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VOLUME THE FIRST.
Francis BEAUMONT was third son of Francis, the judge, and born at Grace Dieu, Leicestershire, in the year 1586. In 1596, he, with his two brothers, Henry and John, was admitted a gentleman commoner of Broadgate-hall, now Pembroke-college, Oxford. Wood, who refers his education to Cambridge, has mistaken him for his cousin Francis, master of the Charter-house, who died in 1624, an error not at all wonderful, inasmuch as there were four Francis Beaumonts of this family, all living in 1615, and of these, three were poets, viz. the master of the Charter-house, the dramatic writer, and one who was a Jesuit. The subject of this article studied some time in the Inner Temple, and his Mask of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn, was acted and printed in 1612-13, when he was only in his twentysixth year. His application to the law was probably not very intense; he devoted himself to the Dramatic Muse from an early period; but at what time he commenced a partnership with Fletcher is not known. The date of their first plays is in 1607, when Beaumont was in his twenty-first year: in all the editions of their works, and in every notice of their joint productions, notwithstanding Fletcher's seniority, the name of Beaumont stands first. Their connection, from similarity of taste and studies, was very intimate; they lived together on Bank-side, not far from the play-house, both bachelors, and it is said that they had one bench between them, and that they made use of the same clothes, cloak, &c. and that Beaumont's chief business was
to correct the overflowings of Fletcher's wit. The latter part of this allegation is not admitted by certain writers, particularly Sir Egerton Brydges, who suspects that great injustice has been done to Beaumont, by the supposition that his merit was principally confined to lopping the redundancies of Fletcher. The editors of the Biographia Dramatica say, " It is probable that the forming of the plan, and contriving the conduct of the fable, the writing of the more serious and pathetic parts, and lopping the redundant branches of Fletcher's wit, whose luxuriances frequently stood in need of castigation, might be in general Beaumont's portion of the work.” This is to afford him high praise, and there are other facts to prove that he was considered by his contemporaries in a superior light, and that this estimation of his talents was common in the life-time of his colleague, who from candour, or friendship, appears to have acquiesced in every respect paid to the memory of Beaumont.
How his life was spent his works will testify. The production of so many plays, and the interest which he would naturally take in their success, were sufficient to occupy his mind during the short span of his mortal existence, which cannot be supposed to have been diversified by any other events than those incident to candidates for theatrical fame and profit.
Mr. Beaumont died in March 1615-16, and was buried in the collegiate church of St. Peter, Westminster. The first edition of his poems appeared in 1640. The only poem printed in Beaumont's life-time was, Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, from Ovid, which he published in 1602, when he was only sixteen years
His original poems, says his biographer, give him very superior claims as a poet; he is generally more free from metaphysical conceits than his contemporaries. His sentiments are elegant and refined, and his versification is unusually harmonious. His amatory poems are sprightly and original, and some of his lyrics rise to the impassioned spirit of Shakespeare and Milton.