Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

ADDITIONS AND CORRECTIONS.

example of a class of plays to the production of which the versatile Rowley seems to have been more than equal, whether as a joint or as an independent author. But the conditions of such a work leave it an insufficient test of his powers as a dramatist.

of Abington and Green's Tu

Page 137. The anonymous comedy called How a Man may Chuse a Good Wife from a Bad (reprinted in vol. ix. of Mr. Hazlitt's Dodsley) has been attributed to 'Joshua Cooke,'-probably, in the opinion of the author of the Biographia Dramatica, John Cook who wrote Green's Tu Quoque. This may be so, for the play, which appears to have gone through several editions after the first extant one of 1602, exhibits considerable wit and literary power. The plot, said to be founded on one of Cinthio's tales, is the story of a husband who after repudiating the devotion of a loving wife for the charms of a courtesan, and (as he thinks) ridding himself of the former by poison in order to marry the latter, finds that he has reaped the just reward of his criminal folly. The wicked Mistress Mary charges him with the very murder he intended to commit for her sake, and he is only saved by the faithful wife whom he had been ready to sacrifice. Several of the characters in this comedy are drawn with unusual distinctness, and the writing is full of wit. Old Master Lusam, who is invariably ready to agree with the last proposal made to him,―Justice Reason, who delivers himself with the most sonorous gravity of dicta signifying nothing,— Sir Aminadab, a pedantic schoolmaster full of quotations from the Latin grammar,—and the serving-man Pipkin, an irrepressible buffoon, are all effective comic figures; while the anecdotes related by the cynical Master Fuller for the encouragement of his more bashful friend are amusing, though not edifying, illustrations of the Ovidian Art of Love. Altogether, this play is one of the liveliest and wittiest of our anonymous earlier comedies, and well deserved to be reprinted. Sir Aminadab, by the bye, is prone to talking in hexameters, leonine and otherwise. The meaning of the term 'cutter,' used by Cowley for the title of the new version of his comedy (see p. 485, note 1), is illustrated in v. I of this play.

Pages 136, 137. For The Two Merry Wome Quoque, see Hazlitt's Dodsley, vols. vii. and xi.

xliii

Page 140. For Wily Beguiled, see Hazlitt's Dodsley, vol. ix.

Page 141, note 2. For Sidney's read Campion's (cf. p. 372, note 1). Both Campion's and Daniel's treatises are printed in vol. ii. of Haslewood's Ancient Critical Essays on English Poets and Poesy.

Pages 149, 152. For The Return from Parnassus and for Lingua, see Hazlitt's Dodsley, vol. ix. p. 178, note. The Second Maiden's Tragedy has been reprinted, ib. vol. x.

Page 205, note 1. For Orima's read Oriana's.

Page 263. The Revenger's Tragedy will be found in Hazlitt's Dodsley, vol. x. Page 263, line 5 from top. Thanks to the kindness of Mr. Alexander Ireland, I have at last had an opportunity-long desired in vain-of reading The Atheist's Tragedy (in a reprint of the year 1792). The play as a whole is beyond all doubt a very striking work, though containing few passages of high individual merit besides those extracted with his usual felicity of choice-by Lamb. I wonder however that he should not have included in them Charlemont's spirited lines in his first scene with his father, and the second of the epitaphs in iii. I—the latter a brief elegy of a simple style of beauty one would hardly have looked for from Tourneur:

The Epitaph of Charlemont.

His body lies interr'd within this mould,
Who died a young man, yet departed old.

And all that strength of youth, that man can have,
Was ready still to drop into his grave.
Far ag'd in Virtue with a youthful eye,
He welcom❜d it, being still prepar❜d to die;

And living so, though young depriv'd of breath,
He did not suffer an untimely death.

But we may say of his brave bless'd decease:
He died in war, and yet he died in peace.'

The exposition of the character of D'Amville, the atheist, is more impressive than its developement. Marlowe might have imagined such a hero-and even in the insolent philosophising of the murderer concerning the thunder and lightning which play about his head after the commission of his crime there is a vigour of conception, if not of execution, which attests a powerful dramatic imagination. But the progress of the action-which is clogged by an under-plot of revolting grossness— fails to heighten the effect of the character, though an attempt at incest is added to D'Amville's previous villanies; and his catastrophe-the overthrow of his reason after he has been baffled in his schemes-is not presented with any overwhelming force. Moreover, the moral which the tragedy seeks to teach-that vengeance should be left to Heaven-fails to impress itself as a clearly-defined principle, while the virtuous Charlemont and the sorely-tried Castabella can hardly be regarded as interesting in themselves. But a perusal of this tragedy (which by the bye is not without at least one manifest reminiscence of Hamlet-see Charlemont's speech in the churchyard, iii. 2—to which tragedy it might almost be thought to have been in a sense intended as a moral contrast) will I think decidedly raise the opinion of Tourneur's dramatic power likely to be formed by those who have read The Revenger's Tragedy only. It will at the same time confirm the impression that his poetic merits of a more general kind are confined to the originality of figure and expression, accompanied by a certain subtlety of thought, which he exhibits in particular passages. In The Atheist's Tragedy he has at times sentences of great length; but the versification is pleasing enough to make this tendency less perceptible than it might otherwise have become.

Page 293. Field's two plays have both been reprinted in vol. xi. of Hazlitt's Dodsley.

Page 342. Mr. Hazlitt's edition of the Poetical and Dramatic Works of Thomas Randolph (2 vols.) has now appeared,—a most welcome gift, for among our poets of the seventeenth century Randolph holds, if not a conspicuous position, at all events one to some extent peculiar to himself. And those who cherish the memories of Cambridge will specially delight in this opportunity of improving their acquaintance with so representative a University wit. Among the plays contained in this edition, and not already briefly described by me, Aristippus is a mere academical jeu d'esprit, of which the immediate object is to extol the virtues of sack and decry its rival, ale—whose praises, by way of compensation, Randolph has sung in one of his poems. This diverting little interlude-for it is nothing more—includes a burlesque of a lecture in philosophy, and a triumphant cantata by Simplicius in honour of his tutor and in obloquy of the schoolmen :

"

Aristippus is better in every letter

Than Faber Parisiensis;

Than Scotus, Socinus, and Thomas Aquinas

Or Gregory Gandavensis,' &c.

The Conceited Peddler (printed with Aristippus in 1630) is an even less ambitious University show,' consisting simply of a monologue delivered by a pedlar who has brought with him from his travels for the benefit of this Royal University' a

ADDITIONS AND CORRECTIONS.

xlv

collection of wares which he exhibits and comments upon. They comprise half-adozen incomparable points,'-including 'a point of good manners' ('this point is almost found in our college, and I thank the heavens for it, it begins to be tagged with Latin) and a point of false doctrine' ('made of a dangerous stubborn leather tagged at one end with self-conceit, at the other with wilful opinion')— a looking-glass, a whetstone, night-caps, and a lady in alabaster, whom the pedlar apostrophises in a quasi-parody on a famous passage in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. With the comedy of The Jealous Lovers (acted at Trinity before King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria in 1632) Randolph achieved a success to which the various dedications and commendatory verses prefixed to the play bear testimony. But though it is noticeable for its numerous characters (mostly of the regular Plautine type) and for considerable spirit in the execution and fluency in the diction, the utter artificiality of its plot, which ends with an altogether intolerable surprise, betrays the dilettante playing dramatist. The main motive of this comedy is the jealousy, rising almost to a pitch of madness, with which a lover (Tyndarus) persecutes his faithful mistress (Evadne), and an equally faithful lover (Pamphilus) is persecuted by his mistress (Techmessa). To try the constancy of the objects of their love and suspicion, Tyndarus and Techmessa go so far as to feign death, and cause themselves to be carried in coffins to the churchyard. This test (which furnishes an opportunity for a clever imitation, or expansion, of the humours of the grave-digger in Hamlet) having only proved the fidelity of Evadne and Pamphilus, this fidelity is about to be rewarded by marriage in either casewhen Hymen by a manifestation of ill-will forbids the banns. The jealousy of the lovers was the result of divinely-inspired instinct--for Tyndarus is the brother of Evadne, and Techmessa is the sister of Pamphilus! This species of solutionwhich savours of the pastoral-in truth stultifies the whole dramatic interest of the plot. The comic characters and situations are likewise artificial, though less conspicuously so; the writing is easy and redundant, and fully exhibits the talents of the author. Lastly, in his Hey for Honesty, Down with Knavery, published in 1651 (with augmentations) by 'F. J.' under this title and the Greek superscription of Πλουτοφθαλμία Πλουτογαμία, Randolph nominally appears as a translator of Aristophanes. The idea and the scheme of the Plutus was undoubtedly the basis of Randolph's comedy-but he has expanded the simple Aristophanic plot by adding an attempt at armed resistance on the part of Poverty ('Penia Poverty, or Penia-Penniless') and by otherwise diversifying the action, which closes with the marriage of the god of Wealth to Mistress Honesty, 'an honest scrivener's daughter.' And in order to give his comedy the force of a satire on the times, he has transplanted the locality to London, and made his Plutus the son and heir to Pinchback Truepenny. It is needless to say that Randolph-as well as the writer who published the play, and coloured it up to the date of 1651-fully availed himself of his opportunity of ridiculing the social, political, and literary foibles of his age, so that this work possesses considerable value, apart from its literary merits. Among the more broadly comic scenes will be noticed that in which Poverty marshals her forces, led by Higgen. (vide Fletcher's The Beggars' Bush, cf. vol. ii. p. 217), by Brun, a worthy Scot of gallant race' who left one of his arms behind him at Chevy Chase, by 'Caradoc, true leek of Wales,' and by 'brave Redshank too, Termock by name, Wonder of Redshanks and Hibernia's fame'

a' Falstaff's regiment,' as their commander calls them-and the last scene of the play but one, in which the Pope (whose authority has come to an end under the new régime) in vain seeks to recover it by a free use of the spiritual Treasure at his command, and ends with a ribald doggrel, Aristophanic at all events in its

impudence. (How spirited by the bye is the rhythm of the equally indecorous Threttanelo in ii. 1.)

Randolph, it is clear, was a real scholar of the lighter kind; and his familiarity with our own dramatic literature was considerable, as appears from the allusions to Shakspere and other dramatists scattered through his plays. Of his brief life, as Mr. Hazlitt conjectures, a great part was spent at the University, and though he came into contact with the circle who surrounded his 'adoptive father' Ben Jonson, his works are I think appropriately described on p. 342 as the scholarly amusements of an academical wit.' As such, and as a poet of no ordinary talent, he well deserves attention.

·

Pages 346, 348. For The Ordinary and The Old Couple, see Hazlitt's Dodsley, vol. xii; for The Heir, ib. vol. xi.

Page 347, line 2 from top. For Cartwright's comic styles are equally fluent and serious, read Cartwright's comic and serious styles are equally fluent.

Page 351. My opinion here expressed as to the literary characteristics of Shackerley (such appears to be the best authenticated spelling) Marmion has been confirmed by the perusal of two other comedies by that author, reprinted together with The Antiquary in an edition of his Dramatic Works quite recently put forth by Messrs. Maidment and Logan. Both Holland's Leaguer (printed 1632) and A Fine Companion (printed 1633) are the productions of an accomplished scholar, possessed of no ordinary powers of diction and versification. Marmion is however deficient in humour, and consequently unequal to effective comic characterisation. Indeed the earlier part of Holland's Leaguer almost resembles an attempt to bring a few chapters of Theophrastus or of one of his modern imitators on the stage. The main plot-the rescue of Philautus' nobler self from the fatuity of his self-conceit by a virtuous lady who in the end proves his sister-is moral in intention, but undramatic in execution; the under-plot of the siege of the infamous locality indicated by the title of the comedy is unredeemed by humour. A Fine Companion, though an admirably written Prologue (which borrows part of its phraseology from Persius) makes the reader hope for better things, has an intrigue of a very ordinary description, showing how

'Wealth shall be put back, when wit shall thrive,'

and how scheming and doting old age are impotent against youthful passion and determination. The more sustained passages of this comedy are generally well written, but the characters (including a variety of the Bobadil species) and the situations are alike devoid of originality. The title of the play would appear to have been derived from that of a popular song (see iv. 1).

Pages 357, 358. The plays of Robert Tailor, Lodowick Barry, and Lewis Machin, here mentioned, will be found (though hardly one of them is worth the seeking) in vols. xi, x, and x respectively of Hazlitt's Dodsley.

To the names here given may be added that of JOSEPH RUTTER, the author of a translation of Corneille's Le Cid (1637 and 1640), and of a 'pastoral tragi-comedy' entitled The Shepheards' Holy-day (1635), warmly praised by Ben Jonson, who saluted Rutter as his 'dear son, and right learned friend.' (See Underwoods, xxii; Rutter afterwards contributed an elegy to Jonsonus Virbius.) This production (reprinted in vol. xii. of Mr. Hazlitt's Dodsley) is a well-written but not particularly interesting example of the pastoral drama; its plot is thought to have some reference to a love-intrigue of Sir Kenelm Digby, who was a patron of Rutter and to whom the play is dedicated.

SIR WILLIAM BArclay (died 1677), who after holding a place at Court under Charles I was sent to Virginia, of which colony he afterwards became Governor, is the author of a striking play, The Lost Lady (printed 1639), which concludes the

ADDITIONS AND CORRECTIONS.

xlvii

twelfth volume of Mr. Hazlitt's Dodsley. The heroine of this 'tragi-comedy,' after disguising herself as a man in order to escape from the power of her uncle (who had sought her death in order to prevent her union with her lover Lysicles), barely escapes being poisoned by her lover himself. The rather complicated intrigue, of which this situation is the climax, is contrived with considerable skill, and the writing is vigorous and effective in the serious as well as in the comic parts of the play. Barclay must have possessed considerable talent for dramatic writing, though he is not known to have composed any other play. He understands how to sustain and heighten in its progress the interest of a plot both ingenious and perspicuous; and his style is forcible, while he is devoid neither of a certain subtlety of thought-see Lysicles' soliloquy on suicide, act v-nor of vivacity of wit-see the frolicsome Irene's advice (as I may call it) to reviewers of Minor Poets:' 'Let me counsel you: lay them aside till they have contracted an inch of dust, then with your finger write their epitaph, expressing the mutual quiet they gave men, and received from them' (i. 2).

4

Page 370. Fuimus Troes is reprinted in Mr. Hazlitt's Dodsley, vol. xii.
Page 433, line 4 from bottom. For sixteenth read seventeenth.

« PředchozíPokračovat »