popularity even in its high sounding title! nor do these outside words give an unsuitable specimen of those which are contained within.
This tragedy is calculated for representation, ra. ther than the amusement of the closet;-for, though it is graced with some beautiful poetry, it is likewise deformed by an extravagance, both in thought and in language, that at times verges upon the ludicrous. Actors, eminent in their art, know how to temper those failings in a tragic author: they give rapidity to their utterance in the mock sublime, and lengthen their cadence upon every poetic beauty,
Lee and Dryden sometimes united their labours in the production of a drama. This play, and “All for Love, were written by each separately, and yet there is a near resemblance of the one to the other, —The characters and events are historical in both; and Clytus in this, and Ventidius in that, play, form such an equal contrast to the tragic scenes, that it appears the two poets thought alike, though they wrote asunder.