Thomas Southern

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Southern, Thomas, a dramatist, was born in Dublin in 1660. He was educated at Trinity College, was entered at the Middle Temple, and subsequntly adopted dramatic authorship as a profession. His first piece was produced in London in 1682. He was frugal and pushing; he was peculiarly fortunate in the sale of his plays; and his judicious flattery of the Duke of York considerably advanced his interests. During the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion Southern served in the army. He is described as having been in his latter days "a quiet and venerable old gentleman, who lived near Covent Garden, and frequented the evening prayers there, always neat and decently dressed, commonly in black, with his silver sword and silver locks."

He died (the oldest and richest of the dramatic brotherhood), 26th May 1746, aged 85. Two of his plays, all that are now known to the public, are thus commented on by Hallam: "Southern's Discovery, latterly represented under the name of Isabella, is almost as familiar to the lovers of our theatre as Venice Preserved itself; and for the same reason, that whenever an actress of great tragic powers arises, the part of 'Isabella' is as fitted to exhibit them as that of 'Belvidera.' The choice and conduct of the story are, however, Southern's chief merits; for there is little vigour in the language, though it is natural and free from the usual faults of his age. A similar character may be given to his other tragedy, Oroonoko, in which Southern deserves the praise of having first of any English writer, denounced the traffic in slaves and the cruelties of their West Indian bondage. The moral feeling is high in this tragedy, and it has sometimes been acted with a certain success; but the execution is not that of a superior dramatist."

Sources

16. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1859-'71.

116. Dublin University Magazine (45). Dublin, 1833-'77.

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