Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 53.djvu/273
as one who wrote poetry with sincerity, small success attended the publication of the original verse, which flowed abundantly from his pen. In 1799 Sotheby issued an ode, ‘The Battle of the Nile’ (1799), and dedicated it to Lord Spencer, first lord of the admiralty. His second son took part in the engagement. There followed ‘A Poetical Epistle to Sir George Beaumont, Bart., on the Encouragement of the British School of Painting’ (1801); an ambitious epic called ‘Saul,’ a blank-verse poem in two parts (1807); ‘Constance de Castille’ (1810), an imitation of Scott's ‘Lady of the Lake;’ and ‘A Song of Triumph on the Peace’ (1814).
Sotheby also made strenuous efforts in tragedy, but developed no genuinely dramatic power. Before 1790 a tragedy by him, ‘Bertram and Matilda,’ was acted privately at Winchester by himself and his friends. Subsequently he published at least six other historical tragedies—all in five acts and in blank verse. The earliest was ‘The Cambrian Hero, or Llewelyn the Great: an Historical Tragedy’ (Egham, no date). There followed in separate volumes ‘The Siege of Cuzco’ (1800); ‘Julian and Agnes, or the Monks of the Great St. Bernard’ (1801), dedicated to the Earl of Hardwicke, and subsequently revised and renamed successively ‘The Confession’ (1814) and ‘Ellen, or the Confession’ (1816); and ‘Orestes,’ dedicated to the Marquis of Abercorn (1802, 4to). ‘The Confession’ and ‘Orestes’ reappeared with three hitherto unpublished tragedies, ‘Ivan,’ ‘The Death of Darnley,’ and ‘Zamorin and Zama,’ under the general title of ‘Five Tragedies,’ in 1814.
Only one of these pieces was accorded a public representation on the stage. ‘Julian and Agnes’ was acted on 25 April 1800 at Drury Lane, with Mrs. Siddons in the part of the heroine, and Kemble, whose rendering was said to be ‘peculiarly fine,’ in that of the hero (Genest, vii. 503–5). At an impressive point in the play Mrs. Siddons by an unhappy accident struck the head of a dummy infant that she was carrying against a door-post, and the audience was unseasonably convulsed with laughter, in which the actress joined. There was no second performance. Although the other pieces were offered to Drury Lane, ‘the barbarous repugnance of the principal actors (according to Byron) prevented the performance’ (Byron, Works, xv. 48). In 1816 Byron good-naturedly induced the management to accept ‘Ivan,’ but after three or four rehearsals it was withdrawn ‘upon some tepidness on the part of Kean or warmth on that of the author’ (ib. iii. 174, 229). Kean declared himself unable to make anything of the title-rôle (Genest, x. 233). Sotheby at once republished the piece. Byron insisted at the time that he was ‘capriciously and evilly entreated’ (Clayden, Rogers, i. 239), but afterwards uncivilly expressed regret at having befriended Sotheby's ‘trash’ (ib. p. 255).
Sotheby, who had been greatly distressed by the death on 1 Aug. 1815 of his eldest son, William, colonel in the guards, now sought distraction from his troubles in a long tour in Italy. He left England in May 1816 with his family and two friends, Professor Elmsley and Dr. Playfair. They returned by way of Germany at the close of the following year. He published his impressions in ‘Farewell to Italy, and occasional Poems’ (1818), most of which he reissued with additions in ‘Poems’ (1825; another edition, 1828). On resuming residence in London, Sotheby mainly devoted himself to a verse translation of Homer. ‘The First Book of the Iliad, a Specimen of a New Version of Homer,’ appeared in 1830, and was well received. The whole of the ‘Iliad’ (in heroics) followed in 1831. Christopher North extolled the rendering in five articles in ‘Blackwood's Magazine.’ The ‘Odyssey’ followed in 1834 with a reissue of the ‘Iliad,’ and seventy-five illustrations engraved by Henry Moses from Flaxman's designs (4 vols.).
Sotheby maintained his many literary friendships till the end. Byron, on some trivial pretence, seems alone of Sotheby's early acquaintances to have renounced friendly relations with him; in 1818 he wrote malevolently of ‘the airs of patronage which Sotheby affects with young writers, and affected both to me and of me for many a good year’ (Clayden, Rogers, i. 255). Sotheby delivered an eloquent speech on 31 March 1822 before the Dilettante Society on the death of his friend Sir Henry Charles Englefield [q. v.], and it was privately printed. On 22 April 1828 Scott was Sotheby's guest at a dinner party at his London house, when ‘that extraordinary man’ Coleridge orated on Homer and other topics (Lockhart). In the summer and autumn of 1829 he made a tour in Scotland, and visited Scott at Abbotsford. In June 1833 he attended the third meeting of the British Association at Cambridge, and penned a poem on the proceedings, which was published posthumously with a memoir and verses written in 1831–2 on Scott's declining health and death.
Sotheby died at his residence in Lower Grosvenor Street on 30 Dec. 1833, and was buried on 6 Jan. 1834 in the family vault in Hackney churchyard, Middlesex. Hallam