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Of misery, and find myself past hope,
In the same moment that I apprehend

That I am falling.-Act 4. sc. 1. But if Massinger does not always exhibit the liveliest and most natural expressions of passions; if, like most other poets,

he sometimes substitutes declamation for those expressions, in description at least he puts forth all his strength, and never disappoints us of an astonishing exertion. We may be content to rest his character, in the description of passion, on the following single instance. In The Very Woman, Almira's lover, Caidenes, is dangerously wounded in quarrel, by Don John Antonio, who pays his addresses to her. Take, now, a description of Almira's frenzy on this event, which the prodigal author has put into the mouth of a chambermaid:

If she slumber'd, straight,
As if some dreadful vision had appear'd,
She started up, her hair unbound, and, with
Distracted looks, staring about the chamber,
She asks aloud, where is Martino? Where
Have you conceal'd him? Sometimes names Antonio,
Trembling in every joint, her brows contracted,
Her fair face as 'twere chang’d into a curse,
Her hands held up thus; and, as if her words
Were too big to find passage through her mouth,
She groans, then throws herself upon her bed,

Beating her breast.-Act 2. sc. 3. To praise or to elucidate this passage would be equally superfluous. I am acquainted with nothing superior to it in descriptive poetry; and it would be hardy to bring any single instance in competition with it. Our poet is not less happy in his descriptions of inanimate nature; and his descriptions bear the peculiar stamp of true genius in their beautiful conciseness. What an exquisite picture does he present in the compass of less than two lines!

Yon hanging cliff that glasses
His rugged forehead in the neighbouring lake.

Renegado, act 2. sc. 5.
Thus also Dorothea's description of Paradise:

There's a perpetual spring, perpetual youth;
No joint-benumming cold, or scorching heat,
Famine, nor age, have any being there.

The Virgin Martyr, act 4. sc. 3.

After all the encomiums on a rural life, and after all the soothing sentiments and beautiful images lavished on it, by poets who never lived in the country, Massinger has furnished one of the most charming unborrowed descriptions that can be produced on the subject:

Happy the golden mean! Had I been born
In a poor sordid cottage, not nurs'd up
With expectation to command a court,
I might, like such of your condition, sweetest,
Have ta’en a safe and middle course; and not,
As I am now, against my choice, compelld
Or to lie grovelling on the earth, or raised
So high upon the pinnacles of state,
That I must either keep my height with danger,
Or fall with certain ruin.

We might walk
In solitary groves, or in choice gardens;
From the variety of curious flowers
Contemplate nature's workmanship and wonders:
And then, for change, near to the murmur of
Some bubbling fountain, I might hear you sing,
And, from the well-tun'd accents of your tongue,
In my imagination conceive
With what melodious harmony a choir
Of angels sing above their Maker's praises.
And then with chaste discourse, as we return'd,
Imp feathers to the broken wings of time:-

walk into
The silent groves, and hear the amorous birds
Warbling their wanton notes; here, a sure shade
Of barren sycamores, which the all-seeing sun
Could not pierce through; near that an arbor hung
With spreading eglantines; there, a bubbling spring
Watering a bank of hyacinths and lilies.

The Great Duke of Florence, act 1. sc. 1. and act 4. sc. 2.


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Let us oppose to these peaceful and inglorious images, the pic ture of a triumph, by the same masterly hand:

When she views you,
Like a triumphant conqueror, carried through
The streets of Syracusa, the glad people
Pressing to meet you, and the senators
Contending who shall heap most honours on you;

The oxen, crown'd with garlands, led before you,


Appointed for the sacrifice; and the altars
Smoking with thankful incense to the gods;
The soldiers chanting loud hymns to your praise;
The windows fill'd with matrons and with virgins,
Throwing upon your head, as you pass by,
The choicest flowers, and silently invoking
The queen of love, with their particular vows,

To be thought worthy of you.--The Bondman, act 3. sc. 4. Every thing here is animated; yet every action is appropriate. A painter might work after this sketch, without requiring an additional circumstance.

The speech of young Charalois, in the Funeral Procession, if too metaphorical for his character and situation, is at least highly poetical:

How like a silent stream, shaded with night,
And, gliding softly with our windy sighs,
Moves the whole frame of this solemnity!

Whilst I, the only murmurer in this grove
Of death, thus hollowly break forth.

The Fatal Dowry, act 2. sc. 1.


may afford some consolation to inferior genius to remark, that even Massinger sometimes employs pedantic and overstrained allusions. He was fond of displaying the little military knowledge he possessed, which he introduces in the following passage, in a most extraordinary manner. One beautiful image in it must excuse the rest.

Were Margaret only fair,
The cannon of her more than earthly form,
Though mounted high, commanding all beneath it,
And ramm'd with bullets of her sparkling eyes,
Of all the bulwarks that defend your senses
Could batter none, but that which guards your sight.


you feel her touch, and breath
Like a soft western wind, when it glides o'er
Arabia, creating gums and spices;
And in the van, the nectar of her lips,
Which you must taste, bring the battalia on,
Well arm’d, and strongly lind with her discourse,

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Hyppolitus himself would leave Diana,
To follow such a Venus.

A New Way to Pay Old Debts, act 3. sc. La

What pity that he should ever write so extravagantly, who could produce this tender and delicate image, in another piece:

What's that? Oh, nothing but the whispering wind
Breathes through yon churlish hawthorn, that grew rude,
As if it chid the gentle breath that kiss'd it.

The Old Law, act 4. sc. 2. I wish it could be added to Massinger's just praises, that he had preserved his scenes from the impure dialogue which digusts us in most of our old writers. But we may observe, in defence of his failure, that several causes operated at that time to produce such a dialogue; and that an author, who subsisted by writing, was absolutely subjected to the influence of those causes. The manners of the age permitted great freedoms in language; the theatre was not frequented by the best company; the male part of the audience was by much the more numerous; and, what perhaps had a greater effect than any of these, the women's parts were performed by boys. So powerful was the effect of those circumstances, that Cartwright is the only dramatist of that age whose works are tolerably free from indecency. Massinger's error, perhaps, appears more strongly, because his indelicacy has not always the apology of wit; for, either from a natural deficiency in that quality, or from the peculiar model on which he had formed himself, his comic characters are less witty than those of his cotemporaries; and when he attempts wit, he frequently degenerates into buffoonery. But he has showed, in a remarkable manner, the justness of his taste, in declining the practice of quibbling; and as wit and a quibble were supposed, in that age, to be inseparable, we are perhaps to seek, in his aversion to the prevailing folly, the true cause of his sparing employment of wit.

Our poet excels more in the description than in the expression of passion. This may be ascribed, in some measure, to his nice attention to the fable: while his scenes are managed with consummate skill, the lighter shades of character and sentiment are lost in the tendency of each part of the catastrophe.

The prevailing beauties of his productions are dignity and elegance; their predominant fault is want of passion.

The melody, force and variety of his versification are every where remarkable. Admitting the force of all the objections which are made to the employment of blank verse in comedy, Massinger possesses charms sufficient to dissipate them all. It is indeed

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equally different from that which modern author's are pleased to style blank verse, and from the flippant prose so loudly celebrated in the comedies of the day. The neglect of our old comedies seems to arise from other causes than from the employment of blank verse in their dialogue; for, in general, its construction is so natural, that, in the mouth of a good actor, it runs into elegant prose. The frequent delineations of perishable manners, in our old comedy, have occasioned this neglect; and we may foresee the fate of our present fashionable pieces, in that which has attended Jonson's, Fletcher's, and Massinger's: they are either entirely overlooked, or so mutilated, to fit them for representation, as neither to retain the dignity of the old comedy, nor to acquire the graces

The changes of manners have necessarily produced very remarkable effects on theatrical performances. In proportion as our best writers are further removed from the present times, they exhibit bolder and more diversified characters, because the prevailing manners admitted a fuller display of sentiments, in the common intercourse of life. Our own times, in which the intention of polite. education is to produce a general uniform manner, afford little diversity of character for the stage. Our dramatists, therefore, mark the distinctions of their characters by incidents more than by sentiments; and abound more in striking situations than interesting dialogue. In the old comedy, the catastrophe is occasioned, in general, by a change in the mind of some principal character, artfully prepared, and cautiously conducted; in the modern, the unfolding of the plot is effected by the overturning of a screen, the opening of a door, or by some other equally dignified machine.

When we compare Massinger with the other dramatic writers of his age, we cannot long hesitate where to place him. More natural in his characters, and more poetical in his diction, than Jonson or Cartwright, more elevated and nervous than Fletcher, the only writers who can be supposed to contest his preeminence, Massinger ranks immediately under Shakspeare himself.

It must be confessed, that, in comedy, Massinger falls considerably beneath Shakspeare; his wit is less brilliant, and his ridicule less delicate and various; but he affords a specimen of elegant comedy,* of which there is no archetype in his great pre

* The Great Duke of Florence.

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