Abbildungen der Seite

Form. I beseech your worship to pardon me. Clem. Nay, no speech or act of mine be drawn I happened into ill company by chance, that against such as profess it worthily. They are cast me into a sleep, and stript me of all my not born every year, as an alderman. There clothes.

goes more to the making of a good poet, than 3 Clem. Well, tell him I am Justice Clement, and sheriff. Master Kitely, you look upon me!do pardon him: but what is this to your armour? though I live in the city here amongst you, I what may that signify?

will do more reverence to him, when I meet him, Form. An't please you, sir, it hung up in the than I will to the mayor out of his year. But room where I was stript: and I borrow'd it of these paper-pedlars! these ink-dabblers! they one of the drawers to come home in, because I cannot expect reprehension or reproach; they was loth to do penance through the street in my have it with the fact. shirt.

E. Know. Sir, you have saved me the labour Clem. Well, stand by a while.

of a defence.

Clem. It shall be discourse for supper between Enter E. KYOWELL, WELLERED, and BRIDGET.

your father and me, if he dare undertake me. Who be these? Oh, the young company; wel But to despatch away these, you sign o' the come, welcome! Give you joy. Nay, Mistress soldier, and picture of the poet (but both so Bridget, blush not; you are not so fresh a bride, false, I will not have you hanged out at my but the news of it is come hither afore you. door till midnight), while we are at supper, you Master Bridegroom, I have made your peace, two shall penitently fast it out in my court withgive me your hand: so will I for all the rest ere out; and, if you will, you may pray there that you forsake my roof.

we may be so merry within as to forgive or E. Know. We are the more bound to your forget you when we come out. Here's a third, humanity, sir.

because we tender your safety, shall watch you, Clem. Only these two have so little of man in he is provided for the purpose. Look to your them, they are no part of my care.

charge, sir. Wel. Yes, sir, let me pray you for this gentle Step. And what shall I do? man, he belongs to my sister the bride.

Clem. Oh! I had lost a sheep an' he had not Clem. In what place, sir ?

bleated. Why, sir, you shall give Master DownWel. Of her delight, sir, below the stairs and right his cloak; and I will entreat him to take in public: her poet, sir.

it. A trencher and a napkin you shall have in Clem. A poet! I will challenge him myself the buttery, and keep Cob and his wife company presantly at extempore.

here; whom I will entreat first to be reconciled; Mount up thy Phlegon, Muse, and testify, and you to endeavour with your wit to keep How Saturn, sitting in an ebon cloud,

them so. Disrobed his podex, white as ivory,

Step. I'll do my best. And through the welkin thunder'd all aloud. Cob. Why, now I see thou art honest, Tib, I

Wel. He is not for extempore, sir: he is all receive thee as my dear and mortal wife again. for the pocket muse; please you command a sight Tib. And I you, as my loving and obedient of it.

husband. Clem. Yes, yes, search him for a taste of his Clem. Good compliment! It will be their bridal vein.

(They search MATHEW's pockets. night too. They are married anew. Come, I Wel. You must not deny the queen’s justice, conjure the rest to put off all discontent. You, sir, under a writ of rebellion.

Master Downright, your anger; you, Master Clem. What! all this verse ? Body o' me, he Knowell, your cares; Master Kitely and his carries a whole realm, a commonwealth of paper wife, their jealousy. in his bose: let us see some of his subjects. For, I must tell you both, while that is fed,

[Reads. Horns in the mind are worse than on the head. Unto the boundless ocean of thy face, (eyes. kit. Sir, thus they go from me; kiss me,

Runs this poor river, charg'd with streams of sweetheart. How! this is stolen.

See what a drore of horns fly in the air, E. K’now. A parody! a parody! with a kind Wing d with my cleansed and my credulous breath! of miraculous gift, to make it absurder than it Watch 'em suspicious eyes, watch where they full,

See, see! on heads that think they have none at all! Clem. Is all the rest of this batch? bring me a Oh, what a plenteous world of this will come! torch; lay it together, and give fire. Cleanse the When air rains horns, all may be sure of some. air. [Sets the papers on fire.] Here was enough I have learn'd so much verse out of a jealous to have infected the whole city, if it had not been man's part in a play. taken in time. See, see, how our poet's glory Clem. 'Tis well,' 'tis well! This night we'll shines! brighter and brighter! still it increases! dedicate to friendship, love, and laughter. MasOh, now it is at the highest; and now it declines ter Bridegroom, take your bride and lead; every as fast. You may see, sic transit gloria mundi! one a fellow. Here is my mistress, Brainworm! Know. There's an emblem for you, son, and

to whom all my addresses of courtship shall your studies.

have their reference: whose adventures this day, when our grandchildren shall hear to be made a

fable, I doubt not but it shall find both spec1 'go vanishes the glory of the world'

tators and applause.




[ALL who are acquainted with the history of the English drama know that it was a common thing for two or more of the Elizabethan dramatists to join their wits in the manufacture of a play: thus A Looking-Glass for London and England was the joint production of Greene and Lodge; and Jonson, Chapman, and arston were nearly losing their ears for being all three concerned in the manufacture of Eastward Hoe. No doubt they were frequently urged to enter into these literary partnerships by a desire to get their ware ready for the market as soon as possible, and thus speedily replenish their generally empty purses. Poverty, however, can have had nothing to do with the illustrious literary union formed by Beaumont and Fletcher, as both these dramatists were well connected, and apparently were quite independent of the proceeds of their pens.

John Fletcher, the elder of the two, was born at Rye, in Sussex, 1576 (1579 according to Dyce), his father being Dr. Richard Fletcher, afterwards Bishop of London, and a favourite of Queen Elizabeth. Fletcher was educated at Bennet College, Cambridge, but appears never to have taken his degree, although, it is said, he acquired much classical erudition; he must, at any rate, have had considerable acquaintance with French, Spanish, and Italian, as many of his plots are taken from then untranslated dramas in these languages. At what time he commenced writing for the stage is uncertain ; but it is probable that in 1606 or 1607, somewhat before his partnership with Beaumont, he produced the comedy of The Woman Hater and the tragedy of Thierry and Theodoret. Little more is known of the details of his life, except that he died in August 1625 of the plague, while being detained in London waiting for a new suit of clothes. He appears to have been of a social, generous disposition, and somewhat more correct in his conduct than the majority of his brother dramatists. John Fletcher was cousin to Giles and Phineas Fletcher, two poets of considerable credit.

Francis Beaumont, like his literary partner, was well connected, belonging to an ancient and honourable family, which had been seated at Grace-Dieu, in Liecestershire, for many generations. He was the eldest son of Francis Beaumont, a judge of the Common Pleas, and was born in 1586, perhaps earlier, and became a gentleman-commoner of Broadgate Hall, now Pembroke College, in 1596. After leaving college, he attempted to study law in the Inner Temple, but soon gave it up, his tastes lying in quite another direction. When only sixteen he translated one of Ovid's fables into English rhyme, and must have become intimate with Ben Jonson before he was nineteen, as at that age he addressed some verses to the latter on his comedy of The Fox, produced in 1605, Jonson afterwards returning the compliment by some laudatory lines, beginning

• How do I love thee, Beaumont, and thy muse,

That unto me dost such religion prove!' Beaumont, unlike his friend, did not die a bachelor, but married, in what year is not known, Ursula, daughter and co-heir of Henry Isley of Sundridge, Kent, by whom he left two daughters. One of these, Frances, was alive in 1700, enjoying a pension of one hundred pounds from the Duke of Ormond, in whose family she had been a domestic. Beaumont died ten years before his friend Fletcher, in March 1615-16, at the premature age of twentynine, and was buried near the entrance of St. Benedict's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, his grave, like that of his friend's, being unmarked by slab or epitaph. It is not known that

Beaumont wrote any drama previous to his connection with Fletcher. To judge from their portraits, both Beaumont and Fletcher seem to have been handsome and good-looking; and Beaumont, at least, was a member of the famous club which met at the Mermaid Tavern, he having written a lively poetical description of the 'wit-combats' which took place there.

• What things have we seen
Done at the Mermaid ! heard words that have been
So nimble and so full of subtle flame,
As if that every one from whom they came
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest,
And had resolved to live a fool the rest
Of his dull life.' ...

It has been conjectured that Beaumont and Fletcher commenced their literary partner. ship about 1608, and it continued till the former's death in 1616. Their union seems to have been one not of mere convenience, but of fast friendship; and, according to Aubrey, they lived together in one house on the Bankside,' and were on the most intimate and familiar terms. What was their modus operandi in the manufacture of their dramatic productions, we have no means of ascertaining, although there is an amusing story told of the two, which, if true, affords us a slight glimpse into their method of procedure. 'At a tavern, as our poets choose each his share of some future dramatic task, a fierce ejaculation is heard from their chamber: “I'll undertake to kill the king!” One who stood outside, readier to catch up a treasonable than a poetic idea, gives information of this regicide plot ; and the poor dramatist, till he can explain, has a prospect of the block, which better befitted the blockhead than the betrayer.' All the works together attributed to 'Beaumont and Fletcher' amount to about fifty-two, of which, it has been conjectured, about seventeen were the joint production of the two friends, the remainder being mostly written by Fletcher, principally after the death of Beaumont. The first drama written by the two in conjunction is probably Philaster, produced some time previous to 1611. The other chief joint productions are The Maid's Tragedy (written before 1611), King and No King (1611), The Honest Man's Fortune (1613), The Coxcomb (1613), The Scornful Lady (printed 1616), The Little French Lawyer, The Laws of Candy, The Knight of Malta. Fletcher himself, before the death of his friend, wrote The Faithful Shepherdess (before 1611), an exquisite but not very pure pastoral, from which Milton is supposed to have borrowed the design of his Comus. His principal productions after Beaumont's death were The Loyal Subject (about 1618), The Chances (before 1621), The Spanish Curate (1622), The Beggar's Bush (1622), Rule a Wife and Have a Wife (1624), and The Fair Maid of the Inn (1625-6). Shakespeare is said to have assisted Fletcher in the composition of The Two Noble Kinsmen.

We have no means now of apportioning to each of these authors his share in their joint compositions, and to hazard a guess would be idle and profitless. The general opinion seems to be that Beaumont was the graver of the two wits, the deeper scholar, and more acute critic, while Fletcher had the more brilliant wit and loftier genius. Beaumont, according to quaint Tom Fuller, brought the ballast of judgment, and Fletcher the sail of phantasy, ! both compounding a poet to admiration.' 'Beaumont,' says Langbaine, 'was master of a good wit and a better judgment; he so admirably well understood the art of the stage that even Jonson himself thought it no disparagement to submit his writings to his correction. Mr. Fletcher's wit was equal to Mr. Beaumont's judgment, and was so luxurious that, like superfluous branches, it was frequently pruned by his judicious partner.' While this may be true in the main, still, if we may judge from those dramas which are the undoubted com. position of each singly, both could manifest on occasion an equal degree of good taste, sound judgment, and brilliant fancy. Beaumont and Fletcher are generally allowed to have made i a nearer approach to Shakespeare than did any other dramatist either before or after. This may be true in the general. No doubt in the construction of their plays, the smoothness, correctness, and general richness of their language, the reckless abundance of their fancy, and the occasional depth of passion, they do often remind one of the unapproachable master; as they likewise do by the occasional cropping out of an everlasting thought divinely worded.

Still, the intelligent reader must feel that their dramas are characterized by weakness, crudeness, want of strength and point, and a certain effeminate softness often not unpleasing. Nearly all their productions bear the marks of haste and carelessness ; they seem to have revelled in composition, to have delighted in throwing off drama after drama, giving themselves little trouble about perfection in details. So far as genuine comedy is concerned, as well as perfection of dramatic construction, we are inclined to give the palm to Ben Jonson; and in respect to the power of depicting deep passion, and giving utterance to genuine pathos, perhaps Marlowe and Webster were their superiors. One of the greatest blots on the writings of these dramatists is the disgusting abundance of obscene language; for although, as we have said, they seem to have led more correct lives than most of their contemporaries, nearly every play is disfigured by ad nauseam language, having all the indecency and familiarity of a brothel.' In this respect they excel most of their contemporaries, none of whom are noted for the exceptional purity of their language.

We conclude by quoting Hazlitt's estimate of these dramatic partners; it seems to us to be, on the whole, just and discriminating :

"We find all the prodigality of youth, the confidence inspired by success, an enthusiasm bordering on extravagance, richness running riot, beauty dissolving in its own sweetness.

It cannot be denied that they are lyrical and descriptive poets of the highest order ; every page of their writings is a florilegium : they are dramatic poets of the second class in point of knowledge, variety, vivacity, and effect; there is hardly a passion, character, or situation, which they have not touched in their devious range, and whatever they touched they adorned with some new grace or striking feature: they are masters of style and versifi

cation in almost every variety of melting modulation or sounding pomp, of which they are | capable : in comic wit and spirit they are scarcely surpassed by any writers of any age.

There they are in their element, “like eagles newly baited ;” but I speak rather of their serious poetry, and this, I apprehend, with all its richness, sweetness, loftiness, and grace, wants something-stimulates more than it gratifies, and leaves the mind in a certain sense exhausted and unsatisfied. Their fault is a too ostentatious and indiscriminate display of power. Everything seems in a state of fermentation and effervescence, and not to have settled and found its centre in their minds. The ornaments, through neglect or abundance, do not always appear sufficiently appropriate: there is evidently a rich wardrobe of words and images to set off any sentiments that occur, but not equal felicity in the choice of the

sentiments to be expressed; the characters in general do not take a substantial form, or | excite a growing interest, or leave a permanent impression ; the passion does not accumu

late by the force of time, of circumstances, and habit, but wastes itself in the first ebullitions of surprise and novelty.

* Besides these more critical objections, there is a too frequent mixture of voluptuous softness or effeminacy of character with horror in the subjects, a conscious weakness (I can | hardly think it wantonness) of moral constitution struggling with wilful and violent situa

tions, like the tender wings of the moth, attracted to the flame that dazzles and consumes it. In the hey-day of their youthful ardour, and the intoxication of their animal spirits, they take a perverse delight in tearing up some rooted sentiment, to make a mawkish lamentation over it; and fondly and gratuitously cast the seeds of crimes into forbidden grounds, to see how they will shoot up and vegetate into luxuriance, to catch the eye of fancy. They are not safe teachers of morality: they tamper with it like an experiment tried in corpore vili, and seem to regard the decomposition of the common affections, and the dissolution of the strict bond society, as an agreeable study and a careless pastime. The tone of Shakespeare's writings is manly and bracing; theirs is at once insipid and meretricious in the comparison.')





The Second Impression, Corrected and Amended. London. 1622.

[blocks in formation]


imprison Philaster. At which the city was in

arms, not to be charm'd down by any state order MESSINA. The Presence-Chamber in the Palace.

or proclamation, till they saw Philaster ride Enter Dion, CLEREMONT, and THRASILINE. through the streets pleased, and without a guard; Cle. Here's nor lords nor ladies.

at which they threw their hats and their arms

from them; some to make bonfires, some to drink, Dim. Credit me, gentlemen, I wonder at it.

all for his deliverance. Which, wise men say, They received strict charge from the king to attend here. Besides, it was boldly published,

is the cause the king labours to bring in the that no officer should forbid any gentlemen that

power of a foreign nation, to awe his own with. desire to attend and hear.

Enter GALATEA, a Lady, and MEGRA.
Cle. Can you guess the cause ?
Divn. Sir, it is plain, about the Spanish prince,

Thra. Sce, the ladies. What's the first? that's come to marry our kingdom's heir, and be Dion. A wise and modest gentlewoman that our sovereign.

attends the princess. Thra. Many, that will seem to know much, say

Cle. The second ? she looks not on him like a maid in love.

Dion. She is one that may stand still discreetly Dion. Oh, sir, the multitude (that seldom know enough, and ill-favouredly dance her measure; anything but their own opinions) speak that they simper when she is courted by her friend, and would have; but the prince, before his own ap- slight her husband. proach, received so many confident messages Cle. The last ? from the state, that I think she's resolved to be Dion. Marry, I think she is one whom the ruled.

state keeps for the agents of our confederate Cle. Sir, it is thought, with her he shall enjoy princes. She'll cog' and lio with a whole army, both these kingdoms of Sicily and Calabria. before the league shall break: her name is com

Dion. Sir, it is, without controversy, so meant. mon through the kingdom, and the trophies of But 'twill be a troublesome labour for him to her dishonour advanced beyond Hercules' Pillars. enjoy both these kingdoms with safety, the She loves to try the several constitutions of men's right heir to one of them living, and living so bodies; and, indeed, has destroyed the worth of virtuously; especially, the people admiring the her own body, by making experiment upon it, bravery of his mind, and lamenting his injuries. for the good of the commonwealth. Cle. Who? Philaster?

Cle. She's a profitable memberDion. Yes; whose father, we all know, was, by Meg. Peace, if you love me! You shall see our late king of Calabria, unrighteously' deposed these gentlemen stand their ground, and not from his fruitful Sicily. Myself drew some blood

court us. in those wars, which I would give my hand to be Gal. What if they should ? wash'd from

Lady. What if they should ? Cle. Sir, my ignorance in state policy will not Meg. Nay, let her alone. What if they should? let me know why, Philaster being heir to one of why, if they should, I say they were never these kingdoms, the king should suffer him to abroad. What foreigner would do so? It writes walk abroad with such free liberty.

them directly untravelled. Dion. Sir, it seems your nature is more con

Gal. Why, what if they be ? stant than to inquire after state news. But the king, of late, made a hazard of both the kingdoms, of Sicily and his own, with offering but to

cog-fatter, cheat, cajole.

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »