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Reproduced (original size) by permission of the Librarian, Edinburgh University Library.
Thomas Rymer (1643–1713) was born in Yorkshire, where he attended the same school as George Hickes. After Cambridge, which he left without taking a degree, he went to Gray's Inn, and was called to the Bar. For some years his pursuits were mainly literary, but he became interested in history and in 1692 was appointed historiographer to the King. His magnum opus was the Foedera, an edition of all the public conventions made by Great Britain with other powers, which was already in is volumes when he died in 1713 in poor circumstances as a result of governmental delays in paying for the expenses of printing and research.
In 1674 he published a translation of René Rapin's Reflections on Aristotle's Treatise of Poesie, with a long preface containing his own views. Three years later, in 1677, he wrote an essay examining some English dramas and also a tragedy called Edgar (never produced) to exemplify his theories. The essay appeared in 1678 as The Tragedies of the Last Age; in it he announced his intention of considering critically Rollo, A King and no King and The Maid's Tragedy by Beaumont and Fletcher, Othello and Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, Jonson's Catiline, and Paradise Lost. In fact he dealt only with the first three, postponing his treatment of the others to A Short View of Tragedy, 1693, and omitting Paradise Lost altogether. Many of his views and approaches were taken from the French formalist critics, and he in turn influenced Gildon, Dennis and Blackmore, and also Jeremy Collier. Dryden, who answered The Tragedies of the Last Age in his preface to Troilus and Cressida, 1679, was interested and sympathetic, but they quarrelled over politics, and Rymer attacked Dryden in A Short View.
An example of Rymer's less happy critical judgement is his summary of Othello:
There is in this Play, some burlesk, some humour, and ramble of Comical Wit, some shew, and some Mimickry to divert the spectators: but the tragical part is, plainly none other, than a Bloody Farce, without salt or savour.
(p. 146) The edition of 1693 was the only one. Reference: Wing R2429
Reflections on Shakespear, and other Practitioners for
the ST A G E.
- By Mr. Rymer, Servant to their Majesies.
Hodieque manent veftigia ruris. Hor.
LONDON, Printed and are to be sold by Richard Baldwin, near the Oxford Arms in Warwick Lane, and at the Black Lyon in Fleetfreet, between
the two Temple-Gares. 169 3.