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speare retired to his native town, to enjoy, during speare was one of the most considerable proprietors the too short evening of his days, the fortune which of the other. To the latter of the two, the theatrienabled him to leave his children in a station more cal establishment of the Globe and Blackfriars, worthy of their ancient lineage than of that calling, Beaumont and Fletcher appear to have been atfrom which believers in his sonnets must grieve to tached from an early period of their career, though think that he sometimes bitterly revolted. To his not from the very first; and this circumstance would profession and to his worldly prudence he owed his serve to bring them into communion with Ben Jonwealth ; if he had been merely a great genius, and son. Jonson set too high a value on his praise to not also a man of business, (gifts since again united be over lavish of it. While one of his poems bears in the person of Sir Walter Scott,) he might have frank and cordial testimony to his affection for Beaupined like Jonson, or starved like Massinger. We mont, and his admiration of the young poet's genius, can scarcely over-estimate the facilities, which his he hints only in his confidential talk with Drumeasy circumstances, in the latter half of his life, mond, that the young man set rather too high an must have afforded him for the composition and estimate on his powers. In the same conversations elaboration of his greatest works. But, in order he declared his love for Fletcher without any qualduly to estimate what we owe him, we must also ification—a rare thing with one whose temper, natrecollect that his genius was now and afterwards urally moody, was irritated by misfortune and supthe animating principle of the drama, and of the posed neglect. Fletcher's genius for the more stage ; and that had he not written “ Hamlet,” and poetical kinds of dramatic writing, extorted from “ Lear,” and his historical plays, the English thea- the gruff father of the rising generation (as he loved tre might have continued to be a mere school of to be regarded) the highest praise, when he adpopular buffoonery, imitation, and bombast. mitted, " that, next himself, only Fletcher and

About the year 1607, the old English drama may Chapman could make a masque." Upon Fletcher's be said to have been in the last month of its brief pastoral, the most ideal of all his compositions, bebut resplendent summer. Those gorgeous plants ing condemned by the crowd, he signified his hearty which sprung up in natural luxuriance, under the approbation of it, and prophesied for it the immorinfluence of the warm sun and the free air, were tality which it enjoys. still, day by day, bursting into flower. Their time, Reckoned from 1607, the union of our two poets however, was all but over; the field was beginning endured for nine or ten years. to be covered, more and more thickly, by the au- The prosaic yet credulous Aubrey, the same tumnal growth which is the fruit of artificial culti- “ picker-up of unconsidered trifles," who made a vation; and noxious weeds, though as yet hardly butcher's boy of Shakspeare, describes the familiarvisible, were already rooted in the soil. The first ity of their intercourse as the closest possible. He ten years of the seventeenth century compose the speaks of them as having lived in the same house, great concluding period of Shakspeare's literary life; and as having had a community of goods so wide, the period which comprehends the most thoughtful as to embrace even the most objectionable feature and solemn of his works. Ben Jonson, too, was of Plato's commonwealth. If at any time the two then in the zenith of his activity and fame; but did “live together on the bank-side, not far from about to fall into his sad decline. “ The Silent the play-house,” they must have ceased to do so in Woman,” and “ The Alchemist,” were his only 1613 ; for in that year Beaumont married, his great works subsequent to the appearance of Beau- wife being a lady of an old family, the daughter mont and Fletcher. Side by side with Shakspeare and coheir of Henry Isley of Sundridge in Kent. and Jonson, stood a couple of veterans, the epic and It does not appear that Fletcher was ever married. eloquent Chapman, and Heywood, the “ prose There is proof, in Beaumont's poetical “ Letter to Shakspeare," still cheerful and indefatigable; while Ben Jonson," of at least one visit which they afterWebster, Middleton, Dekker, Marston, and others, wards paid together to the country, and in the course had already occupied the ground which they must of which two of their comedies were partly written. thenceforth share with formidable competitors—with One would gladly believe Mr. Dyce to be right in oor two poets, with Massinger, and with Ford. conjecturing that Gracedieu may have been the Drayton and Daniel, too, whose fame now rests on place of their retirement. It would be agreeable to poetry of other kinds, were enrolled among the imagine that the fancy of the town-bred Fletcher dramatists of their time.

was inspired, by wandering among the solitudes of Working with a fervor, and warmed by a literary Charnwood, and beneath the monastic cloisters of ainbition, seldom if ever paralleled, this swarm of his friend's paternal home, with the images of sepoets constituted likewise a society of friends, whose clusion which adorn his exquisite ode to Melancholy, intercourse, broken at times by individual quarrels, printed for the first time in the very play to which was usually free, cordial, and happy. Then oc- Beaumont's letter is prefixed. curred those " wit comhais," the fame of which

“ Moonlight walks, where all the fowls descended traditionally to the age of Fuller; then were held, day after day, those merry meetings at

Are warınly housed, save bats and owls ;

Fountain-heads and pathless groves, the Mermaid, which Beaumont, writing from the

Places which pale passion loves!” country, regretted, amidst the beauty of the summer -hat intercommuning of buoyant natures, which, They had not labored together above three or delightful at the time, returned afterwards on wings four years, before the fame of the two friends was of fire and raised the clear spirit to the energy that firmly established. “ Philaster" and " The Maid's created immortal works. There were different dra- Tragedy” are known to have been among the earmatic schools ; a point which it is not possible at liest of their joint works. A little later Fletcher present to elucidate : but another fact, more easily wrote “ The Faithful Shepherdess ;” after which explained, was this; that the chief dramatists were they brought out, in partnership, the “ King and usually connected with one or another of the lead- No King,” and “ The Knight of the Burning ing theatres, and not with all. There were two Pestle." Supposing the works to be ranked mereprincipal theatres ; at the head of one of which stood ly according to their merit as stage-pieces, these Henslowe, and afterwards Alleyn ; while Shak- may be held to be equalled, or surpassed, by some


of the other plays ; but the true place of the authors command a veil to be cast over some of the particin our file of poets would remain unaltered, if, re- ulars, to the filling up of which the outline owes so taining the five dramas just enumerated, we were much of its harrowing power. to lose everything else which they ever wrote. In Amintor, a young nobleman of Rhodes, is temptnone of the series is the poetic vision so fine; ined by the king to abandon Aspatia, to whom he had none, perhaps, is the dramatic vitality so intense. been betrothed, and to marry Evadne, a beautiful The two earliest of the group are the most charac- lady of the court. In the very bride-chamber, the teristic of them all, both for good and evil.

bride acquaints her husband with the nature of the * Philaster, or Love lies a-bleeding,” is more interest which the king has taken in her marriage. valuable as a poem than as a drama ; and more val. She is the royal mistress. Her brother, extorting uable, too, for the beauty of particular passages the secret from Amintor, brings his sister to confesthan for its effect as a whole. It is a romantic sion and to a fierce kind of penitence. Evadne love-play, founded on a loose and feeble plot. A murders her seducer; the broken-hearted Aspatia, young and high-minded prince, dispossessed of his assuming a male disguise, provokes her faithless royal inheritance, (we hardly know how,) stalks, lover to slay her; Evadne and Amintor both perish like a sorrowful ghost, through the halls that should by suicide. have been his own. Between him and the usur- This is a story of guilt, and dishonor, and treachper's daughter there has sprung up a mutual and ery; but it is not one in which crime is lightly reacknowledged affection ; but two obstacles are in garded or allowed to triumph. The dishonor is pasthe way. The princess is betrothed by her father sionately felt; the treacherous guilt is fearfully to a foreign suitor ; and her lover becomes suspi- avenged. In the treatment of the theme (as, alas! cious of her fidelity. Both impediments are re- in every one of the works before us) there are moved. The lady's honor is vindicated ; the un- introduced passages of reprehensible levity and worthiness of the bridegroorn, with whom she had coarseness; but the ruling tone of feeling is one been threatened, is exposed ; and her father, in a which is morally not inconsonant with the events sudden access of kindness and justice, bestows on represented. Regarded as a whole, “ The Maid's the prince his mistress and the kingdom. Upon Tragedy” is, in our judgment, its author's masthis tottering and ill-jointed trellis-work are hung terpiece. Over all its horrors there is thrown a veil garlands of the most delicate fancy, and of the of poetic imagery, which invests most closely the sweetest and most tender feeling. The melancholy figure of the forlorn Aspatia, but streams out almusings of Prince Philaster, and his fitful gusts of most on every character and every scene. The jealousy and despair ; the self-conscious purity of feeling, too, is deep and varied ; plaintive sorrow Arethusa, and her unshaken devotion to one whose finds a voice most readily, while strong expression weakness had exposed her to insult and danger ; is also given to anger, and hatred, and despair. the silent, innocent, and unselfish love of the dis- These are features of detail; but there is a draguised Euphrasia ; are set forth in scenes which, matic and poetical excellence, of a rarer and loftier though exhibiting little skill or strength in the por- kind, in the harmony with which (a few jarring traiture of character, abound in touches of rich im- notes excepted) the unity of tragic emotion is agery and true emotion. Few passages in English maintained throughout. It does not present to us poetry are more finely conceived or expressed than merely two or three situations powerfully designed some of those that occur among the adventures in and colored ; it leads us on from one scene of pasthe forest. Still sweeter is the description, by sion to another, each rising beyond the scenes Philaster, of his finding Euphrasia by the fountain; which had preceded it, and one and all converging and the whole idea of the character thus introduced, towards the dreadful catastrophe in which everyraises the work into a region of imagination which thing is swallowed up, and “ darkness is the burier it would not otherwise have reached. Yet, pure of the dead." and lofty as are most of the thoughts and feelings "A King and No King' was, in the time of its of this piece, the imaginative heaven of our poeis authors, and long afterwards, one of the most popwas not free from clouds, even in this the morning ular of acted plays. A revival of it was projected of their day. The taint of moral evil has already by Garrick, who perceived the opportunities for discome too near; the foul shape of Megra flits every-play afforded to him by the character of Arbaces. where before our eyes; and all that surrounds her The design, however, was given up, and it failed is infected by her presence.

when carried into execution by Harris. Indeed, In the second of their great works, the young the moral tone of the work could not have been endramatists plunged headlong into that realm of sin, dured by any audience living after the seventeenth around whose frontier they had skimmed so often century. The story relates the progress of a pasin “ Philaster." The incidents of “ The Maid's sion, which those who entertained it believed to be Tragedy'' are profoundly revolting; they are pos- incestuous, and which is eventually rewarded by the sible only in a state of society utterly abandoned ; discovery that they are not relations. The literary and, unless on Madame de Stael's theory of the merits of the play have been estimated very diconnection between an immoral stage and a moral versely. Sore critics, and no mean ones, have people, they must have been intolerable in repre- ranked it much above “The Maid's Tragedy." sentation to any audience but one whose standard Mr. Dyce's judgment on it is more moderate and of purity was miserably low. Yet it has been at- just. tempted, in our day, to revive this play. It was The three plays we have just spoken of present brought on the stage of the Haymarket ten years the most noted instances, though by no means the ago, with alterations by Macready and Sheridan only ones, in which Beaumoni and Fletcher have Knowles. Nor were these practised judges of stage been taxed with directly borrowing from Shakrequirements wrong in their estimate of its dramatic speare. Bessus is said to have been copied from merits. The bloody tale which it tells contains genu- Falstaff; the character and position of Philaster ine tragic elements; although, even in a description from Hamlet; the melancholy songs of Aspatia, like the present, and far more in an actual repre- and Evadne's confession to her brother, from OpheBentation, the decencies of the nineteenth century lia; while the scene between Melantius and Amin


tor is supposed to be an imitation of the quarrel be- play, nay, not a whole scene, nor perhaps so much tween Brutus and Cassius. But instances of this as two consecutive speeches, in the works of Beaukind, however evidently suggested by the great mont and Fletcher, without being forcibly reminded, original, faintly intimate the degree to which the usually by a discord or a faintness of sound, thai works of Shakspeare dwelt upon the minds of his we are not listening to the enchanting music of the contemporaries. We learn as lille from their jest- mighty master. But there are to be found, scating allusions, the turns of expression, and the bits tered thickly throughout their dramas, shori pasof parody upon Shakspeare which are often intro- sages, chiefly of external description, or of tender duced good-humoredly by our two poets, and some- feeling, which strike in us on the same chords of times by Jonson with spleen and sourness. His thought and sentiment that are still vibrating under influence on the dramas of his time, and on all its the land of the greater poet. This similarity of walks of poetry, was much wider than this. character would be evident at once to any reader,

Imaginative inventors, of all ranks below the very who, being familiar with Shakspeare, should behighest, are like planetary satellites, which revolve come acquainted with Beaumont and Fletcher for indeed each on its own axis, but are all carried round the first time through a selection of their most imin the orbit of their common centre ; nay, to push aginative, most pathetic, or most sprightly passages. the comparison a step further, Jupiter himself, as The same experiment performed on any other dramwell as his moons, gravitates in dependence on the atists of the time, would leave a very different sun. Through the concurrence of the two impulses, impression. the special and the common, it is natural and inev- The secret may be told in one word. Whatever itable, that the appearance of every great work or may be their just place as dramatists, Beaumont group of works, in literature or art, should not only and Fleicher were better poets than any of their produce particular and designed imitation, but dramatic contemporaries, except Shakspeare himshould throw over all productions of the same class self. They mounted higher on the wings of ideal a hue which otherwise they would not have pos- contemplation. None can be compared to them for sessed. Thus did thoughts, and feelings, and im- exuberance and grace of fancy, none for their deliages innumerable, sown by Shakspeare beside the cacy and tenderness of feeling in passages of emohighway on which he travelled, spring up there tion. Their superiority in the region of pure pointo stately plants, and shed their seeds over every etry is shown significantly by the fact, that many field that lay in the neighborhood. Even the spirit of the lyrics introduced into their dramas are of inof the great poet did in some degree rest upon his comparable beauty ; unapproached, not only by such contemporaries, when his wide mantle fell and cov- indifferent commonplaces as the songs of Massinered them all-his divinest moods of emotion, his ger's plays, but even by the gems which sparkle in most dazzling trances of imagination, his profound the masques of Ben Johnson. The poetic spirit est intuitions of character, his marvellous reaches breathes not less warmly over innumerable passages of thought, sounding all the depths of human na- of the dialogues, lulling us so delightfully in dreams ture ;—these were indeed inspirations not vouch- of fantasy, that we forget for the time their faults. safed to any but himself, and apprehended but im- We forget that, as works of art, their dramas are perfectly even by the most exquisitely endowed of immeasurably inferior to those of Jonson, the most those to whom the poetic seer communicated his skilful artist of our old dramatic school; that they visions. But there was much that could be both are far behind him in the admirable structure of his comprehended and transfused ; much that did pass plots, as in his boldly conceived and vigorously exfrom the most comprehensive of all created minds ecuted portraiture of character. We forget that to the finest of the intelligences which surrounded they want alike the pomp and the thoughtfulness and followed him. The magnetic rapport between of Massinger ; that ihey strive in vain after the his genius and that of his fellow-dramatists, could tragic intensity of Websier; that they compensate not, it is true, qualify any of them, even in their but ill, by strained and extravagant situations, for most intense phases of poetical rapture, to imagine the natural delineation of life and manners which characters, or mental histories, like those of Ham- was often attained by Heywood. We forget that let, of Othello and lago, of Lear, or of Macbeth : there is hardly one of their works which must not, but the relation was close enough to enable several if regarded as a whole, be pronounced positively of them to conceive forms and incidents, feelings bad. We forget that, though they often thought and thoughts, not so very dissimilar to those of finely, they were incapable of thinking either com“ Roineo and Juliet,” of “ As You Like It,” of prehensively or profoundly; that, though they felt " Much Ado about Nothing." That Samuel deeply, their genuine passion was evanescent, and Johnson should prefer Shakspeare's comedies to was succeeded by counterfeited hysterics : that, his tragedies does not surprise us. But that Milton though they imagined poetically, and often dramatshould have gone to see a comedy of Shakspeare's ically, they lacked the power to work out their when he was merry, and have been obliged to fall images into living groups, or into real and consisback upon Greek plays about “ Pelops' line” when tent scenes. All this, and much else, we forget or he was sad—not finding in Shakspeare enough of disregard, because of the fact, that these two fine pity and of terror—and that Thomas Warton should spirits soared higher than any of the others into the have thought he showed good taste in doing so, is poetical atmosphere of the visionary world ; that more than we can understand.

these two eloquent tongues have told us, beyond what Now, of all his contemporaries, in respect both any of the others could have found utterance for, of matter and of expression, Beaumont and Fletcher what shapes had visited them in their dreams. All approached the nearest to him. They exhibited char- being disregarded, or assumed, which can justly be acteristics more akin to Shakspeare than can be dis- asserted in depreciation of the dramatic rank of our covered in any other. The language, doubtless, is poets, there remains the undoubted truth, that their far inferior, especially in vigor, precision, and com- works contain many passages poetically superior, prehension ; so, too, the thought, the feeling, and with the one great exception, to all that is to be the imagery; still, there is in all a strong resem- found elsewhere among the treasury of our old blance. We could never, it is true, peruse a whole English drama ; and that we could cull from them,

It contains pas

through a long course of extracts, poetry as beau- among the critics, we would admit that there is no ful and touching as any in our language. evidence entitling us peremptorily to assert that

In measuring the height of Beaumont and Fletch- Fletcher was concerned in the work to the exclusion er, we cannot take a better scale than to put them of Beaumont. alongside Shakspeare, and compare them with Be the authorship whose it may, " The Two him. In this manner, an imaginary supposition Noble Kinsmen” is undoubtedly one of the finest may assist us in determining the nature of their dramas in the volumes before us. excellence, and almost enable us to fix its degree. sages which, in dramatic vigor and passion, yield Suppose there were to be discovered, in the library hardly to anything-perhaps to nothing—in the of the Earl of Ellesmere, or in that of the Duke of whole collection ; while for gorgeousness of imaDevonshire, two dramas not known before, and of gery, for delicacy of poetic feeling, and for grace, doubtful authorship, the one being “ Hamlet,” and animation, and strength of language, we doubt the other “the Winter's Tale." We should be at whether there exists, under the names of our auno loss, we think, to assign the former to Shak- thors, any drama that comes near to it. Never has speare: the judgment would be warranted alike by any theme enjoyed the honors which have befallen the consideration of the whole, and by a scrutiny the semi-classical legend of Palamon and Arcite. of particular parts. But with regard to the other Chosen as the foundation of chivalrous narrative by play, hesitation would not be at all unreasonable. Boccaccio, Chaucer, and Dryden, it has furnished Beaumont and Fleicher (as an eminent living critic one of the fairest of the flowers that compose the has remarked to us) might be believed to have dramatic crown of Fletcher, while from that flower, written all its serious parts, more especially the perhaps, leaves might be plucked to decorate anscenes of the jealousy of Leontes, and those beauti- other brow which needs them not. ful ones which describe the rustic festival. Strange If the admirers of Fletcher could vindicate for to say, a case of this kind has actually arisen ; and him the fifth act of this play, they would entitle him the uncertainty which still hangs over it agrees to a still higher claim upon our gratitude, as the entirely with the hesitation which we have ventured author of a series of scenes, as picturesquely conto imagine as arising in the case we have supposed. ceived, and as poetically set forth, as any that our

In 1634, eighteen years after Beaumont's death, literatúre can boast. Dramatically considered, and nine after Fletcher's, there was printed, for the these scenes are very faulty: perhaps there are but first time, the play called “ The Two Noble Kins- two of them that have high dramaiic merits-the men.” The bookseller in his title-page declared it interrupted execution of Palamon, and the preceding to have been" written by the memorable worthies scene in which Emilia, left in the forest, hears the of their time, Mr. John Fletcher and Mr. William tumult of the battle, and receives successive reports Shakspeare, gentlemen.” On the faith of this of its changes and issue. But as a gallery of poetassertion, and on the evidence afforded by the char-ical pictures, as a cluster of images suggestive alike acter of the work, it has been assumed universally to the imagination and the feelings, as a cabinet of that Fletcher had a share in the authorship. Shak- jewels whose lustre dazzles the eye and blinds it to speare's part in it has been denied; though there the unskilful setting-in this light there are few is, perhaps, a preponderance of authority for the pieces comparable to the magnificent scene before affirmative. Those who maintain the joint author- the temples, where the lady and her lovers pray to ship commonly suppose the two poets to have writ- the gods: and the pathetically solemn close of the ten together; but Mr. Dyce questions this, and drama, admirable in itself, loses only when we comgives us an ingenious theory of his own, which pare it with the death of Arcite in Chaucer's masassumes Fletcher to have taken up and altered the terpiece, “ the Iliad of the middle ages.” work long after Shakspeare's labor on it had been In proceeding to trace the further history of our closed.

poets, we are naturally led to touch upon another The question of Shakspeare's share in this play question which has puzzled all their editors and is really insoluble. On the one hand, there are critics. What was the share of each of the two, reasons making it very difficult to believe that he either in the construction of the works generally, or can have had any concern in it; particularly the in the composition of particular plays? The field heavy and undramatic construction of the piece, and of inquiry is considerably narrowed by our knowlthe want of individuality in the characters. Besides, edge of some dates; and also, in one or two inwe encounter in it direct and palpable imitations of stances, by other trustworthy evidence. According Shakspeare himself; among which the most prom-to a careful estimate, there are, of the fifty-three inent is the wretchedly drawn character of the plays now included in the collection, no fewer than jailer's daughter. On the other hand, there are, in seventeen which were not represented, and almost many passages, resemblances of expression (in the certainly cannot have been written, till after Beauvery particulars in which our two poets are most mont's death ; while it is known that he had no part unlike Shakspeare) so close, that we must either in the composition of “The Faithful Shepherdess." admit Shakspeare's authorship of these parts, or Eighteen plays being thus excluded from Beausuppose Fletcher or some one else to have imitated mont's share, there remain thirty-five as to no one him designedly, and with very marvellous success. of which can it be alleged with positive certainty Among these passages, too, there are not a few that it was written by the one, by the other, or by which display a brilliancy of imagination, and a both. The assertions made in the prologues, epigrasp of thought, much beyond Fletcher's ordinary logues, and commendatory verses, are unauthoritapitch. Readers who lean 10 Mr. Dyce's theory, tive, and in many cases contradict each other. The will desire to learn his grounds for believing that internal evidence, again, is by no means sufficient Fletcher's labor on the play was performed in the for a determination of the question. We must dislatter part of his life. It appears to us that the card at once, as unproved and highly improbable, piece bears a close likeness to those more elevated an opinion of some of the older writers, which they works which are known to have been among the presented in two forms: some of them saying genearliest of our series : and, if it were not an un-erally, that Fletcher was the inventor, and Beaubrotherly act to throw a new bone of contention' mont the critic and corrector; and others holding

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Beaumont to have planned the joint works, while been for him had all his acts of courtiership been Fletcher executed the designs thus furnished. We as innocent as the “ countenance and loving affecmight describe as more plausible, but can scarcely tion” which lie here showed to the work of a man regard as probable, and certainly not as proved, of kindred though weaker genius. another theory, which is supported by old author- Yet Beaumont's Masque will no way bear comity, and has been favorably received in our own day. parison with Fletcher's Pastoral ; and certainly According to this hypothesis, Beaumont's genius his part in the volume of miscellaneous poems, was the more serious and elevated of the two; and first published with his name in 1640, and his juit is to him that the prevalence of the tragic or venile attempts formerly described, give no support higher poetic element is owing. Thus Mr. Þarley to those who maintain that Beaumont was the speaks of “ Beaumont's deeper, graver enthusi- greater genius of the two. But we need not enter asm," and detects “ a Beaumontesque air” in cer- too curiously into a question, which their love for tain of the plays. This notion, it is to be feared, each other, and for their common labors, has not rests on as slippery ground as the others. It is, chosen, it would seem, to leave us the materials doubtless, a fact not to be forgotten, that the tone for determining. They were yet young when of the dramas does in certain respects sink, as we death dissolved iheir partnership. trace them in their historical order. They sink, To the period before Beaumont's death may be both morally and as works of art. They lose not referred certainly one, and perhaps two tragedies, a little of their descriptive and lyrical luxuriance, not yet named. The first is “ Thierry and Theothough they acquire greater pointedness of stage doret, a piece stuffed full of horrors, and aboundeffect : they recede from lofty and heroic themes to ing in strained situations ; but instinct with passion scenes of actual life, or, at the highest, to romantic and energy, and presenting one scene, the unveiland novel-like adventures. But circunstances ing of Ordella, which Charles Lamb considered to existed fully adequate to account for this gradual be the finest the poets ever wrote. Commendation change, independently of all assumptions of differ- even higher has been given to the death-scene of ences in the genius or disposition of the two writers. the princely boy Hengo. The sweet pathos of this Some such circumstances will suggest themselves scene, the heroism of Caratach, and the occasional incidentally, as we rapidly follow the poets through bursts of poetry and lofty thought, which animate the remainder of their literary progress.

the tragedy of “ Bonduca," redeem it from the The works, as they lie before us, present a strange neglect to which its ill-contrived plot, and its gross and mortifying inequality. Our poets did not always want of harmony and feeling, must otherwise have choose their themes wisely; sometimes they treated condemned it. very indifferently themes which they had chosen “ The Knight of the Burning Pestle," another well. Some of their works, such as Cupid's of the early works, is a kind of stepping-stone from Revenge,” are bad for the former reason ; others, the tragic to the comic, a transition-stratum belike " The Coxcomb," exhibit both faults together. tween the primitive simplicity of “ The Maid's The immortality which, beyond all controversy, Tragedy," and the rich but foul commixture of the Beaumont and Fletcher have achieved, belongs to later comedies. It is a twofold satire. Directly it the creators of Euphrasia, Aspatia, and Arbaces. ridicules the chivalrous romances, striking a note Without these, they would have lived only in beau- which had scarcely as yet been heard by the people tiful fragınents, and as the playwrights of success- of England ; since Don Quixote, although eviful acting plays.

dently known to the authors of this play, did not apYet there are several admirable pieces among the pear in the earliest English translation till the year other works composed while the alliance endured. after. Indirectly, but quite unequivocally, it ridi

First probably in order, and far highest in value, cules also the chivalrous dramas of Heywood, esstands Fletcher's celebrated pastoral, " The Faith-pecially his" Four Prentices of London," and ful Shepherdess." Yet this piece failed signally exhibits in humorous caricature the London citizens on the stage, and could not under any circumstances who delighted in those representations. The ordihave succeeded. It is to be judged and felt in the nary penalty was paid for an attack on popular decloset only, and by readers such as those to whom lusions. The play was damned. It exhibits, howthe author, on printing it, scornfully appealed, from ever, an infinity of broad humor, both in character “the common prate of common people.” If we and in incident : its plot is well laid, and is carried compare it with Jonson's fine fragment, “ The out with great skill and consistency ; there are Sad Shepherd,” we find it, as usual, superior in some fine descriptions in it; and occasionally, poetical description, inferior in dramatic strength. though less clearly than in the romance of CervanIts lyrical beauty had evidently made a deep im- tes, it shows an involuntary and interesting sympapression on the youthful mind of Milton; and it is thy with the attractive extravagances which it was much higher above Guarini's “ Pastor Fido,” its designed to parody. immediate original, than it is below Tasso's These works were accompanied and succeeded “ Aminta,” which likewise came before it. We by several comedies, the best of which were, will not compare any of these poems with the “ The Scornful Lady,” and “ The Honest Man's “ Comus”-the only perfect specimen of this diffi- Fortune.” The tone of the comedies indicated cult and anomalous kind of dramatic composition. the progress towards that style of thought and

The “ Masque of the Inns of Court," written composition, by which, when he was lefi alone, by Beaumont three years afterwards, was intend- Fletcher was to recommend himself to the equivoed to celebrate the inauspicious marriage of the cal taste of his own age, and that of the RestoraPrincess Elizabeth to the Count Palatine. This tion. short sketch is picturesquely conceived ; it is full And how soon was he to be left alone! The of lively images and felicitous expressions. Nor, intimate personal communion of the friends had can we look with indifference on a piece, in the been impaired by the marriage of Beaumont. representation of which it is recorded that Francis Three years afterwards he was dead. He died in Bacon, then attorney-general, took an active in- March, 1616, leaving two daughters-one of whom

Alas for Bacon ! Well would it havel is said to have married a Scottish colonel, and to




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