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Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718)
had attended Westminster School where 'poetry was his early
bent and darling study.' By 1691, he was at Middle Temple
and five years later, called to the Bar. He was, from all accounts,
'a comely personage, and a very pretty sort of man.'
(Hopkins) He was primarily a dramatist (like the laureates before
him) and his first play was The Ambitious Stepmother (1700), dedicated
to the Earl of Jersey. Another, The Fair Penitent (1703), contains
the memorable line: 'Is this that haughty, gallant, gay Lothario?'
On display is the 5th edition of his Tamerlane, his second play
that was written for William III. Unfortunately the monarch died
at the time it was staged.
Nicholas Rowe, Tamerlane. 5th ed. London: Printed for J. Tonson:
and sold by W. Feales, 1733.
DeB. Eb 1733R
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By 1715, the year Tate died,
Rowe had an impressive list of achievements, which included the
first biography of Shakespeare. Rowe took the oath on 12 August
1715, and eventually produced, as required, the New Year Ode for
1716. Unfortunately, George I was in Hanover when it was first presented.
The accomplished Rowe was not past criticism, even from one like
Thomas Hearne: 'Mr Nic. Rowe is made poet laureate in the
room of Mr Tate, deceased. This Rowe is a great Whig, and but a
'The Remains of Thomas Hearne: Reliquiae Hearnianae. London:
Centaur Press, 1966.
Cen. DA 93 H4 A3
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By the 1700s, the post of poet
laureate was newsworthy. As Rowe lay dying, the newspapers recorded
his condition: 'Nicholas Rowe, Esq., Poet-Laureat to his Majesty,
and Surveyor of the Land Waiters, lies so dangerously ill at his
House on Covent Garden that his Life is despair'd of.'
(The Weekly Journal, 8 November 1718.) He died on 6 December, aged
44 and was buried at Westminster Abbey. He had lasted three years
in the job. In the frontispiece to his Poems, he is not only suitably
'laureated', but also connected to the older poetic
tradition of the past by the presence of Homer and Virgil. His pointing
reminds us so.
Nicholas Rowe, Poems on Several Occasions. 3rd ed. London: Printed
for E. Curll, 1714.
DeB. Eb 1714 R