« ZurückWeiter »
fesses only to administer small doses by way of provocatives, while the object of the “ Select Poets" is to supply true adorers with copious draughts, unadulterated, from the well-head of the Sacred Waters. There are many would be admirers who will perhaps expect the editor to draw also of every green ditch and muddy pond in the Delphian country, and their ostrich-stomachs may be balked in not finding any crude, tough, juiceless substances, whereon they may try their marvellous powers of digestion—but this selection is planned with a ruthless regard to intrinsic value, and the editor's opinion that age, when not dignified by worth, is most unreverend and despised, must be a death blow to their hopes. But somewhat too much of this. The author of the first part of the present poem demands attention.
The life of this blazing, though transitory meteor, is shrouded in great obscurity. The place and date of his birth, and the circumstances of his parents are alike unknown; Oldys says that he was born about the former part of
the reign of Edward the Sixth, but this can hardly be correct; and the conjecture of Mr. Ellis, who places his birth about 1562, carries with it an air of greater probability. He was of Benet College, Cambridge, where he took the degree of B. A. in 1583, and of M. A. 1587; and on leaving the university he became, like his great cotemporary Shakspeare, at once an actor and writer for the stage. So vague and uncertain are all the notices we have of Marlow, that a late ingenious writer in the Monthly Review* has endeavoured to show that Marlow and Shakspeare may have been one and the same person! This paradox is sustained by some very specious arguments, but there is quite sufficient cotemporary evidence of Marlow's existence to overthrow it altogether. Thus Robert Greene in his Groatsworth of Wit addresses him, “ thou famous gracer of tragedians.” Francis Meres praises him together with Sidney, Spenser, Shakspeare, Daniel, &c. for having“ mightily
* See vol. Ixxxix. p. 361, &c. and vol. xciii. p. 61, &c.
enriched, and gorgeously invested with rare ornaments, and resplendent habiliments, the English tongue.” Carew couples his name with that of Shakspeare in the following passage of his “ Excellencies of the English tongue :” “Would you read Catullus, take Shakspeare's and Marlow's fragments :" and Nashe, in his “ Lenten Stuff," speaking of Hero and Leander, says, whom divine Musæus sung, and a diviner muse than be, Kit Marlow.” George Peele, in his “ Honour of the Garter," thus mentions him :
-“ Unhappy in thy end, Marlow, the Muses' darling for thy verse, Fit to write passions for the souls below.”
Henry Petowe published what he calls a second part of the Hero and Leander, in 1598, and in the following passages exceeds all his eulogists in panegyric, though his verses are homely.
“ Marlow admir’d, whose honey-flowing vein
Marlow, late mortal, now framed all divine,
“ What mortal soul with Marlow might contend,
The reader must be familiar with Ben Jonson's mention of “ Marlow's mighty line,” in his poem to the memory of Shakspeare: and with Drayton's verses, which Warton well observes, are “the highest testimony,” because “ Drayton from his own feelings was well qualified to decide on the merits of a poet."
“ Next Marlow, bathed in the Thespian springs,
Decker, in one of his tracts *, has placed Marlow in the Elisian Grove of Baies,.“ with Greene and Peele, under the shadow of a large vine.” In that curious old comedy, “ The Returne from Pernassus," is the following passage:
“ Marlow was happy in his buskin’d Muse,
It should seem that Marlow on his first launching into life pursued the same thoughtless career of dissipation, which it is to be feared was too prevalent with the men of wit and genius at that period; his associates were Nashe, and Greene, and Peele, dangerous companions—from the fascination of their society and the freedom of
* A Knight's Conjuring, 1607, 4to. sig. L.