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ship; but it was soon dissolved : and it is not easy to mark any decisive change of literary character in the works which were certainly Fletcher's, and written after he had been left alone. It is too certain, however, that the looseness of fancy which de formed all those dramas from the beginning, degenerated afterwards into confirmed and deliberate licentiousness : and it is a circumstance not to be overlooked, that the moral badness which was common to all works of the kind then written, is nowhere so glaring as in these, which were the most finely and delicately imaginative dramas of their day, and are poetically superior to everything of the sort in our language except the works of Shakspeare. There may be quoted from them many short

passages, and some entire scenes, as delightful as anything in the range

of poetry ; sometimes pleasing by their rich imagery, sometimes by their profound pathos, and not infrequently by their elevation and purity of thought and feeling. But there are very few of the plays whose stories could be wholly told without offence; and there is none that should be read entirely by a young person.*

* FRANCIS BEAUMONT AND JOHN FLETCHER. The Prince's description of his Page Bellario, in the play of Philaster.

Hunting the buck,
I found him sitting by a fountain's side,
Of which he borrowed some to quench his thirst,
And paid the nymph as much again in tears.
A garland laid him by, made by himself,
Of many several flowers bred in the bay,
Stuck in that mystic order, that the rareness
Delighted me: but, ever when he turned
His tender eyes upon them, he would weep,
As if he meant to make 'em grow again.

Seeing such pretty helpless innocence
Dwell in his face, I asked him all his story.
He told me that his parents gentle died,
Leaving him to the mercy of the fields,
Which gave him roots; and of the crystal springs,
Which did not stop their courses; and the sun,
Which still, he thanked him, yielded him his light.
Then took he up his garland, and did show
What every flower, as country people hold,
Did signify; and how all, ordered thus,
Express’d his grief; and, to my thoughts, did read
The prettiest lecture of his country art
That could be wished : so that methought I could
Have studied it. I gladly entertained him,
Who was as glad to follow; and have got
The trustiest, loving'st, and the gentlest boy
That ever master kept.

b. 1574. d. 1637.

12. In Beaumont and Fletcher's works, those irregularities of plan, which are often made a reproach to the English drama, reach their utmost height. On the other hand, the regular classical model was approached, as closely as English tastes and habits


would allow, in not a few of the writings, both tragic and

comic, of Ben Jonson. This celebrated man deserves immortality for other reasons, besides his comparative purity of moral sentiment. He was the one man of his time, besides Shakspeare, who deserves to be called a reflective artist; the one man of his time, besides Shakspeare, who perceived principles of art and worked in obedience to them. His tragedies are stately, eloquent, and poetical; his comedies are more faithful poetic portraits of contemporary English life than those of any other dramatist of his

age, the one great poet being excepted. His vigour in the conception of character has been generally allowed, and perhaps overvalued. Less justice has been rendered to the union of poetical vigour and delicacy, which pervades almost everything that he wrote. He is poetical, though not richly imaginative, not in his pastoral of The Sad Shepherd only, or in his masques, or in his beautiful lyrics. His poetry is perceptible even among the comic scenes of Every Man in His Humour, or through the half-heroic perplexities of the Alchymist and the Fox. *


From the Comedy of the "New Inn."
Did you ever know or hear of the Lord Beaufort,
Who serv'd so bravely in France? I was his page,
And, ere he died, his friend. I follow'd him
First in the wars; and in the times of peace
I waited on his studies; which were right.
He had no Arthurs, nor no Rosicleers,
No Knights of the Sun, nor Amadis de Gauls,
Primalions and Pantagruels, public nothings,
Abortives of the fabulous dark cloister,
Sent out to poison courts and infest manners :
But great Achilles', Agamemnon's acts,
Sage Nestor's counsels and Ulysses' sleights,
Tydides' fortitude, as Homer wrought them
In his immortal fancy, for examples
Of the heroic virtue:-or as Virgil,
That Master of the Epic Poëm, limn'd
Pious Æneas, his religious prince,
Bearing his aged parent on his shoulders,
Rapt from the flames of Troy, with his young son.
And these he brought to practice and to use.

gave me first my breeding, I acknowledge;
Then shower'd his bounties on me, like the Hours,


13. Jonson might be held to have written chiefly for men sense and knowledge, Fletcher and his friend for men of facon and the world. A similar audience to that of Jonson


have been aimed at in the stately, epical tragedies of Chapman. The other class of auditors, or one a step lower, would have relished better such plays as those of Middleton and Webster : the former of whom is chiefly remarkable for a few striking ideas imperfectly wrought out; while the latter, in several of his tragic dramas, is singularly successful in depicting events of deep horror.

Along with these men wrote others who, clinging to the older forms and ideas, may be regarded as having been in the main the dramatists of the commonalty. The chief of these was Thomas Heywood, an author of extraordinary industry, who boasted of having in his long life had a share in more than two hundred plays. In some of his best works there iš a natural and quiet sweetness, which makes him not undeserving of the title a critic has given him, " the prose Shakspeare ;" and he is one of the most moral playwriters of his time. To the same class belonged Dekker, also a voluminous pamphleteer, and known as having co-operated in several plays which appear among the works of more celebrated men, especially Massinger.

14. The name which has last been read, introduces us to that which


be treated as the closing age of the Old English Drama. As its representatives may be taken Massinger, Ford, d. 1884. and Shirley. Massinger is by some critics ranked next d. 1640. after Shakspeare. Assuredly, his skill in the representation of character is superior to that of any of the secondary dramatists except Jonson, and his poetical beauty not much less than Fletcher's; while, further, he has a quaint grace of language not known to either. Of pure comedy he gives us hardly anything; and for pure tragedy he wants depth of pathos. But his vigour of portraiture, the chivalrous turn of his stories, the inventive novelty which distinguishes many of his situations and incidents, and the melancholy dignity of his imagery and sentiment, make his finest pieces interesting in the extreme. The theatres have

That open-handed sit upon the clouds,
And press the liberality of heaven
Down to the laps of thankful men! But then,
The trust committed to me at his death
Was above all; and left so strong a tie
On all my powers, as time shall not dissolve,
Till it dissolve itself, and bury all:
The care of his brave heir and only son.

retained, unaltered, his New Way to Pay Old Debts, for the sake of its sketch from life in Sir Giles Overreach : and his Fatal Dowry also has been preserved, in Rowe's plagiarism from it in The Fair Penitent. But these are hardly his best works : others, at any rate, exhibit his characteristic peculiarities more strikingly. Such are The Unnatural Combat, an extravagant tragedy, in which a son avenges by parricide the murder of his mother; and The Duke of Milan, full of variety, and ending in a catastrophe of wildly conceived horror. Such also are The Bondman, spirited and rough ; The Picture, fanciful and romantic; and The City Madam, remarkable for the richness of the poetry with which it invests contemporary life, and still more for the energy with which, in the person of Luke, the dramatist depicts the changes caused by circumstances in a character uniting meanness with ambition.*

It is instructive to note how the low moral tone, if not of the nation, yet at least of those for whom plays were written, is indicated by all these works. With Massinger the most heroic sentiments, rising sometimes, as in his Virgin Martyr, into religious rapture, prevail through whole scenes, along with which come others of the grossest ribaldry. By Ford, on the other hand, incidents of the most revolting kind are laid down as the foundation of his plots; and in the representation of these he wastes a pathos and tenderness, which, though lyrical rather than dramatic, are yet deeper than anything elsewhere to be found in our drama.*


From the Tragedy of The Fatal Dovory."
The Marshal of Burgundy having died while imprisoned for debt, his son
Charalois surrenders himself to redeem the dead body." He speaks from the prison-
door, as the funeral passes, attended by a few soldiers of the deceased as mourners.

How like a silent stream shaded with night,
And gliding softly with our windy sighs,
Moves the whole frame of this solemnity;
Tears, sighs, and blacks, filling the simile!
Whilst I, the only murmur in this grove
Of death, thus hollowly break forth !- -Vouchsafe
To stay awhile. -Rest, rest in peace, dear earth!
Thou that brought'st rest to their unthankful lives,
Whose cruelty denied thee rest in death!
Here stands thy poor executor, thy sop,
That makes his life prisoner to bail thy death ;
Who gladlier puts on this captivity,
Than virgins long in love their wedding-weeds.

Of all that ever thou hast done good to,
These only have good memories: for they
Remember best, forget not gratitude.
I thank you for this last and friendly love!
And, though this country, like a viperous mother,
Not only hath eat up ungratefully
All means of thee, her son, but last thyself,
Leaving thy heir so bare and indigent,
He cannot raise thee a poor monument,
Such as a flatterer or an usurer hath;
Thy worth in every honest breast builds one,
Making their friendly hearts thy funeral stone!


From the Play of The Lover': Melancholy."
Passing from Italy to Greece, the tales
Which poets of an elder time have feign'd
To glorify their Tempe, bred in me
Desire of visiting that paradise.
To Thessaly I came; and, living private,
Without acquaintance of more sweet companions
Than the old inmates to my love, my thoughts,
I day by day frequented silent groves,
And solitary walks. One morning early
This accident encountered me. I heard
The sweetest and most ravishing contention
That art and nature ever were at strife in.

A sound of music touch'd mine cars, or rather
Indeed entranc'd my soul. As I stole nearer,
Invited by the melody, I saw
This youth, this fair-faced youth, upon his lute,
With strains of strange variety and harmony,
Proclaiming (as it seem'd) so bold a challenge
To the clear quiristers of the woods, the birds,
That, as they flock'd about him, all stood silent,
Wond’ring at what they heard. I wonder'd too.

A nightingale,
Nature's best-skilld musician, undertakes
The challenge; and, for every several strain
The well-shaped youth could touch, she sung her own.
He could not run division with more art
Upon his quaking instrument, than she,
The nightingale, did with her various notes
Reply to.
Some time thus spent, the young man grew at last
Into a pretty anger; that a bird,
Whom art had never taught cleffs, moods, or notes,
Should vie with him for mastery, whose study
Had busied many hours to perfect practice :
To end the controversy, in a rapture,
Upon his instrument he plays so swiftly,
So many voluntaries, and so quick,

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