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PERHAPS Ibere is no period in the literary | cated round his orbit, like the planetary worlds history of mankind distinguished by so many that revolve and shine round their great source rare examples of real genius, as that which and centre, the sun. Volumes would be reelapsed from the accession of Elizabeth to the quired to do justice to thesplendid names alluded commencement of that stormy era which ended to; and, at present, we intend little more than inlhe destruction of royally. The mind of man, briefly to enumerate some of those mighly mawhich had for ages lain dormant in the sloth of gicians of the heart, whose louch opened all the ignorance and superstition, was, at length, by a flood-gates of feeling, and lit up the face with variety of concurring causes, but more especially smiles, or channelled it with tears at pleasure. by the Reformation, roused lo shake off her To the disgrace of our country, some of these trammels, and exert her native energies with intellectual benefactors of their species are sufirresistible force. Beings, that for many cen- sered to sleep in the dust of oblivion, but this turies had scarcely deserved the denomination cannot be for ever; they must yet arise in glory of rational, determining once more to choose and strength; for while we acknowledge the their own principles of action, like awakening transcendent genius of Shakspeare we should giants, emerged from their intellectual prison- not forget his contemporaries. house, to espatiate at full freedom over the universe of nature, and the boundless worlds of
SPENSER imagination. Literature, so long confined 10 the cell and the cloister, extended ils empire, This illustrious poet is, from a variety of and found willing and enthusiastic worshippers, causes, but little read, and less understood, at sbere, herelofore, the privilege of mental li-lhe present day. The allegorical character of berly had been unappreciated and unknown. A his great work, The Fairy Queen, is in itself string of saintly legends, remarkable only for a very unfavourable circumstance for his fame; their folly and extravagance, and composed in since few readers have patience to go through barbarous Lalin, or volumes of idle sonnels, a long poem, which has little or no langible crammed with pilisul conceits, uncouthly ex-interest, however beautiful and original the pressed, had been all the aliment supplied to imagery with which it abounds. The crilic will the paralysed intellect; but now, a daring, un- not hesitate to acknowledge ils superlative merit, fettered originality, rise with intense feeling, whether considered as a work of art or a triumph and commanding a wild profusion of ideas of imagination ; but the general reader, while newly dug from the yet anbroached mines of he frequently pauses to admire the inimitable passion and genius, tore away the veil from the grace and delicacy of particular passages, will, human heart, and published all its wonderful probably, lay down the work with a feeling of secrels, with a fidelity and power which instantly weariness. Yet when we consider the rude slate insured universal attention. No deparlment in which Spenser found the language, and the of literature received so much advantage by the difficulties he must have encountered in adaptchange as the drama. Prior to the lime of the ing it to the elaborate species of metre he has first Heywood, we find nothing but the Mys- employed, we shall surely feel that it is imposteries, compositions always puerile and insipid, sible to praise his productions too highly. and sometimes blasphemous; but the light of passion and imagination wbich broke with him,
BEN JONSON. broadened and brightened into the full glory of perfect day, in Sbakspeare, and the brilliant This erudile and excellent dramalist, who bost of exalted spirits, ibat flamed and corrus- was born at Westminster, 1574, had the singular happiness of receiving his education under they are much more correct and classical than lbe illustrious Camden. His family was repu- Shakspeare's, but they are not so constantly ir table, but his mother marrying a second time, radiated by the beams of genius. Every Man his step-father, a bricklayer, taught him his own in His Humour is the only one of his plays that trade; and we are informed, on tolerably good retains a place on the stage. Yet Volpone has authority, that a portion of Ben's brick and mor- never been equalled in its way, and Sejanus tar still exists in Chancery-lane. Disgusted breathes of the venerable spirit of antiquity, with this servile employment, he entered the and conjures up before us all the grandeur and army, and served in the low countries with great glory of old Rome. And why are such dramas credit ; he soon, however, returned to England, as these consigned to oblivion? Dryden's cbaand completed his studies at Cambridge. A racter of Ben is magnificent; the following pas. mere accident seems to have given a direction sage is admirable and extremely just : "INI to bis talents; to procure bread, he joined a would compare him with Shakspeare, I must miserable company of players at the Curtain, acknowledge him the more correct poet, bat in Shoreditch; but bis excellence was not to be Sbakspeare the greater wit. Shakspeare was developed here, he remained poor and unno- the Homer or father of our dramatic poets; Jonticed. In a tavern brawl he had the misfortune son was the Virgil, the pattern of elaborate to kill his opponent, and being thrown into writing; I admire him, but I love Shakspeare." prison, languished there a considerable time. It does not appear how he oblained his liberty;
MASSINGER. but he now became the intimale or Shakspeare, whose kindliness of disposition ever prompted This dramatist, second to none but him who him to assist the aspirations of real talent; never had an equal, Shakspeare, was born 1584, and under his auspices, he commenced a dra- and received his education at Oxford. He was matic writer. His success was complete; his singularly modest and unassuming, claiming no annual play was looked for anxiously, and hailed precedence of his associates on account of his affectionately; he became one of the chief orna- lofty endowments, and accepting their praise ments of a stage, ennobled with many kindred more as a favour than a right. He lived long spirits; and however it may be the fashion to and happily; his years glided away in peace, disregard his writings at present, they certainly for they were solaced by the applauses of the abound with excellencies of the highest de- virluous, and the testimony of his own colscription. In 1619, he succeeded Daniel as science. In his old age he reposed in the shade laureat: the salary was only one hundred marks of his laurels, and delighted to direct the enerperandum; but on Jonson's application in 1630, gies of those young and ardent spirits who were It was increased to 1001, and a tierce of Spanish about to run the race which he had concluded wine, annually. Poor Ben, however, often with honour. He lies buried in the same grave suffered all the pangs incident to want; and wilh his friend Fletcher, in the church-yard of once, when on a sick bed, in extreme wretched- St. Saviour, Southwark. The following epiness, he pelitioned Charles I. for pecuniary aid. laph is from the poems of Sir Aston Cokain, The monarch sent him ten guineas, on which | 1659: Jonson said, “His majesty bas sent me ten gui
«In the same grave was Fletcher buried, here neas, because I am poor and live in an alley; go Lies the stage poet, Philip Massinger. and tell him that his soul lives in an alley."
Plays they did write together, were great friends,
And now one grave includes them in their ends. Yet, in justice we are bound to state, that So wbom on earth nothing did part, beneath Charles once gave him 1001., then a large som,
Here in their fame they lie, in spite of death." and the above bitter remark might have been It is quite unaccountable how this author's breathed in the irritation of a wounded spirit. works should have fallen into neglect, since a Jonson died in 1637, aged sixty-three years. profound knowledge of human nature is evident His moral characler has been questioned; in in every page; and his poetry is rich in that particular, he is accused of ingratitude lo Shak- manly sententious eloquence which is so pespeare; and, indeed, a passage in his Bar-culiarly effective on the stage. Till very lately, tholomew Fair might countenance the charge, A New way to Pay Old Debts was the only did we not possess a noble poem dedicated by play of his generally known. Rowe, indeed, Ben lo bis benefactor's memory.
had pilfered largely from his Fatal Dowry, and Jonson's dramas are extremely numerous ; foisted this stolen property on the public under
the title of The Fair Penitent; but the trick, must have been indebted when he wrote his To unsuspected, for who would take the trouble Il Penseroso : W read Massinger ? A belter taste seems now gaining ground. The Duke of Milan bas been
“Hence all ye vain delights,
As short as are the nights successfully revived; The Fatal Dowry has ap
Wherein you spend your folly! peared in a form more equitable to its aulbor;
There's nought in this life sweet,
If we were wise to sce't and for the credit of the age, we trust the trash
But only melancholy : of the modern stage will soon give place to the
Oh, sweetest melancholy ;
Welcome, folded arms, and fixed eyes, sterling productions of the old English drama.
A sigh that piercing mortifies ;
A tongue chain'd up without a sound !
"Fountain heads, and pathless groves,
Places which pale passion loves!
Moonlight walks, when all the fowls These authors, the Pylades and Orestes of
Are warmly hous'd, save bats and owls!
A midnight bell, a lparting groan! literalure, are remarkable on several accounts.
These are the sounds we feed upon!
Then stretcb our bones in a still gloomy valley : Their friendship presents the singular and pleas
Nothing's so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy." inz spectacle of two great geniuses so closely anited in their feelings and pursuits, that in
MARLOWE. opwards of fifty dramas which they wrote confunctively, it is utterly impossible to distinguish This great tragic poel was educated at Camto which of them we are indebted for any parti- bridge, where he took the degree of B. A. 1583, cular scene or character. Their compositions and of M. A. 1587; his passions appear to have are so homogeneous, that were we not assured been very violent, and his whole life was stormy dthe contrary, we should ascribe them, without and unsettled. His mind was of the highest besitation, to the efforts of a single mind. Here order ; but, imagining for himself a universe of We may observe, that nothing in Shakspeare's perfect beauty and felicity, he was filled with age is more worthy of commemoration, than the disgust at the sorrows and disappointments good understanding wbich subsisted among the of the real world around him. The manner galasy of master-spiritstbat adorned those limes. of his death was extremely tragical: he was They lived together like a family of brothers, passionately fond of a beautiful girl, whose cirDo petty jealousies disturbed their community ; cumstances were but humble : visiting her one we continually find them advancing, without evening, he found a low fellow in her company ostentation, each other's labours, and engaged of whom he was jealous; in the frenzy of the in a friendly competition of good ofices. Hence moment he drew his poniard (a weapon then se observe many plays written by three or four commonly worn), intending to slab the unweldifferent hands; and this practice, so opposite come intruder, but bis antagonist wrenched the to the grovelling selfishness of modern writers, dagger from his grasp, and Marlowe falling seems to have excited no surprise. The solitary forwards, received it in his heart. The wits of anti-social pride of intellectual superiorily was his age seem to have had a very high opinion of sacrificed on the allar of friendship. The poetry Marlowe's talents. Heywood, no incompetent of Beaumont and Fletcher's dramas is often ex-judge, styles him the best of poets ; and Drayton ceedingly fine; they are frequently prosaic, and writes of him thus : even common-place, but these feelings are re
"Next, Marlowe, bathed in the Thespian springs, deemed by bursts of passion and eloquence truly Had in him those brave translunary things, overpowering. In nice discrimination of cha- That your first poets bad; bis raptures were
All air and fire, which made his verses clear; facter loo, they are by no means deficient, and For that fine madness still he did retain, Dolbing can excuse the depravily of tasle which
Which rightly should possess a poet's brain." has consigned their works to dust and silence. The phrase, fine madness, very aplly exThey are said to bave ridiculed Shakspeare in presses the character of his genius. In The Same of their plays, particularly in The Knight Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, the reader is of the Burning Pestle. If such liberties were continually startled by the wildness and inwhen, they gave no offence, for that wonderful coherence of the poel's conceptions; be transman often assisted them in their compositions. porls us into a world of shadows, and surrounds The following song is from The Nice Valour, us with the terrible crealions of an over-excited op The Passionate Madman, to which Milton fancy; yet so distinctly and vividly are these strange imaginations pourtrayed, that we remble | The public of his day were content with the and weep while they pass in review before us. great elements of all true poetry, passion and Nolwilhstanding all his powerful claims to our imagination ; and if an author could supply these. admiration, Marlowe is scarcely known at pre- his productions were not rejected for any desent but as the author of a little poem, begin- ficiencies of elegance and refinement. In his ning “Come live with me, and be my love." While Devil, and the Duchess of Malfey, bis Kean brought out his Jew of Malta (perbaps, capital works, Webster continually sins against the worst of his plays), at Drury-lane Theatre; the arbitrary enactments of criticism, and not it attracted for a few nights, but four-legged seldom against the more equitable laws of tasle ; performers were just then coming into fasbion, but he alones for these faults by displaying a and the affair was hopeless.
strength of passion, and a boldness of imagi
nation, which have hardly ever been surpassed. CHAPMAN.
MARSTON. This writer, whose lofty endowments have seldom been duly appreciated, was born 1557, This poet, like many of bis gifted contemand in his early years owed much to the pa- poraries, bas left no record behind him but his tronage of sir Thomas Walsingham. Prince works. He appears, however, to have studied Henry, that amiable scion of royalty, and the at Oxford; and judging from the chastity and far-famed earl of Somerset, were also bis purity of his language, we may suppose, that he friends ; but bis comedy of Eastward Hoe, in formed his style on classic models. His plays which he billerly reflects on the Scotch, so of- are eight in number, but the most remarkable fended king James that he was obliged to leave are Antonio and Melida, 1602 ; The Malconthe court, and relinquish bis prospects of pre- tent, 1604; and The Wonder of Women, or ferment. However, he was one of heaven's Sophonisba, 1606; which last is dedicated in nobility, and the frowns of the great could not warm terms to Ben Jonson, though he afterdiminish his self-esteem. He lived respected wards had some disagreement with that poel. and died lamented by the best and greatest men His Translation of Homer sur
MIDDLETON. passes in genius any that has yet appeared. Pope's is more elegant, no doubt; but in all The companion of Jonson, Fletcher, Masthe essentials of true poelry old Chapman has singer, and Rowley, with all of whom he occamuch the advantage. His dramatic perform- sionally wrole in concert, though his same may ances savour considerably of antiquity, but in safely rest on compositions which are entirely reading them we find frequent occasion to com- bis own. Some of his dramas bear date so mend and admire. Ben Jonson, we are told, recently as the reign of Charles I., but his best was jealous of his great abilities ; Shakspeare plays were published much earlier. A Mad honoured and fostered them. There is an ano- World, my Masters, acted by the Children of nymous poem in praise of this last author which Paul's, 1608, is an excellent play; and many has been attributed to Chapman, and it is cal- modern writers, thinking themselves safe in its culated to heighten our estimation even of his obscurity, have pillaged from it very freely. powers.
Mrs. Behn, in her City Heiress, and Johnson,
in his Country Lasses, have taken the most WEBSTER.
of his age.
This poet, whose situation in life was very
ROWLEY. bumble, his highest worldly distinction having been that of parish clerk at St. Andrew's, Hol- This dramatist, though inferior to some of born, was certainly endowed with talents of no bis illustrious companions, will deservedly rank common order; and although, from the want of high as one of the benefactors of the English the discipline which education affords, bis ge- stage. He flourished in the reign of James L. nius frequently run riot, and developed itself and was allached to a company of players bein the most eccentric manner, there can be little longing to the prince of Wales. He was rather doubt that the representation of his plays was eminent as a comedian; little is known of him altended by delighted and applauding audiences. more than bis close connexion wilh all the greal
test wils and poets of his age, by whom he was productions were not written for poslerily; of much beloved. He assisted Middleton, Day, most of them we are ignorant, even of the Heywood, and Webster, in their writings, and names. Among those preserved are the following: bas left us five plays of his own, besides one Edward IV. Iwo parts, 1599; Four Prentices which he wrote in conjunction with Shakspeare. of London, 1615; and Maidenhead well Lost, One of his comedies, A New Wonder, a Woman 1634. Heywood also wrote an Apology for sever Vext, has been revived at Covent Garden Actors, of which fraternity he was himself a Theatre, with considerable success.
member. He was undoubtedly a man of talent:
bis comic scenes were full of humour, and his JOHN HEYWOOD.
tragic ones abound with situations deeply pa
thetic ; but he always writes like an author who One of the first of our dramatic writers, both is composing by contract, unless his Woman in point of time and genius. Sir Thomas killed with Kindness be an exception. Moore was particularly fond of him; he was a frequent companion of the princess Mary, and
FORDE. his musical skill made him a great favourite with Henry VIII. During the short reign of Ed- This admirable dramatist was born 1586, ward VI. he still continued at court, admired and his great talents procured the esteem and and beloved; and on Mary's accession to the friendship of all the excellent writers in whose Ibrone, he was admitted to the closest intimacy age he flourished. He was most successful in tbal subject could enjoy. The insinuating mild- delineating the gloomy scenes of life; he debess of his temper, though in absolute contrast lighted not in the inspirations of Thalia, but to the barshness and irritability of her disposition, mixed all the powers of his melancholy spirit frequently softened its asperities; and we are with the dark and terrible visions of Melpomene. even told that the playful humour of bis con- Hence one of bis contemporaries pleasantly says, versation, occasionally beguiled even the agony
“Deep in a dump, John Forde was alone got, of ber death-bed. He was of course a zealous
With folded arms and melancholy bat.” catholic; and on the accession of Elizabeth, he Henl into voluntary exile, and died at Mechlin, A fine vein of tragedy runs through all his in Brabant, 1565. His longest work is entitled plays; but, Tis Pity She's a Whore is undoubtedly A parable of the Spider and the Flie, of which his masterpiece, and would have done honour Holinsbed says, “One also has made a booke to Shakspeare. The character of Annabella, of the Spider and the Flie, wherein be dealeth the heroine, is exquisitely beautiful; and thougli, so profoundlie, and beyond all measure of skill, in a moral point of view, the siluations of the that deither be bimselse that made it, neither drama are objectionable, we cannot deny that anie one that readeth it, can reach into the all the legitimate purposes of tragedy, the pow. meaning there-of.” His great merit is that heerful excitement of terror and pily, are fully contributed much to bring the Mysteries into attained. disrepule, and to create a taste for more ratonal stage representations. None of his dramas
DECKER extend beyond the limils of an interlude; among them we find A Play of Love, 1533, and A Play This writer's reputation has probably been of Gentleness and Nobililie, 1535. Heywood increased by his quarrel with Ben Jonson, in can scarcely be called a contemporary of Sbak- ridicule of whom he wrote a play called, The speare; but he is mentioned here as the first Untrussing of a humorous Poet. Yet he was regular dramalist our stage has produced. the bosom friend of Webster, Forde, and Row
ley, a distinction which nothing but his genius THOMAS HEYWOOD. could have purchased him. Brome, 100, calls
him father and constantly speaks of him with the The most voluminous of all play-wrights, utmost reverence and affection. His Honest with the exception of Lope de Vega ; for, in a Whore, and Old Fortunatus, are his best works; preface to one of his dramas, he informs us, the latter, notwithstanding the extreme absurdity thal il was the last of two hundred and twenty of the fable on which it is founded, is illustrated in which he “bad either an entire band, or at with so much fine writing, that it give us the least a main finger.” Such crude and hasty highest opinion of Decker's abilities.