Nicholas Rowe was born in the house of his mother’s father at Little Barford, Bedfordshire, in 1674. His father’s family settled at Lamerton, Devonshire, and one of his ancestors is said to have been distinguished as a Crusader. His father was a London barrister of the Middle Temple and a sergeant-at-law.
After attending a private school at Highgate, Rowe was in 1688 elected a king’s scholar at Westminster. Not long afterward, he was removed and entered as a student at the Middle Temple. The law, however, proved to be uncongenial. From his youth, Rowe had read widely in literature, especially that of the theater, and soon he was ambitious to try his hand as a playwright. When his father died in 1692, Rowe was enabled to follow his own inclinations.
Early in 1700, Rowe saw his first play, entitled The Ambitious Step-Mother, produced at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Following this success, Rowe was for some years a professional playwright and soon gained the acquaintance of the leaders of literary society of eighteenth century London, including Pope and Joseph Addison. In 1702, he published his second tragedy, Tamerlane, the play he valued most of those he was to write. It was common knowledge that the play was really intended to portray William III, endowed with most amiable virtues, and Louis XIV, his villainous rival. The political tone of the play made it quite popular; it became tradition to perform it annually on November...
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