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A NEW WAY TO PAY OLD DEBTS:

A COMEDY,

En five Acts.

BY PHILIP MASSINGER.

PRINTED FROM THE ACTING COPY, WITH REMARKS,

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL, BY D-G.

To which are added,

A DESCRIPTION OF THE COSTUME,-CAST OF THE CHARACTERS, ENTRANCES AND EXITS, -RELATIVE POSITION OF THE PER

FORMERS ON THE STAGE, AND THE WHOLE OF THE STAGE

BUSINESS.

As now performed at the

THEATRES ROYAL, LONDON.

EMBELLISHED WITH A PORTRAIT OF MISS SMITHSON,

IN THE CHARACTER OF MARGARET.

Engraved on Steel by Mr. WOOLNOTH, from an original Drawing

by Mr. WAGEMAN.

LONDON:

JOHN CUMBERLAND, 6, BRECKNOCK PLACE,

CAMDEN TOWN.

REMARKS.

A New Way to Pay Old Debts.

If we compare the dramatic authors who flourished at the commencement of Shakspeare's career, with the great poet himself, his contemporaries, and immediate successors, we shall be astonished to find that the infancy and maturity of the stage should embrace a period of but little more than thirty to forty years. The dawn of Shakspeare dispelled the shadows, clouds, and darkness that rested on the dramatic horizon, and with him arose a host of stars that, while they shone with no borrowed lustre, still gathered glory from his beams. The most illustrious, and next in rank to himself, is Philip Massinger, a man of whose life little or nothing is known, beyond the melancholy fact, that he was a literary way-farer, eking out a penurious existence in humble obscurity, and that his transcendani genius, which must command the admiration of the latest posterity, could not protect him from the horrors of a gaol. He died on the 17th of March, 1640. According to Langbaine, he went to bed in good health, and was found dead in the morning, in his own house on the Bank-side. He was buried in the church of St. Mary Overy, in Southwark, "without a stone, a name," in the same grave with his friend and fellow-labourer, John Fletcher. The register thus briefly records the memorial of his mortality :-March 20, 1639-40, buried Philip Massinger-A Stranger!"

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But, though no storied urn or animated bust" have transmitted to posterity a record of this great poet, he may well spare the fame of such perishable memorials—

"In his own works enshrin'd, the bard shall live !"

and, though the regret will be deep and lasting, that the poet's path should have been strewed with briars and thorns, a feeling of exultation will be mingled with it, that, while neglect did its worst to the living bard, time has crowned his memory with immortal honours. We believe that genius, in adversity's darkest hour, has received consolation from the conviction that future ages would gratefully appreciate it; and that, when all other hope has proved unavailing, the hope of immortality has cheered the drooping spirit, and made it esteem that glorious distinction cheaply bought by contumely and suffering. It is not impossible that such a hope might have broke in upon the sorrows of Massinger.

In assigning Massinger a station above all other dramatic poets, and placing him next to the divine Shakspeare, we cannot forget the sublimity of Beaumont-the pathos of Fletcher-the wit, nerve, and profound learning of Ben Jonson. It is, that he has a combination of rarer qualities than his illustrious contemporaries; that his conceptions are more just and noble; that in dignity and elegance, in power of description-in the melody, grandeur, and variety of his poetry, he is superior to them. In majesty of thought and

diction, he often approaches Shakspeare. Wit was a talent that Massinger possessed not in any degree; in humour, also, he is confessedly inferior to most of his contemporaries: yet his characters arc equally natural, and, though not more strongly drawn, are, in the present day, better understood than those of Ben Jonson. None of his plots are, perhaps, original, but were derived, like those of Shakspeare, from history and fiction. Yet he is eminently skilful in the conduct of them,-in producing that intricacy which lays hold of the imagination, and in unravelling them with as little violence to nature and probability as may be consistent with dramatic effect. His language is not always free from impurities; yet, an author, whom hard necessity compelled to write for his daily bread, may reasonably claim some allowance for an occasional sacrifice to the licentious freedoms that the stage not only permitted, but enjoined; when the female characters were performed by males, and the theatre was a recreation generally confined to the common people. But a pernicious sentiment, a sneer at religion, a profane jest, are not to be found in the writings of Massinger. In this respect he claims a merit above all his contemporaries.

In disposition, he was mild, amiable, and unassuming; free from that irritation and jealousy which have sometimes obscured the brightest talents. By those who might be called his rivals in literature, he was panegyrized and beloved. He had opponents, but they provoked neither his envy nor hostility; nor do we discover in his writings any of those satirical invectives that (however justly provoked) characterize the pages of Jonson. He may be said to have passed through life wholly innoxious. His dedications teem with no servile flattery, but are the warm effusions of a grateful heart; and, though the frequent mention of his unhappy circumstances may not indicate that stern philosophy which endures in silence, it raises our indignation at the apathy of an age that could treat with neglect so distinguished a man.

A New Way to Pay Old Debts is the most popular of all the dramas of Massinger not because it is the best, for there are others that possess higher qualities than this play, but because it is the best adapted for representation; that it is a valuable and curious picture of life and manners, that it displays an interesting variety of incident and character, and of passion, delineated with great truth and effect. No part of it is built on abstract ideas; nothing is obsolete or unintelligible; the plot works easily, and the catastrophe is at once striking and grand. We behold avarice and cunning foiled by their own weapons, and hypocritical villany become the mean of exemplary justice, in the betrayal of Sir Giles, by his creature Marrall. And, though the integrity of the more amiable characters, Lovell, Lady Allworth, and the two lovers, is, in a certain degree, violated by the deceits they are made to practise upon Overreach, their justification may be fairly admitted in the full and ample punishment of that cruel extortioner. We may learn from the example of Wellborn, that youthful prodigality is the parent of poverty and contempt; and, from that of Sir Giles, that fraud and oppression are their own bane and punishment; and that providence, sooner or later, marks the man who questions its omnipotence, and braves its justice.

It has been proved, beyond all doubt, that Sir Giles and Justice Greedy are real portraits. The former was intended to represent Sir Giles Mompesson, a notorious usurer of that day, who was expelled and banished the king's dominions, and degraded of the order of knighthood; and the latter, Sir Francis Michell, his asso

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