University of Otago

"£100 & a butt of sack yearly"

The Office of the Poet Laureate
Eusden & Cibber
Austin & Bridges
Lewis & Betjeman
Hughes & Motion
Refusals & Rejects

Nicholas Rowe

Nicholas Rowe, Tamerlane, 5th ed.

View large (179 Kb)

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

The Remains of Thomas Hearne: Reliquiae Hernianae.

View large (683 Kb)

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 mean poet.'

'The Remains of Thomas Hearne: Reliquiae Hearnianae. London: Centaur Press, 1966.
Cen. DA 93 H4 A3

Nicholas Rowe, Poems on Several  Occasions. 3rd ed.

View large (200 Kb)

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

« Previous | Next »