AN English gentleman [Rowe] . . . being very much noticed for his wit and poetry, and withal a man of no fortune, was recommended by a great many of the nobility of that kingdom, and being introduced to the Lord of Oxford, he asked him if he understood Spanish. The gentleman replied, No, but that in a little time he could still be master of it in such a degree as to qualify to serve in any station when His Lordship thought fit to employ him; and away he went and employed six or seven months in the close study of that language. And having acquired what he thought necessary (not doubting but he'd be employed in some business abroad, which he most desired), he waited on His Lordship and told him that he now believed he understood the Spanish language tolerably well. `Well then,' replied my Lord, `you'll have the pleasure of reading Don Quixote in the original, and 'tis the finest book in the world'; which was all that gentleman got for his long attendance and hard study.
George Lockhart (1673-1731), The Lochhart Papers (1817), i. 372.
AT twenty-five Rowe produced The Ambitious Stepmother, which was received with so much favour that he devoted himself from that time wholly to elegant literature. . . He once (1704) tried to change his hand. He ventured on a comedy, and produced The Biter, with which, though it was unfavourably treated by the audience, he was himself delighted; for he is said to have sat in the house, laughing with great vehemence whenever he had in his own opinion produced a jest. But finding that he and the public had no sympathy of mirth he tried at lighter scenes no more.
Johnson, Lives, ii. 65, 69.
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