The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 11. Other works by Lillo
Lillo’s other dramatic works may be dismissed with brief mention. Marina (1738), a three-act drama, based on Pericles, Prince of Tyre, is additional evidence of Lillo’s indebtedness to Shakespeare. The brothel-scenes, which tend to abandon decency as well as blank verse, can hardly be justified by a conclusion that shows “Virtue preserv’d from fell destruction’s blast.” Britannia and Batavia, a rather belated instance of masque, Elmerick, or Justice Triumphant, a regular blankverse tragedy which won Fielding’s praise, and Arden of Feversham, which gives further evidence of Lillo’s interest in domestic tragedy and of his indebtedness to Elizabethan drama, were published posthumously.
In the history of English drama, Lillo holds a position wholly disproportionate to his actual dramatic achievement. Like D’Avenant, his importance is chiefly that of a pioneer. The modern reader sympathises more readily with Charles Lamb’s familiar strictures upon Lillo than with Fielding’s praise. But, artificial as his work appears to-day, Lillo set in motion powerful forces that pointed toward natural tragedy. He deliberately put aside the dignity of rank and title and the ceremony of verse. He animated domestic drama, and paved the way for prose melodrama and tragedy.