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Title: A History of Elizabethan Literature
Author: Saintsbury, George, 1845-1933
Language: English
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HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE

ELIZABETHAN LITERATURE



  +---------------------------------------------+
  |                                             |
  |      A HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE        |
  |                                             |
  |       _In Six Volumes, Crown 8vo._          |
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  |  ENGLISH LITERATURE FROM THE BEGINNING      |
  |    TO THE NORMAN CONQUEST. By Rev. STOPFORD |
  |    A. BROOKE, M.A. 8s. 6d.                  |
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  |  ENGLISH LITERATURE FROM THE NORMAN         |
  |    CONQUEST TO CHAUCER. By Prof. W. H.      |
  |    SCHOFIELD, Ph.D. 8s. 6d.                 |
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  |  THE AGE OF CHAUCER. By Professor W. H.     |
  |    SCHOFIELD, Ph.D.  [_In preparation._     |
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  |  ELIZABETHAN LITERATURE (1560-1665). By     |
  |    GEORGE SAINTSBURY. 8s. 6d.               |
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  |  EIGHTEENTH CENTURY LITERATURE (1660-1780). |
  |    By EDMUND GOSSE, M.A. 8s. 6d.            |
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  |  NINETEENTH CENTURY LITERATURE (1780-1900). |
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  +---------------------------------------------+



  A HISTORY

    OF

  ELIZABETHAN LITERATURE

    BY

  GEORGE SAINTSBURY


  MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
  ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON
  1920


COPYRIGHT

_First Edition_ 1887. _Second Edition_ 1890.

_Reprinted_ 1893, 1894, 1896, 1898, 1901, 1903, 1907, 1910, 1913, 1918,
1920.



PREFACE TO NINTH EDITION


As was explained in the Note to the Preface of the previous editions and
impressions of this book, after the first, hardly one of them appeared
without careful revision, and the insertion of a more or less considerable
number of additions and corrections. I found, indeed, few errors of a kind
that need have seemed serious except to Momus or Zoilus. But in the
enormous number of statements of fact which literary history of the more
exact kind requires, minor blunders, be they more or fewer, are sure to
creep in. No writer, again, who endeavours constantly to keep up and extend
his knowledge of such a subject as Elizabethan literature, can fail to have
something new to say from time to time. And though no one who is competent
originally for his task ought to experience any violent changes of view,
any one's views may undergo modification. In particular, he may find that
readers have misunderstood him, and that alterations of expression are
desirable. For all these reasons and others I have not spared trouble in
the various revisions referred to; I think the book has been kept by them
fairly abreast of its author's knowledge, and I hope it is not too far
behind that of others.

It will, however, almost inevitably happen that a long series of piecemeal
corrections and codicils somewhat disfigures the character of the
composition as a whole. And after nearly the full score of years, and not
much less than half a score of re-appearances, it has seemed to me
desirable to make a somewhat more thorough, minute, and above all connected
revision than I have ever made before. And so, my publishers falling in
with this view, the present edition represents the result. I do not think
it necessary to reprint the original preface. When I wrote it I had already
had some, and since I wrote it I have had much more, experience in writing
literary history. I have never seen reason to alter the opinion that, to
make such history of any value at all, the critical judgments and
descriptions must represent direct, original, and first-hand reading and
thought; and that in these critical judgments and descriptions the value of
it consists. Even summaries and analyses of the matter of books, except in
so far as they are necessary to criticism, come far second; while
biographical and bibliographical details are of much less importance, and
may (as indeed in one way or another they generally must) be taken at
second hand. The completion of the _Dictionary of National Biography_ has
at once facilitated the task of the writer, and to a great extent disarmed
the candid critic who delights, in cases of disputed date, to assume that
the date which his author chooses is the wrong one. And I have in the main
adjusted the dates in this book (where necessary) accordingly. The
bibliographical additions which have been made to the Index will be found
not inconsiderable.

I believe that, in my present plan, there is no author of importance
omitted (there were not many even in the first edition), and that I have
been able somewhat to improve the book from the results of twenty years'
additional study, twelve of which have been mainly devoted to English
literature. How far it must still be from being worthy of its subject,
nobody can know better than I do. But I know also, and I am very happy to
know, that, as an Elizabethan himself might have said, my unworthiness has
guided many worthy ones to something like knowledge, and to what is more
important than knowledge, love, of a subject so fascinating and so
magnificent. And that the book may still have the chance of doing this, I
hope to spare no trouble upon it as often as the opportunity presents
itself.[1]

  EDINBURGH, _January_ 30, 1907.

[1] In the last (eleventh) re-impression no alterations seemed necessary.
In this, one or two bibliographical matters may call for notice. Every
student of Donne should now consult Professor Grierson's edition of the
_Poems_ (2 vols., Oxford, 1912), and as inquiries have been made as to the
third volume of my own _Caroline Poets_ (see Index), containing Cleveland,
King, Stanley, and some less known authors, I may be permitted to say that
it has been in the press for years, and a large part of it is completed.
But various stoppages, in no case due to neglect, and latterly made
absolute by the war, have prevented its appearance.--BATH, October 8, 1918.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I

  FROM TOTTEL'S MISCELLANY TO SPENSER

  The starting-point--Tottel's _Miscellany_--Its method and authorship--The
      characteristics of its poetry--Wyatt--Surrey--Grimald--Their metres
      --The stuff of their poems--_The Mirror for Magistrates_--Sackville
      --His contributions and their characteristics--Remarks on the formal
      criticism of poetry--Gascoigne--Churchyard--Tusser--Turberville--
      Googe--The translators--Classical metres--Stanyhurst--Other
      miscellanies                                               Pages 1-27


  CHAPTER II

  EARLY ELIZABETHAN PROSE

  Outlines of Early Elizabethan Prose--Its origins--Cheke and his
      contemporaries--Ascham--His style--Miscellaneous writers--Critics--
      Webbe--Puttenham--Lyly--_Euphues_ and Euphuism--Sidney--His style and
      critical principles--Hooker--Greville--Knolles--Mulcaster       28-49


  CHAPTER III

  THE FIRST DRAMATIC PERIOD

  Divisions of Elizabethan Drama--Its general character--Origins--_Ralph_
      _Roister Doister_--_Gammer Gurton's Needle_--_Gorboduc_--The Senecan
      Drama--Other early plays--The "university wits"--Their lives and
      characters--Lyly (dramas)--The Marlowe group--Peele--Greene--Kyd--
      Marlowe--The actor playwrights                                  50-81


  CHAPTER IV

  "THE FAËRIE QUEENE" AND ITS GROUP

  Spenser--His life and the order of his works--_The Shepherd's Calendar_
      --The minor poems--_The Faërie Queene_--Its scheme--The Spenserian
      stanza--Spenser's language--His general poetical qualities--
      Comparison with other English poets--His peculiar charm--The
      Sonneteers--Fulke Greville--Sidney--Watson--Barnes--Giles Fletcher
      the elder--Lodge--_Avisa_--Percy--_Zepheria_--Constable--Daniel--
      Drayton--_Alcilia_--Griffin--Lynch--Smith--Barnfield--Southwell--The
      song and madrigal writers--Campion--Raleigh--Dyer--Oxford, etc.--
      Gifford--Howell, Grove, and others--The historians--Warner--The
      larger poetical works of Daniel and Drayton--The satirists--Lodge--
      Donne--The poems of Donne generally--Hall--Marston--Guilpin--Tourneur
                                                                     82-156


  CHAPTER V

  THE SECOND DRAMATIC PERIOD--SHAKESPERE

  Difficulty of writing about Shakespere--His life--His reputation in
      England and its history--Divisions of his work--The Poems--The
      Sonnets--The Plays--Characteristics of Shakespere--Never unnatural--
      His attitude to morality--His humour--Universality of his range--
      Comments on him--His manner of working--His variety--Final remarks--
      Dramatists to be grouped with Shakespere--Ben Jonson--Chapman--
      Marston--Dekker                                               157-206


  CHAPTER VI

  LATER ELIZABETHAN AND JACOBEAN PROSE

  Bacon--Raleigh--The Authorised Version--Jonson and Daniel as
      prose-writers--Hakluyt--The Pamphleteers--Greene--Lodge--Harvey--Nash
      --Dekker--Breton--The Martin Marprelate Controversy--Account of it,
      with specimens of the chief tracts                            207-252


  CHAPTER VII

  THE THIRD DRAMATIC PERIOD

  Characteristics--Beaumont and Fletcher--Middleton--Webster--Heywood--
      Tourneur--Day                                                 253-288


  CHAPTER VIII

  THE SCHOOL OF SPENSER AND THE TRIBE OF BEN

  Sylvester--Davies of Hereford--Sir John Davies--Giles and Phineas
      Fletcher--William Browne--Wither--Drummond--Stirling--Minor Jacobean
      poets--Songs from the dramatists                              289-314


  CHAPTER IX

  MILTON, TAYLOR, CLARENDON, BROWNE, HOBBES

  The quintet--Milton's life--His character--His periods of literary
      production--First Period, the minor poems--The special excellences of
      _Comus_--_Lycidas_--Second Period, the pamphlets--Their merits and
      defects--Milton's prose style--Third Period, the larger poems--
      Milton's blank verse--His origins--His comparative position--Jeremy
      Taylor's life--His principal works--His style--Characteristics of his
      thought and manner--Sir Thomas Browne--His life, works, and editions
      --His literary manner--Characteristics of his style and vocabulary--
      His Latinising--Remarkable adjustment of his thought and expression--
      Clarendon--His life--Great merits of his _History_--Faults of his
      style--Hobbes--His life and works--Extraordinary strength and
      clearness of his style                                        315-353


  CHAPTER X

  CAROLINE POETRY

  Herrick--Carew--Crashaw--Divisions of Minor Caroline poetry--Miscellanies
      --George Herbert--Sandys--Vaughan--Lovelace and Suckling--Montrose--
      Quarles--More--Beaumont--Habington--Chalkhill--Marmion--Kynaston--
      Chamberlayne--Benlowes--Stanley--John Hall--Patrick Carey--Cleveland
      --Corbet--Cartwright, Sherburne, and Brome--Cotton--The general
      characteristics of Caroline poetry--A defence of the Caroline poets
                                                                    354-393


  CHAPTER XI

  THE FOURTH DRAMATIC PERIOD

  Weakening of dramatic strength--Massinger--Ford--Shirley--Randolph--Brome
      --Cokain--Glapthorne--Davenant--Suckling--Minor and anonymous plays
      of the Fourth and other Periods--The Shakesperian Apocrypha   394-427


  CHAPTER XII

  MINOR CAROLINE PROSE

  Burton--Fuller--Lord Herbert of Cherbury--Izaak Walton--Howell--Earle--
      Felltham--The rest                                            428-444


  CONCLUSION                                                            445



CHAPTER I

FROM TOTTEL'S "MISCELLANY" TO SPENSER


In a work like the present, forming part of a larger whole and preceded by
another part, the writer has the advantage of being almost wholly free from
a difficulty which often presses on historians of a limited and definite
period, whether of literary or of any other history. That difficulty lies
in the discussion and decision of the question of origins--in the allotment
of sufficient, and not more than sufficient, space to a preliminary
recapitulation of the causes and circumstances of the actual events to be
related. Here there is no need for any but the very briefest references of
the kind to connect the present volume with its forerunner, or rather to
indicate the connection of the two.

There has been little difference of opinion as to the long dead-season of
English poetry, broken chiefly, if not wholly, by poets Scottish rather
than English, which lasted through almost the whole of the fifteenth and
the first half of the sixteenth centuries. There has also been little
difference in regarding the remarkable work (known as Tottel's
_Miscellany_, but more properly called _Songs and Sonnets, written by the
Right Honourable Lord Henry Howard, late Earl of Surrey, and other_) which
was published by Richard Tottel in 1557, and which went through two
editions in the summer of that year, as marking the dawn of the new
period. The book is, indeed, remarkable in many ways. The first thing,
probably, which strikes the modern reader about it is the fact that great
part of its contents is anonymous and only conjecturally to be attributed,
while as to the part which is more certainly known to be the work of
several authors, most of those authors were either dead or had written long
before. Mr. Arber's remarks in his introduction (which, though I have
rather an objection to putting mere citations before the public, I am glad
here to quote as a testimony in the forefront of this book to the excellent
deserts of one who by himself has done as much as any living man to
facilitate the study of Elizabethan literature) are entirely to the
point--how entirely to the point only students of foreign as well as of
English literature know. "The poets of that age," says Mr. Arber, "wrote
for their own delectation and for that of their friends, and not for the
general public. They generally had the greatest aversion to their works
appearing in print." This aversion, which continued in France till the end
of the seventeenth century, if not later, had been somewhat broken down in
England by the middle of the sixteenth, though vestiges of it long
survived, and in the form of a reluctance to be known to write for money,
may be found even within the confines of the nineteenth. The humbler means
and lesser public of the English booksellers have saved English literature
from the bewildering multitude of pirated editions, printed from private
and not always faithful manuscript copies, which were for so long the
despair of the editors of many French classics. But the manuscript copies
themselves survive to a certain extent, and in the more sumptuous and
elaborate editions of our poets (such as, for instance, Dr. Grosart's
_Donne_) what they have yielded may be studied with some interest.
Moreover, they have occasionally preserved for us work nowhere else to be
obtained, as, for instance, in the remarkable folio which has supplied Mr.
Bullen with so much of his invaluable collection of Old Plays. At the early
period of Tottel's _Miscellany_ it would appear that the very idea of
publication in print had hardly occurred to many writers' minds. When the
book appeared, both its main contributors, Surrey and Wyatt, had been long
dead, as well as others (Sir Francis Bryan and Anne Boleyn's unlucky
brother, George Lord Rochford) who are supposed to be represented. The
short Printer's Address to the Reader gives absolutely no intelligence as
to the circumstances of the publication, the person responsible for the
editing, or the authority which the editor and printer may have had for
their inclusion of different authors' work. It is only a theory, though a
sufficiently plausible one, that the editor was Nicholas Grimald, chaplain
to Bishop Thirlby of Ely, a Cambridge man who some ten years before had
been incorporated at Oxford and had been elected to a Fellowship at Merton
College. In Grimald's or Grimoald's connection with the book there was
certainly something peculiar, for the first edition contains forty poems
contributed by him and signed with his name, while in the second the full
name is replaced by "N. G.," and a considerable number of his poems give
way to others. More than one construction might, no doubt, be placed on
this curious fact; but hardly any construction can be placed on it which
does not in some way connect Grimald with the publication. It may be added
that, while his, Surrey's, and Wyatt's contributions are substantive and
known--the numbers of separate poems contributed being respectively forty
for Surrey, the same for Grimald, and ninety-six for Wyatt--no less than
one hundred and thirty-four poems, reckoning the contents of the first and
second editions together, are attributed to "other" or "uncertain" authors.
And of these, though it is pretty positively known that certain writers did
contribute to the book, only four poems have been even conjecturally traced
to particular authors. The most interesting of these by far is the poem
attributed, with that which immediately precedes it, to Lord Vaux, and
containing the verses "For age with stealing steps," known to every one
from the gravedigger in _Hamlet_. Nor is this the only connection of
Tottel's _Miscellany_ with Shakespere, for there is no reasonable doubt
that the "Book of Songs and Sonnets," to the absence of which Slender so
pathetically refers in _The Merry Wives of Windsor_, is Tottel's, which, as
the first to use the title, long retained it by right of precedence.
Indeed, one of its authors, Churchyard, who, though not in his first youth
at its appearance, survived into the reign of James, quotes it as such, and
so does Drayton even later. No sonnets had been seen in England before, nor
was the whole style of the verse which it contained less novel than this
particular form.

As is the case with many if not most of the authors of our period, a rather
unnecessary amount of ink has been spilt on questions very distantly
connected with the question of the absolute and relative merit of Surrey
and Wyatt in English poetry. In particular, the influence of the one poet
on the other, and the consequent degree of originality to be assigned to
each, have been much discussed. A very few dates and facts will supply most
of the information necessary to enable the reader to decide this and other
questions for himself. Sir Thomas Wyatt, son of Sir Henry Wyatt of
Allington, Kent, was born in 1503, entered St. John's College, Cambridge,
in 1515, became a favourite of Henry VIII., received important diplomatic
appointments, and died in 1542. Lord Henry Howard was born (as is supposed)
in 1517, and became Earl of Surrey by courtesy (he was not, the account of
his judicial murder says, a lord of Parliament) at eight years old. Very
little is really known of his life, and his love for "Geraldine" was made
the basis of a series of fictions by Nash half a century after his death.
He cannot have been more than thirty when, in the Reign of Terror towards
the close of Henry VIII.'s life, he was arrested on frivolous charges, the
gravest being the assumption of the royal arms, found guilty of treason,
and beheaded on Tower Hill on 19th January 1547. Thus it will be seen that
Wyatt was at Cambridge before Surrey was born, and died five years before
him; to which it need only be added that Surrey has an epitaph on Wyatt
which clearly expresses the relation of disciple to master. Yet despite
this relation and the community of influences which acted on both, their
characteristics are markedly different, and each is of the greatest
importance in English poetical history.

In order to appreciate exactly what this importance is we must remember in
what state Wyatt and Surrey found the art which they practised and in which
they made a new start. Speaking roughly but with sufficient accuracy for
the purpose, that state is typically exhibited in two writers, Hawes and
Skelton. The former represents the last phase of the Chaucerian school,
weakened not merely by the absence of men of great talent during more than
a century, but by the continual imitation during that period of weaker and
ever weaker French models--the last faint echoes of the _Roman de la Rose_
and the first extravagances of the _Rhétoriqueurs_. Skelton, on the other
hand, with all his vigour, represents the English tendency to prosaic
doggerel. Whether Wyatt and his younger companion deliberately had recourse
to Italian example in order to avoid these two dangers it would be
impossible to say. But the example was evidently before them, and the
result is certainly such an avoidance. Nevertheless both, and especially
Wyatt, had a great deal to learn. It is perfectly evident that neither had
any theory of English prosody before him. Wyatt's first sonnet displays the
completest indifference to quantity, not merely scanning "harber,"
"banner," and "suffer" as iambs (which might admit of some defence), but
making a rhyme of "feareth" and "appeareth," not on the penultimates, but
on the mere "eth." In the following poems even worse liberties are found,
and the strange turns and twists which the poet gives to his decasyllables
suggest either a total want of ear or such a study in foreign languages
that the student had actually forgotten the intonation and cadences of his
own tongue. So stumbling and knock-kneed is his verse that any one who
remembers the admirable versification of Chaucer may now and then be
inclined to think that Wyatt had much better have left his innovations
alone. But this petulance is soon rebuked by the appearance of such a
sonnet as this:--

    (_The lover having dreamed enjoying of his love complaineth that the_
          _dream is not either longer or truer._)

    "Unstable dream, according to the place
      Be steadfast once, or else at least be true.
      By tasted sweetness, make me not to rue
    The sudden loss of thy false feigned grace.
    By good respect in such a dangerous case
      Thou brought'st not her into these tossing seas
      But mad'st my sprite to live, my care to increase,[2]
    My body in tempest her delight to embrace.
    The body dead, the sprite had his desire:
      Painless was th' one, the other in delight.
      Why then, alas! did it not keep it right,
    But thus return to leap into the fire?
    And where it was at wish, could not remain?
    Such mocks of dreams do turn to deadly pain."

[2] In original "tencrease," and below "timbrace." This substitution of
elision for slur or hiatus (found in Chaucerian MSS.) passed later into the
t' and th' of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Wyatt's awkwardness is not limited to the decasyllable, but some of his
short poems in short lines recover rhythmical grace very remarkably, and
set a great example.

Surrey is a far superior metrist. Neither in his sonnets, nor in his
various stanzas composed of heroics, nor in what may be called his doggerel
metres--the fatally fluent Alexandrines, fourteeners, and admixtures of
both, which dominated English poetry from his time to Spenser's, and were
never quite rejected during the Elizabethan period--do we find evidence of
the want of ear, or the want of command of language, which makes Wyatt's
versification frequently disgusting. Surrey has even no small mastery of
what may be called the architecture of verse, the valuing of cadence in
successive lines so as to produce a concerted piece and not a mere
reduplication of the same notes. And in his translations of the _Æneid_
(not published in Tottel's _Miscellany_) he has the great honour of being
the originator of blank verse, and blank verse of by no means a bad
pattern. The following sonnet, combined Alexandrine and fourteener, and
blank verse extract, may be useful:--

    (_Complaint that his lady after she knew of his love kept her face_
          _alway hidden from him._)

    "I never saw my lady lay apart
    Her cornet black, in cold nor yet in heat,
    Sith first she knew my grief was grown so great;
    Which other fancies driveth from my heart,
    That to myself I do the thought reserve,
    The which unwares did wound my woeful breast.
    But on her face mine eyes mought never rest
    Yet, since she knew I did her love, and serve
    Her golden tresses clad alway with black,
    Her smiling looks that hid[es] thus evermore
    And that restrains which I desire so sore.
    So doth this cornet govern me, alack!
    In summer sun, in winter's breath, a frost
    Whereby the lights of her fair looks I lost."[3]

[3] As printed exactly in both first and second editions this sonnet is
evidently corrupt, and the variations between the two are additional
evidence of this. I have ventured to change "hid" to "hides" in line 10,
and to alter the punctuation in line 13. If the reader takes "that" in line
5 as = "so that," "that" in line 10 as = "which" (_i.e._ "black"), and
"that" in line 11 with "which," he will now, I think, find it intelligible.
Line 13 is usually printed:

    "In summer, sun: in winter's breath, a frost."

Now no one would compare a black silk hood to the sun, and a reference to
line 2 will show the real meaning. The hood is a frost which lasts through
summer and winter alike.

    (_Complaint of the absence of her lover being upon the sea._)

      "Good ladies, ye that have your pleasures in exile,
    Step in your foot, come take a place, and mourn with me a while.
      And such as by their lords do set but little price,
    Let them sit still: it skills them not what chance come on the dice.
      But ye whom love hath bound by order of desire,
    To love your lords whose good deserts none other would require,
      Come ye yet once again and set your foot by mine,
    Whose woeful plight and sorrows great, no tongue can well define."[4]

[4] In reading these combinations it must be remembered that there is
always a strong cæsura in the midst of the first and Alexandrine line. It
is the Alexandrine which Mr. Browning has imitated in _Fifine_, not that of
Drayton, or of the various practitioners of the Spenserian stanza from
Spenser himself downwards.

    "It was the(n)[5] night; the sound and quiet sleep
    Had through the earth the weary bodies caught,
    The woods, the raging seas, were fallen to rest,
    When that the stars had half their course declined.
    The fields whist: beasts and fowls of divers hue,
    And what so that in the broad lakes remained,
    Or yet among the bushy thicks[6] of briar,
    Laid down to sleep by silence of the night,
    'Gan swage their cares, mindless of travails past.
    Not so the spirit of this Phenician.
    Unhappy she that on no sleep could chance,
    Nor yet night's rest enter in eye or breast.
    Her cares redouble: love doth rise and rage again,[7]
    And overflows with swelling storms of wrath."

[5] In these extracts () signifies that something found in text seems
better away; [] that something wanting in text has been conjecturally
supplied.

[6] Thickets.

[7] This Alexandrine is not common, and is probably a mere oversight.

The "other" or "uncertain" authors, though interesting enough for purposes
of literary comparison, are very inferior to Wyatt and Surrey. Grimald, the
supposed editor, though his verse must not, of course, be judged with
reference to a more advanced state of things than his own, is but a
journeyman verse-smith.

    "Sith, Blackwood, you have mind to take a wife,
    I pray you tell wherefore you like that life,"

is a kind of foretaste of Crabbe in its bland ignoring of the formal graces
of poetry. He acquits himself tolerably in the combinations of Alexandrines
and fourteeners noticed above (the "poulter's measure," as Gascoigne was to
call it later), nor does he ever fall into the worst kind of jog-trot. His
epitaphs and elegies are his best work, and the best of them is that on his
mother. Very much the same may be said of the strictly miscellaneous part
of the _Miscellany_. The greater part of the Uncertain Authors are less
ambitious, but also less irregular than Wyatt, while they fall far short of
Surrey in every respect. Sometimes, as in the famous "I loath that I did
love," both syntax and prosody hardly show the reform at all; they recall
the ruder snatches of an earlier time. But, on the whole, the
characteristics of these poets, both in matter and form, are sufficiently
uniform and sufficiently interesting. Metrically, they show, on the one
side, a desire to use a rejuvenated heroic, either in couplets or in
various combined forms, the simplest of which is the elegiac quatrain of
alternately rhyming lines, and the most complicated the sonnet; while
between them various stanzas more or less suggested by Italian are to be
ranked. Of this thing there has been and will be no end as long as English
poetry lasts. The attempt to arrange the old and apparently almost
indigenous "eights and sixes" into fourteener lines and into alternate
fourteeners and Alexandrines, seems to have commended itself even more to
contemporary taste, and, as we have seen and shall see, it was eagerly
followed for more than half a century. But it was not destined to succeed.
These long lines, unless very sparingly used, or with the ground-foot
changed from the iambus to the anapæst or the trochee, are not in keeping
with the genius of English poetry, as even the great examples of Chapman's
_Homer_ and the _Polyolbion_ may be said to have shown once for all. In the
hands, moreover, of the poets of this particular time, whether they were
printed at length or cut up into eights and sixes, they had an almost
irresistible tendency to degenerate into a kind of lolloping amble which is
inexpressibly monotonous. Even when the spur of a really poetical
inspiration excites this amble into something more fiery (the best example
existing is probably Southwell's wonderful "Burning Babe"), the sensitive
ear feels that there is constant danger of a relapse, and at the worst the
thing becomes mere doggerel. Yet for about a quarter of a century these
overgrown lines held the field in verse and drama alike, and the
encouragement of them must be counted as a certain drawback to the benefits
which Surrey, Wyatt, and the other contributors of the _Miscellany_
conferred on English literature by their exercises, here and elsewhere, in
the blank verse decasyllable, the couplet, the stanza, and, above all, the
sonnet.

It remains to say something of the matter as distinguished from the form of
this poetry, and for once the form is of hardly superior importance to the
matter. It is a question of some interest, though unfortunately one wholly
incapable of solution, whether the change in the character of poetical
thought and theme which Wyatt and Surrey wrought was accidental, and
consequent merely on their choice of models, and especially of Petrarch, or
essential and deliberate. If it was accidental, there is no greater
accident in the history of literature. The absence of the personal note in
mediæval poetry is a commonplace, and nowhere had that absence been more
marked than in England. With Wyatt and Surrey English poetry became at a
bound the most personal (and in a rather bad but unavoidable word) the most
"introspective" in Europe. There had of course been love poetry before, but
its convention had been a convention of impersonality. It now became
exactly the reverse. The lover sang less his joys than his sorrows, and he
tried to express those sorrows and their effect on him in the most personal
way he could. Although allegory still retained a strong hold on the
national taste, and was yet to receive its greatest poetical expression in
_The Faërie Queene_, it was allegory of quite a different kind from that
which in the _Roman de la Rose_ had taken Europe captive, and had since
dominated European poetry in all departments, and especially in the
department of love-making. "Dangier" and his fellow-phantoms fled before
the dawn of the new poetry in England, and the depressing influences of a
common form--a conventional stock of images, personages, and almost
language--disappeared. No doubt there was conventionality enough in the
following of the Petrarchian model, but it was a less stiff and uniform
conventionality; it allowed and indeed invited the individual to wear his
rue with a difference, and to avail himself at least of the almost infinite
diversity of circumstance and feeling which the life of the actual man
affords, instead of reducing everything to the moods and forms of an
already generalised and allegorised experience. With the new theme to
handle and the new forms ready as tools for the handler, with the general
ferment of European spirits, it might readily have been supposed that a
remarkable out-turn of work would be the certain and immediate result.

The result in fact may have been certain but it was not immediate, being
delayed for nearly a quarter of a century; and the next remarkable piece of
work done in English poetry after Tottel's _Miscellany_--a piece of work of
greater actual poetical merit than anything in that _Miscellany_
itself--was in the old forms, and showed little if any influence of the new
poetical learning. This was the famous _Mirror for Magistrates_, or rather
that part of it contributed by Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst. _The
Mirror_ as a whole has bibliographical and prosodic rather than literary
interest. It was certainly planned as early as 1555 by way of a supplement
to Lydgate's translation of Boccaccio's _Fall of Princes_. It was at first
edited by a certain William Baldwin, and for nearly half a century it
received additions and alterations from various respectable hacks of
letters; but the "Induction" and the "Complaint of Buckingham" which
Sackville furnished to it in 1559, though they were not published till four
years later, completely outweigh all the rest in value. To my own fancy the
fact that Sackville was (in what proportion is disputed) also author of
_Gorboduc_ (see Chapter III.) adds but little to its interest. His
contributions to _The Mirror for Magistrates_ contain the best poetry
written in the English language between Chaucer and Spenser, and are most
certainly the originals or at least the models of some of Spenser's finest
work. He has had but faint praise of late years. According to the late
Professor Minto, he "affords abundant traces of the influence of Wyatt and
Surrey." I do not know what the traces are, and I should say myself that
few contemporary or nearly contemporary efforts are more distinct. Dean
Church says that we see in him a faint anticipation of Spenser. My estimate
of Spenser, as I hope to show, is not below that of any living critic; but
considerations of bulk being allowed, and it being fully granted that
Sackville had nothing like Spenser's magnificent range, I cannot see any
"faintness" in the case. If the "Induction" had not been written it is at
least possible that the "Cave of Despair" would never have enriched English
poetry.

Thomas Sackville was born at Buckhurst in Sussex, in the year 1536, of a
family which was of the most ancient extraction and the most honourable
standing. He was educated at Oxford, at the now extinct Hart Hall, whence,
according to a practice as common then as it is uncommon now (except in the
cases of royal princes and a few persons of difficult and inconstant
taste), he moved to Cambridge. Then he entered the Inner Temple, married
early, travelled, became noted in literature, was made Lord Buckhurst at
the age of thirty-one, was for many years one of Elizabeth's chief
councillors and officers, was promoted to the Earldom of Dorset at the
accession of James I., and died, it is said, at the Council table on the
19th of April 1608.

We shall deal with _Gorboduc_ hereafter: the two contributions to _The
Mirror for Magistrates_ concern us here. And I have little hesitation in
saying that no more astonishing contribution to English poetry, when the
due reservations of that historical criticism which is the life of all
criticism are made, is to be found anywhere. The bulk is not great: twelve
or fifteen hundred lines must cover the whole of it. The form is not new,
being merely the seven-line stanza already familiar in Chaucer. The
arrangement is in no way novel, combining as it does the allegorical
presentment of embodied virtues, vices, and qualities with the melancholy
narrative common in poets for many years before. But the poetical value of
the whole is extraordinary. The two constituents of that value, the formal
and the material, are represented with a singular equality of development.
There is nothing here of Wyatt's floundering prosody, nothing of the
well-intentioned doggerel in which Surrey himself indulges and in which his
pupils simply revel. The cadences of the verse are perfect, the imagery
fresh and sharp, the presentation of nature singularly original, when it is
compared with the battered copies of the poets with whom Sackville must
have been most familiar, the followers of Chaucer from Occleve to Hawes.
Even the general plan of the poem--the weakest part of nearly all poems of
this time--is extraordinarily effective and makes one sincerely sorry that
Sackville's taste, or his other occupations, did not permit him to carry
out the whole scheme on his own account. The "Induction," in which the
author is brought face to face with Sorrow, and the central passages of the
"Complaint of Buckingham," have a depth and fulness of poetical sound and
sense for which we must look backwards a hundred and fifty years, or
forwards nearly five and twenty. Take, for instance, these stanzas:--

    "Thence come we to the horror and the hell,
    The large great kingdoms, and the dreadful reign
    Of Pluto in his throne where he did dwell,
    The wide waste places, and the hugy plain,
    The wailings, shrieks, and sundry sorts of pain,
      The sighs, the sobs, the deep and deadly groan;
      Earth, air, and all, resounding plaint and moan.

    "Here puled the babes, and here the maids unwed
    With folded hands their sorry chance bewailed,
    Here wept the guiltless slain, and lovers dead,
    That slew themselves when nothing else availed;
    A thousand sorts of sorrows here, that wailed
      With sighs and tears, sobs, shrieks, and all yfere
      That oh, alas! it was a hell to hear.

       *       *       *       *       *

    "_Lo here_, quoth Sorrow, princes of renown,
    That whilom sat on top of fortune's wheel,
    Now laid full low; like wretches whirled down,
    Ev'n with one frown, that stayed but with a smile;
    And now behold the thing that thou, erewhile,
      Saw only in thought: and what thou now shalt hear,
      Recount the same to kesar, king, and peer."[8]

[8] The precedent descriptions of Sorrow herself, of Misery, and of Old
Age, are even finer than the above, which, however, I have preferred for
three reasons. First, it has been less often quoted; secondly, its subject
is a kind of commonplace, and, therefore, shows the poet's strength of
handling; thirdly, because of the singular and characteristic majesty of
the opening lines.

It is perhaps well, in an early passage of a book which will have much to
do with the criticism of poetry, to dwell a little on what seems to the
critic to be the root of that matter. In the first place, I must entirely
differ with those persons who have sought to create an independent prosody
for English verse under the head of "beats" or "accents" or something of
that sort. _Every English metre since Chaucer at least can be scanned,
within the proper limits, according to the strictest rules of classical
prosody: and while all good English metre comes out scatheless from the
application of those rules, nothing exhibits the badness of bad English
metre so well as that application._ It is, alongside of their great merits,
the distinguishing fault of Wyatt eminently, of Surrey to a less degree,
and of all the new school up to Spenser more or less, that they neglect the
quantity test too freely; it is the merit of Sackville that, holding on in
this respect to the good school of Chaucer, he observes it. You will find
no "jawbreakers" in Sackville, no attempts to adjust English words on a
Procrustean bed of independent quantification. He has not indeed the
manifold music of Spenser--it would be unreasonable to expect that he
should have it. But his stanzas, as the foregoing examples will show, are
of remarkable melody, and they have about them a command, a completeness of
accomplishment within the writer's intentions, which is very noteworthy in
so young a man. The extraordinary richness and stateliness of the measure
has escaped no critic. There is indeed a certain one-sidedness about it,
and a devil's advocate might urge that a long poem couched in verse (let
alone the subject) of such unbroken gloom would be intolerable. But
Sackville did not write a long poem, and his complete command within his
limits of the effect at which he evidently aimed is most remarkable.

The second thing to note about the poem is the extraordinary freshness and
truth of its imagery. From a young poet we always expect second-hand
presentations of nature, and in Sackville's day second-hand presentation of
nature had been elevated to the rank of a science. Here the new
school--Surrey, Wyatt, and their followers--even if he had studied them,
could have given him little or no help, for great as are the merits of
Tottel's _Miscellany_, no one would go to it for representations of nature.
Among his predecessors in his own style he had to go back to Chaucer
(putting the Scotch school out of the question) before he could find
anything original. Yet it may be questioned whether the sketches of
external scenery in these brief essays of his, or the embodiments of
internal thought in the pictures of Sorrow and the other allegorical
wights, are most striking. It is perfectly clear that Thomas Sackville had,
in the first place, a poetical eye to see, within as well as without, the
objects of poetical presentment; in the second place, a poetical vocabulary
in which to clothe the results of his seeing; and in the third place, a
poetical ear by aid of which to arrange his language in the musical
co-ordination necessary to poetry. Wyatt had been too much to seek in the
last; Surrey had not been very obviously furnished with the first; and all
three were not to be possessed by any one else till Edmund Spenser arose to
put Sackville's lessons in practice on a wider scale, and with a less
monotonous lyre. It is possible that Sackville's claims in drama may have
been exaggerated--they have of late years rather been undervalued: but his
claims in poetry proper can only be overlooked by those who decline to
consider the most important part of poetry. In the subject of even his part
of _The Mirror_ there is nothing new: there is only a following of Chaucer,
and Gower, and Occleve, and Lydgate, and Hawes, and many others. But in the
handling there is one novelty which makes all others of no effect or
interest. It is the novelty of a new poetry.

It has already been remarked that these two important books were not
immediately followed by any others in poetry corresponding to their
importance. The poetry of the first half of Elizabeth's reign is as
mediocre as the poetry of the last half of her reign is magnificent.
Although it had taken some hints from Wyatt and Surrey it had not taken the
best; and the inexplicable devotion of most of the versifiers of the time
to the doggerel metres already referred to seems to have prevented them
from cultivating anything better. Yet the pains which were spent upon
translation during this time were considerable, and undoubtedly had much to
do with strengthening and improving the language. The formal part of poetry
became for the first time a subject of study resulting in the
_Instructions_ of Gascoigne, and in the noteworthy critical works which
will be mentioned in the next chapter; while the popularity of poetical
miscellanies showed the audience that existed for verse. The translators
and the miscellanists will each call for some brief notice; but first it is
necessary to mention some individual, and in their way, original writers
who, though not possessing merit at all equal to that of Wyatt, Surrey, and
Sackville, yet deserve to be singled from the crowd. These are Gascoigne,
Churchyard, Turberville, Googe, and Tusser.

The poetaster and literary hack, Whetstone, who wrote a poetical memoir of
George Gascoigne after his death, entitles it a remembrance of "the well
employed life and godly end" of his hero. It is not necessary to dispute
that Gascoigne's end was godly; but except for the fact that he was for
some years a diligent and not unmeritorious writer, it is not so certain
that his life was well employed. At any rate he does not seem to have
thought so himself. The date of his birth has been put as early as 1525 and
as late as 1536: he certainly died in 1577. His father, a knight of good
family and estate in Essex, disinherited him; but he was educated at
Cambridge, if not at both universities, was twice elected to Parliament,
travelled and fought abroad, and took part in the famous festival at
Kenilworth. His work is, as has been said, considerable, and is remarkable
for the number of first attempts in English which it contains. It has at
least been claimed for him (though careful students of literary history
know that these attributions are always rather hazardous) that he wrote the
first English prose comedy (_The Supposes_, a version of Ariosto), the
first regular verse satire (_The Steel Glass_), the first prose tale (a
version from Bandello), the first translation from Greek tragedy
(_Jocasta_), and the first critical essay (the above-mentioned _Notes of
Instruction_). Most of these things, it will be seen, were merely
adaptations of foreign originals; but they certainly make up a remarkable
budget for one man. In addition to them, and to a good number of shorter
and miscellaneous poems, must be mentioned the _Glass of Government_ (a
kind of morality or serious comedy, moulded, it would seem, on German
originals), and the rather prettily, if fantastically termed _Flowers,
Herbs, and Weeds_. Gascoigne has a very fair command of metre: he is not a
great sinner in the childish alliteration which, surviving from the older
English poetry, helps to convert so much of his contemporaries' work into
doggerel. The pretty "Lullaby of a Lover," and "Gascoigne's Good Morrow"
may be mentioned, and part of one of them may be quoted, as a fair specimen
of his work, which is always tolerable if never first-rate.

    "Sing lullaby, as women do,
    Wherewith they bring their babes to rest,
    And lullaby can I sing too,
    As womanly as can the best.
    With lullaby they still the child;
    And if I be not much beguiled,
    Full many wanton babes have I
    Which must be stilled with lullaby.

    "First lullaby, my youthful years.
    It is now time to go to bed,
    For crooked age and hoary hairs
    Have won the hav'n within my head:
    With lullaby then, youth, be still,
    With lullaby content thy will,
    Since courage quails and comes behind,
    Go sleep and so beguile thy mind.

    "Next lullaby, my gazing eyes,
    Which wanton were to glance apace,
    For every glass may now suffice
    To show the furrows in my face.
    With lullaby then wink awhile,
    With lullaby your looks beguile;
    Let no fair face, nor beauty bright,
    Entice you oft with vain delight.

    "And lullaby, my wanton will,
    Let reason(s) rule now rein thy thought,
    Since all too late I find by skill
    How dear I have thy fancies bought:
    With lullaby now take thine ease,
    With lullaby thy doubts appease,
    For trust to this, if thou be still
    My body shall obey thy will."

Thomas Churchyard was an inferior sort of Gascoigne, who led a much longer
if less eventful life. He was about the Court for the greater part of the
century, and had a habit of calling his little books, which were numerous,
and written both in verse and prose, by alliterative titles playing on his
own name, such as _Churchyard's Chips_, _Churchyard's Choice_, and so
forth. He was a person of no great literary power, and chiefly noteworthy
because of his long life after contributing to Tottel's _Miscellany_, which
makes him a link between the old literature and the new.

The literary interests and tentative character of the time, together with
its absence of original genius, and the constant symptoms of not having
"found its way," are also very noteworthy in George Turberville and Barnabe
Googe, who were friends and verse writers of not dissimilar character.
Turberville, of whom not much is known, was a Dorsetshire man of good
family, and was educated at Winchester and Oxford. His birth and death
dates are both extremely uncertain. Besides a book on Falconry and numerous
translations (to which, like all the men of his school and day, he was much
addicted), he wrote a good many occasional poems, trying even blank verse.
Barnabe Googe, a Lincolnshire man, and a member of both universities,
appears to have been born in 1540, was employed in Ireland, and died in
1594. He was kin to the Cecils, and Mr. Arber has recovered some rather
interesting details about his love affairs, in which he was assisted by
Lord Burghley. He, too, was an indefatigable translator, and wrote some
original poems. Both poets affected the combination of Alexandrine and
fourteener (split up or not, as the printer chose, into six, six, eight,
six), the popularity of which has been noted, and both succumbed too often
to its capacities of doggerel. Turberville's best work is the following
song in a pretty metre well kept up:--

    "The green that you did wish me wear
                Aye for your love,
    And on my helm a branch to bear
                Not to remove,
    Was ever you to have in mind
    Whom Cupid hath my feire assigned.

    "As I in this have done your will
                And mind to do,
    So I request you to fulfil
                My fancy too;
    A green and loving heart to have,
    And this is all that I do crave.

    "For if your flowering heart should change
                His colour green,
    Or you at length a lady strange
                Of me be seen,
    Then will my branch against his use
    His colour change for your refuse.[9]

    "As winter's force cannot deface
                This branch his hue,
    So let no change of love disgrace
                Your friendship true;
    You were mine own, and so be still,
    So shall we live and love our fill.

    "Then I may think myself to be
                Well recompensed,
    For wearing of the tree that is
                So well defensed
    Against all weather that doth fall
    When wayward winter spits his gall.

    "And when we meet, to try me true,
                Look on my head,
    And I will crave an oath of you
                Whe'r[10] Faith be fled;
    So shall we both answered be,
    Both I of you, and you of me."

[9] Refusal.

[10] Short for "whether."

The most considerable and the most interesting part of Googe's work is a
set of eight eclogues which may not have been without influence on _The
Shepherd's Calendar_, and a poem of some length entitled _Cupido
Conquered_, which Spenser may also have seen. Googe has more sustained
power than Turberville, but is much inferior to him in command of metre and
in lyrical swing. In him, or at least in his printer, the mania for cutting
up long verses reaches its height, and his very decasyllables are found
arranged in the strange fashion of four and six as thus:--

    "Good aged Bale:
    That with thy hoary hairs
    Dost still persist
    To turn the painful book,
    O happy man,
    That hast obtained such years,
    And leav'st not yet
    On papers pale to look.
    Give over now
    To beat thy wearied brain,
    And rest thy pen,
    That long hath laboured sore."

Thomas Tusser (1524?-1580) has often been regarded as merely a writer of
doggerel, which is assuredly not lacking in his _Hundred_ (later _Five
Hundred_) _Points of Husbandry_ (1557-1573). But he has some piquancy of
phrase, and is particularly noticeable for the variety, and to a certain
extent the accomplishment, of his prosodic experiments--a point of much
importance for the time.

To these five, of whom some substantive notice has been given, many shadowy
names might be added if the catalogue were of any use: such as those of
Kinwelmersh, Whetstone, Phaer, Neville, Blundeston, Edwards, Golding, and
many others. They seem to have been for the most part personally acquainted
with one another; the literary energies of England being almost confined to
the universities and the Inns of Court, so that most of those who devoted
themselves to literature came into contact and formed what is sometimes
called a clique. They were all studiously and rather indiscriminately given
to translation (the body of foreign work, ancient and modern, which was
turned into English during this quarter of a century being very large
indeed), and all or many of them were contributors of commendatory verses
to each other's work and of pieces of different descriptions to the
poetical miscellanies of the time. Of these miscellanies and of the chief
translations from the classics some little notice may be taken because of
the great part which both played in the poetical education of England. It
has been said that almost all the original poets were also translators.
Thus Googe Englished, among other things, the _Zodiacus Vitæ_ of Marcellus
Palingenius, the _Regnum Papisticum_ of Kirchmayer, the _Four Books of
Husbandry_ of Conrad Heresbach, and the _Proverbs_ of the Marquis of
Santillana; but some of the translators were not distinguished by any
original work. Thus Jasper Heywood, followed by Neville above mentioned, by
Studley, and others, translated between 1560 and 1580 those tragedies of
Seneca which had such a vast influence on foreign literature and,
fortunately, so small an influence on English. Arthur Golding gave in 1567
a version, by no means destitute of merit, of the _Metamorphoses_ which had
a great influence on English poetry. We have already mentioned Surrey's
blank-verse translation of Virgil. This was followed up, in 1555-60, by
Thomas Phaer, who, like most of the persons mentioned in this paragraph,
used the fourteener, broken up or not, as accident or the necessities of
the printer brought it about.

It was beyond doubt this abundant translation, and perhaps also the
manifest deficiencies of the fourteener thus used, which brought about at
the close of the present period and the beginning of the next the
extraordinary attempt to reproduce classical metres in English verse, which
for a time seduced even Spenser, which was not a little countenanced by
most of the critical writers of the period, which led Gabriel Harvey and
others into such absurdities, and which was scarcely slain even by Daniel's
famous and capital _Defence of Rhyme_. The discussion of this absurd
attempt (for which rules, not now extant, came from Drant of Cambridge) in
the correspondence of Spenser and Harvey, and the sensible fashion in which
Nash laughed at it, are among the best known things in the gossiping
history of English Letters. But the coxcombry of Harvey and the felicitous
impertinence of Nash have sometimes diverted attention from the actual
state of the case. William Webbe (a very sober-minded person with taste
enough to admire the "new poet," as he calls Spenser) makes elaborate
attempts not merely at hexameters, which, though only a curiosity, are a
possible curiosity in English, but at Sapphics which could never (except as
burlesque) be tolerable. Sidney, Spenser, and others gave serious heed to
the scheme of substituting classical metres without rhyme for indigenous
metres with rhyme. And unless the two causes which brought this about are
constantly kept in mind, the reason of it will not be understood. It was
undoubtedly the weakness of contemporary English verse which reinforced the
general Renaissance admiration for the classics; nor must it be forgotten
that Wyatt takes, in vernacular metres and with rhyme, nearly as great
liberties with the intonation and prosody of the language as any of the
classicists in their unlucky hexameters and elegiacs. The majesty and grace
of the learned tongues, contrasting with the poverty of their own language,
impressed, and to a great extent rightly impressed, the early Elizabethans,
so that they naturally enough cast about for any means to improve the one,
and hesitated at any peculiarity which was not found in the other. It was
unpardonable in Milton to sneer at rhyme after the fifty years of
magnificent production which had put English on a level with Greek and
above Latin as a literary instrument. But for Harvey and Spenser, Sidney
and Webbe, with those fifty years still to come, the state of the case was
very different.

The translation mania and the classicising mania together led to the
production of perhaps the most absurd book in all literature--a book which
deserves extended notice here, partly because it has only recently become
accessible to the general reader in its original form, and partly because
it is, though a caricature, yet a very instructive caricature of the
tendencies and literary ideas of the time. This is Richard Stanyhurst's
translation of the first four books of the _Æneid_, first printed at Leyden
in the summer of 1582, and reprinted in London a year later. This wonderful
book (in which the spelling is only less marvellous than the phraseology
and verse) shows more than anything else the active throes which English
literature was undergoing, and though the result was but a false birth it
is none the less interesting.

Stanyhurst was not, as might be hastily imagined, a person of insufficient
culture or insufficient brains. He was an Irish Roman Catholic gentleman,
brother-in-law to Lord Dunsany, and uncle to Archbishop Usher, and though
he was author of the Irish part of Holinshed's _History_, he has always
been regarded by the madder sort of Hibernians as a traitor to the nation.
His father was Recorder of Dublin, and he himself, having been born about
1547, was educated at University College, Oxford, and went thence, if not
to the Inns of Court, at any rate to those of Chancery, and became a
student of Furnival's Inn. He died at Brussels in 1618. Here is an example
of his prose, the latter part of which is profitable for matter as well as
for form:--

     "How beyt[11] I haue heere haulf a guesh, that two sorts of
     carpers wyl seeme too spurne at this myne enterprise. Thee one
     vtterlie ignorant, the oother meanlye letterd. Thee ignorant wyl
     imagin, that thee passage was nothing craggye, in as much as M.
     Phaere hath broken thee ice before me: Thee meaner clarcks wyl
     suppose my trauail in theese heroical verses too carrye no great
     difficultie, in that yt lay in my choice too make what word I
     would short or long, hauing no English writer beefore mee in this
     kind of poëtrye with whose squire I should leauel my syllables.

[11] This and the next extract are given _literatim_ to show Stanyhurst's
marvellous spelling.

       *       *       *       *       *

     Haue not theese men made a fayre speake? If they had put in
     _Mightye Joue_, and _gods_ in thee plural number, and _Venus_
     with _Cupide thee blynd Boy_, al had beene in thee nick, thee
     rythme had been of a right stamp. For a few such stiches boch vp
     oure newe fashion makers. Prouyded not wythstanding alwayes that
     _Artaxerxes_, al be yt hee bee spurgalde, beeing so much gallop,
     bee placed in thee dedicatory epistle receauing a cuppe of water
     of a swayne, or elles al is not wurth a beane. Good God what a
     frye of _wooden rythmours_ dooth swarme in stacioners shops, who
     neauer enstructed in any grammar schoole, not atayning too thee
     paaringes of thee Latin or Greeke tongue, yeet like blind bayards
     rush on forward, fostring theyre vayne conceits wyth such
     ouerweening silly follyes, as they reck not too bee condemned of
     thee learned for ignorant, so they bee commended of thee ignorant
     for learned. Thee reddyest way, therefore, too flap theese
     droanes from the sweete senting hiues of Poëtrye, is for thee
     learned too applye theym selues wholye (yf they be delighted wyth
     that veyne) too thee true making of verses in such wise as thee
     _Greekes_ and _Latins_, thee fathurs of knowledge, haue doone;
     and too leaue too theese doltish coystrels theyre rude rythming
     and balducktoom ballads."

Given a person capable of this lingo, given the prevalent mania for English
hexameters, and even what follows may not seem too impossible.

    "This sayd, with darcksoom night shade quite clowdye she vannisht.
    Grislye faces frouncing, eke against Troy leaged in hatred
    Of Saincts soure deities dyd I see.
    Then dyd I marck playnely thee castle of Ilion vplayd,
    And Troian buyldings quit topsy turvye remooued.
    Much lyk on a mountayn thee tree dry wythered oaken
    Sliest by the clowne Coridon rusticks with twibbil or hatchet.
    Then the tre deepe minced, far chopt dooth terrifye swinckers
    With menacing becking thee branches palsye before tyme,
    Vntil with sowghing yt grunts, as wounded in hacking.
    At length with rounsefal, from stock vntruncked yt harssheth.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Hee rested wylful lyk a wayward obstinat oldgrey.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Theese woords owt showting with her howling the house she replennisht."

There is perhaps no greater evidence of the reverence in which the
ancients were held than that such frantic balderdash as this did not
extinguish it. Yet this was what a man of undoubted talent, of considerable
learning, and of no small acuteness (for Stanyhurst's Preface to this very
translation shows something more than glimmerings on the subject of
classical and English prosody), could produce. It must never be forgotten
that the men of this time were at a hopelessly wrong point of view. It
never occurred to them that English left to itself could equal Greek or
Latin. They simply endeavoured, with the utmost pains and skill, to drag
English up to the same level as these unapproachable languages by forcing
it into the same moulds which Greek and Latin had endured. Properly
speaking we ought not to laugh at them. They were carrying out in
literature what the older books of arithmetic call "The Rule of
False,"--that is to say, they were trying what the English tongue could
_not_ bear. No one was so successful as Stanyhurst in applying this test of
the rack: yet it is fair to say that Harvey and Webbe, nay, Spenser and
Sidney, had practically, though, except in Spenser's case, it would appear
unconsciously, arrived at the same conclusion before. How much we owe to
such adventurers of the impossible few men know except those who have tried
to study literature as a whole.

A few words have to be said in passing as to the miscellanies which played
such an important part in the poetical literature of the day. Tottel and
_The Mirror for Magistrates_ (which was, considering its constant
accretions, a sort of miscellany) have been already noticed. They were
followed by not a few others. The first in date was _The Paradise of Dainty
Devices_ (1576), edited by R. Edwards, a dramatist of industry if not of
genius, and containing a certain amount of interesting work. It was very
popular, going through nine or ten editions in thirty years, but with a few
scattered exceptions it does not yield much to the historian of English
poetry. Its popularity shows what was expected; its contents show what, at
any rate at the date of its first appearance, was given. It is possible
that the doleful contents of _The Mirror for Magistrates_ (which was
reprinted six times during our present period, and which busied itself
wholly with what magistrates should avoid, and with the sorrowful departing
out of this life of the subjects) may have had a strong effect on Edwards,
though one at least of his contributors, W. Hunnis, was a man of mould. It
was followed in 1578 by _A Gorgeous Gallery of Gallant Inventions_,
supposed to have been edited by Roydon and Proctor, which is a still drier
stick. The next miscellany, six years later, _A Handful of Pleasant
Delights_, edited by Clement Robinson, is somewhat better though not much.
It is followed by the _Phoenix Nest_, an interesting collection, by no less
than three miscellanies in 1600, edited by "A. B." and R. Allot, and named
_England's Helicon_, _England's Parnassus_, and _Belvedere_ (the two latter
being rather anthologies of extracts than miscellanies proper), and by
Francis Davison's famous _Poetical Rhapsody_, 1602, all which last belong
to a much later date than our present subjects.

To call the general poetical merit of these earlier miscellanies high would
be absurd. But what at once strikes the reader, not merely of them but of
the collections of individual work which accompany them, as so astonishing,
is the level which is occasionally reached. The work is often the work of
persons quite unknown or unimportant in literature as persons. But we
constantly see in it a flash, a symptom of the presence of the true
poetical spirit which it is often impossible to find for years together in
other periods of poetry. For instance, if ever there was a "dull dog" in
verse it was Richard Edwards. Yet in _The Paradise of Dainty Devices_
Edwards's poem with the refrain "The falling out of faithful friends
renewing is of love," is one of the most charming things anywhere to be
found. So is, after many years, the poem attributed to John Wooton in
_England's Helicon_ (the best of the whole set), beginning "Her eyes like
shining lamps," so is the exquisite "Come, little babe" from _The Arbour of
Amorous Devices_, so are dozens and scores more which may be found in their
proper places, and many of them in Mr. Arber's admirable _English Garner_.
The spirit of poetry, rising slowly, was rising surely in the England of
these years: no man knew exactly where it would appear, and the greatest
poets were--for their praises of themselves and their fellows are quite
unconscious and simple--as ignorant as others. The first thirty years of
the reign were occupied with simple education--study of models, efforts in
this or that kind, translation, and the rest. But the right models had been
provided by Wyatt and Surrey's study of the Italians, and by the study of
the classics which all men then pursued; and the original inspiration,
without which the best models are useless, though itself can do little when
the best models are not used, was abundantly present. Few things are more
curious than to compare, let us say, Googe and Spenser. Yet few things are
more certain than that without the study and experiments which Googe
represents Spenser could not have existed. Those who decry the historical
method in criticism ignore this; and ignorance like wisdom is justified of
all her children.



CHAPTER II

EARLY ELIZABETHAN PROSE


The history of the earlier Elizabethan prose, if we except the name of
Hooker, in whom it culminates, is to a great extent the history of
curiosities of literature--of tentative and imperfect efforts, scarcely
resulting in any real vernacular style at all. It is, however, emphatically
the Period of Origins of modern English prose, and as such cannot but be
interesting. We shall therefore rapidly survey its chief developments,
noting first what had been done before Elizabeth came to the throne, then
taking Ascham (who stands, though part of his work was written earlier,
very much as the first Elizabethan prosaist), noticing the schools of
historians, translators, controversialists, and especially critics who
illustrated the middle period of the reign, and singling out the noteworthy
personality of Sidney. We shall also say something of Lyly (as far as
_Euphues_ is concerned) and his singular attempts in prose style, and shall
finish with Hooker, the one really great name of the period. Its voluminous
pamphleteering, though much of it, especially the Martin Marprelate
controversy, might come chronologically within the limit of this chapter,
will be better reserved for a notice in Chapter VI. of the whole pamphlet
literature of the reigns of Elizabeth and James--an interesting subject,
the relation of which to the modern periodical has been somewhat
overlooked, and which indeed was, until a comparatively recent period, not
very easy to study. Gabriel Harvey alone, as distinctly belonging to the
earlier Elizabethans, may be here included with other critics.

It was an inevitable result of the discovery of printing that the
cultivation of the vernacular for purposes of all work--that is to say, for
prose--should be largely increased. Yet a different influence arising, or
at least eked out, from the same source, rather checked this increase. The
study of the classical writers had at first a tendency to render inveterate
the habit of employing Latin for the journey-work of literature, and in the
two countries which were to lead Western Europe for the future (the
literary date of Italy was already drawing to a close, and Italy had long
possessed vernacular prose masterpieces), it was not till the middle of the
sixteenth century that the writing of vernacular prose was warmly advocated
and systematically undertaken. The most interesting monuments of this
crusade, as it may almost be called, in England are connected with a school
of Cambridge scholars who flourished a little before our period, though not
a few of them, such as Ascham, Wilson, and others, lived into it. A letter
of Sir John Cheke's in the very year of the accession of Elizabeth is the
most noteworthy document on the subject. It was written to another father
of English prose, Sir Thomas Hoby, the translator of Castiglione's
_Courtier_. But Ascham had already and some years earlier published his
_Toxophilus_, and various not unimportant attempts, detailed notice of
which would be an antedating of our proper period, had been made. More's
chief work, _Utopia_, had been written in Latin, and was translated into
English by another hand, but his _History of Edward V._ was not a mean
contribution to English prose. Tyndale's _New Testament_ had given a new
and powerful impulse to the reading of English; Elyot's _Governor_ had set
the example of treating serious subjects in a style not unworthy of them,
and Leland's quaint _Itinerary_ the example of describing more or less
faithfully if somewhat uncouthly. Hall had followed Fabyan as an English
historian, and, above all, Latimer's _Sermons_ had shown how to transform
spoken English of the raciest kind into literature. Lord Berners's
translations of Froissart and of divers examples of late Continental
romance had provided much prose of no mean quality for light reading, and
also by their imitation of the florid and fanciful style of the
French-Flemish _rhétoriqueurs_ (with which Berners was familiar both as a
student of French and as governor of Calais) had probably contributed not a
little to supply and furnish forth the side of Elizabethan expression which
found so memorable an exponent in the author of _Euphues_.

For our purpose, however, Roger Ascham may serve as a starting-point. His
_Toxophilus_ was written and printed as early as 1545; his _Schoolmaster_
did not appear till after his death, and seems to have been chiefly written
in the very last days of his life. There is thus nearly a quarter of a
century between them, yet they are not very different in style. Ascham was
a Yorkshire man born at Kirbywiske, near Northallerton, in 1515; he went to
St. John's College at Cambridge, then a notable seat of learning, in 1530;
was elected scholar, fellow, and lecturer, became public orator the year
after the appearance of _Toxophilus_, acted as tutor to the Princess
Elizabeth, went on diplomatic business to Germany, was Latin secretary to
Queen Mary, and after her death to his old pupil, and died on the 30th
December 1568. A treatise on Cock-fighting (of which sport he was very
fond) appears to have been written by him, and was perhaps printed, but is
unluckily lost. We have also Epistles from him, and his works, both English
and Latin, have been in whole or part frequently edited. The great interest
of Ascham is expressed as happily as possible by his own words in the
dedication of _Toxophilus_ to Henry VIII. "Although," he says, "to have
written this book either in Latin or Greek ... had been more easier and fit
for my trade in study, yet ... I have written this English matter in the
English tongue for Englishmen"--a memorable sentence none the worse for its
jingle and repetition, which are well in place. Until scholars like Ascham,
who with the rarest exceptions were the only persons likely or able to
write at all, cared to write "English matters in English tongue for
Englishmen," the formation of English prose style was impossible; and that
it required some courage to do so, Cheke's letter, written twelve years
later, shows.[12]

     "I am of this opinion that our own tongue should be written clean
     and pure, unmixed and unmingled with borrowing of other tongues,
     wherein, if we take not heed by time, ever borrowing and never
     paying, she shall be fain to keep her house as bankrupt. For then
     doth our tongue naturally and praisably utter her meaning, when
     she borroweth no counterfeitures of other tongues to attire
     herself withal, but useth plainly her own with such shift as
     nature, craft, experience, and following of other excellent doth
     lead her unto, and if she want at any time (as being imperfect
     she must) yet let her borrow with such bashfulness that it may
     appear, that if either the mould of our own tongue could serve us
     to fashion a word of our own, or if the old denizened words could
     content and ease this need we would not boldly venture of unknown
     words."[13]

[12] The letter is given in full by Mr. Arber in his introduction to
Ascham's _Schoolmaster_, p. 5.

[13] It will be seen that Cheke writes what he argues for, "clean and pure
English." "Other excellent" is perhaps the only doubtful phrase in the
extract or in the letter.

The _Toxophilus_ and the _Schoolmaster_ are both in their different ways
very pleasant reading; and the English is far more correct than that of
much greater men than Ascham in the next century. It is, however, merely as
style, less interesting, because it is clear that the author is doing
little more than translate in his head, instead of on the paper, good
current Latin (such as it would have been "more easier" for him to write)
into current English. He does not indulge in any undue classicism; he takes
few of the liberties with English grammar which, a little later, it was the
habit to take on the strength of classical examples. But, on the other
hand, he does not attempt, and it would be rather unreasonable to expect
that he should have attempted, experiments in the literary power of English
itself. A slight sense of its not being so "easy" to write in English as in
Latin, and of the consequent advisableness of keeping to a sober beaten
path, to a kind of style which is not much more English (except for being
composed of good English words in straightforward order) than it is any
literary language framed to a great extent on the classics, shows itself in
him. One might translate passage after passage of Ascham, keeping almost
the whole order of the words, into very good sound Latin prose; and,
indeed, his great secret in the _Schoolmaster_ (the perpetual translation
and retranslation of English into the learned languages, and especially
Latin) is exactly what would form such a style. It is, as the following
examples from both works will show, clear, not inelegant, invaluable as a
kind of go-cart to habituate the infant limbs of prose English to orderly
movement; but it is not original, or striking, or characteristic, or
calculated to show the native powers and capacities of the language.

     "I can teach you to shoot fair, even as Socrates taught a man
     once to know God. For when he asked him what was God? 'Nay,'
     saith he, 'I can tell you better what God is not, as God is not
     ill, God is unspeakable, unsearchable, and so forth. Even
     likewise can I say of fair shooting, it hath not this
     discommodity with it nor that discommodity, and at last a man may
     so shift all the discommodities from shooting that there shall be
     left nothing behind but fair shooting. And to do this the better
     you must remember how that I told you when I described generally
     the whole nature of shooting, that fair shooting came of these
     things of standing, nocking, drawing, holding and loosing; the
     which I will go over as shortly as I can, describing the
     discommodities that men commonly use in all parts of their
     bodies, that you, if you fault in any such, may know it, and go
     about to amend it. Faults in archers do exceed the number of
     archers, which come with use of shooting without teaching. Use
     and custom separated from knowledge and learning, doth not only
     hurt shooting, but the most weighty things in the world beside.
     And, therefore, I marvel much at those people which be the
     maintainers of uses without knowledge, having no other word in
     their mouth but this use, use, custom, custom. Such men, more
     wilful than wise, beside other discommodities, take all place and
     occasion from all amendment. And this I speak generally of use
     and custom."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Time was when Italy and Rome have been, to the great good of us
     who now live, the best breeders and bringers up of the worthiest
     men, not only for wise speaking, but also for well-doing in all
     civil affairs that ever was in the world. But now that time is
     gone; and though the place remain, yet the old and present
     manners do differ as far as black and white, as virtue and vice.
     Virtue once made that country mistress over all the world: vice
     now maketh that country slave to them that before were glad to
     serve it. All man [_i.e._ mankind] seeth it; they themselves
     confess it, namely such as be best and wisest amongst them. For
     sin, by lust and vanity, hath and doth breed up everywhere common
     contempt of God's word, private contention in many families, open
     factions in every city; and so making themselves bond to vanity
     and vice at home, they are content to bear the yoke of serving
     strangers abroad. Italy now is not that Italy it was wont to be;
     and therefore now not so fit a place as some do count it for
     young men to fetch either wisdom or honesty from thence. For
     surely they will make others but bad scholars that be so ill
     masters to themselves."

This same characteristic, or absence of characteristic, which reaches its
climax--a climax endowing it with something like substantive life and
merit--in Hooker, displays itself, with more and more admixture of raciness
and native peculiarity, in almost all the prose of the early Elizabethan
period up to the singular escapade of Lyly, who certainly tried to write
not a classical style but a style of his own. The better men, with Thomas
Wilson and Ascham himself at their head, made indeed earnest protests
against Latinising the vocabulary (the great fault of the contemporary
French _Pléiade_), but they were not quite aware how much they were under
the influence of Latin in other matters. The translators, such as North,
whose famous version of Plutarch after Amyot had the immortal honour of
suggesting not a little of Shakespere's greatest work, had the chief excuse
and temptation in doing this; but all writers did it more or less: the
theologians (to whom it would no doubt have been "more easier" to write in
Latin), the historians (though the little known Holinshed has broken off
into a much more vernacular but also much more disorderly style), the rare
geographers (of whom the chief is Richard Eden, the first English writer on
America), and the rest. Of this rest the most interesting, perhaps, are the
small but curious knot of critics who lead up in various ways to Sidney and
Harvey, who seem to have excited considerable interest at the time, and who
were not succeeded, after the early years of James, by any considerable
body of critics of English till John Dryden began to write in the last
third of the following century. Of these (putting out of sight Stephen
Gosson, the immediate begetter of Sidney's _Apology for Poetry_, Campion,
the chief champion of classical metres in English, and by a quaint contrast
the author of some of the most charming of English songs in purely romantic
style, with his adversary the poet Daniel, Meres, etc.), the chief is the
author of the anonymous _Art of English Poesie_, published the year after
the Armada, and just before the appearance of _The Faërie Queene_. This
_Art_ has chiefly to be compared with the _Discourse of English Poetrie_,
published three years earlier by William Webbe. Webbe, of whom nothing is
known save that he was a private tutor at one or two gentlemen's houses in
Essex, exhibits that dislike and disdain of rhyme which was an offshoot of
the passion for humanist studies, which was importantly represented all
through the sixteenth and early seventeenth century in England, and which
had Milton for its last and greatest exponent. _The Art of English Poesie_,
which is attributed on no grounds of contemporary evidence to George
Puttenham, though the book was generally reputed his in the next
generation, is a much more considerable treatise, some four times the
length of Webbe's, dealing with a large number of questions subsidiary to
_Ars Poetica_, and containing no few selections of illustrative verse, many
of the author's own. As far as style goes both Webbe and Puttenham fall
into the rather colourless but not incorrect class already described, and
are of the tribe of Ascham. Here is a sample of each:--

     (Webbe's _Preface to the Noble Poets of England_.)

     "Among the innumerable sorts of English books, and infinite
     fardels of printed pamphlets, wherewith this country is pestered,
     all shops stuffed, and every study furnished; the greater part, I
     think, in any one kind, are such as are either mere poetical, or
     which tend in some respects (as either in matter or form) to
     poetry. Of such books, therefore, sith I have been one that have
     had a desire to read not the fewest, and because it is an
     argument which men of great learning have no leisure to handle,
     or at least having to do with more serious matters do least
     regard. If I write something, concerning what I think of our
     English poets, or adventure to set down my simple judgment of
     English poetry, I trust the learned poets will give me leave, and
     vouchsafe my book passage, as being for the rudeness thereof no
     prejudice to their noble studies, but even (as my intent is) an
     _instar cotis_ to stir up some other of meet ability to bestow
     travail in this matter; whereby, I think, we may not only get the
     means which we yet want, to discern between good writers and bad,
     but perhaps also challenge from the rude multitude of rustical
     rhymers, who will be called poets, the right practice and orderly
     course of true poetry."

       *       *       *       *       *

     (Puttenham _on Style_.)

     "Style is a constant and continual phrase or tenour of speaking
     and writing, extending to the whole tale or process of the poem
     or history, and not properly to any piece or member of a tale;
     but is of words, speeches, and sentences together; a certain
     contrived form and quality, many times natural to the writer,
     many times his peculiar bye-election and art, and such as either
     he keepeth by skill or holdeth on by ignorance, and will not or
     peradventure cannot easily alter into any other. So we say that
     Cicero's style and Sallust's were not one, nor Cæsar's and
     Livy's, nor Homer's and Hesiodus',[14] nor Herodotus' and
     Thucydides', nor Euripides' and Aristophanes', nor Erasmus' and
     Budeus' styles. And because this continual course and manner of
     writing or speech sheweth the matter and disposition of the
     writer's mind more than one or two instances can show, therefore
     there be that have called style the image of man (_mentis
     character_). For man is but his mind, and as his mind is tempered
     and qualified, so are his speeches and language at large; and his
     inward conceits be the metal of his mind, and his manner of
     utterance the very warp and woof of his conceits, more plain or
     busy and intricate or otherwise affected after the rate."[15]

[14] The final _s_ of such names often at the time appears unaltered.

[15] _i.e._ "in proportion."

Contemporary with these, however, there was growing up a quite different
school of English prose which showed itself on one side in the _estilo
culto_ of Lyly and the university wits of his time; on the other, in the
extremely vernacular and sometimes extremely vulgar manner of the
pamphleteers, who were very often the same persons. Lyly himself exhibits
both styles in _Euphues_; and if _Pap with a Hatchet_ and _An Almond for a
Parrot_ are rightly attributed to him, still more in these. So also does
Gabriel Harvey, Spenser's friend, a curious coxcomb who endeavoured to
dissuade Spenser from continuing _The Faërie Queene_, devoted much time
himself and strove to devote other people to the thankless task of
composing English hexameters and trimeters, engaged (very much to his
discomfiture) in a furious pamphlet war with Thomas Nash, and altogether
presents one of the most characteristic though least favourable specimens
of the Elizabethan man of letters. We may speak of him further when we come
to the pamphleteers generally.

John Lyly is a person of much more consequence in English literature than
the conceited and pragmatical pedant who wrote _Pierce's Supererogation_.
He is familiar, almost literally to every schoolboy, as the author of the
charming piece, "Cupid with my Campaspe Played," and his dramatic work will
come in for notice in a future chapter; but he is chiefly thought of by
posterity, whether favourably or the reverse, as the author of _Euphues_.
Exceedingly little is known about his life, and it is necessary to say that
the usually accepted dates of his death, his children's birth, and so
forth, depend wholly on the identification of a John Lilly, who is the
subject of such entries in the registers of a London church, with the
euphuist and dramatist--an identification which requires confirmation. A
still more wanton attempt to supplement ignorance with knowledge has been
made in the further identification with Lyly of a certain "witty and bold
atheist," who annoyed Bishop Hall in his first cure at Hawstead, in
Suffolk, and who is called "Mr. Lilly." All supposed facts about him (or
some other John Lyly), his membership of Parliament and so forth, have been
diligently set forth by Mr. Bond in his Oxford edition of the _Works_, with
the documents which are supposed to prove them. He is supposed, on
uncertain but tolerable inferences, to have been born about 1554, and he
certainly entered Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1569, though he was not
matriculated till two years later. He is described as _plebeii filius_, was
not on the foundation, and took his degree in 1573. He must have had some
connection with the Cecils, for a letter of 1574 is extant from him to
Burleigh. He cannot have been five and twenty when he wrote _Euphues_,
which was licensed at the end of 1578, and was published (the first part)
early next year, while the second part followed with a very short
interval. In 1582 he wrote an unmistakable letter commendatory to Watson's
_Hecatompathia_, and between 1580 and 1590 he must have written his plays.
He appears to have continued to reside at Magdalen for a considerable time,
and then to have haunted the Court. A melancholy petition is extant to
Queen Elizabeth from him, the second of its kind, in which he writes:
"Thirteen years your highness' servant, but yet nothing." This was in 1598:
he is supposed to have died in 1606. _Euphues_ is a very singular book,
which was constantly reprinted and eagerly read for fifty years, then
forgotten for nearly two hundred, then frequently discussed, but very
seldom read, even it may be suspected in Mr. Arber's excellent reprint of
it, or in that of Mr. Bond. It gave a word to English, and even yet there
is no very distinct idea attaching to the word. It induced one of the most
gifted restorers of old times to make a blunder, amusing in itself, but not
in the least what its author intended it to be, and of late years
especially it has prompted constant discussions as to the origin of the
peculiarities which mark it. As usual, we shall try to discuss it with less
reference to what has been said about it than to itself.

_Euphues_ (properly divided into two parts, "Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit,"
and "Euphues and his England," the scene of the first lying in Naples) is a
kind of love story; the action, however, being next to nothing, and
subordinated to an infinite amount of moral and courtly discourse. Oddly
enough, the unfavourable sentence of Hallam, that it is "a very dull
story," and the favourable sentence of Kingsley, that it is "a brave,
righteous, and pious book," are both quite true, and, indeed, any one can
see that there is nothing incompatible in them. At the present day,
however, its substance, which chiefly consists of the moral discourses
aforesaid, is infinitely inferior in interest to its manner. Of that
manner, any one who imagines it to be reproduced by Sir Piercie Shafton's
extravagances in _The Monastery_ has an entirely false idea. It is much
odder than Shaftonese, but also quite different from it. Lyly's two
secrets are in the first place an antithesis, more laboured, more
monotonous, and infinitely more pointless than Macaulay's--which antithesis
seems to have met with not a little favour, and was indeed an obvious
expedient for lightening up and giving character to the correct but
featureless prose of Ascham and other "Latiners." The second was a fancy,
which amounts to a mania, for similes, strung together in endless lists,
and derived as a rule from animals, vegetables, or minerals, especially
from the Fauna and Flora of fancy. It is impossible to open a page of
_Euphues_ without finding an example of this eccentric and tasteless trick,
and in it, as far as in any single thing, must be found the recipe for
euphuism, pure and simple. As used in modern language for conceited and
precious language in general, the term has only a very partial application
to its original, or to that original's author. Indeed Lyly's vocabulary,
except occasionally in his similes, is decidedly vernacular, and he very
commonly mingles extremely homely words with his highest flights. No better
specimen of him can be given than from the aforesaid letter commendatory to
the _Hecatompathia_.

     "My good friend, I have read your new passions, and they have
     renewed mine old pleasures, the which brought to me no less
     delight than they have done to your self-commendations. And
     certes had not one of mine eyes about serious affairs been
     watchful, both by being too busy, had been wanton: such is the
     nature of persuading pleasure, that it melteth the marrow before
     it scorch the skin and burneth before it warmeth. Not unlike unto
     the oil of jet, which rotteth the bone and never rankleth the
     flesh, or the scarab flies which enter into the root and never
     touch the fruit.

     "And whereas you desire to have my opinion, you may imagine that
     my stomach is rather cloyed than queasy, and therefore mine
     appetite of less force than my affection, fearing rather a
     surfeit of sweetness than desiring a satisfying. The repeating of
     love wrought in me a semblance of liking; but searching the very
     veins of my heart I could find nothing but a broad scar where I
     left a deep wound: and loose strings where I tied hard knots: and
     a table of steel where I framed a plot of wax.

     "Whereby I noted that young swans are grey, and the old white,
     young trees tender and the old tough, young men amorous, and,
     growing in years, either wiser or warier. The coral plant in the
     water is a soft weed, on the land a hard stone: a sword frieth in
     the fire like a black eel; but laid in earth like white snow:
     the heart in love is altogether passionate; but free from desire
     altogether careless.

     "But it is not my intent to inveigh against love, which women
     account but a bare word and men reverence as the best God. Only
     this I would add without offence to gentlewomen, that were not
     men more superstitious in their praises than women are constant
     in their passions love would either be worn out of use, or men
     out of love, or women out of lightness. I can condemn none but by
     conjecture, nor commend any but by lying, yet suspicion is as
     free as thought, and as far as I can see as necessary as
     credulity.

     "Touching your mistress I must needs think well, seeing you have
     written so well, but as false glasses shew the fairest faces so
     fine gloses amend the baddest fancies. Appelles painted the
     phoenix by hearsay not by sight, and Lysippus engraved Vulcan
     with a straight leg whom nature framed with a poult foot, which
     proveth men to be of greater affection their [then? = than]
     judgment. But in that so aptly you have varied upon women I will
     not vary from you, so confess I must, and if I should not, yet
     mought I be compelled, that to love would be the sweetest thing
     in the earth if women were the faithfulest, and that women would
     be more constant if men were more wise.

     "And seeing you have used me so friendly as to make me acquainted
     with your passions, I will shortly make you privy to mine which I
     would be loth the printer should see, for that my fancies being
     never so crooked he would put them into straight lines unfit for
     my humour, necessary for his art, who setteth down blind in as
     many letters as seeing.[16]--Farewell."

[16] "Blinde" with the _e_ according to the old spelling having six
letters, the same number as seeing. This curious epistle is both in style
and matter an epitome of _Euphues_, which had appeared some three years
before.

Many efforts have been made to discover some model for Lyly's oddities.
Spanish and Italian influences have been alleged, and there is a special
theory that Lord Berners's translations have the credit or discredit of the
paternity. The curious similes are certainly found very early in Spanish,
and may be due to an Eastern origin. The habit of overloading the sentence
with elaborate and far-fetched language, especially with similes, may also
have come from the French _rhétoriqueurs_ already mentioned--a school of
pedantic writers (Chastellain, Robertet, Crétin, and some others being the
chief) who flourished during the last half of the fifteenth century and the
first quarter of the sixteenth, while the latest examples of them were
hardly dead when Lyly was born. The desire, very laudably felt all over
Europe, to adorn and exalt the vernacular tongues, so as to make them
vehicles of literature worthy of taking rank with Latin and Greek,
naturally led to these follies, of which euphuism in its proper sense was
only one.

Michael Drayton, in some verse complimentary to Sidney, stigmatises not
much too strongly Lyly's prevailing faults, and attributes to the hero of
Zutphen the purification of England from euphuism. This is hardly critical.
That Sidney--a young man, and a man of fashion at the time when Lyly's
oddities were fashionable--should have to a great extent (for his
resistance is by no means absolute) resisted the temptation to imitate
them, is very creditable. But the influence of _Euphues_ was at least as
strong for many years as the influence of the _Arcadia_ and the _Apology_;
and the chief thing that can be said for Sidney is that he did not wholly
follow Lyly to do evil. Nor is his positive excellence in prose to be
compared for a moment with his positive excellence in poetry. His life is
so universally known that nothing need be said about it beyond reminding
the reader that he was born, as Lyly is supposed to have been, in 1554;
that he was the son of Sir Henry Sidney, afterwards Viceroy of Ireland, and
of Lady Mary, eldest daughter of the luckless Dudley, Duke of
Northumberland; that he was educated at Shrewsbury and Christ Church,
travelled much, acquiring the repute of one of the most accomplished
cavaliers of Europe, loved without success Penelope Devereux ("Stella"),
married Frances Walsingham, and died of his wounds at the battle of
Zutphen, when he was not yet thirty-two years old. His prose works are the
famous pastoral romance of the _Arcadia_, written to please his sister, the
Countess of Pembroke, and the short _Apology for Poetry_, a very spirited
piece of work, immediately provoked by a rather silly diatribe against the
theatre by one Stephen Gosson, once a playwright himself, but turned
Puritan clergyman. Both appear to have been written about the same
time--that is to say, between 1579 and 1581; Sidney being then in London
and in the society of Spenser and other men of letters.

The amiability of Sidney's character, his romantic history, the exquisite
charm of his verse at its best, and last, not least, the fact of his
enthusiastic appreciation and patronage of literature at a time when
literary men never failed to give aristocratic patrons somewhat more than
_quid pro quo_, have perhaps caused his prose work to be traditionally a
little overvalued. The _Apology for Poetry_ is full of generous ardour,
contains many striking and poetical expressions, and explains more than any
other single book the secret of the wonderful literary production of the
half-century which followed. The _Arcadia_, especially when contrasted with
_Euphues_, has the great merit of abundant and stirring incident and
interest, of freedom from any single affectation so pestering and
continuous as Lyly's similes, and of constant purple patches of poetical
description and expression, which are indeed not a little out of place in
prose, but which are undeniably beautiful in themselves. But when this is
said all is said. Enthusiastic as Sidney's love for poetry and for
literature was, it was enthusiasm not at all according to knowledge. In the
_Apology_, by his vindication of the Unities, and his denunciation of the
mixture of tragedy and comedy, he was (of course without knowing it) laying
down exactly the two principles, a fortunate abjuration and scouting
whereof gave us the greatest possession in mass and variety of merit that
any literature possesses--the Elizabethan drama from Shakespere and Marlowe
to Ford and Shirley. Follow Sidney, and good-bye to _Faustus_, to _Hamlet_,
to _Philaster_, to _The Duchess of Malfi_, to _The Changeling_, to _The
Virgin Martyr_, to _The Broken Heart_. We must content ourselves with
_Gorboduc_ and _Cornelia_, with _Cleopatra_ and _Philotas_, at the very
best with _Sejanus_ and _The Silent Woman_. Again Sidney commits himself in
this same piece to the pestilent heresy of prose-poetry, saying that verse
is "only an ornament of poetry;" nor is there any doubt that Milton,
whether he meant it or not, fixed a deserved stigma on the _Arcadia_ by
calling it a "vain and amatorious poem." It is a poem in prose, which is as
much as to say, in other words, that it unites the faults of both kinds.
Nor is Sidney less an enemy (though a "sweet enemy" in his own or Bruno's
words) of the minor and more formal graces of style. If his actual
vocabulary is not Latinised, or Italianised, or Lylyfied, he was one of the
greatest of sinners in the special Elizabethan sin of convoluting and
entangling his phrases (after the fashion best known in the mouths of
Shakespere's fine gentlemen), so as to say the simplest thing in the least
simple manner. Not Osric nor Iachimo detests the _mot propre_ more than
Sidney. Yet again, he is one of the arch offenders in the matter of
spoiling the syntax of the sentence and the paragraph. As has been observed
already, the unpretending writers noticed above, if they have little
harmony or balance of phrase, are seldom confused or breathless. Sidney was
one of the first writers of great popularity and influence (for the
_Arcadia_ was very widely read) to introduce what may be called the
sentence-and-paragraph-heap, in which clause is linked on to clause till
not merely the grammatical but the philosophical integer is hopelessly lost
sight of in a tangle of jointings and appendices. It is not that he could
not do better; but that he seems to have taken no trouble not to do worse.
His youth, his numerous avocations, and the certainty that he never
formally prepared any of his work for the press, would of course be ample
excuses, even if the singular and seductive beauty of many scraps
throughout this work did not redeem it. But neither of the radical
difference in nature and purpose between prose and verse, nor of the due
discipline and management of prose itself, does Sidney seem to have had the
slightest idea. Although he seldom or never reaches the beauties of the
_flamboyant_ period of prose, which began soon after his death and filled
the middle of the seventeenth century, he contains examples of almost all
its defects; and considering that he is nearly the first writer to do this,
and that his writings were (and were deservedly) the favourite study of
generous literary youth for more than a generation, it is scarcely
uncharitable to hold him directly responsible for much mischief. The faults
of _Euphues_ were faults which were certain to work their own cure; those
of the _Arcadia_ were so engaging in themselves, and linked with so many
merits and beauties, that they were sure to set a dangerous example. I
believe, indeed, that if Sidney had lived he might have pruned his style
not a little without weakening it, and then the richness of his imagination
would probably have made him the equal of Bacon and the superior of
Raleigh. But as it is, his light in English prose (we shall speak and speak
very differently of his verse hereafter) was only too often a
will-o'-the-wisp. I am aware that critics whom I respect have thought and
spoken in an opposite sense, but the difference comes from a more important
and radical difference of opinion as to the nature, functions, and
limitations of English prose. Sidney's style may be perhaps best
illustrated by part of his Dedication; the narrative parts of the _Arcadia_
not lending themselves well to brief excerpt, while the _Apology_ is less
remarkable for style than for matter.

     _To my dear Lady and Sister, the Countess of Pembroke._

     "Here have you now, most dear, and most worthy to be most dear,
     lady, this idle work of mine; which, I fear, like the spider's
     web, will be thought fitter to be swept away than wove to any
     other purpose. For my part, in very truth, as the cruel fathers
     among the Greeks were wont to do to the babes they would not
     foster, I could well find in my heart to cast out in some desert
     of forgetfulness this child which I am loth to father. But you
     desired me to do it, and your desire to my heart is an absolute
     commandment. Now it is done only for you, only to you; if you
     keep it to yourself, or commend it to such friends who will weigh
     errors in the balance of good will, I hope, for the father's
     sake, it will be pardoned, perchance made much of, though in
     itself it have deformities. For indeed for severer eyes it is
     not, being but a trifle, and that triflingly handled. Your dear
     self can best witness the manner, being done in loose sheets of
     paper, most of it in your presence, the rest by sheets sent unto
     you as fast as they were done. In sum, a young head, not so well
     stayed as I would it were, and shall be when God will, having
     many fancies begotten in it, if it had not been in some way
     delivered, would have grown a monster, and more sorry might I be
     that they came in than that they gat out. But his[17] chief
     safety shall be the walking abroad; and his chief protection the
     bearing the livery of your name, which, if much good will do not
     deceive me, is worthy to be a sanctuary for a greater offender.
     This say I because I know thy virtue so; and this say I because
     it may be for ever so, or, to say better, because it will be for
     ever so."

[17] Apparently = the book's.

The difference referred to above is again well exemplified by the
difference of opinions on the style of Hooker as compared with that of
Sidney. Hooker wrote considerably later than the other authors here
criticised, but his work is so distinctly the climax of the style started
by Ascham, Cheke, and their fellows (the style in which English was
carefully adapted to literary purposes for which Latin had been previously
employed, under the general idea that Latin syntax should, on the whole,
rule the new literary medium), that this chapter would be incomplete
without a notice of him. For the distinguished writers who were
contemporary with his later years represent, with rare and only partly
distinguished exceptions, not a development of Hooker, but either a
development of Sidney or a fresh style, resulting from the blending in
different proportions of the academic and classical manner with the
romantic and discursive.

The events of Hooker's neither long nor eventful life are well-known from
one of the earliest of standard biographies in English--that of Izaak
Walton. He was born at Heavitree, a suburb of Exeter, in 1554(?). Though he
was fairly connected, his parents were poor, and he was educated as a Bible
clerk at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He entered here in 1567, and for
some fifteen years Oxford was his home, latterly as Fellow and Lecturer of
Corpus. The story of his marriage is slightly pathetic, but more than
slightly ludicrous, and he appears to have been greatly henpecked as well
as obliged to lead an uncongenial life at a country living. In 1585 he was
made Master of the Temple, and held that post for seven years,
distinguishing himself both as a preacher and a controversialist. But
neither was this his vocation; and the last nine years of his life were
spent, it would seem more congenially, in two other country livings, first
in Wiltshire, then in Kent. He died in 1600. The first four books of the
_Ecclesiastical Polity_ were published in 1594, the fifth in 1597. The last
three books, published after his death, lie under grave suspicion of having
been tampered with. This, however, as the unquestionably genuine portion
is considerable in bulk, is a matter rather of historical and theological
than of purely literary interest. Hooker himself appears to have been
something like the popular ideal of a student: never so happy as when pen
in hand, and by no means fitted for the rougher kind of converse with his
fellow-men, still less for the life of what is commonly called a man of the
world.

But in the world of literature he is a very great man indeed. Very few
theological books have made themselves a place in the first rank of the
literature of their country, and if the _Ecclesiastical Polity_ has done
so, it has certainly not done so without cause. If there has been a certain
tendency on the part of strong partisans of the Anglican Church to
overestimate the literary and philosophical merit of this book, which may
be called the first vernacular defence of the position of the English
Church, that has been at least compensated by partisan criticism on the
other side. Nor is there the least fear that the judgment of impartial
critics will ever deprive Hooker of the high rank generally accorded to
him. He is, of course, far from being faultless. In his longer sentences
(though long sentences are by no means the rule with him) he often falls
into that abuse of the classical style which the comparatively jejune
writers who had preceded him avoided, but which constantly manifested
itself in the richer manner of his own contemporaries--the abuse of
treating the uninflected English language as if it were an inflected
language, in which variations and distinctions of case and gender and
number help to connect adjective with substantive, and relative with
antecedent. Sometimes, though less often, he distorts the natural order of
the English in order to secure the Latin desideratum of finishing with the
most emphatic and important words of the clause. His subject leads and
almost forces him to an occasional pedantry of vocabulary, and in the
region which is not quite that of form nor quite that of matter, he
sometimes fails in co-ordinating his arguments, his facts, and his
citations, and in directing the whole with crushing force at his enemy. His
argument occasionally degenerates into mere illustration; his logic into
mere rhetoric.

But when all these things are admitted, the _Ecclesiastical Polity_ remains
a book in which matter and manner are wedded as in few other books of the
same kind. The one characteristic which has been admitted by Hooker's
faintest praisers as well as by his warmest--the golden moderation and
judiciousness of his argument--is perhaps rather calculated to extort
esteem than to arouse admiration. Moderation, like other kinds of probity,
_laudatur et alget_: the adversary is not extremely grateful for not being
pushed to extremity, and those on the same side would at least excuse a
little more vehemence in driving advantages home. But Hooker has other
qualities which are equally estimable and more shining. What especially
distinguishes him from the literary point of view is his almost unique
faculty of diversifying dry and technical argument with outbursts of
rhetoric. These last are not mere purple patches; they do not come in with
the somewhat ostentatious usherment and harbingery which, for instance,
laid the even more splendid bursts of Jeremy Taylor open to the sharp
sarcasm of South. There is nothing theatrical about them; they rise quite
naturally out of the level of discussion and sink into it again, with no
sudden stumble or drop. Nor are they ever (like some of Sidney's poetical
excrescences) tags and hemistichs of unwritten sonnets or songs stuck in
anyhow upon the prose. For instance, Sidney writes: "About the time when
the candles had begun to inherit the sun's office." Now this in a somewhat
quaint and conceited fashion of verse would be excellent. It would also be
excellent in burlesque, and in such prose as Browne's it might conquer its
place victoriously. But except in such a context (which Sidney cannot
weave) it is a _rococo_ ornament, a tawdry beautification. Compare with it
any of the celebrated passages of Hooker, which may be found in the extract
books--the encomium on law, the admirable passage, not so admirable indeed
in the context as it might be but still admirable, about angels, the
vindication of music in the church service. Here the expression, even at
its warmest, is in no sense poetical, and the flight, as it is called,
connects itself with and continues and drops into the ordinary march of
argument in the most natural and imperceptible manner. The elevated
passages of Hooker's style resemble more than anything else those
convenient exploits common, probably, in most persons' dreams, in which the
dreamer, without any trouble to himself or any apparent surprise in those
about him, lifts himself from the ground and skims or soars as he pleases,
sure that he can return to earth also when he pleases, and without any
shock. The speculators on the causes of beauty, admiration, and the like
have sometimes sought them in contrast first of all, and it has been
frequently noticed that the poets who charm us most are those who know how
to alternate pity and terror. There is something of the same sort in these
variations of the equable procession of Hooker's syllogisms, these
flower-gardens scattered, if not in the wilderness, yet in the humdrum
arable ground of his collections from fathers and philosophers, his
marshallings of facts and theories against the counter-theories of
Cartwright and Travers. Neither before him nor in his time, nor for
generations after him--scarcely, indeed, till Berkeley--did any one arise
who had this profound and unpretentious art of mixing the useful with the
agreeable. Taylor--already mentioned as inferior to Hooker in one respect,
however superior he may be in the splendour of his rhetoric--is again and
still more inferior to him in the parts that are not ornamental, in the
pedestrian body of his controversy and exposition. As a mere
controversialist, Hooker, if not exactly a Hobbes or a Bentley, if not even
a Chillingworth, is not likely to be spoken of without respect by those who
understand what evidence means. If he sometimes seems to modern readers to
assume his premisses, the conclusions follow much more rigidly than is
customary with a good many of our later philosophers, who protest against
the assumption of premisses; but having so protested neglect the ambiguity
of terms, and leave their middles undistributed, and perpetrate illicit
process with a gaiety of heart which is extremely edifying, or who fancy
that they are building systems of philosophy when they are in reality
constructing dictionaries of terms. But his argument is of less concern to
us here than the style in which he clothes it, and the merit of that is
indisputable, as a brief extract will show.

     "As therefore man doth consist of different and distinct parts,
     every part endued with manifold abilities which all have their
     several ends and actions thereunto referred; so there is in this
     great variety of duties which belong to men that dependency and
     order by means whereof, the lower sustaining always the more
     excellent and the higher perfecting the more base, they are in
     their times and seasons continued with most exquisite
     correspondence. Labours of bodily and daily toil purchase freedom
     for actions of religious joy, which benefit these actions requite
     with the gift of desired rest--a thing most natural and fit to
     accompany the solemn festival duties of honour which are done to
     God. For if those principal works of God, the memory whereof we
     use to celebrate at such times, be but certain tastes and
     says,[18] as it were, of that final benefit wherein our perfect
     felicity and bliss lieth folded up, seeing that the presence of
     the one doth direct our cogitations, thoughts, and desires
     towards the other, it giveth surely a kind of life and addeth
     inwardly no small delight to those so comfortable anticipations,
     especially when the very outward countenance of that we presently
     do representeth, after a sort, that also whereunto we tend. As
     festival rest doth that celestial estate whereof the very
     heathens themselves, which had not the means whereby to apprehend
     much, did notwithstanding imagine that it must needs consist in
     rest, and have therefore taught that above the highest movable
     sphere there is no thing which feeleth alteration, motion, or
     change; but all things immutable, unsubject to passion, blest
     with eternal continuance in a life of the highest perfection, and
     of that complete abundant sufficiency within itself which no
     possibility of want, maim, or defect, can touch."

[18] "Assays."

Hooker's defects have been already admitted, and it has to be added to them
that he was necessarily destitute of much useful vocabulary which his
successors inherited or added, and that he had absolutely no model of
style. What he lacked was the audacity to be, not like Sidney more flowery,
not like the contemporary pamphleteers more slangy, but more intelligently
vernacular; to follow in the mould of his sentences the natural order of
English speech rather than the conventional syntax of Latin, and to
elaborate for himself a clause-architecture or order, so to speak, of
word-building, which should depend upon the inherent qualities of euphony
and rhythm possessed by English. It is, however, quite certain that nothing
was further from Hooker's thoughts than the composition of English
literature merely as English literature. He wanted to bring a certain
subject under the notice of readers of the vulgar tongue, and being before
all things a scholar he could not help making a scholarly use of that
tongue. The wonder is that, in his circumstances and with his purposes,
with hardly any teachers, with not a great stock of verbal material, and
with little or no tradition of workmanship in the art, he should have
turned out such admirable work.

It would be interesting to dwell on the prose of Fulke Greville, Sidney's
friend, who long outlived him, and who anticipated not a little of that
magnificence of the prose of his later contemporaries, beside which I have
ventured to suggest that Sidney's own is sometimes but _rococo_. A place
ought to be given to Richard Knolles, who deserves, if not the name of the
first historian of England, certainly the credit of making, in his _History
of the Turks_ (1604), a step from the loose miscellany of the chronicle to
the ordered structure of the true historic style. Some would plead for
Richard Mulcaster, whose work on education and especially on the teaching
of the English tongue in his _Positions_ and _First Part of the Elementary_
(1582) is most intimately connected with our general subject. But there is
no room for more than a mention of these, or for further dwelling on the
translators already glanced at and others, the most important and
influential of whom was John Florio, the Englisher (1603) of Montaigne.



CHAPTER III

THE FIRST DRAMATIC PERIOD


It does not belong to the plan of this division of the present book to
trace the earliest beginnings of the English theatre, or those intermediate
performances by which, in the reigns of the four first Tudors, the Mystery
and Morality passed into the Interlude. Even the two famous comedies of
_Ralph Roister Doister_ and _Gammer Gurton's Needle_ stand as it were only
at the threshold of our period in this chapter, and everything before them
is shut out of it. On the other hand, we can take to be our province the
whole rise, flourishing, and decadence of the extraordinary product, known
somewhat loosely as the Elizabethan drama. We shall in the present chapter
discuss the two comedies or rather farces just mentioned, and notice on the
one hand the rather amorphous production which, during the first thirty
years of Elizabeth, represented the influence of a growing taste for
personal and lively dramatic story on the somewhat arid soil of the
Morality and Interlude, and, on the other, the abortive attempt to
introduce the regular Senecan tragedy--an attempt which almost immediately
broke down and disappeared, whelmed in the abundance of chronicle-play and
melodrama. And finally we shall show how the two rival schools of the
university wits and the actor playwrights culminated, the first in Marlowe,
the second in the earlier and but indistinctly and conjecturally known work
of Shakespere. A second chapter will show us the triumph of the
untrammelled English play in tragedy and comedy, furnished by Marlowe with
the mighty line, but freed to a great extent from the bombast and the
unreal scheme which he did not shake off. Side by side with Shakespere
himself we shall have to deal with the learned sock of Jonson, the proud
full style of Chapman, the unchastened and ill-directed vigour of Marston,
the fresh and charming, if unkempt grace of Dekker, the best known and most
remarkable members of a crowd of unknown or half-known playwrights. A third
division will show us a slight gain on the whole in acting qualities, a
considerable perfecting of form and scheme, but at the same time a certain
decline in the most purely poetical merits, redeemed and illustrated by the
abundant genius of Beaumont and Fletcher, of Middleton, of Webster, of
Massinger, and of Ford. And the two latest of these will conduct us into
the fourth or period of decadence where, round the voluminous work and
still respectable fame of James Shirley, are grouped names like Brome,
Glapthorne, Suckling, and others, whose writing, sometimes remarkable and
even brilliant, gradually loses not only dramatic but poetical merit, till
it drops into the formless plots, the unscannable verse, the coarseness
unredeemed by passion, the horrors unlit by any tragic force, which
distinguish the last plays before the closing of the theatres, and reappear
to some extent at a period beyond ours in the drama (soon to be radically
changed in almost every possible characteristic) of the Restoration. The
field of survey is vast, and despite the abundant labour which has been
bestowed upon it during the nineteenth century, it is still in a somewhat
chaotic condition. The remarkable collection of old plays which we owe to
Mr. A. H. Bullen shows, by sample only and with no pretence of being
exhaustive, the amount of absolutely unknown matter which still exists. The
collection and editing of texts has proceeded on the most widely different
principles, and with an almost complete absence of that intelligent
partition of labour which alone can reduce chaos to order in such a case.
To give but one instance, there is actually no complete collection, though
various attempts have been made at it, which gives, with or without
sufficient editorial apparatus to supplement the canon, all the dramatic
_adespota_ which have been at one time or another attributed to Shakespere.
These at present the painful scholar can only get together in publications
abounding in duplicates, edited on the most opposite principles, and
equally troublesome either for library arrangement or for literary
reference. The editions of single authors have exhibited an equal absence
of method; one editor admitting doubtful plays or plays of part-authorship
which are easily accessible elsewhere, while another excludes those which
are difficult to be got at anywhere. It is impossible for any one who reads
literature as literature and not as a matter of idle crotchet, not to
reflect that if either of the societies which, during the nineteenth
century, have devoted themselves to the study of Shakespere and his
contemporaries, had chosen to employ their funds on it, a complete Corpus
of the drama between 1560 and 1660, edited with sufficient, but not
superfluous critical apparatus on a uniform plan, and in a decent if not a
luxurious form, might now be obtainable. Some forty or fifty volumes at the
outside on the scale of the "Globe" series, or of Messrs. Chatto's useful
reprints of Jonson, Chapman, and other dramatists, would probably contain
every play of the slightest interest, even to a voracious student--who
would then have all his material under his hand. What time, expense, and
trouble are required to obtain, and that very imperfectly, any such
advantage now, only those who have tried to do it know. Even Mr. Hazlitt's
welcome, if somewhat uncritical, reprint of Dodsley, long out of print, did
not boldly carry out its principle--though there are plans for improving
and supplementing it.

Nevertheless, if the difficulties are great so are the rewards. It has been
the deliberate opinion of many competent judges (neither unduly prejudiced
in favour of English literature nor touched with that ignorance of other
literature which is as fatal to judgment as actual prejudice) that in no
time or country has the literary interest of a short and definite period of
production in one well-defined kind approached in value the interest of the
Elizabethan drama. Other periods and other countries may produce more
remarkable work of different kinds, or more uniformly accomplished, and
more technically excellent work in the same kind. But for originality,
volume, generic resemblance of character, and individual independence of
trait, exuberance of inventive thought, and splendour of execution in
detached passages--the Elizabethan drama from Sackville to Shirley stands
alone in the history of the world. The absurd overestimate which has
sometimes been made of its individual practitioners, the hyperbole of the
language which has been used to describe them, the puerile and almost
inconceivable folly of some of their scholiasts and parasitic students,
find a certain excuse in this truth--a truth which will only be contested
by those who have not taken the very considerable trouble necessary to
master the facts, or who are precluded by a natural inability from
savouring the _goût du terroir_ of this abundant and intoxicating wine.
There are those who say that nobody but an enthusiast or a self-deceiver
can read with real relish any Elizabethan dramatist but Shakespere, and
there are those who would have it that the incommunicable and
uncommunicated charm of Shakespere is to be found in Nabbes and Davenport,
in Glapthorne and Chettle. They are equally wrong, but the second class are
at any rate in a more saving way of wrongness. Where Shakespere stands
alone is not so much in his actual faculty of poetry as in his command of
that faculty. Of the others, some, like Jonson, Fletcher, Massinger, had
the art without the power; others, like Chapman, Dekker, Webster, had
flashes of the power without the art. But there is something in the whole
crew, jovial or saturnine, which is found nowhere else, and which, whether
in full splendour as in Shakespere, or in occasional glimmers as in
Tourneur or Rowley, is found in all, save those mere imitators and
hangers-on who are peculiar to no period.

This remarkable quality, however, does not show itself in the dramatic work
of our present period until quite the close of it. It is true that the
period opens (according to the traditional estimate which has not been much
altered by recent studies) with three plays of very considerable character,
and of no inconsiderable merit--the two comedies already named and the
tragedy of _Gorboduc_, otherwise _Ferrex and Porrex_. _Ralph Roister
Doister_ was licensed and is thought to have been printed in 1566, but it
may have been acted at Eton by 1541, and the whole cast of the metre,
language, and _scenario_, is of a colour older than Elizabeth's reign. It
may be at least attributed to the middle of the century, and is the work of
Nicholas Udall, a schoolmaster who has left at two great schools a repute
for indulgence in the older methods of instruction not inferior to Busby's
or Keate's. _Ralph Roister Doister_, though a fanciful estimate may see a
little cruelty of another kind in it, is of no austere or pedagogic
character. The author has borrowed not a little from the classical
comedy--Plautine or even Aristophanic rather than Terentian--to strengthen
and refine the domestic interlude or farce; and the result is certainly
amusing enough. The plot turns on the courtship of Dame Christian Custance
[Constance], a widow of repute and wealth as well as beauty, by the gull
and coxcomb, _Ralph Roister Doister_, whose suit is at once egged on and
privately crossed by the mischievous Matthew Merrygreek, who plays not only
parasite but rook to the hero. Although Custance has not the slightest
intention of accepting Ralph, and at last resorts to actual violence,
assisted by her maids, to get rid of him and his followers, the affair
nearly breeds a serious quarrel between herself and her plighted lover,
Gawin Goodluck; but all ends merrily. The metre is the somewhat unformed
doggerel couplet of twelve syllables or thereabouts, with a strong cæsura
in the middle, and is varied and terminated by songs from Custance's maids
and others. Indeed the chief charm of the piece is the genuine and unforced
merriment which pervades it. Although Merrygreek's practices on Ralph's
silliness sometimes tend a little to tediousness, the action on the whole
moves trippingly enough, and despite the strong flavour of the "stock part"
in the characters they have considerable individuality. The play is,
moreover, as a whole remarkably free from coarseness, and there is no
difficulty in finding an illustrative extract.

    _C. Custance loquitur._

    "O Lord! how necessary it is now o' days,
    That each body live uprightly all manner ways;
    For let never so little a gap be open,
    And be sure of this, the worst shall be spoken.
    How innocent stand I in this frame o' thought,
    And yet see what mistrust towards me it hath wrought.
    But thou, Lord, knowest all folks' thoughts and eke intents;
    And thou art the deliverer of all innocents.
    Thou didst keep the advoutress,[19] that she might be amended;
    Much more then keep, Lord,[20] that never sin intended.
    Thou didst keep Susanna, wrongfully accused,
    And no less dost thou see, Lord, how I am now abused.
    Thou didst keep Hester, when she should have died,
    Keep also, good Lord, that my truth may be tried.
    Yet, if Gawin Goodluck with Tristram Trusty speak,
    I trust of ill-report the force shall be but weak;
    And lo! yond they come talking sadly together:
    I will abide, and not shrink for their coming hither."

[19] Adulteress.

[20] Understand "me."

Freedom from coarseness is more than can be predicated of the still more
famous _Gammer Gurton's Needle_, attributed to, and all but certainly known
to be, by John Still, afterwards bishop. The authorship, indeed, is not
quite certain; and the curious reference in Martin Marprelate's _Epistle_
(ed. Arber, p. 11) to "this trifle" as "shewing the author to have had some
wit and invention in him" only disputes the claim of Dr. Bridges to those
qualities, and does not make any suggestion as to the identity of the more
favoured author. Still was the son of a Lincolnshire gentleman, is supposed
to have been born about 1543, was educated at Christ's College, Cambridge,
and after a course of preferment through the positions of parish priest in
London and at Hadleigh, Dean of Bocking, Canon of Westminster, Master
successively of St. John's and Trinity, and Vice-Chancellor of his own
University, was at the beginning of 1593 made Bishop of Bath and Wells, an
office which he held for fifteen years. His play (taking it as his) was his
only work of the kind, and was the first English play acted at either
university, though later he himself had to protest officially against the
use of the vernacular in a piece performed before the Queen. _Gammer
Gurton's Needle_, as has been said, is, despite the subsequent history of
its author and the academic character of its appearance, of a much lower
order of comedy than _Ralph Roister Doister_, though it is also more
spontaneous, less imitative, and, in short, more original. The best thing
about it is the magnificent drinking song, "Back and Side go Bare, go
Bare," one of the most spirited and genuine of all bacchanalian lyrics; but
the credit of this has sometimes been denied to Still. The metre of the
play itself is very similar to that of _Ralph Roister Doister_, though the
long swinging couplet has a tendency to lengthen itself still further, to
the value of fourteen or even sixteen syllables, the central cæsura being
always well marked, as may be seen in the following:--

    _Diccon._ "Here will the sport begin, if these two once may meet,
              Their cheer, [I] durst lay money, will prove scarcely sweet.
              My gammer sure intends to be upon her bones,
              With staves, or with clubs, or else with cobble stones.
              Dame Chat on the other side, if she be far behind,
              I am right far deceived, she is given to it of kind.
              He that may tarry by it a while, and that but short,
              I warrant him trust to it, he shall see all the sport.
              Into the town will I, my friends to visit there,
              And hither straight again to see the end of this gear.
              In the meantime, fellows, pipe up your fiddles; I say, take
                    them,
              And let your friends hear such mirth as ye can make them."

As for the story, it is of the simplest, turning merely on the losing of
her needle by Gammer Gurton as she was mending her man Hodge's breeches, on
the search for it by the household, on the tricks by which Diccon the
Bedlam (the clown or "vice" of the piece) induces a quarrel between Gammer
and her neighbours, and on the final finding of the needle in the exact
place on which Gammer Gurton's industry had been employed. The action is
even better sustained and livelier than in Udall's play, and the swinging
couplets canter along very cheerfully with great freedom and fluency of
language. Unfortunately this language, whether in order to raise a laugh or
to be in strict character with the personages, is anything but choice.
There is (barring a possible double meaning or two) nothing of the kind
generally known as licentious; it is the merely foul and dirty language of
common folk at all times, introduced, not with humorous extravagance in the
Rabelaisian fashion, but with literal realism. If there had been a little
less of this, the piece would have been much improved; but even as it is,
it is a capital example of farce, just as _Ralph Roister Doister_ is of a
rather rudimentary kind of regular comedy.

The strangeness of the contrast which these two plays offer when compared
with the third is peculiar in English literature. Elsewhere it is common
enough. That tragedy should be stately, decorous, and on the whole somewhat
uneventful as far as visible action goes,--comedy bustling, crammed with
incident, and quite regardless of decorum,--might seem a law of nature to
the audience of Æschylus and Aristophanes, of Plautus and Pacuvius, even to
the audience of Molière and Racine. But the vast and final change, the
inception of which we have here to record, has made tragedy, tragi-comedy,
comedy, and farce pass into one another so gradually, and with so little of
a break in the English mind, that _Gammer Gurton's Needle_ and _Gorboduc_,
though they were presented to the same audiences, and in all probability
written within ten years of each other at furthest, seem to belong to
different worlds of literature and society. The two comedies just noticed
are framed upon no literary model at all as wholes, but simply upon the
model of human nature. _Gorboduc_ is framed, though not with absolute
fidelity, on the model of the tragedies of Seneca, which had, during the
early years of the sixteenth century, mastered the attention of the
literary playwrights of Italy, France, and even to some extent Germany, and
which determined for three hundred years, at any rate, the form of the
tragedy of France. This model--which may be briefly described as the model
of Greek tragedy, still further pruned of action, with the choruses
retained, but estranged from their old close connection with the dialogue,
and reduced to the level of elaborate lyrical moralisings, and with the
tendency to such moralising in dialogue as well as in chorus largely
increased--was introduced in England with hardly less advantage than
abroad. Sackville, one of the reputed authors of _Gorboduc_, was far
superior to Jodelle, both as poet and as versifier, and the existence of
the two universities in England gave a support, to which nothing in France
corresponded, to the influence of learned writers. Indeed, till nearly the
close of our present period, the universities had the practical control of
literary production. But the genius of the English nation would have none
of Seneca. It refused him when he was first introduced by Sackville and
others; it refused him once more when Daniel and the set of the Countess of
Pembroke again attempted to introduce him; it refused him again and again
in the later seventeenth century, when imitation, first of his earlier
French followers, and then of the greater tragedy of Corneille and Racine
(which was only the Senecan model strengthened and improved) was repeatedly
tried by fine gentlemen and by needy hacks, by devotees of the unities, and
by devotees of court fashion. I hardly know any other instance in literary
history of a similar resistance offered to a similar tide of literary
influence in Europe. We have little room here for fanciful comparisons, yet
might the dramatic events of 1560-1590 in England well seem a literary
battle of Tours, in which an English Charles Martel stemmed and turned back
for ever and ever the hitherto resistless march of a literary invader and
spread of a literary heresy.

To the modern reader _Gorboduc_ (part of which is attributed to Thomas
Norton, and which was acted on 18th January 1561, published piratically in
1565, and authoritatively under the title of _Ferrex and Porrex_ in 1571?)
is scarcely inviting, but that is not a criterion of its attractiveness to
its own contemporaries. Perhaps the most curious thing about it is the
violence done to the Horatian and Senecan theories, or rather the _naïf_
outwitting of those theories, by an arrangement of dumb shows between the
acts to satisfy the hunger for real action which the model refused to
countenance. All the rest is of the most painful regularity: and the
scrupulosity with which each of the rival princes is provided with a
counsellor and a parasite to himself, and the other parts are allotted with
similar fairness, reaches such a point that it is rather surprising that
Gorboduc was not provided with two queens--a good and a bad. Such action as
there is lies wholly in the mouths of messengers, and the speeches are of
excessive length. But even these faults are perhaps less trying to the
modern reader than the inchoate and unpolished condition of the metre in
the choruses, and indeed in the blank verse dialogue. Here and there, there
are signs of the stateliness and poetical imagery of the "Induction"; but
for the most part the decasyllables stop dead at their close and begin
afresh at their beginning with a staccato movement and a dull monotony of
cadence which is inexpressibly tedious, as will be seen in the following:--

    (_Videna soliloquises._)

    "Why should I live and linger forth my time
    In longer life to double my distress?
    O me, most woeful wight, whom no mishap
    Long ere this day could have bereaved hence.
    Might not these hands, by fortune or by fate,
    Have pierc'd this breast, and life with iron reft?
    Or in this palace here where I so long
    Have spent my days, could not that happy hour
    Once, once have happ'd in which these hugy frames
    With death by fall might have oppressed me?
    Or should not this most hard and cruel soil,
    So oft where I have press'd my wretched steps,
    Some time had ruth of mine accursed life,
    To rend in twain and swallow me therein?
    So had my bones possessed now in peace
    Their happy grave within the closed ground,
    And greedy worms had gnawn this pined heart
    Without my feeling pain: so should not now
    This living breast remain the ruthful tomb
    Wherein my heart yielden to death is graved;
    Nor dreary thoughts, with pangs of pining grief,
    My doleful mind had not afflicted thus."

There is no blame due to Sackville in that he did not invent what no single
man invented, and what even in England, where only it has been originally
attained, took some thirty years of the genius of the nation working
through innumerable individual tentatives and failures to bring about. But
he did not invent it; he did not even make any attempt to invent it; and
had this first English tragedy been generally followed, we should have been
for an unknown period in the land of bondage, in the classical dungeon
which so long retained the writers of a nation, certainly not, at the time
of the appearance of _Gorboduc_, of less literary promise than our own.

In describing these tentatives and failures it will be impossible here to
enter into any lengthened criticism of particular works. We shall have to
content ourselves with a description of the general lines and groups, which
may be said to be four in number: (1) The few unimportant and failing
followers of Sackville; (2) The miscellaneous farce-and-interlude-writers,
who, incult and formless as their work was, at least maintained the
literary tradition; (3) The important and most interesting group of
"university wits" who, with Marlowe at their head, made the blank verse
line for dramatic purposes, dismissed, cultivated as they were, the
cultivation of classical models, and gave English tragedy its Magna Charta
of freedom and submission to the restrictions of actual life only, but who
failed, from this cause or that, to achieve perfect life-likeness; and (4)
The actor-playwrights who, rising from very humble beginnings, but
possessing in their fellow Shakespere a champion unparalleled in ancient
and modern times, borrowed the improvements of the University Wits, added
their own stage knowledge, and with Shakespere's aid achieved the master
drama of the world.

A very few lines will suffice for the first group, who are the merest
literary curiosities. Indeed the actual number of Senecan dramas in English
is very small indeed, though there may possibly be some undiscovered in MS.
The _Tancred and Gismund_ of Robert Wilmot (acted 1568, and of some merit),
the _Cornelia_ of Garnier, translated by Kyd and printed in 1594, the
curious play called _The Misfortunes of Arthur_, acted before the Queen in
the Armada year, with "triumphs" partly devised by Francis Bacon, the two
plays of Samuel Daniel, and a very few others, complete the list; indeed
_Cornelia_, _Cleopatra_, and _Philotas_ are almost the only three that keep
really close to the model. At a time of such unbounded respect for the
classics, and when Latin plays of the same stamp were constantly acted at
the universities, such a paucity of examples in English can only testify to
a strong national distaste--an instinctive feeling that this would never
do.

The nondescript followings of morality and farce are infinitely more
numerous, and perhaps intrinsically more interesting; but they can hardly
be said to be, except in bulk, of much greater importance. Their real
interest to the reader as he turns them over in the first seven or eight
volumes of Dodsley, or in the rarer single editions where they occur, is
again an interest of curiosity--a desire to trace the various shiftings and
turnings of the mighty but unorganised genius which was soon to find its
way. Next to the difficulty of inventing a conveniently plastic form seems
to have been the difficulty of inventing a suitable verse. For some time
the swinging or lumbering doggerel in which a tolerably good rhyme is
reached by a kind of scramble through four or five feet, which are most
like a very shuffling anapæst--the verse which appears in the comedies of
Udall and Still--held its ground. We have it in the morality of the _New
Custom_, printed in 1573, but no doubt written earlier, in the Interlude
of _The Trial of Treasure_, in the farcical comedy of _Like Will to Like_,
a coarse but lively piece, by Ulpian Fulwell (1568). In the very curious
tragi-comedy of _Cambyses_ this doggerel appears partly, but is alternated
with the less lawless but scarcely more suitable "fourteener" (divided or
not as usual, according to printer's exigencies) which, as was shown in the
last chapter, for a time almost monopolised the attention of English poets.
The same mixture appears to some extent, though the doggerel occupies the
main text, in the _Damon and Pythias_ of Richard Edwards, the editor of
_The Paradise of Dainty Devices_. In _Appius and Virginia_ (a decidedly
interesting play) the fourteener on the contrary is the staple verse, the
doggerel being only occasional. Something the same may be said of a very
late morality, _The Conflict of Conscience_. Both doggerel and fourteeners
appear in the quaint productions called _Three Ladies of London_, etc.; but
by this time the decasyllable began to appear with them and to edge them
out. They died hard, however, thoroughly ill-fitted as they were for
dramatic use, and, as readers of _Love's Labour Lost_ know, survived even
in the early plays of Shakespere. Nor were the characters and minor details
generally of this group less disorderly and inadequate than the general
schemes or the versification. Here we have the abstractions of the old
Morality; there the farcical gossip of the _Gammer Gurton's Needle_ class;
elsewhere the pale and dignified personages of _Gorboduc_: all three being
often jumbled together all in one play. In the lighter parts there are
sometimes fair touches of low comedy; in the graver occasionally, though
much more rarely, a touching or dignified phrase or two. But the plays as
wholes are like Ovid's first-fruits of the deluge--nondescripts incapable
of life, and good for no useful or ornamental purpose.

It is at this moment that the cleavage takes place. And when I say "this
moment," I am perfectly conscious that the exact moment in dates and years
cannot be defined. Not a little harm has been done to the history of
English literature by the confusion of times in which some of its
historians have pleased themselves. But even greater harm might be done if
one were to insist on an exact chronology for the efflorescence of the
really poetical era of Elizabethan literature, if the blossoming of the
aloe were to be tied down to hour and day. All that we can say is that in
certain publications, in certain passages even of the same publication, we
find the old respectable plodding, the old blind tentative experiment in
poetry and drama: and then without warning--without, as it seems, any
possible opportunity of distinguishing chronologically--we find the
unmistakable marks of the new wine, of the unapproachable poetry proper,
which all criticism, all rationalisation can only indicate and not account
for. We have hardly left (if we take their counterparts later we have not
left) the wooden verse of _Gorboduc_, the childish rusticity of _Like Will
to Like_, when suddenly we stumble on the bower--

    "Seated in hearing of a hundred streams"--

of George Peele, on the myriad graceful fancies of Lyly, on the exquisite
snatches of Greene, on the verses, to this day the high-water mark of
poetry, in which Marlowe speaks of the inexpressible beauty which is the
object and the despair of the poet. This is wonderful enough. But what is
more wonderful is, that these lightning flashes are as evanescent as
lightning. Lyly, Peele, Greene, Marlowe himself, in probably the very next
passages, certainly in passages not very remote, tell us that this is all
matter of chance, that they are all capable of sinking below the level of
Sackville at his even conceivably worst, close to the level of Edwards, and
the various anonymous or half-anonymous writers of the dramatic
miscellanies just noted. And then beyond these unequal wits arises the
figure of Shakespere; and the greatest work of all literature swims slowly
into our ken. There has been as yet no history of this unique phenomenon
worthy of it: I have not the least pretension to supply one that shall be
worthy. But at least the uniqueness of it shall here have due celebration.
The age of Pericles, the age of Augustus, the age of Dante, had no such
curious ushering-in unless time has dealt exceptional injustice to the
forerunners of all of them. We do not, in the period which comes nearest in
time and nature to this, see anything of the same kind in the middle space
between Villon and Ronsard, between Agrippa d'Aubigné and Corneille. Here
if anywhere is the concentrated spirit of a nation, the thrice-decocted
blood of a people, forcing itself into literary expression through mediums
more and more worthy of it. If ever the historical method was justified (as
it always is), now is its greatest justification as we watch the gradual
improvements, the decade-by-decade, almost year-by-year acquisitions, which
lead from Sackville to Shakespere.

The rising sap showed itself in two very different ways, in two branches of
the national tree. In the first place, we have the group of University
Wits, the strenuous if not always wise band of professed men of letters, at
the head of whom are Lyly, Marlowe, Greene, Peele, Lodge, Nash, and
probably (for his connection with the universities is not certainly known)
Kyd. In the second, we have the irregular band of outsiders, players and
others, who felt themselves forced into literary and principally dramatic
composition, who boast Shakespere as their chief, and who can claim as
seconds to him not merely the imperfect talents of Chettle, Munday, and
others whom we may mention in this chapter, but many of the perfected
ornaments of a later time.

It may be accident or it may not, but the beginning of this period is
certainly due to the "university wits." Lyly stands a good deal apart from
them personally, despite his close literary connection. We have no kind of
evidence which even shows that he was personally acquainted with any one of
the others. Of Kyd, till Mr. Boas's recent researches, we knew next to
nothing, and we still know very little save that he was at Merchant
Taylors' School and was busy with plays famous in their day. But the other
five were closely connected in life, and in their deaths they were hardly
divided. Lodge only of the five seems to have freed himself, partly in
virtue of a regular profession, and partly in consequence of his adherence
to the Roman faith, from the Bohemianism which has tempted men of letters
at all times, and which was especially dangerous in a time of such
unlimited adventure, such loose public morals, and such unco-ordinated
society as the Elizabethan era. Whatever details we have of their lives
(and they are mostly very meagre and uncertain) convey the idea of times
out of joint or not yet in joint. The atheism of Marlowe rests on no proof
whatever, though it has got him friends in this later time. I am myself by
no means sure that Greene's supposed debauchery is not, to a great extent,
"copy." The majority of the too celebrated "jests" attributed to George
Peele are directly traceable to Villon's _Repues Franches_ and similar
compilations, and have a suspiciously mythical and traditional air to the
student of literary history. There is something a little more trustworthily
autobiographical about Nash. But on the whole, though we need not doubt
that these ancestors of all modern Englishmen who live by the gray goose
quill tasted the inconveniences of the profession, especially at a time
when it was barely constituted even as a vocation or employment (to quote
the Income Tax Papers), we must carefully avoid taking too gloomy a view of
their life. It was usually short, it was probably merry, but we know very
little else about it. The chief direct documents, the remarkable pamphlets
which some of them have left, will be dealt with hereafter. Here we are
busied only with their dates and their dramatic work, which was in no case
(except perhaps in that of Kyd) their sole known work, but which in every
case except those of Nash and perhaps Greene was their most remarkable.

In noticing _Euphues_ an account has already been given of Lyly's life, or
rather of the very scanty particulars which are known of it. His plays date
considerably later than _Euphues_. But they all bear the character of the
courtier about them; and both in this characteristic and in the absence of
any details in the gossipping literature of the time to connect him with
the Bohemian society of the playhouse, the distinction which separates Lyly
from the group of "university wits" is noteworthy. He lost as well as
gained by the separation. All his plays were acted "by the children of
Paul's before her Majesty," and not by the usual companies before Dick,
Tom, and Harry. The exact date and order of their writing is very
uncertain, and in one case at least, that of _The Woman in the Moon_, we
know that the order was exactly reversed in publication: this being the
last printed in Lyly's lifetime, and expressly described as the first
written. His other dramatic works are _Campaspe_, _Sappho and Phaon_,
_Endymion_, _Galathea_, _Midas_, _Mother Bombie_, and _Love's
Metamorphosis_; another, _The Maid's Metamorphosis_, which has been
attributed to him, is in all probability not his.

The peculiar circumstances of the production of Lyly's plays, and the
strong or at any rate decided individuality of the author, keep them in a
division almost to themselves. The mythological or pastoral character of
their subject in most cases might not of itself have prevented their
marking an advance in the dramatic composition of English playwrights. _A
Midsummer Night's Dream_ and much other work of Shakespere's show how far
from necessary it is that theme, or class of subject, should affect merit
of presentment. But Lyly's work generally has more of the masque than the
play. It sometimes includes charming lyrics, such as the famous _Campaspe_
song and others. But most of it is in prose, and it gave beyond
doubt--though Gascoigne had, as we have seen, set the example in drama--no
small impetus to the use and perfectioning of that medium. For Lyly's
dramatic prose, though sometimes showing the same faults, is often better
than _Euphues_, as here:--

     _End._ "O fair Cynthia, why do others term thee unconstant, whom
     I have ever found immovable? Injurious time, corrupt manners,
     unkind men, who finding a constancy not to be matched in my sweet
     mistress, have christened her with the name of wavering, waxing,
     and waning. Is she inconstant that keepeth a settled course,
     which since her first creation altereth not one minute in her
     moving? There is nothing thought more admirable, or commendable
     in the sea, than the ebbing and flowing; and shall the moon, from
     whom the sea taketh this virtue, be accounted fickle for
     increasing and decreasing? Flowers in their buds are nothing
     worth till they be blown; nor blossoms accounted till they be
     ripe fruit; and shall we then say they be changeable, for that
     they grow from seeds to leaves, from leaves to buds, from buds to
     their perfection? then, why be not twigs that become trees,
     children that become men, and mornings that grow to evenings,
     termed wavering, for that they continue not at one stay? Ay, but
     Cynthia being in her fulness decayeth, as not delighting in her
     greatest beauty, or withering when she should be most honoured.
     When malice cannot object anything, folly will; making that a
     vice which is the greatest virtue. What thing (my mistress
     excepted) being in the pride of her beauty, and latter minute of
     her age, that waxeth young again? Tell me, Eumenides, what is he
     that having a mistress of ripe years, and infinite virtues, great
     honours, and unspeakable beauty, but would wish that she might
     grow tender again? getting youth by years, and never-decaying
     beauty by time; whose fair face, neither the summer's blaze can
     scorch, nor winter's blast chap, nor the numbering of years breed
     altering of colours. Such is my sweet Cynthia, whom time cannot
     touch, because she is divine, nor will offend because she is
     delicate. O Cynthia, if thou shouldest always continue at thy
     fulness, both gods and men would conspire to ravish thee. But
     thou, to abate the pride of our affections, dost detract from thy
     perfections; thinking it sufficient if once in a month we enjoy a
     glimpse of thy majesty; and then, to increase our griefs, thou
     dost decrease thy gleams; coming out of thy royal robes,
     wherewith thou dazzlest our eyes, down into thy swath clouts,
     beguiling our eyes; and then----"

In these plays there are excellent phrases and even striking scenes. But
they are not in the true sense dramatic, and are constantly spoilt by
Lyly's strange weakness for conceited style. Everybody speaks in
antitheses, and the intolerable fancy similes, drawn from a kind of
imaginary natural history, are sometimes as prominent as in _Euphues_
itself. Lyly's theatre represents, in short, a mere backwater in the
general stream of dramatic progress, though not a few allusions in other
men's work show us that it attracted no small attention. With Nash alone,
of the University Wits proper, was Lyly connected, and this only
problematically. He was an Oxford man, and most of them were of Cambridge;
he was a courtier; if a badly-paid one, and they all lived by their wits;
and, if we may judge by the very few documents remaining, he was not
inclined to be hail-fellow-well-met with anybody, while they were all born
Bohemians. Yet none of them had a greater influence on Shakespere than
Lyly, though it was anything but a beneficial influence, and for this as
well as for the originality of his production he deserves notice, even had
the intrinsic merit of his work been less than it is. But, in fact, it is
very great, being almost a typical production of talent helped by
knowledge, but not mastered by positive genius, or directed in its way by
the precedent work of others.

In the work of the University Wits proper--Marlowe, Greene, Peele, Lodge,
Nash, and Kyd, the last of whom, it must again be said, is not certainly
known to have belonged to either university, though the probabilities are
all in favour of that hypothesis--a very different kind of work is found.
It is always faulty, as a whole, for even _Dr. Faustus_ and _Edward II._,
despite their magnificent poetry and the vast capabilities of their form,
could only be called good plays or good compositions as any kind of whole
by a critic who had entirely lost the sense of proportion. But in the whole
group, and especially in the dramatic work of Marlowe, Greene, Peele, and
Kyd (for that of Lodge and Nash is small in amount and comparatively
unimportant in manner), the presence, the throes of a new dramatic style
are evident. Faults and beauties are more or less common to the whole
quartet. In all we find the many-sided activity of the Shakesperian drama
as it was to be, sprawling and struggling in a kind of swaddling clothes of
which it cannot get rid, and which hamper and cripple its movements. In all
there is present a most extraordinary and unique rant and bombast of
expression which reminds one of the shrieks and yells of a band of healthy
boys just let out to play. The passages which (thanks chiefly to Pistol's
incomparable quotations and parodies of them) are known to every one, the
"Pampered jades of Asia," the "Have we not Hiren here," the "Feed and grow
fat, my fair Callipolis," the other quips and cranks of mine ancient are
scattered broadcast in their originals, and are evidently meant quite
seriously throughout the work of these poets. Side by side with this mania
for bombast is another mania, much more clearly traceable to education and
associations, but specially odd in connection with what has just been
noticed. This is the foible of classical allusion. The heathen gods and
goddesses, the localities of Greek and Roman poetry, even the more
out-of-the-way commonplaces of classical literature, are put in the mouths
of all the characters without the remotest attempt to consider propriety or
relevance. Even in still lesser peculiarities the blemishes are uniform and
constant--such as the curious and childish habit of making speakers speak
of themselves in the third person, and by their names, instead of using "I"
and "me." And on the other hand, the merits, though less evenly distributed
in degree, are equally constant in kind. In Kyd, in Greene still more, in
Peele more still, in Marlowe most of all, phrases and passages of blinding
and dazzling poetry flash out of the midst of the bombast and the tedium.
Many of these are known, by the hundred books of extract which have
followed Lamb's _Specimens_, to all readers. Such, for instance, is the

    "See where Christ's blood streams in the firmament"

of Marlowe, and his even more magnificent passage beginning

    "If all the pens that ever poets held;"

such Peele's exquisite bower,

    "Seated in hearing of a hundred streams,"

which is, with all respect to Charles Lamb, to be paralleled by a score of
other jewels from the reckless work of "George Pyeboard": such Greene's

    "Why thinks King Henry's son that Margaret's love
    Hangs in the uncertain balance of proud time?"

such even Kyd's

    "There is a path upon your left hand side
    That leadeth from a guilty conscience
    Unto a forest of distrust and fear."

But the whole point of the thing is that these flashes, which are not to be
found at all before the date of this university school, are to be found
constantly in its productions, and that, amorphous, inartistic, incomplete
as those productions are, they still show _Hamlet_ and _A Midsummer Night's
Dream_ in embryo. Whereas the greatest expert in literary embryology may
read _Gorboduc_ and _The Misfortunes of Arthur_ through without discerning
the slightest signs of what was coming.

Nash and Lodge are so little dramatists (the chief, if not only play of the
former being the shapeless and rather dull comedy, _Will Summer's
Testament_, relieved only by some lyrics of merit which are probably not
Nash's, while Lodge's _Marius and Sylla_, while it wants the extravagance,
wants also the beauty of its author's companions' work), that what has to
be said about them will be better said later in dealing with their other
books. Greene's prose pieces and his occasional poems are, no doubt, better
than his drama, but the latter is considerable, and was probably his
earliest work. Kyd has left nothing, and Peele little, but drama; while
beautiful as Marlowe's _Hero and Leander_ is, I do not quite understand how
any one can prefer it to the faultier but far more original dramas of its
author. We shall therefore deal with these four individually here.

The eldest of the four was George Peele, variously described as a Londoner
and a Devonshire man, who was probably born about 1558. He was educated at
Christ's Hospital (of which his father was "clerk") and at Broadgates Hall,
now Pembroke College, Oxford, and had some credit in the university as an
arranger of pageants, etc. He is supposed to have left Oxford for London
about 1581, and had the credit of living a Bohemian, not to say
disreputable, life for about seventeen years; his death in 1597(?) being
not more creditable than his life. But even the scandals about Peele are
much more shadowy than those about Marlowe and Greene. His dramatic work
consists of some half-dozen plays, the earliest of which is _The
Arraignment of Paris_, 1581(?), one of the most elaborate and barefaced of
the many contemporary flatteries of Elizabeth, but containing some
exquisite verse. In the same way Peele has been accused of having in
_Edward I._ adopted or perhaps even invented the basest and most groundless
scandals against the noble and stainless memory of Eleanor of Castile;
while in his _Battle of Alcazar_ he certainly gratifies to the utmost the
popular anti-Spanish and anti-Popish feeling. So angry have critics been
with Peele's outrage on Eleanor, that some of them have declared that none
but he could have been guilty of the not dissimilar slur cast on Joan of
Arc's character in _Henry VI._, the three parts of which it has been the
good pleasure of Shakesperian commentators to cut and carve between the
University Wits _ad libitum_. I cannot myself help thinking that all this
has arisen very much from the idea of Peele's vagabondism given by the
untrustworthy "Jests." The slander on Queen Eleanor was pretty certainly
supplied to him by an older ballad. There is little or nothing else in
Peele's undoubted writings which is at all discreditable. His miscellaneous
poems show a man by no means given to low company or low thoughts, and one
gifted with the truest poetic vein; while his dramas, besides exhibiting a
greater command over blank verse than any of his predecessors and than any
except Marlowe of his contemporaries can claim, are full of charming
passages. _Sir Clyomon and Sir Clamydes_, which has been denied to him--an
interesting play on the rare basis of the old romance--is written not in
blank verse but in the fourteener. The _Old Wives' Tale_ pretty certainly
furnished Milton with the subject of Comus, and this is its chief merit.
_Edward I._ and _The Battle of Alcazar_, but especially the latter, contain
abundance of the hectoring rant which has been marked as one of the
characteristics of the school, and which is half-excused by the sparks of
valour that often break from its smoke and clatter. But Peele would
undoubtedly stand higher, though he might not be so interesting a literary
figure, if we had nothing of his save _The Arraignment of Paris_ and _David
and Bethsabe_. _The Arraignment_ (written in various metres, but mainly in
a musical and varied heroic couplet), is partly a pastoral, partly a
masque, and wholly a Court play. It thus comes nearest to Lyly, but is
altogether a more dramatic, livelier, and less conceited performance than
anything by the author of _Euphues_. As for _David and Bethsabe_, it is
crammed with beauties, and Lamb's curiously faint praise of it has always
been a puzzle to me. As Marlowe's are the mightiest, so are Peele's the
softest, lines in the drama before Shakespere; while the spirit and humour,
which the author also had in plenty, save his work from the merely cloying
sweetness of some contemporary writers. Two of his interposed or occasional
lyrics will be given later: a blank verse passage may find room here:--

    _Bethsabe._ "Come, gentle Zephyr, trick'd with those perfumes
                That erst in Eden sweeten'd Adam's love,
                And stroke my bosom with thy silken fan:
                This shade, sun-proof,[21] is yet no proof for thee;
                Thy body, smoother than this waveless spring,
                And purer than the substance of the same,
                Can creep through that his lances cannot pierce:
                Thou, and thy sister, soft and sacred Air,
                Goddess of life, and governess of health,
                Keep every fountain fresh and arbour sweet;
                No brazen gate her passage can repulse,
                Nor bushy thicket bar thy subtle breath:
                Then deck thee with thy loose delightsome robes,
                And on thy wings bring delicate perfumes,
                To play the wanton with us through the leaves."

[21] Cf. Milton's "elms star-proof" in the _Arcades_. Milton evidently knew
Peele well.

Robert Greene, probably, if not certainly, the next in age of the group to
Peele, was born in 1560, the son of apparently well-to-do parents at
Norwich, and was educated at Clare Hall, Cambridge, where he took his
Master's degree in 1553. He was subsequently incorporated at Oxford, and
being by no means ill-inclined to make the most of himself, sometimes took
the style of a member "Utriusque Academiæ." After leaving the university
he seems to have made a long tour on the Continent, not (according to his
own account) at all to the advantage of his morals or means. He is said to
have actually taken orders, and held a living for some short time, while he
perhaps also studied if he did not practise medicine. He married a lady of
virtue and some fortune, but soon despoiled and deserted her, and for the
last six years of his life never saw her. At last in 1592, aged only two
and thirty,--but after about ten years it would seem of reckless living and
hasty literary production,--he died (of a disease caused or aggravated by a
debauch on pickled herrings and Rhenish) so miserably poor that he had to
trust to his injured wife's forgiveness for payment of the money to the
extent of which a charitable landlord and landlady had trusted him. The
facts of this lamentable end may have been spitefully distorted by Gabriel
Harvey in his quarrel with Nash; but there is little reason to doubt that
the received story is in the main correct. Of the remarkable prose
pamphlets which form the bulk of Greene's work we speak elsewhere, as also
of the pretty songs (considerably exceeding in poetical merit anything to
be found in the body of his plays) with which both pamphlets and plays are
diversified. His actual dramatic production is not inconsiderable: a
working-up of the _Orlando Furioso_; _A Looking Glass for London and
England_ (Nineveh) with Lodge; _James IV._ (of Scotland), a wildly
unhistorical romance; _Alphonsus, King of Arragon_; and perhaps _The Pinner
of Wakefield_, which deals with his own part namesake George-a-Greene; not
impossibly also the pseudo-Shakesperian _Fair Em_. His best play without
doubt is _The History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay_, in which, after a
favourite fashion of the time, he mingles a certain amount of history, or,
at least, a certain number of historical personages, with a plentiful dose
of the supernatural and of horseplay, and with a very graceful and
prettily-handled love story. With a few touches from the master's hand,
Margaret, the fair maid of Fressingfield, might serve as handmaid to
Shakespere's women, and is certainly by far the most human heroine
produced by any of Greene's own group. There is less rant in Greene (though
there is still plenty of it) than in any of his friends, and his fancy for
soft female characters, loving, and yet virtuous, appears frequently. But
his power is ill-sustained, as the following extract will show:--

    _Margaret._ "Ah, father, when the harmony of heaven
                Soundeth the measures of a lively faith,
                The vain illusions of this flattering world
                Seem odious to the thoughts of Margaret.
                I lovèd once,--Lord Lacy was my love;
                And now I hate myself for that I loved,
                And doted more on him than on my God,--
                For this I scourge myself with sharp repents.
                But now the touch of such aspiring sins
                Tells me all love is lust but love of heaven;
                That beauty used for love is vanity:
                The world contains naught but alluring baits,
                Pride, flattery [    ], and inconstant thoughts.
                To shun the pricks of death I leave the world,
                And vow to meditate on heavenly bliss,
                To live in Framlingham a holy nun,
                Holy and pure in conscience and in deed;
                And for to wish all maids to learn of me
                To seek heaven's joy before earth's vanity."

We do not know anything of Thomas Kyd's, except _The Spanish Tragedy_,
which is a second part of an extremely popular play (sometimes attributed
to Kyd himself, but probably earlier) called _Jeronimo_, and the
translation of _Cornelia_, though others are doubtfully attributed. The
well-known epithet of Jonson, "sporting" Kyd, seems to have been either a
mere play on the poet's name, or else _a lucus a non lucendo_; for both
_Jeronimo_ and its sequel are in the ghastliest and bloodiest vein of
tragedy, and _Cornelia_ is a model of stately dullness. The two "Jeronimo"
or "Hieronimo" plays were, as has been said, extremely popular, and it is
positively known that Jonson himself, and probably others, were employed
from time to time to freshen them up; with the consequence that the exact
authorship of particular passages is somewhat problematical. Both plays,
however, display, nearly in perfection, the rant, not always quite
ridiculous, but always extravagant, from which Shakespere rescued the
stage; though, as the following extract will show, this rant is by no means
always, or indeed often, smoke without fire:--

                              "O! forbear,
    For other talk for us far fitter were.
    But if you be importunate to know
    The way to him, and where to find him out,
    Then list to me, and I'll resolve your doubt.
    There is a path upon your left hand side,
    That leadeth from a guilty conscience
    Unto a forest of distrust and fear--
    A darksome place and dangerous to pass.
    There shall you meet with melancholy thoughts
    Whose baleful humours if you but uphold,
    It will conduct you to despair and death.
    Whose rocky cliffs when you have once beheld
    Within a hugy dale of lasting night--
    That, kindled with the world's iniquities,
    Doth cast up filthy and detested fumes--
    Not far from thence, where murderers have built
    An habitation for their cursed souls,
    There is a brazen cauldron fixed by Jove
    In his fell wrath upon a sulphur flame.
    Yourselves shall find Lorenzo bathing him
    In boiling lead and blood of innocents."

But nothing, except citation of whole scenes and acts, could show the
extraordinary jumble of ghosts, blood, thunder, treachery, and horrors of
all sorts which these plays contain.

Now for a very different citation:--

    "If all the pens that ever poets held
    Had fed the feeling of their masters' thoughts,
    And every sweetness that inspir'd their hearts,
    Their minds, and muses, on admired themes;
    If all the heavenly quintessence they 'still
    From their immortal flowers of poesy,
    Wherein as in a mirror we perceive
    The highest reaches of a human wit;
    If these had made one poem's period,
    And all combined in beauty's worthiness,
    Yet should there hover in their restless heads
    One thought, one grace, one wonder at the least
    Which into words no virtue can digest."

It is no wonder that the whole school has been dwarfed in the general
estimation, since its work was critically considered and isolated from
other work, by the towering excellence of this author. Little as is known
of all the band, that little becomes almost least in regard to their chief
and leader. Born (1564) at Canterbury, the son of a shoemaker, he was
educated at the Grammar School of that city, and at Benet (afterwards
Corpus) College, Cambridge; he plunged into literary work and dissipation
in London; and he outlived Greene only to fall a victim to debauchery in a
still more tragical way. His death (1593) was the subject of much gossip,
but the most probable account is that he was poniarded in self-defence by a
certain Francis Archer, a serving-man (not by any means necessarily, as
Charles Kingsley has it, a footman), while drinking at Deptford, and that
the cause of the quarrel was a woman of light character. He has also been
accused of gross vices not to be particularised, and of atheism. The
accusation is certain; and Mr. Boas's researches as to Kyd, who was also
concerned in the matter, have thrown some light on it; but much is still
obscure. The most offensive charges were due to one Bame or Baines, who was
afterwards hanged at Tyburn. That Marlowe was a Bohemian in the fullest
sense is certain; that he was anything worse there is no evidence whatever.
He certainly was acquainted with Raleigh and other distinguished persons,
and was highly spoken of by Chapman and others.

But the interest of Marlowe's name has nothing to do with these obscure
scandals of three hundred years ago, though it may be difficult to pass
them over entirely. He is the undoubted author of some of the masterpieces
of English verse; the hardly to be doubted author of others not much
inferior. Except the very greatest names--Shakespere, Milton, Spenser,
Dryden, Shelley--no author can be named who has produced, when the proper
historical estimate is applied to him, such work as is to be found in
_Tamburlaine_, _Doctor Faustus_, _The Jew of Malta_, _Edward the Second_,
in one department; _Hero and Leander_ and the _Passionate Shepherd_ in
another. I have but very little doubt that the powerful, if formless, play
of _Lust's Dominion_ is Marlowe's, though it may have been rewritten, and
the translations of Lucan and Ovid and the minor work which is more or less
probably attributed to him, swell his tale. Prose he did not write, perhaps
could not have written. For the one characteristic lacking to his genius
was measure, and prose without measure, as numerous examples have shown, is
usually rubbish. Even his dramas show a singular defect in the
architectural quality of literary genius. The vast and formless creations
of the writer's boundless fancy completely master him; his aspirations
after the immense too frequently leave him content with the simply
unmeasured. In his best play as a play, _Edward the Second_, the
limitations of a historical story impose something like a restraining form
on his glowing imagination. But fine as this play is, it is noteworthy that
no one of his greatest things occurs in it. _The Massacre at Paris_, where
he also has the confinement of reality after a fashion, is a chaotic thing
as a whole, without any great beauty in parts. _The Tragedy of Dido_ (to be
divided between him and Nash) is the worst thing he ever did. But in the
purely romantic subjects of _Tamburlaine_, _Faustus_, and _The Jew of
Malta_, his genius, untrammelled by any limits of story, showed itself
equally unable to contrive such limits for itself, and able to develop the
most marvellous beauties of detail. Shakespere himself has not surpassed,
which is equivalent to saying that no other writer has equalled, the famous
and wonderful passages in _Tamburlaine_ and _Faustus_, which are familiar
to every student of English literature as examples of the _ne plus ultra_
of the poetic powers, not of the language but of language. The tragic
imagination in its wildest flights has never summoned up images of pity
and terror more imposing, more moving, than those excited by _The Jew of
Malta_. The riot of passion and of delight in the beauty of colour and form
which characterises his version of _Hero and Leander_ has never been
approached by any writer. But Marlowe, with the fullest command of the
_apeiron_, had not, and, as far as I can judge, never would have had, any
power of introducing into it the law of the _peras_. It is usual to say
that had he lived, and had his lot been happily cast, we should have had
two Shakesperes. This is not wise. In the first place, Marlowe was totally
destitute of humour--the characteristic which, united with his tragic and
imaginative powers, makes Shakespere as, in a less degree, it makes Homer,
and even, though the humour is grim and intermittent, Dante. In other
words, he was absolutely destitute of the first requisite of
self-criticism. In the natural course of things, as the sap of his youthful
imagination ceased to mount, and as his craving for immensity hardened
itself, he would probably have degenerated from bombast shot through with
genius to bombast pure and simple, from _Faustus_ to _Lust's Dominion_, and
from _Lust's Dominion_ to _Jeronimo_ or _The Distracted Emperor_. Apart
from the magnificent passages which he can show, and which are simply
intoxicating to any lover of poetry, his great title to fame is the
discovery of the secret of that "mighty line" which a seldom-erring critic
of his own day, not too generously given, vouchsafed to him. Up to his time
the blank verse line always, and the semi-couplet in heroics, or member of
the more complicated stanza usually, were either stiff or nerveless.
Compared with his own work and with the work of his contemporaries and
followers who learnt from him, they are like a dried preparation, like
something waiting for the infusion of blood, for the inflation of living
breath. Marlowe came, and the old wooden versification, the old lay-figure
structure of poetic rhythm, was cast once for all into the lumber-room,
where only poetasters of the lowest rank went to seek it. It is impossible
to call Marlowe a great dramatist, and the attempts that have been made to
make him out to be such remind one of the attempts that have been made to
call Molière a great poet. Marlowe was one of the greatest poets of the
world whose work was cast by accident and caprice into an imperfect mould
of drama; Molière was one of the greatest dramatists of the world who was
obliged by fashion to use a previously perfected form of verse. The state
of Molière was undoubtedly the more gracious; but the splendour of
Marlowe's uncut diamonds of poetry is the more wonderful.

The characteristics of this strange and interesting school may be summed up
briefly, but are of the highest importance in literary history. Unlike
their nearest analogues, the French romantics of the 1830 type, they were
all of academic education, and had even a decided contempt (despite their
Bohemian way of life) for unscholarly innovators. They manifested (except
in Marlowe's fortuitous and purely genial discovery of the secret of blank
verse) a certain contempt for form, and never, at least in drama, succeeded
in mastering it. But being all, more or less, men of genius, and having the
keenest sense of poetry, they supplied the dry bones of the precedent
dramatic model with blood and breath, with vigour and variety, which not
merely informed but transformed it. _David and Bethsabe_, _Doctor Faustus_,
_Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay_, are chaotic enough, but they are of the
chaos that precedes cosmic development. The almost insane bombast that
marks the whole school has (as has been noticed) the character of the
shrieks and gesticulations of healthy childhood, and the insensibility to
the really comic which also marks them is of a similar kind. Every one
knows how natural it is to childhood to appreciate bad jokes, how seldom a
child sees a good one. Marlowe and his crew, too (the comparison has no
doubt often been used before), were of the brood of Otus and Ephialtes, who
grew so rapidly and in so disorderly a fashion that it was necessary for
the gods to make an end of them. The universe probably lost little, and it
certainly gained something.

Side by side with this learned, extravagant, gifted, ill-regulated school,
there was slowly growing up a very different one, which was to inherit all
the gifts of the University Wits, and to add to them the gifts of measure
and proportion. The early work of the actor school of English dramatists is
a difficult subject to treat in any fashion, and a particularly difficult
subject to treat shortly. Chronology, an important aid, helps us not very
much, though such help as she does give has been as a rule neglected by
historians, so that plays before 1590 (which may be taken roughly as the
dividing date), and plays after it have been muddled up ruthlessly. We do
not know the exact dates of many of those which are (many of the plays of
the earlier time are not) extant; and of those which are extant, and of
which the dates are more or less known, the authors are in not a few most
important cases absolutely undiscoverable. Yet in the plays which belong to
this period, and which there is no reason to attribute wholly to any of the
Marlowe group, or much reason to attribute to them under the guidance, or
perhaps with the collaboration of practical actors (some at least of whom
were like Shakespere himself, men of no known regular education), there are
characteristics which promise at least as well for the future as the
wonderful poetic outbursts of the Marlowe school itself. Of these outbursts
we find few in this other division. But we find a growing knowledge of what
a play is, as distinguished from a series of tableaux acted by not too
lifelike characters. We find a glimmering (which is hardly anywhere to be
seen in the more literary work of the other school) of the truth that the
characters must be made to work out the play, and not the play be written
in a series of disjointed scenes to display, in anything but a successful
fashion, the characters. With fewer flights we have fewer absurdities; with
less genius we have more talent. It must be remembered, of course, that the
plays of the university school itself were always written for players, and
that some of the authors had more or less to do with acting as well as with
writing. But the flame of discord which burns so fiercely on the one side
in the famous real or supposed dying utterances of Greene, and which years
afterwards breaks out on the other in the equally famous satire of _The
Return from Parnassus_,[22] illuminates a real difference--a difference
which study of the remains of the literature of the period can only make
plainer. The same difference has manifested itself again, and more than
once in other departments of literature, but hardly in so interesting a
manner, and certainly not with such striking results.

[22] The outburst of Greene about "the only Shakescene," the "upstart crow
beautified with our feathers," and so forth, is too well known to need
extracting here. _The Return from Parnassus_, a very curious tripartite
play, performed 1597-1601 but retrospective in tone, is devoted to the
troubles of poor scholars in getting a livelihood, and incidentally gives
much matter on the authors of the time from Shakespere downward, and on the
jealousy of professional actors felt by scholars, and _vice versâ_.



CHAPTER IV

"THE FAËRIE QUEENE" AND ITS GROUP

    "Velut inter ignes luna minores"


There is no instance in English history of a poet receiving such immediate
recognition, and deserving it so thoroughly, as did Edmund Spenser at the
date of _The Shepherd's Calendar_. In the first chapter of this volume the
earlier course of Elizabethan poetry has been described, and it will have
been seen that, with great intention, no very great accomplishment had been
achieved. It was sufficiently evident that a poetic language and a general
poetic spirit were being formed, such as had not existed in England since
Chaucer's death; but no one had yet arisen who could justify the
expectation based on such respectable tentatives. It seems from many minute
indications which need not be detailed here, that at the advent of _The
Shepherd's Calendar_ all the best judges recognised the expected poet. Yet
they could hardly have known how just their recognition was, or what
extraordinary advances the poet would make in the twenty years which passed
between its publication and his death.

The life of Spenser is very little known, and here and elsewhere the
conditions of this book preclude the reproduction or even the discussion of
the various pious attempts which have been made to supply the deficiency of
documents. The chief of these in his case is to be found in Dr. Grosart's
magnificent edition, the principal among many good works of its editor.
That he belonged to a branch--a Lancashire branch in all probability--of
the family which produced the Le Despensers of elder, and the Spencers of
modern English history, may be said to be unquestionable. But he appears to
have been born about 1552 in London, and to have been educated at Merchant
Taylors', whence in May 1569 he matriculated at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge,
as a sizar. At or before this time he must have contributed (though there
are puzzles in the matter) certain translations of sonnets from Petrarch
and Du Bellay to a book called _The Theatre of Voluptuous Worldlings_,
published by a Brabanter, John van der Noodt. These, slightly changed from
blank verse to rhyme, appeared long afterwards with his minor poems of
1590. But the original pieces had been claimed by the Dutchman; and though
there are easy ways of explaining this, the thing is curious. However it
may be with these verses, certainly nothing else of Spenser's appeared in
print for ten years. His Cambridge life, except for some vague allusions
(which, as usual in such cases, have been strained to breaking by
commentators and biographers), is equally obscure; save that he certainly
fulfilled seven years of residence, taking his Bachelor's Degree in 1573,
and his Master's three years later. But he did not gain a fellowship, and
the chief discoverable results of his Cambridge sojourn were the thorough
scholarship which marks his work, and his friendship with the notorious
Gabriel Harvey--his senior by some years, a Fellow of Pembroke, and a
person whose singularly bad literary taste, as shown in his correspondence
with Spenser, may be perhaps forgiven, first, because it did no harm, and
secondly, because without him we should know even less of Spenser than we
do. It is reasonably supposed from the notes of his friend, "E. K."
(apparently Kirke, a Pembroke man), to _The Shepherd's Calendar_, that he
went to his friends in the north after leaving Cambridge and spent a year
or two there, falling in love with the heroine, poetically named Rosalind,
of _The Calendar_, and no doubt writing that remarkable book. Then
(probably very late in 1578) he went to London, was introduced by Harvey
to Sidney and Leicester, and thus mixed at once in the best literary and
political society. He was not long in putting forth his titles to its
attention, for _The Shepherd's Calendar_ was published in the winter of
1579, copiously edited by "E. K.," whom some absurdly suppose to be Spenser
himself. The poet seems to have had also numerous works (the titles of
which are known) ready or nearly ready for the press. But all were
subsequently either changed in title, incorporated with other work, or
lost. He had already begun _The Faërie Queene_, much to the pedant Harvey's
disgust; and he dabbled in the fashionable absurdity of classical metres,
like his inferiors. But he published nothing more immediately; and powerful
as were his patrons, the only preferment which he obtained was in that
Eldorado-Purgatory of Elizabethan ambition--Ireland. Lord Grey took him as
private secretary when he was in 1580 appointed deputy, and shortly
afterwards he received some civil posts in his new country, and a lease of
abbey lands at Enniscorthy, which lease he soon gave up. But he stayed in
Ireland, notwithstanding the fact that his immediate patron Grey soon left
it. Except a few bare dates and doubtful allusions, little or nothing is
heard of him between 1580 and 1590. On the eve of the latter year (the 1st
of December 1589) the first three books of _The Faërie Queene_ were entered
at Stationers' Hall, and were published in the spring of the next year. He
had been already established at Kilcolman in the county Cork on a grant of
more than three thousand acres of land out of the forfeited Desmond
estates. And henceforward his literary activity, at least in publication,
became more considerable, and he seems to have been much backwards and
forwards between England and Ireland. In 1590 appeared a volume of minor
poems (_The Ruins of Time_, _The Tears of the Muses_, _Virgil's Gnat_,
_Mother Hubbard's Tale_, _The Ruins of Rome_, _Muiopotmos_, and the
_Visions_), with an address to the reader in which another list of
forthcoming works is promised. These, like the former list of Kirke, seem
oddly enough to have also perished. The whole collection was called
_Complaints_, and a somewhat similar poem, _Daphnaida_, is thought to have
appeared in the same year. On the 11th of June 1594 the poet married
(strangely enough it was not known whom, until Dr. Grosart ingeniously
identified her with a certain Elizabeth Boyle _alias_ Seckerstone), and in
1595 were published the beautiful _Amoretti_ or love sonnets, and the still
more beautiful _Epithalamion_ describing his courtship and marriage, with
the interesting poem of _Colin Clout's Come Home Again_; while in the same
year (old style; in January 1596, new style) the fourth, fifth, and sixth
books of _The Faërie Queene_ were entered for publication and soon
appeared. The supposed allusions to Mary Stuart greatly offended her son
James. The _Hymns_ and the _Prothalamion_ followed in the same year.
Spenser met with difficulties at Court (though he had obtained a small
pension of fifty pounds a year), and had like other Englishmen troubles
with his neighbours in Ireland; yet he seemed to be becoming more
prosperous, and in 1598 he was named Sheriff of Cork. A few weeks later the
Irish Rebellion broke out; his house was sacked and burnt with one of his
children; he fled to England and died on the 16th of January 1599 at King
Street, Westminster, perhaps not "for lack of bread," as Jonson says, but
certainly in no fortunate circumstances. In the year of his misfortune had
been registered, though it was never printed till more than thirty years
later, his one prose work of substance, the remarkable _View of the Present
State of Ireland_; an admirable piece of prose, and a political tract, the
wisdom and grasp of which only those who have had to give close attention
to Irish politics can fully estimate. It is probably the most valuable
document on any given period of Irish history that exists, and is certainly
superior in matter, no less than in style, to any political tract in
English, published before the days of Halifax eighty years after.

It has been said that _The Shepherd's Calendar_ placed Spenser at once at
the head of the English poets of his day; and it did so. But had he written
nothing more, he would not (as is the case with not a few distinguished
poets) have occupied as high or nearly as high a position in quality, if
not in quantity, as he now does. He was a young man when he published it;
he was not indeed an old man when he died; and it would not appear that he
had had much experience of life beyond college walls. His choice of
models--the artificial pastorals in which the Renaissance had modelled
itself on Virgil and Theocritus, rather than Virgil and Theocritus
themselves--was not altogether happy. He showed, indeed, already his
extraordinary metrical skill, experimenting with rhyme-royal and other
stanzas, fourteeners or eights and sixes, anapæsts more or less irregular,
and an exceedingly important variety of octosyllable which, whatever may
have been his own idea in practising it, looked back to early Middle
English rhythms and forward to the metre of _Christabel_, as Coleridge was
to start it afresh. He also transgressed into religious politics, taking
(as indeed he always took, strange as it may seem in so fanatical a
worshipper of beauty) the Puritan side. Nor is his work improved as poetry,
though it acquires something in point of quaint attractiveness, by good Mr.
"E. K.'s" elaborate annotations, introductions, explanations, and general
gentleman-usherings--the first in English, but most wofully not the last by
hundreds, of such overlayings of gold with copper. Yet with all these
drawbacks _The Shepherd's Calendar_ is delightful. Already we can see in it
that double command, at once of the pictorial and the musical elements of
poetry, in which no English poet is Spenser's superior, if any is his
equal. Already the unmatched power of vigorous allegory, which he was to
display later, shows in such pieces as _The Oak and the Briar_. In the less
deliberately archaic divisions, such as "April" and "November," the command
of metrical form, in which also the poet is almost peerless, discovers
itself. Much the same may be said of the volume of _Complaints_, which,
though published later than _The Faërie Queene_, represents beyond all
question very much earlier work. Spenser is unquestionably, when he is not
at once spurred and soothed by the play of his own imagination, as in _The
Queene_, a melancholy poet, and the note of melancholy is as strong in
these poems as in their joint title. It combines with his delight in
emblematic allegory happily enough, in most of these pieces except _Mother
Hubbard's Tale_. This is almost an open satire, and shows that if Spenser's
genius had not found a less mongrel style to disport itself in, not merely
would Donne, and Lodge, and Hall, and Marston have had to abandon their
dispute for the post of first English satirist, but the attainment of
really great satire in English might have been hastened by a hundred years,
and _Absalom and Achitophel_ have been but a second. Even here, however,
the piece still keeps the Chaucerian form and manner, and is only a kind of
exercise. The sonnets from and after Du Bellay and others are more
interesting. As in the subsequent and far finer _Amoretti_, Spenser prefers
the final couplet form to the so-called Petrarchian arrangement; and,
indeed, though the most recent fashion in England has inclined to the
latter, an impartial judgment must pronounce both forms equally good and
equally entitled to place. The _Amoretti_ written in this metre, and
undoubtedly representing some, at least, of Spenser's latest written work,
rank with the best of Sidney's, and hardly below the best of Shakespere's;
while both in them and in the earlier sonnets the note of regret mingled
with delight--the special Renaissance note--sounds as it rarely does in any
other English verse. Of the poems of the later period, however (leaving
_The Faërie Queene_ for a moment aside), the _Epithalamion_ and the _Four
Hymns_ rank undoubtedly highest. For splendour of imagery, for harmony of
verse, for delicate taste and real passion, the _Epithalamion_ excels all
other poems of its class, and the _Four Hymns_ express a rapture of
Platonic enthusiasm, which may indeed be answerable for the unreadable
_Psyches_ and _Psychozoias_ of the next age, but which is itself married to
immortal verse in the happiest manner.

Still, to the ordinary reader, Spenser is the poet of _The Faërie Queene_,
and for once the ordinary reader is right. Every quality found in his other
poems is found in this greatest of them in perfection; and much is found
there which is not, and indeed could not be, found anywhere else. Its
general scheme is so well known (few as may be the readers who really know
its details) that very slight notice of it may suffice. Twelve knights,
representing twelve virtues, were to have been sent on adventures from the
Court of Gloriana, Queen of Fairyland. The six finished books give the
legends (each subdivided into twelve cantos, averaging fifty or sixty
stanzas each) of Holiness, Temperance, Chastity, Friendship, Justice, and
Courtesy; while a fragment of two splendid "Cantos on Mutability" is
supposed to have belonged to a seventh book (not necessarily seventh in
order) on Constancy. Legend has it that the poem was actually completed;
but this seems improbable, as the first three books were certainly ten
years in hand, and the second three six more. The existing poem
comprehending some four thousand stanzas, or between thirty and forty
thousand lines, exhibits so many and such varied excellences that it is
difficult to believe that the poet could have done anything new in kind. No
part of it is as a whole inferior to any other part, and the fragmentary
cantos contain not merely one of the most finished pictorial pieces--the
Procession of the Months--to be found in the whole poem, but much of the
poet's finest thought and verse. Had fortune been kinder, the volume of
delight would have been greater, but its general character would probably
not have changed much. As it is, _The Faërie Queene_ is the only long poem
that a lover of poetry can sincerely wish longer.

It deserves some critical examination here from three points of view,
regarding respectively its general scheme, its minor details of form in
metre and language, and lastly, its general poetical characteristics. The
first is simple enough in its complexity. The poem is a long _Roman
d'Aventure_ (which it is perhaps as well to say, once for all, is not the
same as a "Romance of Chivalry," or a "Romance of Adventure"), redeemed
from the aimless prolixity incident to that form by its regular plan, by
the intercommunion of the adventures of the several knights (none of whom
disappears after having achieved his own quest), and by the constant
presence of a not too obtrusive allegory. This last characteristic attaches
it on the other side to the poems of the _Roman de la Rose_ order, which
succeeded the _Romans d'Aventures_ as objects of literary interest and
practice, not merely in France, but throughout Europe. This allegory has
been variously estimated as a merit or defect of the poem. It is sometimes
political, oftener religious, very often moral, and sometimes purely
personal--the identifications in this latter case being sometimes clear, as
that of Gloriana, Britomart, and Belphoebe with Queen Elizabeth, sometimes
probable, as that of Duessa with Queen Mary (not one of Spenser's most
knightly actions), and of Prince Arthur with Leicester, and sometimes more
or less problematical, as that of Artegall with Lord Grey, of Timias the
Squire with Raleigh, and so forth. To those who are perplexed by these
double meanings the best remark is Hazlitt's blunt one that "the allegory
won't bite them." In other words, it is always perfectly possible to enjoy
the poem without troubling oneself about the allegory at all, except in its
broad ethical features, which are quite unmistakable. On the other hand, I
am inclined to think that the presence of these under-meanings, with the
interest which they give to a moderately instructed and intelligent person
who, without too desperate a determination to see into millstones,
understands "words to the wise," is a great addition to the hold of the
poem over the attention, and saves it from the charge of mere
desultoriness, which some, at least, of the other greatest poems of the
kind (notably its immediate exemplar, the _Orlando Furioso_) must undergo.
And here it may be noted that the charge made by most foreign critics who
have busied themselves with Spenser, and perhaps by some of his countrymen,
that he is, if not a mere paraphrast, yet little more than a transplanter
into English of the Italian, is glaringly uncritical. Not, perhaps, till
Ariosto and Tasso have been carefully read in the original, is Spenser's
real greatness understood. He has often, and evidently of purpose,
challenged comparison; but in every instance it will be found that his
beauties are emphatically his own. He has followed his leaders only as
Virgil has followed Homer; and much less slavishly.

It is strange to find English critics of this great if not greatest English
poem even nowadays repeating that Spenser borrowed his wonderful stanza
from the Italians. He did nothing of the kind. That the _ottava rima_ on
the one hand, and the sonnet on the other, may have suggested the idea of
it is quite possible. But the Spenserian stanza, as it is justly called, is
his own and no one else's, and its merits, especially that primal merit of
adaptation to the subject and style of the poem, are unique. Nothing else
could adapt itself so perfectly to the endless series of vignettes and
dissolving views which the poet delights in giving; while, at the same
time, it has, for so elaborate and apparently integral a form, a singular
faculty of hooking itself on to stanzas preceding and following, so as not
to interrupt continuous narrative when continuous narrative is needed. Its
great compass, admitting of an almost infinite variety of cadence and
composition, saves it from the monotony from which even the consummate art
of Milton could not save blank verse now and then, and from which no writer
has ever been able to save the couplet, or the quatrain, or the stanzas
ending with a couplet, in narratives of very great length. But the most
remarkable instance of harmony between metrical form and other
characteristics, both of form and matter, in the metrist has yet to be
mentioned. It has been said how well the stanza suits Spenser's pictorial
faculty; it certainly suits his musical faculty as well. The slightly (very
slightly, for he can be vigorous enough) languid turn of his grace, the
voluptuous cadences of his rhythm, find in it the most perfect exponent
possible. The verse of great poets, especially Homer's, has often been
compared to the sea. Spenser's is more like a river, wide, and deep, and
strong, but moderating its waves and conveying them all in a steady, soft,
irresistible sweep forwards. To aid him, besides this extraordinary
instrument of metre, he had forged for himself another in his language. A
great deal has been written on this--comments, at least of the
unfavourable kind, generally echoing Ben Jonson's complaint that Spenser
"writ no language"; that his dialect is not the dialect of any actual place
or time, that it is an artificial "poetic diction" made up of Chaucer, and
of Northern dialect, and of classicisms, and of foreign words, and of
miscellaneous archaisms from no matter where. No doubt it is. But if any
other excuse than the fact of a beautiful and satisfactory effect is wanted
for the formation of a poetic diction different from the actually spoken or
the ordinarily written tongue of the day (and I am not sure that any such
excuse is required) it is to be found at once. There was no actually spoken
or ordinarily written tongue in Spenser's day which could claim to be
"Queen's English." Chaucer was obsolete, and since Chaucer there was no
single person who could even pretend to authority. Every writer more or
less endowed with originality was engaged in beating out for himself, from
popular talk, and from classical or foreign analogy, an instrument of
speech. Spenser's verse language and Lyly's prose are the most remarkable
results of the process; but it was, in fact, not only a common but a
necessary one, and in no way to be blamed. As for the other criterion
hinted at above, no one is likely to condemn the diction according to that.
In its remoteness without grotesqueness, in its lavish colour, in its
abundance of matter for every kind of cadence and sound-effect, it is
exactly suited to the subject, the writer, and the verse.

It is this singular and complete adjustment of worker and implement which,
with other peculiarities noted or to be noted, gives _The Faërie Queene_
its unique unicity, if such a conceit may be pardoned. From some points of
view it might be called a very artificial poem, yet no poem runs with such
an entire absence of effort, with such an easy eloquence, with such an
effect, as has been said already, of flowing water. With all his learning,
and his archaisms, and his classicisms, and his Platonisms, and his isms
without end, hardly any poet smells of the lamp less disagreeably than
Spenser. Where Milton forges and smelts, his gold is native. The endless,
various, brightly-coloured, softly and yet distinctly outlined pictures
rise and pass before the eyes and vanish--the multiform, sweetly-linked,
softly-sounding harmonies swell and die and swell again on the ear--without
a break, without a jar, softer than sleep and as continuous, gayer than the
rainbow and as undiscoverably connected with any obvious cause. And this is
the more remarkable because the very last thing that can be said of Spenser
is that he is a poet of mere words. Milton himself, the severe Milton,
extolled his moral teaching; his philosophical idealism is evidently no
mere poet's plaything or parrot-lesson, but thoroughly thought out and
believed in. He is a determined, almost a savage partisan in politics and
religion, a steady patriot, something of a statesman, very much indeed of a
friend and a lover. And of all this there is ample evidence in his verse.
Yet the alchemy of his poetry has passed through the potent alembics of
verse and phrase all these rebellious things, and has distilled them into
the inimitably fluent and velvet medium which seems to lull some readers to
inattention by its very smoothness, and deceive others into a belief in its
lack of matter by the very finish and brilliancy of its form. The show
passages of the poem which are most generally known--the House of Pride,
the Cave of Despair, the Entrance of Belphoebe, the Treasury of Mammon, the
Gardens of Acrasia, the Sojourn of Britomart in Busirane's Castle, the
Marriage of the Thames and Medway, the Discovery of the False Florimel,
Artegall and the Giant, Calidore with Meliboeus, the Processions of the
Seasons and the Months--all these are not, as is the case with so many
other poets, mere purple patches, diversifying and relieving dullness, but
rather remarkable, and as it happens easily separable examples of a power
which is shown constantly and almost evenly throughout. Those who admire
them do well; but they hardly know Spenser. He, more than almost any other
poet, must be read continuously and constantly till the eye and ear and
mind have acquired the freedom of his realm of enchantment, and have learnt
the secret (as far as a mere reader may learn it) of the poetical spells
by which he brings together and controls its wonders. The talk of
tediousness, the talk of sameness, the talk of coterie-cultivation in
Spenser shows bad taste no doubt; but it rather shows ignorance. The critic
has in such cases stayed outside his author; he speaks but of what he has
_not_ seen.

The comparative estimate is always the most difficult in literature, and
where it can be avoided it is perhaps best to avoid it. But in Spenser's
case this is not possible. He is one of those few who can challenge the
title of "greatest English poet," and the reader may almost of right demand
the opinion on this point of any one who writes about him. For my part I
have no intention of shirking the difficulty. It seems to me that putting
Shakespere aside as _hors concours_, not merely in degree but in kind, only
two English poets can challenge Spenser for the primacy. These are Milton
and Shelley. The poet of _The Faërie Queene_ is generally inferior to
Milton in the faculty of concentration, and in the minting of those
monumental phrases, impressive of themselves and quite apart from the
context, which often count highest in the estimation of poetry. His
vocabulary and general style, if not more remote from the vernacular, have
sometimes a touch of deliberate estrangement from that vernacular which is
no doubt of itself a fault. His conception of a great work is looser, more
excursive, less dramatic. As compared with Shelley he lacks not merely the
modern touches which appeal to a particular age, but the lyrical ability in
which Shelley has no equal among English poets. But in each case he redeems
these defects with, as it seems to me, far more than counterbalancing
merits. He is never prosaic as Milton, like his great successor Wordsworth,
constantly is, and his very faults are the faults of a poet. He never (as
Shelley does constantly) dissolves away into a flux of words which simply
bids good-bye to sense or meaning, and wanders on at large, unguided,
without an end, without an aim. But he has more than these merely negative
merits. I have seen long accounts of Spenser in which the fact of his
invention of the Spenserian stanza is passed over almost without a word of
comment. Yet in the formal history of poetry (and the history of poetry
must always be pre-eminently a history of form) there is simply no
achievement so astonishing as this. That we do not know the inventors of
the great single poetic vehicles, the hexameter, the iambic Senarius, the
English heroic, the French Alexandrine, is one thing. It is another that in
Spenser's case alone can the invention of a complicated but essentially
integral form be assigned to a given poet. It is impossible to say that
Sappho invented the Sapphic, or Alcæus the Alcaic: each poet may have been
a Vespucci to some precedent Columbus. But we are in a position to say that
Spenser did most unquestionably invent the English Spenserian stanza--a
form only inferior in individual beauty to the sonnet, which is itself
practically _adespoton_, and far superior to the sonnet in its capacity of
being used in multiples as well as singly. When the unlikelihood of such a
complicated measure succeeding in narrative form, the splendid success of
it in The _Faërie Queene_, and the remarkable effects which have
subsequently been got out of it by men so different as Thomson, Shelley,
and Lord Tennyson, are considered, Spenser's invention must, I think, be
counted the most considerable of its kind in literature.

But it may be very freely admitted that this technical merit, great as it
is, is the least part of the matter. Whosoever first invented butterflies
and pyramids in poetry is not greatly commendable, and if Spenser had done
nothing but arrange a cunning combination of eight heroics, with interwoven
rhymes and an Alexandrine to finish with, it may be acknowledged at once
that his claims to primacy would have to be dismissed at once. It is not
so. Independently of _The Faërie Queene_ altogether he has done work which
we must go to Milton and Shelley themselves to equal. The varied and
singularly original strains of _The Calendar_, the warmth and delicacy
combined of the _Epithalamion_, the tone of mingled regret and wonder (not
inferior in its characteristic Renaissance ring to Du Bellay's own) of _The
Ruins of Rome_, the different notes of the different minor poems, are all
things not to be found in any minor poet. But as does not always happen,
and as is perhaps not the case with Milton, Spenser's greatest work is also
his best. In the opinion of some at any rate the poet of _Lycidas_, of
_Comus_, of _Samson Agonistes_, even of the _Allegro_ and _Penseroso_,
ranks as high as, if not above, the poet of _Paradise Lost_. But the poet
of _The Faërie Queene_ could spare all his minor works and lose only, as
has been said, quantity not quality of greatness. It is hardly necessary at
this time of day to repeat the demonstration that Macaulay in his famous
jibe only succeeded in showing that he had never read what he jibed at; and
though other decriers of Spenser's masterpiece may not have laid themselves
open to quite so crushing a retort, they seldom fail to show a somewhat
similar ignorance. For the lover of poetry, for the reader who understands
and can receive the poetic charm, the revelation of beauty in metrical
language, no English poem is the superior, or, range and variety being
considered, the equal of _The Faërie Queene_. Take it up where you will,
and provided only sufficient time (the reading of a dozen stanzas ought to
suffice to any one who has the necessary gifts of appreciation) be given to
allow the soft dreamy versicoloured atmosphere to rise round the reader,
the languid and yet never monotonous music to gain his ear, the mood of
mixed imagination and heroism, adventure and morality, to impress itself on
his mind, and the result is certain. To the influence of no poet are the
famous lines of Spenser's great nineteenth-century rival so applicable as
to Spenser's own. The enchanted boat, angel-guided, floating on away, afar,
without conscious purpose, but simply obeying the instinct of sweet poetry,
is not an extravagant symbol for the mind of a reader of Spenser. If such
readers want "Criticisms of Life" first of all, they must go elsewhere,
though they will find them amply given, subject to the limitations of the
poetical method. If they want story they may complain of slackness and
deviations. If they want glorifications of science and such like things,
they had better shut the book at once, and read no more on that day nor on
any other. But if they want poetry--if they want to be translated from a
world which is not one of beauty only into one where the very uglinesses
are beautiful, into a world of perfect harmony in colour and sound, of an
endless sequence of engaging event and character, of noble passions and
actions not lacking their due contrast, then let them go to Spenser with a
certainty of satisfaction. He is not, as are some poets, the poet of a
certain time of life to the exclusion of others. He may be read in
childhood chiefly for his adventure, in later youth for his display of
voluptuous beauty, in manhood for his ethical and historical weight, in age
for all combined, and for the contrast which his bright universe of
invention affords with the work-day jejuneness of this troublesome world.
But he never palls upon those who have once learnt to taste him; and no
poet is so little of an acquired taste to those who have any liking for
poetry at all. He has been called the poet's poet--a phrase honourable but
a little misleading, inasmuch as it first suggests that he is not the poet
of the great majority of readers who cannot pretend to be poets themselves,
and secondly insinuates a kind of intellectual and æsthetic Pharisaism in
those who do admire him, which may be justly resented by those who do not.
Let us rather say that he is the poet of all others for those who seek in
poetry only poetical qualities, and we shall say not only what is more than
enough to establish his greatness but what, as I for one believe, can be
maintained in the teeth of all gainsayers.[23]

[23] Of Spenser as of two other poets in this volume, Shakespere and
Milton, it seemed to be unnecessary and even impertinent to give any
extracts. Their works are, or ought to be, in all hands; and even if it
were not so, no space at my command could give sample of their infinite
varieties.

The volume, variety, and vigour of the poetical production of the period in
which Spenser is the central figure--the last twenty years of the sixteenth
century--is perhaps proportionally the greatest, and may be said to be
emphatically the most distinguished in purely poetical characteristics of
any period in our history. Every kind of poetical work is represented in
it, and every kind (with the possible exception of the semi-poetical kind
of satire) is well represented. There is, indeed, no second name that
approaches Spenser's, either in respect of importance or in respect of
uniform excellence of work. But in the most incomplete production of this
time there is almost always that poetical spark which is often entirely
wanting in the finished and complete work of other periods. I shall,
therefore, divide the whole mass into four groups, each with certain
distinguished names at its head, and a crowd of hardly undistinguished
names in its rank and file. These four groups are the sonneteers, the
historians, the satirists, and lastly, the miscellaneous lyrists and
poetical miscellanists.

Although it is only recently that its mass and its beauty have been fully
recognised, the extraordinary outburst of sonnet-writing at a certain
period of Elizabeth's reign has always attracted the attention of literary
historians. For many years after Wyatt and Surrey's work appeared the form
attracted but little imitation or practice. About 1580 Spenser himself
probably, Sidney and Thomas Watson certainly, devoted much attention to it;
but it was some dozen years later that the most striking crop of sonnets
appeared. Between 1593 and 1596 there were published more than a dozen
collections, chiefly or wholly of sonnets, and almost all bearing the name
of a single person, in whose honour they were supposed to be composed. So
singular is this coincidence, showing either an intense _engouement_ in
literary society, or a spontaneous determination of energy in individuals,
that the list with dates is worth giving. It runs thus:--In 1593 came
Barnes's _Parthenophil and Parthenophe_, Fletcher's _Licia_, and Lodge's
_Phillis_. In 1594 followed Constable's _Diana_, Daniel's _Delia_,[24] the
anonymous _Zepheria_, Drayton's _Idea_, Percy's _Coelia_, and Willoughby's
_Avisa_; 1595 added the _Alcilia_ of a certain J. C., and Spenser's perfect
_Amoretti_; 1596 gave Griffin's _Fidessa_, Lynch's _Diella_, and Smith's
_Chloris_, while Shakespere's earliest sonnets were probably not much
later. Then the fashion changed, or the vein was worked out, or (more
fancifully) the impossibility of equalling Spenser and Shakespere choked
off competitors. The date of Lord Brooke's singular _Coelica_, not
published till long afterwards, is uncertain; but he may, probably, be
classed with Sidney and Watson in period.

[24] _Delia_ had appeared earlier in 1592, and partially in 1591; but the
text of 1594 is the definitive one. Several of these dates are doubtful or
disputed.

Fulke, or, as he himself spelt it, Foulke Greville, in his later years Lord
Brooke,[25] was of a noble house in Warwickshire connected with the
Beauchamps and the Willoughbys. He was born in 1554, was educated at
Shrewsbury with Philip Sidney, whose kinsman, lifelong friend, and first
biographer he was--proceeded, not like Sidney to Oxford, but to Cambridge
(where he was a member, it would seem, of Jesus College, not as usually
said of Trinity)--received early lucrative preferments chiefly in
connection with the government of Wales, was a favourite courtier of
Elizabeth's during all her later life, and, obtaining a royal gift of
Warwick Castle, became the ancestor of the present earls of Warwick. In
1614 he became Chancellor of the Exchequer. Lord Brooke, who lived to a
considerable age, was stabbed in a rather mysterious manner in 1628 by a
servant named Haywood, who is said to have been enraged by discovering that
his master had left him nothing in his will. The story is, as has been
said, mysterious, and the affair seems to have been hushed up. Lord Brooke
was not universally popular, and a very savage contemporary epitaph on him
has been preserved. But he had been the patron of the youthful Davenant,
and has left not a little curious literary work, which has only been
recently collected, and little of which saw the light in his own lifetime.
Of his two singular plays, _Mustapha_ and _Alaham_ (closet-dramas having
something in common with the Senecan model), _Mustapha_ was printed in
1609; but it would seem piratically. His chief prose work, the _Life of
Sidney_, was not printed till 1652. His chief work in verse, the singular
_Poems of Monarchy_ (ethical and political treatises), did not appear till
eighteen years later, as well as the allied _Treatise on Religion_. But
poems or tracts on human learning, on wars, and other things, together with
his tragedies as above, had appeared in 1633. This publication, a folio
volume, also contained by far the most interesting part of his work, the
so-called sonnet collection of Coelica--a medley, like many of those
mentioned in this chapter, of lyrics and short poems of all lengths and
metrical arrangements, but, unlike almost all of them, dealing with many
subjects, and apparently addressed to more than one person. It is here, and
in parts of the prose, that the reader who has not a very great love for
Elizabethan literature and some experience of it, can be recommended to
seek confirmation of the estimate in which Greville was held by Charles
Lamb, and of the very excusable and pious, though perhaps excessive,
admiration of his editor Dr. Grosart. Even _Coelica_ is very unlikely to
find readers as a whole, owing to the strangely repellent character of
Brooke's thought, which is intricate and obscure, and of his style, which
is at any rate sometimes as harsh and eccentric as the theories of poetry
which made him compose verse-treatises on politics. Nevertheless there is
much nobility of thought and expression in him, and not unfrequent flashes
of real poetry, while his very faults are characteristic. He may be
represented here by a piece from _Coelica_, in which he is at his very
best, and most poetical because most simple--

[25] He is a little liable to be confounded with two writers (brothers of a
patronymic the same as his title) Samuel and Christopher Brooke, the latter
of whom wrote poems of some merit, which Dr. Grosart has edited.

    "I, with whose colours Myra dressed her head,
    I, that ware posies of her own hand making,
    I, that mine own name in the chimnies read
    By Myra finely wrought ere I was waking:
    Must I look on, in hope time coming may
    With change bring back my turn again to play?

    "I, that on Sunday at the church-stile found
    A garland sweet with true love knots in flowers,
    Which I to wear about mine arms, was bound
    That each of us might know that all was ours:
    Must I lead now an idle life in wishes,
    And follow Cupid for his loaves and fishes?

    "I, that did wear the ring her mother left,
    I, for whose love she gloried to be blamed,
    I, with whose eyes her eyes committed theft,
    I, who did make her blush when I was named:
    Must I lose ring, flowers, blush, theft, and go naked,
    Watching with sighs till dead love be awaked?

    "I, that when drowsy Argus fell asleep,
    Like jealousy o'erwatchèd with desire,
    Was ever warnéd modesty to keep
    While her breath, speaking, kindled Nature's fire:
    Must I look on a-cold while others warm them?
    Do Vulcan's brothers in such fine nets arm them?

    "Was it for this that I might Myra see
    _Washing the water with her beauties white_?
    Yet would she never write her love to me:
    Thinks wit of change when thoughts are in delight?
    Mad girls may safely love as they may leave;
    No man can print a kiss: lines may deceive."

Had Brooke always written with this force and directness he would have been
a great poet. As it is, he has but the ore of poetry, not the smelted
metal.

For there is no doubt that Sidney here holds the primacy, not merely in
time but in value, of the whole school, putting Spenser and Shakespere
aside. That thirty or forty years' diligent study of Italian models had
much to do with the extraordinary advance visible in his sonnets over those
of Tottel's _Miscellany_ is, no doubt, undeniable. But many causes besides
the inexplicable residuum of fortunate inspiration, which eludes the most
careful search into literary cause and effect, had to do with the
production of the "lofty, insolent, and passionate vein," which becomes
noticeable in English poetry for the first time about 1580, and which
dominates it, if we include the late autumn-summer of Milton's last
productions, for a hundred years. Perhaps it is not too much to say that
this makes its very first appearance in Sidney's verse, for _The Shepherd's
Calendar_, though of an even more perfect, is of a milder strain. The
inevitable tendency of criticism to gossip about poets instead of
criticising poetry has usually mixed a great deal of personal matter with
the accounts of _Astrophel and Stella_, the series of sonnets which is
Sidney's greatest literary work, and which was first published some years
after his death in an incorrect and probably pirated edition by Thomas
Nash. There is no doubt that there was a real affection between Sidney
(Astrophel) and Penelope Devereux (Stella), daughter of the Earl of Essex,
afterwards Lady Rich, and that marriage proving unhappy, Lady Mountjoy. But
the attempts which have been made to identify every hint and allusion in
the series with some fact or date, though falling short of the unimaginable
folly of scholastic labour-lost which has been expended on the sonnets of
Shakespere, still must appear somewhat idle to those who know the usual
genesis of love-poetry--how that it is of imagination all compact, and that
actual occurrences are much oftener occasions and bases than causes and
material of it. It is of the smallest possible importance or interest to a
rational man to discover what was the occasion of Sidney's writing these
charming poems--the important point is their charm. And in this respect
(giving heed to his date and his opportunities of imitation) I should put
Sidney third to Shakespere and Spenser. The very first piece of the series,
an oddly compounded sonnet of thirteen Alexandrines and a final heroic,
strikes the note of intense and fresh poetry which is only heard afar off
in Surrey and Wyatt, which is hopelessly to seek in the tentatives of
Turberville and Googe, and which is smothered with jejune and merely
literary ornament in the less formless work of Sidney's contemporary,
Thomas Watson. The second line--

    "That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain,"

the couplet--

    "Oft turning others' leaves to see if thence would flow
    Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburnt brain,"

and the sudden and splendid finale--

    "'Fool!' said my muse, 'look in thy heart and write!'"

are things that may be looked for in vain earlier.

A little later we meet with that towering soar of verse which is also
peculiar to the period:

    "When Nature made her chief work--Stella's eyes,
    In colour black why wrapt she beams so bright?"--

lines which those who deprecate insistence on the importance of form in
poetry might study with advantage, for the thought is a mere commonplace
conceit, and the beauty of the phrase is purely derived from the cunning
arrangement and cadence of the verse. The first perfectly charming sonnet
in the English language--a sonnet which holds its own after three centuries
of competition--is the famous "With how sad steps, O moon, thou climbst the
skies," where Lamb's stricture on the last line as obscure seems to me
unreasonable. The equally famous phrase, "That sweet enemy France," which
occurs a little further on is another, and whether borrowed from Giordano
Bruno or not is perhaps the best example of the felicity of expression in
which Sidney is surpassed by few Englishmen. Nor ought the extraordinary
variety of the treatment to be missed. Often as Sidney girds at those who,
like Watson, "dug their sonnets out of books," he can write in the learned
literary manner with the best. The pleasant ease of his sonnet to the
sparrow, "Good brother Philip," contrasts in the oddest way with his
allegorical and mythological sonnets, in each of which veins he indulges
hardly less often, though very much more wisely than any of his
contemporaries. Nor do the other "Songs of variable verse," which follow,
and in some editions are mixed up with the sonnets, display less
extraordinary power. The first song, with its refrain in the penultimate
line of each stanza,

    "To you, to you, all song of praise is due,"

contrasts in its throbbing and burning life with the faint and misty
imagery, the stiff and wooden structure, of most of the verse of Sidney's
predecessors, and deserves to be given in full:--

    "Doubt you to whom my Muse these notes intendeth;
    Which now my breast o'ercharged to music lendeth?
      To you! to you! all song of praise is due:
    Only in you my song begins and endeth.

    "Who hath the eyes which marry state with pleasure,
    Who keeps the keys of Nature's chiefest treasure?
      To you! to you! all song of praise is due:
    Only for you the heaven forgat all measure.

    "Who hath the lips, where wit in fairness reigneth?
    Who womankind at once both decks and staineth?
      To you! to you! all song of praise is due:
    Only by you Cupid his crown maintaineth.

    "Who hath the feet, whose steps all sweetness planteth?
    Who else; for whom Fame worthy trumpets wanteth?
      To you! to you! all song of praise is due:
    Only to you her sceptre Venus granteth.

    "Who hath the breast, whose milk doth passions nourish?
    Whose grace is such, that when it chides doth cherish?
      To you! to you! all song of praise is due:
    Only through you the tree of life doth flourish.

    "Who hath the hand, which without stroke subdueth?
    Who long dead beauty with increase reneweth?
      To you! to you! all song of praise is due:
    Only at you all envy hopeless rueth.

    "Who hath the hair, which loosest fastest tieth?
    Who makes a man live then glad when he dieth?
      To you! to you! all song of praise is due:
    Only of you the flatterer never lieth.

    "Who hath the voice, which soul from senses sunders?
    Whose force but yours the bolts of beauty thunders?
      To you! to you! all song of praise is due:
    Only with you not miracles are wonders.

    "Doubt you to whom my Muse these notes intendeth?
    Which now my breast o'ercharged to music lendeth?
      To you! to you! all song of praise is due:
    Only in you my song begins and endeth."

Nor is its promise belied by those which follow, and which are among the
earliest and the most charming of the rich literature of songs that really
are songs--songs to music--which the age was to produce. All the scanty
remnants of his other verse are instinct with the same qualities,
especially the splendid dirge, "Ring out your bells, let mourning shows be
spread," and the pretty lines "to the tune of Wilhelmus van Nassau." I must
quote the first:--

    "Ring out your bells! let mourning shows be spread,
              For Love is dead.
          All love is dead, infected
            With the plague of deep disdain;
          Worth as nought worth rejected.
            And faith, fair scorn doth gain.
          From so ungrateful fancy,
          From such a female frenzy,
          From them that use men thus,
          Good Lord, deliver us!

    "Weep, neighbours, weep! Do you not hear it said
              That Love is dead?
          His deathbed, peacock's Folly;
            His winding-sheet is Shame;
          His will, False Seeming wholly;
            His sole executor, Blame.
          From so ungrateful fancy,
          From such a female frenzy,
          From them that use men thus,
          Good Lord, deliver us!

    "Let dirge be sung, and trentals rightly read,
              For Love is dead.
          Sir Wrong his tomb ordaineth
            My mistress' marble heart;
          Which epitaph containeth
            'Her eyes were once his dart.'
          From so ungrateful fancy,
          From such a female frenzy,
          From them that use men thus,
          Good Lord, deliver us!

    "Alas, I lie. Rage hath this error bred,
              Love is not dead.
          Love is not dead, but sleepeth
            In her unmatchèd mind:
          Where she his counsel keepeth
            Till due deserts she find.
          Therefore from so vile fancy
          To call such wit a frenzy,
          Who love can temper thus,
          Good Lord, deliver us!"

The verse from the _Arcadia_ (which contains a great deal of verse) has
been perhaps injuriously affected in the general judgment by the fact that
it includes experiments in the impossible classical metres. But both it and
the Translations from the Psalms express the same poetical faculty employed
with less directness and force. To sum up, there is no Elizabethan poet,
except the two named, who is more unmistakably imbued with poetical quality
than Sidney. And Hazlitt's judgment on him, that he is "jejune" and
"frigid" will, as Lamb himself hinted, long remain the chiefest and most
astonishing example of a great critic's aberrations when his prejudices are
concerned.

Had Hazlitt been criticising Thomas Watson, his judgment, though harsh,
would have been not wholly easy to quarrel with. It is probably the
excusable but serious error of judgment which induced his rediscoverer,
Professor Arber, to rank Watson above Sidney in gifts and genius, that has
led other critics to put him unduly low. Watson himself, moreover, has
invited depreciation by his extreme frankness in confessing that his
_Passionate Century_ is not a record of passion at all, but an elaborate
literary _pastiche_ after this author and that. I fear it must be admitted
that the average critic is not safely to be trusted with such an avowal of
what he is too much disposed to advance as a charge without confession.
Watson, of whom as usual scarcely anything is known personally, was a
Londoner by birth, an Oxford man by education, a friend of most of the
earlier literary school of the reign, such as Lyly, Peele, and Spenser,
and a tolerably industrious writer both in Latin and English during his
short life, which can hardly have begun before 1557, and was certainly
closed by 1593. He stands in English poetry as the author of the
_Hecatompathia_ or _Passionate Century_ of sonnets (1582), and the _Tears
of Fancy_, consisting of sixty similar poems, printed after his death. The
_Tears of Fancy_ are regular quatorzains, the pieces composing the
_Hecatompathia_, though called sonnets, are in a curious form of eighteen
lines practically composed of three six-line stanzas rhymed A B, A B, C C,
and not connected by any continuance of rhyme from stanza to stanza. The
special and peculiar oddity of the book is, that each sonnet has a prose
preface as thus: "In this passion the author doth very busily imitate and
augment a certain ode of Ronsard, which he writeth unto his mistress. He
beginneth as followeth, _Plusieurs_, etc." Here is a complete example of
one of Watson's pages:--

     "There needeth no annotation at all before this passion, it is of
     itself so plain and easily conveyed. Yet the unlearned may have
     this help given them by the way to know what Galaxia is or
     Pactolus, which perchance they have not read of often in our
     vulgar rhymes. Galaxia (to omit both the etymology and what the
     philosophers do write thereof) is a white way or milky circle in
     the heavens, which Ovid mentioneth in this manner--

    _Est via sublimis coelo manifesta sereno,_
    _Lactea nomen habet, candore notabilis ipso._

                             --Metamorph. lib. 1.

     And Cicero thus in Somnio Scipionis: _Erat autem is splendissimo
     candore inter flammas circulus elucens, quem vos (ut a Graijs
     accepistis) orbem lacteum nuncupatis._

     Pactolus is a river in Lydia, which hath golden sands under it,
     as Tibullus witnesseth in this verse:--

    _Nec me regna juvant, nec Lydius aurifer amnis._--Tibul. lib. 3.

    Who can recount the virtues of my dear,
    Or say how far her fame hath taken flight,
    That cannot tell how many stars appear
    In part of heaven, which Galaxia hight,
      Or number all the moats in Phoebus' rays,
      Or golden sands whereon Pactolus plays?

    And yet my hurts enforce me to confess,
    In crystal breast she shrouds a bloody heart,
    Which heart in time will make her merits less,
    Unless betimes she cure my deadly smart:
      For now my life is double dying still,
      And she defamed by sufferance of such ill;

    And till the time she helps me as she may,
    Let no man undertake to tell my toil,
    But only such, as can distinctly say,
    What monsters Nilus breeds, or Afric soil:
      For if he do, his labour is but lost,
      Whilst I both fry and freeze 'twixt flame and frost."

Now this is undoubtedly, as Watson's contemporaries would have said, "a
cooling card" to the reader, who is thus presented with a series of
elaborate poetical exercises affecting the acutest personal feeling, and
yet confessedly representing no feeling at all. Yet the _Hecatompathia_ is
remarkable, both historically and intrinsically. It does not seem likely
that at its publication the author can have had anything of Sidney's or
much of Spenser's before him; yet his work is only less superior to the
work of their common predecessors than the work of these two. By far the
finest of his _Century_ is the imitation of Ferrabosco--

    "Resolved to dust intombed here lieth love."

The quatorzains of the _Tears of Fancy_ are more attractive in form and
less artificial in structure and phraseology, but it must be remembered
that by their time Sidney's sonnets were known and Spenser had written
much. The seed was scattered abroad, and it fell in congenial soil in
falling on Watson, but the _Hecatompathia_ was self-sown.

This difference shows itself very remarkably in the vast outburst of
sonneteering which, as has been remarked, distinguished the middle of the
last decade of the sixteenth century. All these writers had Sidney and
Spenser before them, and they assume so much of the character of a school
that there are certain subjects, for instance, "Care-charming sleep," on
which many of them (after Sidney) composed sets of rival poems, almost as
definitely competitive as the sonnets of the later "Uranie et Job" and
"Belle Matineuse" series in France. Nevertheless, there is in all of
them--what as a rule is wanting in this kind of clique verse--the
independent spirit, the original force which makes poetry. The Smiths and
the Fletchers, the Griffins and the Lynches, are like little geysers round
the great ones: the whole soil is instinct with fire and flame. We shall,
however, take the production of the four remarkable years 1593-1596
separately, and though in more than one case we shall return upon their
writers both in this chapter and in a subsequent one, the unity of the
sonnet impulse seems to demand separate mention for them here.

In 1593 the influence of the Sidney poems (published, it must be
remembered, in 1591) was new, and the imitators, except Watson (of whom
above), display a good deal of the quality of the novice. The chief of them
are Barnabe Barnes, with his _Parthenophil and Parthenophe_, Giles Fletcher
(father of the Jacobean poets, Giles and Phineas Fletcher), with his
_Licia_, and Thomas Lodge, with his _Phillis_. Barnes is a modern
discovery, for before Dr. Grosart reprinted him in 1875, from the unique
original at Chatsworth, for thirty subscribers only (of whom I had the
honour to be one), he was practically unknown. Mr. Arber has since, in his
_English Garner_, opened access to a wider circle, to whom I at least do
not grudge their entry. As with most of these minor Elizabethan poets,
Barnes is a very obscure person. A little later than _Parthenophil_ he
wrote _A Divine Centurie of Spiritual Sonnets_, having, like many of his
contemporaries, an apparent desire poetically to make the best of both
worlds. He also wrote a wild play in the most daring Elizabethan style,
called _The Devil's Charter_, and a prose political _Treatise of Offices_.
Barnes was a friend of Gabriel Harvey's, and as such met with some rough
usage from Nash, Marston, and others. His poetical worth, though there are
fine passages in _The Devil's Charter_ and in the _Divine Centurie_, must
rest on _Parthenophil_. This collection consists not merely of sonnets but
of madrigals, sestines, canzons, and other attempts after Italian masters.
The style, both verbal and poetical, needs chastising in places, and
Barnes's expression in particular is sometimes obscure. He is sometimes
comic when he wishes to be passionate, and frequently verbose when he
wishes to be expressive. But the fire, the full-bloodedness, the poetical
virility, of the poems is extraordinary. A kind of intoxication of the
eternal-feminine seems to have seized the poet to an extent not otherwise
to be paralleled in the group, except in Sidney; while Sidney's courtly
sense of measure and taste did not permit him Barnes's forcible
extravagances. Here is a specimen:--

    "Phoebus, rich father of eternal light,
    And in his hand a wreath of Heliochrise
      He brought, to beautify those tresses,
    Whose train, whose softness, and whose gloss more bright,
          Apollo's locks did overprize.
    Thus, with this garland, whiles her brows he blesses,
          The golden shadow with his tincture
          Coloured her locks, aye gilded with the cincture."

Giles Fletcher's _Licia_ is a much more pale and colourless performance,
though not wanting in merit. The author, who was afterwards a most
respectable clergyman, is of the class of _amoureux transis_, and dies for
Licia throughout his poems, without apparently suspecting that it was much
better to live for her. His volume contained some miscellaneous poems, with
a dullish essay in the historical style (see _post_), called _The Rising of
Richard to the Crown_. Very far superior is Lodge's _Phillis_, the chief
poetical work of that interesting person, except some of the madrigals and
odd pieces of verse scattered about his prose tracts (for which see Chapter
VI.) _Phillis_ is especially remarkable for the grace and refinement with
which the author elaborates the Sidneian model. Lodge, indeed, as it seems
to me, was one of the not uncommon persons who can always do best with a
model before them. He euphuised with better taste than Lyly, but in
imitation of him; his tales in prose are more graceful than those of
Greene, whom he copied; it at least seems likely that he out-Marlowed
Marlowe in the rant of the _Looking-Glass for London_, and the stiffness of
the _Wounds of Civil War_, and he chiefly polished Sidney in his sonnets
and madrigals. It is not to be denied, however, that in three out of these
four departments he gave us charming work. His mixed allegiance to Marlowe
and Sidney gave him command of a splendid form of decasyllable, which
appears often in _Phillis_, as for instance--

    "About thy neck do all the graces throng
    And lay such baits as might entangle death,"

where it is worth noting that the whole beauty arises from the dexterous
placing of the dissyllable "graces," and the trisyllable "entangle,"
exactly where they ought to be among the monosyllables of the rest. The
madrigals "Love guards the roses of thy lips," "My Phillis hath the morning
sun," and "Love in my bosom like a bee" are simply unsurpassed for sugared
sweetness in English. Perhaps this is the best of them:--

    "Love in my bosom like a bee,
          Doth suck his sweet;
    Now with his wings he plays with me,
          Now with his feet.
    Within mine eyes he makes his nest
    His bed amidst my tender breast,
    My kisses are his daily feast;
    And yet he robs me of my rest?
        'Ah, wanton! will ye?'

    "And if I sleep, then percheth he,
          With pretty flight,[26]
    And makes his pillow of my knee
          The livelong night.
    Strike I my lute, he tunes the string.
    He music plays, if so I sing.
    He lends me every lovely thing
    Yet cruel! he, my heart doth sting.
        'Whist, wanton! still ye!'

    "Else I with roses, every day
          Will whip you hence,
    And bind you, when you want to play,
          For your offence.
    I'll shut my eyes to keep you in,
    I'll make you fast it for your sin,
    I'll count your power not worth a pin.
    Alas, what hereby shall I win
        If he gainsay me?

    "What if I beat the wanton boy
          With many a rod?
    He will repay me with annoy
          Because a god.
    Then sit thou safely on my knee,
    And let thy bower my bosom be.
    Lurk in mine eyes, I like of thee.
    O Cupid! so thou pity me,
        Spare not, but play thee."

[26] Printed in _England's Helicon_ "sleight."

1594 was the most important of all the sonnet years, and here we are
chiefly bound to mention authors who will come in for fuller notice later.
The singular book known as Willoughby's _Avisa_ which, as having a supposed
bearing on Shakespere and as containing much of that personal puzzlement
which rejoices critics, has had much attention of late years, is not
strictly a collection of sonnets; its poems being longer and of differing
stanzas. But in general character it falls in with the sonnet-collections
addressed or devoted to a real or fanciful personage. It is rather
satirical than panegyrical in character, and its poetical worth is very far
from high. William Percy, a friend of Barnes (who dedicated the
_Parthenophil_ to him), son of the eighth Earl of Northumberland, and a
retired person who seems to have passed the greater part of a long life in
Oxford "drinking nothing but ale," produced a very short collection
entitled _Coelia_, not very noteworthy, though it contains (probably in
imitation of Barnes) one of the tricky things called echo-sonnets, which,
with dialogue-sonnets and the like, have sometimes amused the leisure of
poets. Much more remarkable is the singular anonymous collection called
_Zepheria_. Its contents are called not sonnets but canzons, though most of
them are orthodox quatorzains somewhat oddly rhymed and rhythmed. It is
brief, extending only to forty pieces, and, like much of the poetry of the
period, begins and ends with Italian mottoes or dedication-phrases. But
what is interesting about it is the evidence it gives of deep familiarity
not only with Italian but with French models. This appears both in such
words as "jouissance," "thesaurise," "esperance," "souvenance," "vatical"
(a thoroughly Ronsardising word), with others too many to mention, and in
other characteristics. Mr. Sidney Lee, in his most valuable collection of
these sonneteers, endeavours to show that this French influence was less
uncommon than has sometimes been thought. Putting this aside, the
characteristic of _Zepheria_ is unchastened vigour, full of promise, but
decidedly in need of further schooling and discipline, as the following
will show:--

    "O then Desire, father of Jouissance,
    The Life of Love, the Death of dastard Fear,
    The kindest nurse to true persèverance,
    Mine heart inherited, with thy love's revere. [?]
    Beauty! peculiar parent of Conceit,
    Prosperous midwife to a travelling muse,
    The sweet of life, Nepenthe's eyes receipt,
    Thee into me distilled, O sweet, infuse!
    Love then (the spirit of a generous sprite,
    An infant ever drawing Nature's breast,
    The Sum of Life, that Chaos did unnight!)
    Dismissed mine heart from me, with thee to rest.
    And now incites me cry, 'Double or quit!
    Give back my heart, or take his body to it!'"

This cannot be said of the three remarkable collections yet to be noticed
which appeared in this year, to wit, Constable's _Diana_, Daniel's _Delia_,
and Drayton's _Idea_. These three head the group and contain the best work,
after Shakespere and Spenser and Sidney, in the English sonnet of the time.
Constable's sonnets had appeared partly in 1592, and as they stand in
fullest collection were published in or before 1594. Afterwards he wrote,
like others, "divine" sonnets (he was a Roman Catholic) and some
miscellaneous poems, including a very pretty "Song of Venus and Adonis." He
was a close friend of Sidney, many of whose sonnets were published with
his, and his work has much of the Sidneian colour, but with fewer flights
of happily expressed fancy. The best of it is probably the following
sonnet, which is not only full of gracefully expressed images, but keeps up
its flight from first to last--a thing not universal in these Elizabethan
sonnets:--

    "My Lady's presence makes the Roses red,
    Because to see her lips they blush for shame.
    The Lily's leaves, for envy, pale became;
    And her white hands in them this envy bred.
    The Marigold the leaves abroad doth spread;
    Because the sun's and her power is the same.
    The Violet of purple colour came,
    Dyed in the blood she made my heart to shed.
    In brief all flowers from her their virtue take;
    From her sweet breath, their sweet smells do proceed;
    The living heat which her eyebeams doth make
    Warmeth the ground, and quickeneth the seed.
    The rain, wherewith she watereth the flowers,
    Falls from mine eyes, which she dissolves in showers."

Samuel Daniel had an eminently contemplative genius which might have
anticipated the sonnet as it is in Wordsworth, but which the fashion of the
day confined to the not wholly suitable subject of Love. In the splendid
"Care-charmer Sleep," one of the tournament sonnets above noted, he
contrived, as will be seen, to put his subject under the influence of his
prevailing faculty.

    "Care-charmer Sleep, son of the sable Night,
      Brother to Death, in silent darkness born,
    Relieve my anguish, and restore the light,
      With dark forgetting of my cares, return;
    And let the day be time enough to mourn
      The shipwreck of my ill-adventured youth;
    Let waking eyes suffice to wail their scorn
      Without the torment of the night's untruth.
    Cease, Dreams, th' imag'ry of our day-desires,
      To model forth the passions of the morrow,
    Never let rising sun approve you liars,
      To add more grief to aggravate my sorrow.
    Still let me sleep, embracing clouds in vain;
    And never wake to feel the day's disdain."

But as a rule he is perhaps too much given to musing, and too little to
rapture. In form he is important, as he undoubtedly did much to establish
the arrangement of three alternate rhymed quatrains and a couplet which, in
Shakespere's hands, was to give the noblest poetry of the sonnet and of the
world. He has also an abundance of the most exquisite single lines, such as

    "O clear-eyed rector of the holy hill,"

and the wonderful opening of Sonnet XXVII., "The star of my mishap imposed
this pain."

The sixty-three sonnets, varied in different editions of Drayton's _Idea_,
are among the most puzzling of the whole group. Their average value is not
of the very highest. Yet there are here and there the strangest suggestions
of Drayton's countryman, Shakespere, and there is one sonnet, No. 61,
beginning, "Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part," which I have
found it most difficult to believe to be Drayton's, and which is Shakespere
all over. That Drayton was the author of _Idea_ as a whole is certain, not
merely from the local allusions, but from the resemblance to the more
successful exercises of his clear, masculine, vigorous, fertile, but
occasionally rather unpoetical style. The sonnet just referred to is itself
one of the very finest existing--perhaps one of the ten or twelve best
sonnets in the world, and it may be worth while to give it with another in
contrast:--

    "Our flood's Queen, Thames, for ships and swans is crowned;
      And stately Severn for her shore is praised.
    The crystal Trent for fords and fish renowned;
      And Avon's fame to Albion's cliffs is raised;
    Carlegion Chester vaunts her holy Dee;
      York many wonders of her Ouse can tell.
    The Peak her Dove, whose banks so fertile be;
      And Kent will say her Medway doth excel.
    Cotswold commends her Isis to the Tame;
      Our northern borders boast of Tweed's fair flood
    Our western parts extol their Wily's fame;
      And the old Lea brags of the Danish blood.
    Arden's sweet Ankor, let thy glory be
    That fair Idea only lives by thee!"

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Since there's no help, come, let us kiss and part!
      Nay, I have done. You get no more of me
    And I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart
      That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
    Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
      And when we meet at any time again
    Be it not seen in either of our brows
      That we one jot of former love retain.
    Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
      When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies;
    When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
      And Innocence is closing up his eyes:
    Now, if thou would'st, when all have given him over,
    From death to life thou might'st him yet recover!"

1595 chiefly contributed the curious production called _Alcilia_, by J. C.,
who gives the name of sonnets to a series of six-line stanzas, varied
occasionally by other forms, such as that of the following pretty verses.
It may be noted that the citation of proverbs is very characteristic of
_Alcilia_:--

    "Love is sorrow mixed with gladness,
    Fear with hope, and hope with madness.
    Long did I love, but all in vain;
    I loving, was not loved again:
    For which my heart sustained much woe.
    It fits not maids to use men so,
    Just deserts are not regarded,
    Never love so ill rewarded.
    But 'all is lost that is not sought,'
    'Oft wit proves best that's dearest bought.'

    "Women were made for men's relief;
    To comfort, not to cause their grief.
    Where most I merit, least I find:
    No marvel, since that love is blind.
    Had she been kind as she was fair,
    My case had been more strange and rare.
    But women love not by desert,
    Reason in them hath weakest part.
    Then henceforth let them love that list,
    I will beware of 'had I wist.'"

1596 (putting the _Amoretti_, which is sometimes assigned to this year,
aside) was again fruitful with Griffin's _Fidessa_, Lynch's _Diella_, and
Smith's _Chloris_. _Fidessa_, though distinctly "young," is one of the most
interesting of the clearly imitative class of these sonnets, and contains
some very graceful poetry, especially the following, one of the Sleep
class, which will serve as a good example of the minor sonneteers:--

    "Care-charmer Sleep! sweet ease in restless misery!
      The captive's liberty, and his freedom's song!
    Balm of the bruisèd heart! man's chief felicity!
      Brother of quiet Death, when Life is too too long!
    A Comedy it is, and now an History;
      What is not sleep unto the feeble mind?
    It easeth him that toils, and him that's sorry;
      It makes the deaf to hear; to see, the blind;
    Ungentle Sleep! thou helpest all but me,
      For when I sleep my soul is vexèd most.
    It is Fidessa that doth master thee
      If she approach; alas! thy power is lost.
    But here she is! See, how he runs amain!
    I fear, at night, he will not come again."

_Diella_, a set of thirty-eight sonnets prefixed to the "Amorous poem of
Diego and Genevra," is more elaborate in colouring but somewhat less fresh
and genuine; while _Chloris_, whose author was a friend of Spenser's,
approaches to the pastoral in the plan and phrasing of its fifty sonnets.

Such are the most remarkable members of a group of English poetry, which
yields to few such groups in interest. It is connected by a strong
similarity of feeling--if any one likes, even by a strong imitation of the
same models. But in following those models and expressing those feelings,
its members, even the humblest of them, have shown remarkable poetical
capacity; while of the chiefs we can only say, as has been said more than
once already, that the matter and form together acknowledge, and indeed
admit of, no superior.

In close connection with these groups of sonnets, displaying very much the
same poetical characteristics and in some cases written by the same
authors, there occurs a great body of miscellaneous poetical writing
produced during the last twenty years of the sixteenth century, and ranging
from long poems of the allegorical or amatory kind to the briefest lyrics
and madrigals. Sometimes this work appeared independently; sometimes it was
inserted in the plays and prose pamphlets of the time. As has already been
said, some of our authors, notably Lodge and Greene, did in this way work
which far exceeds in merit any of their more ambitious pieces, and which in
a certain unborrowed and incommunicable poetic grace hardly leaves anything
of the time behind it. Shakespere himself, in _Venus and Adonis_ and
_Lucrece_, has in a more elaborate but closely allied kind of poetry
displayed less mature, but scarcely less, genius than in his dramatic and
sonnet work. It is my own opinion that the actual poetical worth of Richard
Barnfield, to whom an exquisite poem in _The Passionate Pilgrim_, long
ascribed to Shakespere, is now more justly assigned, has, owing to this
assignment and to the singular character of his chief other poem, _The
Affectionate Shepherd_, been considerably overrated. It is unfortunately as
complete if not as common a mistake to suppose that any one who disdains
his country's morality must be a good poet, as to set down any one who
disdains it without further examination for a bad one. The simple fact, as
it strikes a critic, is that "As it fell upon a day" is miles above
anything else of Barnfield's, and is not like anything else of his, while
it is very like things of Shakespere's. The best thing to be said for
Barnfield is that he was an avowed and enthusiastic imitator and follower
of Spenser. His poetical work (we might have included the short series of
sonnets to _Cynthia_ in the division of sonneteers) was all written when he
was a very young man, and he died when he was not a very old one, a
bachelor country-gentleman in Warwickshire. Putting the exquisite "As it
fell upon a day" out of question (which, if he wrote it, is one of the not
very numerous examples of perfect poetry written by a very imperfect poet),
Barnfield has, in no extraordinary measure, the common attributes of this
wonderful time--poetical enthusiasm, fresh and unhackneyed expression,
metrical charm, and gorgeous colouring, which does not find itself
ill-matched with accurate drawing of nature. He is above the average
Elizabethan, and his very bad taste in _The Affectionate Shepherd_ (a
following of Virgil's Second Eclogue) may be excused as a humanist crotchet
of the time. His rarity, his eccentricity, and the curious mixing up of his
work with Shakespere's have done him something more than yeoman's service
with recent critics. But he may have a specimen:--

    "And thus it happened: Death and Cupid met
      Upon a time at swilling Bacchus' house,
    Where dainty cates upon the board were set,
      And goblets full of wine to drink carouse:
        Where Love and Death did love the liquor so
        That out they fall, and to the fray they go.

    "And having both their quivers at their back
      Filled full of arrows--the one of fatal steel,
    The other all of gold; Death's shaft was black,
      But Love's was yellow--Fortune turned her wheel,
        And from Death's quiver fell a fatal shaft
        That under Cupid by the wind was waft.

    "And at the same time by ill hap there fell
      Another arrow out of Cupid's quiver;
    The which was carried by the wind at will,
      And under Death the amorous shaft did shiver.[27]
        They being parted, Love took up Death's dart,
        And Death took up Love's arrow for his part."

[27] Not, of course = "break," but "shudder."

There is perhaps more genuine poetic worth, though there is less
accomplishment of form, in the unfortunate Father Robert Southwell, who was
executed as a traitor on the 20th of February 1595. Southwell belonged to a
distinguished family, and was born (probably) at Horsham St. Faiths, in
Norfolk, about the year 1560. He was stolen by a gipsy in his youth, but
was recovered; and a much worse misfortune befell him in being sent for
education not to Oxford or Cambridge but to Douay, where he got into the
hands of the Jesuits, and joined their order. He was sent on a mission to
England; and (no doubt conscientiously) violating the law there, was after
some years of hiding and suspicion betrayed, arrested, treated with great
harshness in prison, and at last, as has been said, executed. No specific
acts of treason were even charged against him; and he earnestly denied any
designs whatever against the Queen and kingdom, nor can it be doubted that
he merely paid the penalty of others' misdeeds. His work both in prose and
poetry was not inconsiderable, and the poetry was repeatedly printed in
rather confusing and imperfect editions after his death. The longest, but
by no means the best, piece is _St. Peter's Complaint_. The best
unquestionably is _The Burning Babe_, which, though fairly well known, must
be given:--

    "As I in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow,
    Surpris'd I was with sudden heat, which made my heart to glow;
    And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
    A pretty Babe all burning bright, did in the air appear,
    Who scorchèd with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed,
    As though His floods should quench His flames which with His tears were
          fed;
    'Alas!' quoth He, 'but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,
    Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel My fire but I!
    My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
    Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
    The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals;
    The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defilèd souls,
    For which, as now on fire I am, to work them to their good
    So will I melt into a bath to wash them in My blood:'
    With these He vanished out of sight, and swiftly shrunk away,
    And straight I callèd unto mind that it was Christmas Day."

Something of the glow of this appears elsewhere in the poems, which are,
without exception, religious. They have not a little of the "hectic" tone,
which marks still more strongly the chief English Roman Catholic poet of
the next century, Crashaw; but are never, as Crashaw sometimes is,
hysterical. On the whole, as was remarked in a former chapter, they belong
rather to the pre-Spenserian class in diction and metre, though with
something of the Italian touch. Occasional roughnesses in them may be at
least partly attributed to the evident fact that the author thought of
nothing less than of merely "cultivating the muses." His religious fervour
is of the simplest and most genuine kind, and his poems are a natural and
unforced expression of it.

It is difficult in the brief space which can here be allotted to the
subject to pass in review the throng of miscellaneous poets and poetry
indicated under this group. The reprints of Dr. Grosart and Mr. Arber,
supplemented in a few cases by recourse to the older recoveries of Brydges,
Haslewood, Park, Collier, and others, bring before the student a mass of
brilliant and beautiful matter, often mixed with a good deal of slag and
scoriæ, but seldom deficient in the true poetical ore. The mere collections
of madrigals and songs, actually intended for casual performance at a time
when almost every accomplished and well-bred gentleman or lady was expected
to oblige the company, which Mr. Arber's invaluable _English Garner_ and
Mr. Bullen's _Elizabethan Lyrics_ give from the collections edited or
produced by Byrd, Yonge, Campion, Dowland, Morley, Alison, Wilbye, and
others, represent such a body of verse as probably could not be got
together, with the same origin and circumstances, in any quarter-century of
any nation's history since the foundation of the world. In Campion
especially the lyrical quality is extraordinary. He was long almost
inaccessible, but Mr. Bullen's edition of 1889 has made knowledge of him
easy. His birth-year is unknown, but he died in 1620. He was a Cambridge
man, a member of the Inns of Court, and a physician in good practice. He
has left us a masque; four _Books of Airs_ (1601-17?), in which the gems
given below, and many others, occur; and a sometimes rather unfairly
characterised critical treatise, _Observations on the Art of English
Poesy_, in which he argues against rhyme and for strict quantitative
measures, but on quite different lines from those of the craze of
Stanyhurst and Harvey. Some of his illustrations of his still rather
unnatural fancy (especially "Rose-cheeked Laura," which is now tolerably
familiar in anthologies) are charming, though never so charming as his
rhymed "Airs." The poetry is, indeed, mostly in flashes, and it is not very
often that any song is a complete gem, like the best of the songs from the
dramatists, one or two of which will be given presently for comparison. But
by far the greater number contain and exemplify those numerous
characteristics of poetry, as distinguished from verse, which at one time
of literary history seem naturally to occur--seem indeed to be had for the
gathering by any one who chooses--while at another time they are but
sparingly found in the work of men of real genius, and seem altogether to
escape men of talent, accomplishment, and laborious endeavour. Here are a
few specimens from Peele and others, especially Campion. As it is, an
exceptional amount of the small space possible for such things in this
volume has been given to them, but there is a great temptation to give
more. Lyly's lyrical work, however, is fairly well known, and more than one
collection of "Songs from the Dramatists" has popularised others.

              _Æ._ "Fair and fair, and twice so fair,
                   As fair as any may be;
                   The fairest shepherd on our green,
                   A love for any lady.

            _Par._ Fair and fair, and twice so fair,
                   As fair as any may be:
                   Thy love is fair for thee alone,
                   And for no other lady.

              _Æ._ My love is fair, my love is gay,
                   As fresh as bin the flowers in May,
                   And of my love my roundelay
                   Concludes with Cupid's curse,
                   They that do change old love for new
                   Pray gods, they change for worse!

    _Ambo, simul._ They that do change, etc., etc.

              _Æ._ Fair and fair, etc.

            _Par._ Fair and fair, etc.

              _Æ._ My love can pipe, my love can sing,
                   My love can many a pretty thing,
                   And of his lovely praises ring
                   My merry, merry roundelays.
                   Amen to Cupid's curse,
                   They that do change, etc."

                              PEELE.

    "His golden locks time hath to silver turned;
    O time too swift, O swiftness never ceasing!
    His youth 'gainst time and age hath ever spurned,
    But spurned in vain; youth waneth by increasing:
    Beauty, strength, youth, are flowers but fading seen.
    Duty, faith, love, are roots, and ever green.

    "His helmet now shall make a hive for bees,
    And lovers' songs be turned to holy psalms;
    A man-at-arms must now serve on his knees,
    And feed on prayers, which are old age's alms:
    But though from court to cottage he depart,
    His saint is sure of his unspotted heart.

    "And when he saddest sits in homely cell,
    He'll teach his swains this carol for a song:
    'Blessed be the hearts that wish my Sovereign well,
    Cursed be the souls that think her any wrong.'
    Goddess allow this aged man his right,
    To be your beadsman now that was your knight."

                              PEELE.

    "Fain would I change that note
      To which fond love hath charm'd me,
    Long, long to sing by rote
      Fancying that that harm'd me:
    Yet when this thought doth come,
    'Love is the perfect sum
          Of all delight!'
        I have no other choice
        Either for pen or voice
          To sing or write.

    "O Love, they wrong thee much
      That say thy sweet is bitter,
    When thy rich fruit is such
      As nothing can be sweeter.
    Fair house of joy and bliss
    Where truest pleasure is,
          I do adore thee;
        I know thee what thou art.
        I serve thee with my heart
          And fall before thee.

                              _Anon. in_ BULLEN.

    "Turn all thy thoughts to eyes,
      Turn all thy hairs to ears,
    Change all thy friends to spies,
      And all thy joys to fears:
        True love will yet be free
        In spite of jealousy.

    "Turn darkness into day,
      Conjectures into truth,
    Believe what th' curious say,
      Let age interpret youth:
        True love will yet be free
        In spite of jealousy.

    "Wrest every word and look,
      Rack every hidden thought;
    Or fish with golden hook,
      True love cannot be caught:
        For that will still be free
        In spite of jealousy."

                              CAMPION _in_ BULLEN.

    "Come, O come, my life's delight!
      Let me not in languor pine!
    Love loves no delay; thy sight
      The more enjoyed, the more divine.
        O come, and take from me
        The pain of being deprived of thee!

    "Thou all sweetness dost enclose
      Like a little world of bliss;
    Beauty guards thy looks, the rose
      In them pure and eternal is:
        Come, then, and make thy flight
        As swift to me as heavenly light!"

                              CAMPION.

    "Follow your saint, follow with accents sweet!
    Haste you, sad notes, fall at her flying feet!
    There, wrapped in cloud of sorrow, pity move,
    And tell the ravisher of my soul I perish for her love.
    But if she scorns my never-ceasing pain,
    Then burst with sighing in her sight and ne'er return again.

    "All that I sang still to her praise did tend,
    Still she was first, still she my songs did end;
    Yet she my love and music both doth fly,
    The music that her echo is and beauty's sympathy:
    Then let my notes pursue her scornful flight!
    It shall suffice that they were breathed and died for her delight."

                              CAMPION.

    "What if a day, or a month, or a year,
      Crown thy delights with a thousand sweet contentings!
    Cannot a chance of a night or an hour
      Cross thy desires with as many sad tormentings?
    Fortune, Honour, Beauty, Youth, are but blossoms dying,
    Wanton Pleasure, doating Love, are but shadows flying.
    All our joys are but toys! idle thoughts deceiving:
    None have power, of an hour, in their lives bereaving.

    "Earth's but a point to the world, and a man
      Is but a point to the world's comparèd centre!
    Shall then a point of a point be so vain
      As to triumph in a silly point's adventure?
    All is hazard that we have, there is nothing biding;
    Days of pleasure are like streams through fair meadows gliding.
    Weal and woe, time doth go! time is never turning;
    Secret fates guide our states, both in mirth and mourning."

                              CAMPION.

    "'Twas I that paid for all things,
      'Twas others drank the wine,
    I cannot now recall things;
      Live but a fool, to pine.
    'Twas I that beat the bush,
      The bird to others flew;
    For she, alas, hath left me.
      Falero! lero! loo!

    "If ever that Dame Nature
      (For this false lover's sake)
    Another pleasing creature
      Like unto her would make;
    Let her remember this,
      To make the other true!
    For this, alas! hath left me.
      Falero! lero! loo!

    "No riches now can raise me,
      No want makes me despair,
    No misery amaze me,
      Nor yet for want I care:
    I have lost a World itself,
      My earthly Heaven, adieu!
    Since she, alas! hath left me.
      Falero! lero! loo!"

                              _Anon. in_ ARBER.

Beside these collections, which were in their origin and inception chiefly
musical, and literary, as it were, only by parergon, there are successors
of the earlier Miscellanies in which, as in _England's Helicon_ and the
celebrated _Passionate Pilgrim_, there is some of the most exquisite of our
verse. And, yet again, a crowd of individual writers, of few of whom is
much known, contributed, not in all cases their mites by any means, but
often very respectable sums, to the vast treasury of English poetry. There
is Sir Edward Dyer, the friend of Raleigh and Sidney, who has been
immortalised by the famous "My mind to me a kingdom is," and who wrote
other pieces not much inferior. There is Raleigh, to whom the glorious
preparatory sonnet to _The Faërie Queene_ would sufficiently justify the
ascription of "a vein most lofty, insolent, and passionate," if a very
considerable body of verse (independent of the fragmentary _Cynthia_) did
not justify this many times over, as two brief quotations in addition to
the sonnet will show:--

    "Methought I saw the grave where Laura lay,
      Within that temple where the vestal flame
    Was wont to burn: and, passing by that way
      To see that buried dust of living fame,
    Whose tomb fair Love and fairer Virtue kept,
      All suddenly I saw the Fairy Queen,
    At whose approach the soul of Petrarch wept;
      And from henceforth those graces were not seen,
    For they this Queen attended; in whose stead
      Oblivion laid him down on Laura's hearse.
    Hereat the hardest stones were seen to bleed,
      And groans of buried ghosts the heavens did pierce:
    Where Homer's spright did tremble all for grief,
    And curse the access of that celestial thief."

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Three things there be that prosper all apace,
      And flourish while they are asunder far;
    But on a day they meet all in a place,
      And when they meet they one another mar.

    "And they be these--the Wood, the Weed, the Wag:
      The Wood is that that makes the gallows tree;
    The Weed is that that strings the hangman's bag;
      The Wag, my pretty knave, betokens thee.

    "Now mark, dear boy--while these assemble not,
      Green springs the tree, hemp grows, the Wag is wild;
    But when they meet, it makes the timber rot,
      It frets the halter, and it chokes the child.

              "God bless the Child!"

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
      My staff of faith to walk upon,
    My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
      My bottle of salvation,
    My gown of glory, hope's true gage;
    And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.

    "Blood must be my body's balmer;
      No other balm will there be given;
    Whilst my soul, like quiet palmer,
      Travelleth towards the land of heaven;
    Over the silver mountains
    Where spring the nectar fountains:
        There will I kiss
        The bowl of bliss;
    And drink mine everlasting fill
    Upon every milken hill.
    My soul will be a-dry before,
    But after it will thirst no more."

There is Lord Oxford, Sidney's enemy (which he might be if he chose), and
apparently a coxcomb (which is less pardonable), but a charming writer of
verse, as in the following:--

    "Come hither, shepherd swain!
      Sir, what do you require?
    I pray thee, shew to me thy name!
      My name is Fond Desire.

    "When wert thou born, Desire?
      In pomp and prime of May.
    By whom, sweet boy, wert thou begot?
      By fond Conceit, men say.

    "Tell me, who was thy nurse
      Fresh youth, in sugared joy.
    What was thy meat and daily food?
      Sad sighs, with great annoy.

    "What hadst thou then to drink?
      Unfeigned lovers' tears.
    What cradle wert thou rocked in?
      In hope devoid of fears.

    "What lulled thee then asleep?
      Sweet speech which likes me best.
    Tell me, where is thy dwelling-place?
      In gentle hearts I rest.

    "What thing doth please thee most?
      To gaze on beauty still.
    Whom dost thou think to be thy foe?
      Disdain of my good will.

    "Doth company displease?
      Yes, surely, many one.
    Where doth desire delight to live?
      He loves to live alone.

    "Doth either time or age
      Bring him unto decay?
    No, no! Desire both lives and dies
      A thousand times a day.

    "Then, fond Desire, farewell!
      Thou art no mate for me;
    I should be loath, methinks, to dwell
      With such a one as thee.

There is, in the less exalted way, the industrious man of all work,
Nicholas Breton, whom we shall speak of more at length among the
pamphleteers, and John Davies of Hereford, no poet certainly, but a most
industrious verse-writer in satiric and other forms. Mass of production,
and in some cases personal interest, gives these a certain standing above
their fellows. But the crowd of those fellows, about many of whom even the
painful industry of the modern commentator has been able to tell us next to
nothing, is almost miraculous when we remember that printing was still
carried on under a rigid censorship by a select body of monopolists, and
that out of London, and in rare cases the university towns, it was
impossible for a minor poet to get into print at all unless he trusted to
the contraband presses of the Continent. In dealing with this crowd of
enthusiastic poetical students it is impossible to mention all, and
invidious to single out some only. The very early and interesting _Posy of
Gillyflowers_ of Humphrey Gifford (1580) exhibits the first stage of our
period, and might almost have been referred to the period before it; the
same humpty-dumpty measure of eights and sixes, and the same vestiges of
rather infantine alliteration being apparent in it, though something of the
fire and variety of the new age of poetry appears beside them, notably in
this most spirited war-song:--

    (_For Soldiers._)

    "Ye buds of Brutus' land, courageous youths now play your parts,[28]
    Unto your tackle stand, abide the brunt with valiant hearts,
    For news is carried to and fro, that we must forth to warfare go:
    Then muster now in every place, and soldiers are pressed forth apace.
    Faint not, spend blood to do your Queen and country good:
    Fair words, good pay, will make men cast all care away.

    "The time of war is come, prepare your corslet, spear, and shield:
    Methinks I hear the drum strike doleful marches to the field.
    Tantara, tantara the trumpets sound, which makes our hearts with joy
          abound.
    The roaring guns are heard afar, and everything announceth war.
    Serve God, stand stout; bold courage brings this gear about;
    Fear not, forth run: faint heart fair lady never won.

    "Ye curious carpet-knights that spend the time in sport and play,
    Abroad and see new sights, your country's cause calls you away:
    Do not, to make your ladies' game, bring blemish to your worthy name.
    Away to field and win renown, with courage beat your enemies down;
    Stout hearts gain praise, when dastards sail in slander's seas.
    Hap what hap shall, we soon shall die but once for all.

    "Alarm! methinks they cry. Be packing mates, begone with speed,
    Our foes are very nigh: shame have that man that shrinks at need.
    Unto it boldly let us stand, God will give right the upper hand.
    Our cause is good we need not doubt: in sign of courage give a shout;
    March forth, be strong, good hap will come ere it be long.
    Shrink not, fight well, for lusty lads must bear the bell.

    "All you that will shun evil must dwell in warfare every day.
    The world, the flesh, the devil always do seek our souls' decay.
    Strive with these foes with all your might, so shall you fight a
          worthy fight.
    That conquest dost deserve most praise, whose vice do[th] yield to
          virtue's ways.
    Beat down foul sin, a worthy crown then shall ye win:
    If ye live well, in Heaven with Christ our souls shall dwell."

[28] I print this as in the original, but perhaps the rhythm, which is an
odd one, would be better marked if lines 1 and 2 were divided into sixes
and eights, lines 3 and 4 into eights, and lines 5 and 6 into fours and
eights as the rhyme ends.

Of the same date, or indeed earlier, are the miscellaneous poems of Thomas
Howell, entitled _The Arbour of Amity_, and chiefly of an ethical
character. Less excusable for the uncouthness of his verse is Matthew
Grove, who, writing, or at least publishing, his poems in 1587, should have
learnt something, but apparently had not. It has to be said in excuse of
him that his date and indeed existence are shadowy, even among the shadowy
Elizabethan bards; his editor, in worse doggerel than his own, frankly
confessing that he knew nothing about him, not so much as whether he was
alive or dead. But his work, Howell's, and even part of Gifford's, is
chiefly interesting as giving us in the very sharpest contrast the
differences of the poetry before and after the melodious bursts of which
Spenser, Sidney, and Watson were the first mouthpieces. Except an utter
dunce (which Grove does not seem to have been by any means) no one who had
before him _The Shepherd's Calendar_, or the _Hecatompathia_, or a MS. copy
of _Astrophel and Stella_, could have written as Grove wrote. There are
echoes of this earlier and woodener matter to be found later, but, as a
whole, the passionate love of beauty, the sense--if only a groping
sense--of form, and the desire to follow, and if possible improve upon the
models of melodious verse which the Sidneian school had given, preserved
even poetasters from the lowest depths.

To classify the miscellaneous verse of 1590-1600 (for the second decade is
much richer than the first) under subjects and styles is a laborious and,
at best, an uncertain business. The semi-mythological love-poem, with a
more or less tragic ending, had not a few followers; the collection of
poems of various character in praise of a real or imaginary mistress,
similar in design to the sonnet collections, but either more miscellaneous
in form or less strung together in one long composition, had even more;
while the collection pure and simple, resembling the miscellanies in
absence of special character, but the work of one, not of many writers, was
also plentifully represented. Satirical allegory, epigram, and other kinds,
had numerous examples. But there were two classes of verse which were both
sufficiently interesting in themselves and were cultivated by persons of
sufficient individual repute to deserve separate and detailed mention.
These were the historical poem or history--a kind of companion production
to the chronicle play or chronicle, and a very popular one--which, besides
the names of Warner, Daniel, and Drayton, counted not a few minor adherents
among Elizabethan bards. Such were the already-mentioned Giles Fletcher;
such Fitz-Geoffrey in a remarkable poem on Drake, and Gervase Markham in a
not less noteworthy piece on the last fight of _The Revenge_; such numerous
others, some of whom are hardly remembered, and perhaps hardly deserve to
be. The other, and as a class the more interesting, though nothing actually
produced by its practitioners may be quite equal to the best work of
Drayton and Daniel, was the beginning of English satire. This beginning is
interesting not merely because of the apparent coincidence of instinct
which made four or five writers of great talent simultaneously hit on the
style, so that it is to this day difficult to award exactly the palm of
priority, but also because the result of their studies, in some peculiar
and at first sight rather inexplicable ways, is some of the most
characteristic, if very far from being some of the best, work of the whole
poetical period with which we are now busied. In passing, moreover, from
the group of miscellaneous poets to these two schools, if we lose not a
little of the harmony and lyrical sweetness which characterise the best
work of the Elizabethan singer proper, we gain greatly in bulk and dignity
of work and in intrinsic value. Of at least one of the poets mentioned in
the last paragraph his modern editor--a most enthusiastic and tolerant
godfather of waifs and strays of literature--confesses that he really does
not quite know why he should be reprinted, except that the original is
unique, and that almost every scrap of literature in this period is of some
value, if only for lexicographic purposes. No one would dream of speaking
thus of Drayton or of Daniel, of Lodge, Hall, Donne, or Marston; while even
Warner, the weakest of the names to which we shall proceed to give separate
notice, can be praised without too much allowance. In the latter case,
moreover, if not in the first (for the history-poem, until it was taken up
in a very different spirit at the beginning of this century, never was a
success in England), the matter now to be reviewed, after being in its own
kind neglected for a couple of generations, served as forerunner, if not
exactly as model, to the magnificent satiric work of Dryden, and through
his to that of Pope, Young, Churchill, Cowper, and the rest of the more
accomplished English satirists. The acorn of such an oak cannot be without
interest.

The example of _The Mirror for Magistrates_ is perhaps sufficient to
account for the determination of a certain number of Elizabethan poets
towards English history; especially if we add the stimulating effect of
Holinshed's _Chronicle_, which was published in 1580. The first of the
so-called historians, William Warner, belongs in point of poetical style to
the pre-Spenserian period, and like its other exponents employs the
fourteener; while, unlike some of them, he seems quite free from any
Italian influence in phraseology or poetical manner. Nevertheless _Albion's
England_ is, not merely in bulk but in merit, far ahead of the average work
of our first period, and quite incommensurable with such verse as that of
Grove. It appeared by instalments (1586-1606-1612). Of its author, William
Warner, the old phrase has to be repeated, that next to nothing is known of
him. He was an Oxfordshire man by birth, and an Oxford man by education; he
had something to do with Cary, Lord Hunsdon, became an Attorney of the
Common Pleas, and died at Amwell suddenly in his bed in 1609, being, as it
is guessed rather than known, fifty years old or thereabouts. _Albion's
England_ was seized as contraband, by orders of the Archbishop of
Canterbury--a proceeding for which no one has been able to account (the
suggestion that parts of it are indelicate is, considering the manners of
the time, quite ludicrous), and which may perhaps have been due to some
technical informality. It is thought that he is the author of a translation
of Plautus's _Menæchmi_; he certainly produced in 1585? a prose story, or
rather collection of stories, entitled _Syrinx_, which, however, is
scarcely worth reading. _Albion's England_ is in no danger of incurring
that sentence. In the most easily accessible edition, that of Chalmers's
"Poets," it is spoilt by having the fourteeners divided into eights and
sixes, and it should if possible be read in the original arrangement.
Considering how few persons have written about it, an odd collection of
critical slips might be made. Philips, Milton's nephew, in this case it may
be hoped, not relying on his uncle, calls Warner a "good plain writer of
moral rules and precepts": the fact being that though he sometimes
moralises he is in the main a story-teller, and much more bent on narrative
than on teaching. Meres calls him "a refiner of the English tongue," and
attributes to him "rare ornaments and resplendent habiliments of the pen":
the truth being that he is (as Philips so far correctly says) a singularly
plain, straightforward, and homely writer. Others say that he wrote in
"Alexandrines"--a blunder, and a serious one, which has often been repeated
up to the present day in reference to other writers of the seven-foot
verse. He brings in, according to the taste and knowledge of his time, all
the fabulous accounts of the origins of Britain, and diversifies them with
many romantic and pastoral histories, classical tales, and sometimes mere
_Fabliaux_, down to his own time. The chief of the episodes, the story of
Argentile and Curan, has often, and not undeservedly, met with high praise,
and sometimes in his declamatory parts Warner achieves a really great
success. Probably, however, what commended his poem most to the taste of
the day was its promiscuous admixture of things grave and gay--a mixture
which was always much to the taste of Elizabeth's men, and the popularity
of which produced and fostered many things, from the matchless tragi-comedy
of _Hamlet_ and _Macbeth_ to the singularly formless pamphlets of which we
shall speak hereafter. The main interest of Warner is his insensibility to
the new influences which Spenser and Sidney directed, and which are found
producing their full effect on Daniel and Drayton. There were those in his
own day who compared him to Homer: one of the most remarkable instances of
thoroughly unlucky critical extravagance to be found in literary history,
as the following very fair average specimen will show:--

    "Henry (as if by miracle preserved by foreigns long,
    From hence-meant treasons) did arrive to right his natives' wrong:
    And chiefly to Lord Stanley, and some other succours, as
    Did wish and work for better days, the rival welcome was.
    Now Richard heard that Richmond was assisted and ashore,
    And like unkennel'd Cerberus, the crookèd tyrant swore,
    And all complexions act at once confusedly in him:
    He studieth, striketh, threats, entreats, and looketh mildly grim,
    Mistrustfully he trusteth, and he dreadingly did dare,
    And forty passions in a trice, in him consort and square.
    But when, by his consented force, his foes increasèd more,
    He hastened battle, finding his co-rival apt therefore.
    When Richmond, orderly in all, had battlèd his aid,
    Inringèd by his complices, their cheerful leader said:
    'Now is the time and place (sweet friends) and we the persons be
    That must give England breath, or else unbreathe for her must we.
    No tyranny is fabled, and no tyrant was in deed
    Worse than our foe, whose works will act my words, if well he speed:
    For ill to ills superlative are easily enticed,
    But entertains amendment as the Gergesites did Christ.
    Be valiant then, he biddeth so that would not be outbid,
    For courage yet shall honour him though base, that better did.
    I am right heir Lancastrian, he, in York's destroyèd right
    Usurpeth: but through either ours, for neither claim I fight,
    But for our country's long-lack'd weal, for England's peace I war:
    Wherein He speed us! unto Whom I all events refer.'
    Meanwhile had furious Richard set his armies in array,
    And then, with looks even like himself, this or the like did say:
    'Why, lads, shall yonder Welshman with his stragglers overmatch?
    Disdain ye not such rivals, and defer ye their dispatch?
    Shall Tudor from Plantagenet, the crown by cracking snatch?
    Know Richard's very thoughts' (he touch'd the diadem he wore)
    'Be metal of this metal: then believe I love it more
    Than that for other law than life, to supersede my claim,
    And lesser must not be his plea that counterpleads the same.'
    The weapons overtook his words, and blows they bravely change,
    When, like a lion thirsting blood, did moody Richard range,
    And made large slaughters where he went, till Richmond he espied,
    Whom singling, after doubtful swords, the valorous tyrant died."

Of the sonnet compositions of Daniel and Drayton something has been said
already. But Daniel's sonnets are a small and Drayton's an infinitesimal
part of the work of the two poets respectively. Samuel Daniel was a
Somersetshire man, born near Taunton in 1562. He is said to have been the
son of a music master, but was educated at Oxford, made powerful friends,
and died an independent person at Beckington, in the county of his birth,
in the year 1619. He was introduced early to good society and patronage,
became tutor to Lady Anne Clifford, a great heiress of the North, was
favoured by the Earl of Southampton, and became a member of the Pembroke or
_Arcadia_ coterie. His friends or his merits obtained for him, it is said,
the Mastership of the Revels, the posts of Gentleman Extraordinary to James
I., and Groom of the Privy Chamber to Anne of Denmark. His literary
production besides _Delia_ was considerable. With the first authorised
edition of that collection he published _The Complaint of Rosamond_; a
historical poem of great grace and elegance though a little wanting in
strength. In 1594 came his interesting Senecan tragedy of _Cleopatra_; in
1595 the first part of his chief work, _The History of the Civil Wars_, and
in 1601 a collected folio of "Works." Then he rested, at any rate from
publication, till 1605, when he produced _Philotas_, another Senecan
tragedy in verse. In prose he wrote the admirable _Defence of Rhyme_, which
finally smashed the fancy for classical metres dear even to such a man as
Campion. _Hymen's Triumph_, a masque of great beauty, was not printed till
four years before his death. He also wrote a History of England as well as
minor works. The poetical value of Daniel may almost be summed up in two
words--sweetness and dignity. He is decidedly wanting in strength, and,
despite _Delia_, can hardly be said to have had a spark of passion. Even in
his own day it was doubted whether he had not overweighted himself with his
choice of historical subjects, though the epithet of "well-languaged,"
given to him at the time, evinces a real comprehension of one of his best
claims to attention. No writer of the period has such a command of pure
English, unadulterated by xenomania and unweakened by purism, as Daniel.
Whatever unfavourable things have been said of him from time to time have
been chiefly based on the fact that his chaste and correct style lacks the
fiery quaintness, the irregular and audacious attraction of his
contemporaries. Nor was he less a master of versification than of
vocabulary. His _Defence of Rhyme_ shows that he possessed the theory: all
his poetical works show that he was a master of the practice. He rarely
attempted and probably would not have excelled in the lighter lyrical
measures. But in the grave music of the various elaborate stanzas in which
the Elizabethan poets delighted, and of which the Spenserian, though the
crown and flower, is only the most perfect, he was a great proficient, and
his couplets and blank verse are not inferior. Some of his single lines
have already been quoted, and many more might be excerpted from his work of
the best Elizabethan brand in the quieter kind. Quiet, indeed, is the
overmastering characteristic of Daniel. It was this no doubt which made him
prefer the stately style of his Senecan tragedies, and the hardly more
disturbed structure of pastoral comedies and tragi-comedies, like the
_Queen's Arcadia_ and _Hymen's Triumph_, to the boisterous revels of the
stage proper in his time. He had something of the schoolmaster in his
nature as well as in his history. Nothing is more agreeable to him than to
moralise; not indeed in any dull or crabbed manner, but in a mellifluous
and at the same time weighty fashion, of which very few other poets have
the secret. It is perhaps by his scrupulous propriety, by his anxious
decency (to use the word not in its modern and restricted sense, but in its
proper meaning of the generally becoming), that Daniel brought upon himself
the rather hard saying that he had a manner "better suiting prose."

The sentence will scarcely be echoed by any one who has his best things
before him, however much a reader of some of the duller parts of the
historical poems proper may feel inclined to echo it. Of his sonnets one
has been given. The splendid Epistle to the Countess of Cumberland is not
surpassed as ethical poetry by anything of the period, and often as it has
been quoted, it must be given again, for it is not and never can be too
well known:--

    "He that of such a height hath built his mind,
    And reared the dwelling of his thoughts so strong,
    As neither fear nor hope can shake the frame
    Of his resolvèd powers; nor all the wind
    Of vanity or malice pierce to wrong
    His settled peace, or to disturb the same:
    What a fair seat hath he, from whence he may
    The boundless wastes and wealds of man survey!

    "And with how free an eye doth he look down
    Upon these lower regions of turmoil!
    Where all the storms of passion mainly beat
    On flesh and blood: where honour, power, renown,
    Are only gay afflictions, golden toil;
    Where greatness stands upon as feeble feet
    As frailty doth; and only great doth seem
    To little minds, who do it so esteem.

    "He looks upon the mightiest monarch's wars
    But only as on stately robberies;
    Where evermore the fortune that prevails
    Must be the right: the ill-succeeding mars
    The fairest and the best fac'd enterprise.
    Great pirate Pompey lesser pirates quails:
    Justice, he sees (as if seducèd) still
    Conspires with power, whose cause must not be ill.

    "He sees the face of right t'appear as manifold
    As are the passions of uncertain man;
    Who puts it in all colours, all attires,
    To serve his ends, and make his courses hold.
    He sees, that let deceit work what it can,
    Plot and contrive base ways to high desires,
    That the all-guiding Providence doth yet
    All disappoint, and mocks the smoke of wit.

    "Nor is he mov'd with all the thunder cracks
    Of tyrants' threats, or with the surly brow
    Of Power, that proudly sits on others' crimes;
    Charg'd with more crying sins than those he checks.
    The storms of sad confusion, that may grow
    Up in the present for the coming times
    Appal not him; that hath no side at all,
    But of himself, and knows the worst can fall.

    "Although his heart (so near allied to Earth)
    Cannot but pity the perplexèd state
    Of troublous and distress'd Mortality,
    That thus make way unto the ugly birth
    Of their own sorrows, and do still beget
    Affliction upon imbecility:
    Yet seeing thus the course of things must run,
    He looks thereon not strange, but as fore-done.

    "And whilst distraught ambition compasses,
    And is encompass'd; whilst as craft deceives,
    And is deceiv'd: whilst man doth ransack man
    And builds on blood, and rises by distress;
    And th' inheritance of desolation leaves
    To great-expecting hopes: he looks thereon,
    As from the shore of peace, with unwet eye,
    And bears no venture in impiety."

In sharp contrast with this the passage from _Hymen's Triumph_,

    "Ah, I remember well, and how can I,"

shows the sweetness without namby-pambyness which Daniel had at constant
command. Something of the same contrast may be found between the whole of
_Hymen's Triumph_ and the _Queen's Arcadia_ on the one side, and
_Cleopatra_ and _Philotas_ on the other. All are written in mixed blank and
rhymed verse, much interlaced and "enjambed." The best of the historical
poems is, by common consent, _Rosamond_, which is instinct with a most
remarkable pathos, nor are fine passages by any means to seek in the
greater length and less poetical subject of _The Civil Wars of York and
Lancaster_. The fault of this is that the too conscientious historian is
constantly versifying what must be called mere expletive matter. This must
always make any one who speaks with critical impartiality admit that much
of Daniel is hard reading; but the soft places (to use the adjective in no
ill sense) are frequent enough, and when the reader comes to them he must
have little appreciation of poetry if he does not rejoice in the foliage
and the streams of the poetical oasis which has rewarded him after his
pilgrimage across a rather arid wilderness.

Michael Drayton was much better fitted for the arduous, and perhaps not
wholly legitimate, business of historical poetry than Daniel. If his genius
was somewhat less fine, it was infinitely better thewed and sinewed. His
ability, indeed, to force any subject which he chose to treat into poetry
is amazing, and can hardly be paralleled elsewhere except in a poet who was
born but just before Drayton's death, John Dryden. He was pretty certainly
a gentleman by birth, though not of any great possessions, and is said to
have been born at Hartshill, in Warwickshire, in the year 1563. He is also
said, but not known, to have been a member of the University of Oxford, and
appears to have been fairly provided with patrons, in the family of some
one of whom he served as page, though he never received any great or
permanent preferment.[29] On the other hand, he was not a successful
dramatist (the only literary employment of the time that brought in much
money), and friend as he was of nearly all the men of letters of the time,
it is expressly stated in one of the few personal notices we have of him,
that he could not "swagger in a tavern or domineer in a hothouse" [house of
ill-fame]--that is to say, that the hail-fellow well-met Bohemianism of the
time, which had led Marlowe and many of his group to evil ends, and which
was continued in a less outrageous form under the patronage of Ben Jonson
till far into the next age, had no charms for him. Yet he must have lived
somehow and to a good age, for he did not die till the 23d December 1631.
He was buried in Westminster Abbey, a fact which drew from Goldsmith, in
_The Citizen of the World_, a gibe showing only the lamentable ignorance of
the best period of English poetry, in which Goldsmith was not indeed
alone, but in which he was perhaps pre-eminent among contemporaries eminent
for it.

[29] Drayton has been thoroughly treated by Professor Oliver Elton in
_Michael Drayton_ (London, 1905), enlarged from a monograph for the Spenser
Society.

Drayton's long life was as industrious as it was long. He began in 1591
with a volume of sacred verse, the _Harmony of the Church_, which, for some
reason not merely undiscovered but unguessed, displeased the censors, and
was never reprinted with his other works until recently. Two years later
appeared _Idea, The Shepherd's Garland_--a collection of eclogues not to be
confounded with the more famous collection of sonnets in praise of the same
real or fancied mistress which appeared later. In the first of these
Drayton called himself "Rowland," or "Roland," a fact on which some rather
rickety structures of guesswork have been built as to allusions to him in
Spenser. His next work was _Mortimeriados_, afterwards refashioned and
completed under the title of _The Barons' Wars_, and this was followed in
1597 by one of his best works, _England's Heroical Epistles_. _The Owl_,
some _Legends_, and other poems succeeded; and in 1605 he began to collect
his Works, which were frequently reprinted. The mighty poem of the
_Polyolbion_ was the fruit of his later years, and, in strictness, belongs
to the period of a later chapter; but Drayton's muse is eminently one and
indivisible, and, notwithstanding the fruits of pretty continual study
which his verses show, they belong, in the order of thought, to the middle
and later Elizabethan period rather than to the Jacobean.

Few poets of anything like Drayton's volume (of which some idea may be
formed by saying that his works, in the not quite complete form in which
they appear in Chalmers, fill five hundred of the bulky pages of that work,
each page frequently containing a hundred and twenty-eight lines) show such
uniform mixture of imagination and vigour. In the very highest and rarest
graces of poetry he is, indeed, by common consent wanting, unless one of
these graces in the uncommon kind of the war-song be allowed, as perhaps it
may be, to the famous and inimitable though often imitated _Ballad of
Agincourt_, "To the brave Cambro-Britons and their Harp," not to be
confounded with the narrative "Battle of Agincourt," which is of a less
rare merit. The Agincourt ballad,

    "Fair stood the wind for France,"

is quite at the head of its own class of verse in England--Campbell's two
masterpieces, and Lord Tennyson's still more direct imitation in the "Six
Hundred," falling, the first somewhat, and the last considerably, short of
it. The sweep of the metre, the martial glow of the sentiment, and the
skill with which the names are wrought into the verse, are altogether
beyond praise. Drayton never, unless the enigmatical sonnet to Idea (see
_ante_) be really his, rose to such concentration of matter and such
elaborate yet unforced perfection of manner as here, yet his great
qualities are perceptible all over his work. The enormous _Polyolbion_,
written in a metre the least suitable to continuous verse of any in
English--the Alexandrine--crammed with matter rebel to poetry, and obliging
the author to find his chief poetical attraction rather in superadded
ornament, in elaborately patched-on passages, than in the actual and
natural evolution of his theme, is still a very great work in another than
the mechanical sense. Here is a fairly representative passage:--

    "The haughty Cambrian hills enamoured of their praise,
    (As they who only sought ambitiously to raise
    The blood of God-like Brute) their heads do proudly bear:
    And having crown'd themselves sole regents of the air
    (Another war with Heaven as though they meant to make)
    Did seem in great disdain the bold affront to take,
    That any petty hill upon the English side,
    Should dare, not (with a crouch) to veil unto their pride.
    When Wrekin, as a hill his proper worth that knew,
    And understood from whence their insolency grew,
    For all that they appear'd so terrible in sight,
    Yet would not once forego a jot that was his right,
    And when they star'd on him, to them the like he gave,
    And answer'd glance for glance, and brave for brave:
    That, when some other hills which English dwellers were,
    The lusty Wrekin saw himself so well to bear
    Against the Cambrian part, respectless of their power;
    His eminent disgrace expecting every hour
    Those flatterers that before (with many cheerful look)
    Had grac'd his goodly sight, him utterly forsook,
    And muffled them in clouds, like mourners veiled in black,
    Which of their utmost hope attend the ruinous wrack:
    That those delicious nymphs, fair Team and Rodon clear
    (Two brooks of him belov'd, and two that held him dear;
    He, having none but them, they having none but he
    Which to their mutual joy might either's object be)
    Within their secret breast conceivèd sundry fears,
    And as they mix'd their streams, for him so mix'd their tears.
    Whom, in their coming down, when plainly he discerns,
    For them his nobler heart in his strong bosom yearns:
    But, constantly resolv'd, that dearer if they were
    The Britons should not yet all from the English bear;
    'Therefore,' quoth he, 'brave flood, tho' forth by Cambria brought,
    Yet as fair England's friend, or mine thou would'st be thought
    (O Severn) let thine ear my just defence partake.'"

Happy phrases abound, and, moreover, every now and then there are set
pieces, as they may be called, of fanciful description which are full of
beauty; for Drayton (a not very usual thing in a man of such unflagging
industry, and even excellence of work) was full of fancy. The fairy poem of
_Nymphidia_ is one of the most graceful trifles in the language, possessing
a dancing movement and a felicitous choice of imagery and language which
triumphantly avoid the trivial on the one hand, and the obviously burlesque
on the other. The singular satirical or quasi-satirical poems of _The
Mooncalf_, _The Owl_, and _The Man in the Moon_, show a faculty of comic
treatment less graceful indeed, but scarcely inferior, and the lyrics
called _Odes_ (of which the _Ballad of Agincourt_ is sometimes classed as
one) exhibit a command of lyric metre hardly inferior to the command
displayed in that masterpiece. In fact, if ever there was a poet who could
write, and write, perhaps beautifully, certainly well, about any
conceivable broomstick in almost any conceivable manner, that poet was
Drayton. His historical poems, which are inferior in bulk only to the huge
_Polyolbion_, contain a great deal of most admirable work. They consist of
three divisions--_The Barons' Wars_ in eight-lined stanzas, the _Heroic
Epistles_ (suggested, of course, by Ovid, though anything but Ovidian) in
heroic couplets, _The Miseries of Queen Margaret_ in the same stanza as
_The Barons' Wars_, and _Four Legends_ in stanzas of various form and
range. That this mass of work should possess, or should, indeed, admit of
the charms of poetry which distinguish _The Faërie Queene_ would be
impossible, even if Drayton had been Spenser, which he was far from being.
But to speak of his "dull creeping narrative," to accuse him of the
"coarsest vulgarities," of being "flat and prosaic," and so on, as was done
by eighteenth-century critics, is absolutely uncritical, unless it be very
much limited. _The Barons' Wars_ is somewhat dull, the author being too
careful to give a minute history of a not particularly interesting subject,
and neglecting to take the only possible means of making it interesting by
bringing out strongly the characters of heroes and heroines, and so
infusing a dramatic interest. But this absence of character is a constant
drawback to the historical poems of the time. And even here we find many
passages where the drawback of the stanza for narrative is most skilfully
avoided, and where the vigour of the single lines and phrases is
unquestionable on any sound estimate.

Still the stanza, though Drayton himself defends it (it should be mentioned
that his prose prefaces are excellent, and constitute another link between
him and Dryden), is something of a clog; and the same thing is felt in _The
Miseries of Queen Margaret_ and the _Legends_, where, however, it is again
not difficult to pick out beauties. The _Heroical Epistles_ can be praised
with less allowance. Their shorter compass, their more manageable metre
(for Drayton was a considerable master of the earlier form of couplet), and
the fact that a personal interest is infused in each, give them a great
advantage; and, as always, passages of great merit are not infrequent.
Finally, Drayton must have the praise (surely not quite irrelevant) of a
most ardent and lofty spirit of patriotism. Never was there a better
Englishman, and as his love of his country spirited him up to the brilliant
effort of the _Ballad of Agincourt_, so it sustained him through the
"strange herculean task" of the _Polyolbion_, and often put light and life
into the otherwise lifeless mass of the historic poems. Yet I have myself
no doubt that these historic poems were a mistake, and that their
composition, though prompted by a most creditable motive, the burning
attachment to England which won the fight with Spain, and laid the
foundation of the English empire, was not altogether, perhaps was not by
any means, according to knowledge.

The almost invariable, and I fear it must be said, almost invariably idle
controversy about priority in literary styles has been stimulated, in the
case of English satire, by a boast of Joseph Hall's made in his own
_Virgidemiarum_--

                    "Follow me who list,
    And be the _second_ English satirist."

It has been pleaded in Hall's favour that although the date of publication
of his _Satires_ is known, the date of their composition is not known. It
is not even necessary to resort to this kind of special pleading; for
nothing can be more evident than that the bravado is not very serious. On
the literal supposition, however, and if we are to suppose that publication
immediately followed composition, Hall was anticipated by more than one or
two predecessors, in the production of work not only specifically satirical
but actually called satire, and by two at least in the adoption of the
heroic couplet form which has ever since been consecrated to the subject.
Satirical poetry, of a kind, is of course nearly if not quite as old as the
language, and in the hands of Skelton it had assumed various forms. But the
satire proper--the following of the great Roman examples of Horace,
Juvenal, and Persius in general lashing of vice and folly--can hardly trace
itself further back in England than George Gascoigne's _Steel Glass_, which
preceded Hall's _Virgidemiarum_ by twenty years, and is interesting not
only for itself but as being ushered in by the earliest known verses of
Walter Raleigh. It is written in blank verse, and is a rather rambling
commentary on the text _vanitas vanitatum_, but it expressly calls itself a
satire and answers sufficiently well to the description. More immediate
and nearer examples were to be found in the Satires of Donne and Lodge. The
first named were indeed, like the other poetical works of their
marvellously gifted writer, not published till many years after; but
universal tradition ascribes the whole of Donne's profane poems to his
early youth, and one document exists which distinctly dates "John Donne,
his Satires," as early as 1593. We shall therefore deal with them, as with
the other closely connected work of their author, here and in this chapter.
But there has to be mentioned first the feebler but chronologically more
certain work of Thomas Lodge, _A Fig for Momus_, which fulfils both the
requirements of known date and of composition in couplets. It appeared in
1595, two years before Hall, and is of the latest and weakest of Lodge's
verse work. It was written or at least produced when he was just abandoning
his literary and adventurous career and settling down as a quiet physician
with no more wild oats to sow, except, perhaps, some participation in
popish conspiracy. The style did not lend itself to the display of any of
Lodge's strongest gifts--romantic fancy, tenderness and sweetness of
feeling, or elaborate embroidery of precious language. He follows Horace
pretty closely and with no particular vigour. Nor does the book appear to
have attracted much attention, so that it is just possible that Hall may
not have heard of it. If, however, he had not, it is certainly a curious
coincidence that he, with Donne and Lodge, should all have hit on the
couplet as their form, obvious as its advantages are when it is once tried.
For the rhyme points the satirical hits, while the comparatively brief
space of each distich prevents that air of wandering which naturally
accompanies satire in longer stanzas. At any rate after the work (in so
many ways remarkable) of Donne, Hall, and Marston, there could hardly be
any more doubt about the matter, though part of the method which these
writers, especially Donne and Marston, took to give individuality and
"bite" to their work was as faulty as it now seems to us peculiar.

Ben Jonson, the least gushing of critics to his contemporaries, said of
John Donne that he was "the first poet of the world in some things," and I
own that without going through the long catalogue of singularly
contradictory criticisms which have been passed on Donne, I feel disposed
to fall back on and adopt this earliest, simplest, and highest encomium.
Possibly Ben might not have meant the same things that I mean, but that
does not matter. It is sufficient for me that in one special point of the
poetic charm--the faculty of suddenly transfiguring common things by a
flood of light, and opening up strange visions to the capable
imagination--Donne is surpassed by no poet of any language, and equalled by
few. That he has obvious and great defects, that he is wholly and in all
probability deliberately careless of formal smoothness, that he adopted the
fancy of his time for quaint and recondite expression with an almost
perverse vigour, and set the example of the topsy-turvified conceits which
came to a climax in Crashaw and Cleveland, that he is almost impudently
licentious in thought and imagery at times, that he alternates the highest
poetry with the lowest doggerel, the noblest thought with the most trivial
crotchet--all this is true, and all this must be allowed for; but it only
chequers, it does not obliterate, the record of his poetic gifts and
graces. He is, moreover, one of the most historically important of poets,
although by a strange chance there is no known edition of his poems earlier
than 1633, some partial and privately printed issues having disappeared
wholly if they ever existed. His influence was second to the influence of
no poet of his generation, and completely overshadowed all others, towards
his own latter days and the decades immediately following his death, except
that of Jonson. Thomas Carew's famous description of him as

    "A king who ruled as he thought fit
    The universal monarchy of wit,"

expresses the general opinion of the time; and even after the revolt headed
by Waller had dethroned him from the position, Dryden, his successor in the
same monarchy, while declining to allow him the praise of "the best poet"
(that is, the most exact follower of the rules and system of versifying
which Dryden himself preferred), allowed him to be "the greatest wit of the
nation."

His life concerns us little, and its events are not disputed, or rather, in
the earlier part, are still rather obscure. Born in 1573, educated at both
universities and at Lincoln's Inn, a traveller, a man of pleasure, a
law-student, a soldier, and probably for a time a member of the Roman
Church, he seems just before reaching middle life to have experienced some
religious change, took orders, became a famous preacher, was made Dean of
St. Paul's, and died in 1631.

It has been said that tradition and probability point to the composition of
most, and that all but certain documentary evidence points to the
composition of some, of his poems in the earlier part of his life. Unless
the date of the Harleian MS. is a forgery, some of his satires were written
in or before 1593, when he was but twenty years old. The boiling passion,
without a thought of satiety, which marks many of his elegies would also
incline us to assign them to youth, and though some of his epistles, and
many of his miscellaneous poems, are penetrated with a quieter and more
reflective spirit, the richness of fancy in them, as well as the amatory
character of many, perhaps the majority, favour a similar attribution. All
alike display Donne's peculiar poetical quality--the fiery imagination
shining in dark places, the magical illumination of obscure and shadowy
thoughts with the lightning of fancy. In one remarkable respect Donne has a
peculiar cast of thought as well as of manner, displaying that mixture of
voluptuous and melancholy meditation, that swift transition of thought from
the marriage sheet to the shroud, which is characteristic of French
Renaissance poets, but less fully, until he set the example, of English.
The best known and most exquisite of his fanciful flights, the idea of the
discovery of

    "A bracelet of bright hair about the bone"

of his own long interred skeleton: the wish--

    "I long to talk with some old lover's ghost
    Who died before the god of love was born,"

and others, show this peculiarity. And it recurs in the most unexpected
places, as, for the matter of that, does his strong satirical faculty. In
some of his poems, as the _Anatomy of the World_, occasioned by the death
of Mrs. Elizabeth Drury, this melancholy imagery mixed with touches (only
touches here) of the passion which had distinguished the author earlier
(for the _Anatomy_ is not an early work), and with religious and
philosophical meditation, makes the strangest amalgam--shot through,
however, as always, with the golden veins of Donne's incomparable poetry.
Expressions so strong as this last may seem in want of justification. And
the three following pieces, the "Dream," a fragment of satire, and an
extract from the _Anatomy_, may or may not, according to taste, supply
it:--

    "Dear love, for nothing less than thee
    Would I have broke this happy dream.
          It was a theme
    For reason, much too strong for fantasy:
    Therefore thou wak'dst me wisely; yet
    My dream thou brok'st not, but continued'st it:
    Thou art so true, that thoughts of thee suffice
    To make dreams true, and fables histories;
    Enter these arms, for since thou thought'st it best
    Not to dream all my dream, let's act the rest.

    "As lightning or a taper's light
    Thine eyes, and not thy noise, wak'd me;
          Yet I thought thee
    (For thou lov'st truth) an angel at first sight,
    But when I saw thou saw'st my heart
    And knew'st my thoughts beyond an angel's art,
    When thou knew'st what I dreamt, then thou knew'st when
    Excess of joy would wake me, and cam'st then;
    _I must confess, it could not choose but be_
    _Profane to think thee anything but thee._

    "Coming and staying show'd thee thee,
    But rising makes me doubt that now
          Thou art not thou.
    That love is weak where fears are strong as he;
    'Tis not all spirit, pure and brave,
    If mixture it of fear, shame, honour, have.
    Perchance as torches which must ready be
    Men light, and put out, so thou deal'st with me.
    Thou cam'st to kindle, goest to come: then I
    Will dream that hope again, or else would die."

       *       *       *       *       *

    "O age of rusty iron! some better wit
    Call it some worse name, if ought equal it.
    Th' iron age was, when justice was sold: now
    Injustice is sold dearer far; allow
    All claim'd fees and duties, gamesters, anon
    The money, which you sweat and swear for's gone
    Into other hands; so controverted lands
    'Scape, like Angelica, the striver's hands.
    If law be in the judge's heart, and he
    Have no heart to resist letter or fee,
    Where wilt thou appeal? power of the courts below
    Flows from the first main head, and these can throw
    Thee, if they suck thee in, to misery,
    To fetters, halters. But if th' injury
    Steel thee to dare complain, alas! thou go'st
    Against the stream upwards when thou art most
    Heavy and most faint; and in these labours they
    'Gainst whom thou should'st complain will in thy way
    Become great seas, o'er which when thou shalt be
    Forc'd to make golden bridges, thou shalt see
    That all thy gold was drowned in them before."

       *       *       *       *       *

    "She, whose fair body no such prison was
    But that a soul might well be pleased to pass
    An age in her; she, whose rich beauty lent
    Mintage to other beauties, for they went
    But for so much as they were like to her;
    She, in whose body (if we dare prefer
    This low world to so high a mark as she),
    The western treasure, eastern spicery,
    Europe and Afric, and the unknown rest
    Were easily found, or what in them was best;
    And when we've made this large discovery
    Of all, in her some one part then will be
    Twenty such parts, whose plenty and riches is
    Enough to make twenty such worlds as this;
    She, whom had they known, who did first betroth
    The tutelar angels and assigned one both
    To nations, cities, and to companies,
    To functions, offices, and dignities,
    And to each several man, to him and him,
    They would have giv'n her one for every limb;
    She, of whose soul if we may say 'twas gold,
    Her body was th' electrum and did hold
    Many degrees of that; we understood
    Her by her sight; _her pure and eloquent blood_
    _Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought_
    _That one might almost say, her body thought_;
    She, she thus richly and largely hous'd is gone
    And chides us, slow-paced snails who crawl upon
    Our prison's prison earth, nor think us well
    Longer than whilst we bear our brittle shell."

But no short extracts will show Donne, and there is no room for a full
anthology. He must be read, and by every catholic student of English
literature should be regarded with a respect only "this side idolatry,"
though the respect need not carry with it blindness to his undoubtedly
glaring faults.

Those faults are not least seen in his Satires, though neither the
unbridled voluptuousness which makes his Elegies shocking to modern
propriety, nor the far-off conceit which appears in his meditative and
miscellaneous poems, is very strongly or specially represented here. Nor,
naturally enough, is the extreme beauty of thought and allusion distinctly
noteworthy in a class of verse which does not easily admit it. On the other
hand, the force and originality of Donne's intellect are nowhere better
shown. It is a constant fault of modern satirists that in their just
admiration for Horace and Juvenal they merely paraphrase them, and, instead
of going to the fountainhead and taking their matter from human nature,
merely give us fresh studies of _Ibam forte via sacra_ or the Tenth of
Juvenal, adjusted to the meridians of Paris or London. Although Donne is
not quite free from this fault, he is much freer than either of his
contemporaries, Regnier or Hall. And the rough vigour of his sketches and
single lines is admirable. Yet it is as rough as it is vigorous; and the
breakneck versification and contorted phrase of his satires, softened a
little in Hall, roughened again and to a much greater degree in Marston,
and reaching, as far as phrase goes, a rare extreme in the _Transformed
Metamorphosis_ of Cyril Tourneur, have been the subject of a great deal of
discussion. It is now agreed by all the best authorities that it would be a
mistake to consider this roughness unintentional or merely clumsy, and that
it sprung, at any rate in great degree, from an idea that the ancients
intended the _Satura_ to be written in somewhat unpolished verse, as well
as from a following of the style of Persius, the most deliberately obscure
of all Latin if not of all classical poets. In language Donne is not (as
far as his Satires are concerned) a very great sinner; but his
versification, whether by his own intention or not, leaves much to desire.
At one moment the ten syllables are only to be made out by a Chaucerian
lengthening of the mute _e_; at another the writer seems to be emulating
Wyatt in altering the accent of syllables, and coolly making the final
iambus of a line out of such a word as "answer." It is no wonder that poets
of the "correct" age thought him in need of rewriting; though even they
could not mistake the force of observation and expression which
characterises his Satires, and which very frequently reappears even in his
dreamiest metaphysics, his most recondite love fancies, and his warmest and
most passionate hymns to Aphrodite Pandemos.

These artificial characteristics are supplemented in the Elizabethan
satirists, other than Donne, by yet a third, which makes them, I confess,
to me rather tedious reading, independently of their shambling metre, and
their sometimes almost unconstruable syntax. This is the absurd affectation
of extreme moral wrath against the corruptions of their time in which they
all indulge. Marston, who is nearly the foulest, if not quite the foulest
writer of any English classic, gives himself the airs of the most
sensitive puritan; Hall, with a little less of this contrast, sins
considerably in the same way, and adds to his delinquencies a most petulant
and idle attempt to satirise from the purely literary point of view writers
who are a whole head and shoulders above himself. And these two, followed
by their imitator, Guilpin, assail each other in a fashion which argues
either a very absurd sincerity of literary jealousy, or a very ignoble
simulation of it, for the purpose of getting up interest on the part of the
public. Nevertheless, both Marston and Hall are very interesting figures in
English literature, and their satirical performances cannot be passed over
in any account of it.

Joseph Hall was born near Ashby de la Zouch, of parents in the lower yeoman
rank of life, had his education at the famous Puritan College of Emanuel at
Cambridge, became a Fellow thereof, proceeded through the living of
Hawstead and a canonry at Wolverhampton to the sees of Exeter and Norwich,
of the latter of which he was violently deprived by the Parliament, and,
not surviving long enough to see the Restoration, died (1656) in a suburb
of his cathedral city. His later life was important for religious
literature and ecclesiastical politics, in his dealings with the latter of
which he came into conflict, not altogether fortunately for the younger and
greater man of letters, with John Milton. His Satires belong to his early
Cambridge days, and to the last decade of the sixteenth century. They have
on the whole been rather overpraised, though the variety of their matter
and the abundance of reference to interesting social traits of the time to
some extent redeem them. The worst point about them, as already noted, is
the stale and commonplace impertinence with which their author, unlike the
best breed of young poets and men of letters, attempts to satirise his
literary betters; while they are to some extent at any rate tarred with the
other two brushes of corrupt imitation of the ancients, and of sham moral
indignation. Indeed the want of sincerity--the evidence of the literary
exercise--injures Hall's satirical work in different ways throughout. We do
not, as we read him, in the least believe in his attitude of Hebrew
prophet crossed with Roman satirist, and the occasional presence of a
vigorous couplet or a lively metaphor hardly redeems this disbelief.
Nevertheless, Hall is here as always a literary artist--a writer who took
some trouble with his writings; and as some of his satires are short, a
whole one may be given:--

    "A gentle squire would gladly entertain
    Into his house some trencher-chaplain;[30]
    Some willing man that might instruct his sons
    And that would stand to good conditions.
    First, that he lie upon the truckle bed,
    Whiles his young master lieth o'er his head.
    Second, that he do, on no default,[31]
    Ever presume to sit above the salt.
    Third, that he never change his trencher twice.
    Fourth, that he use all common courtesies;
    Sit bare at meals, and one half rise and wait.
    Last, that he never his young master beat,
    But he must ask his mother to define,
    How many jerks she would his breech should line.
    All these observ'd he could contented be
    To give five marks and winter livery."

[30] "Chaplain"--trisyllable like "capellan."

[31] Missing syllable.

John Marston, who out-Halled Hall in all his literary misdeeds, was, it
would appear, a member of a good Shropshire family which had passed into
Warwickshire. He was educated at Coventry School, and at Brasenose College,
Oxford, and passed early into London literary society, where he involved
himself in the inextricable and not-much-worth-extricating quarrels which
have left their mark in Jonson's and Dekker's dramas. In the first decade
of the seventeenth century he wrote several remarkable plays, of much
greater literary merit than the work now to be criticised. Then he took
orders, was presented to the living of Christchurch, and, like others of
his time, seems to have forsworn literature as an unholy thing. He died in
1634. Here we are concerned only with two youthful works of
his--_Pigmalion's Image_ and some Satires in 1598, followed in the same
year by a sequel, entitled _The Scourge of Villainy_. In these works he
called himself "W. Kinsayder," a pen-name for which various explanations
have been given. It is characteristic and rather comical that, while both
the earlier Satires and _The Scourge_ denounce lewd verse most
fullmouthedly, _Pigmalion's Image_ is a poem in the _Venus and Adonis_
style which is certainly not inferior to its fellows in luscious
descriptions. It was, in fact, with the _Satires_ and much similar work,
formally condemned and burnt in 1599. Both in Hall and in Marston
industrious commentators have striven hard to identify the personages of
the satire with famous living writers, and there may be a chance that some
at least of their identifications (as of Marston's Tubrio with Marlowe) are
correct. But the exaggeration and insincerity, the deliberate
"society-journalism" (to adopt a detestable phrase for a corresponding
thing of our own days), which characterise all this class of writing make
the identifications of but little interest. In every age there are writers
who delight in representing that age as the very worst of the history of
the world, and in ransacking literature and imagination for accusations
against their fellows. The sedate philosopher partly brings and partly
draws the conviction that one time is very like another. Marston, however,
has fooled himself and his readers to the very top of his and their bent;
and even Churchill, restrained by a more critical atmosphere, has not come
quite near his confused and only half-intelligible jumble of indictments
for indecent practices and crude philosophy of the moral and metaphysical
kind. A vigorous line or phrase occasionally redeems the chaos of rant,
fustian, indecency, ill-nature, and muddled thought.

    "Ambitious Gorgons, wide-mouth'd Lamians,
    Shape-changing Proteans, damn'd Briarians,
    Is Minos dead, is Radamanth asleep,
    That ye thus dare unto Jove's palace creep?
    What, hath Ramnusia spent her knotted whip,
    That ye dare strive on Hebe's cup to sip?
    Ye know Apollo's quiver is not spent,
    But can abate your daring hardiment.
    Python is slain, yet his accursed race
    Dare look divine Astrea in the face;
    Chaos return and with confusion
    Involve the world with strange disunion;
    For Pluto sits in that adorèd chair
    Which doth belong unto Minerva's heir.
    O hecatombs! O catastrophe!
    From Midas' pomp to Trus' beggary!
    Prometheus, who celestial fire
    Did steal from heaven, therewith to inspire
    Our earthly bodies with a sense-ful mind,
    Whereby we might the depth of nature find,
    Is ding'd to hell, and vulture eats his heart
    Which did such deep philosophy impart
    To mortal men."

The contrast of this so-called satire, and the really satiric touches of
Marston's own plays, when he was not cramped by the affectations of the
style, is very curious.

Edward Gilpin or Guilpin, author of the rare book _Skialetheia_, published
between the dates of Hall and Marston, is, if not a proved plagiarist from
either, at any rate an obvious follower in the same track. There is the
same exaggeration, the same petulant ill-nature, the same obscurity of
phrase and ungainliness of verse, and the same general insincerity. But the
fine flower of the whole school is perhaps to be found in the miraculous
_Transformed Metamorphosis_, attributed to the powerful but extravagant
dramatist, Cyril Tourneur, who wrote this kind of thing:--

    "From out the lake a bridge ascends thereto,
      Whereon in female shape a serpent stands.
    Who eyes her eye, or views her blue-vein'd brow,
      With sense-bereaving glozes she enchants,
      And when she sees a worldling blind that haunts
    The pleasure that doth seem there to be found,
    She soothes with Leucrocutanized sound.

    "Thence leads an entry to a shining hall
      Bedecked with flowers of the fairest hue;
    The Thrush, the Lark, and night's-joy Nightingale
      There minulize their pleasing lays anew,
      This welcome to the bitter bed of rue;
    This little room will scarce two wights contain
    T' enjoy their joy, and there in pleasure reign.

    "But next thereto adjoins a spacious room,
      More fairly fair adorned than the other:
    (O woe to him at sin-awhaping doom,
      That to these shadows hath his mind given over)
      For (O) he never shall his soul recover:
    If this sweet sin still feeds him with her smack
    And his repentant hand him hales not back."[32]

[32] Mr. Churton Collins is "tolerably confident," and perhaps he might
have been quite certain, that Leucrocutanized refers to one of the Fauna of
fancy,--a monster that spoke like a man. "Minulise," from minurizô, "I
sing." "To awhape" = "to confound."

We could hardly end with anything farther removed from the clear philosophy
and the serene loveliness of _The Faërie Queene_.



CHAPTER V

THE SECOND DRAMATIC PERIOD--SHAKESPERE


The difficulty of writing about Shakespere is twofold; and though it is a
difficulty which, in both its aspects, presents itself when other great
writers are concerned, there is no other case in which it besets the critic
to quite the same extent. Almost everything that is worth saying has been
already said, more or less happily. A vast amount has been said which is
not in the least worth saying, which is for the most part demonstrably
foolish or wrong. As Shakespere is by far the greatest of all writers,
ancient or modern, so he has been the subject of commentatorial folly to an
extent which dwarfs the expense of that folly on any other single subject.
It is impossible to notice the results of this folly except at great
length; it is doubtful whether they are worth noticing at all; yet there is
always the danger either that some mischievous notions may be left
undisturbed by the neglect to notice them, or that the critic himself may
be presumed to be ignorant of the foolishness of his predecessors. These
inconveniences, however, must here be risked, and it may perhaps be thought
that the necessity of risking them is a salutary one. In no other case is
it so desirable that an author should be approached by students with the
minimum of apparatus.

The scanty facts and the abundant fancies as to Shakespere's life are a
commonplace of literature. He was baptized on the 26th of April 1564 at
Stratford-on-Avon, and must have been born either on the same day, or on
one of those immediately preceding. His father was John Shakespere, his
mother Mary Arden, both belonging to the lower middle class and connected,
personally and by their relations, with yeomanry and small landed gentry on
the one side, and with well-to-do tradesmen on the other. Nothing is known
of his youth and little of his education; but it was a constant tradition
of men of his own and the immediately succeeding generation that he had
little school learning. Before he was nineteen he was married, at the end
of November 1582, to Anne Hathaway, who was seven years his senior. Their
first child, Susannah, was baptized six months later. He is said to have
left Stratford for London in 1585, or thereabouts, and to have connected
himself at once with the theatre, first in humble and then in more
important positions. But all this is mist and myth. He is transparently
referred to by Robert Greene in the summer or autumn of 1592, and the terms
of the reference prove his prosperity. The same passage brought out a
complimentary reference to Shakespere's intellectual and moral character
from Chettle, Greene's editor. He published _Venus and Adonis_ in 1593, and
_Lucrece_ next year. His plays now began to appear rapidly, and brought him
money enough to buy, in 1597, the house of New Place at Stratford, and to
establish himself there after, it is supposed, twelve years' almost
complete absence from his birthplace and his family. Documentary references
to his business matters now become not infrequent, but, except as showing
that he was alive and prosperous, they are quite uninteresting. The same
may be said of the marriages and deaths of his children. In 1609 appeared
the _Sonnets_, some of which had previously been printed in unauthorised
and piratical publications. He died on the 23d of April (supposed generally
to be his birthday) 1616, and was buried at Stratford. His plays had been
only surreptitiously printed, the retention of a play in manuscript being
of great importance to the actors, and the famous first folio did not
appear till seven years after his death.

The canon of Shakespere's plays, like everything else connected with him,
has been the subject of endless discussion. There is no reasonable doubt
that in his earlier days (the first printed play among those ordinarily
assigned to him, _Romeo and Juliet_, dates from 1597) he had taken part in
dramatic work which is now mostly anonymous or assigned to other men, and
there is also no doubt that there may be passages in the accepted plays
which he owed to others. But my own deliberate judgment is that no
important and highly probable ascription of extant work to Shakespere can
be made outside the canon as usually printed, with the doubtful exception
of _The Two Noble Kinsmen_; and I do not believe that in the plays usually
accepted, any very important or characteristic portion is not Shakespere's.
As for Shakespere-Bacon theories, and that kind of folly, they are scarcely
worthy even of mention. Nor among the numerous other controversies and
errors on the subject shall I meddle with more than one--the constantly
repeated assertion that England long misunderstood or neglected Shakespere,
and that foreign aid, chiefly German (though some include Voltaire!), was
required to make her discover him. A very short way is possible with this
absurdity. It would be difficult to name any men more representative of
cultivated literary opinion and accomplishment in the six generations
(taking a generation at the third of a century) which passed between
Shakespere's death and the battle of Waterloo (since when English
admiration of Shakespere will hardly be denied), than Ben Jonson, John
Milton, John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, and Samuel Taylor
Coleridge. Their lives overlapped each other considerably, so that no
period is left uncovered. They were all typical men of letters, each of his
own time, and four at least of them were literary dictators. Now, Ben
Jonson's estimate of Shakespere in prose and verse is on record in more
places than one, and is as authentic as the silly stories of his envy are
mythical. If Milton, to his eternal disgrace, flung, for party purposes,
the study of Shakespere as a reproach in his dead king's face, he had
himself long before put on record his admiration for him, and his own
study is patent to every critical reader of his works. Dryden, but a year
or two after the death of Shakespere's daughter, drew up that famous and
memorable eulogy which ought to be familiar to all, and which, long before
any German had spoken of Shakespere, and thirty years before Voltaire had
come into the world, exactly and precisely based the structure of
Shakespere-worship. Pope edited Shakespere. Johnson edited him. Coleridge
is acknowledged as, with his contemporaries Lamb and Hazlitt, the founder
of modern appreciation. It must be a curious reckoning which, in face of
such a catena as this, stretching its links over the whole period,
maintains that England wanted Germans to teach her how to admire the writer
whom Germans have done more to mystify and distort than even his own
countrymen.

The work of Shakespere falls into three divisions very unequal in bulk.
There is first (speaking both in the order of time and in that of thought,
though not in that of literary importance and interest) the small division
of poems, excluding the _Sonnets_, but including _Venus and Adonis_, _The
Rape of Lucrece_, and the few and uncertain but exquisite scraps, the
_Lover's Complaint_, _The Passionate Pilgrim_, and so forth. All these are
likely to have been the work of early youth, and they are much more like
the work of other men than any other part of Shakespere's work, differing
chiefly in the superior sweetness of those wood-notes wild, which Milton
justly, if not altogether adequately, attributed to the poet, and in the
occasional appearance of the still more peculiar and unique touches of
sympathy with and knowledge of universal nature which supply the main
Shakesperian note. The _Venus_ and the _Lucrece_ form part of a large
collection (see last chapter) of extremely luscious, not to say voluptuous,
poetry which the imitation of Italian models introduced into England, which
has its most perfect examples in the earlier of these two poems, in
numerous passages of Spenser, and in the _Hero and Leander_ of Marlowe, but
which was written, as will have been seen from what has been already said,
with extraordinary sweetness and abundance, by a vast number of
Elizabethan writers. There are extant mere _adespota_, and mere "minor
poems" (such as the pretty "Britain's Ida," which used to be printed as
Spenser's, and which some critics have rather rashly given to Phineas
Fletcher), good enough to have made reputation, if not fortune, at other
times. There is no reason to attribute to Shakespere on the one hand, any
deliberate intention of executing a _tour de force_ in the composition of
these poems or, in his relinquishment of the style, any deliberate
rejection of the kind as unworthy of his powers on the other. He appears to
have been eminently one of those persons who care neither to be in nor out
of the fashion, but follow it as far as suits and amuses them. Yet,
beautiful as these poems are, they so manifestly do not present their
author at the full of his powers, or even preluding in the kind wherein the
best of those powers were to be shown, that they require comparatively
little critical notice. As things delightful to read they can hardly be
placed too high, especially the _Venus_; as evidences of the poet's
many-sided nature, they are interesting. But they are in somewhat other
than the usual sense quite "simple, sensuous, and passionate." The
misplaced ingenuity which, neglecting the _unum necessarium_, will busy
itself about all sorts of unnecessary things, has accordingly been rather
hard put to it with them, and to find any pasture at all has had to browse
on questions of dialect, and date, and personal allusion, even more jejune
and even more unsubstantial than usual.

It is quite otherwise with the _Sonnets_. In the first place nowhere in
Shakespere's work is it more necessary to brush away the cobwebs of the
commentators. This side of madness, no vainer fancies have ever entered the
mind of man than those which have been inspired by the immaterial part of
the matter. The very initials of the dedicatee "W. H." have had volumes
written about them; the _Sonnets_ themselves have been twisted and
classified in every conceivable shape; the persons to whom they are
addressed, or to whom they refer, have been identified with half the
gentlemen and ladies of Elizabeth's court, and half the men of letters of
the time; and every extremity and eccentricity of non-natural
interpretation has been applied to them. When they are freed from this
torture and studied rationally, there is nothing mysterious about them
except the mystery of their poetical beauty. Some of them are evidently
addressed in the rather hyperbolical language of affection, common at the
time, and derived from the study of Greek and Italian writers, to a man;
others, in language not hyperbolical at all, to a woman. Disdain, rivalry,
suspense, short-lived joy, long sorrow, all the symptoms and concomitants
of the passion of love--which are only commonplaces as death and life are
commonplace--form their motives. For my part I am unable to find the
slightest interest or the most rudimentary importance in the questions
whether the Mr. W. H. of the dedication was the Earl of Pembroke, and if
so, whether he was also the object of the majority of the _Sonnets_;
whether the "dark lady," the "woman coloured ill," was Miss Mary Fitton;
whether the rival poet was Chapman. Very likely all these things are true:
very likely not one of them is true. They are impossible of settlement, and
if they were settled they would not in the slightest degree affect the
poetical beauty and the human interest of the _Sonnets_, which, in a
strange _reductio ad absurdum_ of eighteenth century commonsense criticism,
Hallam thought it impossible not to wish that Shakespere had not written,
and which some critics, not perhaps of the least qualified, have regarded
as the high-water mark of English, if not of all, poetry.

This latter estimate will only be dismissed as exaggerated by those who are
debarred from appreciation by want of sympathy with the subject, or
distracted by want of comprehension of it. A harmony of the two chief
opposing theories of poetry will teach us that we must demand of the very
highest poetry first--the order is not material--a certain quality of
expression, and secondly, a certain quality of subject. "What that quality
of subject must be has been, as it seems to me, crudely and wrongly stated,
but rightly indicated, in Mr. Matthew Arnold's formula of the "Criticism
of Life." That is to say, in less debatable words, the greatest poet must
show most knowledge of human nature. Now both these conditions are
fulfilled in the sonnets of Shakespere with a completeness and intensity
impossible to parallel elsewhere. The merits of the formal and expressive
part hardly any one will now question; the sonnets may be opened almost at
random with the certainty of finding everywhere the phrases, the verses,
the passages which almost mechanically recur to our minds when we are asked
to illustrate the full poetical capacity and beauty of the English tongue,
such as:

    "The painful warrior, famousèd for fight,
    After a thousand victories once foiled,
    Is from the book of honour razed quite
    And all the rest forgot for which he toiled;"

or

    "When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
    I summon up remembrance of things past;"

or

    "Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
    Bound for the prize of all too precious you?"

or

    "Then hate me if thou wilt,"

with the whole sonnet which it opens; or

    "When in the chronicle of a wasted time
    I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
    And beauty making beautiful old rhyme
    In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights;"

or that most magnificent quatrain of all,

    "Let me not to the marriage of true minds
    Admit impediments. Love is not love
    Which alters when it alteration finds,
    Or bends with the remover to remove."

Any competent judge of the formal part of poetry must admit that its force
can no farther go. Verse and phrase cannot be better moulded to the
melodious suggestion of beauty. Nor, as even these scraps show, is the
thought below the verse. Even if Hallam's postulate of misplaced and
ill-regulated passion be granted (and I am myself very far from granting
it), the extraordinary wealth of thought, of knowledge, of nature, of
self-knowledge, of clear vision of others in the very midst of the
circumstances which might make for unclear vision, is still unmistakable.
And if the poet's object was to catch up the sum of love and utter it with
or even without any special relation to his own actual feelings for any
actual person (a hypothesis which human nature in general, and the nature
of poets in particular, makes not improbable), then it can only be said
that he has succeeded. From Sappho and Solomon to Shelley and Mr.
Swinburne, many bards have spoken excellently of love: but what they have
said could be cut out of Shakespere's sonnets better said than they have
said it, and yet enough remain to furnish forth the greatest of poets.

With the third and in every sense chief division of the work, the
necessities for explanation and allowance cease altogether. The
thirty-seven plays of the ordinary Shakesperian canon comprise the
greatest, the most varied, the most perfect work yet done by any man in
literature; and what is more, the work of which they consist is on the
whole the most homogeneous and the least unequal ever so done. The latter
statement is likely to be more questioned than the former; but I have no
fear of failing to make it out. In one sense, no doubt, Shakespere is
unequal--as life is. He is not always at the tragic heights of Othello and
Hamlet, at the comic raptures of Falstaff and Sir Toby, at the romantic
ecstasies of Romeo and Titania. Neither is life. But he is always--and this
is the extraordinary and almost inexplicable difference, not merely between
him and all his contemporaries, but between him and all other writers--at
the height of the particular situation. This unique quality is uniquely
illustrated in his plays. The exact order of their composition is entirely
unknown, and the attempts which have been made to arrange it into periods,
much more to rank play after play in regular sequence, are obvious
failures, and are discredited not merely by the inadequate means--such as
counting syllables and attempting to classify the cadence of
lines--resorted to in order to effect them, but by the hopeless discrepancy
between the results of different investigators and of the same investigator
at different times. We know indeed pretty certainly that _Romeo and Juliet_
was an early play, and _Cymbeline_ a late one, with other general facts of
the same kind. We know pretty certainly that the _Henry the Sixth_ series
was based on a previous series on the same subject in which Shakespere not
improbably had a hand; that _King John_ and _The Taming of the Shrew_ had
in the same way first draughts from the same or other hands, and so forth.
But all attempts to arrange and elucidate a chronological development of
Shakespere's mind and art have been futile. Practically the Shakesperian
gifts are to be found _passim_ in the Shakesperian canon--even in the
dullest of all the plays, as a whole, _The Two Gentlemen of Verona_, even
in work so alien from his general practice, and so probably mixed with
other men's work, as _Titus Andronicus_ and _Pericles_. There are rarely
elsewhere--in _The Maid's Tragedy_ of Fletcher, in _The Duchess of Malfi_
of Webster, in _The Changeling_ of Middleton--passages or even scenes which
might conceivably have been Shakespere's. But there is, with the doubtful
exception of _The Two Noble Kinsmen_, no play in any other man's work which
as a whole or in very great part is Shakesperian, and there is no play
usually recognised as Shakespere's which would not seem out of place and
startling in the work of any contemporary.

This intense, or rather (for intense is not the right word) this
extraordinarily diffused character, is often supposed to be a mere fancy of
Shakespere-worshippers. It is not so. There is something, not so much in
the individual flashes of poetry, though it is there too, as in the entire
scope and management of Shakespere's plays, histories, tragedies, and
comedies alike, which distinguishes them, and it is exactly the
characteristic noted above, and well put by Dryden in his famous
definition of Shakespere. Perhaps the first branch or phase of this
distinction is that Shakespere is never, in the vulgar sense of the word,
unnatural. He has not the slightest objection to horrors; the alarmed
foreign critics who described his theatre as a "shambles" need not have
gone farther than his greatest plays to justify themselves literally. But
with barely even the exception which has so often to be made of _Titus
Andronicus_, his horrors are never sought beyond a certain usual and
probable round of circumstance, and are almost always tempered and
humanised by touches of humour or pathos, or both. The cool sarcastic
villany of Aaron (a mood hit off nowhere out of Shakespere, except in
Middleton's De Flores, and not fully there) is the point on which I should
chiefly put the finger to justify at least a partial Shakesperian
authorship. Contrast the character with the nightmare ghastlinesses and
extravagances not merely of Tourneur and Webster, but even of Marlowe in
Barabas, and the difference of Shakespere's handling will be felt at once.
Another point which has been often, yet perhaps not quite fully, noticed is
the distinct and peculiar attitude of Shakespere towards what is in the
common sense called morality. Nobody can possibly call him squeamish: I do
not know that even any French naturalist of the latest school has charged
the author of _Pericles_, and _Love's Labour Lost_, and _Henry IV._, with
that _pruderie bête_ of which they accuse Scott. But he never makes those
forms of vice which most trouble and corrupt society triumphant; he never
diverges into the morbid pathology of the amatory passion, and above all,
and most remarkably of all, though I think least remarked, he never makes
his personages show the singular toleration of the most despicable
immorality which almost all his dramatic contemporaries exhibit. One is
constantly astonished at the end of an Elizabethan play, when, after vice
has been duly baffled or punished, and virtue rewarded (for they all more
or less follow that rule), reconciliations and forgivenesses of injuries
follow, to observe the complacency with which husbands who have sold their
wives' favours, wives who have been at the command of the first comer or
the highest bidder, mix cheek by jowl, and apparently unrebuked, with the
modest maidens, the virtuous matrons, the faithful lovers of the piece.
Shakespere never does this. Mrs. Quickly is indeed at one time the
confidante of Anne Fenton, and at another the complaisant hostess of Doll
Tear-sheet, but not in the same play. We do not find Marina's master and
mistress rewarded, as they would very likely have been by Fletcher or
Middleton, with comfortable if not prominent posts at the court of
Pericles, or the Government-house of Mytilene. The ugly and artistically
unmanageable situation of the husband who trades in his wife's honour
simply does not occur in all the wide license and variety of Shakespere's
forty plays. He is in his own sense liberal as the most easy going can
demand, but he never mixes vice and virtue. Yet again, while practising
this singular moderation in the main element, in the most fertile motives,
of tragedy and comedy respectively, he is equally alone in his use in both
of the element of humour. And here we are on dangerous ground. To many
excellent persons of all times since his own, as well as in it,
Shakespere's humour and his use of it have been stumbling-blocks. Some of
them have been less able to away with the use, some with the thing.
Shakesperian clowns are believed to be red rags to some experienced
playwrights and accomplished wits of our own days: the porter in _Macbeth_,
the gravediggers in _Hamlet_, the fool in _Lear_, even the humours in
_Love's Labour Lost_ and _The Merchant of Venice_ have offended. I avow
myself an impenitent Shakesperian in this respect also. The constant or
almost constant presence of that humour which ranges from the sarcastic
quintessence of Iago, and the genial quintessence of Falstaff, through the
fantasies of Feste and Edgar, down to the sheer nonsense which not
unfrequently occurs, seems to me not only delightful in itself, but, as I
have hinted already, one of the chief of those spells by which Shakespere
has differentiated his work in the sense of universality from that of all
other dramatists. I have used the word nonsense, and I may be thought to
have partly given up my case by it. But nonsense, as hardly any critic but
Hazlitt has had the courage to avow openly, is no small part of life, and
it is a part the relish of which Englishmen, as the same great but unequal
critic justly maintains, are almost alone in enjoying and recognising. It
is because Shakespere dares, and dares very frequently, simply _desipere_,
simply to be foolish, that he is so pre-eminently wise. The others try to
be always wise, and, alas! it is not necessary to complete the antithesis.

These three things--restraint in the use of sympathy with suffering,
restraint in the use of interest in voluptuous excess, and humour--are, as
it seems to me, the three chief distinguishing points in Shakespere's
handling which are not found in any of his contemporaries, for though there
is humour in not a few of these, none of them is a perfect humorist in the
same sense. Here, as well as in that general range or width of subject and
thought which attracted Dryden's eulogium, he stands alone. In other
respects he shares the qualities which are perceptible almost throughout
this wonderfully fertile department of literature; but he shares them as
infinitely the largest shareholder. It is difficult to think of any other
poet (for with Homer we are deprived of the opportunity of comparison) who
was so completely able to meet any one of his contemporaries on that
contemporary's own terms in natural gift. I say natural gift because,
though it is quite evident that Shakespere was a man of no small reading,
his deficiencies in general education are too constantly recorded by
tradition, and rendered too probable by internal evidence, to be ignored or
denied by any impartial critic. But it is difficult to mention a quality
possessed by any of the school (as it is loosely called), from Marlowe to
Shirley, which he had not in greater measure; while the infinite qualities
which he had, and the others each in one way or another lacked, are
evident. On only one subject--religion--is his mouth almost closed;
certainly, as the few utterances that touch it show, from no incapacity of
dealing with it, and apparently from no other dislike than a dislike to
meddle with anything outside of the purely human province of which he felt
that he was universal master--in short from an infinite reverence.

It will not be expected that in a book like the present--the whole space of
which might very well be occupied, without any of the undue dilation which
has been more than once rebuked, in dealing with Shakespere alone--any
attempt should be made to criticise single plays, passages, and characters.
It is the less of a loss that in reality, as the wisest commentators have
always either begun or ended by acknowledging, Shakespere is your only
commentator on Shakespere. Even the passages which corrupt printing, or the
involved fashion of speaking peculiar to the time, make somewhat obscure at
first, will in almost every case yield to the unassisted cogitation of any
ordinarily intelligent person; and the results so reached are far more
likely to be the true results than the elaborate emendations which delight
a certain class of editors. A certain amount of mere glossary is of course
necessary, but otherwise the fewer corks and bladders the swimmer takes
with him when he ventures into "the ocean which is Shakespere," the better.
There are, however, certain common errors, some of which have survived even
the last century of Shakespere-study and Shakespere-worship, which must
perhaps be discussed. For in the case of the greatest writers, the business
of the critic is much more to shovel away the rubbish of his predecessors
than to attempt any accumulation of his own. The chief of these errors--or
rather that error which practically swallows up all the others and can
produce them again at any time--is that Shakespere was, if not exactly an
inspired idiot, at any rate a mainly tentative if not purely unconscious
artist, much of whose work is only not bad as art, while most, if not all
of it, was originally produced with a minimum of artistic consciousness and
design. This enormous error, which is protean in form, has naturally
induced the counter error of a too great insistence on the consciousness
and elaboration of Shakespere's art. The most elaborate theories of this
art have been framed--theories involving the construction of perhaps as
much baseless fabric as anything else connected with the subject, which is
saying a great deal. It appears to me in the highest degree improbable that
Shakespere had before him consciously more than three purposes; but these
three I think that he constantly had, and that he was completely successful
in achieving them. The first was to tell in every play a dramatically
complete story; the second was to work that story out by the means of
purely human and probable characters; and the third was to give such form
and ornaments to the working out as might please the playgoers of his day.
In pursuing the first two he was the poet or dramatist of all time. In
pursuing the third he was the intelligent playwright. But (and here is the
source of the common error) it by no means follows that his attention, and
his successful attention, to his third purpose in any way interferes with,
or degrades, his excellence as a pursuer of the first two. In the first
place, it can escape no careful student that the merely playwright part of
Shakespere's work is (as is the case with no other dramatic author
whatever) singularly separable. No generation since his death has had the
slightest difficulty in adapting by far the greater part of his plays to
use and popularity in its own day, though the adaptation may have varied in
liberty and in good taste with the standards of the time. At the present
day, while almost all other old dramatists have ceased to be acted at all,
or are acted merely as curiosities, the adaptation of Shakespere has become
more and more a process of simple omission (without the addition or
alteration of anything) of parts which are either unsuited to modern
manners or too long for modern patience. With the two usual exceptions,
_Pericles_ and _Titus Andronicus_ (which, despite the great beauty of
parts, are evidently less Shakesperian as wholes than any others), there is
not a single play of the whole number that could not be--there are not many
that have not been--acted with success in our time. It would be difficult
to find a stronger differentia from the work of the mere playwright, who
invariably thinks first of the temporary conditions of success, and
accordingly loses the success which is not temporary. But the second great
difference of Shakespere is, that even what may be in comparison called
the ephemeral and perishable parts of him have an extraordinary vitality,
if not theatrical yet literary, of their own. The coarser scenes of
_Measure for Measure_ and _The Comedy of Errors_, the satire on fleeting
follies in _Love's Labour Lost_, the uncomelier parts of _All's Well that
Ends Well_, the Doll Tear-sheet business of _Henry IV._, the comic by-play
of _Troilus and Cressida_, may seem mere wood, hay, and stubble in
comparison with the nobler portions. Yet the fire of time has not consumed
them: they are as delightful as ever in the library if not on the stage.

Little or nothing need be said in defence of Shakespere as an artist from
the attacks of the older or Unity criticism. That maleficent giant can now
hardly grin at the pilgrims whom he once harassed. But there are many
persons who, not dreaming of the Unities, still object in language less
extravagant than Voltaire's or George the Third's, but with hardly less
decision, to the "sad stuff," the _fumier_ of Shakespere's admixture of
comedy with tragedy, of his digressions and episodes, of his multifarious
underplots and minor groups, and ramifications of interest or intrigue. The
reply to this is not (as it might be, if any reply were not superfluous, in
the case of the Unity objection) a reply of demonstration. If any person
experienced in literature, and with an interest in it, experienced in life
and with an interest in that, asserts that Caliban and Trinculo interfere
with his enjoyment of Ferdinand and Miranda; that the almost tragedy of
Hero is marred for him by the comedy of Beatrice and the farce of Dogberry;
that he would have preferred _A Midsummer Night's Dream_ without the
tedious brief effort of Quince and his companions; that the solemnity and
passion of _Hamlet_ and _Macbeth_ cause in him a revulsion against the
porter and the gravedigger; that the Fool and Edgar are out of place in
_Lear_,--it is impossible to prove to him by the methods of any Euclid or
of any Aldrich that he is wrong. The thing is essentially, if not wholly, a
matter of taste. It is possible, indeed, to point out, as in the case of
the Unities, that the objectors, if they will maintain their objection,
must deny the position that the dramatic art holds up the mirror to Nature,
and that if they deny it, the burden--a burden never yet successfully taken
up by any one--of framing a new definition rests upon them. But this is
only a partial and somewhat inconclusive argument, and the person who
genuinely dislikes these peculiarities of Shakespere is like a man who
genuinely dislikes wine or pictures or human faces, that seem delightful
and beautiful to others. I am not aware of any method whereby I can prove
that the most perfect claret is better than zoedone in flavour, or that the
most exquisite creation of Botticelli or Leonardo is more beautiful than
the cuts on the sides of railway novels. Again, it is matter of taste.

It will be seen that I am not for my part afraid to avow myself a
thoroughgoing Shakesperian, who accepts the weak points of his master as
well as the strong. It is often forgotten (indeed I do not know where I
have seen it urged) that there is in Shakespere's case an excuse for the
thousand lines that good Ben Jonson would have liked him to blot,--an
excuse which avails for no one else. No one else has his excuse of
universality; no one else has attempted to paint, much less has painted,
the whole of life. It is because Shakespere has attempted this, and, in the
judgment of at least some, has succeeded in it, that the spots in his sun
are so different from the spots in all other suns. I do not know an
unnatural character or an unnatural scene in Shakespere, even among those
which have most evidently been written to the gallery. Everything in him
passes, in some mysterious way, under and into that "species of eternity"
which transforms all the great works of art, which at once prevents them
from being mere copies of Nature, and excuses whatever there is of Nature
in them that is not beautiful or noble. If this touch is wanting anywhere
(and it is wanting very seldom), that, I take it, is the best, indeed the
only, sign that that passage is not Shakespere's,--that he had either made
use of some other man's work, or that some other man had made use of his.
If such passages were of more frequent occurrence, this argument might be
called a circular one. But the proportion of such passages as I at least
should exclude is so small, and the difference between them and the rest is
so marked, that no improper begging of the question can be justly charged.
The plays in the _Globe_ edition contain just a thousand closely-printed
pages. I do not think that there are fifty in all, perhaps not
twenty--putting scraps and patches together--in which the Shakesperian
touch is wanting, and I do not think that that touch appears outside the
covers of the volume once in a thousand pages of all the rest of English
literature. The finest things of other men,--of Marlowe, of Fletcher, of
Webster (who no doubt comes nearest to the Shakesperian touch, infinitely
as he falls short of the Shakesperian range),--might conceivably be the
work of others. But the famous passages of Shakespere, too numerous and too
well known to quote, could be no one else's. It is to this point that
æsthetic criticism of Shakespere is constantly coming round with an almost
monotonous repetition. As great as all others in their own points of
greatness; holding points of greatness which no others even approach; such
is Shakespere.

There is a certain difficulty--most easily to be appreciated by those who
have most carefully studied the literature of the period in question, and
have most fully perceived the mistakes which confusion of exact date has
induced in the consideration of the very complex subject before us--in
selecting dramatists to group with Shakespere. The obvious resource of
taking him by himself would frustrate the main purpose of this volume,
which is to show the general movement at the same time as the individual
developments of the literature of 1560-1660. In one sense Shakespere might
be included in any one of three out of the four chapters which we have here
devoted to the Elizabethan dramatists. His earliest known, and probably
much of his unknown work coincides with the period of tentative; and his
latest work overlaps very much of that period of ripe and somewhat
over-ripe performance, at the head of which it has here been thought good
to set Beaumont and Fletcher. But there is a group of four notable persons
who appear to have especial rights to be classed with him, if not in
greatness, yet in character of work, and in the influences which played on
that work. They all, like him, took an independent part in the marvellous
wit-combat of the last decade of Elizabeth, and they all like him survived,
though for different lengths of time, to set an example to the third
generation. They are all, even the meanest of them, distinctly great men,
and free alike from the immaturity, visible even in Lyly and Marlowe, which
marked some of their older contemporaries, and from the decadence, visible
even in Fletcher and Massinger, which marred their younger followers.
Furthermore, they were mixed up, as regards one another, in an inextricable
but not uninteresting series of broils and friendships, to some part of
which Shakespere himself may have been by no means a stranger. These
reasons have seemed sufficient for separating them from the rest, and
grouping them round the captain. They are Benjamin Jonson, George Chapman,
John Marston, and Thomas Dekker.

The history of Ben Jonson (the literary history that is to say, for the
known facts of his life are simple enough) is curious and perhaps unique.
Nothing is really known of his family; but as, at a time when Scotchmen
were not loved in England, he maintained his Annandale origin, there should
be, especially after Mr. Symonds's investigations as to his career, no
doubt that he at least believed himself to be of Border extraction, as was
also, it may be remembered, his great disciple, panegyrist, slanderer, and
(with the substitution of an easy for a rugged temper), analogue, John
Dryden. The fact of these two typical Englishmen being of half or whole
Scotch descent will not surprise any one who does not still ignore the
proper limits of England. Nobody doubts that his father (or rather
stepfather, for he was a posthumous child, born 1573, and his mother
married again) was a bricklayer, or that he went to Westminster School; it
seems much more dubious whether he had any claim to anything but an
honorary degree from either university, though he received that from both.
Probably he worked at bricklaying, though the taunts of his rivals would,
in face of the undoubted fact of his stepfather's profession, by no means
suffice to prove it. Certainly he went through the chequered existence of
so many Elizabethan men of letters; was a soldier in Flanders, an actor, a
duellist (killing his man, and escaping consequences only by benefit of
clergy), a convert to Romanism, a "revert" to the Anglican Church, a
married man, a dramatist. The great play of _Every Man in his Humour_,
afterwards very much altered, was perhaps acted first at the Rose Theatre
in 1596, and it established Jonson's reputation, though there is no
reasonable doubt that he had written other things. His complicated
associations and quarrels with Dekker, Marston, Chapman, and others, have
occupied the time of a considerable number of persons; they lie quite
beyond our subject, and it may be observed without presumption that their
direct connection, even with the literary work (_The Poetaster_,
_Satiromastix_, and the rest) which is usually linked to them, will be
better established when critics have left off being uncertain whether _A_
was _B_, or _B_, _C_. Even the most famous story of all (the disgrace of
Jonson with others for _Eastward Ho!_ as a libel against the Scots, for
which he was imprisoned, and, being threatened with mutilation, was by his
Roman mother supplied with poison), though told by himself, does not rest
on any external evidence. What is certain is that Jonson was in great and
greater request, both as a writer of masks and other _divertissements_ for
the Court, and as a head and chief of literary conviviality at the
"Mermaid," and other famous taverns. Here, as he grew older, there grew up
round him that "Tribe of Ben," or admiring clique of young literary men,
which included almost all the most remarkable poets, except Milton, of the
late Jacobean and early Caroline period, and which helped to spread his
fame for at least two generations, and (by Waller's influence on
Saint-Evremond) to make him the first English man of letters who was
introduced by a great critic of the Continent to continental attention as a
worker in the English vernacular. At last he was made Poet Laureate, and
in 1618 he took a journey to Scotland, and stayed there for some time with
Drummond of Hawthornden. The celebrated conversations noted by the host
have been the very centre battle-ground of all fights about Ben Jonson's
character. It is sufficient here to say that though Ben's chief defender,
Gifford, may have been too hard on Drummond, it is difficult, if not
impossible, to think that the "Notes of Conversations" were made in a
friendly spirit. They contain for their bulk an extraordinary amount of
interesting matter, and much sound criticism; but which of us in modern
days would care to have such "notes" taken? A man thinks that there are
faults in a friend's work, and in the usual exaggeration of conversation he
says that it is "rubbish." The Drummonds of this world note it down and it
passes as a deliberate judgment. He must be a fortunate man, or an
exceptional recluse, who has not found some good-natured friend anticipate
Drummond, and convey the crude expression (probably heightened in
conveyance) direct to the person concerned. After this visit (which must
have been at the end of 1618) Jonson suffered the calamity of having his
study destroyed by fire, and lost much MS. work. He lived many years longer
and retained his literary primacy, but was unfortunate in money matters,
and even in reception of his work by the public, though the literary men of
his day made no mistake about him. He died in 1637, and the last of the
many stories clustering round his name is the famous one of the
inscription, "O rare Ben Jonson!" A year later, a _tombeau_, or collection
of funeral poems, entitled _Jonsonus Virbius_, showed the estimate
entertained of him by the best and brightest wits of the time.

His life was thus a life of struggle, for he was never rich, and lived for
the most part on the most unsatisfactory of all sources of income--casual
bounties from the king and others. It is not improbable that his favour
with the Court and with Templar society (which was then very unpopular with
the middle classes), had something to do with the ill-reception of his
later plays. But his literary influence was very great, and with Donne he
determined much of the course of English poetry for many years, and
retained a great name even in the comparative eclipse of the "Giant Race"
after the Restoration. It was only when the study of Shakespere became a
favourite subject with persons of more industry than intelligence in the
early eighteenth century, that a singular fabric of myth grew up round Ben
Jonson. He was pictured as an incarnation of envy, hatred, malice, and all
uncharitableness, directed in the first place towards Shakespere, and then
towards all other literary craftsmen. William Gifford, his first competent
editor, set himself to work to destroy this, and undoubtedly succeeded. But
the acrimony with which Gifford tinctured all his literary polemic perhaps
rather injured his treatment of the case; even yet it may be doubted
whether Ben Jonson has attained anything like his proper place in English
literary history.

Putting aside the abiding influence of a good long-continued course of
misrepresentation, it is still not difficult to discover the source of this
under-estimate, without admitting the worst view or even any very bad view
of Ben Jonson's character, literary and personal. It may be granted that he
was rough and arrogant, a scholar who pushed scholarship to the verge of
pedantry, a critic who sometimes forgot that though a schoolmaster may be a
critic, a critic should not be merely a schoolmaster. His work is saturated
with that contempt of the _profanum vulgus_ which the _profanum vulgus_
(humanly enough) seldom fails to return. Moreover, it is extremely
voluminous, and it is by no means equal. Of his eighteen plays, three
only--_Every Man in his Humour_, _The Alchemist_, and the charming fragment
of _The Sad Shepherd_--can be praised as wholes. His lovely _Masques_ are
probably unread by all but a few scores, if so many, in each generation.
His noble sinewy prose is, for the most part, unattractive in subject. His
minor poems, though not a few of them are known even to smatterers in
literature, are as a whole (or at least it would seem so) unknown. Yet his
merits are extraordinary. "Never" in his plays (save _The Sad Shepherd_)
"tender," and still more rarely "sublime," he yet, in words much better
applied to him than to his pupil Dryden, "wrestles with and conquers time."
Even his enemies admit his learning, his vigour, his astonishing power of
work. What is less generally admitted, despite in one case at least the
celebrity of the facts that prove it, is his observation, his invention,
and at times his anomalous and seemingly contradictory power of grace and
sweetness. There is no more singular example of the proverb, "Out of the
eater came forth meat, and out of the strong sweetness," which has been
happily applied to Victor Hugo, than the composition, by the rugged author
of _Sejanus_ and _Catiline_, of _The Devil is an Ass_ and _Bartholomew
Fair_, of such things as

    "Here lies to each her parents ruth;"

or the magnificent song,

    "Drink to me only with thine eyes;"

or the crown and flower of all epitaphs,

    "Underneath this sable herse."[33]

[33] Ben is sometimes deprived of this, _me judice_, most irreligiously.

But these three universally-known poems only express in quintessence a
quality of Jonson's which is spread all about his minor pieces, which
appears again perfectly in _The Sad Shepherd_, and which he seems to have
kept out of his plays proper rather from bravado than for any other reason.
His prose will be noticed separately in the next chapter, but it may be
observed here that it is saturated with the same literary flavour which
pervades all his work. None of his dramatic fellows wrote anything that can
compare to it, just as none of them wrote anything that surpasses the songs
and snatches in his plays, and the best things in his miscellaneous works.
The one title which no competent criticism has ever grudged him is that of
best epitaph-writer in the English language, and only those who have failed
to consider the difficulties and the charm of that class of composition
will consider this faint praise. Nevertheless, it was no doubt upon drama
that Jonson concentrated his powers, and the unfavourable judgments which
have been delivered on him chiefly refer to this.

A good deal of controversy has arisen out of the attribution to him, which
is at least as old as _The Return from Parnassus_, of being minded to
classicise the English drama. It is certain that he set a value on the
Unities which no other English dramatist has set, and that in _The
Alchemist_ at least he has given something like a perfect example of them,
which is at the same time an admirable play. Whether this attention is at
all responsible for the defects which are certainly found in his work is a
very large question. It cannot be denied that in that work, with perhaps
the single exception just mentioned, the reader (it is, except in the case
of _Every Man in his Humour_, generations since the playgoer had any
opportunity of judging) finds a certain absence of sympathetic attraction,
as well as, for all the formal unity of the pieces, a lack of that fusing
poetic force which makes detail into a whole. The amazing strength of
Jonson's genius, the power with which he has compelled all manner of
unlikely elements into his service, is evident enough, but the result
usually wants charm. The drawbacks are (always excepting _The Alchemist_)
least perceptible in _Every Man in his Humour_, the first sprightly
runnings (unless _The Case is Altered_ is older) of Jonson's fancy, the
freshest example of his sharp observation of "humours." Later he sometimes
overdid this observation, or rather he failed to bring its results
sufficiently into poetic or dramatic form, and, therefore, is too much for
an age and too little for all time. But _Every Man in his Humour_ is really
charming. Bobadil, Master Stephen, and Kitely attain to the first rank of
dramatic characters, and others are not far behind them in this respect.
The next play, _Every Man out of his Humour_, is a great contrast, being,
as even the doughty Gifford admits, distinctly uninteresting as a whole,
despite numerous fine passages. Perhaps a little of its want of attraction
must be set down to a pestilent habit of Jonson's, which he had at one
time thought of applying to _Every Man in his Humour_, the habit of giving
foreign, chiefly Italian, appellations to his characters, describing, and
as it were labelling them--Deliro, Macilente, and the like. This gives an
air of unreality, a figurehead and type character. _Cynthia's Revels_ has
the same defects, but is to some extent saved by its sharp raillery of
euphuism. With _The Poetaster_ Jonson began to rise again. I think myself
that the personages and machinery of the Augustan Court would be much
better away, and that the implied satire on contemporaries would be tedious
if it could not, as it fortunately can, be altogether neglected. But in
spite of these drawbacks, the piece is good. Of _Sejanus_ and Jonson's
later Roman play _Catiline_ I think, I confess, better than the majority of
critics appear to think. That they have any very intense tragic interest
will, indeed, hardly be pretended, and the unfortunate but inevitable
comparison with _Coriolanus_ and _Julius Cæsar_ has done them great and
very unjust harm. Less human than Shakespere's "godlike Romans" (who are as
human as they are godlike), Jonson's are undoubtedly more Roman, and this,
if it is not entirely an attraction, is in its way a merit. But it was not
till after _Sejanus_ that the full power of Jonson appeared. His three next
plays, _Volpone_, _Epicene_, and _The Alchemist_, could not have been
written by any one but himself, and, had they not been written, would have
left a gap in English which nothing from any other literature could supply.
If his attitude had been a little less virtuous and a little more
sarcastic, Jonson would in these three plays have anticipated Swift. Of the
three, I prefer the first and the last--the last being the best of all.
_Epicene_ or the _Silent Woman_ was specially liked by the next generation
because of its regularity, and of the skill with which the various humours
are all wrought into the main plot. Both these things are undeniable, and
many of the humours are in themselves amusing enough. But still there is
something wanting, which is supplied in _Volpone_ and _The Alchemist_. It
has been asked whether that disregard of probability, which is one of
Jonson's greatest faults, does not appear in the recklessness with which
"The Fox" exposes himself to utter ruin, not so much to gratify any sensual
desire or obtain any material advantage, as simply to indulge his combined
hypocrisy and cynicism to the very utmost. The answer to this question will
very much depend on each reader's taste and experience. It is undeniable
that there have been examples of perverse indulgence in wickedness for
wickedness' sake, which, rare as they are, go far to justify the creation
of Volpone. But the unredeemed villany of the hero, with whom it is
impossible in any way to sympathise, and the sheer brutality of the
fortune-hunting dupes who surround him, make it easier to admire than to
like the play. I have little doubt that Jonson was to some extent sensible
of this, for the comic episode or underplot of Sir Politick and Lady
Would-be is very much more loosely connected with the centre interest (it
is only by courtesy that it can be said to be connected at all), than is
usual with him, and this is an argument in favour of its having been
introduced as a makeweight.

From the drawbacks of both these pieces _The Alchemist_ is wholly free.
Jonson here escaped his usual pitfall of the unsympathetic, for the vices
and follies he satirises are not loathsome, only contemptible at worst, and
not always that. He found an opportunity of exercising his extraordinary
faculty of concentration as he nowhere else did, and has given us in Sir
Epicure Mammon a really magnificent picture of concupiscence, of sensual
appetite generally, sublimed by heat of imagination into something really
poetic. The triumvirate of adventurers, Subtle, Dol and Face (for Dol has
virile qualities), are not respectable, but one does not hate them; and the
gulls are perfection. If any character could be spared it is the "Angry
Boy," a young person whose humours, as Jonson himself admits of another
character elsewhere, are "more tedious than diverting." _The Alchemist_ was
followed by _Catiline_, and _Catiline_ by _Bartholomew Fair_, a play in
which singularly vivid and minute pictures of manners, very amusing
sketches of character, and some capital satire on the Puritans, do not
entirely redeem a profusion of the coarsest possible language and incident.
_The Devil is an Ass_ comes next in time, and though no single character is
the equal of Zeal-of-the-land Busy in _Bartholomew Fair_, the play is even
more amusing. The four last plays, _The Staple of News_, _The Magnetic
Lady_, _The New Inn_, and _The Tale of a Tub_, which Jonson produced after
long absence from the stage, were not successful, and were both unkindly
and unjustly called by Dryden "Ben's dotages." As for the charming _Sad
Shepherd_, it was never acted, and is now unfinished, though it is believed
that the poet completed it. It stands midway as a pastoral _Féerie_ between
his regular plays and the great collection of ingenious and graceful
masques and entertainments, which are at the top of all such things in
England (unless _Comus_ be called a masque), and which are worth comparing
with the ballets and spectacle pieces of Molière. Perhaps a complete survey
of Jonson's work indicates, as his greatest defect, the want of passion. He
could be vigorous, he could be dignified, he could be broadly humorous,
and, as has been said, he could combine with these the apparently
incompatible, or, at least, not closely-connected faculty of grace. Of
passion, of rapture, there is no trace in him, except in the single
instance--in fire mingled with earth--of Sir Epicure Mammon. But the two
following passages--one from _Sejanus_, one from _The Sad Shepherd_--will
show his dignity and his pathos. No extract in brief could show his
humour:--

    _Arr._ "I would begin to study 'em,[34] if I thought
           They would secure me. May I pray to Jove
           In secret and be safe? ay, or aloud,
           With open wishes, so I do not mention
           Tiberius or Sejanus? Yes I must,
           If I speak out. 'Tis hard that. May I think
           And not be racked? What danger is't to dream,
           Talk in one's sleep or cough? Who knows the laws?
           May I shake my head without a comment? Say
           It rains, or it holds up, and not be thrown
           Upon the Gemonies? These now are things,
           Whereon men's fortune, yea, their fate depends.
           Nothing hath privilege 'gainst the violent ear.
           No place, no day, no hour, we see, is free,
           Not our religious and most sacred times
           From some one kind of cruelty: all matter,
           Nay, all occasion pleaseth. Madmen's rage,
           The idleness of drunkards, women's nothing,
           Jester's simplicity, all, all is good
           That can be catcht at. Nor is now the event
           Of any person, or for any crime
           To be expected; for 'tis always one:
           Death, with some little difference of place
           Or time. What's this? Prince Nero, guarded!"

[34] To wit the "arts" of suffering and being silent, by which his
interlocutor Lepidus has explained his own safety from delation.

       *       *       *       *       *

     _Æg._ "A spring, now she is dead! of what? of thorns,
           Briars and brambles? thistles, burs and docks?
           Cold hemlock, yews? the mandrake, or the box?
           These may grow still: but what can spring beside?
           Did not the whole earth sicken when she died
           As if there since did fall one drop of dew,
           But what was wept for her! or any stalk
           Did bear a flower, or any branch a bloom,
           After her wreath was made! In faith, in faith,
           You do not fair to put these things upon me,
           Which can in no sort be: Earine
           Who had her very being and her name
           With the first knots or buddings of the spring,
           Born with the primrose and the violet
           Or earliest roses blown: when Cupid smiled
           And Venus led the Graces out to dance,
           And all the flowers and sweets in nature's lap
           Leaped out and made their solemn conjuration
           To last but while she lived! Do not I know
           How the vale withered the same day? how Dove,
           Dean, Eye, and Erwash, Idel, Snite and Soare
           Each broke his urn, and twenty waters more
           That swelled proud Trent, shrunk themselves dry, that since
           No sun or moon, or other cheerful star,
           Looked out of heaven, but all the cope was dark
           As it were hung so for her exequies!
           And not a voice or sound to ring her knell
           But of that dismal pair, the screeching owl
           And buzzing hornet! Hark! hark! hark! the foul
           Bird! how she flutters with her wicker wings!
           Peace! you shall hear her screech.

    _Cla._ Good Karolin, sing,
           Help to divert this phant'sy.

    _Kar._ All I can:

                _Sings while Æg. reads the song._

           'Though I am young and cannot tell
           Either what Death or Love is well,
           Yet I have heard they both bear darts
           And both do aim at human hearts:
           And then again, I have been told,
           Love wounds with heat, as Death with cold;
           So that I fear they do but bring
           Extremes to touch and mean one thing.

           'As in a ruin we it call
           One thing to be blown up, or fall;
           Or to our end, like way may have,
           By a flash of lightning or a wave:
           So Love's inflamèd shaft or brand
           May kill as soon as Death's cold hand,
           Except Love's fires the virtue have
           To fright the frost out of the grave.'"

Of no two contemporary men of letters in England can it be said that they
were, intellectually speaking, so near akin as Ben Jonson and George
Chapman. The translator of Homer was a good deal older than Jonson, and
exceedingly little is known of his life. He was pretty certainly born near
Hitchin in Hertfordshire, the striking situation of which points his
reference to it even in these railroad days. The date is uncertain--it may
have been 1557, and was certainly not later than 1559--so that he was the
oldest of the later Elizabethan school who survived into the Caroline
period. He perhaps entered the University of Oxford in 1574. His first
known work, _The Shadow of Night_, dates from 1594; and a reference of
Meres's shows that he was known for tragedy four years later. In 1613 he,
Jonson (a constant friend of his whose mutual fidelity refutes of itself
the silly calumnies as to Jonson's enviousness, for of Chapman only, among
his colleagues, was he likely to be jealous), and Marston were partners in
the venture of _Eastward Ho!_ which, for some real or fancied slight on
Scotland, exposed the authors to danger of the law. He was certainly a
_protégé_ of Prince Henry, the English Marcellus, and he seems to have
received patronage from a much less blameless patron, Carr, Earl of
Somerset. His literary activity was continuous and equal, but it was in his
later days that he attempted and won the crown of the greatest of English
translators. "Georgius Chapmannus, Homeri metaphrastes" the posy of his
portrait runs, and he himself seems to have quite sunk any expectation of
fame from his original work in the expectation of remembrance as a
translator of the Prince of Poets. Many other interesting traits suggest,
rather than ascertain, themselves in reference to him, such as his possible
connection with the early despatch of English troupes of players to
Germany, and his adoption of contemporary French subjects for English
tragedy. But of certain knowledge of him we have very little. What is
certain is that, like Drayton (also a friend of his), he seems to have
lived remote and afar from the miserable quarrels and jealousies of his
time; that, as has been already shown by dates, he was a kind of English
Fontenelle in his overlapping of both ends of the great school of English
poets; and that absolutely no base personal gossip tarnishes his poetical
fame. The splendid sonnet of Keats testifies to the influence which his
work long had on those Englishmen who were unable to read Homer in the
original. A fine essay of Mr. Swinburne's has done, for the first time,
justice to his general literary powers, and a very ingenious and, among
such hazardous things, unusually probable conjecture of Mr. Minto's
identifies him with the "rival poet" of Shakespere's _Sonnets_. But these
are adventitious claims to fame. What is not subject to such deduction is
the assertion that Chapman was a great Englishman who, while exemplifying
the traditional claim of great Englishmen to originality, independence,
and versatility of work, escaped at once the English tendency to lack of
scholarship, and to ignorance of contemporary continental achievements, was
entirely free from the fatal Philistinism in taste and in politics, and in
other matters, which has been the curse of our race, was a Royalist, a
lover, a scholar, and has left us at once one of the most voluminous and
peculiar collections of work that stand to the credit of any literary man
of his country. It may be that his memory has gained by escaping the danger
of such revelations or scandals as the Jonson confessions to Drummond, and
that the lack of attraction to the ordinary reader in his work has saved
him from that comparison which (it has perhaps been urged _ad nauseam_) is
the bane of just literary judgment. To those who always strive to waive all
such considerations, these things will make but little difference.

The only complete edition of Chapman's works dates from our own days, and
its three volumes correspond to a real division of subject. Although, in
common with all these writers, Chapman has had much uncertain and some
improbable work fathered on him, his certain dramas supply one of the most
interesting studies in our period. As usual with everyone except Shakespere
and (it is a fair reason for the relatively disproportionate estimate of
these so long held) Beaumont and Fletcher, they are extremely unequal. Not
a certain work of Chapman is void of interest. The famous _Eastward Ho!_
(one of the liveliest comedies of the period dealing with London life) was
the work of three great writers, and it is not easy to distribute its
collaboration. That it is not swamped with "humours" may prove that
Jonson's learned sock was put on by others. That it is neither grossly
indecent nor extravagantly sanguinary, shows that Marston had not the chief
hand in it, and so we are left to Chapman. What he could do is not shown in
the list of his own certain plays till _All Fools_. _The Blind Beggar of
Alexandria_ (1596?) and _An Humorous Day's Mirth_ show that singular
promiscuousness--that heaping together of scenes without order or
connection--which we have noticed in the first dramatic period, not to
mention that the way in which the characters speak of themselves, not as
"I" but by their names in the third person, is also unmistakable. But _All
Fools_ is a much more noteworthy piece, and though Mr. Swinburne may have
praised it rather highly, it would certainly take place in a collection of
the score best comedies of the time not written by Shakespere. _The
Gentleman Usher_ and _Monsieur d'Olive_ belong to the same school of
humorous, not too pedantic comedy, and then we come to the strange series
of Chapman's French tragedies, _Bussy d'Ambois_, _The Revenge of Bussy
d'Ambois_, _Byron's Conspiracy_, _The Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron_,
and _The Tragedy of Philip Chabot, Admiral of France_. These singular plays
stand by themselves. Whether the strong influence which Marlowe exercised
on Chapman led the later poet (who it must be remembered was not the
younger) to continue _The Massacre of Paris_, or what other cause begat
them, cannot now be asserted or even guessed without lost labour. A famous
criticism of Dryden's attests his attention to them, but does not, perhaps,
to those who have studied Dryden deeply, quite express the influence which
Chapman had on the leader of post-Restoration tragedy. As plays, the whole
five are models of what plays should not be; in parts, they are models of
what plays should be. Then Chapman returned to the humour-comedy and
produced two capital specimens of it in _May-Day_ and _The Widow's Tears_.
_Alphonsus, Emperor of Germany_, which contains long passages of German,
and _Revenge for Honour_, two tragedies which were not published till long
after Chapman's death, are to my mind very dubiously his. Mr. Swinburne, in
dealing with them, availed himself of the hypothesis of a mellowing, but at
the same time weakening of power by age. It may be so, and I have not the
slightest intention of pronouncing decidedly on the subject. They bear to
my mind much more mark of the decadent period of Charles I., when the
secret of blank verse was for a time lost, and when even men who had lived
in personal friendship with their great predecessors lapsed into the
slipshod stuff that we find in Davenant, in his followers, and among them
even in the earlier plays of Dryden. It is, of course, true that this
loosening and slackening of the standard betrays itself even before the
death of Chapman, which happened in 1634. But I cannot believe that the
author of _Bussy d'Ambois_ (where the verse is rude enough but never lax)
and the contemporary or elder of Shakespere, Marlowe, and all the great
race, could ever have been guilty of the slovenliness which, throughout,
marks _Revenge for Honour_.

The second part of Chapman's work, his original verse, is much inferior in
bulk and in interest of matter to the first and third. Yet, is it not
perhaps inferior to either in giving evidence of the author's
peculiarities; while the very best thing he ever wrote (a magnificent
passage in _The Tears of Peace_) is contained in it. Its component parts
are, however, sufficiently odd. It opens with a strange poem called _The
Shadow of Night_, which Mr. Swinburne is not wrong in classing among the
obscurest works in English. The mischievous fashion of enigmatic writing,
already glanced at in the section on satire, was perhaps an offshoot of
euphuism; and certainly Chapman, who never exhibits much taint of euphuism
proper, here out-Herods Herod and out-Tourneurs Tourneur. It was followed
by an equally singular attempt at the luscious school of which _Venus and
Adonis_ is the most famous. _Ovid's Banquet of Sense_ has received high
praise from critics whom I esteem. For my own part I should say that it is
the most curious instance of a radically unpassionate nature, trying to
lash itself into passion, that our language contains. Then Chapman tried an
even bolder flight in the same dialect--the continuation of Marlowe's
unfinished _Hero and Leander_. In this attempt, either by sheer force of
his sinewy athletics, or by some inspiration derived from the "Dead
Shepherd," his predecessor, he did not fail, curious as is the contrast of
the two parts. _The Tears of Peace_, which contains his finest work, is in
honour of Prince Henry--a worthy work on a worthy subject, which was
followed up later by an epicedium on the prince's lamented death. Besides
some epigrams and sonnets, the chief other piece of this division is the
disastrous _Andromeda Liberata_, which unluckily celebrates the
nuptials--stained with murder, adultery, and crime of all sorts--of Frances
Howard and Robert Carr. It is in Chapman's most allusive and thorniest
style, but is less interesting intrinsically than as having given occasion
to an indignant prose vindication by the poet, which, considering his
self-evident honesty, is the most valuable document in existence for
explaining the apparently grovelling panegyric of the sixteenth and
seventeenth century. It makes clear (what indeed an intelligent reader
might gather for himself) that the traditional respect for rank and
station, uniting with the tendency to look for patterns and precedents in
the classics for almost everything, made of these panegyrics a kind of
school exercise, in which the excellence of the subject was taken for
granted, and the utmost hyperbole of praise was only a "common form" of
composition, to which the poet imparted or added what grace of style or
fancy he could, with hardly a notion of his ascriptions being taken
literally.

But if Chapman's dramas have been greatly undervalued, and if his original
poems are an invaluable help to the study of the time, there is no doubt
that it is as a translator that he made and kept the strongest hold on the
English mind. He himself spoke of his Homeric translations (which he began
as early as 1598, doing also Hesiod, some Juvenal, and some minor
fragments, Pseudo-Virgilian, Petrarchian and others) as "the work that he
was born to do." His version, with all its faults, outlived the popularity
even of Pope, was for more than two centuries the resort of all who, unable
to read Greek, wished to know what the Greek was, and, despite the finical
scholarship of the present day, is likely to survive all the attempts made
with us. I speak with all humility, but as having learnt Homer from Homer
himself, and not from any translation, prose or verse. I am perfectly aware
of Chapman's outrageous liberties, of his occasional unfaithfulness (for a
libertine need not necessarily be unfaithful in translation), and of the
condescension to his own fancies and the fancies of his age, which obscures
not more perhaps than some condescensions which nearness and contemporary
influences prevent some of us from seeing the character of the original.
But at the same time, either I have no skill in criticism, and have been
reading Greek for fifty years to none effect, or Chapman is far nearer
Homer than any modern translator in any modern language. He is nearer in
the Iliad than in the Odyssey--an advantage resulting from his choice of
vehicle. In the Odyssey he chose the heroic couplet, which never can give
the rise and fall of the hexameter. In the Iliad, after some hesitation
between the two (he began as early as 1598), he preferred the fourteener,
which, at its best, is the hexameter's nearest substitute. With Chapman it
is not always at its best--very far from it. If he never quite relapses
into the sheer doggerel of the First Period, he sometimes comes perilously
near to it. But he constantly lifts his wings and soars in a quite
different measure which, when he keeps it up for a little, gives a
narrative vehicle unsurpassed, and hardly equalled, in English poetry for
variation of movement and steady forward flow combined. The one point in
which the Homeric hexameter is unmatched among metres is its combination of
steady advance with innumerable ripples and eddies in its course, and it is
here that Chapman (though of course not fully) can partly match it. It is,
however, one of the testimonies to the supreme merit of the Homeric poems
that every age seems to try to imitate them in its own special mannerisms,
and that, consequently, no age is satisfied with the attempts of another.
It is a second, that those who know the original demur at all.

The characteristics of Chapman, then, are very much those of Jonson with a
difference. Both had the same incapacity of unlaboured and forceless art,
the same insensibility to passion, the same inability to rise above mere
humours and contemporary oddities into the region of universal poetry. Both
had the same extensive learning, the same immense energy, the same (if it
must be said) arrogance and contempt of the vulgar. In casual strokes,
though not in sustained grasp, Chapman was Jonson's superior; but unlike
Jonson he had no lyric gift, and unlike Jonson he let his learning and his
ambitious thought clog and obscure the flow of his English. Nor does he
show in any of his original work the creative force of his younger friend.
With the highest opinion reasonably possible of Chapman's dramas, we cannot
imagine him for a moment composing a _Volpone_ or an _Alchemist_--even a
_Bartholomew Fair_; while he was equally, or still more, incapable of
Jonson's triumphs in epigram and epitaph, in song and ode. A certain
shapelessness is characteristic of everything that Chapman did--an
inability, as Mr. Swinburne (to whom every one who now writes on Chapman
must acknowledge indebtedness), has said, "to clear his mouth of pebbles,
and his brow of fog." His long literary life, which must have exceeded half
a century, and his great learning, forbid our setting this down as it may
be set in the case of many of his contemporaries, and especially in the
case of those two to whom we are now coming, as due to youth, to the
imperfect state of surrounding culture, to want of time for perfecting his
work, and so forth. He is the "Bègue de Vilaines," the heroic Stammerer of
English literature--a man who evidently had some congenital defect which
all his fire and force, all his care and curiosity, could not overcome. Yet
are his doings great, and it is at least probable that if he had felt less
difficulty in original work, he would not have been prompted to set about
and finish the noble work of translation which is among the best products
of an unsatisfactory kind, and which will outlive the cavils of generations
of etymologists and aorist-grinders. He has been so little read that four
specimens of his different manners--the early "tenebrous" style of _The
Shadow of Night_, the famous passage from _Bussy d'Ambois_ which excited
Lamb's enthusiasm, and a sample from both _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_--may be
given:

    "In this vast thicket (whose description's task
    The pens of fairies and of fiends would ask:
    So more than human-thoughted horrible)
    The souls of such as lived implausible,
    In happy empire of this goddess' glories,
    And scorned to crown her fanes with sacrifice,[35]
    Did ceaseless walk; exspiring fearful groans,
    Curses and threats for their confusions.
    Her darts, and arrows, some of them had slain:
    Others her dogs eat, painting her disdain,
    After she had transformed them into beasts:
    Others her monsters carried to their nests,
    Rent them in pieces, and their spirits sent
    To this blind shade, to wail their banishment.
    The huntsmen hearing (since they could not hear)
    Their hounds at fault, in eager chase drew near,
    Mounted on lions, unicorns, and boars,
    And saw their hounds lie licking of their sores
    Some yearning at the shroud, as if they chid
    Her stinging tongues, that did their chase forbid:
    By which they knew the game was that way gone.
    Then each man forced the beast he rode upon,
    T' assault the thicket; whose repulsive thorns
    So gall'd the lions, boars, and unicorns,
    Dragons and wolves, that half their courages
    Were spent in roars, and sounds of heaviness:
    Yet being the princeliest, and hardiest beasts,
    That gave chief fame to those Ortygian forests,
    And all their riders furious of their sport,
    A fresh assault they gave, in desperate sort:
    And with their falchions made their way in wounds,
    The thicket open'd, and let in the hounds."

[35] The rhyme, bad as it is, is not unprecedented.

       *       *       *       *       *

    _Bu._ "What dismal change is here; the good old Friar
          Is murther'd, being made known to serve my love;
          And now his restless spirit would forewarn me
          Of some plot dangerous and imminent.
          Note what he wants? He wants his upper weed,
          He wants his life and body; which of these
          Should be the want he means, and may supply me
          With any fit forewarning? This strange vision
          (Together with the dark prediction
          Used by the Prince of Darkness that was raised
          By this embodied shadow) stir my thoughts
          With reminiscion of the spirit's promise,
          Who told me, that by any invocation
          I should have power to raise him, though it wanted
          The powerful words and decent rites of art;
          Never had my set brain such need of spirit
          T' instruct and cheer it; now, then, I will claim
          Performance of his free and gentle vow
          T' appear in greater light and make more plain
          His rugged oracle. I long to know
          How my dear mistress fares, and be inform'd
          What hand she now holds on the troubled blood
          Of her incensed lord. Methought the spirit
          (When he had utter'd his perplex'd presage)
          Threw his changed countenance headlong into clouds,
          His forehead bent, as it would hide his face,
          He knock'd his chin against his darken'd breast,
          And struck a churlish silence through his powers.
          Terror of darkness! O, thou king of flames!
          That with thy music-footed horse dost strike
          The clear light out of crystal on dark earth,
          And hurl'st instructive fire about the world,
          Wake, wake, the drowsy and enchanted night
          That sleeps with dead eyes in this heavy riddle;
          Or thou great prince of shades where never sun
          Sticks his far darted beams, whose eyes are made
          To shine in darkness, and see ever best
          Where sense is blindest: open now the heart
          Of thy abashed oracle, that for fear
          Of some ill it includes, would fain lie hid,
          And rise thou with it in thy greater light."

       *       *       *       *       *

    "For Hector's glory still he stood, and ever went about
    To make him cast the fleet such fire, as never should go out;
    Heard Thetis' foul petition, and wished in any wise
    The splendour of the burning ships might satiate his eyes.[36]
    From him yet the repulse was then to be on Troy conferred,
    The honour of it given the Greeks; which thinking on, he stirr'd
    With such addition of his spirit, the spirit Hector bore
    To burn the fleet, that of itself was hot enough before.
    But now he fared like Mars himself, so brandishing his lance
    As, through the deep shades of a wood, a raging fire should glance,
    Held up to all eyes by a hill; about his lips a foam
    Stood as when th' ocean is enraged; his eyes were overcome
    With fervour and resembled flames, set off by his dark brows,
    And from his temples his bright helm abhorrèd lightnings throws;
    For Jove, from forth the sphere of stars, to his state put his own
    And all the blaze of both the hosts confined in him alone.
    And all this was, since after this he had not long to live,
    This lightning flew before his death, which Pallas was to give
    (A small time thence, and now prepared) beneath the violence
    Of great Pelides. In meantime, his present eminence
    Thought all things under it; and he, still where he saw the stands
    Of greatest strength and bravest arm'd, there he would prove his hands,
    Or no where; offering to break through, but that passed all his power
    Although his will were past all theirs, they stood him like a tower
    Conjoined so firm, that as a rock, exceeding high and great,
    And standing near the hoary sea, bears many a boisterous threat
    Of high-voiced winds and billows huge, belched on it by the storms;
    So stood the Greeks great Hector's charge, nor stirred their battellous
          forms."

[36] This line alone would suffice to exhibit Chapman's own splendour at
his best.

       *       *       *       *       *

                "This the Goddess told,
    And then the morning in her throne of gold
    Surveyed the vast world; by whose orient light
    The nymph adorn'd me with attires as bright,
    Her own hands putting on both shirt and weed
    Robes fine, and curious, and upon my head
    An ornament that glittered like a flame;
    Girt me in gold; and forth betimes I came
    Amongst my soldiers, roused them all from sleep,
    And bade them now no more observance keep
    Of ease, and feast, but straight a shipboard fall,
    For now the Goddess had inform'd me all.
    Their noble spirits agreed; nor yet so clear
    Could I bring all off, but Elpenor there
    His heedless life left. He was youngest man
    Of all my company, and one that wan
    Least fame for arms, as little for his brain;
    Who (too much steep'd in wine and so made fain
    To get refreshing by the cool of sleep,
    Apart his fellows plung'd in vapours deep,
    And they as high in tumult of their way)
    Suddenly waked and (quite out of the stay
    A sober mind had given him) would descend
    A huge long ladder, forward, and an end
    Fell from the very roof, full pitching on
    The dearest joint his head was placed upon,
    Which quite dissolved, let loose his soul to hell."

With regard to Marston (of whose little-known personality something has
been said in connection with his satires) I find myself somewhat unable to
agree with the generality of critics, who seem to me to have been rather
taken in by his blood-and-thunder work, his transpontine declamation
against tyrants, and his affectation of a gloomy or furious scorn against
mankind. The uncouthness, as well as the suspicion of insincerity, which we
noted in his satirical work, extend, as it seems to me, also to his dramas;
and if we class him as a worker in horrors with Marlowe earlier, and with
Webster and Ford later, the chief result will be to show his extreme
inferiority to them. He is even below Tourneur in this respect, while, like
Tourneur, he is exposed to the charge of utterly neglecting congruity and
proportion. With him we relapse not merely from the luminous perfection of
Shakespere, from the sane order of work which was continued through
Fletcher, and the best of Fletcher's followers, but from the more
artificial unity of Jonson, back into the chaotic extravagances of the
First Period. Marston, like the rest, is fond of laughing at _Jeronimo_,
but his own tragic construction and some of his own tragic scenes are
hardly less bombastic, and scarcely at all less promiscuous than the
tangled horrors of that famous melodrama. Marston, it is true, has lucid
intervals--even many of them. Hazlitt has succeeded in quoting many
beautiful passages, one of which was curiously echoed in the next age by
Nat. Lee, in whom, indeed, there was a strong vein of Elizabethan
melodrama. The sarcasm on philosophical study in _What You Will_ is one of
the very best things of its own kind in the range of English drama,--light,
sustained, not too long nor too short, in fact, thoroughly "hit off."

    "_Delight_ my spaniel slept, whilst I baused[37] leaves,
    Tossed o'er the dunces, pored on the old print
    Of titled words, and still my spaniel slept.
    Whilst I wasted lamp oil, bated my flesh,
    Shrunk up my veins, and still my spaniel slept,
    And still I held converse with Zabarell,
    Aquinas, Scotus, and the musty saws
    Of antique Donate: still my spaniel slept.
    Still on went I: first _an sit anima_,
    Then, an' 'twere mortal. O hold, hold!
    At that they are at brain buffets, fell by the ears,
    Amain [pell-mell] together--still my spaniel slept.
    Then whether 'twere corporeal, local, fixed,
    _Ex traduce_; but whether 't had free will
    Or no, hot philosophers
    Stood banding factions all so strongly propped,
    I staggered, knew not which was firmer part;
    But thought, quoted, read, observed and pried,
    Stuffed noting-books, and still my spaniel slept.
    At length he waked and yawned, and by yon sky
    For aught I know, he knew as much as I."

[37] Kissed.

There is real pathos in _Antonio and Mellida_, and real satire in
_Parasitaster_ and _The Malcontent_. Hazlitt (who had a very high opinion
of Marston) admits that the remarkable inequalities of this last piece
"seem to show want of interest in the subject." This is an odd explanation,
but I suspect it is really only an anticipation in more favourable words of
my own theory, that Marston's tragic and satiric moods were not really
sincere; that he was a clever man who found a fashion of satire and a
fashion of blood-and-thunder tragedy prevailing, and threw himself into
both without much or any heart in the matter. This is supported by the
curious fact that almost all his plays (at least those extant) were
produced within a very few years, 1602-1607, though he lived some thirty
years after the latter date, and quite twenty after his last dated
appearances in literature, _The Insatiate Countess_, and _Eastward Ho!_
That he was an ill-tempered person with considerable talents, who
succeeded, at any rate for a time, in mistaking his ill-temper for _sæva
indignatio_, and his talents for genius, is not, I think, too harsh a
description of Marston. In the hotbed of the literary influences of the
time these conditions of his produced some remarkable fruit. But when the
late Professor Minto attributes to him "amazing and almost Titanic energy,"
mentions "life" several times over as one of the chief characteristics of
his personages (I should say that they had as much life as violently-moved
marionettes), and discovers "amiable and admirable characters" among them,
I am compelled not, of course, to be positive that my own very different
estimate is right, but to wonder at the singularly different way in which
the same things strike different persons, who are not as a rule likely to
look at them from very different points of view.

Marston's plays, however, are both powerful enough and famous enough to
call for a somewhat more detailed notice. _Antonio and Mellida_, the
earliest and if not the best as a whole, that which contains the finest
scenes and fragments, is in two parts--the second being more properly
called _The Revenge of Antonio_. The revenge itself is of the exaggerated
character which was so popular with the Elizabethan dramatists, but in
which (except in the famous Cornwall and Gloucester scene in _Lear_)
Shakespere never indulged after his earliest days. The wicked tyrant's
tongue is torn out, his murdered son's body is thrown down before him, and
then the conspirators, standing round, gibe, curse, and rant at him for a
couple of pages before they plunge their swords into his body. This goodly
conclusion is led up to by a sufficient quantity of antecedent and casual
crimes, together with much not very excellent fooling by a court gull,
Balurdo, who might be compared with Shakespere's fools of the same kind, to
the very great advantage of those who do not appreciate the latter. The
beautiful descriptive and reflective passages which, in Lamb's _Extracts_,
gave the play its reputation, chiefly occur towards the beginning, and this
is the best of them:--

    _And._ "Why man, I never was a Prince till now.
           'Tis not the bared pate, the bended knees,
           Gilt tipstaves, Tyrian purple, chairs of state,
           Troops of pied butterflies, that flutter still
           In greatness summer, that confirm a prince:
           'Tis not the unsavoury breath of multitudes,
           Shouting and clapping, with confused din;
           That makes a prince. No, Lucio, he's a king,
           A true right king, that dares do aught save wrong,
           Fears nothing mortal, but to be unjust,
           Who is not blown up with the flattering puffs
           Of spungy sycophants: who stands unmov'd
           Despite the jostling of opinion:
           Who can enjoy himself, maugre the throng
           That strive to press his quiet out of him:
           Who sits upon Jove's footstool as I do
           Adoring, not affecting majesty:
           Whose brow is wreathèd with the silver crown
           Of clear content: this, Lucio, is a king,
           And of this empire, every man's possessed
           That's worth his soul."

_Sophonisba_, which followed, is much less rambling, but as bloody and
extravagant. The scene where the witch Erichtho plays Succubus to Syphax,
instead of the heroine, and in her form, has touches which partly, but not
wholly, redeem its extravagance, and the end is dignified and good. _What
You Will_, a comedy of intrigue, is necessarily free from Marston's worst
faults, and here the admirable passage quoted above occurs. But the main
plot--which turns not only on the courtship, by a mere fribble, of a lady
whose husband is supposed to be dead, and who has very complacently
forgotten all about him, but on a ridiculous plot to foist a pretender off
as the dead husband itself--is simply absurd. The lack of probability,
which is the curse of the minor Elizabethan drama, hardly anywhere appears
more glaringly. _Parasitaster_, or _The Fawn_, a satirical comedy, is much
better, but the jealous hatred of _The Dutch Courtesan_ is again not made
probable. Then came Marston's completest work in drama, _The Malcontent_,
an anticipation, after Elizabethan fashion, of _Le Misanthrope_ and _The
Plain Dealer_. Though not free from Marston's two chief vices of coarseness
and exaggerated cynicism, it is a play of great merit, and much the best
thing he has done, though the reconciliation, at the end, of such a
husband and such a wife as Piero and Aurelia, between whom there is a chasm
of adultery and murder, again lacks verisimilitude. It is to be observed
that both in _The Fawn_ and _The Malcontent_ there are disguised dukes--a
fact not testifying any very great originality, even in borrowing. Of
_Eastward Ho!_ we have already spoken, and it is by no means certain that
_The Insatiate Countess_ is Marston's. His reputation would not lose much
were it not. A _fabliau_-like underplot of the machinations of two
light-o'-love citizens' wives against their husbands is not unamusing, but
the main story of the Countess Isabella, a modern Messalina (except that
she adds cruelty to the vices of Messalina) who alternately courts lovers
and induces their successors to assassinate them, is in the worst style of
the whole time--the tragedy of lust that is not dignified by the slightest
passion, and of murder that is not excused by the slightest poetry of
motive or treatment. Though the writing is not of the lowest order, it
might have been composed by any one of some thirty or forty writers. It was
actually attributed at the time to William Barksted, a minor poet of some
power, and I am inclined to think it not Marston's, though my own estimate
of him is, as will have been seen, not so high as some other estimates. It
is because those estimates appear to me unduly high that I have rather
accentuated the expression of my own lower one. For the last century, and
perhaps longer, the language of hyperbole has been but too common about our
dramatists, and I have known more than one case in which the extravagant
praise bestowed upon them has, when students have come to the works
themselves, had a very disastrous effect of disappointment. It is,
therefore, all the more necessary to be candid in criticism where criticism
seems to be required.

As to the last of our good company, there is fortunately very little risk
of difference of opinion. A hundred years ago Thomas Dekker was probably
little more than a name to all but professed students of Elizabethan
literature, and he waited longer than any of his fellows for due
recognition by presentation of his work in a complete form. It was not
until the year 1873 that his plays were collected; it was not till eleven
years later that his prose works had the same honour. Yet, since attention
was directed to Dekker in any way, the best authorities have been unanimous
in his praise. Lamb's famous outburst of enthusiasm, that he had "poetry
enough for anything," has been soberly endorsed by two full generations of
the best judges, and whatever differences of detail there may be as to his
work, it is becoming more and more the received, and correctly-received
opinion, that, as his collaborator Webster came nearest to Shakespere in
universalising certain types in the severer tragedy, so Dekker has the same
honour on the gently pathetic side. Yet this great honour is done to one of
the most shadowy personalities in literature. We have four goodly volumes
of his plays and five of his other works; yet of Thomas Dekker, the man, we
know absolutely less than of any one of his shadowy fellows. We do not know
when he was born, when he died, what he did other than writing in the
certainly long space between the two unknown dates. In 1637 he was by his
own words a man of threescore, which, as it has been justly remarked, may
mean anything between fifty-five and seventy. He was in circumstances a
complete contrast to his fellow-victim in Jonson's satire, Marston. Marston
was apparently a gentleman born and bred, well connected, well educated,
possessed of some property, able to make testamentary dispositions, and
probably in the latter part of his life, when Dekker was still toiling at
journalism of various kinds, a beneficed clergyman in country retirement.
Dekker was, it is to be feared, what the arrogance of certain members of
the literary profession has called, and calls, a gutter-journalist--a man
who had no regular preparation for the literary career, and who never
produced anything but hand-to-mouth work. Jonson went so far as to say that
he was a "rogue;" but Ben, though certainly not a rogue, was himself not to
be trusted when he spoke of people that he did not like; and if there was
any but innocent roguery in Dekker he has contrived to leave exactly the
opposite impression stamped on every piece of his work. And it is
particularly interesting to note, that constantly as he wrote in
collaboration, one invariable tone, and that the same as is to be found in
his undoubtedly independent work, appears alike in plays signed with him by
persons so different as Middleton and Webster, as Chettle and Ford. When
this is the case, the inference is certain, according to the strictest
rules of logic. We can define Dekker's idiosyncrasy almost more certainly
than if he had never written a line except under his own name. That
idiosyncrasy consists, first, of an exquisite lyrical faculty, which, in
the songs given in all collections of extracts, equals, or almost equals,
that of Shakespere; secondly, of a faculty for poetical comedy, for the
comedy which transcends and plays with, rather than grasps and exposes, the
vices and follies of men; thirdly, for a touch of pathos again to be evened
only to Shakespere's; and lastly, for a knack of representing women's
nature, for which, except in the master of all, we may look in vain
throughout the plentiful dramatic literature of the period, though touches
of it appear in Greene's Margaret of Fressingfield, in Heywood, in
Middleton, and in some of the anonymous plays which have been fathered
indifferently, and with indifferent hopelessness of identification, on some
of the greatest of names of the period, on some of the meanest, and on an
equal number of those that are neither great nor mean.

Dekker's very interesting prose works we shall treat in the next chapter,
together with the other tracts into whose class they fall, and some of his
plays may either go unnoticed, or, with those of the dramatists who
collaborated with him, and whose (notably in the case of _The Roaring
Girl_) they pretty evidently were more than his. His own characteristic
pieces, or those in which his touch shows most clearly, though they may not
be his entirely, are _The Shoemaker's Holiday_, _Old Fortunatus_,
_Satiromastix_, _Patient Grissil_, _The Honest Whore_, _The Whore of
Babylon_, _If it be not Good the Devil is in it_, _The Virgin Martyr_,
_Match me in London_, _The Son's Darling_, and _The Witch of Edmonton_. In
everyone of these the same characteristics appear, but the strangely
composite fashion of writing of the time makes them appear in differing
measures. _The Shoemaker's Holiday_ is one of those innumerable and yet
singular pieces in which the taste of the time seems to have so much
delighted, and which seem so odd to modern taste,--pieces in which a plot
or underplot, as the case may be, of the purest comedy of manners, a mere
picture of the life, generally the lower middle-class life of the time, is
united with hardly a thought of real dramatic conjunction to another plot
of a romantic kind, in which noble and royal personages, with, it may be, a
dash of history, play their parts. The crowning instance of this is
Middleton's _Mayor of Queenborough_; but there are scores and hundreds of
others, and Dekker specially affects it. _The Shoemaker's Holiday_ is
principally distinguished by the directness and raciness of its citizen
sketches. _Satiromastix_ (the second title of which is "The Untrussing of
the Humorous Poet") is Dekker's reply to _The Poetaster_, in which he
endeavours to retort Jonson's own machinery upon him. With his customary
disregard of congruity, however, he has mixed up the personages of Horace,
Crispinus, Demetrius, and Tucca, not with a Roman setting, but with a
purely romantic story of William Rufus and Sir Walter Tyrrel, and the
king's attempt upon the fidelity of Tyrrel's bride. This incongruous
mixture gives one of the most charming scenes of his pen, the apparent
poisoning of Celestina by her father to save her honour. But as Lamb
himself candidly confessed, the effect of this in the original is marred,
if not ruined, by the farcical surroundings, and the more farcical upshot
of the scene itself,--the poisoning being, like Juliet's, a mere trick,
though very differently fortuned. In _Patient Grissil_ the two exquisite
songs, "Art thou poor" and "Golden slumbers kiss thine eyes," and the
sympathetic handling of Griselda's character (the one of all others to
appeal to Dekker) mark his work. In all the other plays the same notes
appear, and there is no doubt that Mr. Swinburne is wholly right in
singling out from _The Witch of Edmonton_ the feminine characters of Susan,
Winifred, and the witch herself, as showing Dekker's unmatched command of
the colours in which to paint womanhood. In the great debate as to the
authorship of _The Virgin Martyr_, everything is so much conjecture that it
is hard to pronounce authoritatively. Gifford's cool assumption that
everything bad in the play is Dekker's, and everything good Massinger's,
will not hold for a moment; but, on the other side, it must be remembered
that since Lamb there has been a distinct tendency to depreciate Massinger.
All that can be said is, that the grace and tenderness of the Virgin's part
are much more in accordance with what is certainly Dekker's than with what
is certainly Massinger's, and that either was quite capable of the Hircius
and Spungius passages which have excited so much disgust and
indignation--disgust and indignation which perhaps overlook the fact that
they were no doubt inserted with the express purpose of heightening, by
however clumsily designed a contrast, the virgin purity of Dorothea the
saint.

It will be seen that I have reserved _Old Fortunatus_ and _The Honest
Whore_ for separate notice. They illustrate, respectively, the power which
Dekker has in romantic poetry, and his command of vivid, tender, and subtle
portraiture in the characters, especially, of women. Both, and especially
the earlier play, exhibit also his rapid careless writing, and his
ignorance of, or indifference to, the construction of a clear and
distinctly outlined plot. _Old Fortunatus_ tells the well-known story of
the wishing cap and purse, with a kind of addition showing how these fare
in the hands of _Fortunatus's_ sons, and with a wild intermixture
(according to the luckless habit above noted) of kings and lords, and
pseudo-historical incidents. No example of the kind is more chaotic in
movement and action. But the interlude of Fortune with which it is ushered
in is conceived in the highest romantic spirit, and told in verse of
wonderful effectiveness, not to mention two beautiful songs; and throughout
the play the allegorical or supernatural passages show the same character.
Nor are the more prosaic parts inferior, as, for instance, the pretty
dialogue of Orleans and Galloway, cited by Lamb, and the fine passage where
Andelocia says what he will do "to-morrow."

    _Fort._ "No more: curse on: your cries to me are music,
            And fill the sacred roundure of mine ears
            With tunes more sweet than moving of the spheres.
            Curse on: on our celestial brows do sit
            Unnumbered smiles, which then leap from their throne
            When they see peasants dance and monarchs groan.
            Behold you not this Globe, this golden bowl,
            This toy call'd world at our Imperial feet?
            This world is Fortune's ball wherewith she sports.
            Sometimes I strike it up into the air,
            And then create I Emperors and Kings.
            Sometimes I spurn it: at which spurn crawls out
            That wild beast multitude: curse on, you fools.
            'Tis I that tumble Princes from their thrones,
            And gild false brows with glittering diadems.
            'Tis I that tread on necks of conquerors,
            And when like semi-gods they have been drawn,
            In ivory chariots to the capitol,
            Circled about with wonder of all eyes
            The shouts of every tongue, love of all hearts
            Being swoll'n with their own greatness, I have prick'd
            The bladder of their pride, and made them die,
            As water bubbles, without memory.
            I thrust base cowards into honour's chair,
            Whilst the true spirited soldier stands by
            Bare headed, and all bare, whilst at his scars
            They scoff, that ne'er durst view the face of wars.
            I set an Idiot's cap on virtue's head,
            Turn learning out of doors, clothe wit in rags
            And paint ten thousand images of loam
            In gaudy silken colours: on the backs
            Of mules and asses I make asses ride
            Only for sport, to see the apish world
            Worship such beasts with sound idolatry.
            This Fortune does, and when this is done,
            She sits and smiles to hear some curse her name,
            And some with adoration crown her fame.

       *       *       *       *       *

     _And._ "To-morrow? ay to-morrow thou shalt buy them.
            To-morrow tell the Princess I will love her,
            To-morrow tell the King I'll banquet him,
            To-morrow, Shadow, will I give thee gold,
            To-morrow pride goes bare, and lust a-cold.
            To-morrow will the rich man feed the poor,
            And vice to-morrow virtue will adore.
            To-morrow beggars shall be crownèd kings.
            This no-time, morrow's time, no sweetness sings.
            I pray thee hence: bear that to Agripyne."

The whole is, as a whole, to the last degree crude and undigested, but the
ill-matured power of the writer is almost the more apparent.

_The Honest Whore_, in two parts, is, as far as general character goes, a
mixed comedy of intrigue and manners combining, or rather uniting (for
there is little combination of them), four themes--first, the love of
Hippolito for the Princess Infelice, and his virtuous motions followed by
relapse; secondly, the conversion by him of the courtesan Bellafront, a
damsel of good family, from her evil ways, and her marriage to her first
gallant, a hairbrained courtier named Matheo; thirdly, Matheo's
ill-treatment of Bellafront, her constancy and her rejection of the
temptations of Hippolito, who from apostle has turned seducer, with the
humours of Orlando Friscobaldo, Bellafront's father, who, feigning never to
forgive her, watches over her in disguise, and acts as guardian angel to
her reckless and sometimes brutal husband; and lastly, the other humours of
a certain marvellously patient citizen who allows his wife to hector him,
his customers to bully and cheat him, and who pushes his eccentric and
unmanly patience to the point of enduring both madhouse and jail. Lamb,
while ranking a single speech of Bellafront's very high, speaks with rather
oblique approval of the play, and Hazlitt, though enthusiastic for it,
admires chiefly old Friscobaldo and the ne'er-do-well Matheo. My own reason
for preferring it to almost all the non-tragical work of the time out of
Shakespere, is the wonderful character of Bellafront, both in her
unreclaimed and her reclaimed condition. In both she is a very woman--not
as conventional satirists and conventional encomiasts praise or rail at
women, but as women are. If her language in her unregenerate days is
sometimes coarser than is altogether pleasant, it does not disguise her
nature,--the very nature of such a woman misled by giddiness, by
curiosity, by love of pleasure, by love of admiration, but in no thorough
sense depraved. Her selection of Matheo not as the instrument of her being
"made an honest woman," not apparently because she had any love for him
left, or had ever had much, but because he was her first seducer, is
exactly what, after a sudden convincing of sin, such a woman would have
done; and if her patience under the long trial of her husband's
thoughtlessness and occasional brutality seem excessive, it will only seem
so to one who has been unlucky in his experience. Matheo indeed is a
thorough good-for-nothing, and the natural man longs that Bellafront might
have been better parted; but Dekker was a very moral person in his own way,
and apparently he would not entirely let her--Imogen gone astray as she
is--off her penance.



CHAPTER VI

LATER ELIZABETHAN AND JACOBEAN PROSE


One name so far dominates the prose literature of the last years of
Elizabeth, and that of the whole reign of James, that it has probably alone
secured attention in the general memory, except such as may be given to the
purple patches (of the true Tyrian dye, but not extremely numerous) which
decorate here and there the somewhat featureless expanse of Sir Walter
Raleigh's _History of the World_. That name, it is scarcely necessary to
say, is the name of Francis Bacon. Bacon's eventful life, his much debated
character, his philosophical and scientific position, are all matters
beyond our subject. But as it is of the first importance in studying that
subject to keep dates and circumstances generally, if not minutely, in
view, it may be well to give a brief summary of his career. He was born in
1561, the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper; he went very young to
Cambridge, and though early put to the study of the law, discovered an
equally early bent in another direction. He was unfortunate in not
obtaining the patronage then necessary to all men not of independent
fortune. Though Elizabeth was personally familiar with him, she gave him
nothing of importance--whether owing to the jealousy of his uncle and
cousin, Burleigh and Robert Cecil, is a point not quite certain. The
patronage of Essex did him very little good, and drew him into the worst
action of his life. But after Elizabeth's death, and when a man of middle
age, he at last began to mount the ladder, and came with some rapidity to
the summit of his profession, being made Lord Chancellor, and created Baron
Verulam and Viscount St. Alban. The title Lord Bacon he never bore in
strictness, but it has been consecrated by the use of many generations, and
it is perhaps pedantry to object to it. Entangled as a courtier in the
rising hatred of the Court felt by the popular party, exposed by his own
carelessness, if not by actual venality in office, to the attacks of his
enemies, and weakly supported, if supported at all, by the favourite
Buckingham (who seems to have thought that Bacon took too much upon himself
in state affairs), he lost, in 1621, all his places and emoluments, and was
heavily fined. The retirement of his last few years produced much literary
fruit, and he died (his death being caused or hastened by an injudicious
experiment) in 1626.

Great as is the place that Bacon occupies in English literature, he
occupies it, as it were, _malgré lui_. Unlike almost all the greatest men
of his own and even of the preceding generation, he seems to have thought
little of the capacities, and less of the chances of the English language.
He held (and, unluckily for him, expressed his opinion in writing) that
"these modern languages will at one time or the other play the bankrupt
with books," and even when he wrote in the despised vernacular he took care
to translate his work, or have it translated, into Latin in order to
forestall the oblivion he dreaded. Nor is this his only phrase of contempt
towards his mother-tongue--the tongue which in his own lifetime served as a
vehicle to a literature compared with which the whole literary achievement
of Latin antiquity is but a neat school exercise, and which in every point
but accomplished precision of form may challenge comparison with Greek
itself. This insensibility of Bacon's is characteristic enough, and might,
if this were the place for any such subtlety, be connected with the other
defects of his strangely blended character--his pusillanimity, his lack of
passion (let any one read the Essay on Love, and remember that some
persons, not always inmates of lunatic asylums, have held that Bacon wrote
the plays of Shakespere), his love of empty pomp and display, and so
forth.

But the English language which he thus despised had a noble and worthy
revenge on Bacon. Of his Latin works hardly anything but the _Novum
Organum_ is now read even for scholastic purposes, and it is not certain
that, but for the saving influences of academical study and prescription,
even that might not slip out of the knowledge of all but specialists. But
with the wider and wider spread and study of English the _Essays_ and _The
Advancement of Learning_ are read ever more and more, and the only reason
that _The History of Henry VII._, _The New Atlantis_, and the _Sylva
Sylvarum_ do not receive equal attention, lies in the comparative
obsoleteness of their matter, combined with the fact that the matter is the
chief thing on which attention is bestowed in them. Even in the two works
noted, the _Essays_ and _The Advancement_, which can go both together in a
small volume, Bacon shows himself at his very greatest in all respects, and
(ignorant or careless as he was of the fact) as one of the greatest writers
of English prose before the accession of Charles I.

The characteristics of style in these two works are by no means the same;
but between them they represent fairly enough the characteristics of all
Bacon's English prose. It might indeed be desirable in studying it to add
to them the _Henry the Seventh_, which is a model of clear historical
narration, not exactly picturesque, but never dull; and though not exactly
erudite, yet by no means wanting in erudition, and exhibiting conclusions
which, after two centuries and a half of record-grubbing, have not been
seriously impugned or greatly altered by any modern historian. In this
book, which was written late, Bacon had, of course, the advantage of his
long previous training in the actual politics of a school not very greatly
altered since the time he was describing, but this does not diminish the
credit due to him for formal excellence.

The _Essays_--which Bacon issued for the first time, to the number of ten,
in 1597, when he was, comparatively speaking, a young man, which he
reissued largely augmented in 1612, and yet again just before his death, in
their final and fullest condition--are not so much in the modern sense
essays as collections of thoughts more or less connected. We have, indeed,
the genesis of them in the very interesting commonplace book called the
_Promus_ [butler or storekeeper] _of Elegancies_, the publication of which,
as a whole, was for some reason or other not undertaken by Mr. Spedding,
and is due to Mrs. Henry Pott. Here we have the quaint, but never merely
quaint, analogies, the apt quotations, the singular flashes of reflection
and illustration, which characterise Bacon, in their most unformed and
new-born condition. In the _Essays_ they are worked together, but still
sententiously, and evidently with no attempt at sustained and fluent
connection of style. That Montaigne must have had some influence on Bacon
is, of course, certain; though few things can be more unlike than the curt
severity of the scheme of the English essays and the interminable
diffuseness of the French. Yet here and there are passages in Montaigne
which might almost be the work of a French Bacon, and in Bacon passages
which might easily be the work of an English Montaigne. In both there is
the same odd mixture of dignity and familiarity--the familiarity
predominating in Montaigne, the dignity in Bacon--and in both there is the
union of a rich fancy and a profound interest in ethical questions, with a
curious absence of passion and enthusiasm--a touch, as it may almost be
called, of Philistinism, which in Bacon's case contrasts most strangely
with his frequently gorgeous language, and the evident richness of his
imagination, or at least his fancy.

The scheme and manner of these essays naturally induced a sententious and
almost undeveloped manner of writing. An extraordinary number of separate
phrases and sentences, which have become the common property of all who use
the language, and are probably most often used without any clear idea of
their author, may be disinterred from them, as well as many striking images
and pregnant thoughts, which have had less general currency. But the
compression of them (which is often so great that they might be printed
sentence by sentence like verses of the Bible) prevents the author from
displaying his command of a consecutive, elaborated, and harmonised style.
What command he had of that style may be found, without looking far, in the
_Henry the Seventh_, in the _Atlantis_, and in various minor works, some
originally written in Latin and translated, such as the magnificent passage
which Dean Church has selected as describing the purpose and crown of the
Baconian system. In such passages the purely oratorical faculty which he
undoubtedly had (though like all the earlier oratory of England, with rare
exceptions, its examples remain a mere tradition, and hardly even that)
displays itself; and one cannot help regretting that, instead of going into
the law, where he never attained to much technical excellence, and where
his mere promotion was at first slow, and was no sooner quickened than it
brought him into difficulties and dangers, he had not sought the safer and
calmer haven of the Church, where he would have been more at leisure to
"take all knowledge to be his province;" would have been less tempted to
engage in the treacherous, and to him always but half-congenial, business
of politics, and would have forestalled, and perhaps excelled, Jeremy
Taylor as a sacred orator. If Bacon be Jeremy's inferior in exuberant
gorgeousness, he is very much his superior in order and proportion, and
quite his equal in sudden flashes of a quaint but illuminative rhetoric.
For after all that has been said of Bacon and his philosophy, he was a
rhetorician rather than a philosopher. Half the puzzlement which has arisen
in the efforts to get something exact out of the stately periods and
splendid promises of the _Novum Organum_ and its companions has arisen from
oversight of this eminently rhetorical character; and this character is the
chief property of his style. It may seem presumptuous to extend the charges
of want of depth which were formulated by good authorities in law and
physics against Bacon in his own day, yet he is everywhere "not deep." He
is stimulating beyond the recorded power of any other man except Socrates;
he is inexhaustible in analogy and illustration, full of wise saws, and of
instances as well ancient as modern. But he is by no means an accurate
expositor, still less a powerful reasoner, and his style is exactly suited
to his mental gifts; now luminously fluent, now pregnantly brief; here just
obscure enough to kindle the reader's desire of penetrating the obscurity,
there flashing with ornament which perhaps serves to conceal a flaw in the
reasoning, but which certainly serves to allure and retain the attention of
the student. All these characteristics are the characteristics rather of
the great orator than of the great philosopher. His constant practice in
every kind of literary composition, and in the meditative thought which
constant literary composition perhaps sometimes tempts its practitioners to
dispense with, enabled him to write on a vast variety of subjects, and in
many different styles. But of these it will always be found that two were
most familiar to him, the short sententious apothegm, parallel, or image,
which suggests and stimulates even when it does not instruct, and the
half-hortatory half-descriptive _discours d'ouverture_, where the writer is
the unwearied panegyrist of promised lands not perhaps to be identified
with great ease on any chart.[38]

[38] Of Bacon in prose, as of Spenser, Shakespere, and Milton in verse, it
does not seem necessary to give extracts, and for the same reason.

A parallel in the Plutarchian manner between Bacon and Raleigh would in
many ways be pleasant, but only one point of it concerns us here,--that
both had been happier and perhaps had done greater things had they been
simple men of letters. Unlike Bacon, who, though he wrote fair verse, shows
no poetical bent, Raleigh was _homo utriusque linguæ_, and his works in
verse, unequal as they are, occasionally touch the loftiest summits of
poetry. It is very much the same in his prose. His minor books, mostly
written hurriedly, and for a purpose, have hardly any share of the graces
of style; and his masterpiece, the famous _History of the World_, is made
up of short passages of the most extraordinary beauty, and long stretches
of monotonous narration and digression, showing not much grace of style,
and absolutely no sense of proportion or skill in arrangement. The
contrast is so strange that some have sought to see in the undoubted facts
that Raleigh, in his tedious prison labours, had assistants and helpers
(Ben Jonson among others), a reason for the superior excellence of such set
pieces as the Preface, the Epilogue, and others, which are scattered about
the course of the work. But independently of the other fact that excellence
of the most diverse kind meets us at every turn, though it also deserts us
at every turn, in Raleigh's varied literary work, and that it would be
absurd to attribute all these passages to some "affable familiar ghost,"
there is the additional difficulty that in none of his reported helpers'
own work do the peculiar graces of the purple passages of the _History_
occur. The immortal descant on mortality with which the book closes, and
which is one of the highest achievements of English prose, is not in the
least like Jonson, not in the least like Selden, not in the least like any
one of whose connection with Raleigh there is record. Donne might have
written it; but there is not the smallest reason for supposing that he did,
and many for being certain that he did not. Therefore, it is only fair to
give Raleigh himself the credit for this and all other passages of the
kind. Their character and, at the same time, their comparative rarity are
both easily explicable. They are all obviously struck off in moments of
excitement--moments when the writer's variable and fanciful temperament was
heated to flashing-point and gave off almost spontaneously these lightnings
of prose as it gave, on other occasions, such lightnings of poetry as _The
Faërie Queene_ sonnet, as "the Lie," and as the other strange jewels (cats'
eyes and opals, rather than pearls or diamonds), which are strung along
with very many common pebbles on Raleigh's poetical necklace. In style they
anticipate Browne (who probably learnt not a little from them) more than
any other writer; and they cannot fairly be said to have been anticipated
by any Englishman. The low and stately music of their cadences is a thing,
except in Browne, almost unique, and it is not easy to trace it to any
peculiar mannerism of vocabulary or of the arrangement of words. But
Raleigh's usual style differs very little from that of other men of his
day, who kept clear at once of euphuism and burlesque. Being chiefly
narrative, it is rather plainer than Hooker, who has some few points of
resemblance with Raleigh, but considerably freer from the vices of
desultoriness and awkward syntax, than most writers of the day except
Hooker. But its most interesting characteristic to the student of
literature must always be the way in which it leads up to, without in the
least foretelling, the bursts of eloquence already referred to. Even
Milton's alternations of splendid imagery with dull and scurrilous
invective, are hardly so strange as Raleigh's changes from jog-trot
commonplace to almost inspired declamation, if only for the reason that
they are much more intelligible. It must also be mentioned that Raleigh,
like Milton, seems to have had little or no humour.

The opening and closing passages of the _History_ are almost universally
known; a quainter, less splendid, but equally characteristic one may be
given here though Mr. Arber has already extracted it:--

     "The four complexions resemble the four elements; and the seven
     ages of man, the seven planets. Whereof our infancy is compared
     to the moon; in which we seem only to live and grow, as plants.

     "The second age, to Mercury; wherein we are taught and
     instructed.

     "Our third age, to Venus; the days of Love, Desire and Vanity.

     "The fourth, to the Sun; the strong, flourishing and beautiful
     age of man's life.

     "The fifth, to Mars; in which we seek honour and victory; and in
     which our thoughts travel to ambitious ends.

     "The sixth age is ascribed to Jupiter; in which we begin to take
     account of our times, judge of ourselves, and grow to the
     perfection of our understanding.

     "The last and seventh, to Saturn; wherein our days are sad and
     overcast; and in which we find by dear and lamentable experience,
     and by the loss which can never be repaired, that, of all our
     vain passions and affections past, the sorrow only abideth. Our
     attendants are sicknesses and variable infirmities: and by how
     much the more we are accompanied with plenty, by so much the more
     greedily is our end desired. Whom, when Time hath made unsociable
     to others, we become a burden to ourselves: being of no other use
     than to hold the riches we have from our successors. In this time
     it is, when we, for the most part (and never before) prepare for
     our Eternal Habitation, which we pass on unto with many sighs,
     groans and sad thoughts: and in the end (by the workmanship of
     Death) finish the sorrowful business of a wretched life. Towards
     which we always travel, both sleeping and waking. Neither have
     those beloved companions of honour and riches any power at all to
     hold us any one day by the glorious promise of entertainments:
     but by what crooked path soever we walk, the same leadeth on
     directly to the House of Death, whose doors lie open at all
     hours, and to all persons."

But great as are Bacon and Raleigh, they cannot approach, as writers of
prose, the company of scholarly divines who produced--what is probably the
greatest prose work in any language--the Authorised Version of the Bible in
English. Now that there is at any rate some fear of this masterpiece
ceasing to be what it has been for three centuries--the school and training
ground of every man and woman of English speech in the noblest uses of
English tongue--every one who values that mother tongue is more especially
bound to put on record his own allegiance to it. The work of the Company
appears to have been loyally performed in common; and it is curious that
such an unmatched result should have been the result of labours thus
combined, and not, as far as is known, controlled by any one guiding
spirit. Among the translators were many excellent writers,--an advantage
which they possessed in a much higher degree than their revisers in the
nineteenth century, of whom few would be mentioned among the best living
writers of English by any competent authority. But, at the same time, no
known translator under James has left anything which at all equals in
strictly literary merit the Authorised Version, as it still is and as long
may it be. The fact is, however, less mysterious after a little examination
than it may seem at first sight. Putting aside all questions as to the
intrinsic value of the subject-matter as out of our province, it will be
generally admitted that the translators had in the greater part of the Old
Testament, in a large part of the Apocrypha, and in no small part of the
New Testament, matter as distinguished from form, of very high literary
value to begin with in their originals. In the second place, they had, in
the Septuagint and in the Vulgate, versions also of no small literary
merit to help them. In the third place, they had in the earlier English
versions excellent quarries of suitable English terms, if not very
accomplished models of style. These, however, were not in any way
advantages peculiar to themselves. The advantages which, in a manner at
least, were peculiar to themselves may be divided into two classes. They
were in the very centre of the great literary ferment of which in this
volume I am striving to give a history as little inadequate as possible.
They had in the air around them an English purged of archaisms and
uncouthnesses, fully adapted to every literary purpose, and yet still racy
of the soil, and free from that burden of hackneyed and outworn literary
platitudes and commonplaces with which centuries of voluminous literary
production have vitiated and loaded the English of our own day. They were
not afraid of Latinising, but they had an ample stock of the pure
vernacular to draw on. These things may be classed together. On the other
side, but equally healthful, may be put the fact that the style and
structure of the originals and earlier versions, and especially that verse
division which has been now so unwisely abandoned, served as safeguards
against the besetting sin of all prose writers of their time, the habit of
indulging in long wandering sentences, in paragraphs destitute of
proportion and of grace, destitute even of ordinary manageableness and
shape. The verses saved them from that once for all; while on the other
hand their own taste, and the help given by the structure of the original
in some cases, prevented them from losing sight of the wood for the trees,
and omitting to consider the relation of verse to verse, as well as the
antiphony of the clauses within the verse. Men without literary faculty
might no doubt have gone wrong; but these were men of great literary
faculty, whose chief liabilities to error were guarded against precisely by
the very conditions in which they found their work. The hour had come
exactly, and so for once had the men.

The result of their labours is so universally known that it is not
necessary to say very much about it; but the mere fact of the universal
knowledge carries with it a possibility of under-valuation. In another
place, dealing with the general subject of English prose style, I have
selected the sixth and seventh verses of the eighth chapter of Solomon's
Song as the best example known to me of absolutely perfect English
prose--harmonious, modulated, yet in no sense trespassing the limits of
prose and becoming poetry. I have in the same place selected, as a
companion passage from a very different original, the Charity passage of
the First Epistle to the Corinthians, which has been so miserably and
wantonly mangled and spoilt by the bad taste and ignorance of the late
revisers. I am tempted to dwell on this because it is very germane to our
subject. One of the blunders which spoils this passage in the Revised
Version is the pedantic substitution of "mirror" for "glass," it having
apparently occurred to some wiseacre that glass was not known to the
ancients, or at least used for mirrors. Had this wiseacre had the slightest
knowledge of English literature, a single title of Gascoigne's, "The Steel
Glass," would have dispensed him at once from any attempt at emendation;
but this is ever and always the way of the sciolist. Fortunately such a
national possession as the original Authorised Version, when once
multiplied and dispersed by the press, is out of reach of vandalism. The
improved version, constructed on very much the same principle as Davenant's
or Ravenscroft's improvements on Shakespere, may be ordered to be read in
churches, and substituted for purposes of taking oaths. But the original
(as it may be called in no burlesque sense such as that of a famous story)
will always be the text resorted to by scholars and men of letters for
purposes of reading, and will remain the authentic lexicon, the recognised
source of English words and constructions of the best period. The days of
creation; the narratives of Joseph and his brethren, of Ruth, of the final
defeat of Ahab, of the discomfiture of the Assyrian host of Sennacherib;
the moral discourses of Ecclesiastes and Ecclesiasticus and the Book of
Wisdom; the poems of the Psalms and the prophets; the visions of the
Revelation,--a hundred other passages which it is unnecessary to
catalogue,--will always be the _ne plus ultra_ of English composition in
their several kinds, and the storehouse from which generation after
generation of writers, sometimes actually hostile to religion and often
indifferent to it, will draw the materials, and not unfrequently the actual
form of their most impassioned and elaborate passages. Revision after
revision, constructed in corrupt following of the transient and embarrassed
phantoms of ephemeral fashion in scholarship, may sink into the Great
Mother of Dead Dogs after setting right a tense here, and there
transferring a rendering from text to margin or from margin to text. But
the work of the unrevised version will remain unaffected by each of these
futile exercitations. All the elements, all the circumstances of a
translation as perfect as can be accomplished in any circumstances and with
any elements, were then present, and the workers were worthy of the work.
The plays of Shakespere and the English Bible are, and will ever be, the
twin monuments not merely of their own period, but of the perfection of
English, the complete expressions of the literary capacities of the
language, at the time when it had lost none of its pristine vigour, and had
put on enough but not too much of the adornments and the limitations of
what may be called literary civilisation.

The boundary between the prose of this period and that which we shall treat
later as "Caroline" is not very clearly fixed. Some men, such as Hall and
Donne, whose poetical work runs parallel to that in prose which we are now
noticing, come as prose writers rather under the later date; others who
continued to write till long after Elizabeth's death, and even after that
of James, seem, by their general complexion, to belong chiefly to the
earlier day. The first of these is Ben Jonson, whose high reputation in
other ways has somewhat unduly damaged, or at least obscured, his merits as
a prose writer. His two chief works in this kind are his _English Grammar_,
in which a sound knowledge of the rules of English writing is discovered,
and the quaintly named _Explorata_ or _Discoveries_ and _Timber_--a
collection of notes varying from a mere aphorism to a respectable essay.
In these latter a singular power of writing prose appears. The book was not
published till after Ben's death, and is thought to have been in part at
least written during the last years of his life. But there can be no
greater contrast than exists between the prose style usual at that time--a
_style tourmenté_, choked with quotation, twisted in every direction by
allusion and conceit, and marred by perpetual confusions of English with
classical grammar--and the straightforward, vigorous English of these
_Discoveries_. They come, in character as in time, midway between Hooker
and Dryden, and they incline rather to the more than to the less modern
form. Here is found the prose character of Shakespere which, if less
magniloquent than that in verse, has a greater touch of sheer sincerity.
Here, too, is an admirable short tractate on Style which exemplifies what
it preaches; and a large number of other excellent things. Some, it is
true, are set down in a shorthand fashion as if (which doubtless they were)
they were commonplace-book notes for working up in due season. But others
and perhaps the majority (they all Baconian-wise have Latin titles, though
only one or two have the text in Latin) are written with complete attention
to literary presentment; seldom though sometimes relapsing into loose
construction of sentences and paragraphs, the besetting sin of the day, and
often presenting, as in the following, a model of sententious but not dry
form:--

     "We should not protect our sloth with the patronage of
     difficulty. It is a false quarrel against nature that she helps
     understanding but in a few, when the most part of mankind are
     inclined by her thither, if they would take the pains; no less
     than birds to fly, horses to run, etc., which if they lose it is
     through their own sluggishness, and by that means become her
     prodigies, not her children. I confess nature in children is more
     patient of labour in study than in age; for the sense of the
     pain, the judgment of the labour is absent, they do not measure
     what they have done. And it is the thought and consideration that
     affects us more than the weariness itself. Plato was not content
     with the learning that Athens could give him, but sailed into
     Italy, for Pythagoras' knowledge: and yet not thinking himself
     sufficiently informed, went into Egypt, to the priests, and
     learned their mysteries. He laboured, so must we. Many things may
     be learned together and performed in one point of time; as
     musicians exercise their memory, their voice, their fingers, and
     sometimes their head and feet at once. And so a preacher, in the
     invention of matter, election of words, composition of gesture,
     look, pronunciation, motion, useth all these faculties at once:
     and if we can express this variety together, why should not
     divers studies, at divers hours, delight, when the variety is
     able alone to refresh and repair us? As when a man is weary of
     writing, to read; and then again of reading, to write. Wherein,
     howsoever we do many things, yet are we (in a sort) still fresh
     to what we begin; we are recreated with change as the stomach is
     with meats. But some will say, this variety breeds confusion, and
     makes that either we lose all or hold no more than the last. Why
     do we not then persuade husbandmen that they should not till
     land, help it with marle, lime, and compost? plant hop gardens,
     prune trees, look to beehives, rear sheep, and all other cattle
     at once? It is easier to do many things and continue, than to do
     one thing long."

No other single writer until we come to the pamphleteers deserves separate
or substantive mention; but in many divisions of literature there were
practitioners who, if they have not kept much notoriety as masters of
style, were well thought of even in that respect in their day, and were
long authorities in point of matter. The regular theological treatises of
the time present nothing equal to Hooker, who in part overlapped it, though
the Jesuit Parsons has some name for vigorous writing. In history, Knolles,
the historian of the Turks, and Sandys, the Eastern traveller and sacred
poet, bear the bell for style among their fellows, such as Hayward, Camden,
Spelman, Speed, and Stow. Daniel the poet, a very good prose writer in his
way, was also a historian of England, but his chief prose work was his
_Defence of Rhyme_. He had companions in the critical task; but it is
curious and by no means uninstructive to notice, that the immense creative
production of the time seems to have to a great extent smothered the
theoretic and critical tendency which, as yet not resulting in actual
performance, betrayed itself at the beginning of the period in Webbe and
Puttenham, in Harvey and Sidney. The example of Eden in collecting and
Englishing travels and voyages was followed by several writers, of whom
two, successively working and residing, the elder at Oxford, and the
younger at Cambridge, made the two greatest collections of the kind in the
language for interest of matter, if not for perfection of style. These
were Richard Hakluyt and Samuel Purchas, a venerable pair. The perhaps
overpraised, but still excellent Characters of the unfortunate Sir Thomas
Overbury and the prose works, such as the _Counterblast_ and _Demonology_,
of James I., are books whose authors have made them more famous than their
intrinsic merits warrant, and in the various collections of "works" of the
day, older and newer, we shall find examples nearly as miscellaneous as
those of the class of writers now to be noticed. Of all this miscellaneous
work it is impossible to give examples, but one critical passage from
Daniel, and one descriptive from Hakluyt may serve:--

     "Methinks we should not so soon yield up our consents captive to
     the authority of antiquity, unless we saw more reason; all our
     understandings are not to be built by the square of Greece and
     Italy. We are the children of nature as well as they, we are not
     so placed out of the way of judgment but that the same sun of
     discretion shineth upon us; we have our portion of the same
     virtues, as well as of the same vices, et Catilinam quocunque in
     populo videas, quocunque sub axe. Time and the turn of things
     bring about these faculties according to the present estimation;
     and, res temporibus, non tempore rebus servire opportet. So that
     we must never rebel against use; quem penes arbitrium est, et vis
     et norma loquendi. It is not the observing of trochaics nor their
     iambics, that will make our writings aught the wiser: all their
     poesy and all their philosophy is nothing, unless we bring the
     discerning light of conceit with us to apply it to use. It is not
     books, but only that great book of the world, and the
     all-overspreading grace of Heaven that makes men truly judicial.
     Nor can it but touch of arrogant ignorance to hold this or that
     nation barbarous, these or those times gross, considering how
     this manifold creature man, wheresoever he stand in the world,
     hath always some disposition of worth, entertains the order of
     society, affects that which is most in use, and is eminent in
     some one thing or other that fits his humour or the times. The
     Grecians held all other nations barbarous but themselves; yet
     Pyrrhus, when he saw the well ordered marching of the Romans,
     which made them see their presumptuous error, could say it was no
     barbarous manner of proceeding. The Goths, Vandals, and
     Longobards, whose coming down like an inundation overwhelmed, as
     they say, all the glory of learning in Europe, have yet left us
     still their laws and customs, as the originals of most of the
     provincial constitutions of Christendom; which, well considered
     with their other courses of government, may serve to clear them
     from this imputation of ignorance. And though the vanquished
     never speak well of the conqueror, yet even through the unsound
     coverings of malediction appear these monuments of truth, as
     argue well their worth, and proves them not without judgment,
     though without Greek and Latin."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "To speak somewhat of these islands, being called, in old time,
     _Insulæ fortunæ_, by the means of the flourishing thereof. The
     fruitfulness of them doth surely exceed far all other that I have
     heard of. For they make wine better then any in Spain: and they
     have grapes of such bigness that they may be compared to damsons,
     and in taste inferior to none. For sugar, suckets, raisons of the
     sun, and many other fruits, abundance: for rosin, and raw silk,
     there is great store. They want neither corn, pullets, cattle,
     nor yet wild fowl.

     "They have many camels also: which, being young, are eaten of the
     people for victuals; and being old, they are used for carriage of
     necessities. Whose property is, as he is taught, to kneel at the
     taking of his load, and the unlading again; of understanding very
     good, but of shape very deformed; with a little belly; long
     misshapen legs; and feet very broad of flesh, without a hoof, all
     whole saving the great toe; a back bearing up like a molehill, a
     large and thin neck, with a little head, with a bunch of hard
     flesh which Nature hath given him in his breast to lean upon.
     This beast liveth hardly, and is contented with straw and
     stubble; but of strong force, being well able to carry five
     hundredweight.

     "In one of these islands called Ferro, there is, by the reports
     of the inhabitants, a certain tree which raineth continually; by
     the dropping whereof the inhabitants and cattle are satisfied
     with water: for other water have they none in all the island. And
     it raineth in such abundance that it were incredible unto a man
     to believe such a virtue to be in a tree; but it is known to be a
     Divine matter, and a thing ordained by God: at Whose power
     therein, we ought not to marvel, seeing He did, by His Providence
     (as we read in the Scriptures) when the Children of Israel were
     going into the Land of Promise, feed them with manna from heaven,
     for the space of forty years. Of these trees aforesaid, we saw in
     Guinea many; being of great height, dropping continually; but not
     so abundantly as the other, because the leaves are narrower and
     are like the leaves of a pear tree. About these islands are
     certain flitting islands, which have been oftentimes seen; and
     when men approach near them, they vanished: as the like hath been
     of these now known (by the report of the inhabitants) which were
     not found but of a long time, one after the other; and,
     therefore, it should seem he is not yet born, to whom God hath
     appointed the finding of them.

     "In this island of Teneriff, there is a hill called the Pike,
     because it is piked; which is, in height, by their report, twenty
     leagues: having, both winter and summer, abundance of snow on the
     top of it. This Pike may be seen, in a clear day, fifty leagues
     off; but it sheweth as though it were a black cloud a great
     height in the element. I have heard of none to be compared with
     this in height; but in the Indies I have seen many, and, in my
     judgment, not inferior to the Pike: and so the Spaniards write."

One of the most remarkable developments of English prose at the time, and
one which has until very recently been almost inaccessible, except in a few
examples, to the student who has not the command of large libraries, while
even by such students it has seldom been thoroughly examined, is the
abundant and very miscellaneous collection of what are called, for want of
a better name, Pamphlets. The term is not too happy, but there is no other
(except the still less happy Miscellany) which describes the thing. It
consists of a vast mass of purely popular literature, seldom written with
any other aim than that of the modern journalist. That is to say, it was
written to meet a current demand, to deal with subjects for one reason or
other interesting at the moment, and, as a matter of course, to bring in
some profit to the writer. These pamphlets are thus as destitute of any
logical community of subject as the articles which compose a modern
newspaper--a production the absence of which they no doubt supplied, and of
which they were in a way the forerunners. Attempts to classify their
subjects could only end in a hopeless cross division. They are religious
very often; political very seldom (for the fate of the luckless Stubbes in
his dealings with the French marriage was not suited to attract);
politico-religious in at least the instance of one famous group, the
so-called Martin Marprelate Controversy; moral constantly; in very many,
especially the earlier instances, narrative, and following to a large
extent in the steps of Lyly and Sidney; besides a large class of curious
tracts dealing with the manners, and usually the bad side of the manners,
of the town. Of the vast miscellaneous mass of these works by single
unimportant or unknown authors it is almost impossible to give any account
here, though valuable instances will be found of them in Mr. Arber's
_English Garner_. But the works of the six most important individual
writers of them--Greene, Nash, Harvey, Dekker, Lodge, Breton (to whom
might be added the verse-pamphleteer, but in no sense poet, Rowlands)--are
luckily now accessible as wholes, Lodge and Rowlands having been published,
or at least privately printed for subscribers, by the Hunterian Club of
Glasgow, and the other five by the prolific industry of Dr. Grosart. The
reprints of Petheram and of Mr. Arber, with new editions of Lyly and
others, have made most of the Marprelate tracts accessible. Some notice of
these collections will not only give a fair idea of the entire
miscellaneous prose of the Elizabethan period, but will also fill a
distinct gap in most histories of it. It will not be necessary to enter
into much personal detail about their authors, for most of them have been
noticed already in other capacities, and of Breton and Rowlands very little
indeed is known. Greene and Lodge stand apart from their fellows in this
respect, that their work is, in some respects at any rate, much more like
literature and less like journalism, though by an odd and apparently
perverse chance, this difference has rather hurt than saved it in the
estimation of posterity. For the kind of literature which both wrote in
this way has gone out of fashion, and its purely literary graces are barely
sufficient to save it from the point of view of form; while the bitter
personalities of Nash, and the quaint adaptations of bygone satire to
contemporary London life in which Dekker excelled, have a certain lasting
interest of matter. On the other hand, the two companions of Marlowe have
the advantage (which they little anticipated, and would perhaps less have
relished) of surviving as illustrations of Shakespere, of the Shakescene
who, decking himself out in their feathers, has by that act rescued
_Pandosto_ and _Euphues' Golden Legacy_ from oblivion by associating them
with the immortality of _As You Like It_ and _The Winter's Tale_.

Owing to the different forms in which this fleeting and unequal work has
been reprinted, it is not very easy to decide off-hand on the relative bulk
of the authors' works. But the palm in this respect must be divided between
Robert Greene and Nicholas Breton, the former of whom fills eleven volumes
of loosely-printed crown octavo, and the latter (in prose only) a thick
quarto of very small and closely-printed double columns. Greene, who began
his work early under the immediate inspiration first of his travels and
then of Lyly's _Euphues_, started, as early as 1583, with _Mamillia, a
Looking-Glass for the Ladies of England_, which, both in general character
and in peculiarities of style, is an obvious copy of _Euphues_. _The Mirror
of Modesty_ is more of a lay sermon, based on the story of Susanna. _The
Tritameron of Love_ is a dialogue without action, but _Arbasto, or the
Anatomie of Fortune_ returns to the novel form, as does _The Card of
Fancy_. _Planetomachia_ is a collection of stories, illustrating the
popular astrological notions, with an introduction on astrology generally.
_Penelope's Web_ is another collection of stories, but _The Spanish
Masquerado_ is one of the most interesting of the series. Written just at
the time of the Armada, it is pure journalism--a _livre de circonstance_
composed to catch the popular temper with aid of a certain actual
knowledge, and a fair amount of reading. Then Greene returned to euphuism
in _Menaphon_, and in _Euphues, his Censure to Philautus_; nor are
_Perimedes the Blacksmith_ and _Tully's Love_ much out of the same line.
_The Royal Exchange_ again deviates, being a very quaint collection,
quaintly arranged, of moral maxims, apophthegms, short stories, etc., for
the use of the citizens. Next, the author began the curious series, at
first perhaps not very sincere, but certainly becoming so at last, of
half-personal reminiscences and regrets, less pointed and well arranged
than Villon's, but remarkably similar. The first and longest of these was
_Greene's Never too Late_, with its second part _Francesco's Fortunes_.
_Greene's Metamorphosis_ is Euphuist once more, and _Greene's Mourning
Garment_ and _Greene's Farewell to Folly_ are the same, with a touch of
personality. Then he diverged into the still more curious series on
"conny-catching"--rooking, gulling, cheating, as we should call it. There
are five or six of these tracts, and though there is not a little
bookmaking in them, they are unquestionably full of instruction as to the
ways of the time. _Philomela_ returns once more to euphuism, but Greene is
soon back again with _A Quip for an Upstart Courtier_, a piece of social
satire, flying rather higher than his previous attempts. The zigzag is kept
up in _Orpharion_, the last printed (at least in the only edition now
known) of the author's works during his lifetime. Not till after his death
did the best known and most personal of all his works appear, the famous
_Groat's Worth of Wit Bought with a Million of Repentance_, in which the
"Shakescene" passage and the exhortation to his friends to repentance
occur. Two more tracts in something the same style--_Greene's Repentance_
and _Greene's Vision_--followed. Their genuineness has been questioned, but
seems to be fairly certain.

This full list--to which must be added the already mentioned _Pandosto, the
Triumph of Time_, or _Dorastus and Fawnia_, and the translated _Debate
between Folly and Love_--of a certainly not scanty life-work (Greene died
when he was quite a young man, and wrote plays besides) has been given,
because it is not only the earliest, but perhaps the most characteristic of
the whole. Despite the apparently unsuitable forms, it is evident that the
writer is striving, without knowing it, at what we call journalism. But
fashion and the absence of models cramp and distort his work. Its main
features are to be found in the personal and satirical pieces, in the vivid
and direct humanity of some touches in the euphuist tract-romances, in the
delightful snatches of verse which intersperse and relieve the
heterogeneous erudition, the clumsy dialogue, and the rococo style. The two
following extracts give, the first a specimen of Greene's ornate and
Euphuist style from _Orpharion_, the second a passage from his
autobiographical or semi-autobiographical confessions in the _Groat's
Worth_:--

     "I am Lydia that renowned Princess, whose never matched beauty
     seemed like the gorgeous pomp of Phoebus, too bright for the day:
     rung so strongly out of the trump of Fame as it filled every ear
     with wonder: Daughter to Astolpho, the King of Lydia: who thought
     himself not so fortunate for his diadem, sith other kings could
     boast of crowns, nor for his great possessions, although endued
     with large territories, as happy that he had a daughter whose
     excellency in favour stained Venus, whose austere chastity set
     Diana to silence with a blush. Know whatsoever thou art that
     standest attentive to my tale, that the ruddiest rose in all
     Damasco, the whitest lilies in the creeks of Danuby, might not if
     they had united their native colours, but have bashed at the
     vermilion stain, flourish'd upon the pure crystal of my face: the
     Marguerites of the western Indies, counted more bright and rich
     than that which Cleopatra quaffed to Anthony, the coral highest
     in his pride upon the Afric shores, might well be graced to
     resemble my teeth and lips, but never honoured to overreach my
     pureness. Remaining thus the mirror of the world, and nature's
     strangest miracle, there arrived in our Court a Thracian knight,
     of personage tall, proportioned in most exquisite form, his face
     but too fair for his qualities, for he was a brave and a resolute
     soldier. This cavalier coming amongst divers others to see the
     royalty of the state of Lydia, no sooner had a glance of my
     beauty, but he set down his staff, resolving either to perish in
     so sweet a labyrinth, or in time happily to stumble out with
     Theseus. He had not stayed long in my father's court, but he
     shewed such knightly deeds of chivalry amongst the nobility,
     lightened with the extraordinary sparks of a courageous mind,
     that not only he was liked and loved of all the chief peers of
     the realms, but the report of his valour coming to my father's
     ears, he was highly honoured of him, and placed in short time as
     General of his warlike forces by land. Resting in this estimation
     with the king, preferment was no means to quiet his mind, for
     love had wounded so deep, as honour by no means might remedy,
     that as the elephants can hardly be haled from the sight of the
     waste, or the roe buck from gazing at red cloth, so there was no
     object that could so much allure the wavering eyes of this
     Thracian called Acestes, as the surpassing beauty of the Princess
     Lydia, yea, so deeply he doted, that as the Chameleon gorgeth
     herself with gazing into the air, so he fed his fancy with
     staring on the heavenly face of his Goddess, so long dallying in
     the flame, that he scorched his wings and in time consumed his
     whole body. Being thus passionate, having none so familiar as he
     durst make his confidant he fell thus to debate with himself."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "On the other side of the hedge sat one that heard his sorrow,
     who getting over, came towards him, and brake off his passion.
     When he approached, he saluted Roberto in this sort: Gentleman,
     quoth he (for so you seem) I have by chance heard you discourse
     some part of your grief; which appeareth to be more than you will
     discover, or I can conceit. But if you vouchsafe such simple
     comfort as my ability will yield, assure yourself, that I will
     endeavour to do the best, that either may procure your profit, or
     bring you pleasure: the rather, for that I suppose you are a
     scholar, and pity it is men of learning should live in lack.

     "Roberto wondering to hear such good words, for that this iron
     age affords few that esteem of virtue; returned him thankful
     gratulations and (urged by necessity) uttered his present grief,
     beseeching his advice how he might be employed. 'Why, easily,'
     quoth he, 'and greatly to your benefit: for men of my profession
     get by scholars their whole living.' 'What is your profession?'
     said Roberto. 'Truly, sir,' said he, 'I am a player.' 'A player!'
     quoth Roberto. 'I took you rather for a gentleman of great
     living, for if by outward habit men should be censured, I tell
     you, you would be taken for a substantial man.' 'So am I, where I
     dwell' (quoth the player) 'reputed able, at my proper cost, to
     build a windmill. What though the world once went hard with me,
     when I was fain to carry my playing fardel a foot-back; _Tempora
     mutantur_, I know you know the meaning of it better than I, but I
     thus construe it; it is otherwise now; for my very share in
     playing apparel will not be sold for two hundred pounds.' 'Truly'
     (said Roberto) 'it is strange that you should so prosper in that
     vain practise, for that it seems to me your voice is nothing
     gracious.' 'Nay, then,' said the player, 'I mislike your
     judgment: why, I am as famous for Delphrigas, and the King of
     Fairies, as ever was any of my time. The twelve labours of
     Hercules have I terribly thundered on the stage, and placed three
     scenes of the devil on the highway to heaven.' 'Have ye so?'
     (said Roberto) 'then I pray you, pardon me.' 'Nay more' (quoth
     the player) 'I can serve to make a pretty speech, for I was a
     country author, passing at a moral, for it was I that penn'd the
     moral of man's wit, the Dialogue of Dives, and for seven years'
     space was absolute interpreter of the puppets. But now my
     Almanach is out of date.

    The people make no estimation
    Of morals teaching education.

     Was not this pretty for a plain rhyme extempore? if ye will ye
     shall have more.' 'Nay, it is enough,' said Roberto, 'but how
     mean you to use me?' 'Why, sir, in making plays,' said the other,
     'for which you shall be well paid, if you will take the pains.'"

These same characteristics, though without the prevailing and in part
obviously sincere melancholy which marks Greene's regrets, also distinguish
Lodge's prose work to such an extent that remarks on the two might
sometimes be made simply interchangeable. But fortune was kinder to Lodge
than to his friend and collaborator. Nor does he seem to have had any
occasion to "tread the burning marl" in company with conny-catchers and
their associates. Lodge began with critical and polemical work--an academic
if not very urbane reply to Stephen Gosson's _School of Abuse_; but in the
_Alarum against Usurers_, which resembles and even preceded Greene's
similar work, he took to the satirical-story-form. Indeed, the connection
between Lodge and Greene was so close, and the difficulty of ascertaining
the exact dates of their compositions is so great, that it is impossible to
be sure which was the precise forerunner. Certainly if Lodge set Greene an
example in the _Alarum against Usurers_, he followed Greene's lead in
_Forbonius and Prisceria_ some years afterwards, having written it on
shipboard in a venture against the Spaniards. Lodge produced much the most
famous book of the euphuist school, next to _Euphues_ itself, as well as
the best known of this pamphlet series, in _Rosalynde_ or _Euphues' Golden
Legacy_, from which Shakespere took the story of _As You Like It_, and of
which an example follows:--

     "'Ah Phoebe,' quoth he, 'whereof art thou made, that thou
     regardest not thy malady? Am I so hateful an object, that thine
     eyes condemn me for an abject? or so base, that thy desires
     cannot stoop so low as to lend me a gracious look? My passions
     are many, my loves more, my thoughts loyalty, and my fancy faith:
     all devoted in humble devoir to the service of Phoebe; and shall
     I reap no reward for such fealties? The swain's daily labours is
     quit with the evening's hire, the ploughman's toil is eased with
     the hope of corn, what the ox sweats out at the plough he
     fatteneth at the crib: but unfortunate Montanus[39] hath no salve
     for his sorrows, nor any hope of recompense for the hazard of his
     perplexed passions. If Phoebe, time may plead the proof of my
     truth, twice seven winters have I loved fair Phoebe: if constancy
     be a cause to further my suit, Montanus' thoughts have been
     sealed in the sweet of Phoebe's excellence, as far from change as
     she from love: if outward passions may discover inward
     affections, the furrows in my face may discover the sorrows of my
     heart, and the map of my looks the grief of my mind. Thou seest
     (Phoebe) the tears of despair have made my cheeks full of
     wrinkles, and my scalding sighs have made the air echo her pity
     conceived in my plaints; Philomel hearing my passions, hath left
     her mournful tunes to listen to the discourse of miseries. I have
     portrayed in every tree the beauty of my mistress, and the
     despair of my loves. What is it in the woods cannot witness my
     woes? and who is it would not pity my plaints? only Phoebe. And
     why? Because I am Montanus, and she Phoebe: I a worthless swain,
     and she the most excellent of all fairies. Beautiful Phoebe! oh
     might I say pitiful, then happy were I though I tasted but one
     minute of that good hap. Measure Montanus, not by his fortunes,
     but by his loves, and balance not his wealth but his desires, and
     lend but one gracious look to cure a heap of disquieted cares: if
     not, ah if Phoebe cannot love, let a storm of frowns end the
     discontent of my thoughts, and so let me perish in my desires,
     because they are above my deserts: only at my death this favour
     cannot be denied me, that all shall say Montanus died for love of
     hard hearted Phoebe.' At these words she filled her face full of
     frowns and made him this short and sharp reply.

     "'Importunate shepherd, whose loves are lawless because restless:
     are thy passions so extreme, that thou canst not conceal them
     with patience? or art thou so folly-sick, that thou must needs be
     fancy-sick, and in thy affection tied to such an exigent as none
     serves but Phoebe? Well, sir, if your market can be made nowhere
     else, home again, for your mart is at the fairest. Phoebe is no
     lettuce for your lips, and her grapes hang so high, that gaze at
     them you may, but touch them you cannot. Yet Montanus I speak not
     this in pride, but in disdain: not that I scorn thee, but that I
     hate love: for I count it as great honour to triumph over fancy
     as over fortune. Rest thee content therefore Montanus, cease from
     thy loves, and bridle thy looks, quench the sparkles before they
     grow to a farther flame; for in loving me, thou shalt but live by
     loss, and what thou utterest in words are all written in the
     wind. Wert thou (Montanus) as fair as Paris, as hardy as Hector,
     as constant as Troilus, as loving as Leander, Phoebe could not
     love, because she cannot love at all: and therefore if thou
     pursue me with Phoebus, I must flie with Daphne.'"

[39] The Silvius, it may be just necessary to observe, of _As You Like It_.

This book seems to have been very successful, and Lodge began to write
pamphlets vigorously, sometimes taking up the social satire, sometimes the
moral treatise, sometimes (and then most happily) the euphuist romance,
salted with charming poems. His last prose work in this kind (he wrote
other things later) was the pretty and prettily-named _Margarite of
America_, in 1596.

The names of Nash and Harvey are intertwined even more closely than those
of Greene and Lodge; but the conjunction is not a grasp of friendship but a
grip of hatred--a wrestle, not an embrace. The fact of the quarrel has
attracted rather disproportionate attention from the days of Isaac Disraeli
onwards; and its original cause is still extremely obscure and very
unimportant. By some it is connected, causally as well as accidentally,
with the Martin Marprelate business; by some with the fact that Harvey
belonged to the inner Sidneian clique, Nash to the outer ring of
professional journalists and Bohemians. It at any rate produced some
remarkable varieties of the pamphlet, and demonstrated the keen interest
which the world takes in the proceedings of any couple of literary men who
choose to abuse and befoul one another. Harvey, though no mean scholar,
was in mere writing no match for Nash; and his chief answer to the latter,
_Pierce's Supererogation_, is about as rambling, incoherent, and
ineffective a combination of pedantry and insolence as need be wished for.
It has some not uninteresting, though usually very obscure, hints on
literary matters. Besides this, Harvey wrote letters to Spenser with their
well-known criticism and recommendation of classical forms, and _Foure
Letters Touching Robert Greene and Others: with the Trimming of Thomas
Nash, Gentleman_. A sample of him, not in his abusive-dull, but in his
scholarly-dull manner, may be given:--

     "Mine own rules and precepts of art, I believe will fall out not
     greatly repugnant, though peradventure somewhat different: and
     yet I am not so resolute, but I can be content to reserve the
     copying out and publishing thereof, until I have a little better
     consulted with my pillow, and taken some further advice of Madame
     Sperienza. In the mean time, take this for a general caveat, and
     say I have revealed one great mystery unto you: I am of opinion,
     there is no one more regular and justifiable direction, either
     for the assured and infallible certainty of our English
     artificial prosody particularly, or generally to bring our
     language into art, and to frame a grammar or rhetoric thereof;
     than first of all universally to agree upon one and the same
     orthography in all points conformable and proportionate to our
     common natural prosody: whether Sir Thomas Smithies in that
     respect be the most perfit, as surely it must needs be very good;
     or else some other of profounder learning and longer experience,
     than Sir Thomas was, shewing by necessary demonstration, wherein
     he is defective, will undertake shortly to supply his wants and
     make him more absolute. Myself dare not hope to hop after him,
     till I see something or other, to or fro, publicly and
     authentically established, as it were by a general council, or
     Act of Parliament: and then peradventure, standing upon firmer
     ground, for company sake, I may adventure to do as others do.
     _Interim_, credit me, I dare give no precepts, nor set down any
     certain general art: and yet see my boldness, I am not greatly
     squeamish of my _Particular Examples_, whereas he that can but
     reasonably skill of the one, will give easily a shrewd guess at
     the other: considering that the one fetcheth his original and
     offspring from the other. In which respect, to say troth, we
     beginners have the start, and advantage of our followers, who are
     to frame and conform both their examples and precepts, according
     to precedent which they have of us: as no doubt Homer or some
     other in Greek, and Ennius, or I know not who else in Latin, did
     prejudice, and overrule those that followed them, as well for
     the quantities of syllables, as number of feet, and the like:
     their only examples going for current payment, and standing
     instead of laws, and rules with the posterity."

In Harvey, more perhaps than anywhere else in prose, appears the abusive
exaggeration, not humorous or Rabelaisian, but simply rancorous and dull,
which mars so much Elizabethan work. In order not to fall into the same
error ourselves, we must abstain from repeating the very strong language
which has sometimes been applied to his treatment of dead men, and such
dead men as Greene and Marlowe, for apparently no other fault than their
being friends of his enemy Nash. It is sufficient to say that Harvey had
all the worst traits of "donnishness," without having apparently any notion
of that dignity which sometimes half excuses the don. He was emphatically
of Mr. Carlyle's "acrid-quack" genus.

Thomas Nash will himself hardly escape the charge of acridity, but only
injustice or want of discernment will call him a quack. Unlike Harvey, but
like Greene and Lodge, he was a verse as well as a prose writer. But his
verse is in comparison unimportant. Nor was he tempted to intersperse
specimens of it in his prose work. The absolutely best part of that
work--the Anti-Martinist pamphlets to be noticed presently--is only
attributed to him conjecturally, though the grounds of attribution are very
strong. But his characteristics are fully evident in his undoubted
productions. The first of these in pamphlet form is the very odd thing
called _Pierce Penniless_ [the name by which Nash became known], _his
Supplication to the Devil_. It is a kind of rambling condemnation of
luxury, for the most part delivered in the form of burlesque exhortation,
which the mediæval _sermons joyeux_ had made familiar in all European
countries. Probably some allusions in this refer to Harvey, whose
pragmatical pedantry may have in many ways annoyed Nash, a Cambridge man
like himself. At any rate the two soon plunged into a regular battle, the
documents of which on Nash's side are, first a prognostication, something
in the style of Rabelais, then a formal confutation of the _Four Letters_,
and then the famous lampoon entitled _Have with you to Saffron Walden_
[Harvey's birthplace], of which here is a specimen:--

     "His father he undid to furnish him to the Court once more, where
     presenting himself in all the colours of the rainbow, and a pair
     of moustaches like a black horse tail tied up in a knot, with two
     tufts sticking out on each side, he was asked by no mean
     personage, _Unde hæc insania_? whence proceedeth this folly or
     madness? and he replied with that weather-beaten piece of a verse
     out of the Grammar, _Semel insanivimus omnes_, once in our days
     there is none of us but have played the idiots; and so was he
     counted and bade stand by for a Nodgscomb. He that most
     patronized him, prying more searchingly into him, and finding
     that he was more meet to make sport with than any way deeply to
     be employed, with fair words shook him off, and told him he was
     fitter for the University, than for the Court or his turn, and so
     bade God prosper his studies, and sent for another Secretary to
     Oxford.

     "Readers, be merry; for in me there shall want nothing I can do
     to make you merry. You see I have brought the Doctor out of
     request at Court, and it shall cost me a fall, but I will get him
     hooted out of the University too, ere I give him over. What will
     you give me when I bring him upon the Stage in one of the
     principalest Colleges in Cambridge? Lay any wager with me, and I
     will; or if you lay no wager at all, I'll fetch him aloft in
     Pedantius, that exquisite Comedy in Trinity College; where under
     the chief part, from which it took his name, as namely the
     concise and firking finicaldo fine School master, he was full
     drawn and delineated from the sole of his foot to the crown of
     his head. The just manner of his phrase in his Orations and
     Disputations they stuffed his mouth with, and no Buffianism
     throughout his whole books, but they bolstered out his part with;
     as those ragged remnants in his four familiar epistles 'twixt him
     and _Senior Immerito, raptim scripta, noste manum et stylum_,
     with innumerable other of his rabble-routs: and scoffing his
     _Musarum Lachrymæ_ with _Flebo amorem meum etiam musarum
     lachrymis_; which, to give it his due, was a more collachrymate
     wretched Treatise than my _Piers Penniless_, being the pitifulest
     pangs that ever any man's Muse breathed forth. I leave out half;
     not the carrying up of his gown, his nice gait on his pantoffles,
     or the affected accent of his speech, but they personated. And if
     I should reveal all, I think they borrowed his gown to play the
     part in, the more to flout him. Let him deny this (and not damn
     himself) for his life if he can. Let him deny that there was a
     Shew made at Clare Hall of him and his two brothers, called,

        "_Tarra, rantantara turba tumultuosa Trigonum
        Tri-Harveyorum Tri-harmonia_

     Let him deny that there was another Shew made of the little
     Minnow his brother, _Dodrans Dick_, at Peter-house called,

        "_Duns furens._ Dick Harvey in a frensy.

     Whereupon Dick came and broke the College glass windows; and
     Doctor Perne (being then either for himself or deputy
     Vice-Chancellor) caused him to be fetched in, and set in the
     Stocks till the Shew was ended, and a great part of the night
     after."

_The Terrors of the Night_, a discourse of apparitions, for once, among
these oddly-named pieces, tells a plain story. Its successor, _Christ's
Tears over Jerusalem_, Nash's longest book, is one of those rather
enigmatical expressions of repentance for loose life which were so common
at the time, and which, according to the charity of the reader, may be
attributed to real feeling, to a temporary access of _Katzen-jammer_, or to
downright hypocrisy, bent only on manufacturing profitable "copy," and
varying its style to catch different tastes. The most unfavourable
hypothesis is probably unjust, and a certain tone of sincerity also runs
through the next book, _The Unfortunate Traveller_, in which Nash, like
many others, inveighs against the practice of sending young Englishmen to
be corrupted abroad. It is noteworthy that this (the place of which in the
history of the novel has been rather exaggerated) is the oldest authority
for the romance of Surrey and Geraldine; but it is uncertain whether this
was pure invention on Nash's part or not. Nash's _Lenten Stuff_ is very
interesting, being a panegyric on Great Yarmouth and its famous staple
commodity (though Nash was actually born at Lowestoft).

In Nash's work we find a style both of treatment and language entirely
different from anything of Greene's or Lodge's. He has no euphuism, his
forte being either extravagant burlesque (in which the influence of
Rabelais is pretty directly perceptible, while he himself acknowledges
indebtedness to some other sources, such as Bullen or Bullein, a dialogue
writer of the preceding generation), or else personal attack, boisterous
and unscrupulous, but often most vigorous and effective. Diffuseness and
want of keeping to the point too frequently mar Nash's work; but when he
shakes himself free from them, and goes straight for his enemy or his
subject, he is a singularly forcible writer. In his case more than in any
of the others, the journalist born out of due time is perceptible. He had
perhaps not much original message for the world. But he had eminently the
trick both of damaging controversial argument made light to catch the
popular taste, and of easy discussion or narrative. The chief defects of
his work would probably have disappeared of themselves if he had had to
write not pamphlets, but articles. He did, however, what he could; and he
is worthy of a place in the history of literature if only for the sake of
_Have with you to Saffron Walden_--the best example of its own kind to be
found before the end of the seventeenth century, if not the beginning of
the eighteenth.

Thomas Dekker was much less of a born prose writer than his half-namesake,
Nash. His best work, unlike Nash's, was done in verse, and, while he was
far Nash's superior, not merely in poetical expression but in creative
grasp of character, he was entirely destitute of Nash's incisive and direct
faculty of invective. Nevertheless his work, too, is memorable among the
prose work of the time, and for special reasons. His first pamphlet
(according to the peculiarity already noted in Rowlands's case) is not
prose at all, but verse--yet not the verse of which Dekker had real
mastery, being a very lamentable ballad of the destruction of Jerusalem,
entitled _Canaan's Calamity_ (1598). The next, _The Wonderful Year_, is the
account of London in plague time, and has at least the interest of being
comparable with, and perhaps that of having to some extent inspired,
Defoe's famous performance. Then, and of the same date, follows a very
curious piece, the foreign origin of which has not been so generally
noticed as that of Dekker's most famous prose production. _The Bachelor's
Banquet_ is in effect only a free rendering of the immortal fifteenth
century satire, assigned on no very solid evidence to Antoine de la Salle,
the _Quinze Joyes de Mariage_, the resemblance being kept down to the
recurrence at the end of each section of the same phrase, "in Lob's
pound," which reproduces the less grotesque "dans la nasse" of the
original. But here, as later, the skill with which Dekker adapts and brings
in telling circumstances appropriate to his own day deserves every
acknowledgment. _Dekker's Dreame_ is chiefly verse and chiefly pious; and
then at a date somewhat later than that of our present period, but
connected with it by the fact of authorship, begins a very interesting
series of pieces, more vivid if somewhat less well written than Greene's,
and connected with his "conny-catching" course. _The Bellman of London_,
_Lanthorn and Candlelight_, _A Strange Horse-Race_, _The Seven Deadly Sins
of London_, _News from Hell_, _The Double P.P._, and _The Gull's Hornbook_,
are all pamphlets of this class; the chief interest resting in _News from
Hell_ (which, according to the author's scheme, connects itself with Nash's
_Pierce Penniless_, and is the devil's answer thereto) and _The Gull's
Hornbook_ (1609). This last, the best known of Dekker's work, is an
Englishing of the no less famous _Grobianus_ of Frederick Dedekind, and the
same skill of adaptation which was noticed in _The Bachelor's Banquet_ is
observable here. The spirit of these works seems to have been so popular
that Dekker kept it up in _The Dead Term_ [long vacation], _Work for
Armourers_ (which, however, is less particular and connects itself with
Nash's sententious work), _The Raven's Almanack_, and _A Rod for Runaways_
(1625). _The Four Birds of Noah's Ark_, which Dr. Grosart prints last, is
of a totally different character, being purely a book of piety. It is thus
inferior in interest to the series dealing with the low life of London,
which contains most curious studies of the ancient order of ragamuffins (as
a modern satirist has pleasantly called them), and bears altogether marks
of greater sincerity than the parallel studies of other writers. For about
Dekker, hack and penny-a-liner as he undoubtedly was, there was a
simplicity, a truth to nature, and at the same time a faculty of dramatic
presentation in which Greene, Lodge, and Nash were wholly wanting; and his
prose pamphlets smack of these good gifts in their measure as much as _The
Honest Whore_. Indeed, on the whole, he seems to be the most trustworthy
of these chroniclers of the English picaroons; and one feels disposed to
believe that if the things which he tells did not actually happen,
something very like them was probably happening every day in London during
the time of "Eliza and our James." For the time of Eliza and our James was
by no means a wholly heroic period, and it only loses, not gains, by the
fiction that every man of letters was a Spenser and every man of affairs a
Sidney or even a Raleigh. Extracts from _The Seven Deadly Sins_ and _The
Gull's Hornbook_ may be given:--

     "O Candle-light! and art thou one of the cursed crew? hast thou
     been set at the table of Princes and Noblemen? have all sorts of
     people done reverence unto thee, and stood bare so soon as ever
     they have seen thee? have thieves, traitors, and murderers been
     afraid to come in thy presence, because they knew thee just, and
     that thou wouldest discover them? And art thou now a harbourer of
     all kinds of vices? nay, dost thou play the capital Vice thyself?
     Hast thou had so many learned Lectures read before thee, and is
     the light of thy understanding now clean put out, and have so
     many profound scholars profited by thee? hast thou done such good
     to Universities, been such a guide to the lame, and seen the
     doing of so many good works, yet dost thou now look dimly, and
     with a dull eye, upon all goodness? What comfort have sick men
     taken (in weary and irksome nights) but only in thee? thou hast
     been their physician and apothecary, and when the relish of
     nothing could please them, the very shadow of thee hath been to
     them a restorative consolation. The nurse hath stilled her
     wayward infant, shewing it but to thee: What gladness hast thou
     put into mariners' bosoms when thou hast met them on the sea!
     What joy into the faint and benighted traveller when he has met
     thee on the land! How many poor handicraftsmen by thee have
     earned the best part of their living! And art thou now become a
     companion for drunkards, for leachers, and for prodigals? Art
     thou turned reprobate? thou wilt burn for it in hell. And so
     odious is this thy apostasy, and hiding thyself from the light of
     the truth, that at thy death and going out of the world, even
     they that love thee best will tread thee under their feet: yea, I
     that have thus played the herald, and proclaimed thy good parts,
     will now play the crier and call thee into open court, to arraign
     thee for thy misdemeanours."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "For do but consider what an excellent thing sleep is: it is so
     inestimable a jewel that, if a tyrant would give his crown for an
     hour's slumber, it cannot be bought: of so beautiful a shape is
     it, that though a man lie with an Empress, his heart cannot be at
     quiet till he leaves her embracements to be at rest with the
     other: yea, so greatly indebted are we to this kinsman of death,
     that we owe the better tributary, half of our life to him: and
     there is good cause why we should do so: for sleep is that golden
     chain that ties health and our bodies together. Who complains of
     want? of wounds? of cares? of great men's oppressions? of
     captivity? whilst he sleepeth? Beggars in their beds take as much
     pleasure as kings: can we therefore surfeit on this delicate
     Ambrosia? can we drink too much of that whereof to taste too
     little tumbles us into a churchyard, and to use it but
     indifferently throws us into Bedlam? No, no, look upon Endymion,
     the moon's minion, who slept three score and fifteen years, and
     was not a hair the worse for it. Can lying abed till noon (being
     not the three score and fifteenth thousand part of his nap) be
     hurtful?

     "Besides, by the opinion of all philosophers and physicians, it
     is not good to trust the air with our bodies till the sun with
     his flame-coloured wings hath fanned away the misty smoke of the
     morning, and refined that thick tobacco-breath which the
     rheumatic night throws abroad of purpose to put out the eye of
     the element: which work questionless cannot be perfectly finished
     till the sun's car-horses stand prancing on the very top of
     highest noon: so that then (and not till then) is the most
     healthful hour to be stirring. Do you require examples to
     persuade you? At what time do Lords and Ladies use to rise but
     then? Your simpering merchants' wives are the fairest lyers in
     the world: and is not eleven o'clock their common hour? they find
     (no doubt) unspeakable sweetness in such lying, else they would
     not day by day put it so in practice. In a word, mid-day slumbers
     are golden; they make the body fat, the skin fair, the flesh
     plump, delicate and tender; they set a russet colour on the
     cheeks of young women, and make lusty courage to rise up in men;
     they make us thrifty, both in sparing victuals (for breakfasts
     thereby are saved from the hell-mouth of the belly) and in
     preserving apparel; for while we warm us in our beds our clothes
     are not worn.

     "The casements of thine eyes being then at this commendable time
     of the day newly set open, choose rather to have thy wind-pipe
     cut in pieces than to salute any man. Bid not good-morrow so much
     as to thy father, though he be an emperor. An idle ceremony it is
     and can do him little good; to thyself it may bring much harm:
     for if he be a wise man that knows how to hold his peace, of
     necessity must he be counted a fool that cannot keep his tongue."

The voluminous work in pamphlet kind of Nicholas Breton, still more the
verse efforts closely akin to it of Samuel Rowlands, John Davies of
Hereford and some others, must be passed over with very brief notice. Dr.
Grosart's elaborate edition of the first-named has given a vast mass of
matter very interesting to the student of literature, but which cannot be
honestly recommended to the general reader. Breton, whose long life and
perpetual literary activity fill up great part of our whole period, was an
Essex gentleman of a good family (a fact which he never forgot), and
apparently for some time a dependent of the well-known Countess of
Pembroke, Sidney's sister. A much older man than most of the great wits of
Elizabeth's reign, he also survived most of them, and his publications, if
not his composition, cover a full half century, though he was _nel mezzo
del cammin_ at the date of the earliest. He was probably born some years
before the middle of the sixteenth century, and certainly did not die
before the first year of Charles I. If we could take as his the charming
lullaby of _The Arbour of Amorous Devices_ he would stand (if only as a
kind of "single-speech") high as a poet. But I fear that Dr. Grosart's
attribution of it to him is based on little external and refuted by all
internal evidence. His best certain thing is the pretty "Phillida and
Corydon" idyll, which may be found in _England's Helicon_ or in Mr. Ward's
_Poets_. But I own that I can never read this latter without thinking of
two lines of Fulke Greville's in the same metre and on no very different
theme--

    "O'er enamelled meads they went,
    Quiet she, he passion-rent,"

which are simply worth all the works of Breton, prose and verse, unless we
count the _Lullaby_, put together. In the _mots rayonnants_, the _mots de
lumière_, he is sadly deficient. But his work (which is nearly as plentiful
in verse as in prose) is, as has been said, very interesting to the
literary student, because it shows better perhaps than anything else the
style of literature which a man, disdaining to condescend to burlesque or
bawdry, not gifted with any extraordinary talent, either at prose or verse,
but possessed of a certain literary faculty, could then produce with a fair
chance of being published and bought. It cannot be said that the result
shows great daintiness in Breton's public. The verse, with an improvement
in sweetness and fluency, is very much of the doggerel style which was
prevalent before Spenser; and the prose, though showing considerable
faculty, if not of invention, yet of adroit imitation of previously
invented styles, is devoid of distinction and point. There are, however,
exercises after Breton's own fashion in almost every popular style of the
time--euphuist romances, moral treatises, packets of letters, collections
of jests and short tales, purely religious tractates, characters (after the
style later illustrated by Overbury and Earle), dialogues, maxims, pictures
of manners, collections of notes about foreign countries,--in fact, the
whole farrago of the modern periodical. The pervading characteristics are
Breton's invariable modesty, his pious and, if I may be permitted to use
the word, gentlemanly spirit, and a fashion of writing which, if not very
pointed, picturesque, or epigrammatic, is clear, easy, and on the whole
rather superior, in observance of the laws of grammar and arrangement, to
the work of men of much greater note in his day.

The verse pamphlets of Rowlands (whom I have not studied as thoroughly as
most others), Davies, and many less voluminous men, are placed here with
all due apology for the liberty. They are seldom or never of much formal
merit, but they are interesting, first, because they testify to the hold
which the mediæval conception of verse, as a general literary medium as
suitable as prose and more attractive, had upon men even at this late time;
and secondly, because, like the purely prose pamphlets, they are full of
information as to the manners of the time. For Rowlands I may refer to Mr.
Gosse's essay. John Davies of Hereford, the writing-master, though he has
been carefully edited for students, and is by no means unworthy of study,
has had less benefit of exposition to the general reader. He was not a
genius, but he is a good example of the rather dull man who, despite the
disfavour of circumstance, contrives by much assiduity and ingenious
following of models to attain a certain position in literature. There are
John Davieses of Hereford in every age, but since the invention and filing
of newspapers their individuality has been not a little merged. The
anonymous journalist of our days is simply to the historian such and such
a paper, volume so-and-so, page so much, column this or that. The good John
Davies, living in another age, still stands as _nominis umbra_, but with a
not inconsiderable body of work to throw the shadow.

One of the most remarkable, and certainly one of not the least interesting
developments of the Elizabethan pamphlet remains to be noticed. This is the
celebrated series of "Martin Marprelate" tracts, with the replies which
they called forth. Indeed the popularity of this series may be said to have
given a great impulse to the whole pamphleteering system. It is somewhat
unfortunate that this interesting subject has never been taken up in full
by a dispassionate historian of literature, sufficiently versed in politics
and in theology. In mid-nineteenth century most, but by no means all of the
more notable tracts were reprinted by John Petheram, a London bookseller,
whose productions have since been issued under the well-known imprint of
John Russell Smith, the publisher of the _Library of Old Authors_. This
gave occasion to a review in _The Christian Remembrancer_, afterwards
enlarged and printed as a book by Mr. Maskell, a High Churchman who
subsequently seceded to the Church of Rome. This latter accident has rather
unfavourably and unfairly affected later judgments of his work, which,
however, is certainly not free from party bias. It has scarcely been less
unlucky that the chief recent dealers with the matter, Professor Arber (who
projected a valuable reprint of the whole series in his _English Scholars'
Library_, and who prefaced it with a quite invaluable introductory sketch),
and Dr. Grosart, who also included divers Anti-Martinist tracts in his
privately printed _Works of Nashe_, are very strongly prejudiced on the
Puritan side.[40] Between these authorities the dispassionate inquirer who
attacks the texts for himself is likely to feel somewhat in the position of
a man who exposes himself to a cross fire. The Martin Marprelate
controversy, looked at without prejudice but with sufficient information,
shows itself as a very early example of the reckless violence of private
crotcheteers on the one hand, and of the rather considerable unwisdom of
the official defenders of order on the other. "Martin's" method was to a
certain extent an anticipation of the famous move by which Pascal, fifty
years later, "took theology out of the schools into drawing-rooms," except
that Martin and his adversaries transferred the venue rather to the
tap-room than to the drawing-room. The controversy between the framers of
the Church of England in its present state, and the hot gospellers who,
with Thomas Cartwright at their head, denied the proposition (not deniable
or denied now by any sane and scholarly disputant) that church discipline
and government are points left to a great extent undefined in the
Scriptures, had gone on for years before Martin appeared. Cartwright and
Whitgift had fought, with a certain advantage of warmth and eloquence on
Cartwright's side, and with an immense preponderance of logical cogency on
Whitgift's. Many minor persons had joined in the struggle, and at last a
divine, more worthy than wise, John Bridges, Dean of Salisbury, had
produced on the orthodox side one of those enormous treatises (it had some
fifteen hundred quarto pages) which are usually left unread by the side
they favour, and which exasperate the side they oppose. The ordinary law of
the time, moreover, which placed large powers in the hands of the bishops,
and especially entrusted them with a rigid and complete censorship of the
press, had begun to be put in force severely against the more outspoken
partisans. Any one who will take the trouble to read the examination of
Henry Barrow, which Mr. Arber has reprinted,[41] or even the "moderate"
tracts of Nicholas Udall, which in a manner ushered in the Marprelate
controversy, will probably be more surprised at the long-suffering of the
judges than at the sufferings of their prisoners. Barrow, in a long and
patient examination before the council, of which the Bishop of London and
the Archbishop of Canterbury were members, called them to their faces the
one a "wolf," a "bloody persecutor," and an "apostate," the other "a
monster" and "the second beast that is spoken of in the Revelations." The
"moderate" Udall, after publishing a dialogue (in which an Anglican bishop
called Diotrephes is represented, among other things, as planning measures
against the Puritans in consort with a papist and an usurer), further
composed a _Demonstration of Discipline_ in which, writing, according to
Mr. Arber, "without any satire or invective," he calls the bishops merely
_qua_ bishops, "the wretched fathers of a filthy mother," with abundant
epithets to match, and rains down on every practice of the existing church
government such terms as "blasphemous," "damnable," "hellish," and the
like. To the modern reader who looks at these things with the eyes of the
present day, it may of course seem that it would have been wiser to let the
dogs bark. But that was not the principle of the time: and as Mr. Arber
most frankly admits, it was certainly not the principle of the dogs
themselves. The Puritans claimed for themselves a not less absolute right
to call in the secular arm if they could, and a much more absolute
certainty and righteousness for their tenets than the very hottest of their
adversaries.

[40] This prejudice is naturally still stronger in some American writers,
notably Dr. Dexter.

[41] Arber, _Introductory Sketch_. p. 40 _sqq._ All the quotations and
references which follow will be found in Arber's and Petheram's reprints or
in Grosart's _Nash_, vol. 1. If the works cited are not given as wholes in
them, the fact will be noted. (See also Mr. Bond's _Lyly_.)

Udall was directly, as well as indirectly, the begetter of the Martin
Marprelate controversy: though after he got into trouble in connection with
it, he made a sufficiently distinct expression of disapproval of the
Martinist methods, and it seems to have been due more to accident and his
own obstinacy than anything else that he died in prison instead of being
obliged with the honourable banishment of a Guinea chaplaincy. His printer,
Waldegrave, had had his press seized and his license withdrawn for
_Diotrephes_, and resentment at this threw what, in the existing
arrangements of censorship and the Stationers' monopoly, was a very
difficult thing to obtain--command of a practical printer--into the hands
of the malcontents. Chief among these malcontents was a certain Reverend
John Penry, a Welshman by birth, a member, as was then not uncommon, of
both universities, and the author, among other more dubious publications,
of a plea, intemperately stated in parts, but very sober and sensible at
bottom, for a change in the system of allotting and administering the
benefices of the church in Wales. Which plea, be it observed in passing,
had it been attended to, it would have been better for both the church and
state of England at this day. The pamphlet[42] contained, however, a
distinct insinuation against the Queen, of designedly keeping Wales in
ignorance and subjection--an insinuation which, in those days, was
equivalent to high treason. The book was seized, and the author imprisoned
(1587). Now when, about a year after, and in the very height of the danger
from the Armada, Waldegrave's livelihood was threatened by the proceedings
above referred to, it would appear that he obtained from the Continent, or
had previously secreted from his confiscated stock, printing tools, and
that he and Penry, at the house of Mistress Crane, at East Molesey, in
Surrey, printed a certain tract, called, for shortness, "The Epistle."[43]
This tract, of the authorship and character of which more presently,
created a great sensation. It was immediately followed, the press being
shifted for safety to the houses of divers Puritan country gentlemen, by
the promised _Epitome_. So great was the stir, that a formal answer of
great length was put forth by "T. C." (well known to be Thomas Cooper,
Bishop of Winchester), entitled, _An Admonition to the People of England_.
The Martinists, from their invisible and shifting citadel, replied with
perhaps the cleverest tract of the whole controversy, named, with
deliberate quaintness, _Hay any Work for Cooper?_[44] ("Have You any Work
for the Cooper?" said to be an actual trade London cry). Thenceforward the
_mêlée_ of pamphlets, answers, "replies, duplies, quadruplies," became in
small space indescribable. Petheram's prospectus of reprints (only
partially carried out) enumerates twenty-six, almost all printed in the
three years 1588-1590; Mr. Arber, including preliminary works, counts some
thirty. The perambulating press was once seized (at Newton Lane, near
Manchester), but Martin was not silenced. It is certain (though there are
no remnants extant of the matter concerned) that Martin was brought on the
stage in some form or other, and though the duration of the controversy was
as short as its character was hot, it was rather suppressed than
extinguished by the death of Udall in prison, and the execution of Penry
and Barrow in 1593.

[42] Large extracts from it are given by Arber.

[43] As the titles of these productions are highly characteristic of the
style of the controversy, and, indeed, are sometimes considerably more
poignant than the text, it may be well to give some of them in full as
follows:--

_The Epistle._--Oh read over D. John Bridges, for it is a worthy work: Or
an Epitome of the first book of that right worshipful volume, written
against the Puritans, in the defence of the noble Clergy, by as worshipful
a Priest, John Bridges, Presbyter, Priest or Elder, Doctor of Divillity
[_sic_], and Dean of Sarum, Wherein the arguments of the Puritans are
wisely presented, that when they come to answer M. Doctor, they must needs
say something that hath been spoken. Compiled for the behoof and overthrow
of the Parsons Fyckers and Currats [_sic_] that have learnt their
catechisms, and are past grace: by the reverend and worthy Martin
Marprelate, gentleman, and dedicated to the Confocation [_sic_] house. The
Epitome is not yet published, but it shall be when the Bishops are at
convenient leisure to view the same. In the mean time let them be content
with this learned Epistle. Printed, oversea, in Europe, within two furlongs
of a Bouncing Priest, at the cost and charges of M. Marprelate, gentleman.

[44] Hay any work for Cooper, or a brief pistle directed by way of an
hublication [_sic_] to the reverend bishops, counselling them if they will
needs be barrelled up for fear of smelling in the nostrils of her Majesty
and the State, that they would use the advice of Reverend Martin for the
providing of their Cooper; because the Reverend T. C. (by which mystical
letters is understood either the bouncing parson of East Meon or Tom Cokes
his chaplain), hath shewed himself in his late admonition to the people of
England to be an unskilful and beceitful [_sic_] tub-trimmer. Wherein
worthy Martin quits him like a man, I warrant you in the modest defence of
his self and his learned pistles, and makes the Cooper's hoops to fly off,
and the bishops' tubs to leak out of all cry. Penned and compiled by Martin
the metropolitan. Printed in Europe, not far from some of the bouncing
priests.

The actual authorship of the Martinist Tracts is still purely a matter of
hypothesis. Penry has been the general favourite, and perhaps the argument
from the difference of style in his known works is not quite convincing.
The American writer Dr. Dexter, a fervent admirer, as stated above, of the
Puritans, is for Barrow. Mr. Arber thinks that a gentleman of good birth
named Job Throckmorton, who was certainly concerned in the affair, was
probably the author of the more characteristic passages. Fantastic
suggestions of Jesuit attempts to distract the Anglican Church have also
been made,--attempts sufficiently refuted by the improbability of the
persons known to be concerned lending themselves to such an intrigue, for,
hotheads as Penry and the rest were, they were transparently honest. On the
side of the defence, authorship is a little better ascertained. Of Cooper's
work there is no doubt, and some purely secular men of letters were oddly
mixed up in the affair. It is all but certain that John Lyly wrote the
so-called _Pap with a Hatchet_,[45] which in deliberate oddity of phrase,
scurrility of language, and desultoriness of method outvies the wildest
Martinist outbursts. The later tract, _An Almond for a Parrot_,[46] which
deserves a very similar description, may not improbably be the same
author's; and Dr. Grosart has reasonably attributed four anti-Martinist
tracts (_A Countercuff to Martin Junior_ [_Martin Junior_ was one of the
Marprelate treatises], _Pasquil's Return_, _Martin's Month's Mind_, and
_Pasquil's Apology_), to Nash. But the discussion of such questions comes
but ill within the limits of such a book as the present.

[45] Pap with a Hatchet, alias A fig for my godson! or Crack me this nut,
or A country cuff that is a sound box of the ear for the idiot Martin for
to hold his peace, seeing the patch will take no warning. Written by one
that dares call a dog a dog, and made to prevent Martin's dog-days.
Imprinted by John-a-noke and John-a-stile for the baylive [_sic_] of
Withernam, _cum privilegio perennitatis_; and are to be sold at the sign of
the crab-tree-cudgel in Thwackcoat Lane. A sentence. Martin hangs fit for
my mowing.

[46] An Almond for a Parrot, or Cuthbert Curryknaves alms. Fit for the
knave Martin, and the rest of those impudent beggars that cannot be content
to stay their stomachs with a benefice, but they will needs break their
fasts with our bishops. _Rimarum sum plenus._ Therefore beware, gentle
reader, you catch not the hicket with laughing. Imprinted at a place, not
far from a place, by the assigns of Signior Somebody, and are to be sold at
his shop in Troubleknave Street at the sign of the Standish.

The discussion of the characteristics of the actual tracts, as they
present themselves and whosoever wrote them, is, on the other hand,
entirely within our competence. On the whole the literary merit of the
treatises has, I think, been overrated. The admirers of Martin have even
gone so far as to traverse Penry's perfectly true statement that in using
light, not to say ribald, treatment of a serious subject, he was only
following [Marnix de Sainte Aldegonde and] other Protestant writers, and
have attributed to him an almost entire originality of method, owing at
most something to the popular "gags" of the actor Richard Tarleton, then
recently dead. This is quite uncritical. An exceedingly free treatment of
sacred and serious affairs had been characteristic of the Reformers from
Luther downward, and the new Martin only introduced the variety of style
which any writer of considerable talents is sure to show. His method, at
any rate for a time, is no doubt sufficiently amusing, though it is hardly
effective. Serious arguments are mixed up with the wildest buffoonery, and
unconscious absurdities (such as a solemn charge against the unlucky Bishop
Aylmer because he used the phrase "by my faith," and enjoyed a game at
bowls) with the most venomous assertion or insinuation of really odious
offences. The official answer to the _Epistle_ and the _Epitome_ has been
praised by no less a person than Bacon[47] for its gravity of tone.
Unluckily Dr. Cooper was entirely destitute of the faculty of relieving
argument with humour. He attacks the theology of the Martinists with
learning and logic that leave nothing to desire; but unluckily he proceeds
in precisely the same style to deal laboriously with the quips assigned by
Martin to Mistress Margaret Lawson (a noted Puritan shrew of the day), and
with mere idle things like the assertion that Whitgift "carried Dr. Perne's
cloakbag." The result is that, as has been said, the rejoinder _Hay any
Work for Cooper_ shows Martin, at least at the beginning, at his very best.
The artificial simplicity of his distortions of Cooper's really simple
statements is not unworthy of Swift, or of the best of the more recent
practitioners of the grave and polite kind of political irony. But this is
at the beginning, and soon afterwards Martin relapses for the most part
into the alternation between serious argument which will not hold water and
grotesque buffoonery which has little to do with the matter. A passage from
the _Epistle_ lampooning Aylmer, Bishop of London, and a sample each of
_Pap with a Hatchet_ and the _Almond_, will show the general style. But the
most characteristic pieces of all are generally too coarse and too
irreverent to be quotable:--

[47] In his _Advertisement Touching the Controversies of the Church of
England_ (Works. Folio, 1753, ii. p. 375).

     [Sidenote: _I'll make you weary of it dumb John, except you leave
     persecuting._]

     "Well now to mine eloquence, for I can do it I tell you. Who made
     the porter of his gate a dumb minister? Dumb John of London. Who
     abuseth her Majesty's subjects, in urging them to subscribe
     contrary to law? John of London. Who abuseth the high commission,
     as much as any? John London (and D. Stanhope too). Who bound an
     Essex minister, in 200_l._ to wear the surplice on Easter Day
     last? John London. Who hath cut down the elms at Fulham? John
     London. Who is a carnal defender of the breach of the Sabbath in
     all the places of his abode? John London. Who forbiddeth men to
     humble themselves in fasting and prayer before the Lord, and then
     can say unto the preachers, now you were best to tell the people
     that we forbid fasts? John London. Who goeth to bowls upon the
     Sabbath? Dumb Dunstical John of good London hath done all this. I
     will for this time leave this figure, and tell your venerable
     masterdoms a tale worth the hearing: I had it at the second hand:
     if he that told it me added anything, I do not commend him, but I
     forgive him: The matter is this. A man dying in Fulham, made one
     of the Bishop of London's men his executor. The man had
     bequeathed certain legacies unto a poor shepherd in the town. The
     shepherd could get nothing of the Bishop's man, and therefore
     made his moan unto a gentleman of Fulham, that belongeth to the
     court of requests. The gentleman's name is M. Madox. The poor
     man's case came to be tried in the Court of Requests. The B. man
     desired his master's help: Dumb John wrote to the masters of
     requests to this effect, and I think these were his words:

     "'My masters of the requests, the bearer hereof being my man,
     hath a cause before you: inasmuch as I understand how the matter
     standeth, I pray you let my man be discharged the court, and I
     will see an agreement made. Fare you well.' The letter came to M.
     D. Dale, he answered it in this sort:

     "'My Lord of London, this man delivered your letter, I pray you
     give him his dinner on Christmas Day for his labour, and fare you
     well.'

     "Dumb John not speeding this way, sent for the said M. Madox: he
     came, some rough words passed on both sides, Presbyter John said,
     Master Madox was very saucy, especially seeing he knew before
     whom he spake: namely, the Lord of Fulham. Whereunto the
     gentleman answered that he had been a poor freeholder in Fulham,
     before Don John came to be L. there, hoping also to be so, when
     he and all his brood (my Lady his daughter and all) should be
     gone. At the hearing of this speech, the wasp got my brother by
     the nose, which made him in his rage to affirm, that he would be
     L. of Fulham as long as he lived in despite of all England. Nay,
     soft there, quoth M. Madox, except her Majesty. I pray you, that
     is my meaning, call dumb John, and I tell thee Madox that thou
     art but a Jack to use me so: Master Madox replying, said that
     indeed his name was John, and if every John were a Jack, he was
     content to be a Jack (there he hit my L. over the thumbs). The B.
     growing in choler, said that Master Madox his name did shew what
     he was, for saith he, thy name is mad ox, which declareth thee to
     be an unruly and mad beast. M. Madox answered again, that the B.
     name, if it were descanted upon, did most significantly shew his
     qualities. For said he, you are called Elmar, but you may be
     better called marelm, for you have marred all the elms in Fulham:
     having cut them all down. This far is my worthy story, as worthy
     to be printed, as any part of Dean John's book, I am sure."

       *       *       *       *       *

              "To the Father and the two Sons,
                  HUFF, RUFF, and SNUFF,[48]
     the three tame ruffians of the Church, which take pepper
              in the nose, because they cannot
                        mar Prelates:
                          greeting.

     "Room for a royster; so that's well said. Ach, a little farther
     for a good fellow. Now have at you all my gaffers of the railing
     religion, 'tis I that must take you a peg lower. I am sure you
     look for more work, you shall have wood enough to cleave, make
     your tongue the wedge, and your head the beetle. I'll make such a
     splinter run into your wits, as shall make them rankle till you
     become fools. Nay, if you shoot books like fools' bolts, I'll be
     so bold as to make your judgments quiver with my thunderbolts. If
     you mean to gather clouds in the Commonwealth, to threaten
     tempests, for your flakes of snow, we'll pay you with stones of
     hail; if with an easterly wind you bring caterpillers into the
     Church, with a northern wind we'll drive barrens into your wits.

     "We care not for a Scottish mist, though it wet us to the skin,
     you shall be sure your cockscombs shall not be missed, but
     pierced to the skulls. I profess railing, and think it as good a
     cudgel for a martin, as a stone for a dog, or a whip for an ape,
     or poison for a rat.

     "Yet find fault with no broad terms, for I have measured yours
     with mine, and I find yours broader just by the list. Say not my
     speeches are light, for I have weighed yours and mine, and I find
     yours lighter by twenty grains than the allowance. For number you
     exceed, for you have thirty ribald words for my one, and yet you
     bear a good spirit. I was loth so to write as I have done, but
     that I learned, that he that drinks with cutters, must not be
     without his ale daggers; nor he that buckles with Martin, without
     his lavish terms.

     "Who would curry an ass with an ivory comb? Give the beast
     thistles for provender. I do but yet angle with a silken fly, to
     see whether martins will nibble; and if I see that, why then I
     have worms for the nonce, and will give them line enough like a
     trout, till they swallow both hook and line, and then, Martin,
     beware your gills, for I'll make you dance at the pole's end.

     "I know Martin will with a trice bestride my shoulders. Well, if
     he ride me, let the fool sit fast, for my wit is very hickish:
     which if he spur with his copper reply, when it bleeds, it will
     all to besmear their consciences.

     "If a martin can play at chess, as well as his nephew the ape, he
     shall know what it is for a scaddle pawn to cross a Bishop in his
     own walk. Such diedappers must be taken up, else they'll not
     stick to check the king. Rip up my life, discipher my name, fill
     thy answer as full of lies as of lines, swell like a toad, hiss
     like an adder, bite like a dog, and chatter like a monkey, my pen
     is prepared and my mind; and if ye chance to find any worse words
     than you brought, let them be put in your dad's dictionary. And
     so farewell, and be hanged, and I pray God ye fare no worse.

            "Yours at an hour's warning,

                      "DOUBLE V."

[48] Well-known stage characters in Preston's _Cambyses_.

       *       *       *       *       *

     "By this time I think, good-man Puritan, that thou art persuaded,
     that I know as well as thy own conscience thee, namely Martin
     Makebate of England, to be a most scurvy and beggarly benefactor
     to obedience, and _per consequens_, to fear neither men, nor that
     God Who can cast both body and soul into unquenchable fire. In
     which respect I neither account you of the Church, nor esteem of
     your blood, otherwise than the blood of Infidels. Talk as long as
     you will of the joys of heaven, or pains of hell, and turn from
     yourselves the terror of that judgment how you will, which shall
     bereave blushing iniquity of the fig-leaves of hypocrisy, yet
     will the eye of immortality discern of your painted pollutions,
     as the ever-living food of perdition. The humours of my eyes are
     the habitations of fountains, and the circumference of my heart
     the enclosure of fearful contrition, when I think how many souls
     at that moment shall carry the name of Martin on their foreheads
     to the vale of confusion, in whose innocent blood thou swimming
     to hell, shalt have the torments of ten thousand thousand sinners
     at once, inflicted upon thee. There will envy, malice, and
     dissimulation be ever calling for vengeance against thee, and
     incite whole legions of devils to thy deathless lamentation.
     Mercy will say unto thee, I know thee not, and Repentance, what
     have I to do with thee? All hopes shall shake the head at thee,
     and say: there goes the poison of purity, the perfection of
     impiety, the serpentine seducer of simplicity. Zeal herself will
     cry out upon thee, and curse the time that ever she was mashed by
     thy malice, who like a blind leader of the blind, sufferedst her
     to stumble at every step in Religion, and madest her seek in the
     dimness of her sight, to murder her mother the Church, from whose
     paps thou like an envious dog but yesterday pluckedst her.
     However, proud scorner, thy whorish impudency may happen
     hereafter to insist in the derision of these fearful
     denunciations, and sport thy jester's pen at the speech of my
     soul, yet take heed least despair be predominant in the day of
     thy death, and thou instead of calling for mercy to thy Jesus,
     repeat more oftener to thyself, _Sic morior damnatus ut Judas_!
     And thus much, Martin, in the way of compassion, have I spoke for
     thy edification, moved thereto by a brotherly commiseration,
     which if thou be not too desperate in thy devilish attempts, may
     reform thy heart to remorse, and thy pamphlets to some more
     profitable theme of repentance."

If Martin Marprelate is compared with the _Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum_
earlier, or the _Satire Menippée_ very little later, the want of polish and
directness about contemporary English satire will be strikingly apparent.
At the same time he does not compare badly with his own antagonists. The
divines like Cooper are, as has been said, too serious. The men of letters
like Lyly and Nash are not nearly serious enough, though some exception may
be made for Nash, especially if _Pasquil's Apology_ be his. They out-Martin
Martin himself in mere abusiveness, in deliberate quaintness of phrase, in
fantastic vapourings and promises of the dreadful things that are going to
be done to the enemy. They deal some shrewd hits at the glaring faults of
their subject, his outrageous abuse of authorities, his profanity, his
ribaldry, his irrelevance; but in point of the three last qualities there
is not much to choose between him and them. One line of counter attack they
did indeed hit upon, which was followed up for generations with no small
success against the Nonconformists, and that is the charge of hypocritical
abuse of the influence which the Nonconformist teachers early acquired over
women. The germs of the unmatched passages to this effect in _The Tale of a
Tub_ may be found in the rough horseplay of _Pap with a Hatchet_ and _An
Almond for a Parrot_. But the spirit of the whole controversy is in fact a
spirit of horseplay. Abuse takes the place of sarcasm, Rabelaisian
luxuriance of words the place of the plain hard hitting, with no flourishes
or capers, but with every blow given straight from the shoulder, which
Dryden and Halifax, Swift and Bentley, were to introduce into English
controversy a hundred years later. The peculiar exuberance of Elizabethan
literature, evident in all its departments, is nowhere more evident than in
this department of the prose pamphlet, and in no section of that department
is it more evident than in the Tracts of the Martin Marprelate Controversy.
Never perhaps were more wild and whirling words used about any exceedingly
serious and highly technical matter of discussion; and probably most
readers who have ventured into the midst of the tussle will sympathise with
the adjuration of _Plain Percivall the Peacemaker of England_ (supposed to
be Richard Harvey, brother of Gabriel, who was himself not entirely free
from suspicion of concernment in the matter), "My masters, that strive for
this supernatural art of wrangling, let all be husht and quiet a-God's
name." It is needless to say that the disputants did not comply with Plain
Percivall's request. Indeed they bestowed some of their choicest abuse on
him in return for his advice. Not even by the casting of the most
peacemaking of all dust, that of years and the grave, can it be said that
these jars at last _compacta quiescunt_. For it is difficult to find any
account of the transaction which does not break out sooner or later into
strong language.



CHAPTER VII

THE THIRD DRAMATIC PERIOD


I have chosen, to fill the third division of our dramatic chapters, seven
chief writers of distinguished individuality, reserving a certain fringe of
anonymous plays and of less famous personalities for the fourth and last.
The seven exceptional persons are Beaumont and Fletcher, Webster,
Middleton, Heywood, Tourneur, and Day. It would be perhaps lost labour to
attempt to make out a severe definition, shutting these off on the one hand
from their predecessors, on the other from those that followed them. We
must be satisfied in such cases with an approach to exactness, and it is
certain that while most of the men just named had made some appearance in
the latest years of Elizabeth, and while one or two of them lasted into the
earliest years of Charles, they all represent, in their period of
flourishing and in the character of their work, the Jacobean age. In some
of them, as in Middleton and Day, the Elizabethan type prevails; in others,
as in Fletcher, a distinctly new flavour--a flavour not perceptible in
Shakespere, much less in Marlowe--appears. But in none of them is that
other flavour of pronounced decadence, which appears in the work of men so
great as Massinger and Ford, at all perceptible. We are still in the
creative period, and in some of the work to be now noticed we are in a
comparatively unformed stage of it. It has been said, and not unjustly
said, that the work of Beaumont and Fletcher belongs, when looked at on
one side, not to the days of Elizabeth at all, but to the later seventeenth
century; and this is true to the extent that the post-Restoration
dramatists copied Fletcher and followed Fletcher very much more than
Shakespere. But not only dates but other characteristics refer the work of
Beaumont and Fletcher to a distinctly earlier period than the work of
their, in some sense, successors Massinger and Ford.

It will have been observed that I cleave to the old-fashioned nomenclature,
and speak of "Beaumont and Fletcher." Until very recently, when two new
editions have made their appearance, there was for a time a certain
tendency to bring Fletcher into greater prominence than his partner, but at
the same time and on the whole to depreciate both. I am in all things but
ill-disposed to admit innovation without the clearest and most cogent
proofs; and although the comparatively short life of Beaumont makes it
impossible that he should have taken part in some of the fifty-two plays
traditionally assigned to the partnership (we may perhaps add Mr. Bullen's
remarkable discovery of _Sir John Barneveldt_, in which Massinger probably
took Beaumont's place), I see no reason to dispute the well-established
theory that Beaumont contributed at least criticism, and probably original
work, to a large number of these plays; and that his influence probably
survived himself in conditioning his partner's work. And I am also disposed
to think that the plays attributed to the pair have scarcely had fair
measure in comparison with the work of their contemporaries, which was so
long neglected. Beaumont and Fletcher kept the stage--kept it constantly
and triumphantly--till almost, if not quite, within living memory; while
since the seventeenth century, and since its earlier part, I believe that
very few plays of Dekker's or Middleton's, of Webster's or of Ford's, have
been presented to an English audience. This of itself constituted at the
great revival of interest in Elizabethan literature something of a
prejudice in favour of _les oubliés et les dédaignés_, and this prejudice
has naturally grown stronger since all alike have been banished from the
stage. The Copper Captain and the Humorous Lieutenant, Bessus and Monsieur
Thomas, are no longer on the boards to plead for their authors. The
comparative depreciation of Lamb and others is still on the shelves to
support their rivals.

Although we still know but little about either Beaumont or Fletcher
personally, they differ from most of their great contemporaries by having
come of "kenned folk," and by having to all appearance, industrious as they
were, had no inducement to write for money. Francis Beaumont was born at
Gracedieu, in Leicestershire in 1584. He was the son of a chief-justice;
his family had for generations been eminent, chiefly in the law; his
brother, Sir John Beaumont, was not only a poet of some merit, but a man of
position, and Francis himself, two years before his death in 1616, married
a Kentish heiress. He was educated at Broadgates Hall (now Pembroke
College), Oxford, and seems to have made acquaintance with John Fletcher
soon after quitting the University. Fletcher was five years older than his
friend, and of a clerical family, his father being Bishop of London, and
his uncle, Giles Fletcher (the author of _Licia_), a dignitary of the
Church. The younger Giles Fletcher and his brother Phineas were thus
cousins of the dramatist. Fletcher was a Cambridge man, having been
educated at Benet College (at present and indeed originally known as Corpus
Christi). Little else is known of him except that he died of the plague in
1625, nine years after Beaumont's death, as he had been born five years
before him. These two men, however, one of whom was but thirty and the
other not fifty when he died, have left by far the largest collection of
printed plays attributed to any English author. A good deal of dispute has
been indulged in as to their probable shares,--the most likely opinion
being that Fletcher was the creator and Beaumont (whose abilities in
criticism were recognised by such a judge as Ben Jonson) the critical and
revising spirit. About a third of the whole number have been supposed to
represent Beaumont's influence more or less directly. These include the two
finest, _The Maid's Tragedy_ and _Philaster_; while as to the third play,
which may be put on the same level, _The Two Noble Kinsmen_, early
assertion, confirmed by a constant catena of the best critical authority,
maintains that Beaumont's place was taken by no less a collaborator than
Shakespere. Fletcher, as has been said, wrote in conjunction with Massinger
(we know this for certain from Sir Aston Cokain), and with Rowley and
others, while Shirley seems to have finished some of his plays. Some modern
criticism has manifested a desire to apply the always uncertain and usually
unprofitable tests of separation to the great mass of his work. With this
we need not busy ourselves. The received collection has quite sufficient
idiosyncrasy of its own as a whole to make it superfluous for any one,
except as a matter of amusement, to try to split it up.

Its characteristics are, as has been said, sufficiently marked, both in
defects and in merits. The comparative depreciation which has come upon
Beaumont and Fletcher naturally fixes on the defects. There is in the work
of the pair, and especially in Fletcher's work when he wrought alone, a
certain loose fluency, an ungirt and relaxed air, which contrasts very
strongly with the strenuous ways of the elder playwrights. This exhibits
itself not in plotting or playwork proper, but in style and in
versification (the redundant syllable predominating, and every now and then
the verse slipping away altogether into the strange medley between verse
and prose, which we shall find so frequent in the next and last period),
and also in the characters. We quit indeed the monstrous types of cruelty,
of lust, of revenge, in which many of the Elizabethans proper and of
Fletcher's own contemporaries delighted. But at the same time we find a
decidedly lowered standard of general morality--a distinct approach towards
the _fay ce que voudras_ of the Restoration. We are also nearer to the
region of the commonplace. Nowhere appears that attempt to grapple with the
impossible, that wrestle with the hardest problems, which Marlowe began,
and which he taught to some at least of his followers. And lastly--despite
innumerable touches of tender and not a few of heroic poetry--the actual
poetical value of the dramas at their best is below that of the best work
of the preceding time, and of such contemporaries as Webster and Dekker.
Beaumont and Fletcher constantly delight, but they do not very often
transport, and even when they do, it is with a less strange rapture than
that which communicates itself to the reader of Shakespere _passim_, and to
the readers of many of Shakespere's fellows here and there.

This, I think, is a fair allowance. But, when it is made, a goodly capital
whereon to draw still remains to our poets. In the first place, no sound
criticism can possibly overlook the astonishing volume and variety of their
work. No doubt they did not often (if they ever did) invent their fables.
But they have never failed to treat them in such a way as to make them
original, and this of itself shows a wonderful faculty of invention and
constitutes an inexhaustible source of pleasure. This pleasure is all the
more pleasurable because the matter is always presented in a thoroughly
workmanlike form. The shapelessness, the incoherence, the necessity for
endless annotation and patching together, which mar so many even of the
finest Elizabethan plays, have no place in Beaumont and Fletcher. Their
dramatic construction is almost narrative in its clear and easy flow, in
its absence of puzzles and piecings. Again, their stories are always
interesting, and their characters (especially the lighter ones) always more
or less attractive. It used to be fashionable to praise their "young men,"
probably because of the agreeable contrast which they present with the
brutality of the Restoration hero; but their girls are more to my fancy.
They were not straightlaced, and have left some sufficiently ugly and (let
it be added) not too natural types of sheer impudence, such as the Megra of
_Philaster_. Nor could they ever attain to the romantic perfection of
Imogen in one kind, of Rosalind in another, of Juliet in a third. But for
portraits of pleasant English girls not too squeamish, not at all afraid of
love-making, quite convinced of the hackneyed assertion of the mythologists
that jests and jokes go in the train of Venus, but true-hearted,
affectionate, and of a sound, if not a very nice morality, commend me to
Fletcher's Dorotheas, and Marys, and Celias. Add to this the excellence of
their comedy (there is little better comedy of its kind anywhere than that
of _A King and no King_, of the _Humorous Lieutenant_, of _Rule a Wife and
have a Wife_), their generally high standard of dialogue verse, their
charming songs, and it will be seen that if they have not the daemonic
virtue of a few great dramatic poets, they have at any rate very good,
solid, pleasant, and plentiful substitutes for it.

It is no light matter to criticise more than fifty plays in not many times
fifty lines; yet something must be said about some of them at any rate. The
play which usually opens the series, _The Maid's Tragedy_, is perhaps the
finest of all on the purely tragic side, though its plot is a little
improbable, and to modern notions not very agreeable. Hazlitt disliked it
much; and though this is chiefly to be accounted for by the monarchical
tone of it, it is certainly faulty in parts. It shows, in the first place,
the authors' greatest dramatic weakness--a weakness common indeed to all
their tribe except Shakespere--the representation of sudden and quite
insufficiently motived moral revolutions; and, secondly, another fault of
theirs in the representation of helpless and rather nerveless virtue
punished without fault of its own indeed, but also without any effort. The
Aspatia of _The Maid's Tragedy_ and the Bellario of _Philaster_, pathetic
as they are, are also slightly irritating. Still the pathos is great, and
the quarrel or threatened quarrel of the friends Amintor and Melantius, the
horrible trial put upon Amintor by his sovereign and the abandoned Evadne,
as well as the whole part of Evadne herself when she has once been (rather
improbably) converted, are excellent. A passage of some length from the
latter part of the play may supply as well as another the sufficient
requirement of an illustrative extract:--

    _Evad._ "O my lord!

    _Amin._ How now?

    _Evad._ My much abused Lord! (_Kneels._)

    _Amin._ This cannot be.

    _Evad._ I do not kneel to live, I dare not hope it;
            The wrongs I did are greater: look upon me
            Though I appear with all my faults.

    _Amin._ Stand up.
            This is a new way to beget more sorrow.
            Heav'n knows, I have too many; do not mock me;
            Though I am tame and bred up with my wrongs
            Which are my foster-brothers, I may leap
            Like a hand-wolf into my natural wildness
            And do an outrage: pray thee, do not mock me.

    _Evad._ My whole life is so leprous, it infects
            All my repentance: I would buy your pardon
            Though at the highest set, even with my life:
            That slight contrition, that's no sacrifice
            For what I have committed.

    _Amin._ Sure I dazzle.
            There cannot be a Faith in that foul woman
            That knows no God more mighty than her mischiefs:
            Thou dost still worse, still number on thy faults
            To press my poor heart thus. Can I believe
            There's any seed of virtue in that woman
            Left to shoot up, that dares go on in sin
            Known, and so known as thine is? O Evadne!
            'Would, there were any safety in thy sex,
            That I might put a thousand sorrows off,
            And credit thy repentance! But I must not;
            Thou'st brought me to that dull calamity,
            To that strange misbelief of all the world
            And all things that are in it; that, I fear
            I shall fall like a tree, and find my grave,
            Only remembering that I grieve.

    _Evad._ My lord,
            Give me your griefs: you are an innocent,
            A soul as white as Heav'n. Let not my sins
            Perish your noble youth: I do not fall here
            To shadows by dissembling with my tears
            (As, all say, women can) or to make less
            What my hot will hath done, which Heav'n and you
            Knows to be tougher than the hand of time
            Can cut from man's remembrance; no, I do not;
            I do appear the same, the same Evadne
            Drest in the shames I liv'd in; the same monster:
            But these are names of honour, to what I am;
            I do present myself the foulest creature
            Most pois'nous, dang'rous, and despis'd of men,
            Lerna e'er bred, or Nilus: I am hell,
            Till you, my dear lord, shoot your light into me
            The beams of your forgiveness: I am soul-sick;
            And wither with the fear of one condemn'd,
            Till I have got your pardon.

    _Amin._ Rise, Evadne.
            Those heavenly Powers, that put this good into thee,
            Grant a continuance of it: I forgive thee;
            Make thyself worthy of it, and take heed,
            Take heed, Evadne, this be serious;
            Mock not the Pow'rs above, that can and dare
            Give thee a great example of their justice
            To all ensuing eyes, if that thou playest
            With thy repentance, the best sacrifice.

    _Evad._ I have done nothing good to win belief,
            My life hath been so faithless; all the creatures
            Made for Heav'n's honours, have their ends, and good ones,
            All but the cozening crocodiles, false women;
            They reign here like those plagues, those killing sores,
            Men pray against; and when they die, like tales
            Ill told, and unbeliev'd they pass away
            And go to dust forgotten: But, my lord,
            Those short days I shall number to my rest,
            (As many must not see me) shall, though late
            (Though in my evening, yet perceive a will,)
            Since I can do no good, because a woman,
            Reach constantly at something that is near it;
            I will redeem one minute of my age,
            Or, like another Niobe, I'll weep
            Till I am water.

    _Amin._ I am now dissolv'd.
            My frozen soul melts: may each sin thou hast
            Find a new mercy! rise, I am at peace:
            Hadst thou been thus, thus excellently good,
            Before that devil king tempted thy frailty,
            Sure, thou hadst made a star. Give me thy hand;
            From this time I will know thee, and as far
            As honour gives me leave, be thy Amintor.
            When we meet next, I will salute thee fairly
            And pray the gods to give thee happy days.
            My charity shall go along with thee
            Though my embraces must be far from thee.
            I should ha' kill'd thee, but this sweet repentance
            Locks up my vengeance, for which thus I kiss thee,
            The last kiss we must take."

The beautiful play of _Philaster_ has already been glanced at; it is
sufficient to add that its detached passages are deservedly the most famous
of all. The insufficiency of the reasons of Philaster's jealousy may be
considered by different persons as affecting to a different extent the
merit of the piece. In these two pieces tragedy, or at least tragi-comedy,
has the upper hand; it is in the next pair as usually arranged (for the
chronological order of these plays is hitherto unsolved) that Fletcher's
singular _vis comica_ appears. _A King and no King_ has a very serious
plot; and the loves of Arbaces and Panthea are most lofty, insolent, and
passionate. But the comedy of Bessus and his two swordsmen, which is fresh
and vivid even after Bobadil and Parolles (I do not say Falstaff, because I
hold it a vulgar error to consider Falstaff as really a coward at all), is
perhaps more generally interesting. As for _The Scornful Lady_ it is comedy
pure and simple, and very excellent comedy too. The callousness of the
younger Loveless--an ugly forerunner of Restoration manners--injures it a
little, and the instantaneous and quite unreasonable conversion of the
usurer Morecraft a little more. But the humours of the Lady herself (a most
Molièresque personage), and those of Roger and Abigail, with many minor
touches, more than redeem it. The plays which follow [49] are all comical
and mostly farcical. The situations, rather than the expressions of _The
Custom of the Country_, bring it under the ban of a rather unfair
condemnation of Dryden's, pronounced when he was quite unsuccessfully
trying to free the drama of himself and his contemporaries from Collier's
damning charges. But there are many lively traits in it. _The Elder
Brother_ is one of those many variations on _cedant arma togæ_ which men of
letters have always been somewhat prone to overvalue; but the excellent
comedy of _The Spanish Curate_ is not impaired by the fact that Dryden
chose to adapt it after his own fashion in The _Spanish Friar_. In _Wit
Without Money_, though it is as usual amusing, the stage preference for a
"roaring boy," a senseless crack-brained spendthrift, appears perhaps a
little too strongly. _The Beggar's Bush_ is interesting because of its
early indications of cant language, connecting it with Brome's _Jovial
Crew_, and with Dekker's thieves' Latin pamphlets. But the faults and the
merits of Fletcher have scarcely found better expression anywhere than in
_The Humorous Lieutenant_. Celia is his masterpiece in the delineation of
the type of girl outlined above, and awkward as her double courtship by
Demetrius and his father Antigonus is, one somehow forgives it, despite the
nauseous crew of go-betweens of both sexes whom Fletcher here as elsewhere
seems to take a pleasure in introducing. As for the Lieutenant he is quite
charming; and even the ultra-farcical episode of his falling in love with
the king owing to a philtre is well carried off. Then follows the
delightful pastoral of _The Faithful Shepherdess_, which ranks with
Jonson's _Sad Shepherd_ and with _Comus_, as the three chiefs of its style
in English. _The Loyal Subject_ falls a little behind, as also does _The
Mad Lover_; but _Rule a Wife and have a Wife_ again rises to the first
class. Inferior to Shakespere in the power of transcending without
travestying human affairs, to Jonson in sharply presented humours, to
Congreve and Sheridan in rattling fire of dialogue, our authors have no
superior in half-farcical, half-pathetic comedy of a certain kind, and they
have perhaps nowhere shown their power better than in the picture of the
Copper Captain and his Wife. The flagrant absurdity of _The Laws of Candy_
(which put the penalty of death on ingratitude, and apparently fix no
criterion of what ingratitude is, except the decision of the person who
thinks himself ungratefully treated), spoils a play which is not worse
written than the rest. But in _The False One_, based on Egyptian history
just after Pompey's death, and _Valentinian_, which follows with a little
poetical license the crimes and punishment of that Emperor, a return is
made to pure tragedy--in both cases with great success. The magnificent
passage which Hazlitt singled out from _The False One_ is perhaps the
author's or authors' highest attempt in tragic declamation, and may be
considered to have stopped not far short of the highest tragic poetry.

[49] It may perhaps be well to mention that the references to "volumes" are
to the ten-volume edition of 1750, by Theobald, Seward, and others.

    "'Oh thou conqueror,
    Thou glory of the world once, now the pity:
    Thou awe of nations, wherefore didst thou fall thus?
    What poor fate followed thee, and plucked thee on
    To trust thy sacred life to an Egyptian?
    The life and light of Rome to a blind stranger,
    That honourable war ne'er taught a nobleness
    Nor worthy circumstance show'd what a man was?
    That never heard thy name sung but in banquets
    And loose lascivious pleasures? to a boy
    That had no faith to comprehend thy greatness
    No study of thy life to know thy goodness?...
    Egyptians, dare you think your high pyramides
    Built to out-dure the sun, as you suppose,
    Where your unworthy kings lie rak'd in ashes,
    Are monuments fit for him! No, brood of Nilus,
    Nothing can cover his high fame but heaven;
    No pyramid set off his memories,
    But the eternal substance of his greatness,
    To which I leave him.'"

The chief fault of _Valentinian_ is that the character of Maximus is very
indistinctly drawn, and that of Eudoxia nearly unintelligible. These two
pure tragedies are contrasted with two comedies, _The Little French Lawyer_
and _Monsieur Thomas_, which deserve high praise. The fabliau-motive of the
first is happily contrasted with the character of Lamira and the friendship
of Clerimont and Dinant; while no play has so many of Fletcher's agreeable
young women as _Monsieur Thomas_. _The Bloody Brother_, which its title
speaks as sufficiently tragical, comes between two excellent comedies, _The
Chances_ and _The Wild Goose Chase_, which might serve as well as any
others for samples of the whole work on its comic side. In _The Chances_
the portrait of the hare-brained Don John is the chief thing; in _The Wild
Goose Chase_, as in _Monsieur Thomas_, a whole bevy of lively characters,
male and female, dispute the reader's attention and divide his preference.
_A Wife for a Month_ sounds comic, but is not a little alloyed with
tragedy; and despite the pathos of its central situation, is marred by some
of Fletcher's ugliest characters--the characters which Shakespere in
Pandarus and the nurse in _Romeo and Juliet_ took care to touch with his
lightest finger. _The Lover's Progress_, a doubtful tragedy, and _The
Pilgrim_, a good comedy (revived at the end of the century, as was _The
Prophetess_ with certain help from Dryden), do not require any special
notice. Between these two last comes _The Captain_, a comedy neither of the
best nor yet of the worst. The tragi-comic _Queen of Corinth_ is a little
heavy; but in _Bonduca_ we have one of the very best of the author's
tragedies, the scenes with Caratach and his nephew, the boy Hengo, being
full of touches not wholly unworthy of Shakespere. _The Knight of the
Burning Pestle_ (where Fletcher, forsaking his usual fantastic grounds of a
France that is scarcely French, and an Italy that is extremely un-Italian,
comes to simple pictures of London middle-class life, such as those of
Jonson or Middleton) is a very happy piece of work indeed, despite the
difficulty of working out its double presentment of burlesque
knight-errantry and straightforward comedy of manners. In _Love's
Pilgrimage_, with a Spanish subject and something of a Spanish style, there
is not enough central interest, and the fortunes by land and sea of _The
Double Marriage_ do not make it one of Fletcher's most interesting plays.
But _The Maid in the Mill_ and _The Martial Maid_ are good farce, which
almost deserves the name of comedy; and _The Knight of Malta_ is a romantic
drama of merit. In _Women Pleased_ the humours of avarice and hungry
servility are ingeniously treated, and one of the starveling Penurio's
speeches is among the best-known passages of all the plays, while the
anti-Puritan satire of Hope-on-High Bomby is also noteworthy. The next four
plays are less noticeable, and indeed for two volumes, of the edition
referred to, we come to fewer plays that are specially good. _The Night
Walker_; or, _The Little Thief_, though not very probable in its incidents,
has a great deal of lively business, and is particularly noteworthy as
supplying proof of the singular popularity of bell-ringing with all classes
of the population in the seventeenth century,--a popularity which probably
protected many old bells in the mania for church desecration. Not much can
be said for _The Woman's Prize_, or, _The Tamer Tamed_, an avowed sequel,
and so to speak, antidote to _The Taming of the Shrew_, which chiefly
proves that it is wise to let Shakespere alone. The authors have drawn to
some extent on the _Lysistrata_ to aid them, but have fallen as far short
of the fun as of the indecency of that memorable play. With _The Island
Princess_ we return to a fair, though not more than a fair level of
romantic tragi-comedy, but _The Noble Gentleman_ is the worst play ever
attributed (even falsely) to authors of genius. The subject is perfectly
uninteresting, the characters are all fools or knaves, and the means
adopted to gull the hero through successive promotions to rank, and
successive deprivations of them (the genuineness of neither of which he
takes the least trouble to ascertain), are preposterous. _The Coronation_
is much better, and _The Sea Voyage_, with a kind of Amazon story grafted
upon a hint of _The Tempest_, is a capital play of its kind. Better still,
despite a certain looseness both of plot and moral, is _The Coxcomb_, where
the heroine Viola is a very touching figure. The extravagant absurdity of
the traveller Antonio is made more probable than is sometimes the case with
our authors, and the situations of the whole join neatly, and pass
trippingly. _Wit at Several Weapons_ deserves a somewhat similar
description, and so does _The Fair Maid of the Inn_; while _Cupid's
Revenge_, though it shocked the editors of 1750 as a pagan kind of play,
has a fine tragical zest, and is quite true to classical belief in its
delineation of the ruthlessness of the offended Deity. Undoubtedly,
however, the last volume of this edition supplies the most interesting
material of any except the first. Here is _The Two Noble Kinsmen_, a play
founded on the story of Palamon and Arcite, and containing what I think
irrefragable proofs of Shakespere's writing and versification, though I am
unable to discern anything very Shakesperian either in plot or character.
Then comes the fine, though horrible tragedy of _Thierry and Theodoret_, in
which the misdeeds of Queen Brunehault find chroniclers who are neither
squeamish nor feeble. The beautiful part of Ordella in this play, though
somewhat sentimental and improbable (as is always the case with Fletcher's
very virtuous characters) ranks at the head of its kind, and is much
superior to that of Aspatia in _The Maid's Tragedy_. _The Woman Hater_,
said to be Fletcher's earliest play, has a character of rare comic, or at
least farcical virtue in the smell-feast Lazarillo with his Odyssey in
chase of the Umbrana's head (a delicacy which is perpetually escaping him);
and _The Nice Valour_ contains, in Chamont and his brother, the most
successful attempts of the English stage at the delineation of the point of
honour gone mad. Not so much, perhaps, can be said for _An Honest Man's
Fortune_, which, with a mask and a clumsy, though in part beautiful, piece
entitled _Four Plays in One_, makes up the tale. But whosoever has gone
through that tale will, if he has any taste for the subject, admit that
such a total of work, so varied in character, and so full of excellences in
all its variety, has not been set to the credit of any name or names in
English literature, if we except only Shakespere. Of the highest and most
terrible graces, as of the sweetest and most poetical, Beaumont and
Fletcher may have little to set beside the masterpieces of some other men;
for accomplished, varied, and fertile production, they need not fear any
competition.

It has not been usual to put Thomas Middleton in the front rank among the
dramatists immediately second to Shakespere; but I have myself no
hesitation in doing so. If he is not such a poet as Webster, he is even a
better, and certainly a more versatile, dramatist; and if his plays are
inferior as plays to those of Fletcher and Massinger, he has a mastery of
the very highest tragedy, which neither of them could attain. Except the
best scenes of _The White Devil_, and _The Duchess of Malfi_, there is
nothing out of Shakespere that can match the best scenes of _The
Changeling_; while Middleton had a comic faculty, in which, to all
appearance, Webster was entirely lacking. A little more is known about
Middleton than about most of his fellows. He was the son of a gentleman,
and was pretty certainly born in London about 1570. It does not appear that
he was a university man, but he seems to have been at Gray's Inn. His
earliest known work was not dramatic, and was exceedingly bad. In 1597 he
published a verse paraphrase of the _Wisdom of Solomon_, which makes even
that admirable book unreadable; and if, as seems pretty certain, the
_Microcynicon_ of two years later is his, he is responsible for one of the
worst and feeblest exercises in the school--never a very strong one--of
Hall and Marston. Some prose tracts of the usual kind are not better; but
either at the extreme end of the sixteenth century, or in the very earliest
years of the next, Middleton turned his attention to the then all absorbing
drama, and for many years was (chiefly in collaboration) a busy playwright.
We have some score of plays which are either his alone, or in greatest part
his. The order of their composition is very uncertain, and as with most of
the dramatists of the period, not a few of them never appeared in print
till long after the author's death. He was frequently employed in composing
pageants for the City of London, and in 1620 was appointed city
chronologer. In 1624 Middleton got into trouble. His play, _The Game of
Chess_, which was a direct attack on Spain and Rome, and a personal satire
on Gondomar, was immensely popular, but its nine days' run was abruptly
stopped on the complaint of the Spanish ambassador; the poet's son, it
would seem, had to appear before the Council, and Middleton himself was
(according to tradition) imprisoned for some time. In this same year he was
living at Newington Butts. He died there in the summer of 1627, and was
succeeded as chronologer by Ben Jonson. His widow, Magdalen, received a
gratuity from the Common Council, but seems to have followed her husband in
a little over a year.

Middleton's acknowledged, or at least accepted, habit of collaboration in
most of the work usually attributed to him, and the strong suspicion, if
not more than suspicion, that he collaborated in other plays, afford
endless opportunity for the exercise of a certain kind of criticism. By
employing another kind we can discern quite sufficiently a strong
individuality in the work that is certainly, in part or in whole, his; and
we need not go farther. He seems to have had three different kinds of
dramatic aptitude, in all of which he excelled. The larger number of his
plays consist of examples of the rattling comedy of intrigue and manners,
often openly representing London life as it was, sometimes transplanting
what is an evident picture of home manners to some foreign scene apparently
for no other object than to make it more attractive to the spectators. To
any one at all acquainted with the Elizabethan drama their very titles
speak them. These titles are _Blurt Master Constable_, _Michaelmas Term_,
_A Trick to Catch the Old One_, _The Family of Love_ [a sharp satire on the
Puritans], _A Mad World, my Masters_, _No Wit no Help Like a Woman's_, _A
Chaste Maid in Cheapside_, _Anything for a Quiet Life_, _More Dissemblers
besides Women_. As with all the humour-comedies of the time, the incidents
are not unfrequently very improbable, and the action is conducted with such
intricacy and want of clearly indicated lines, that it is sometimes very
difficult to follow. At the same time, Middleton has a faculty almost
peculiar to himself of carrying, it might almost be said of hustling, the
reader or spectator along, so that he has no time to stop and consider
defects. His characters are extremely human and lively, his dialogue seldom
lags, his catastrophes, if not his plots, are often ingenious, and he is
never heavy. The moral atmosphere of his plays is not very refined,--by
which I do not at all mean merely that he indulges in loose situations and
loose language. All the dramatists from Shakespere downwards do that; and
Middleton is neither better nor worse than the average. But in striking
contrast to Shakespere and to others, Middleton has no kind of poetical
morality in the sense in which the term poetical justice is better known.
He is not too careful that the rogues shall not have the best of it; he
makes his most virtuous and his vilest characters hobnob together very
contentedly; and he is, in short, though never brutal, like the
post-Restoration school, never very delicate. The style, however, of these
works of his did not easily admit of such delicacy, except in the infusion
of a strong romantic element such as that which Shakespere almost always
infuses. Middleton has hardly done it more than once--in the charming
comedy of _The Spanish Gipsy_,--and the result there is so agreeable that
the reader only wishes he had done it oftener.

Usually, however, when his thoughts took a turn of less levity than in
these careless humorous studies of contemporary life, he devoted himself
not to the higher comedy, but to tragedy of a very serious class, and when
he did this an odd phenomenon generally manifested itself. In Middleton's
idea of tragedy, as in that of most of the playwrights, and probably all
the playgoers of his day, a comic underplot was a necessity; and, as we
have seen, he was himself undoubtedly able enough to furnish such a plot.
But either because he disliked mixing his tragic and comic veins, or for
some unknown reason, he seems usually to have called in on such occasions
the aid of Rowley, a vigorous writer of farce, who had sometimes been
joined with him even in his comic work. Now, not only was Rowley little
more than a farce writer, but he seems to have been either unable to make,
or quite careless of making, his farce connect itself in any tolerable
fashion with the tragedy of which it formed a nominal part. The result is
seen in its most perfect imperfection in the two plays of _The Mayor of
Queenborough_ and _The Changeling_, both named from their comic features,
and yet containing tragic scenes, the first of a very high order, the
second of an order only overtopped by Shakespere at his best. The humours
of the cobbler Mayor of Queenborough in the one case, of the lunatic asylum
and the courting of its keeper's wife in the other, are such very mean
things that they can scarcely be criticised. But the desperate love of
Vortiger for Rowena in _The Mayor_, and the villainous plots against his
chaste wife, Castiza, are real tragedy. Even these, however, fall far below
the terrible loves, if loves they are to be called, of Beatrice-Joanna, the
heroine of _The Changeling_, and her servant, instrument, and murderer, De
Flores. The plot of the tragic part of this play is intricate and not
wholly savoury. It is sufficient to say that Beatrice having enticed De
Flores to murder a lover whom she does not love, that so she may marry a
lover whom she does love, is suddenly met by the murderer's demand of her
honour as the price of his services. She submits, and afterwards has to
purchase fresh aid of murder from him by a continuance of her favours that
she may escape detection by her husband. Thus, roughly described, the theme
may look like the undigested horrors of _Lust's Dominion_, of _The
Insatiate Countess_, and of _The Revenger's Tragedy_. It is, however, poles
asunder from them. The girl, with her southern recklessness of anything but
her immediate desires, and her southern indifference to deceiving the very
man she loves, is sufficiently remarkable, as she stands out of the canvas.
But De Flores,--the broken gentleman, reduced to the position of a mere
dependant, the libertine whose want of personal comeliness increases his
mistress's contempt for him, the murderer double and treble dyed, as
audacious as he is treacherous, and as cool and ready as he is fiery in
passion,--is a study worthy to be classed at once with Iago, and inferior
only to Iago in their class. The several touches with which these two
characters and their situations are brought out are as Shakesperian as
their conception, and the whole of that part of the play in which they
figure is one of the most wonderful triumphs of English or of any drama.
Even the change of manners and a bold word or two here and there, may not
prevent me from giving the latter part of the central scene:--

    _Beat._ "Why 'tis impossible thou canst be so wicked,
            Or shelter such a cunning cruelty,
            To make his death the murderer of my honour!
            Thy language is so bold and vicious,
            I cannot see which way I can forgive it
            With any modesty.

    _De F._ Pish![50] you forget yourself:
            A woman dipped in blood, and talk of modesty!

    _Beat._ O misery of sin! would I'd been bound
            Perpetually unto my living hate
            In that Pisacquo, than to hear[51] these words.
            Think but upon the distance that creation
            Set 'twixt thy blood and mine, and keep thee there.

    _De F._ Look but unto your conscience, read me _there_;
            'Tis a true book, you'll find me there your equal:
            Pish! fly not to your birth, but settle you
            In what the act has made you; you're no more now.
            You must forget your parentage to me;
            You are the deed's creature;[52] by that name
            You lost your first condition, and I shall urge[53] you
            As peace and innocency has turn'd you out,
            And made you one with me.

    _Beat._ With thee, foul villain!

    _De F._ Yes, my fair murderess: do _you_ urge _me_?
            Though thou writ'st maid, thou whore in thine affection!
            'Twas changed from thy first love, and that's a kind
            Of whoredom in thy heart: and he's changed now
            To bring thy second on, thy Alsemero,
            Whom by all sweets that ever darkness tasted
            If I enjoy thee not, thou ne'er enjoyest!
            I'll blast the hopes and joys of marriage,
            I'll confess all; my life I rate at nothing.

    _Beat._ De Flores!

    _De F._ I shall rest from all (lover's)[54] plagues then,
            I live in pain now; that [love] shooting eye
            Will burn my heart to cinders.

    _Beat._ O sir, hear me!

    _De F._ She that in life and love refuses me,
            In death and shame my partner she shall be.

    _Beat._ (_kneeling_). Stay, hear me once for all: I make thee master
            Of all the wealth I have in gold and jewels;
            Let me go poor unto my bed with honour
            And I am rich in all things.

    _De F._ Let this silence thee;
            The wealth of all Valencia shall not buy
            My pleasure from me.
            Can you weep Fate from its determined purpose?
            So soon may you weep me.

    _Beat._ Vengeance begins;
            Murder, I see, is followed by more sins:
            Was my creation in the womb so curst
            It must engender with a viper first?

    _De F._ (_raising her_). Come, rise and shroud your blushes in my
                  bosom,
            Silence is one of pleasure's best receipts.
            Thy peace is wrought for ever in this yielding.
            'Las, how the turtle pants! thou'lt love anon
            What thou so fear'st and faint'st to venture on."

[50] In orig. "Push," cf. "Tush."

[51] Rather than hear.

[52] A trisyllable, as in strictness it ought to be.

[53] = "claim."

[54] This omission and the substitution in the next line are due to Dyce,
and may be called _certissima emendatio_.

Two other remarkable plays of Middleton's fall with some differences under
the same second division of his works. These are _The Witch_ and _Women
Beware Women_. Except for the inevitable and rather attractive comparison
with _Macbeth_, _The Witch_ is hardly interesting. It consists of three
different sets of scenes most inartistically blended,--an awkward and
ineffective variation on the story of Alboin, Rosmunda and the skull for a
serious main plot, some clumsy and rather unsavoury comic or tragi-comic
interludes, and the witch scenes. The two first are very nearly worthless;
the third is intrinsically, though far below _Macbeth_, interesting enough
and indirectly more interesting because of the questions which have been
started, as to the indebtedness of the two poets to each other. The best
opinion seems to be that Shakespere most certainly did not copy Middleton,
nor (a strange fancy of some) did he collaborate with Middleton, and that
the most probable thing is that both borrowed their names, and some details
from Reginald Scot's _Discovery of Witchcraft_. _Women Beware Women_ on the
other hand is one of Middleton's finest works, inferior only to _The
Changeling_ in parts, and far superior to it as a whole. The temptation of
Bianca, the newly-married wife, by the duke's instrument, a cunning and
shameless woman, is the title-theme, and in this part again Middleton's
Shakesperian verisimilitude and certainty of touch appear. The end of the
play is something marred by a slaughter more wholesale even than that of
_Hamlet_, and by no means so well justified. Lastly, _A Fair Quarrel_ must
be mentioned, because of the very high praise which it has received from
Lamb and others. This praise has been directed chiefly to the situation of
the quarrel between Captain Ager and his friend, turning on a question (the
point of family honour), finely but perhaps a little tediously argued. The
comic scenes, however, which are probably Rowley's, are in his best vein of
bustling swagger.

I have said that Middleton, as it seems to me, has not been fully
estimated. It is fortunately impossible to say the same of Webster, and the
reasons of the difference are instructive. Middleton's great fault is that
he never took trouble enough about his work. A little trouble would have
made _The Changeling_ or _Women Beware Women_, or even _The Spanish Gipsy_,
worthy to rank with all but Shakespere's very masterpieces. Webster also
was a collaborator, apparently an industrious one; but he never seems to
have taken his work lightly. He had, moreover, that incommunicable gift of
the highest poetry in scattered phrases which, as far as we can see,
Middleton had not. Next to nothing is known of him. He may have been parish
clerk of St. Andrew's, Holborn; but the authority is very late, and the
commentators seemed to have jumped at it to explain Webster's fancy for
details of death and burial--a cause and effect not sufficiently
proportioned. Mr. Dyce has spent much trouble in proving that he could not
have been the author of some Puritan tracts published a full generation
after the date of his masterpieces. Heywood tells us that he was generally
called "Jack," a not uncommon thing when men are christened John. He
himself has left us a few very sententiously worded prefaces which do not
argue great critical taste. We know from the usual sources (Henslowe's
Diaries) that he was a working furnisher of plays, and from many rather
dubious title-pages we suppose or know some of the plays he worked at.
_Northward Ho! Westward Ho!_ and _Sir John Wyatt_ are pieces of dramatic
journalism in which he seems to have helped Dekker. He adapted, with
additions, Marston's _Malcontent_, which is, in a crude way, very much in
his own vein: he contributed (according to rather late authority) some
charming scenes (elegantly extracted, on a hint of Mr. Gosse's, by a recent
editor) to _A Cure for a Cuckold_, one of Rowley's characteristic and not
ungenial botches of humour-comedy; he wrote a bad pageant or two, and some
miscellaneous verses. But we know nothing of his life or death, and his
fame rests on four plays, in which no other writer is either known or even
hinted to have had a hand, and which are in different ways of the first
order of interest, if not invariably of the first order of merit. These are
_The Duchess of Malfi_, _The White Devil_, _The Devil's Law Case_, and
_Appius and Virginia_.

Of _Appius and Virginia_ the best thing to be said is to borrow
Sainte-Beuve's happy description of Molière's _Don Garcie de Navarre_, and
to call it an _essai pale et noble_. Webster is sometimes very close to
Shakespere; but to read _Appius and Virginia_, and then to read _Julius
Cæsar_ or _Coriolanus_, is to appreciate, in perhaps the most striking way
possible, the universality which all good judges from Dryden downwards have
recognised in the prince of literature. Webster, though he was evidently a
good scholar, and even makes some parade of scholarship, was a Romantic to
the core, and was all abroad in these classical measures. _The Devil's Law
Case_ sins in the opposite way, being hopelessly undigested, destitute of
any central interest, and, despite fine passages, a mere "salmagundi."
There remain the two famous plays of _The White Devil_ or _Vittoria
Corombona_ and _The Duchess of Malfi_--plays which were rarely, if ever,
acted after their author's days, and of which the earlier and, to my
judgment, better was not a success even then, but which the judgment of
three generations has placed at the very head of all their class, and which
contain magnificent poetry.

I have said that in my judgment _The White Devil_ is the better of the two;
I shall add that it seems to me very far the better. Webster's plays are
comparatively well known, and there is no space here to tell their rather
intricate arguments. It need only be said that the contrast of the two is
striking and unmistakable; and that Webster evidently meant in the one to
indicate the punishment of female vice, in the other to draw pity and
terror by the exhibition of the unprevented but not unavenged sufferings of
female virtue. Certainly both are excellent subjects, and if the latter
seem the harder, we have Imogen and Bellafront to show, in the most diverse
material, and with the most diverse setting possible, how genius can manage
it. With regard to _The White Devil_, it has been suggested with some
plausibility that it wants expansion. Certainly the action is rather
crowded, and the recourse to dumb show (which, however, Webster again
permitted himself in _The Duchess_) looks like a kind of shorthand
indication of scenes that might have been worked out. Even as it is,
however, the sequence of events is intelligible, and the presentation of
character is complete. Indeed, if there is any fault to find with it, it
seems to me that Webster has sinned rather by too much detail than by too
little. We could spare several of the minor characters, though none are
perhaps quite so otiose as Delio, Julio, and others in _The Duchess of
Malfi_. We feel (or at least I feel) that Vittoria's villainous brother
Flamineo is not as Iago and Aaron and De Flores are each in his way, a
thoroughly live creature. We ask ourselves (or I ask myself) what is the
good of the repulsive and not in the least effective presentment of the
Moor Zanche. Cardinal Monticelso is incontinent of tongue and singularly
feeble in deed,--for no rational man would, after describing Vittoria as a
kind of pest to mankind, have condemned her to a punishment which was
apparently little more than residence in a rather disreputable but by no
means constrained boarding-house, and no omnipotent pope would have let
Ludivico loose with a clear inkling of his murderous designs. But when
these criticisms and others are made, _The White Devil_ remains one of the
most glorious works of the period. Vittoria is perfect throughout; and in
the justly-lauded trial scene she has no superior on any stage. Brachiano
is a thoroughly lifelike portrait of the man who is completely besotted
with an evil woman. Flamineo I have spoken of, and not favourably; yet in
literature, if not in life, he is a triumph; and above all the absorbing
tragic interest of the play, which it is impossible to take up without
finishing, has to be counted in. But the real charm of _The White Devil_ is
the wholly miraculous poetry in phrases and short passages which it
contains. Vittoria's dream of the yew-tree, almost all the speeches of the
unfortunate Isabella, and most of her rival's, have this merit. But the
most wonderful flashes of poetry are put in the mouth of the scoundrel
Flamineo, where they have a singular effect. The famous dirge which
Cornelia sings can hardly be spoken of now, except in Lamb's artfully
simple phrase "I never saw anything like it," and the final speeches of
Flamineo and his sister deserve the same endorsement. Nor is even the proud
farewell of the Moor Zanche unworthy. It is impossible to describe the
"whirl of spirits" (as the good old-fashioned phrase has it) into which the
reading of this play sets the reader, except by saying that the cause of
that whirl is the secret of the best Elizabethan writers, and that it is
nowhere, out of Shakespere, better exemplified than in the scene partly
extracted from Middleton, and in such passages of _Vittoria Corombona_ as
the following:--

     _Cor._ "Will you make me such a fool? here's a white hand:
            Can blood so soon be wash'd out? let me see;
            When screech-owls croak upon the chimney-tops
            And the strange cricket i' the oven sings and hops,
            When yellow spots do on your hands appear,
            Be certain then you of a corse shall hear.
            Out upon 't, how 'tis speckled! 'h'as handled a toad, sure.
            Cowslip-water is good for the memory:
            Pray, buy me three ounces of 't.

    _Flam._ I would I were from hence.

     _Cor._ Do you hear, sir?
            I'll give you a saying which my grand-mother
            Was wont, when she heard the bell toll, to sing o'er
            Unto her lute.

    _Flam._ Do, an' you will, do.

     _Cor._ 'Call for the robin-red-breast and the wren,

                [_Cornelia doth this in several forms of distraction._

            Since o'er shady groves they hover,
            And with leaves and flowers do cover
            The friendless bodies of unburied men.
            Call unto his funeral dole
            The ant, the field mouse, and the mole,
            To rear him hillocks that shall keep him warm
            And (when gay tombs are robb'd) sustain no harm,
            But keep the wolf far thence, that's foe to men,
            For with his nails he'll dig them up again.'
            They would not bury him 'cause he died in a quarrel;
            But I have an answer for them:
            'Let holy Church receive him duly
            Since he paid the church-tithes truly.'
            His wealth is summ'd, and this is all his store.
            This poor men get, and great men get no more.
            Now the wares are gone, we may shut up shop.
            Bless you, all good people.

                [_Exeunt_ CORNELIA, ZANCHE, _and_ LADIES.

    _Flam._ I have a strange thing in me, to the which
            I cannot give a name, without it be
            Compassion. I pray, leave me.

                [_Exit_ FRANCISCO DE MEDICIS.

            This night I'll know the utmost of my fate;
            I'll be resolved what my rich sister means
            To assign me for my service. I have liv'd
            Riotously ill, like some that live in court,
            And sometimes when my face was full of smiles
            Have felt the maze of conscience in my breast.
            Oft gay and honoured robes those tortures try:
            We think cag'd birds sing when indeed they cry.

                [_Enter Brachiano's ghost, in his leather cassock and_
                  _breeches, and boots; with a cowl; in his hand a pot_
                  _of lily flowers, with a skull in't._

            Ha! I can stand thee: nearer, nearer it.
            What a mockery hath death made thee! thou look'st sad.
            In what place art thou? in yon starry gallery?
            Or in the cursèd dungeon?--No? not speak?
            Pray, sir, resolve me, what religion's best
            For a man to die in? or is it in your knowledge
            To answer me how long I have to live?
            That's the most necessary question.
            Not answer? are you still like some great men
            That only walk like shadows up and down,
            And to no purpose? Say:--

                [_The Ghost throws earth upon him and shows him the skull._

            What's that? O, fatal! he throws earth upon me!
            A dead man's skull beneath the roots of flowers!--
            I pray [you], speak, sir: our Italian Church-men
            Make us believe dead men hold conference
            With their familiars, and many times
            Will come to bed to them, and eat with them.

                [_Exit_ GHOST.

    He's gone; and see, the skull and earth are vanished.
    This is beyond melancholy. I do dare my fate
    To do its worst. Now to my sister's lodging
    And sum up all these horrors: the disgrace
    The prince threw on me; next the piteous sight
    Of my dead brother; and my mother's dotage;
    And last this terrible vision: all these
    Shall with Vittoria's bounty turn to good,
    Or I will drown this weapon in her blood."

                [_Exit._

_The Duchess of Malfi_ is to my thinking very inferior--full of beauties as
it is. In the first place, we cannot sympathise with the duchess, despite
her misfortunes, as we do with the "White Devil." She is neither quite a
virtuous woman (for in that case she would not have resorted to so much
concealment) nor a frank professor of "All for Love." Antonio, her
so-called husband, is an unromantic and even questionable figure. Many of
the minor characters, as already hinted, would be much better away. Of the
two brothers the Cardinal is a cold-blooded and uninteresting debauchee and
murderer, who sacrifices sisters and mistresses without any reasonable
excuse. Ferdinand, the other, is no doubt mad enough, but not interestingly
mad, and no attempt is made to account in any way satisfactorily for the
delay of his vengeance. By common consent, even of the greatest admirers of
the play, the fifth act is a kind of gratuitous appendix of horrors stuck
on without art or reason. But the extraordinary force and beauty of the
scene where the duchess is murdered; the touches of poetry, pure and
simple, which, as in the _The White Devil_, are scattered all over the
play; the fantastic accumulation of terrors before the climax; and the
remarkable character of Bosola,--justify the high place generally assigned
to the work. True, Bosola wants the last touches, the touches which
Shakespere would have given. He is not wholly conceivable as he is. But as
a "Plain Dealer" gone wrong, a "Malcontent" (Webster's work on that play
very likely suggested him), turned villain, a man whom ill-luck and
fruitless following of courts have changed from a cynic to a scoundrel, he
is a strangely original and successful study. The dramatic flashes in the
play would of themselves save it. "I am Duchess of Malfi still," and the
other famous one "Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle; she died young," often
as they have been quoted, can only be quoted again. They are of the first
order of their kind, and, except the "already _my_ De Flores!" of _The
Changeling_, there is nothing in the Elizabethan drama out of Shakespere to
match them.

There is no doubt that some harm has been done to Thomas Heywood by the
enthusiastic phrase in which Lamb described him as "a prose Shakespere."
The phrase itself is in the original quite carefully and sufficiently
explained and qualified. But unluckily a telling description of the kind is
sure to go far, while its qualifications remain behind; and (especially
since a reprint by Pearson in the year 1874 made the plays of Heywood, to
which one or two have since been added more or less conjecturally by the
industry of Mr. Bullen, accessible as a whole) a certain revolt has been
manifested against the encomium. This revolt is the effect of haste. "A
prose Shakespere" suggests to incautious readers something like Swift, like
Taylor, like Carlyle,--something approaching in prose the supremacy of
Shakespere in verse. But obviously that is not what Lamb meant. Indeed when
one remembers that if Shakespere is anything, he is a poet, the phrase may
run the risk of receiving an under--not an over--valuation. It is evident,
however, to any one who reads Lamb's remarks in full and carefully--it is
still more evident to any one who without much caring what Lamb or any one
else has said, reads Heywood for himself--what he did mean. He was looking
only at one or two sides of the myriad-sided one, and he justly saw that
Heywood touched Shakespere on these sides, if only in an incomplete and
unpoetic manner. What Heywood has in common with Shakespere, though his
prosaic rather than poetic treatment brings it out in a much less brilliant
way, is his sympathy with ordinary and domestic character, his aversion
from the fantastic vices which many of his fellows were prone to attribute
to their characters, his humanity, his kindness. The reckless tragedy of
blood and massacre, the reckless comedy of revelry and intrigue, were
always repulsive to him, as far as we can judge from the comparatively
scanty remnant of the hundreds of plays in which he boasted that he had had
a hand, if not a chief hand. Besides these plays (he confesses to
authorship or collaboration in two hundred and twenty) he was a voluminous
writer in prose and verse, though I do not myself pretend to much knowledge
of his non-dramatic work. Its most interesting part would have been a
_Lives of the Poets_, which we know that he intended, and which could
hardly have failed to give much information about his famous
contemporaries. As it is, his most remarkable and best-known work, not
contained in one of his dramas, is the curious and constantly quoted
passage half complaining that all the chief dramatists of his day were
known by abbreviations of their names, but characteristically and
good-humouredly ending with the license--

    "I hold he loves me best who calls me Tom."

We have unfortunately no knowledge which enables us to call him many names
except such as are derived from critical examination of his works. Little,
except that he is said to have been a Lincolnshire man and a Fellow of
Peterhouse, is known of his history. His masterpiece, _The Woman killed
with Kindness_ (in which a deceived husband, coming to the knowledge of his
shame, drives his rival to repentance, and his wife to repentance and
death, by his charity), is not wholly admirable. Shakespere would have
felt, more fully than Heywood, the danger of presenting his hero something
of a wittol without sufficient passion of religion or affection to justify
his tolerance. But the pathos is so great, the sense of "the pity of it" is
so simply and unaffectedly rendered, that it is impossible not to rank
Heywood very high. The most famous "beauties" are in the following
passage:--

       _Anne._ "O with what face of brass, what brow of steel,
               Can you unblushing speak this to the face
               Of the espoused wife of so dear a friend?
               It is my husband that maintains your state,
               Will you dishonour him that in your power
               Hath left his whole affairs? I am his wife,
               Is it to _me_ you speak?

    _Wendoll._                    "O speak no more:
               For more than this I know and have recorded
               Within the red-leaved table of my heart.
               Fair and of all beloved, I was not fearful
               Bluntly to give my life unto your hand,
               And at one hazard all my worldly means.
               Go, tell your husband; he will turn me off
               And I am then undone: I care not, I,
               'Twas for your sake. Perchance in rage he'll kill me;
               I care not, 'twas for you. Say I incur
               The general name of villain through the world,
               Of traitor to my friend. I care not, I.
               Beggary, shame, death, scandal and reproach
               For you I'll hazard all--why, what care I?
               For you I'll live and in your love I'll die."

Anne capitulates with a suddenness which has been generally and rightly
pronounced a blot on the play; but her husband is informed by a servant and
resolves to discover the pair. The action is prolonged somewhat too much,
and the somewhat unmanly strain of weakness in Frankford is too
perceptible; but these scenes are full of fine passages, as this:--

    _Fr._ "A general silence hath surprised the house,
          And this is the last door. Astonishment,
          Fear and amazement beat[55] upon my heart
          Even as a madman beats upon a drum.
          O keep my eyes, you heavens, before I enter,
          From any sight that may transfix my soul:
          Or if there be so black a spectacle,
          O strike mine eyes stark blind! Or if not so,
          Lend me such patience to digest my grief
          That I may keep this white and virgin hand
          From any violent outrage, or red murder,
          And with that prayer I enter."

[55] First ed. "Play," which I am half inclined to prefer.

A subsequent speech of his--

    "O God, O God that it were possible
    To undo things done,"

hardly comes short of the touch which would have given us instead of a
prose Shakespere a Shakespere indeed; and all the rest of the play, as far
as the main plot is concerned, is full of pathos.

In the great number of other pieces attributed to him, written in all the
popular styles, except the two above referred to, merits and defects are
mixed up in a very curious fashion. Never sinking to the lowest depth of
the Elizabethan playwright, including some great ones, Heywood never rises
to anything like the highest height. His chronicle plays are very weak,
showing no grasp of heroic character, and a most lamentable slovenliness of
rhythm. Few things are more curious than to contrast with _Henry VI._ (to
which some critics will allow little of Shakespere's work) and _Richard
III._ the two parts of _Edward IV._, in which Heywood, after a manner,
fills the gap. There are good lines here and there, and touching traits;
but the whole, as a whole, is quite ludicrously bad, and "written to the
gallery," the City gallery, in the most innocent fashion. _If You Know Not
Me You Know Nobody_, or _The Troubles of Queen Elizabeth_, also in two
parts, has the same curious innocence, the same prosaic character, but
hardly as many redeeming flashes. Its first part deals with Elizabeth's
real "troubles," in her sister's days; its second with the Armada period
and the founding of the Royal Exchange. For Heywood, unlike most of the
dramatists, was always true to the City, even to the eccentric extent of
making, in _The Four Prentices of London_, Godfrey of Bouillon and his
brethren members of the prentice-brotherhood. His classical and allegorical
pieces, such as _The Golden Age_ and its fellows, are most tedious and not
at all brief. The four of them (_The Iron Age_ has two parts) occupy a
whole volume of the reprint, or more than four hundred closely printed
pages; and their clumsy dramatisation of Ovid's _Metamorphoses_, with any
other classical learning that Heywood could think of thrust in, presents
(together with various minor pieces of a somewhat similar kind) as striking
a contrast with _Troilus and Cressida_, as _Edward IV._ does with _Henry
VI._ His spectacles and pageants, chiefly in honour of London (_London's
Jus Honorarium_, with other metaphorical Latin titles of the same
description) are heavy, the weakness of his versification being especially
felt in such pieces. His strength lies in the domestic and contemporary
drama, where his pathos had free play, unrestrained by the necessity of
trying to make it rise to chivalrous or heroic height, and where his keen
observation of his fellow-men made him true to mankind in general, at the
same time that he gave a vivid picture of contemporary manners. Of this
class of his plays _A Woman killed with Kindness_ is undoubtedly the chief,
but it has not a few companions, and those in a sufficiently wide and
varied class of subject. _The Fair Maid of the Exchange_ is, perhaps, not
now found to be so very delectable and full of mirth as it is asserted to
be on its title-page, because it is full of that improbability and neglect
of verisimilitude which has been noted as the curse of the minor
Elizabethan drama. The "Cripple of Fenchurch," the real hero of the piece,
is a very unlikely cripple; the heroines chop and change their affections
in the most surprising manner; and the characters generally indulge in that
curious self-description and soliloquising in dialogue which is never
found in Shakespere, and is found everywhere else. But it is still a lively
picture of contemporary manners. We should be sorry to lose _The Fair Maid
of the West_ with its picture of Devonshire sailors, foreign merchants,
kings of Fez, Bashaws of various parts, Italian dukes, and what not. The
two parts make anything but a good play, but they are decidedly
interesting, and their tone supports Mr. Bullen's conjecture that we owe to
Heywood the, in parts, admirable play of _Dick of Devonshire_, a
dramatisation of the quarter-staff feats in Spain of Richard Peake of
Tavistock. _The English Traveller_ may rank with _A Woman killed with
Kindness_ as Heywood's best plays (there is, indeed, a certain community of
subject between them), but _A Maidenhead well Lost_, and _The Witches of
Lancashire_, are not far behind it; nor is _A Challenge for Beauty_. We can
hardly say so much for _Love's Mistress_, which dramatises the story of
_Cupid and Psyche_, or for _The Wise Woman of Hogsdon_ (Hoxton), a play
rather of Middleton's type. But in _The Royal King and Loyal Subject_, and
in _Fortune by Land and Sea_, the author shows again the sympathy with
chivalrous character and adventure which (if he never can be said to be
fully up to its level in the matter of poetic expression) was evidently a
favourite and constant motive with him. In short, Heywood, even at his
worst, is a writer whom it is impossible not to like. His very considerable
talent, though it stopped short of genius, was united with a pleasant and
genial temper, and little as we know of his life, his dedications and
prefaces make us better acquainted with his personality than we are with
that of much more famous men.

No greater contrast is possible than that between our last two names--Day
and Tourneur. Little is known of them: Day was at Cambridge in 1592-3;
Tourneur shared in the Cadiz voyage of 1625 and died on its return. Both,
it is pretty certain, were young men at the end of Elizabeth's reign, and
were influenced strongly by the literary fashions set by greater men than
themselves. But whereas Day took to the graceful fantasticalities of Lyly
and to the not very savage social satire of Greene, Tourneur (or Turner)
addressed himself to the most ferocious school of sub-Marlovian tragedy,
and to the rugged and almost unintelligible satire of Marston. Something
has been said of his effort in the latter vein, the _Transformed
Metamorphosis_. His two tragedies, _The Atheist's Tragedy_ and _The
Revenger's Tragedy_, have been rather variously judged. The concentration
of gloomy and almost insane vigour in _The Revenger's Tragedy_, the
splendid poetry of a few passages which have long ago found a home in the
extract books, and the less separable but equally distinct poetic value of
scattered lines and phrases, cannot escape any competent reader. But, at
the same time, I find it almost impossible to say anything for either play
as a whole, and here only I come a long way behind Mr. Swinburne in his
admiration of our dramatists. The _Atheist's Tragedy_ is an inextricable
imbroglio of tragic and comic scenes and characters, in which it is hardly
possible to see or follow any clue; while the low extravagance of all the
comedy and the frantic rant of not a little of the tragedy combine to
stifle the real pathos of some of the characters. _The Revenger's Tragedy_
is on a distinctly higher level; the determination of Vindice to revenge
his wrongs, and the noble and hapless figure of Castiza, could not have
been presented as they are presented except by a man with a distinct strain
of genius, both in conception and execution. But the effect, as a whole, is
marred by a profusion of almost all the worst faults of the drama of the
whole period from Peele to Davenant. The incoherence and improbability of
the action, the reckless, inartistic, butcherly prodigality of blood and
horrors, and the absence of any kind of redeeming interest of contrasting
light to all the shade, though very characteristic of a class, and that no
small one, of Elizabethan drama, cannot be said to be otherwise than
characteristic of its faults. As the best example (others are _The
Insatiate Countess_, Chettle's _Hoffmann_, _Lust's Dominion_, and the
singular production which Mr. Bullen has printed as _The Distracted
Emperor_) it is very well worth reading, and contrasting with the really
great plays of the same class, such as _The Jew of Malta_ and _Titus
Andronicus_, where, though the horrors are still overdone, yet genius has
given them a kind of passport. But intrinsically it is mere nightmare.

Of a very different temper and complexion is the work of John Day, who may
have been a Cambridge graduate, and was certainly a student of Gonville and
Caius, as he describes himself on the title-page of some of his plays and
of a prose tract printed by Mr. Bullen. He appears to have been dead in
1640, and the chief thing positively known about him is that between the
beginning of 1598 and 1608 he collaborated in the surprising number of
twenty-one plays (all but _The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green_ unprinted)
with Haughton, Chettle, Dekker, and others. _The Parliament of Bees_, his
most famous and last printed work, is of a very uncommon kind in
English--being a sort of dramatic allegory, touched with a singularly
graceful and fanciful spirit. It is indeed rather a masque than a play, and
consists, after the opening Parliament held by the Master, or Viceroy Bee
(quaintly appearing in the original, which may have been printed in 1607,
though no copy seems now discoverable earlier than 1641, as "Mr. Bee"), of
a series of characters or sketches of Bee-vices and virtues, which are very
human. The termination, which contains much the best poetry in the piece,
and much the best that Day ever wrote, introduces King Oberon giving
judgment on the Bees from "Mr. Bee" downwards and banishing offenders. Here
occurs the often-quoted passage, beginning--

    "And whither must these flies be sent?"

and including the fine speech of Oberon--

    "You should have cried so in your youth."

It should be observed that both in this play and elsewhere passages occur
in Day which seem to have been borrowed or stolen from or by other writers,
such as Dekker and Samuel Rowley; but a charitable and not improbable
explanation of this has been found in the known fact of his extensive and
intricate collaboration. _The Isle of Gulls_, suggested in a way by the
_Arcadia_, though in general plan also fantastic and, to use a much abused
but decidedly convenient word, pastoral, has a certain flavour of the
comedy of manners and of contemporary satire. Then we have the quaint piece
of _Humour out of Breath_, a kind of study in the for once conjoined
schools of Shakespere and Jonson--an attempt at a combination of humorous
and romantic comedy with some pathetic writing, as here:--

    "[O] Early sorrow art got up so soon?
    What, ere the sun ascendeth in the east?
    O what an early waker art thou grown!
    But cease discourse and close unto thy work.
    Under this drooping myrtle will I sit,
    And work awhile upon my corded net;
    And as I work, record my sorrows past,
    Asking old Time how long my woes shall last.
    And first--but stay! alas! what do I see?
    Moist gum-like tears drop from this mournful tree;
    And see, it sticks like birdlime; 'twill not part,
    Sorrow is even such birdlime at my heart.
    Alas! poor tree, dost thou want company?
    Thou dost, I see't, and I will weep with thee;
    Thy sorrows make me dumb, and so shall mine,
    It shall be tongueless, and so seem like thine.
    Thus will I rest my head unto thy bark,
    Whilst my sighs ease my sorrows."

Something the same may be said of _Law Tricks_, or _Who would have Thought
it?_ which has, however, in the character of the Count Horatio, a touch of
tragedy. Another piece of Day's is in quite a different vein, being an
account in dramatised form of the adventures of the three brothers
Shirley--a kind of play which, from _Sir Thomas Stukeley_ downwards,
appears to have been a very favourite one with Elizabethan audiences,
though (as might indeed be expected) it was seldom executed in a very
successful manner. Lastly, or first, if chronological order is taken, comes
_The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green_, written by Day in conjunction with
Chettle, and ranging itself with the half historical, half romantic plays
which were, as has been pointed out above, favourites with the first school
of dramatists. It seems to have been very popular, and had a second and
third part, not now extant, but is by no means as much to modern taste as
some of the others. Indeed both Day and Tourneur, despite the dates of
their pieces, which, as far as known, are later, belong in more ways than
one to the early school, and show how its traditions survived alongside of
the more perfect work of the greater masters. Day himself is certainly not
a great master--indeed masterpieces would have been impossible, if they
would not have been superfluous, in the brisk purveying of theatrical
matter which, from Henslowe's accounts, we see that he kept up. He had
fancy, a good deal of wit, considerable versatility, and something of the
same sunshiny temper, with less of the pathos, that has been noticed in
Heywood. If he wrote _The Maid's Metamorphosis_ (also ascribed
conjecturally to Lyly), he did something less dramatically good, but
perhaps poetically better, than his other work; and if, as has sometimes
been thought,[56] _The Return from Parnassus_ is his, he is richer still.
But even without these, his existing poetical baggage (the least part of
the work which we know he accomplished) is more than respectable, and shows
more perhaps than that of any other distinctly minor writer the vast amount
of loose talent--of miscellaneous inspiration--which was afloat in the air
of his time.

[56] I agree with Professor Hales in thinking it very improbable.



CHAPTER VIII

THE SCHOOL OF SPENSER AND THE TRIBE OF BEN


The reign of James I. is not, in mere poetry, quite such a brilliant period
as it is in drama. The full influence of Donne and of Jonson, which
combined to produce the exquisite if not extraordinarily strong school of
Caroline poets, did not work in it. Of its own bards the best, such as
Jonson himself and Drayton, were survivals of the Elizabethan school, and
have accordingly been anticipated here. Nevertheless, there were not a few
verse-writers of mark who may be most conveniently assigned to this time,
though, as was the case with so many of their contemporaries, they had
sometimes produced work of note before the accession of the British
Solomon, and sometimes continued to produce it until far into the reign of
his son. Especially there are some of much mark who fall to be noticed
here, because their work is not, strictly speaking, of the schools that
flourished under Elizabeth, or of the schools that flourished under
Charles. We shall not find anything of the first interest in them; yet in
one way or in another there were few of them who were unworthy to be
contemporaries of Shakespere.

Joshua Sylvester is one of those men of letters whom accident rather than
property seems to have made absurd. He has existed in English literature
chiefly as an Englisher of the Frenchman Du Bartas, whom an even greater
ignorance has chosen to regard as something grotesque. Du Bartas is one of
the grandest, if also one of the most unequal, poets of Europe, and Joshua
Sylvester, his translator, succeeded in keeping some of his grandeur if he
even added to his inequality. His original work is insignificant compared
with his translation; but it is penetrated with the same qualities. He
seems to have been a little deficient in humour, and his portrait--crowned
with a singularly stiff laurel, throated with a stiffer ruff, and clothed,
as to the bust, with a doublet so stiff that it looks like textile
armour--is not calculated to diminish the popular ridicule. Yet is
Sylvester not at all ridiculous. He was certainly a Kentish man, and
probably the son of a London clothier. His birth is guessed, on good
grounds, at 1563; and he was educated at Southampton under the famous
refugee, Saravia, to whom he owed that proficiency in French which made or
helped his fame. He did not, despite his wishes, go to either university,
and was put to trade. In this he does not seem to have been prosperous;
perhaps he gave too much time to translation. He was probably patronised by
James, and by Prince Henry certainly. In the last years of his life he was
resident secretary to the English company of Merchant Venturers at
Middleburgh, where he died on the 28th September 1618. He was not a
fortunate man, but his descendants seem to have flourished both in England,
the West Indies and America. As for his literary work, it requires no doubt
a certain amount of good will to read it. It is voluminous, even in the
original part not very original, and constantly marred by that loquacity
which, especially in times of great inspiration, comes upon the uninspired
or not very strongly inspired. The point about Sylvester, as about so many
others of his time, is that, unlike the minor poets of our day and of some
others, he has constant flashes--constant hardly separable, but quite
perceivable, scraps, which show how genially heated the brain of the nation
was. Nor should it be forgotten that his Du Bartas had a great effect for
generations. The man of pure science may regret that generations should
have busied themselves about anything so thoroughly unscientific; but with
that point of view we are unconcerned. The important thing is that the
generations in question learnt from Sylvester to take a poetical interest
in the natural world.

John Davies of Hereford, who must have been born at about the same time as
Sylvester, and who certainly died in the same year, is another curiosity of
literature. He was only a writing-master,--a professor of the curious,
elaborate penmanship which is now quite dead,--and he seems at no time to
have been a man of wealth. But he was, in his vocation or otherwise,
familiar with very interesting people, both of the fashionable and the
literary class. He succeeded, poor as he was, in getting thrice married to
ladies born; and, though he seems to have been something of a coxcomb, he
was apparently as little of a fool as coxcombry will consist with. His work
(of the most miscellaneous character and wholly in verse, though in subject
as well as treatment often better suiting prose) is voluminous, and he
might have been wholly treated (as he has already been referred to) with
the verse pamphleteers, especially Rowlands, of an earlier chapter. But
fluent and unequal as his verse is--obviously the production of a man who
had little better to offer than journalism, but for whom the times did not
provide the opening of a journalist--there is a certain salt of wit in it
which puts him above the mere pamphleteers. His epigrams (most of which are
contained in _The Scourge of Folly_, undated, like others of his books) are
by no means despicable; the Welsh ancestors, whom he did not fail to
commemorate, seem to have endowed him with some of that faculty for
lampooning and "flyting" which distinguished the Celtic race. That they are
frequently lacking in point ought hardly to be objected to him; for the age
had construed the miscellaneous examples of Martial indulgently, and Jonson
in his own generation, and Herrick after him (two men with whom Davies
cannot compare for a moment in general power), are in their epigrams
frequently as pointless and a good deal coarser. His variations on English
proverbs are also remarkable. He had a respectable vein of religious
moralising, as the following sonnet from _Wit's Pilgrimage_ will show:--

    "When Will doth long to effect her own desires,
    She makes the Wit, as vassal to the will,
    To do what she, howe'er unright, requires,
    Which wit doth, though repiningly, fulfil.
    Yet, as well pleased (O languishing wit!)
    He seems to effect her pleasure willingly,
    And all his reasons to her reach doth fit;
    So like the world, gets love by flattery.
    That this is true a thousand witnesses,
    Impartial conscience, will directly prove;
    Then if we would not willingly transgress,
    Our will should swayed be by rules of love,
    Which holds the multitude of sins because
    Her sin morally to him his servants draws."

The defect of Davies, as of not a few of his contemporaries, is that,
having the power of saying things rememberable enough, he set himself to
wrap them up and merge them in vast heaps of things altogether
unrememberable. His successors have too often resembled him only in the
latter part of his gift. His longer works (_Mirum in Modum_, _Summa
Totalis_, _Microcosmus_, _The Holy Rood_, _Humours Heaven on Earth_, are
some of their eccentric titles) might move simple wonder if a century which
has welcomed _The Course of Time_, and _Yesterday, To-day, and For Ever_,
not to mention examples even more recent than these, had any great reason
to throw stones at its forerunners. But to deal with writers like Davies is
a little difficult in a book which aims both at being nothing if not
critical, and at doing justice to the minor as well as to the major
luminaries of the time: while the difficulty is complicated by the
necessity of _not_ saying ditto to the invaluable labourers who have
reintroduced him and others like him to readers. I am myself full of the
most unfeigned gratitude to my friend Dr. Grosart, to Professor Arber, and
to others, for sparing students, whose time is the least disposable thing
they have, visits to public libraries or begging at rich men's doors for
the sight of books. I should be very sorry both as a student and as a lover
of literature not to possess Davies, Breton, Sylvester, Quarles, and the
rest, and not to read them from time to time. But I cannot help warning
those who are not professed students of the subject that in such writers
they have little good to seek; I cannot help noting the difference between
them and other writers of a very different order, and above all I cannot
help raising a mild protest against the encomiums which are sometimes
passed on them. Southey, in that nearly best of modern books unclassified,
_The Doctor_, has a story of a glover who kept no gloves that were not
"Best." But when the facts came to be narrowly inquired into, it was found
that the ingenious tradesman had no less than five qualities--"Best,"
"Better than Best," "Better than better than Best," "Best of All," and the
"Real Best." Such language is a little delusive, and when I read the
epithets of praise which are sometimes lavished, not by the same persons,
on Breton and Watson, I ask myself what we are to say of Spenser and
Shakespere.

Davies has no doubt also suffered from the fact that he had a contemporary
of the same name and surname, who was not only of higher rank, but of
considerably greater powers. Sir John Davies was a Wiltshire man of good
family: his mother, Mary Bennet of Pyt-house, being still represented by
the Benett-Stanfords of Dorsetshire and Brighton. Born about 1569, he was a
member of the University of Oxford, and a Templar; but appears to have been
anything but a docile youth, so that both at Oxford and the Temple he came
to blows with the authorities. He seems, however, to have gone back to
Oxford, and to have resided there till close of middle life; some if not
most of his poems dating thence. He entered Parliament in 1601, and after
figuring in the Opposition during Elizabeth's last years, was taken into
favour, like others in similar circumstances, by James. Immediately after
the latter's accession Davies became a law officer for Ireland, and did
good and not unperilous service there. He was mainly resident in Ireland
for some thirteen years, producing during the time a valuable "Discovery of
the Causes of the Irish Discontent." For the last ten years of his life he
seems to have practised as serjeant-at-law in England, frequently serving
as judge or commissioner of assize, and he died in 1626. His poetical work
consists chiefly of three things, all written before 1600. These are _Nosce
Teipsum_, or the immortality of the soul, in quatrains, and as light as the
unsuitableness of the subject to verse will allow; a singularly clever
collection of acrostics called _Astraea_, all making the name of Elizabetha
Regina; and the _Orchestra_, or poem on dancing, which has made his fame.
Founded as it is on a mere conceit--the reduction of all natural phenomena
to a grave and regulated motion which the author calls dancing--it is one
of the very best poems of the school of Spenser, and in harmony of metre
(the seven-lined stanza) and grace of illustration is sometimes not too far
behind Spenser himself. An extract from it may be fitly followed by one of
the acrostics of _Astraea_:--

    "As the victorious twins of Leda and Jove,
    (That taught the Spartans dancing on the sands
    Of swift Eurotas) dance in heaven above,
    Knit and united with eternal bands;
    Among the stars, their double image stands,
    Where both are carried with an equal pace,
    Together jumping in their turning race.

    "This is the net, wherein the sun's bright eye,
    Venus and Mars entangled did behold;
    For in this dance, their arms they so imply,
    As each doth seem the other to enfold.
    What if lewd wits another tale have told
    Of jealous Vulcan, and of iron chains!
    Yet this true sense that forgèd lie contains.

    "These various forms of dancing Love did frame,
    And besides these, a hundred millions more;
    And as he did invent, he taught the same:
    With goodly gesture, and with comely show,
    Now keeping state, now humbly honouring low.
    And ever for the persons and the place
    He taught most fit, and best according grace."

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Each day of thine, sweet month of May,
    Love makes a solemn Holy Day.
    I will perform like duty;
    Since thou resemblest every way
    Astraea, Queen of Beauty.
    Both you, fresh beauties do partake,
    Either's aspect, doth summer make.
    Thoughts of young Love awaking,
    Hearts you both do cause to ache;
    And yet be pleased with aching.
    Right dear art thou, and so is She,
    Even like attractive sympathy
    Gains unto both, like dearness.
    I ween this made antiquity
    Name thee, sweet May of majesty,
    As being both like in clearness."

The chief direct followers of Spenser were, however, Giles and Phineas
Fletcher, and William Browne. The two first were, as has been said, the
cousins of John Fletcher the dramatist, and the sons of Dr. Giles Fletcher,
the author of _Licia_. The exact dates and circumstances of their lives are
little known. Both were probably born between 1580 and 1590. Giles, though
the younger (?), died vicar of Alderton in Suffolk in 1623: Phineas, the
elder (?), who was educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge (Giles
was a member of Trinity College in the same university), also took orders,
and was for nearly thirty years incumbent of Hilgay-in-the-Fens, dying in
1650.

Giles's extant work is a poem in four cantos or parts, generally entitled
_Christ's Victory and Triumph_. He chose a curious and rather infelicitous
variation on the Spenserian stanza _ababbccc_, keeping the Alexandrine but
missing the seventh line, with a lyrical interlude here and there. The
whole treatment is highly allegorical, and the lusciousness of Spenser is
imitated and overdone. Nevertheless the versification and imagery are often
very beautiful, as samples of the two kinds will show:--

    "The garden like a lady fair was cut
    That lay as if she slumber'd in delight,
    And to the open skies her eyes did shut;
    The azure fields of Heav'n were 'sembled right
    In a large round, set with the flow'rs of light:
    The flow'rs-de-luce, and the round sparks of dew,
    That hung upon their azure leaves did shew
    Like twinkling stars, that sparkle in the evening blue.

    "Upon a hilly bank her head she cast,
    On which the bower of Vain-delight was built,
    White and red roses for her face were placed,
    And for her tresses marigolds were spilt:
    Them broadly she displayed like flaming gilt,
    Till in the ocean the glad day were drowned:
    Then up again her yellow locks she wound,
    And with green fillets in their pretty cauls them bound.

    "What should I here depaint her lily hand,
    Her veins of violets, her ermine breast,
    Which there in orient colours living stand:
    Or how her gown with living leaves is drest,
    Or how her watchman, armed with boughy crest,
    A wall of prim hid in his bushes bears
    Shaking at every wind their leafy spears
    While she supinely sleeps, nor to be wakèd fears."

       *       *       *       *       *

    "See, see the flowers that below,
    Now as fresh as morning blow,
    And of all the virgin rose,
    That as bright Aurora shows:
    How they all unleavèd die,
    Losing their virginity;
    Like unto a summer shade,
    But now born and now they fade.
    Everything doth pass away,
    There is danger in delay.
    Come, come gather then the rose,
    Gather it, or it you lose.
    All the sand of Tagus' shore
    Into my bosom casts his ore:
    All the valleys' swimming corn
    To my house is yearly borne:
    Every grape of every vine
    Is gladly bruis'd to make me wine,
    While ten thousand kings, as proud,
    To carry up my train have bow'd,
    And a world of ladies send me
    In my chambers to attend me.
    All the stars in Heaven that shine,
    And ten thousand more, are mine:
    Only bend thy knee to me,
    Thy wooing shall thy winning be."

_The Purple Island_, Phineas Fletcher's chief work, is an allegorical poem
of the human body, written in a stanza different only from that of
_Christ's Victory_ in being of seven lines only, the quintet of Giles being
cut down to a regular elegiac quatrain. This is still far below the
Spenserian stanza, and the colour is inferior to that of Giles. Phineas
follows Spenser's manner, or rather his mannerisms, very closely indeed,
and in detached passages not unsuccessfully, as here, where the transition
from Spenser to Milton is marked:--

    "The early morn lets out the peeping day,
    And strew'd his path with golden marigolds:
    The Moon grows wan, and stars fly all away.
    Whom Lucifer locks up in wonted folds
    Till light is quench'd, and Heaven in seas hath flung
    The headlong day: to th' hill the shepherds throng
    And Thirsil now began to end his task and song:

    "'Who now, alas! shall teach my humble vein,
    That never yet durst peep from covert glade,
    But softly learnt for fear to sigh and plain
    And vent her griefs to silent myrtle's shade?
    Who now shall teach to change my oaten quill
    For trumpet 'larms, or humble verses fill
    With graceful majesty, and lofty rising skill?

    "'Ah, thou dread Spirit! shed thy holy fire,
    Thy holy flame, into my frozen heart;
    Teach thou my creeping measures to aspire
    And swell in bigger notes, and higher art:
    Teach my low Muse thy fierce alarms to ring,
    And raise my soft strain to high thundering,
    Tune thou my lofty song; thy battles must I sing.

    "'Such as thou wert within the sacred breast
    Of that thrice famous poet, shepherd, king;
    And taught'st his heart to frame his cantos best
    Of all that e'er thy glorious works did sing;
    Or as, those holy fishers once among,
    Thou flamedst bright with sparkling parted tongues;
    And brought'st down Heaven to Earth in those all-conquering songs.'"

But where both fail is first in the adjustment of the harmony of the
individual stanza as a verse paragraph, and secondly in the management of
their fable. Spenser has everywhere a certain romance-interest both of
story and character which carries off in its steady current, where carrying
off is needed, both his allegorising and his long descriptions. The
Fletchers, unable to impart this interest, or unconscious of the necessity
of imparting it, lose themselves in shallow overflowings like a stream that
overruns its bank. But Giles was a master of gorgeous colouring in phrase
and rhythm, while in _The Purple Island_ there are detached passages not
quite unworthy of Spenser, when he is not at his very best--that is to say,
worthy of almost any English poet. Phineas, moreover, has, to leave
_Britain's Ida_ alone, a not inconsiderable amount of other work. His
Piscatory Eclogues show the influence of _The Shepherd's Calendar_ as
closely as, perhaps more happily than, _The Purple Island_ shows the
influence of _The Faërie Queene_, and in his miscellanies there is much
musical verse. It is, however, very noticeable that even in these
occasional poems his vehicle is usually either the actual stanza of the
_Island_, or something equally elaborate, unsuited though such stanzas
often are to the purpose. These two poets indeed, though in poetical
capacity they surpassed all but one or two veterans of their own
generation, seem to have been wholly subdued and carried away by the mighty
flood of their master's poetical production. It is probable that, had he
not written, they would not have written at all; yet it is possible that,
had he not written, they would have produced something much more original
and valuable. It ought to be mentioned that the influence of both upon
Milton, directly and as handing on the tradition of Spenser, was evidently
very great. The strong Cambridge flavour (not very perceptible in Spenser
himself, but of which Milton is, at any rate in his early poems, full)
comes out in them, and from _Christ's Victory_ at any rate the poet of
_Lycidas_, the _Ode on the Nativity_, and _Paradise Regained_, apparently
"took up," as the phrase of his own day went, not a few commodities.

The same rich borrower owed something to William Browne, who, in his turn,
like the Fletchers, but with a much less extensive indebtedness, levied on
Spenser. Browne, however, was free from the _genius loci_, being a
Devonshire man born and of Exeter College, Oxford, by education. He was
born, they say, in 1591, published the first part of _Britannia's
Pastorals_ in 1613, made many literary and some noble acquaintances, is
thought to have lived for some time at Oxford as a tutor, and either in
Surrey or in his native county for the rest of his life, which is (not
certainly) said to have ended about 1643. Browne was evidently a man of
very wide literary sympathy, which saved him from falling into the mere
groove of the Fletchers. He was a personal friend and an enthusiastic
devotee of Jonson, Drayton, Chapman. He was a student of Chaucer and
Occleve. He was the dear friend and associate of a poet more gifted but
more unequal than himself, George Wither. All this various literary
cultivation had the advantage of keeping him from being a mere
mocking-bird, though it did not quite provide him with any prevailing or
wholly original pipe of his own. _Britannia's Pastorals_ (the third book of
which remained in MS. for more than two centuries) is a narrative but
extremely desultory poem, in fluent and somewhat loose couplets,
diversified with lyrics full of local colour, and extremely pleasant to
read, though hopelessly difficult to analyse in any short space, or indeed
in any space at all. Browne seems to have meandered on exactly as the fancy
took him; and his ardent love for the country, his really artistic though
somewhat unchastened gift of poetical description and presentment enabled
him to go on just as he pleased, after a fashion, of which here are two
specimens in different measures:--

                                "'May first
    (Quoth Marin) swains give lambs to thee;
    And may thy flood have seignory
    Of all floods else; and to thy fame
    Meet greater springs, yet keep thy name.
    May never newt, nor the toad
    Within thy banks make their abode!
    Taking thy journey from the sea
    May'st thou ne'er happen in thy way
    On nitre or on brimstone mine,
    To spoil thy taste! This spring of thine,
    Let it of nothing taste but earth,
    And salt conceived in their birth.
    Be ever fresh! Let no man dare
    To spoil thy fish, make lock or wear,
    But on thy margent still let dwell
    Those flowers which have the sweetest smell.
    And let the dust upon thy strand
    Become like Tagus' golden sand.
    Let as much good betide to thee
    As thou hast favour shew'd to me.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Here left the bird the cherry, and anon
    Forsook her bosom, and for more is gone,
    Making such speedy flights into the thick
    That she admir'd he went and came so quick.
    Then, lest his many cherries should distaste,
    Some other fruit he brings than he brought last.
    Sometime of strawberries a little stem
    Oft changing colours as he gather'd them,
    Some green, some white, some red, on them infus'd,
    These lov'd, these fear'd, they blush'd to be so us'd.
    The peascod green, oft with no little toil
    He'd seek for in the fattest, fertil'st soil
    And rend it from the stalk to bring it to her,
    And in her bosom for acceptance woo her.
    No berry in the grove or forest grew
    That fit for nourishment the kind bird knew,
    Nor any powerful herb in open field
    To serve her brood the teeming earth did yield,
    But with his utmost industry he sought it,
    And to the cave for chaste Marina brought it."

_The Shepherd's Pipe_, besides reproducing Occleve, is in parts reminiscent
of Chaucer, in parts of Spenser, but always characterised by the free and
unshackled movement which is Browne's great charm; and the same
characteristics appear in the few minor poems attributed to him. Browne has
been compared to Keats, who read and loved him, and there are certainly not
a few points of resemblance. Of Keats's higher or more restrained
excellences, such as appear in the finest passages of _St. Agnes' Eve_, and
_Hyperion_, in the _Ode to a Grecian Urn_, and such minor pieces as _In a
Drear-Nighted December_, Browne had nothing. But he, like Keats, had that
kind of love of Nature which is really the love of a lover; and he had,
like Keats, a wonderful gift of expression of his love.[57] Nor is he ever
prosaic, a praise which certainly cannot be accorded to some men of far
greater repute, and perhaps of occasionally higher gifts both in his own
time and others. The rarest notes of Apollo he has not, but he is never
driven, as the poet and friend of his, to whom we next come, was often
driven, to the words of Mercury. This special gift was not very common at
the time; and though that time produced better poets than Browne, it is
worth noting in him. He may never reach the highest poetry, but he is
always a poet.

[57] Something of the same love, but unluckily much less of the same gift,
occurs in the poems of a friend of Browne's once hardly known except by
some fair verses on Shakespere ("Renowned Spenser," etc.), but made fully
accessible by Mr. R. Warwick Bond in 1893. This was William Basse, a
retainer of the Wenman family near Thame, the author, probably or
certainly, of a quaint defence of retainership, _Sword and Buckler_ (1602),
and of other poems--_Pastoral Elegies_, _Urania_, _Polyhymnia_,
etc.--together with an exceedingly odd piece, _The Metamorphosis of the
Walnut-Tree of Boarstall_, which is not quite like anything else of the
time. Basse, who seems also to have spelt his name "Bas," and perhaps lived
and wrote through the first forty or fifty years of the seventeenth
century, is but a moderate poet. Still he is not contemptible, and deserves
to rank as a member of the Spenserian family on the pastoral side; while
the _Walnut-Tree_, though it may owe something to _The Oak and the Brere_,
has a quaintness which is not in Spenser, and not perhaps exactly anywhere
else.

The comparative impotence of even the best criticism to force writers on
public attention has never been better illustrated than in the case of
George Wither himself. The greater part of a century has passed since
Charles Lamb's glowing eulogy of him was written, and the terms of that
eulogy have never been contested by competent authority. Yet there is no
complete collection of his work in existence, and there is no complete
collection even of the poems, saving a privately printed one which is
inaccessible except in large libraries, and to a few subscribers. His
sacred poems, which are not his best, were indeed reprinted in the Library
of Old Authors; and one song of his, the famous "Shall I Wasting in
Despair," is universally known. But the long and exquisite poem of
_Philarete_ was not generally known (if it is generally known now, which
may be doubted) till Mr. Arber reprinted it in the fourth volume of his
_English Garner_. Nor can _Fidelia_ and _The Shepherd's Hunting_, things
scarcely inferior, be said to be familiar to the general reader. For this
neglect there is but one excuse, and that an insufficient one, considering
the immense quantity of very indifferent contemporary work which has had
the honour of modern publication. What the excuse is we shall say
presently. Wither was born at Brentworth, in the Alresford district of
Hampshire (a district afterwards delightfully described by him), on 11th
June 1588. His family was respectable; and though not the eldest son, he
had at one time some landed property. He was for two years at Magdalen
College, Oxford, of which he speaks with much affection, but was removed
before taking his degree. After a distasteful experience of farm work,
owing to reverses of fortune in his family he came to London, entered at
Lincoln's Inn, and for some years haunted the town and the court. In 1613
he published his _Abuses Stript and Whipt_, one of the general and rather
artificial satires not unfashionable at the time. For this, although the
book has no direct personal reference that can be discovered, he was
imprisoned in the Marshalsea; and there wrote the charming poem of _The
Shepherd's Hunting_, 1615, and probably also _Fidelia_, an address from a
faithful nymph to an inconstant swain, which, though inferior to _The
Shepherd's Hunting_ and to _Philarete_ in the highest poetical worth, is a
signal example of Wither's copious and brightly-coloured style. Three years
later came the curious personal poem of the _Motto_, and in 1622
_Philarete_ itself, which was followed in the very next year by the _Hymns
and Songs of the Church_. Although Wither lived until 2d May 1667, and was
constantly active with his pen, his _Hallelujah_, 1641, another book of
sacred verse, is the only production of his that has received or that
deserves much praise. The last thirty years of his long life were eventful
and unfortunate. After being a somewhat fervent Royalist, he suddenly
changed his creed at the outbreak of the great rebellion, sold his estate
to raise men for the Parliament, and was active in its cause with pen as
well as with sword. Naturally he got into trouble at the Restoration (as he
had previously done with Cromwell), and was imprisoned again, though after
a time he was released. At an earlier period he had been in difficulties
with the Stationers' Company on the subject of a royal patent which he had
received from James, and which was afterwards (though still fruitlessly)
confirmed by Charles, for his _Hymns_. Indeed, Wither, though a man of very
high character, seems to have had all his life what men of high character
not unfrequently have, a certain facility for getting into what is vulgarly
called hot-water.

The defect in his work, which has been referred to above, and which is
somewhat passed over in the criticisms of Lamb and others, is its amazing
inequality. This is the more remarkable in that evidence exists of not
infrequent retouching on his part with the rather unusual result of
improvement--a fact which would seem to show that he possessed some
critical faculty. Such possession, however, seems on the other hand to be
quite incompatible with the production of the hopeless doggerel which he
not infrequently signs. The felicity of language and the command of
rhythmical effect which he constantly displays, are extraordinary, as for
instance in the grand opening of his first Canticle:--

    "Come kiss me with those lips of thine,
      For better are thy loves than wine;
    And as the pourèd ointments be
      Such is the savour of thy name,
    And for the sweetness of the same
      The virgins are in love with thee."

Compare the following almost unbelievable rubbish--

    "As we with water wash away
      Uncleanness from our flesh,
    And sometimes often in a day
      Ourselves are fain to wash."

Even in his earlier and purely secular work there is something, though less
of this inequality, and its cause is not at all dubious. No poet, certainly
no poet of merit, seems to have written with such absolute spontaneity and
want of premeditation as Wither. The metre which was his favourite, and
which he used with most success--the trochaic dimeter catalectic of seven
syllables--lends itself almost as readily as the octosyllable to this
frequently fatal fluency; but in Wither's hands, at least in his youth and
early manhood, it is wonderfully successful, as here:--

    "And sometimes, I do admire
    All men burn not with desire.
    Nay, I muse her servants are not
    Pleading love: but O they dare not:
    And I, therefore, wonder why
    They do not grow sick and die.
    Sure they would do so, but that,
    By the ordinance of Fate,
    There is some concealed thing
    So each gazer limiting,
    He can see no more of merit
    Than beseems his worth and spirit.
    For, in her, a grace there shines
    That o'erdaring thoughts confines,
    Making worthless men despair
    To be loved of one so fair.
    Yea the Destinies agree
    Some good judgments blind should be:
    And not gain the power of knowing
    Those rare beauties, in her growing.
    Reason doth as much imply,
    For, if every judging eye
    Which beholdeth her should there
    Find what excellences are;
    All, o'ercome by those perfections
    Would be captive to affections.
    So (in happiness unblest)
    She for lovers should not rest."

Nor had he at times a less original and happy command of the rhymed
decasyllabic couplet, which he sometimes handles after a fashion which
makes one almost think of Dryden, and sometimes after a fashion (as in the
lovely description of Alresford Pool at the opening of _Philarete_) which
makes one think of more modern poets still. Besides this metrical
proficiency and gift, Wither at this time (he thought fit to apologise for
it later) had a very happy knack of blending the warm amatory enthusiasm of
his time with sentiments of virtue and decency. There is in him absolutely
nothing loose or obscene, and yet he is entirely free from the
milk-and-water propriety which sometimes irritates the reader in such books
as Habington's _Castara_. Wither is never mawkish, though he is never
loose, and the swing of his verse at its best is only equalled by the rush
of thought and feeling which animates it. As it is perhaps necessary to
justify this high opinion, we may as well give the "Alresford Pool" above
noted. It is like Browne, but it is better than anything Browne ever did;
being like Browne, it is not unlike Keats; it is also singularly like Mr.
William Morris.

    "For pleasant was that Pool; and near it, then,
    Was neither rotten marsh nor boggy fen.
    It was not overgrown with boisterous sedge,
    Nor grew there rudely, then, along the edge
    A bending willow, nor a prickly bush,
    Nor broad-leafed flag, nor reed, nor knotty rush:
    But here, well ordered, was a grove with bowers;
    There, grassy plots, set round about with flowers.
    Here, you might, through the water, see the land
    Appear, strewed o'er with white or yellow sand.
    Yon, deeper was it; and the wind, by whiffs,
    Would make it rise, and wash the little cliffs;
    On which, oft pluming, sate, unfrighted then
    The gagling wild goose, and the snow-white swan,
    With all those flocks of fowl, which, to this day
    Upon those quiet waters breed and play."

When to this gift of description is added a frequent inspiration of pure
fancy, it is scarcely surprising that--

    "Such a strain as might befit
    Some brave Tuscan poet's wit,"

to borrow a couplet of his own, often adorns Wither's verse.

Two other poets of considerable interest and merit belong to this period,
who are rather Scotch than English, but who have usually been included in
histories of English literature--Drummond of Hawthornden, and Sir William
Alexander, Earl of Stirling. Both, but especially Drummond, exhibit equally
with their English contemporaries the influences which produced the
Elizabethan Jacobean poetry; and though I am not myself disposed to go
quite so far, the sonnets of Drummond have sometimes been ranked before all
others of the time except Shakespere's.

William Drummond was probably born at the beautiful seat whence he derived
his designation, on 13th December 1585. His father was Sir John Drummond,
and he was educated in Edinburgh and in France, betaking himself, like
almost all young Scotchmen of family, to the study of the law. He came back
to Scotland from France in 1610, and resided there for the greater part of
his life, though he left it on at least two occasions for long periods,
once travelling on the continent for eight years to recover from the grief
of losing a lady to whom he was betrothed, and once retiring to avoid the
inconveniences of the Civil War. Though a Royalist, Drummond submitted to
be requisitioned against the Crown, but as an atonement he is said to have
died of grief at Charles I.'s execution in 1649. The most famous incidents
of his life are the visit that Ben Jonson paid to him, and the much
discussed notes of that visit which Drummond left in manuscript. It would
appear, on the whole, that Drummond was an example of a well-known type of
cultivated dilettante, rather effeminate, equally unable to appreciate
Jonson's boisterous ways and to show open offence at them, and in the same
way equally disinclined to take the popular side and to endure risk and
loss in defending his principles. He shows better in his verse. His sonnets
are of the true Elizabethan mould, exhibiting the Petrarchian grace and
romance, informed with a fire and aspiring towards a romantic ideal beyond
the Italian. Like the older writers of the sonnet collections generally,
Drummond intersperses his quatorzains with madrigals, lyrical pieces of
various lengths, and even with what he calls "songs,"--that is to say, long
poems in the heroic couplet. He was also a skilled writer of elegies, and
two of his on Gustavus Adolphus and on Prince Henry have much merit.
Besides the madrigals included in his sonnets he has left another
collection entitled "Madrigals and Epigrams," including pieces both
sentimental and satirical. As might be expected the former are much better
than the latter, which have the coarseness and the lack of point noticeable
in most of the similar work of this time from Jonson to Herrick. We have
also of his a sacred collection (again very much in accordance with the
practice of his models of the preceding generation), entitled _Flowers of
Sion_, and consisting, like the sonnets, of poems of various metres. One of
these is noticeable as suggesting the metre of Milton's "Nativity," but
with an alteration of line number and rhyme order which spoils it. Yet a
fourth collection of miscellanies differs not much in constitution from the
others, and Drummond's poetical work is completed by some local pieces,
such as _Forth Feasting_, some hymns and divine poems, and an attempt in
Macaronic called _Polemo-Middinia_, which is perhaps not his. He was also a
prose writer, and a tract, entitled _The Cypress Grove_, has been not
unjustly ranked as a kind of anticipation of Sir Thomas Browne, both in
style and substance. Of his verse a sonnet and a madrigal may suffice, the
first of which can be compared with the Sleep sonnet given earlier:--

    "Sleep, Silence' child, sweet father of soft rest,
    Prince whose approach peace to all mortals brings,
    Indifferent host to shepherds and to kings,
    Sole comforter of minds which are oppressed;
    Lo, by thy charming rod, all breathing things
    Lie slumb'ring, with forgetfulness possess'd,
    And yet o'er me to spread thy drowsy wings
    Thou spar'st, alas! who cannot be thy guest.
    Since I am thine, O come, but with that face
    To inward light, which thou art wont to show,
    With feignèd solace ease a true felt woe;
    Or if, deaf god, thou do deny that grace,
    Come as thou wilt, and what thou wilt bequeath:
    I long to kiss the image of my death."

       *       *       *       *       *

    "To the delightful green
    Of you, fair radiant een,
    Let each black yield, beneath the starry arch.
    Eyes, burnish'd Heavens of love,
    Sinople[58] lamps of Jove,
    Save all those hearts which with your flames you parch
    Two burning suns you prove;
    All other eyes, compared with you, dear lights
    Are Hells, or if not Hells, yet dumpish nights.
    The heavens (if we their glass
    The sea believe) are green, not perfect blue;
    They all make fair, whatever fair yet was,
    And they are fair because they look like you."

[58] In heraldry (but not English heraldry) = "green."

Sir William Alexander, a friend and countryman of Drummond (who bewailed
him in more than one mournful rhyme of great beauty), was born in 1580 of a
family which, though it had for some generations borne the quasi-surname
Alexander, is said to have been a branch of the Clan Macdonald. Alexander
early took to a court life, was much concerned in the proposed planting of
Nova Scotia, now chiefly remembered from its connection with the Order of
Baronets, was Secretary of State for Scotland, and was raised to the
peerage. He died in 1640. Professor Masson has called him "the second-rate
Scottish sycophant of an inglorious despotism." He might as well be called
"the faithful servant of monarchy in its struggle with the encroachments of
Republicanism," and one description would be as much question-begging as
the other. But we are here concerned only with his literary work, which was
considerable in bulk and quality. It consists chiefly of a collection of
sonnets (varied as usual with madrigals, etc.), entitled _Aurora_; of a
long poem on _Doomsday_ in an eight-lined stanza; of a _Paraenesis_ to
Prince Henry; and of four "monarchic tragedies" on _Darius_, _Croesus_,
_Alexander_, and _Cæsar_, equipped with choruses and other appliances of
the literary rather than the theatrical tragedy. It is perhaps in these
choruses that Alexander appears at his best; for his special forte was
grave and stately declamation, as the second of the following extracts will
prove. The first is a sonnet from _Aurora_:--

    "Let some bewitched with a deceitful show,
    Love earthly things unworthily esteem'd,
    And losing that which cannot be redeemed
    Pay back with pain according as they owe:
    But I disdain to cast my eyes so low,
    That for my thoughts o'er base a subject seem'd,
    Which still the vulgar course too beaten deem'd;
    And loftier things delighted for to know.
    Though presently this plague me but with pain,
    And vex the world with wondering at my woes:
    Yet having gained that long desired repose
    My mirth may more miraculous remain.
    That for the which long languishing I pine,
    It is a show, but yet a show divine."

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Those who command above,
    High presidents of Heaven,
    By whom all things do move,
    As they have order given,
    What worldling can arise
    Against them to repine?
    Whilst castled in the skies
    With providence divine;
    They force this peopled round,
    Their judgments to confess,
    And in their wrath confound
    Proud mortals who transgress
    The bounds to them assigned
    By Nature in their mind.

    "Base brood of th' Earth, vain man,
    Why brag'st thou of thy might?
    The Heavens thy courses scan,
    Thou walk'st still in their sight;
    Ere thou wast born, thy deeds
    Their registers dilate,
    And think that none exceeds
    The bounds ordain'd by fate;
    What heavens would have thee to,
    Though they thy ways abhor,
    That thou of force must do,
    And thou canst do no more:
    This reason would fulfil,
    Their work should serve their will.

    "Are we not heirs of death,
    In whom there is no trust?
    Who, toss'd with restless breath,
    Are but a drachm of dust;
    Yet fools whenas we err,
    And heavens do wrath contract,
    If they a space defer
    Just vengeance to exact,
    Pride in our bosom creeps,
    And misinforms us thus
    That love in pleasure sleeps
    Or takes no care of us:
    'The eye of Heaven beholds
    What every heart enfolds.'"

Not a few of his other sonnets are also worth reading, and the unpromising
subject of _Doomsday_ (which connects itself in style partly with Spenser,
but perhaps still more with _The Mirror for Magistrates_), does not prevent
it from containing fine passages. Alexander had indeed more power of
sustained versification than his friend Drummond, though he hardly touches
the latter in point of the poetical merit of short isolated passages and
poems. Both bear perhaps a little too distinctly the complexion of
"_Gentlemen_ of the Press"--men who are composing poems because it is the
fashion, and because their education, leisure, and elegant tastes lead them
to prefer that form of occupation. But perhaps what is most interesting
about them is the way in which they reproduce on a smaller scale the
phenomenon presented by the Scotch poetical school of the fifteenth
century. That school, as is well known, was a direct offshoot from, or
following of the school of Chaucer, though in Dunbar at least it succeeded
in producing work almost, if not quite, original in form. In the same way,
Drummond and Alexander, while able to the full to experience directly the
foreign, and especially Italian influences which had been so strong on the
Elizabethans, were still in the main followers of the Elizabethans
themselves, and formed, as it were, a Scottish moon to the English sun of
poetry. There is little or nothing that is distinctively national about
them, though in their following of the English model they show talent at
least equal to all but the best of the school they followed. But this fact,
joined to those above noted, helps, no doubt, to give an air of want of
spontaneity to their verse--an air as of the literary exercise.

There are other writers who might indifferently come in this chapter or in
that on Caroline poetry, for the reign of James was as much overlapped in
this respect by his son's as by Elizabeth's, and there are others who need
but slight notice, besides yet others--a great multitude--who can receive
no notice at all. The doggerel of Taylor, the water-poet (not a bad prose
writer), received both patronage and attention, which seem to have annoyed
his betters, and he has been resuscitated even in our own times. Francis
Beaumont, the coadjutor of Fletcher, has left independent poetical work
which, on the whole, confirms the general theory that the chief execution
of the joint plays must have been his partner's, but which (as in the
_Letter to Ben Jonson_ and the fine stoicism of _The Honest Man's Fortune_)
contains some very good things. His brother, Sir John Beaumont, who died
not so young as Francis, but at the comparatively early age of forty-four,
was the author of a historical poem on _Bosworth Field_, as well as of
minor pieces of higher merit, including some remarkable critical
observations on English verse. Two famous poems, which everyone knows by
heart, the "You Meaner Beauties of the Night" of Sir Henry Wotton and the
"Tell Me no more how fair She is" of Bishop Henry King, are merely perfect
examples of a style of verse which was largely if not often quite so
perfectly practised by lesser or less known men, as well as by greater
ones.[59]

[59] The most interesting collection and selection of verse of this class
and time is undoubtedly Dr. Hannah's well-known and charming but rather
oddly entitled _Poems of Raleigh, Wotton, and other Courtly Poets_ in the
Aldine Series. I say oddly entitled, because though Raleigh and Wotton were
certainly courtiers, it would be hard to make the name good of some of the
minor contributors.

There is, moreover, a class of verse which has been referred to
incidentally before, and which may very likely be referred to incidentally
again, but which is too abundant, too characteristic, and too charming not
to merit a place, if no very large one, to itself. I refer to the
delightful songs which are scattered all over the plays of the period, from
Greene to Shirley. As far as Shakespere is concerned, these songs are well
enough known, and Mr. Palgrave's _Treasury_, with Mr. Bullen's and Bell's
_Songs from the Dramatists_, have given an inferior currency, but still a
currency, to the best of the remainder. The earlier we have spoken of. But
the songs of Greene and his fellows, though charming, cannot compare with
those of the more properly Jacobean poets. To name only the best of each,
Ben Jonson gives us the exquisite "Queen and Huntress," which is perhaps
the best-known piece of his whole work; the pleasant "If I freely may
discover," and best of all--unsurpassed indeed in any language for rolling
majesty of rhythm and romantic charm of tone--"Drink to me only with thine
eyes." Again the songs in Beaumont and Fletcher stand very high, perhaps
highest of all next to Shakespere's in respect of the "woodnote wild." If
the snatch of only half articulate poetry of the "Lay a garland on my
hearse," of _The Maid's Tragedy_, is really Fletcher's, he has here
equalled Shakespere himself. We may add to it the fantastic and charming
"Beauty clear and fair," of _The Elder Brother_, the comic swing of "Let
the bells ring," and "The fit's upon me now;" all the songs without
exception in _The Faithful Shepherdess_, which is much less a drama than a
miscellany of the most delightful poetry; the lively war-song in _The Mad
Lover_, to which Dryden owed not a little; the catch, "Drink to-day and
drown all sorrow;" the strange song of the dead host in _The Lover's
Progress_; the exquisite "Weep no more," of _The Queen of Corinth_; the
spirited "Let the mill go round," of _The Maid in the Mill_; the "Lovers
rejoice," of _Cupid's Revenge_; the "Roses, their sharp spines being gone,"
which is one of the most Shakesperean things of _The Two Noble Kinsmen_;
the famous "Hence, all you vain-delights," of _The Nice Valour_, which
Milton expanded into _Il Penseroso_, and the laughing song of the same
play. This long catalogue only contains a part of the singularly beautiful
song work of the great pair of dramatists, and as an example we may give
one of the least known from _The Captain_:--

    "Tell me, dearest, what is love?
    'Tis a lightning from above;
    'Tis an arrow, 'tis a fire,
    'Tis a boy they call Desire.
            'Tis a grave,
            Gapes to have
    Those poor fools that long to prove.

    "Tell me more, are women true?
    Yes, some are, and some as you.
    Some are willing, some are strange
    Since you men first taught to change.
            And till troth
            Be in both,
    All shall love to love anew.

    "Tell me more yet, can they grieve?
    Yes, and sicken sore, but live,
    And be wise, and delay
    When you men are as wise as they.
            Then I see,
            Faith will be
    Never till they both believe."

The dirge of _Vittoria Corombona_ and the preparation for death of _The
Duchess of Malfi_ are Webster's sole but sufficient contributions to the
list. The witch songs of Middleton's _Witch_, and the gipsy, or rather
tramp, songs of _More Dissemblers besides Women_ and _The Spanish Gipsy_,
have very high merit. The songs of _Patient Grissell_, which are pretty
certainly Dekker's, have been noticed already. The otherwise worthless play
of _The Thracian Wonder_, attributed to Webster and Rowley, contains an
unusual number of good songs. Heywood and Massinger were not great at
songs, and the superiority of those in _The Sun's Darling_ over the songs
in Ford's other plays, seems to point to the authorship of Dekker. Finally,
James Shirley has the song gift of his greater predecessors. Every one
knows "The glories of our blood and state," but this is by no means his
only good song; it worthily closes the list of the kind--a kind which, when
brought together and perused separately, exhibits, perhaps, as well as
anything else of equal compass, the extraordinary abundance of poetical
spirit in the age. For songs like these are not to be hammered out by the
most diligent ingenuity, not to be spun by the light of the most
assiduously fed lamp. The wind of such inspiration blows where, and only
where, it listeth.



CHAPTER IX

MILTON, TAYLOR, CLARENDON, BROWNE, HOBBES


During the second and third quarters of the seventeenth century, or (to
take literary rather than chronological dates) between the death of Bacon
and the publication of _Absalom and Achitophel_, there existed in England a
quintet of men of letters, of such extraordinary power and individuality,
that it may be doubted whether any other period of our own literature can
show a group equal to them; while it is certain that no other literature,
except, perhaps, in the age of Pericles, can match them. They were all,
except Hobbes (who belonged by birth, though not by date and character of
writing, to an earlier generation than the rest), born, and they all died,
within a very few years of each other. All were prose writers of the very
highest merit; and though only one was a poet, yet he had poetry enough to
spare for all the five. Of the others, Clarendon, in some of the greatest
characteristics of the historian, has been equalled by no Englishman, and
surpassed by few foreigners. Jeremy Taylor has been called the most
eloquent of men; and if this is a bold saying, it is scarcely too bold.
Hobbes stands with Bacon and Berkeley at the head of English-speaking
philosophers, and is, if not in general grasp, in range of ideas, or in
literary polish, yet in acuteness of thought and originality of expression,
perhaps the superior of both his companions. The excellence of Browne is
indeed more purely literary and intensely artistic first of all--a matter
of expression rather than of substance,--while he is perhaps more flawed
than any of them by the fashionable vices of his time. Yet, as an artist,
or rather architect, of words in the composite and florid style, it is vain
to look anywhere for his superior.

John Milton--the greatest, no doubt, of the five, if only because of his
mastery of either harmony--was born in London on 9th December 1608, was
educated at Cambridge, studied at home with unusual intensity and control
of his own time and bent; travelled to Italy, returned, and engaged in the
somewhat unexpected task of school-keeping; was stimulated, by the outbreak
of the disturbances between king and parliament, to take part with
extraordinary bitterness in the strife of pamphlets on the republican and
anti-prelatical side, defended the execution of the king in his capacity of
Latin secretary to the Government (to which he had been appointed in 1649);
was struck with blindness, lay hid at the Restoration for some time in
order to escape the Royalist vengeance (which does not seem very seriously
to have threatened him), composed and published in 1667 the great poem of
_Paradise Lost_, followed it with that of _Paradise Regained_, did not a
little other work in prose and poetry, and died on 8th November 1674. He
had been thrice married, and his first wife had left him within a month of
her marriage, thereby occasioning the singular series of pamphlets on
divorce, the theories of which, had she not returned, he had, it is said,
intended to put into practice on his own responsibility. The general
abstinence from all but the barest biographical outline which the scale of
this book imposes is perhaps nowhere a greater gain than in the case of
Milton. His personal character was, owing to political motives, long
treated with excessive rigour. The reaction to Liberal politics early in
the nineteenth century substituted for this rigour a somewhat excessive
admiration, and even now the balance is hardly restored, as may be seen
from the fact that a late biographer of his stigmatises his first wife, the
unfortunate Mary Powell, as "a dull and common girl," without a tittle of
evidence except the bare fact of her difference with her husband, and some
innuendoes (indirect in themselves, and clearly tainted as testimony) in
Milton's own divorce tracts. On the whole, Milton's character was not an
amiable one, nor even wholly estimable. It is probable that he never in the
course of his whole life did anything that he considered wrong; but
unfortunately, examples are not far to seek of the facility with which
desire can be made to confound itself with deliberate approval. That he was
an exacting, if not a tyrannical husband and father, that he held in the
most peremptory and exaggerated fashion the doctrine of the superiority of
man to woman, that his egotism in a man who had actually accomplished less
would be half ludicrous and half disgusting, that his faculty of
appreciation beyond his own immediate tastes and interests was small, that
his intolerance surpassed that of an inquisitor, and that his controversial
habits and manners outdid the license even of that period of controversial
abuse,--these are propositions which I cannot conceive to be disputed by
any competent critic aware of the facts. If they have ever been denied, it
is merely from the amiable but uncritical point of view which blinks all a
man's personal defects in consideration of his literary genius. That we
cannot afford to do here, especially as Milton's personal defects had no
small influence on his literary character. But having honestly set down his
faults, let us now turn to the pleasanter side of the subject without fear
of having to revert, except cursorily, to the uglier.

The same prejudice and partisanship, however, which have coloured the
estimate of Milton's personal character have a little injured the literary
estimate of him. It is agreed on all hands that Johnson's acute but unjust
criticism was directed as much by political and religious prejudice as by
the operation of narrow and mistaken rules of prosody and poetry; and all
these causes worked together to produce that extraordinary verdict on
_Lycidas_, which has been thought unintelligible. But it would be idle to
contend that there is not nearly as much bias on the other side in the most
glowing of his modern panegyrists--Macaulay and Landor. It is, no doubt, in
regard to a champion so formidable, both as ally and as enemy, difficult
to write without fear or favour, but it must be attempted.

Milton's periods of literary production were three. In each of them he
produced work of the highest literary merit, but at the same time
singularly different in kind. In the first, covering the first thirty years
of his life, he wrote no prose worth speaking of, but after juvenile
efforts, and besides much Latin poetry of merit, produced the exquisite
poems of _L'Allegro_ and _Il Penseroso_, the _Hymn on the Nativity_, the
incomparable _Lycidas_, the _Comus_ (which I have the audacity to think his
greatest work, if scale and merit are considered), and the delicious
fragments of the _Arcades_. Then his style abruptly changed, and for
another twenty years he devoted himself chiefly to polemical pamphlets,
relieved only by a few sonnets, whose strong originality and intensely
personal savour are uniform, while their poetical merit varies greatly. The
third period of fifteen years saw the composition of the great epics of
_Paradise Lost_ and _Paradise Regained_, and of the tragedy of _Samson
Agonistes_, together with at least the completion of a good deal of prose,
including a curious _History of England_, wherein Milton expatiates with a
singular gusto over details which he must have known, and indeed allows
that he knew, to be fabulous. The production of each of these periods may
be advantageously dealt with separately and in order.

Milton's Latin compositions both in prose and verse lie rather outside of
our scope, though they afford a very interesting subject. It is perhaps
sufficient to say that critics of such different times, tempers, and
attitudes towards their subject as Johnson and the late Rector of
Lincoln,--critics who agree in nothing except literary competence,--are
practically at one as to the remarkable excellence of Milton's Latin verse
at its best. It is little read now, but it is a pity that any one who can
read Latin should allow himself to be ignorant of at least the beautiful
_Epitaphium Damonis_ on the poet's friend, Charles Diodati.

The dates of the few but exquisite poems of the first period are known with
some but not complete exactness. Milton was not an extremely precocious
poet, and such early exercises as he has preserved deserve the description
of being rather meritorious than remarkable. But in 1629, his year of
discretion, he struck his own note first and firmly with the hymn on the
"Nativity." Two years later the beautiful sonnet on his three-and-twentieth
year followed. _L'Allegro_ and _Il Penseroso_ date not before, but probably
not much after, 1632; _Comus_ dating from 1634, and _Lycidas_ from 1637.
All these were written either in the later years at Cambridge, or in the
period of independent study at Horton in Buckinghamshire--chiefly in the
latter. Almost every line and word of these poems has been commented on and
fought over, and I cannot undertake to summarise the criticism of others.
Among the greater memorabilia of the subject is that wonderful Johnsonism,
the description of _Lycidas_ as "harsh, the rhymes uncertain, and the
numbers unpleasing;" among the minor, the fact that critics have gravely
quarrelled among themselves over the epithet "monumental" applied to the
oak in _Il Penseroso_, when Spenser's "Builder Oak" (Milton was a
passionate student of Spenser) would have given them the key at once, even
if the same phrase had not occurred, as I believe it does, in Chaucer, also
a favourite of Milton's. We have only space here for first-hand criticism.

This body of work, then, is marked by two qualities: an extraordinary
degree of poetic merit, and a still more extraordinary originality of
poetic kind. Although Milton is always Milton, it would be difficult to
find in another writer five poems, or (taking the _Allegro_ and its
companion together) four, so different from each other and yet of such high
merit. And it would be still more difficult to find poems so independent in
their excellence. Neither the influence of Jonson nor the influence of
Donne--the two poetical influences in the air at the time, and the latter
especially strong at Cambridge--produced even the faintest effect on
Milton. We know from his own words, and should have known even if he had
not mentioned it, that Shakespere and Spenser were his favourite studies in
English; yet, save in mere scattered phrases none of these poems owes
anything to either. He has teachers but no models; masters, but only in the
way of learning how to do, not what to do. The "certain vital marks," of
which he somewhat arrogantly speaks, are indeed there. I do not myself see
them least in the poem on the "Nativity," which has been the least general
favourite. It shows youth in a certain inequality, in a slight overdose of
ornament, and especially in a very inartistic conclusion. But nowhere even
in Milton does the mastery of harmonies appear better than in the exquisite
rhythmical arrangement of the piece, in the almost unearthly beauty of the
exordium, and in the famous stanzas beginning "The oracles are dumb." It
must be remembered that at this time English lyric was in a very
rudimentary and ill-organised condition. The exquisite snatches in the
dramatists had been snatches merely; Spenser and his followers had chiefly
confined themselves to elaborate stanzas of full length lines, and
elsewhere the octo-syllabic couplet, or the quatrain, or the dangerous
"eights and sixes," had been chiefly affected. The sestines and canzons and
madrigals of the sonneteers, for all the beauty of their occasional
flashes, have nothing like the gracious and sustained majesty of the
"Nativity" piece. For technical perfection in lyric metre, that is not so
much to be sung as said, this ode has no precedent rival. As for
_L'Allegro_ and _Il Penseroso_, who shall praise them fitly? They are among
the few things about which there is no difference of opinion, which are as
delightful to childhood as to criticism, to youth as to age. To dwell on
their technical excellences (the chief of which is the unerring precision
with which the catalectic and acatalectic lines are arranged and
interchanged) has a certain air of impertinence about it. Even a critical
King Alfonso El Sabio could hardly think it possible that Milton might have
taken a hint here, although some persons have, it seems, been disturbed
because skylarks do not come to the window, just as others are troubled
because the flowers in _Lycidas_ do not grow at the same time, and because
they think they could see stars through the "star-proof" trees of the
_Arcades_.

The fragments of the masque just mentioned consist only of three songs and
an address in rhymed couplets. Of the songs, those ending--

      Such a rural queen,
    All Arcadia hath not seen,

are equal to anything that Milton has done; the first song and the address,
especially the latter, do not fall far below them. But it is in _Comus_
that, if I have any skill of criticism, Milton's poetical power is at its
greatest height. Those who judge poetry on the ground of bulk, or of
originality of theme, or of anything else extra-poetical,--much more those
(the greater number) who simply vary transmitted ideas,--may be scandalised
at this assertion, but that will hardly matter much. And indeed the
indebtedness of _Comus_ in point of subject (it is probably limited to the
Odyssey, which is public property, and to George Peele's _Old Wives' Tale_,
which gave little but a few hints of story) is scarcely greater than that
of _Paradise Lost_; while the form of the drama, a kind nearly as venerable
and majestic as that of the epic, is completely filled. And in _Comus_
there is none of the stiffness, none of the _longueurs_, none of the almost
ludicrous want of humour, which mar the larger poem. Humour indeed was what
Milton always lacked; had he had it, Shakespere himself might hardly have
been greater. The plan is not really more artificial than that of the epic;
though in the latter case it is masked to us by the scale, by the grandeur
of the personages, and by the familiarity of the images to all men who have
been brought up on the Bible. The versification, as even Johnson saw, is
the versification of _Paradise Lost_, and to my fancy at any rate it has a
spring, a variety, a sweep and rush of genius, which are but rarely present
later. As for its beauty in parts, _quis vituperavit_? It is impossible to
single out passages, for the whole is golden. The entering address of
Comus, the song "Sweet Echo," the descriptive speech of the Spirit, and the
magnificent eulogy of the "sun-clad power of chastity," would be the most
beautiful things where all is beautiful, if the unapproachable "Sabrina
fair" did not come later, and were not sustained before and after, for
nearly two hundred lines of pure nectar. If poetry could be taught by the
reading of it, then indeed the critic's advice to a poet might be limited
to this: "Give your days and nights to the reading of _Comus_."

The sole excuses for Johnson's amazing verdict on _Lycidas_ are that it is
not quite so uniformly good, and that in his strictures on its "rhyme" and
"numbers" he was evidently speaking from the point of view at which the
regular couplet is regarded as the _ne plus ultra_ of poetry. There are
indeed blotches in it. The speech of Peter, magnificently as it is
introduced, and strangely as it has captivated some critics, who seem to
think that anything attacking the Church of England must be poetry, is out
of place, and in itself is obscure, pedantic, and grotesque. There is some
over-classicism, and the scale of the piece does not admit the display of
quite such sustained and varied power as in _Comus_. But what there is, is
so exquisite that hardly can we find fault with Mr. Pattison's hyperbole
when he called _Lycidas_ the "high-water mark of English poetry."
High-water mark even in the physical world is a variable limit. Shakespere
constantly, and some other poets here and there in short passages go beyond
Milton. But in the same space we shall nowhere find anything that can outgo
the passage beginning "Alas what boots it," down to "head of thine," and
the whole conclusion from "Return Alpheus." For melody of versification,
for richness of images, for curious felicity of expression, these cannot be
surpassed.

"But O the heavy change"--to use an irresistible quotation, the more
irresistible that the change is foreshadowed in _Lycidas_ itself--from the
golden poetry of these early days to the prose of the pamphlets. It is not
that Milton's literary faculty is less conspicuous here, or less
interesting. There is no English prose before him, none save Taylor's and
Browne's in his time, and absolutely none after him that can compare with
the finest passages of these singular productions. The often quoted
personal descriptions of his aims in life, his early literary studies, his
views of poetry and so forth, are almost equal in the "other harmony of
prose" to _Comus_ and _Lycidas_. The deservedly famous _Areopagitica_ is
full of the most splendid concerted pieces of prose-music, and hardly
anywhere from the _Tractate of Reformation Touching Church Discipline_ to
the _History of Britain_, which he revised just before his death, is it
possible to read a page without coming across phrases, passages, and even
whole paragraphs, which are instinct with the most splendid life. But the
difference between Milton's poetry and his prose is, that in verse he is
constantly under the restraint (sometimes, in his later work especially,
too much under the restraint) of the sense of style; while in his prose he
seems to be wholly emancipated from it. Even in his finest passages he
never seems to know or to care how a period is going to end. He piles
clause on clause, links conjunction to conjunction, regardless of breath,
or sense, or the most ordinary laws of grammar. The second sentence of his
first prose work contains about four hundred words, and is broken in the
course of them like a wounded snake. In his very highest flights he will
suddenly drop to grotesque and bathos; and there is no more difficult task
(_haud inexpertus loquor_) than the selection from Milton of any passage of
length which shall not contain faults of which a modern schoolboy or
gutter-journalist would be ashamed. Nor is the matter made much better by
the consideration that it is not so much ignorance as temper which is the
cause of this deformity. Lest it be thought that I speak harshly, let me
quote from the late Mr. Mark Pattison, a strong sympathiser with Milton's
politics, in complete agreement if not with his religious views, yet with
his attitude towards dominant ecclesiasticism, and almost an idolater of
him from the purely literary point of view. In "_Eikonoclastes_," Milton's
reply to _Eikon Basilike_, Mr. Pattison says, and I do not care to attempt
any improvement on the words, "Milton is worse than tedious: his reply is
in a tone of rude railing and insolent swagger which would have been always
unbecoming, but which at this moment was grossly indecent." Elsewhere (and
again I have nothing to add) Mr. Pattison describes Milton's prose
pamphlets as "a plunge into the depths of vulgar scurrility and libel
below the level of average gentility and education." But the Rector of
Lincoln has not touched, or has touched very lightly, on the fault above
noted, the profound lack of humour that these pamphlets display. Others
have been as scurrilous, as libellous, as unfair; others have prostituted
literary genius to the composition of paid lampoons; but some at least of
them have been saved by the all-saving sense of humour. As any one who
remembers the dreadful passage about the guns in _Paradise Lost_ must know,
the book of humour was to Milton a sealed book. He has flashes of wit,
though not many; his indignation of itself sometimes makes him really
sarcastic. But humorous he is never.

Destitute of this, the one saving grace of polemical literature, he plunged
at the age of thirty-three into pamphlet writing. With a few exceptions his
production in this kind may be thrown into four classes,--the
_Areopagitica_ and the _Letter to Hartlib_ (much the best of the whole)
standing outside. The first class attacks prelatical government, and by
degrees glides, under the guise of apologetics for the famous
_Smectymnuus_, into a fierce and indecent controversy with Bishop Hall,
containing some of the worst examples of the author's deplorable inability
to be jocular. Then comes the divorce series, which, with all its varied
learning, is chiefly comic, owing to Milton's unfortunate blindness to the
fact that he was trying to make a public question out of private grievances
of the particular kind which most of all demand silence. Next rank the
pieces composing the Apologia of regicide, the _Eikonoclastes_, the
controversy with Salmasius (written in Latin), and the postscript thereto,
devoted to the obscure Morus. And lastly come the pamphlets in which, with
singular want of understanding of the course of events, Milton tried to
argue Monk and the weary nation out of the purpose to shake off the heavy
yoke of so-called liberty. The _History of Britain_, the very agreeable
fragment on the _History of Muscovy_, the late _Treatise Against Popery_,
in which the author holds out a kind of olive branch to the Church of
England, in the very act of proclaiming his Arianism, and the two little
masterpieces already referred to, are independent of any such
classification. Yet even in them sometimes, as always in the others, _furor
arma ministrat_; and supplies them as badly as if he were supplying by
contract.

Nevertheless both Milton's faults and his merits as a prose writer are of
the most remarkable and interesting character. The former consist chiefly
in the reckless haste with which he constructs (or rather altogether
neglects the construction of) his periods and sentences, in an occasional
confusion of those rules of Latin syntax which are only applicable to a
fully inflected language with the rules necessary in a language so
destitute of inflections as English, and in a lavish and sometimes both
needless and tasteless adaptation of Latin words. All these were faults of
the time, but it is true that they are faults which Milton, like his
contemporaries Taylor and Browne, aggravated almost wilfully. Of the three
Milton, owing no doubt to the fury which animated him, is by far the most
faulty and uncritical. Taylor is the least remarkable of the three for
classicisms either of syntax or vocabulary; and Browne's excesses in this
respect are deliberate. Milton's are the effect of blind passion. Yet the
passages which diversify and relieve his prose works are far more beautiful
in their kind than anything to be found elsewhere in English prose. Though
he never trespasses into purely poetical rhythm, the solemn music of his
own best verse is paralleled in these; and the rugged and grandiose
vocabulary (it is particularly characteristic of Milton that he mixes the
extremest vernacular with the most exquisite and scholarly phrasing) is
fused and moulded with an altogether extraordinary power. Nor can we notice
less the abundance of striking phrase, now quaint, now grand, now forcible,
which in short clauses and "jewels five words long" occurs constantly, even
in the passages least artistically finished as wholes. There is no English
prose author whose prose is so constantly racy with such a distinct and
varied savour as Milton's. It is hardly possible to open him anywhere after
the fashion of the _Sortes Virgilianæ_ without lighting on a line or a
couple of lines, which for the special purpose it is impossible to improve.
And it might be contended with some plausibility that this abundance of
jewels, or purple patches, brings into rather unfair prominence the slips
of grammar and taste, the inequalities of thought, the deplorable attempts
to be funny, the rude outbursts of bargee invective, which also occur so
numerously. One other peculiarity, or rather one result of these
peculiarities, remains to be noticed; and that is that Milton's prose is
essentially inimitable. It would be difficult even to caricature or to
parody it; and to imitate it as his verse, at least his later verse, has
been so often imitated, is simply impossible.

The third and, in popular estimation, the most important period of Milton's
production was again poetical. The characteristics of the poetry of the
three great works which illustrate it are admittedly uniform, though in
_Samson Agonistes_ they exhibit themselves in a harder, drier, more
ossified form than in the two great epics. This relation is only a
repetition of the relation between _Paradise Lost_ and _Paradise Regained_
themselves on the one hand, and the poems of twenty years earlier,
especially _Comus_ and _Lycidas_, on the other. The wonderful Miltonic
style, so artificial and yet such a triumph of art, is evident even so
early as the ode on the "Nativity," and it merely developed its own
characteristics up to the _Samson_ of forty years later. That it is a real
style and not merely a trick, like so many others, is best shown by the
fact that it is very hard, if not impossible, to analyse it finally into
elements. The common opinion charges Milton with Latinising heavily; and so
he does. But we open _Paradise Lost_ at random, and we find a dozen lines,
and not the least beautiful (the Third Day of Creation), without a word in
them that is not perfectly simple English, or if of Latin origin,
naturalised long before Milton's time, while the syntax is also quite
vernacular. Again it is commonly thought that the habits of antithesis and
parallelism, of omission of articles, of reversing the position of
adjectives and adverbs, are specially Miltonic. Certainly Milton often
indulges in them; yet in the same way the most random dipping will find
passages (and any number of them) where no one of these habits is
particularly or eminently present, and yet which every one would recognise
as Miltonic. As far as it is possible to put the finger on one peculiarity
which explains part of the secret of Milton's pre-eminence, I should myself
select his unapproached care and felicity in building what may be called
the verse-paragraph. The dangers of blank verse (Milton's preference for
which over rhyme was only one of his numerous will-worships) are many; but
the two greatest lie in easily understood directions. With the sense
generally or frequently ending as the line ends (as may be seen in the
early dramatists and in many bad poets since), it becomes intolerably stiff
and monotonous. With the process of _enjambement_ or overlapping,
promiscuously and unskilfully indulged (the commonest fault during the last
two centuries), it is apt to degenerate into a kind of metrical and barely
metrical prose, distinguished from prose proper by less variety of cadence,
and by an occasional awkward sacrifice of sense and natural arrangement to
the restrictions which the writer accepts, but by which he knows not how to
profit. Milton has avoided both these dangers by adhering to what I have
ventured to call the verse-paragraph--that is to say, by arranging the
divisions of his sense in divisions of verse, which, albeit identical and
not different in their verse integers, are constructed with as much
internal concerted variety as the stanzas or strophes of a so-called
Pindaric ode. Of the apparently uniform and monotonous blank verse he has
made an instrument of almost protean variety by availing himself of the
infinite permutations of cadence, syllabic sound, variety of feet, and
adjustment of sense to verse. The result is that he has, it may almost be
said, made for himself out of simple blank verse all the conveniences of
the line, the couplet, and the stanza, punctuating and dividing by cadence,
not rhyme. No device that is possible within his limits--even to that most
dangerous one of the pause after the first syllable of a line which has
"enjambed" from the previous one--is strange to him, or sparingly used by
him, or used without success. And it is only necessary to contrast his
verse with the blank verse of the next century, especially in its two chief
examples, Thomson and Young,--great verse-smiths both of them,--to observe
his superiority in art. These two, especially Thomson, try the
verse-paragraph system, but they do it ostentatiously and clumsily.
Thomson's trick of ending such paragraphs with such lines as "And Thule
bellows through her utmost isles," often repeated with only verbal
substitutions, is apt to make the reader think with a smile of the breath
of relief which a man draws after a serious effort. "Thank heaven that
paragraph's done!" the poet seems to be saying. Nothing of the kind is ever
to be found in Milton. It is only on examination that the completeness of
these divisions is perceived. They are linked one to another with the same
incomparably artful concealment of art which links their several and
internal clauses. And thus it is that Milton is able to carry his readers
through (taking both poems together) sixteen books of epic, without much
narrative interest, with foregone conclusions, with long passages which are
merely versifications of well-known themes, and with others which the most
favourable critics admit to be, if not exactly dull, yet certainly not
lively. Something the same may be said of _Samson_, though here a decided
stiffening and mannerising of the verse is to some extent compensated by
the pathetic and human interest of the story. It is to be observed,
however, that Milton has here abused the redundant syllable (the chief
purely poetical mistake of which he has been guilty in any part of his
work, and which is partly noticeable in _Comus_), and that his choric odes
are but dry sticks in comparison with _Lycidas_.

It may be thought strange that I should say little or nothing of the
subject of these immortal poems. But, in the first place, those critics of
poetry who tell us that "all depends on the subject" seem to forget that,
according to this singular dictum, there is no difference between poetry
and prose--between an epic and a blue-book. I prefer--having been brought
up at the feet of Logic--to stick to the genus and differentia of poetry,
and not to its accidents. Moreover, the matter of _Paradise Lost_ and its
sequel is so universally known that it becomes unnecessary, and has been so
much discussed that it seems superfluous, to rediscuss it. The inquiries
into Milton's indebtedness to forerunners strike me as among the idlest
inquiries of the kind--which is saying a great deal. Italians, Frenchmen,
Dutchmen, Englishmen even, had doubtless treated the Creation and the Fall,
Adam and Satan, before him. Perhaps he read them; perhaps he borrowed from
them. What then? Does any one believe that Andreini or Vondel, Sylvester or
Du Bartas, could have written, or did in any measurable degree contribute
to the writing of _Paradise Lost_? If he does he must be left to his
opinion.

Reference may perhaps be made to some remarks in Chapter IV. on the
comparative position of Milton in English poetry with the only two writers
who can be compared to him, if bulk and majesty of work be taken into
consideration, and not merely occasional bursts of poetry. Of his own
poetical powers I trust that I shall not be considered a niggard admirer,
because, both in the character of its subject (if we are to consider
subjects at all) and in its employment of rhyme, that greatest mechanical
aid of the poet, _The Faërie Queene_ seems to me greater, or because
Milton's own earlier work seems to me to rank higher than _Paradise Lost_.
The general opinion is, of course, different; and one critic of no mean
repute, Christopher North, has argued that _Paradise Lost_ is the only
"great poem" in existence. That question need not be argued here. It is
sufficient to say that Milton is undoubtedly one of the few great poets in
the history of the world, and that if he falls short of Homer, Dante, and
Shakespere, it is chiefly because he expresses less of that humanity, both
universal and quintessential, which they, and especially the last, put into
verse. Narrowness is his fault. But the intense individuality which often
accompanies narrowness is his great virtue--a virtue which no poet, which
no writer either in verse or prose, has ever had in greater measure than
he, and which hardly any has been able to express with more varied and
exquisite harmony.

Jeremy Taylor, the ornament and glory of the English pulpit, was born at
Cambridge in 1613. He was the son of a barber, but was well educated, and
was able to enter Caius College as a sizar at thirteen. He spent seven
years there, and took both degrees and orders at an unusually early age.
Apparently, however, no solid endowment was offered him in his own
university, and he owed such preferment as he had (it was never very great)
to a chance opportunity of preaching at St. Paul's and a recommendation to
Laud. That prelate--to whom all the infinite malignity of political and
sectarian detraction has not been able to deny the title of an encourager,
as few men have encouraged them, of learning and piety--took Taylor under
his protection, made him his chaplain, and procured him incorporation at
Oxford, a fellowship at All Souls, and finally the rectory of Uppingham. To
this Taylor was appointed in 1638, and next year he married a lady who bore
him several sons, but died young. Taylor early joined the king at Oxford,
and is supposed to have followed his fortunes in the field; it is certain
that his rectory, lying in a Puritan district, was very soon sequestrated,
though not by any form of law. What took him into Wales and caused him to
marry his second wife, Joanna Brydges (an heiress on a small scale, and
said to have been a natural daughter of Charles I.), is not known. But he
sojourned in the principality during the greater part of the Commonwealth
period, and was much patronised by the Earl of Carbery, who, while resident
at Golden Grove, made him his chaplain. He also made the acquaintance of
other persons of interest, the chief of whom were, in London (which he
visited not always of his own choice, for he was more than once
imprisoned), John Evelyn, and in Wales, Mrs. Katherine Philips, "the
matchless Orinda," to whom he dedicated one of the most interesting of his
minor works, the _Measure and Offices of Friendship_. Not long before the
Restoration he was offered, and strongly pressed to accept, the post of
lecturer at Lisburn, in Ireland. He does not seem to have taken at all
kindly to the notion, but was over-persuaded, and crossed the Channel. It
was perhaps owing to this false step that, when the Restoration arrived,
the preferment which he had in so many ways merited only came to him in the
tents of Kedar. He was made Bishop of Down and Connor, held that see for
seven years, and died (after much wrestling with Ulster Presbyterians and
some domestic misfortune) of fever in 1667.

His work is voluminous and always interesting; but only a small part of it
concerns us directly here, as exhibiting him at his best and most peculiar
in the management of English prose. He wrote, it should be said, a few
verses by no means destitute of merit, but they are so few, in comparison
to the bulk of his work, that they may be neglected. Taylor's strong point
was not accuracy of statement or logical precision. His longest work, the
_Ductor Dubitantium_, an elaborate manual of casuistry, is constantly
marred by the author's inability to fix on a single point, and to keep his
argumentation close to that. In another, the _Unum Necessarium_, or
Discourse on Repentance, his looseness of statement and want of care in
driving several horses at once, involved him in a charge of Pelagianism, or
something like it, which he wrote much to disprove, but which has so far
lasted as to justify modern theologians in regarding his ideas on this and
other theological points as, to say the least, confused. All over his work
inexact quotation from memory, illicit argumentation, and an abiding
inconsistency, mar the intellectual value, affecting not least his famous
_Liberty of Prophesying_, or plea for toleration against the new
Presbyterian uniformity,--the conformity of which treatise with modern
ideas has perhaps made some persons slow to recognise its faults. These
shortcomings, however, are not more constant in Taylor's work than his
genuine piety, his fervent charity, his freedom from personal arrogance and
pretentiousness, and his ardent love for souls; while neither shortcomings
nor virtues of this kind concern us here so much as the extraordinary
rhetorical merits which distinguish all his work more or less, and which
are chiefly noticeable in his Sermons, especially the Golden Grove course,
and the funeral sermon on Lady Carbery, in his _Contemplations of the State
of Man_, and in parts of his _Life of Christ_, and of the universally
popular and admirable tractates on _Holy Living_ and _Holy Dying_.

Jeremy Taylor's style is emphatically and before all things florid and
ornate. It is not so elaborately quaint as Browne's; it is not so stiffly
splendid as Milton's; it is distinguished from both by a much less
admixture of Latinisms; but it is impossible to call it either verbally
chastened or syntactically correct. Coleridge--an authority always to be
differed with cautiously and under protest--holds indeed a different
opinion. He will have it that Browne was the corruptor, though a corruptor
of the greatest genius, in point of vocabulary, and that, as far as syntax
is concerned, in Jeremy Taylor the sentences are often extremely long, and
yet are generally so perspicuous in consequence of their logical structure
that they require no reperusal to be understood. And he will have the same
to be true not only of Hooker (which may pass), but of Milton, in reference
to whom admirers not less strong than Coleridge hold that he sometimes
forgets the period altogether.

It must be remembered that Coleridge in these remarks was fighting the
battle of the recoverers of our great seventeenth century writers against
the devotees of "correctness," and that in the very same context he makes
the unpardonable assertion that Gibbon's manner is "the worst of all," and
that Tacitus "writes in falsetto as compared to Tully." This is to "fight a
prize" in the old phrase, not to judge from the catholic and universal
standpoint of impartial criticism; and in order to reduce Coleridge's
assertions to that standard we must abate nearly as much from his praise of
Taylor as from his abuse of Gibbon--an abuse, by the way, which is
strangely contrasted with praise of "Junius." It is not true that, except
by great complaisance of the reader, Jeremy Taylor's long sentences are at
once understandable. They may, of course, and generally can be understood
_kata to semaino menon_, as a telegram with half the words left out may at
the other end of the scale be understood. But they constantly withstand
even a generous parser, even one who is to the fullest extent ready to
allow for idiom and individuality. They abuse in particular the conjunction
to a most enormous extent--coupling by its means propositions which have no
logical connection, which start entirely different trains of thought, and
which are only united because carelessness and fashion combined made it
unnecessary for the writer to take the little extra trouble necessary for
their separation. Taylor will, in the very middle of his finest passages,
and with hardly so much as a comma's break, change _oratio obliqua_ to
_oratio recta_, interrupt the sequence of tenses, make his verbs agree with
the nearest noun, irrespective of the connection, and in short, though he
was, while in Wales, a schoolmaster for some time, and author of a
grammatical treatise, will break Priscian's head with the calmest
unconcern. It is quite true that these faults mainly occur in his more
rhetorical passages, in his exercises rather of spoken than of written
prose. But that, as any critic who is not an advocate must see, is no
palliation. The real palliation is that the time had not yet aroused itself
to the consciousness of the fact that letting English grammar at one moment
go to the winds altogether, and at the next subjecting it to the most
inappropriate rules and licenses of Latin, was not the way to secure the
establishment of an accomplished and generally useful English prose. No
stranger instance of prejudice can be given than that Coleridge, on the
point of asking, and justly, from Dryden "a stricter grammar," should exalt
to the skies a writer compared to whom Dryden is grammatically impeccable.

But a recognition of the fact that Taylor distinctly belongs to the
antinomians of English prose, or at least to those guiltless heathens who
lived before the laws of it had been asserted, can not in any competent
critic dull the sense of the wonderful beauty of his style. It has been
said that this beauty is entirely of the florid and ornate order, lending
itself in this way easily enough to the witty and well-worded, though
unjust and ungenerous censure which South pronounced on it after the
author's death. It may or may not be that the phrases there censured, "The
fringes of the north star," and "The dew of angels' wings," and "Thus have
I seen a cloud rolling in its airy mansion," are not of that "apostolic
plainness" that a Christian minister's speech should have. But they and
their likes are extremely beautiful--save that in literature no less than
in theology South has justly perstringed Taylor's constant and most
unworthy affectation of introducing a simile by "so I have seen." In the
next age the phrase was tediously abused, and in the age after, and ever
since, it became and has remained mere burlesque; but it was never good;
and in the two fine specimen passages which follow it is a distinct blot:--

     _The Prayers of Anger and of Lust._

     "Prayer is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our
     thoughts, the evenness of recollection, the seat of meditation,
     the rest of our cares, and the calm of our tempest. Prayer is the
     issue of a quiet mind, of untroubled thoughts; it is the daughter
     of charity and the sister of meekness; and he that prays to God
     with an angry--that is a troubled and discomposed--spirit, is
     like him that retires into a battle to meditate and sets up his
     closet in the outquarters of an army, and chooses a frontier
     garrison to be wise in. Anger is a perfect alienation of the mind
     from prayer, and therefore is contrary to that attention which
     presents our prayers in a right line to God. For so have I seen a
     lark rising from his bed of grass, soaring upwards and singing as
     he rises and hopes to get to Heaven and climb above the clouds;
     but the poor bird was beaten back with the loud sighings of an
     eastern wind and his motion made irregular and inconstant,
     descending more at every breath of the tempest than it could
     recover by the vibration and frequent weighing of his wings; till
     the little creature was forced to sit down and pant and stay till
     the storm was over; and then it made a prosperous flight and did
     rise and sing as if it had learned music and motion from an angel
     as he passed sometimes through the air about his ministries here
     below. So is the prayer of a good man: when his affairs have
     required business, and his business was matter of discipline, and
     his discipline was to pass upon a sinning person, or had a design
     of charity, his duty met with infirmities of a man and anger was
     its instrument, and the instrument became stronger than the prime
     agent and raised a tempest and overruled the man; and then his
     prayer was broken and his thoughts troubled.

       *       *       *       *       *

     "For so an impure vapour--begotten of the slime of the earth by
     the fevers and adulterous heats of an intemperate summer sun,
     striving by the ladder of a mountain to climb to heaven and
     rolling into various figures by an uneasy, unfixed revolution,
     and stopped at the middle region of the air, being thrown from
     his pride and attempt of passing towards the seat of the
     stars--turns into an unwholesome flame and, like the breath of
     hell, is confined into a prison of darkness and a cloud, till it
     breaks into diseases, plagues and mildews, stinks and blastings.
     So is the prayer of an unchaste person. It strives to climb the
     battlements of heaven, but because it is a flame of sulphur salt
     and bitumen, and was kindled in the dishonourable regions below,
     derived from Hell and contrary to God, it cannot pass forth to
     the element of love; but ends in barrenness and murmurs,
     fantastic expectations and trifling imaginative confidences; and
     they at last end in sorrows and despair."

Indeed, like all very florid writers, Taylor is liable to eclipses of
taste; yet both the wording of his flights and the occasion of them (they
are to be found _passim_ in the _Sermons_) are almost wholly admirable. It
is always a great and universal idea--never a mere conceit--that fires him.
The shortness and dangers of life, the weakness of children, the fragility
of women's beauty and men's strength, the change of the seasons, the
vicissitudes of empires, the impossibility of satisfying desire, the
disgust which follows satiety--these are, if any one chooses, commonplace
enough; yet it is the observation of all who have carefully studied
literature, and the experience of all who have observed their own thoughts,
that it is always in relation to these commonplaces that the most beautiful
expressions and the noblest sentiments arise. The uncommon thought is too
likely if not too certain to be an uncommon conceit, and if not worthless,
yet of inferior worth. Among prose writers Taylor is unequalled for his
touches of this universal material, for the genius with which he makes the
common uncommon. For instance, he has the supreme faculty of always making
the verbal and the intellectual presentation of the thought alike
beautiful, of appealing to the ear and the mind at the same time, of never
depriving the apple of gold of its picture of silver. Yet for all this the
charge of over-elaboration which may justly be brought against Browne very
rarely hits Taylor. He seldom or never has the appearance which ornate
writers of all times, and of his own more especially, so often have, of
going back on a thought or a phrase to try to better it--of being
stimulated by actual or fancied applause to cap the climax. His most
beautiful passages come quite suddenly and naturally as the subject
requires and as the thought strikes light in his mind. Nor are they ever,
as Milton's so often are, marred by a descent as rapid as their rise. He is
never below a certain decent level; he may return to earth from heaven, but
he goes no lower, and reaches even his lower level by a quiet and equable
sinking. As has been fully allowed, he has grave defects, the defects of
his time. But from some of these he was conspicuously free, and on the
whole no one in English prose (unless it be his successor here) has so much
command of the enchanter's wand as Jeremy Taylor.

Sir Thomas Browne was born in the heart of London in 1605, his father (of
whom little is known except one or two anecdotes corresponding with the
character of the son) having been a merchant of some property, and claiming
descent from a good family in Cheshire. This father died when he was quite
young, and Browne is said to have been cheated by his guardians; but he was
evidently at all times of his life in easy circumstances, and seems to have
had no complaint to make of his stepfather, Sir Thomas Dutton. This
stepfather may at least possibly have been the hero of the duel with Sir
Hatton Cheeke, which Mr. Carlyle has made famous. With him Browne visited
Ireland, having previously been brought up at Winchester and at Broadgates
Hall, which became, during his own residence, Pembroke College, at Oxford.
Later he made the usual grand tour. Then he took medical degrees; practised
it is said, though on no very precise evidence, both in Oxfordshire and
Yorkshire; settled, why is not known, at Norwich; married in 1641 Dorothy
Mileham, a lady of good family in his adopted county; was a steady Royalist
through the troubles; acquired a great name for medical and scientific
knowledge, though he was not a Fellow of the Royal Society; was knighted by
Charles II. in 1662, and died in 1682. His first literary appearance had
been made forty years earlier in a way very common in French literary
history, but so uncommon in English as to have drawn from Johnson a rather
unwontedly illiberal sneer. At a time unknown, but by his own account
before his thirtieth year (therefore before 1635), Browne had written the
_Religio Medici_. It was, according to the habit of the time, copied and
handed about in MS. (there exist now five MS. copies showing remarkable
differences with each other and the printed copies), and in 1642 it got
into print. A copy was sent by Lord Dorset to the famous Sir Kenelm Digby,
then under confinement for his opinions, and the husband of Venetia wrote
certain not very forcible and not wholly complimentary remarks which, as
Browne was informed, were at once put to press. A correspondence ensued,
and Browne published an authorised copy, in which perhaps a little
"economy" might be noticed. The book made an extraordinary impression, and
was widely translated and commented on in foreign languages, though its
vogue was purely due to its intrinsic merits, and not at all to the
circumstances which enabled Milton (rather arrogantly and not with absolute
truth) to boast that "Europe rang from side to side" with his defence of
the execution of Charles I. Four years later, in 1646, Browne published his
largest and in every sense most popular book, the _Pseudodoxia Epidemica_
or _Enquiry into Vulgar Errors_. Twelve more years passed before the
greatest, from a literary point of view, of his works, the _Hydriotaphia_
or _Urn-Burial_,--a magnificent descant on the vanity of human life, based
on the discovery of certain cinerary urns in Norfolk,--appeared, in company
with the quaint _Garden of Cyrus_, a half-learned, half-fanciful discussion
of the mysteries of the quincunx and the number five. Nor did he publish
anything more himself; but two collections of posthumous works were issued
after his death, the most important item of which is the _Christian
Morals_, and the total has been swelled since by extracts from his MSS.,
which at the death of his grandson and namesake in 1710 were sold by
auction. Most fortunately they were nearly all bought by Sir Hans Sloane,
and are to this day in the British Museum. Browne's good luck in this
respect was completed by the devotion of his editor, Simon Wilkin, a
Norwich bookseller of gentle blood and good education, who produced (1835)
after twelve years' labour of love what Southey has justly called the best
edited book in the English language. Not to mention other editions, the
_Religio Medici_, which exhibits, owing to its history, an unusual
variation of text, has been, together with the _Christian Morals_,
separately edited with great minuteness by Dr. Greenhill. Nor is it
unimportant to notice that Johnson, during his period of literary
hack-work, also edited Sir Thomas Browne, and wrote what Wilkin's good
taste has permitted to be still the standard text of his Life.

The work of this country doctor is, for personal savour, for strangeness,
and for delight, one of the most notable things in English literature. It
is not of extraordinary voluminousness, for though swollen in Wilkin's
edition by abundant editorial matter, it fills but three of the well-known
volumes of Bohn's series, and, printed by itself, it might not much exceed
two ordinary library octavos; but in character and interest it yields to
the work of no other English prose writer. It may be divided, from our
point of view, into two unequal parts, the smaller of which is in truth of
the greater interest. The _Vulgar Errors_, those of the smaller tracts
which deal with subjects of natural history (as most of them do), many of
the commonplace book entries, the greater part of the _Garden of Cyrus_,
and most of the _Letters_, are mainly distinguished by an interest of
matter constantly increased, it is true, by the display of the author's
racy personality, and diversified here and there by passages also
displaying his style to the full, but in general character not differing
from the works of other curious writers in the delightful period which
passed between the childish credulity of mediæval and classical physics and
the arid analysis of the modern "scientist." Sir Thomas Browne was of a
certain natural scepticism of temperament (a scepticism which, as displayed
in relation to other matters in the _Religio Medici_, very unjustly
brought upon him the reproach of religious unorthodoxy); he was a trained
and indefatigable observer of facts, and he was by no means prepared to
receive authority as final in any extra-religious matters. But he had a
thoroughly literary, not to say poetical idiosyncrasy; he was both by
nature and education disposed to seek for something more than that physical
explanation which, as the greatest of all anti-supernatural philosophers
has observed, merely pushes ignorance a little farther back; and he was
possessed of an extraordinary fertility of imagination which made comment,
analogy, and amplification both easy and delightful to him. He was,
therefore, much more disposed--except in the face of absolutely conclusive
evidence--to rationalise than to deny a vulgar error, to bring explanations
and saving clauses to its aid, than to cut it adrift utterly. In this part
of his work his distinguishing graces and peculiarities of style appear but
sparingly and not eminently. In the other division, consisting of the
_Religio Medici_, the _Urn-Burial_, the _Christian Morals_, and the _Letter
to a Friend_, his strictly literary peculiarities, as being less hampered
by the exposition of matter, have freer scope; and it must be recollected
that these literary peculiarities, independently of their own interest,
have been a main influence in determining the style of two of the most
remarkable writers of English prose in the two centuries immediately
succeeding Browne. It has been said that Johnson edited him somewhat early;
and all the best authorities are in accord that the Johnsonian Latinisms,
differently managed as they are, are in all probability due more to the
following--if only to the unconscious following--of Browne than to anything
else. The second instance is more indubitable still and more happy. It
detracts nothing from the unique charm of "Elia," and it will be most
clearly recognised by those who know "Elia" best, that Lamb constantly
borrows from Browne, that the mould and shape of his most characteristic
phrases is frequently suggested directly by Sir Thomas, and that though
there seldom can have been a follower who put more of his own in his
following, it may be pronounced with confidence, "no Browne, no Lamb," at
least in the forms in which we know the author of "Elia" best, and in which
all those who know him best, though they may love him always, love him
most. Yet Browne is not a very easy author to "sample." A few splendid
sustained passages, like the famous one in the _Urn-Burial_, are
universally known, but he is best in flashes. The following, from the
_Christian Morals_, is characteristic enough:--

     "Punish not thyself with pleasure; glut not thy sense with
     palative delights; nor revenge the contempt of temperance by the
     penalty of satiety. Were there an age of delight or any pleasure
     durable, who would not honour Volupia? but the race of delight is
     short, and pleasures have mutable faces. The pleasures of one age
     are not pleasures in another, and their lives fall short of our
     own. Even in our sensual days the strength of delight is in its
     seldomness or rarity, and sting in its satiety; mediocrity is its
     life, and immoderacy its confusion. The luxurious emperors of old
     inconsiderately satiated themselves with the dainties of sea and
     land till, wearied through all varieties, their refections became
     a study with them, and they were fain to feed by invention:
     novices in true epicurism! which by mediocrity, paucity, quick
     and healthful appetite, makes delights smartly acceptable;
     whereby Epicurus himself found Jupiter's brain in a piece of
     Cytheridian cheese, and the tongues of nightingales in a dish of
     onions. Hereby healthful and temperate poverty hath the start of
     nauseating luxury; unto whose clear and naked appetite every meal
     is a feast, and in one single dish the first course of Metellus;
     who are cheaply hungry, and never lose their hunger, or advantage
     of a craving appetite, because obvious food contents it; while
     Nero, half famish'd, could not feed upon a piece of bread, and,
     lingering after his snowed water, hardly got down an ordinary cup
     of _Calda_. By such circumscriptions of pleasure the contemned
     philosophers reserved unto themselves the secret of delight,
     which the Helluos of those days lost in their exorbitances. In
     vain we study delight; it is at the command of every sober mind,
     and in every sense born with us; but Nature, who teacheth us the
     rule of pleasure, instructeth also in the bounds thereof and
     where its line expireth. And therefore temperate minds, not
     pressing their pleasures until the sting appeareth, enjoy their
     contentations contentedly and without regret, and so escape the
     folly of excess, to be pleased unto displacency."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Bring candid eyes unto the perusal of men's works, and let not
     Zoilism or detraction blast well-intended labours. He that
     endureth no faults in men's writings must only read his own,
     wherein for the most part all appeareth white. Quotation
     mistakes, inadvertency, expedition and human lapses, may make not
     only moles but warts in learned authors, who notwithstanding,
     being judged by the capital matter, admit not of disparagement.
     I should unwillingly affirm that Cicero was but slightly versed
     in Homer, because in his work _De Gloria_ he ascribed those
     verses unto Ajax which were delivered by Hector. What if Plautus,
     in the account of Hercules, mistaketh nativity for conception?
     Who would have mean thoughts of Apollinaris Sidonius, who seems
     to mistake the river Tigris for Euphrates; and, though a good
     historian and learned Bishop of Auvergne, had the misfortune to
     be out in the story of David, making mention of him when the ark
     was sent back by the Philistines upon a cart, which was before
     his time? Though I have no great opinion of Machiavel's learning,
     yet I shall not presently say that he was but a novice in Roman
     History, because he was mistaken in placing Commodus after the
     Emperor Severus. Capital truths are to be narrowly eyed,
     collateral lapses and circumstantial deliveries not to be too
     strictly sifted. And if the substantial subject be well forged
     out, we need not examine the sparks which irregularly fly from
     it."

Coleridge, as we have seen, charges Browne with corrupting the style of the
great age. The charge is not just in regard to either of the two great
faults which are urged against the style, strictly speaking; while it is
hardly just in reference to a minor charge which is brought against what is
not quite style, namely, the selection and treatment of the thought. The
two charges first referred to are Latinising of vocabulary and disorderly
syntax of sentence. In regard to the first, Browne Latinises somewhat more
than Jeremy Taylor, hardly at all more than Milton, though he does not,
like Milton, contrast and relieve his Latinisms by indulgence in vernacular
terms of the most idiomatic kind; and he is conspicuously free from the
great fault both of Milton and of Taylor--the clumsy conglomeration of
clauses which turns a sentence into a paragraph, and makes a badly ordered
paragraph of it after all. Browne's sentences, especially those of the
books regularly prepared for the press by him, are by no means long and are
usually very perspicuous, being separable in some cases into shorter
sentences by a mere mechanical repunctuation which, if tried on Taylor or
Milton, would make nonsense. To say that they are sometimes longer than
they should be, and often awkwardly co-ordinated, is merely to say that he
wrote when he wrote; but he by no means sins beyond his fellows. In regard
to Latinisms his case is not so good. He constantly uses such words as
"clarity" for "clearness," "ferity" for "fierceness" or "wildness," when
nothing is gained by the exotic form. Dr. Greenhill's useful glossary to
the _Religio_ and the _Morals_ exhibits in tabular form not merely such
terms as "abbreviatures," "æquilibriously," "bivious," "convincible,"
"exantlation," and hundreds of others with which there is no need to fill
the page, but also a number only less considerable of those far more
objectionable usages which take a word generally understood in one sense
(as, for instance, "equable," "gratitudes," and many others), and by
twisting or translation of its classical equivalents and etymons give it
some quite new sense in English. It is true that in some cases the usual
sense was not then firmly established, but Browne can hardly be acquitted
of wilfully preferring the obscurer.

Yet this hybrid and bizarre vocabulary is so admirably married to the
substance of the writing that no one of taste can find fault with it. For
Browne (to come to the third point mentioned above), though he never
descends or diverges--whichever word may be preferred--to the extravagant
and occasionally puerile conceits which even such writers as Fuller and
Glanville cannot resist, has a quaintness at least equal to theirs. In no
great writer is the unforeseen so constantly happening. Everyone who has
written on him has quoted the famous termination of the _Garden of Cyrus_,
where he determines that it is time to go to bed, because "to keep our eyes
open longer were but to act our antipodes. The huntsmen are up in America,
and they are already past their first sleep in Persia." A fancy so
whimsical as this, and yet so admirable in its whimsies, requires a style
in accordance; and the very sentence quoted, though one of the plainest of
Browne's, and showing clearly that he does not always abuse Latinising,
would hardly be what it is without the word "antipodes." So again in the
_Christian Morals_, "Be not stoically mistaken in the quality of sins, nor
commutatively iniquitous in the valuation of transgressions." No expression
so terse and yet so striking could dispense with the classicism and the
catachresis of "stoically." And so it is everywhere with Browne. His
manner is exactly proportioned to his matter; his exotic and unfamiliar
vocabulary to the strangeness and novelty of his thoughts. He can never be
really popular; but for the meditative reading of instructed persons he is
perhaps the most delightful of English prosemen.

There are probably few English writers in regard to whom the judgment of
critics, usually ranked as competent, has varied more than in regard to
Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon. To some extent this is easily intelligible
to any one who, with some equipment, reads any considerable quantity of his
work; but it would be idle to pretend that the great stumbling-block of all
criticism--the attention to matter rather than to form--has had nothing to
do with it. Clarendon, at first not a very zealous Royalist, was the only
man of decided literary genius who, with contemporary knowledge, wrote the
history of the great debate between king and commonwealth. The effect of
his history in deciding the question on the Royalist side was felt in
England for more than a century; and since popular judgment has somewhat
veered round to the other side, its chief exponents have found it necessary
either to say as little as possible about Clarendon or to depreciate him.
His interesting political history cannot be detailed here. Of a good
Cheshire family, but not originally wealthy, he was educated as a lawyer,
was early adopted into the "tribe of Ben," and was among the first to take
advantage of the opening which the disputes between king and parliament
gave to men of his birth, education, and gifts. At first he was a moderate
opponent of the king's attempts to dispense with parliament; but the
growing evidence that the House of Commons was seeking to increase its own
constitutional power at the expense of the prerogative, and especially the
anti-Church tendencies of the parliamentary leaders, converted him at first
into a moderate and then into a strong Royalist. One of the chief of the
king's constitutional advisers, he was after the Restoration the most
distinguished by far of those Cavaliers who had parliamentary and
constitutional experience; and with the title and office of Chancellor, he
exercised a practical premiership during the first seven years of the
Restoration. But ill-fortune, and it must be confessed some unwisdom,
marked his government. He has been often and truly said to have been a
statesman of Elizabeth, born three-quarters of a century too late. He was
thought by the public to be arbitrary, a courtier, and even to some extent
corrupt. He seemed to the king to be a tiresome formalist and censor, who
was only scrupulous in resisting the royal will. So he was impeached; and,
being compelled to quit the kingdom, spent the last seven years of his life
in France. His great works, begun during his first exile and completed
during his second, are the _History of the Rebellion_ and his own _Life_,
the former being by much the more important though the latter (divided into
a "Life" and a "Continuation," the last of which starts from the
Restoration) contains much interesting and important biographical and
historical matter. The text of these works was conveyed by his heirs to the
University of Oxford, and long remained an exception to the general rule of
the terminableness of copyright.

Clarendon is a very striking example of the hackneyed remark, that in some
cases at any rate men's merits are their own and their faults those of
their time. His literary merits are, looked at by themselves, of nearly the
highest kind. He is certainly the best English writer (and may challenge
any foreigner without much fear of the result) in the great, difficult, and
now almost lost art of character-(or, as it was called in his time,
portrait-) drawing--that is to say, sketching in words the physical, moral,
and mental, but especially the moral and mental, peculiarities of a given
person. Not a few of these characters of his are among the well-known
"beauties" justified in selection by the endorsement of half a dozen
generations. They are all full of life; and even where it may be thought
that prejudice has had something to do with the picture, still the subject
lives, and is not a mere bundle of contradictory or even of superficially
compatible characteristics. Secondly, Clarendon is at his best an
incomparable narrator. Many of his battles, though related with apparent
coolness, and without the slightest attempt to be picturesque, may rank as
works of art with his portraits, just as the portraits and battle pieces of
a great painter may rank together. The sober vivid touches, the little bits
of what the French call _reportage_ or mere reproduction of the actual
words and deeds of the personages, the elaborate and carefully-concealed
art of the composition, all deserve the highest praise. Here, for instance,
is a fair average passage, showing Clarendon's masterly skill in summary
narration and his equally masterly, though, as some hold, rather
unscrupulous faculty of insinuating depreciation:--

     "Since there will be often occasion to mention this gentleman,
     Sir Richard Granvil, in the ensuing discourse, and because many
     men believed that he was hardly dealt with in the next year,
     where all the proceedings will be set down at large, it will not
     be unfit in this place to say somewhat of him, and of the manner
     and merit of his entering into the king's service some months
     before the time we are now upon. He was of a very ancient and
     worthy family in Cornwall which had in several ages produced men
     of great courage, and very signal in their fidelity to and
     service of the crown; and was himself younger brother (though in
     his nature or humour not of kin to him) to the brave Sir Basil
     Granvil who so courageously lost his life at the battle of
     Lansdowne. Being a younger brother and a very young man, he went
     into the Low Countries to learn the profession of a soldier; to
     which he had devoted himself under the greatest general of that
     age, Prince Maurice, and in the regiment of my Lord Vere, who was
     general of all the English. In that service he was looked upon as
     a man of courage and a diligent officer, in the quality of a
     captain, to which he attained after four years' service. About
     this time, in the end of the reign of King James, the war broke
     out between England and Spain; and in the expedition to Cadiz
     this gentleman served as a major to a regiment of foot, and
     continued in the same command in the war that shortly after
     followed against France; and at the Isle of Rhé insinuated
     himself into the very good graces of the Duke of Buckingham, who
     was the general in that mission; and after the unfortunate
     retreat from thence was made colonel of a regiment with general
     approbation and as an officer that well deserved it.

     "His credit increased every day with the duke: who, out of the
     generosity of his nature, as a most generous person he was,
     resolved to raise his fortune; towards the beginning of which, by
     his countenance and solicitation, he prevailed with a rich widow
     to marry him, who had been a lady of extraordinary beauty, which
     she had not yet outlived; and though she had no great dower by
     her husband, a younger brother of the Earl of Suffolk, yet she
     inherited a fair fortune of her own near Plymouth, and was
     besides very rich in a personal estate, and was looked upon as
     the richest marriage of the West. This lady, by the duke's
     credit, Sir Richard Granvil (for he was now made a knight and
     baronet) obtained, and was thereby possessed of a plentiful
     estate upon the borders of his own country, and where his own
     family had great credit and authority. The war being now at an
     end and he deprived of his great patron, [he] had nothing to
     depend upon but the fortune of his wife: which, though ample
     enough to have supported the expense a person of his quality
     ought to have made, was not large enough to satisfy his vanity
     and ambition, nor so great as he upon common reports had
     possessed himself by her. By being not enough pleased with her
     fortune he grew displeased with his wife, who, being a woman of a
     haughty and imperious nature and of a wit superior to his,
     quickly resented the disrespect she received from him and in no
     respect studied to make herself easy to him. After some years
     spent together in those domestic unsociable contestations, in
     which he possessed himself of all her estate as the sole master
     of it, without allowing her out of her own any competency for
     herself, and indulged to himself all those licenses in her own
     house which to women are most grievous, she found means to
     withdraw herself from him; and was with all kindness received
     into that family in which she had before been married and was
     always very much respected."

To superficial observers, or observers who have convinced themselves that
high lights and bright colourings are of the essence of the art of the
prose writer, Clarendon may seem tame and jejune. He is in reality just the
contrary. His wood is tough enough and close-grained enough, but there is
plenty of sap coursing through it. In yet a third respect, which is less
closely connected with the purely formal aspect of style, Clarendon stands,
if not pre-eminent, very high among historians. This is his union of acute
penetration and vigorous grasp in the treatment of complicated events. It
has been hinted that he seems to have somewhat lost grasp, if not
penetration, after the Restoration. But at the time of his earlier
participation in public affairs, and of his composition of the greater part
of his historical writings, he was in the very vigour and prime of life;
and though it may be that he was "a Janus of one face," and looked rather
backward than forward, even then he was profoundly acquainted with the
facts of English history, with the character of his countrymen, and with
the relations of events as they happened. It may even be contended by those
who care for might-have-beens, that but for the headlong revolt against
Puritanism, which inspired the majority of the nation with a kind of
carnival madness for many years after 1660, and the strange deficiency of
statesmen of even moderately respectable character on both sides (except
Clarendon himself, and the fairly upright though time-serving Temple, there
is hardly a respectable man to be found on any side of politics for forty
years), Clarendon's post-Restoration policy itself would not have been the
failure that it was. But it is certain that on the events of his own middle
age he looked with the keenest discernment, and with the widest
comprehension.

Against these great merits must be set a treble portion of the great defect
which, as we have said, vitiates all the English prose work of his time,
the unconscious or wilful ignoring of the very fundamental principles of
sentence-and paragraph-architecture. His mere syntax, in the most
restricted sense of that word, is not very bad; he seldom indulges out of
mere _incuria_ in false concords or blunders over a relative. But he is the
most offending soul alive at any time in English literature in one grave
point. No one has put together, or, to adopt a more expressive phrase,
heaped together such enormous paragraphs; no one has linked clause on
clause, parenthesis on parenthesis, epexegesis on exegesis, in such a
bewildering concatenation of inextricable entanglement. Sometimes, of
course, the difficulty is more apparent than real, and by simply
substituting full stops and capitals for his colons and conjunctions, one
may, to some extent, simplify the chaos. But it is seldom that this is
really effective: it never produces really well balanced sentences and
really well constructed paragraphs; and there are constant instances in
which it is not applicable at all. It is not that the jostling and confused
relatives are as a rule grammatically wrong, like the common blunder of
putting an "and which" where there is no previous "which" expressed or
implied. They, simply, put as they are, bewilder and muddle the reader
because the writer has not taken the trouble to break up his sentence into
two or three. This is, of course, a very gross abuse, and except when the
talents above noticed either fuse his style into something better, or by
the interest they excite divert the attention of the reader, it constantly
makes Clarendon anything but agreeable reading, and produces an impression
of dryness and prolixity with which he is not quite justly chargeable. The
plain truth is that, as has been said often before, and may have to be said
more than once again, the sense of proportion and order in prose
composition was not born. The famous example--the awful example--of Oliver
Cromwell's speeches shows the worst-known instance of this; but the best
writers of Cromwell's own generation--far better educated than he,
professed men of letters after a fashion, and without the excuse of
impromptu, or of the scurry of unnoted, speech--sometimes came not far
behind him.

Against one great writer of the time, however, no such charge can be justly
brought. Although much attention has recently been given to the
philosophical opinions of Hobbes, since the unjust prejudice against his
religious and political ideas wore away, and since the complete edition of
his writings published at last in 1843 by Sir William Molesworth made him
accessible, the extraordinary merits of his style have on the whole had
rather less than justice done to them. He was in many ways a very singular
person. Born at Malmesbury in the year of the Armada, he was educated at
Oxford, and early in the seventeenth century was appointed tutor to the
eldest son of Lord Hardwick, afterwards Earl of Devonshire. For full
seventy years he was on and off in the service of the Cavendish family; but
sometimes acted as tutor to others, and both in that capacity and for other
reasons lived long abroad. In his earlier manhood he was much in the
society of Bacon, Jonson, and the literary folk of the English capital; and
later he was equally familiar with the society (rather scientific than
literary) of Paris. In 1647 he was appointed mathematical tutor to the
Prince of Wales; but his mathematics were not his most fortunate
acquirement, and they involved him in long and acrimonious disputes with
Wallis and others--disputes, it may be said, where Hobbes was quite wrong.
The publication of his philosophical treatises, and especially of the
_Leviathan_, brought him into very bad odour, not merely on political
grounds (which, so long as the Commonwealth lasted, would not have been
surprising), but for religious reasons; and during the last years of his
life, and for long afterwards, "Hobbist" was, certainly with very little
warrant from his writings, used as a kind of polite equivalent for atheist.
He was pensioned after the Restoration, and the protection of the king and
the Earl of Devonshire kept him scatheless, if ever there was any real
danger. Hobbes, however, was a timid and very much self-centred person,
always fancying that plots were being laid against him. He died at the
great age of ninety-two.

This long life was wholly taken up with study, but did not produce a very
large amount of original composition. It is true that his collected works
fill sixteen volumes; but they are loosely printed, and much space is
occupied with diagrams, indices, and such like things, while a very large
proportion of the matter appears twice over, in Latin and in English. In
the latter case Hobbes usually wrote first in Latin, and was not always his
own translator; but it would appear that he generally revised the work,
though he neither succeeded in obliterating nor perhaps attempted to
obliterate the marks of the original vehicle. His earliest publication was
a singularly vigorous, if not always scholastically exact, translation of
Thucydides into English, which appeared in 1629. Thirteen years later he
published in Paris the _De Cive_, which was shortly followed by the
treatise on _Human Nature_ and the _De Corpore Politico_. The latter of
these was to a great extent worked up in the famous _Leviathan_, or the
_Matter, Power, and Form of a Commonwealth_, which appeared in 1651. The
important _De Corpore_, which corresponds to the _Leviathan_ on the
philosophical side, appeared in Latin in 1655, in English next year.
Besides minor works, Hobbes employed his old age on a translation of Homer
into verse, and on a sketch of the Civil Wars called _Behemoth_.

His verse is a mere curiosity, though a considerable curiosity. The chief
of it (the translation of Homer written in the quatrain, which his friend
Davenant's _Gondibert_ had made popular) is completely lacking in poetical
quality, of which, perhaps, no man ever had less than Hobbes; and it is
written on a bad model. But it has so much of the nervous bull-dog strength
which, in literature if not in life, was Hobbes's main characteristic, that
it is sometimes both a truer and a better representative of the original
than some very mellifluous and elegant renderings. It is as a prose writer,
however, that Hobbes made, and that he will keep, his fame. With his
principles in the various branches of philosophy we have little or nothing
to do. In choosing them he manifested, no doubt, something of the same
defiance of authority, and the same self-willed preference for his own not
too well-educated opinion, which brought him to grief in his encounter with
Wallis. But when he had once left his starting points, his sureness of
reasoning, his extreme perspicacity, and the unerring clearness and
certainty with which he kept before him, and expressed exactly what he
meant, made him at once one of the greatest thinkers and one of the
greatest writers of England. Hobbes never "pays himself with words," never
evades a difficulty by becoming obscure, never meanders on in the graceful
allusive fashion of many philosophers,--a fashion for which the prevalent
faults of style were singularly convenient in his time. He has no ornament,
he does not seem to aim at anything more than the simplest and most
straightforward presentation of his views. But this very aim, assisted by
his practice in writing the terse and clear, if not very elegant, Latin
which was the universal language of the literary Europe of his time,
suffices to preserve him from most of the current sins. Moreover, it is
fair to remember that, though the last to die, he was the first to be born
of the authors mentioned in this chapter, and that he may be supposed, late
as he wrote, to have formed his style before the period of Jacobean and
Caroline luxuriance.

Almost any one of Hobbes's books would suffice to illustrate his style; but
the short and interesting treatise on _Human Nature_, perhaps, shows it at
its best. The author's exceptional clearness may be assisted by his lavish
use of italics; but it is not necessary to read far in order to see that it
is in reality quite independent of any clumsy mechanical device. The
crabbed but sharply outlined style, the terse phrasing, the independence of
all after-thoughts and tackings-on, manifest themselves at once to any
careful observer. Here for instance is a passage, perhaps his finest, on
Love, followed by a political extract from another work:--

     "Of love, by which is to be understood the joy man taketh in the
     fruition of any present good, hath been spoken already in the
     first section, chapter seven, under which is contained the love
     men bear to one another or pleasure they take in one another's
     company: and by which nature men are said to be sociable. But
     there is another kind of love which the Greeks call Erôs, and is
     that which we mean when we say that a man is in love: forasmuch
     as this passion cannot be without diversity of sex, it cannot be
     denied but that it participateth of that indefinite love
     mentioned in the former section. But there is a great difference
     betwixt the desire of a man indefinite and the same desire
     limited _ad hunc_: and this is that love which is the great theme
     of poets: but, notwithstanding their praises, it must be defined
     by the word need: for it is a conception a man hath of his need
     of that one person desired. The cause of this passion is not
     always nor for the most part beauty, or other quality in the
     beloved, unless there be withal hope in the person that loveth:
     which may be gathered from this, that in great difference of
     persons the greater have often fallen in love with the meaner,
     but not contrary. And from hence it is that for the most part
     they have much better fortune in love whose hopes are built on
     something in their person than those that trust to their
     expressions and service; and they that care less than they that
     care more: which not perceiving, many men cast away their
     services as one arrow after another, till, in the end, together
     with their hopes, they lose their wits."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "There are some who therefore imagine monarchy to be more
     grievous than democracy, because there is less liberty in that
     than in this. If by liberty they mean an exemption from that
     subjection which is due to the laws, that is, the commands of the
     people; neither in democracy nor in any other state of
     government whatsoever is there any such kind of liberty. If they
     suppose liberty to consist in this, that there be few laws, few
     prohibitions, and those too such that, except they were
     forbidden, there could be no peace; then I deny that there is
     more liberty in democracy than in monarchy; for the one as truly
     consisteth with such a liberty as the other. For although the
     word liberty may in large and ample letters be written over the
     gates of any city whatsoever, yet it is not meant the subjects'
     but the city's liberty; neither can that word with better right
     be inscribed on a city which is governed by the people than that
     which is ruled by a monarch. But when private men or subjects
     demand liberty under the name of liberty, they ask not for
     liberty but domination: which yet for want of understanding they
     little consider. For if every man would grant the same liberty to
     another which he desires for himself, as is commanded by the law
     of nature, that same natural state would return again in which
     all men may by right do all things; which if they knew they would
     abhor, as being worse than all kinds of civil subjection
     whatsoever. But if any man desire to have his single freedom, the
     rest being bound, what does he else demand but to have the
     dominion?"

It may be observed that Hobbes's sentences are by no means very short as
far as actual length goes. He has some on a scale which in strictness is
perhaps hardly justifiable. But what may generally be asserted of them is
that the author for the most part is true to that great rule, of logic and
of style alike, which ordains that a single sentence shall be, as far as
possible, the verbal presentation of a single thought, and not the
agglomeration and sweeping together of a whole string and tissue of
thoughts. It is noticeable, too, that Hobbes is very sparing of the
adjective--the great resource and delight of flowery and discursive
writers. Sometimes, as in the famous comparison of human life to a race
(where, by the way, a slight tendency to conceit manifests itself, and
makes him rather force some of his metaphors), his conciseness assumes a
distinctly epigrammatic form; and it is constantly visible also in his more
consecutive writings.

In the well-known passage on Laughter as "a passion of sudden glory" the
writer may be charged with allowing his fancy too free play; though I, for
my part, am inclined to consider the explanation the most satisfactory yet
given of a difficult phenomenon. But the point is the distinctness with
which Hobbes puts this novel and, at first sight, improbable idea, the apt
turns and illustrations (standing at the same time far from the excess of
illustration and analogy, by which many writers of his time would have spun
it out into a chapter if not into a treatise), the succinct, forcible,
economical adjustment of the fewest words to the clearest exposition of
thought. Perhaps these things strike the more as they are the more unlike
the work in juxtaposition with which one finds them; nor can it be
maintained that Hobbes's style is suitable for all purposes. Admirable for
argument and exposition, it is apt to become bald in narration, and its
abundance of clearness, when translated to less purely intellectual
subjects, may even expose it to the charge of being thin. Such a note as
that struck in the Love passage above given is rare, and sets one wondering
whether the dry-as-dust philosopher of Malmesbury, the man who seems to
have had hardly any human frailties except vanity and timidity, had himself
felt the bitterness of counting on expressions and services, the madness of
throwing away one effort after another to gain the favour of the beloved.
But it is very seldom that any such suggestion is provoked by remarks of
Hobbes's. His light is almost always dry; and in one sense, though not in
another, a little malignant. Yet nowhere is there to be found a style more
absolutely suited, not merely to the author's intentions but to his
performances--a form more exactly married to matter. Nor anywhere is there
to be found a writer who is more independent of others. He may have owed
something to his friend Jonson, in whose _Timber_ there are resemblances to
Hobbes; but he certainly owed nothing, and in all probability lent much, to
the Drydens, and Tillotsons, and Temples, who in the last twenty years of
his own life reformed English prose.



CHAPTER X

CAROLINE POETRY


There are few periods of poetical development in English literary history
which display, in a comparatively narrow compass, such well-marked and
pervading individuality as the period of Caroline poetry, beginning, it may
be, a little before the accession of Charles I., but terminating as a
producing period almost before the real accession of his son. The poets of
this period, in which but not of which Milton is, are numerous and
remarkable, and at the head of them all stands Robert Herrick.

Very little is really known about Herrick's history. That he was of a
family which, distinguished above the common, but not exactly reaching
nobility, had the credit of producing, besides himself, the indomitable
Warden Heyrick of the Collegiate Church of Manchester in his own times, and
the mother of Swift in the times immediately succeeding his, is certain.
That he was born in London in 1591, that he went to Cambridge, that he had
a rather stingy guardian, that he associated to some extent with the tribe
of Ben in the literary London of the second decade of the century, is also
certain. At last and rather late he was appointed to a living at Dean Prior
in Devonshire, on the confines of the South Hams and Dartmoor. He did not
like it, being of that class of persons who cannot be happy out of a great
town. After the Civil War he was deprived, and his successor had not the
decency (the late Dr. Grosart, constant to his own party, made a very
unsuccessful attempt to defend the delinquent) to pay him the shabby
pittance which the intruders were supposed to furnish to the rightful
owners of benefices. At the Restoration he too was restored, and survived
it fifteen years, dying in 1674; but his whole literary fame rests on work
published a quarter of a century before his death, and pretty certainly in
great part written many years earlier.

The poems which then appeared were divided, in the published form, into two
classes: they may be divided, for purposes of poetical criticism, into
three. The _Hesperides_ (they are dated 1648, and the _Noble Numbers_ or
sacred poems 1647; but both appeared together) consist in the first place
of occasional poems, sometimes amatory, sometimes not; in the second, of
personal epigrams. Of this second class no human being who has any faculty
of criticism can say any good. They are supposed by tradition to have been
composed on parishioners: they may be hoped by charity (which has in this
case the support of literary criticism) to be merely literary
exercises--bad imitations of Martial, through Ben Jonson. They are nastier
than the nastiest work of Swift; they are stupider than the stupidest
attempts of Davies of Hereford; they are farther from the author's best
than the worst parts of Young's _Odes_ are from the best part of the _Night
Thoughts_. It is impossible without producing specimens (which God forbid
that any one who has a respect for Herrick, for literature, and for
decency, should do) to show how bad they are. Let it only be said that if
the worst epigram of Martial were stripped of Martial's wit, sense, and
literary form, it would be a kind of example of Herrick in this vein.

In his two other veins, but for certain tricks of speech, it is almost
impossible to recognise him for the same man. The secular vigour of the
_Hesperides_, the spiritual vigour of the _Noble Numbers_, has rarely been
equalled and never surpassed by any other writer. I cannot agree with Mr.
Gosse that Herrick is in any sense "a Pagan." They had in his day shaken
off the merely ascetic temper of the Middle Ages, and had not taken upon
them the mere materialism of the _Aufklärung_, or the remorseful and
satiated attitude of the late eighteenth and nineteenth century. I believe
that the warmest of the Julia poems and the immortal "Litany" were written
with the same integrity of feeling. Here was a man who was grateful to the
upper powers for the joys of life, or who was sorrowful and repentant
towards the upper powers when he felt that he had exceeded in enjoying
those joys, but who had no doubt of his gods, and no shame in approaching
them. The last--the absolutely last if we take his death-date--of those
poets who have relished this life heartily, while heartily believing in
another, was Robert Herrick. There is not the slightest reason to suppose
that the _Hesperides_ were wholly _péchés de jeunesse_ and the _Noble
Numbers_ wholly pious palinodes. Both simply express, and express in a most
vivid and distinct manner, the alternate or rather varying moods of a man
of strong sensibilities, religious as well as sensual.

Of the religious poems the already-mentioned "Litany," while much the most
familiar, is also far the best. There is nothing in English verse to equal
it as an expression of religious fear; while there is also nothing in
English verse to equal the "Thanksgiving," also well known, as an
expression of religious trust. The crystalline simplicity of Herrick's
style deprives his religious poems of that fatal cut-and-dried appearance,
that vain repetition of certain phrases and thoughts, which mars the work
of sacred poets generally, and which has led to an unjustly strong censure
being laid on them by critics, so different from each other as Dr. Johnson
and Mr. Matthew Arnold. As the alleged Paganism of some of Herrick's sacred
poems exists only in the imagination of readers, so the alleged insincerity
is equally hypothetical, and can only be supported by the argument
(notoriously false to history and to human nature) that a man who could
write the looser _Hesperides_ could not sincerely write the _Noble
Numbers_. Every student of the lives of other men--every student of his own
heart--knows, or should know, that this is an utter mistake.

Undoubtedly, however, Herrick's most beautiful work is to be found in the
profane division, despite the admixture of the above-mentioned epigrams,
the dull foulness of which soils the most delightful pages to such an
extent that, if it were ever allowable to take liberties with an author's
disposition of his own work, it would be allowable and desirable to pick
these ugly weeds out of the garden and stow them away in a rubbish heap of
appendix all to themselves. Some of the best pieces of the _Hesperides_ are
even better known than the two well-known _Noble Numbers_ above quoted. The
"Night Piece to Julia," the "Daffodils," the splendid "To Anthea," ("Bid me
to live"), "The Mad Maid's Song" (worthy of the greatest of the generation
before Herrick), the verses to Ben Jonson, those to Electra ("I dare not
ask a kiss"), the wonderful "Burial Piece to Perilla," the "Grace for a
Child," the "Corinna Maying" (the chief of a large division of Herrick's
poems which celebrate rustic festivals, superstitions, and folklore
generally), the epitaph on Prudence Baldwin, and many others, are justly
included in nearly all selections of English poetry, and many of them are
known by heart to every one who knows any poetry at all. One or two of the
least well known of them may perhaps be welcome again:--

    "Good morrow to the day so fair,
      Good morning, sir, to you;
    Good morrow to mine own torn hair
      Bedabbled with the dew.

    "Good morning to this primrose too,
      Good morrow to each maid;
    That will with flowers the tomb bestrew
      Wherein my love is laid.

    "Ah, woe is me, woe, woe is me,
      Alack and well-a-day!
    For pity, sir, find out that bee
      That bore my love away.

    "I'll seek him in your bonnet brave,
      I'll seek him in your eyes;
    Nay, now I think, they've made his grave
      I' th' bed of strawberries.

    "I'll seek him there: I know ere this
      The cold, cold earth doth shake him;
    But I will go, or send a kiss
      By you, sir, to awake him.

    "Pray hurt him not; though he be dead
      He knows well who do love him,
    And who with green turfs rear his head,
      And who do rudely move him.

    "He's soft and tender, pray take heed,
      With bands of cowslips bind him,
    And bring him home; but 'tis decreed
      That I shall never find him."

       *       *       *       *       *

    "I dare not ask a kiss;
      I dare not beg a smile;
    Lest having that or this,
      I might grow proud the while.

    "No, no--the utmost share
      Of my desire shall be
    Only to kiss that air
      That lately kissèd thee."

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Here, a little child, I stand
    Heaving up my either hand:
    Cold as paddocks though they be
    Here I lift them up to Thee,
    For a benison to fall
    On our meat and on us all.

                        Amen."

But Herrick's charm is everywhere--except in the epigrams. It is very rare
to find one of the hundreds of little poems which form his book destitute
of the peculiar touch of phrasing, the eternising influence of style, which
characterises the poetry of this particular period so remarkably. The
subject may be the merest trifle, the thought a hackneyed or insignificant
one. But the amber to enshrine the fly is always there in larger or
smaller, in clearer or more clouded, shape. There has often been a certain
contempt (connected no doubt with certain general critical errors as they
seem to me, with which I shall deal at the end of this chapter) flavouring
critical notices of Herrick. I do not think that any one who judges poetry
as poetry, who keeps its several kinds apart and does not demand epic
graces in lyric, dramatic substance in an anthologia, could ever feel or
hint such a contempt. Whatever Herrick may have been as a man (of which we
know very little, and for which we need care less), he was a most exquisite
and complete poet in his own way, neither was that way one to be lightly
spoken of.

Indissolubly connected with Herrick in age, in character, and in the
singularly unjust criticism which has at various times been bestowed on
him, is Thomas Carew. His birth-date has been very differently given as
1587 and (that now preferred) 1598; but he died nearly forty years before
the author of the _Hesperides_, and nearly ten before the _Hesperides_
themselves were published, while his own poems were never collected till
after his own death. He was of a Gloucestershire branch of the famous
Devonshire family of Carew, Cary, or Cruwys, was of Merton College, Oxford,
and the Temple, travelled, followed the Court, was a disciple of Ben
Jonson, and a member of the learned and accomplished society of Clarendon's
earlier days, obtained a place in the household of Charles I., is said by
his friend Hyde to have turned to devotion after a somewhat libertine life,
and died in 1639, before the evil days of triumphant Puritanism, _felix
opportunitate mortis_. He wrote little, and the scantiness of his
production, together with the supposed pains it cost him, is ridiculed in
Suckling's doggerel "Sessions of the Poets." But this reproach (which Carew
shares with Gray, and with not a few others of the most admirable names in
literature), unjust as it is, is less unjust than the general tone of
criticism on Carew since. The _locus classicus_ of depreciation both in
regard to him and to Herrick is to be found, as might be expected, in one
of the greatest, and one of the most wilfully capricious and untrustworthy
of English critics, in Hazlitt. I am sorry to say that there can be little
hesitation in setting down the extraordinary misjudgment of the passage in
question (it occurs in the sixth Lecture on Elizabethan Literature), in
part, at least, to the fact that Herrick, Carew, and Crashaw, who are
summarily damned in it, were Royalists. If there were any doubt about the
matter, it would be settled by the encomium bestowed in the very same
passage on Marvell, who is, no doubt, as Hazlitt says, a true poet, but who
as a poet is but seldom at the highest height of the authors of "The
Litany," "The Rapture," and "The Flaming Heart." Hazlitt, then, while on
his way to tell us that Herrick's two best pieces are some trivial
anacreontics about Cupid and the Bees--things hackneyed through a dozen
literatures, and with no recommendation but a borrowed prettiness--while
about, I say, to deny Herrick the spirit of love or wine, and in the same
breath with the dismissal of Crashaw as a "hectic enthusiast," informs us
that Carew was "an elegant Court trifler," and describes his style as a
"frequent mixture of the superficial and commonplace, with far-fetched and
improbable conceits."

What Carew really is, and what he may be peremptorily declared to be in
opposition even to such a critic as Hazlitt, is something quite different.
He is one of the most perfect masters of lyrical form in English poetry. He
possesses a command of the overlapped heroic couplet, which for sweep and
rush of rhythm cannot be surpassed anywhere. He has, perhaps in a greater
degree than any poet of that time of conceits, the knack of modulating the
extravagances of fancy by the control of reason, so that he never falls
into the unbelievableness of Donne, or Crashaw, or Cleveland. He had a
delicacy, when he chose to be delicate, which is quintessential, and a
vigour which is thoroughly manly. Best of all, perhaps, he had the
intelligence and the self-restraint to make all his poems wholes, and not
mere congeries of verses. There is always, both in the scheme of his
meaning and the scheme of his metre, a definite plan of rise and fall, a
concerted effect. That these great merits were accompanied by not
inconsiderable defects is true. Carew lacks the dewy freshness, the
unstudied grace of Herrick. He is even more frankly and uncontrolledly
sensual, and has paid the usual and inevitable penalty that his best poem,
_The Rapture_, is, for the most part, unquotable, while another, if he
carried out its principles in this present year of grace, would run him the
risk of imprisonment with hard labour. His largest attempt--the masque
called _Coelum Britannicum_--is heavy. His smaller poems, beautiful as they
are, suffer somewhat from want of variety of subject. There is just so much
truth in Suckling's impertinence that the reader of Carew sometimes catches
himself repeating the lines of Carew's master, "Still to be neat, still to
be drest," not indeed in full agreement with them, but not in exact
disagreement. One misses the "wild civility" of Herrick. This
acknowledgment, I trust, will save me from any charge of overvaluing Carew.

A man might, however, be easily tempted to overvalue him, who observes his
beauties, and who sees how, preserving the force, the poetic spell, of the
time, he was yet able, without in the least descending to the correctness
of Waller and his followers, to introduce into his work something also
preserving it from the weaknesses and inequalities which deface that of
almost all his contemporaries, and which, as we shall see, make much of the
dramatic and poetical work of 1630-1660 a chaos of slipshod deformity to
any one who has the sense of poetical form. It is an unwearying delight to
read and re-read the second of his poems, the "Persuasions to Love,"
addressed to a certain A. L. That the sentiment is common enough matters
little; the commonest things in poetry are always the best. But the
delicate interchange of the catalectic and acatalectic dimeter, the
wonderful plays and changes of cadence, the opening, as it were, of fresh
stops at the beginning of each new paragraph of the verse, so that the
music acquires a new colour, the felicity of the several phrases, the
cunning heightening of the passion as the poet comes to "Oh! love me then,
and now begin it," and the dying fall of the close, make up to me, at
least, most charming pastime. It is not the same kind of pleasure, no
doubt, as that given by such an outburst as Crashaw's, to be mentioned
presently, or by such pieces as the great soliloquies of Shakespere. Any
one may say, if he likes to use words which are question-begging, when not
strictly meaningless, that it is not such a "high" kind. But it is a kind,
and in that kind perfect.

Carew's best pieces, besides _The Rapture_, are the beautiful "Ask me no
more," the first stanza of which is the weakest; the fine couplet poem,
"The Cruel Mistress," whose closing distich--

    "Of such a goddess no times leave record,
    That burned the temple where she was adored"--

Dryden conveyed with the wise and unblushing boldness which great poets
use; the "Deposition from love," written in one of those combinations of
eights and sixes, the melodious charm of which seems to have died with the
seventeenth century; the song, "He that loves a rosy cheek," which, by the
unusual morality of its sentiments, has perhaps secured a fame not quite
due to its poetical merits; the epitaph on Lady Mary Villers; the song
"Would you know what's soft?" the song to his inconstant mistress:

    "When thou, poor excommunicate
    From all the joys of love, shalt see
    The full reward, and glorious fate
    Which my strong faith shall purchase me,
    Then curse thine own inconstancy.

    "A fairer hand than thine shall cure
    That heart which thy false oaths did wound;
    And to my soul, a soul more pure
    Than thine, shall by love's hand be bound,
    And both with equal glory crown'd.

    "Then shalt thou weep, entreat, complain
    To Love, as I did once to thee;
    When all thy tears shall be as vain
    As mine were then, for thou shalt be
    Damn'd for thy false apostacy."--

the pleasant pictures of the country houses of Wrest and Saxham; the
charming conceit of "Red and white roses":

    "Read in these roses the sad story
    Of my hard fate and your own glory:
    In the white you may discover
    The paleness of a fainting lover;
    In the red, the flames still feeding
    On my heart with fresh wounds bleeding.
    The white will tell you how I languish,
    And the red express my anguish:
    The white my innocence displaying
    The red my martyrdom betraying.
    The frowns that on your brow resided
    Have those roses thus divided;
    Oh! let your smiles but clear the weather
    And then they both shall grow together."--

and lastly, though it would be easy to extend this already long list of
selections from a by no means extensive collection of poems, the grand
elegy on Donne. By this last the reproach of vain and amatorious trifling
which has been so often levelled at Carew is at once thrown back and
blunted. No poem shows so great an influence on the masculine panegyrics
with which Dryden was to enrich the English of the next generation, and few
are fuller of noteworthy phrases. The splendid epitaph which closes it--

    "Here lies a king that ruled as he thought fit
    The universal monarchy of wit"--

is only the best passage, not the only good one, and it may be matched with
a fine and just description of English, ushered by a touch of acute
criticism.

    "Thou shalt yield no precedence, but of time,
    And the blind fate of language, whose tuned chime
    More charms the outward sense: yet thou mayst claim
    From so great disadvantage greater fame.
    Since to the awe of thine imperious wit
    Our troublesome language bends, made only fit
    With her tough thick-ribbed hoops to gird about
    Thy giant fancy, which had proved too stout
    For their soft melting phrases."

And it is the man who could write like this that Hazlitt calls an "elegant
Court trifler!"

The third of this great trio of poets, and with them the most remarkable of
our whole group, was Richard Crashaw. He completes Carew and Herrick both
in his qualities and (if a kind of bull may be permitted) in his defects,
after a fashion almost unexampled elsewhere and supremely interesting.
Hardly any one of the three could have appeared at any other time, and not
one but is distinguished from the others in the most marked way. Herrick,
despite his sometimes rather obtrusive learning, is emphatically the
natural man. He does not show much sign of the influence of good society,
his merits as well as his faults have a singular unpersonal and, if I may
so say, _terræfilian_ connotation. Carew is a gentleman before all; but a
rather profane gentleman. Crashaw is religious everywhere. Again, Herrick
and Carew, despite their strong savour of the fashion of the time, are
eminently critics as well as poets. Carew has not let one piece critically
unworthy of him pass his censorship: Herrick (if we exclude the filthy and
foolish epigrams into which he was led by corrupt following of Ben) has
been equally careful. These two bards may have trouble with the _censor
morum_,--the _censor literarum_ they can brave with perfect confidence. It
is otherwise with Crashaw. That he never, as far as can be seen, edited the
bulk of his work for press at all matters little or nothing. But there is
not in his work the slightest sign of the exercise of any critical faculty
before, during, or after production. His masterpiece, one of the most
astonishing things in English or any other literature, comes without
warning at the end of _The Flaming Heart_. For page after page the poet has
been poorly playing on some trifling conceits suggested by the picture of
Saint Theresa and a seraph. First he thinks the painter ought to have
changed the attributes; then he doubts whether a lesser change will not do;
and always he treats his subject in a vein of grovelling and grotesque
conceit which the boy Dryden in the stage of his elegy on Lord Hastings
would have disdained. And then in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
without warning of any sort, the metre changes, the poet's inspiration
catches fire, and there rushes up into the heaven of poetry this marvellous
rocket of song:--

    "Live in these conquering leaves: live all the same;
    And walk through all tongues one triumphant flame;
    Live here, great heart; and love, and die, and kill;
    And bleed, and wound, and yield, and conquer still.
    Let this immortal life where'er it comes
    Walk in a crowd of loves and martyrdoms.
    Let mystic deaths wait on't; and wise souls be
    The love-slain witnesses of this life of thee.
    O sweet incendiary! show here thy art,
    Upon this carcase of a hard cold heart;
    Let all thy scatter'd shafts of light, that play
    Among the leaves of thy large books of day,
    Combin'd against this breast at once break in,
    And take away from me myself and sin;
    This gracious robbery shall thy bounty be
    And my best fortunes such fair spoils of me.
    O thou undaunted daughter of desires!
    By all thy pow'r of lights and fires;
    By all the eagle in thee, all the dove;
    By all thy lives and deaths of love;
    By thy large draughts of intellectual day;
    And by thy thirsts of love more large than they;
    By all thy brim-fill'd bowls of fierce desire;
    By thy last morning's draught of liquid fire;
    By the full kingdom of that final kiss
    That seized thy parting soul, and seal'd thee his;
    By all the heavens thou hast in him,
    (Fair sister of the seraphim)
    By all of him we have in thee;
    Leave nothing of myself in me.
    Let me so read thy life, that I
    Unto all life of mine may die."

The contrast is perhaps unique as regards the dead colourlessness of the
beginning, and the splendid colour of the end. But contrasts like it occur
all over Crashaw's work.

He was a much younger man than either of the poets with whom we have
leashed him, and his birth year used to be put at 1616, though Dr. Grosart
has made it probable that it was three years earlier. His father was a
stern Anglican clergyman of extremely Protestant leanings, his mother died
when Crashaw was young, but his stepmother appears to have been most
unnovercal. Crashaw was educated at Charterhouse, and then went to
Cambridge, where in 1637 he became a fellow of Peterhouse, and came in for
the full tide of high church feeling, to which (under the mixed influence
of Laud's policy, of the ascetic practices of the Ferrars of Gidding, and
of a great architectural development afterwards defaced if not destroyed by
Puritan brutality) Cambridge was even more exposed than Oxford. The
outbreak of the civil war may or may not have found Crashaw at Cambridge;
he was at any rate deprived of his fellowship for not taking the covenant
in 1643, and driven into exile. Already inclined doctrinally and in matters
of practice to the older communion, and despairing of the resurrection of
the Church of England after her sufferings at the hands of the Parliament,
Crashaw joined the Church of Rome, and journeyed to its metropolis. He was
attached to the suit of Cardinal Pallotta, but is said to have been shocked
by Italian manners. The cardinal procured him a canonry at Loretto, and
this he hastened to take up, but died in 1649 with suspicions of poison,
which are not impossibly, but at the same time by no means necessarily
true. His poems had already appeared under the double title of _Steps to
the Temple_ (sacred), and _Delights of the Muses_ (profane), but not under
his own editorship, or it would seem with his own choice of title. Several
other editions followed,--one later than his death, with curious
illustrations said to be, in part at least, of his own design. Manuscript
sources, as in the case of some other poets of the time, have considerably
enlarged the collection since. But a great part of it consists of epigrams
(in the wide sense, and almost wholly sacred) in the classical tongues,
which were sometimes translated by Crashaw himself. These are not always
correct in style or prosody, but are often interesting. The famous line in
reference to the miracle of Cana,

    "Vidit et erubuit nympha pudica Deum,"

is assigned to Crashaw as a boy at Cambridge; of his later faculty in the
same way the elaborate and, in its way, beautiful poem entitled _Bulla_
(the Bubble) is the most remarkable.

Our chief subject, however, is the English poems proper, sacred and
profane. In almost all of these there is noticeable an extraordinary
inequality, the same in kind, if not in degree, as that on which we have
commented in the case of _The Flaming Heart_. Crashaw is never quite so
great as there; but he is often quite as small. His exasperating lack of
self-criticism has sometimes led selectors to make a cento out of his
poems--notably in the case of the exceedingly pretty "Wishes to His Unknown
Mistress," beginning, "Whoe'er she be, That not impossible she, That shall
command my heart and me"--a poem, let it be added, which excuses this
dubious process much less than most, inasmuch as nothing in it is
positively bad, though it is rather too long. Here is the opening, preceded
by a piece from another poem, "A Hymn to Saint Theresa":--

    "Those rare works, where thou shalt leave writ
    Love's noble history, with wit
    Taught thee by none but him, while here
    They feed our souls, shall clothe thine there
    Each heavenly word by whose hid flame
    Our hard hearts shall strike fire, the same
    Shall flourish on thy brows and be
    Both fire to us and flame to thee:
    Whose light shall live bright, in thy face
    By glory, in our hearts by grace.

    "Thou shalt look round about, and see
    Thousands of crown'd souls throng to be
    Themselves thy crown, sons of thy vows:
    The virgin births with which thy spouse
    Made fruitful thy fair soul; go now
    And with them all about thee, bow
    To Him, 'Put on' (He'll say) 'put on,
    My rosy love, that thy rich zone,
    Sparkling with the sacred flames,
    Of thousand souls whose happy names
    Heaven heaps upon thy score, thy bright
    Life brought them first to kiss the light
    That kindled them to stars.' And so
    Thou with the Lamb thy Lord shall go,
    And whereso'er He sets His white
    Steps, walk with Him those ways of light.
    Which who in death would live to see
    Must learn in life to die like thee."

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Whoe'er she be,
    That not impossible she,
    That shall command my heart and me;

    "Where'er she lie,
    Lock'd up from mortal eye,
    In shady leaves of destiny;

    "Till that ripe birth
    Of studied Fate stand forth,
    And teach her fair steps to our earth:

    "Till that divine
    Idea take a shrine
    Of crystal flesh, through which to shine:

    "Meet you her, my wishes
    Bespeak her to my blisses,
    And be ye call'd, my absent kisses."

The first hymn to Saint Theresa, to which _The Flaming Heart_ is a kind of
appendix, was written when Crashaw was still an Anglican (for which he did
not fail, later, to make a characteristic and very pretty, though quite
unnecessary, apology). It has no passage quite up to the
Invocation--Epiphonema, to give it the technical term--of the later poem.
But it is, on the contrary, good almost throughout, and is, for uniform
exaltation, far the best of Crashaw's poems. Yet such uniform exaltation
must be seldom sought in him. It is in his little bursts, such as that in
the stanza beginning, "O mother turtle dove," that his charm consists.
Often, as in verse after verse of _The Weeper_, it has an unearthly
delicacy and witchery which only Blake, in a few snatches, has ever
equalled; while at other times the poet seems to invent, in the most casual
and unthinking fashion, new metrical effects and new jewelries of diction
which the greatest lyric poets since--Coleridge, Shelley, Lord Tennyson,
Mr. Swinburne--have rather deliberately imitated than spontaneously
recovered. Yet to all this charm there is no small drawback. The very
maddest and most methodless of the "Metaphysicals" cannot touch Crashaw in
his tasteless use of conceits. When he, in _The Weeper_ just above referred
to, calls the tears of Magdalene "Wat'ry brothers," and "Simpering sons of
those fair eyes," and when, in the most intolerable of all the poet's
excesses, the same eyes are called "Two waking baths, two weeping motions,
Portable and compendious oceans," which follow our Lord about the hills of
Galilee, it is almost difficult to know whether to feel most contempt or
indignation for a man who could so write. It is fair to say that there are
various readings and omissions in the different editions which affect both
these passages. Yet the offence is that Crashaw should ever have written
them at all. Amends, however, are sure to be made before the reader has
read much farther. Crashaw's longest poems--a version of Marini's _Sospetto
d'Herode_, and one of the rather overpraised "Lover and Nightingale" story
of Strada--are not his best; the metre in which both are written, though
the poet manages it well, lacks the extraordinary charm of his lyric
measures. It does not appear that the "Not impossible she" ever made her
appearance, and probably for a full half of his short life Crashaw burnt
only with religious fire. But no Englishman has expressed that fire as he
has, and none in his expression of any sentiment, sacred and profane, has
dropped such notes of ethereal music. At his best he is far above singing,
at his worst he is below a very childish prattle. But even then he is never
coarse, never offensive, not very often actually dull; and everywhere he
makes amends by flowers of the divinest poetry. Mr. Pope, who borrowed not
a little from him, thought, indeed, that you could find nothing of "The
real part of poetry" (correct construction and so forth) in Crashaw; and
Mr. Hayley gently rebukes Cowley (after observing that if Pope borrowed
from Crashaw, it was "as the sun borrows from the earth") for his "glowing
panegyrick." Now, if the real part of poetry is anywhere in Hayley, or
quintessentially in Pope, it certainly is not in Crashaw.

The group or school (for it is not easy to decide on either word, and
objections might be taken to each) at the head of which Herrick, Carew, and
Crashaw must be placed, and which included Herbert and his band of sacred
singers, included also not a few minor groups, sufficiently different from
each other, but all marked off sharply from the innovating and classical
school of Waller and his followers, which it is not proposed to treat in
this volume. All, without exception, show the influence in different ways
of Ben Jonson and of Donne. But each has its own peculiarity. We find these
peculiarities, together with anticipations of post-Reformation
characteristics, mixed very curiously in the miscellanies of the time.
These are interesting enough, and may be studied with advantage, if not
also with pleasure, in the principal of them, _Wit's Recreations_ (1640).
This, with certain kindred works (_Wit Restored_, and the very unsavoury
_Musarum Deliciæ_ of Sir John Mennis and Dr. Smith), has been more than
once republished. In these curious collections, to mention only one
instance, numerous pieces of Herrick's appeared with considerable variants
from the text of the _Hesperides_; and in their pages things old and new,
charming pastoral poems, _vers de société_ of very unequal merit, ballads,
satires, epigrams, and a large quantity of mere scatology and doggerel, are
heaped together pell-mell. Songs from the dramatists, especially Fletcher,
make their appearance, sometimes with slight variants, and there are forms
of the drinking song in _Gammer Gurton's Needle_ long after, and of Sir
John Suckling's "Ballad on a Wedding," apparently somewhat before, their
respective publication in their proper places. Here is the joke about the
wife and the almanack which reckless tradition has told of Dryden; printed
when Lady Elizabeth Howard was in the nursery, and Dryden was not yet at
Westminster. Here we learn how, probably about the second or third decade
of the century, the favourite authors of learned ladies were "Wither,
Draiton, and Balzack" (Guez de Balzac of the _Letters_), a very singular
trio; and how some at least loved the "easy ambling" of Heywood's prose,
but thought that he "grovelled on the stage," which it must be confessed he
not uncommonly did. _Wit Restored_ contains the charming "Phillida flouts
Me," with other real "delights." Even Milton makes his appearance in these
collections, which continued to be popular for more than a century, and
acquired at intervals fresh vogue from the great names of Dryden and Pope.

Neglecting or returning from these, we may class the minor Caroline poets
under the following heads. There are belated Elizabethans like Habington,
sacred poets of the school of Herbert, translators like Stanley, Sherburne,
and Quarles, philosophico-theological poets like Joseph Beaumont and More,
and poets of society, such as Lovelace and Suckling, whose class
degenerated into a class of boon companion song-writers, such as Alexander
Brome, and, at the extremity of our present period, Charles Cotton, in
whose verse (as for the matter of that in the famous muses of Lovelace and
Suckling themselves) the rapidly degenerating prosody of the time is
sometimes painfully evident. This is also apparent (though it is
compensated by much exquisite poetry, and on the strictly lyric side rarely
offends) in the work of Randolph, Corbet, Cartwright, Chamberlayne of the
_Pharonnida_, Sidney Godolphin, Shakerley Marmion, Cleveland, Benlowes,
Kynaston, John Hall, the enigmatic Chalkhill, Patrick Carey, Bishop King.
These about exhaust the list of poets who must be characterised here,
though it could be extended. Cowley, Marvell, and Waller fall outside our
limits.

George Herbert, the one popular name, if we except Lovelace and Suckling,
of the last paragraph, was born at Montgomery Castle in 1593, of the great
house now represented in the English peerage by the holders of the titles
of Pembroke, Carnarvon, and Powis. George was the younger brother of the
equally well-known Lord Herbert of Cherbury; and after being for some years
public orator at Cambridge, turned, it is said, on some despite or
disappointment, from secular to sacred business, accepted the living of
Bemerton, and, after holding it for a short time, died in 1633. Walton's
_Life_ was hardly needed to fix Herbert in the popular mind, for his famous
volume of sacred poems, _The Temple_, would have done so, and has done so
far more firmly. It was not his only book by any means; he had displayed
much wit as quite a boy in counter-lampooning Andrew Melville's ponderous
and impudent _Anti-Tami-Cami-Categoria_, an attack on the English
universities; and afterwards he wrote freely in Greek, Latin, and English,
both in prose and verse. Nothing, however, but _The Temple_ has held
popular estimation, and that has held it firmly, being as much helped by
the Tractarian as by the Romantic movement. It may be confessed without
shame and without innuendo that Herbert has been on the whole a greater
favourite with readers than with critics, and the reason is obvious. He is
not prodigal of the finest strokes of poetry. To take only his own
contemporaries, and undoubtedly pupils, his gentle moralising and devotion
are tame and cold beside the burning glow of Crashaw, commonplace and
popular beside the intellectual subtlety and, now and then, the inspired
touch of Vaughan. But he never drops into the flatness and the extravagance
of both these writers, and his beauties, assuredly not mean in themselves,
and very constantly present, are both in kind and in arrangement admirably
suited to the average comprehension. He is quaint and conceited; but his
quaintnesses and conceits are never beyond the reach of any tolerably
intelligent understanding. He is devout, but his devotion does not
transgress into the more fantastic regions of piety. He is a mystic, but of
the more exoteric school of mysticism. He expresses common needs, common
thoughts, the everyday emotions of the Christian, just sublimated
sufficiently to make them attractive. The fashion and his own taste gave
him a pleasing quaintness, which his good sense kept from being ever
obscure or offensive or extravagant. The famous "Sweet day so cool, so
calm, so bright," and many short passages which are known to every one,
express Herbert perfectly. The thought is obvious, usual, in no sense far
fetched. The morality is plain and simple. The expression, with a
sufficient touch of the daintiness of the time, has nothing that is
extraordinarily or ravishingly felicitous whether in phrasing or versing.
He is, in short, a poet whom all must respect; whom those that are in
sympathy with his vein of thought cannot but revere; who did England an
inestimable service, by giving to the highest and purest thoughts that
familiar and abiding poetic garb which contributes so much to fix any
thoughts in the mind, and of which, to tell the truth, poetry has been much
more prodigal to other departments of thought by no means so well
deserving. But it is impossible to call him a great poet even in his own
difficult class. The early Latin hymn writers are there to show what a
great religious poet must be like. Crashaw, if his genius had been less
irregular and jaculative, might have been such. Herbert is not, and could
not have been. With him it is an almost invariable custom to class Vaughan
the "Silurist," and a common one to unite George Sandys, the traveller,
translator of Ovid, and paraphrast of the Psalms and other parts of the
Bible. Sandys, an older man than Herbert by fifteen, and than Vaughan by
more than forty years, published rather late, so that he came as a sacred
poet after Herbert, and not long before Vaughan. He was son of the
Archbishop of York, and brother of that Edwin Sandys who was a pupil of
Hooker, and who is said to have been present on the melancholy occasion
when the judicious one was "called to rock the cradle." He is interesting
for a singular and early mastery of the couplet, which the following
extract will show:--

    "O Thou, who all things hast of nothing made,
    Whose hand the radiant firmament displayed,
    With such an undiscerned swiftness hurled
    About the steadfast centre of the world;
    Against whose rapid course the restless sun,
    And wandering flames in varied motions run.
    Which heat, light, life infuse; time, night, and day
    Distinguish; in our human bodies sway:
    That hung'st the solid earth in fleeting air
    Veined with clear springs which ambient seas repair.
    In clouds the mountains wrap their hoary heads;
    Luxurious valleys clothed with flowery meads;
    Her trees yield fruit and shade; with liberal breasts
    All creatures she, their common mother, feasts."

Henry Vaughan was born in 1622, published _Poems_ in 1646 (for some of
which he afterwards expressed a not wholly necessary repentance), _Olor
Iscanus_ (from Isca Silurum) in 1651, and _Silex Scintillans_, his
best-known book, in 1650 and 1655. He also published verses much later, and
did not die till 1695, being the latest lived of any man who has a claim to
appear in this book, but his aftergrowths were not happy. To say that
Vaughan is a poet of one poem would not be true. But the universally known

    "They are all gone into the world of light"

is so very much better than anything else that he has done that it would be
hardly fair to quote anything else, unless we could quote a great deal.
Like Herbert, and in pretty obvious imitation of him, he set himself to
bend the prevailing fancy for quips and quaintnesses into sacred uses, to
see that the Devil should not have all the best conceits. But he is not so
uniformly successful, though he has greater depth and greater originality
of thought.

Lovelace and Suckling are inextricably connected together, not merely by
their style of poetry, but by their advocacy of the same cause, their date,
and their melancholy end. Both (Suckling in 1609, Lovelace nine years
later) were born to large fortunes, both spent them, at least partially, in
the King's cause, and both died miserably,--Suckling, in 1642, by his own
hand, his mind, according to a legend, unhinged by the tortures of the
Inquisition; Lovelace, two years before the Restoration, a needy though not
an exiled cavalier, in London purlieus. Both have written songs of quite
marvellous and unparalleled exquisiteness, and both have left doggerel
which would disgrace a schoolboy. Both, it may be suspected, held the
doctrine which Suckling openly champions, that a gentleman should not take
too much trouble about his verses. The result, however, was in Lovelace's
case more disastrous than in Suckling's. It is not quite true that Lovelace
left nothing worth reading but the two immortal songs, "To Lucasta on going
to the Wars" and "To Althea from Prison;" and it is only fair to say that
the corrupt condition of his text is evidently due, at least in part, to
incompetent printing and the absence of revision. "The Grasshopper" is
almost worthy of the two better-known pieces, and there are others not far
below it. But on the whole any one who knows those two (and who does not?)
may neglect Lovelace with safety. Suckling, even putting his dramatic work
aside, is not to be thus treated. True, he is often careless in the bad
sense as well as in the good, though the doggerel of the "Sessions" and
some other pieces is probably intentional. But in his own vein, that of
coxcombry that is not quite cynical, and is quite intelligent, he is
marvellously happy. The famous song in _Aglaura_, the Allegro to Lovelace's
Penseroso, "Why so pale and wan, fond lover?" is scarcely better than "'Tis
now since I sat down before That foolish fort a heart," or "Out upon it! I
have loved Three whole days together." Nor in more serious veins is the
author to be slighted, as in "The Dance;" while as for the "Ballad on a
Wedding," the best parts of this are by common consent incomparable. Side
by side by these are to be found, as in Lovelace, pieces that will not even
scan, and, as _not_ in Lovelace (who is not seldom loose but never nasty),
pieces of a dull and disgusting obscenity. But we do not go to Suckling for
these; we go to him for his easy grace, his agreeable impudence, his
scandalous mock-disloyalty (for it is only mock-disloyalty after all) to
the "Lord of Terrible Aspect," whom all his elder contemporaries worshipped
so piously. Suckling's inconstancy and Lovelace's constancy may or may not
be equally poetical,--there is some reason for thinking that the lover of
Althea was actually driven to something like despair by the loss of his
mistress. But that matters to us very little. The songs remain, and remain
yet unsurpassed, as the most perfect celebrations, in one case of
chivalrous devotion, in the other of the coxcomb side of gallantry, that
literature contains or is likely ever to contain. The songwriting faculty
of the English, which had broken out some half century before, and had
produced so many masterpieces, was near its death, or at least near the
trance from which Burns and Blake revived it more than a century later,
which even Dryden's superhuman faculty of verse could only galvanise. But
at the last it threw off by the mouths of men, who otherwise seem to have
had very ordinary poetical powers, this little group of triumphs in song,
to which have to be added the raptures--equally strange and sweet, equally
unmatched of their kind, but nobler and more masculine--of the "Great
Marquis," the few and wonderful lines of Montrose. To quote "My dear and
only love, I pray," or "Great, good, and just, could I but rate," would be
almost as much an insult to the reader as to quote the above-mentioned
little masterpieces of the two less heroic English cavaliers.

Quarles, More, and Joseph Beaumont form, as it were, a kind of appendix to
the poetry of Herbert and Vaughan--an appendix very much less distinguished
by poetical power, but very interesting as displaying the character of the
time and the fashion (strange enough to us moderns) in which almost every
interest of that time found its natural way into verse. The enormous
popularity of Francis Quarles's _Emblems_ and _Enchiridion_ accounts to
some extent for the very unjust ridicule which has been lavished on him by
men of letters of his own and later times. But the silly antithesis of
Pope, a writer who, great as he was, was almost as ignorant of literary
history as his model, Boileau, ought to prejudice no one, and it is
strictly true that Quarles's enormous volume hides, to some extent, his
merits. Born in 1592 at Romford, of a gentle though not very distinguished
family, which enters into that curious literary genealogy of Swift, Dryden,
and Herrick, he was educated at Cambridge, became cup-bearer to the
ill-fated and romantically renowned "Goody Palsgrave," held the post which
Middleton and Jonson had held, of chronologer to the city of London,
followed the King to Oxford to his loss, having previously had losses in
Ireland, and died early in 1644, leaving his memory to be defended in a
rather affecting document by his widow, Ursula. Quarles was a kind of
journalist to whom the vehicle of verse came more easily than the vehicle
of prose, and the dangers of that state of things are well known. A mere
list of his work (the _Enchiridion_ is in prose, and a good thing too)
would far exceed any space that can be given to him here. All Quarles's
work is journey-work, but it is only fair to note the frequent wealth of
fancy, the occasional felicity of expression, which illustrate this
wilderness.

More and Beaumont were not, like Quarles, poetical miscellanists and
periodical writers; but they seem to have shared with him the delusion
that poetry is an instrument of all work. Henry More, a man well
connected and who might have risen, but who preferred to pass the greater
part of a long and studious life as a fellow of Christ's College,
Cambridge, is best known as a member of the theological school,
indifferently called the Cambridge Platonists and the Cambridge
Latitudinarians. His chief work in verse is a great philosophical poem,
entitled the _Song of the Soul_, with such engaging sub-titles as
_Psychozoia_, _Psychathanasia_, _Antipsychopannychia_, and
_Antimonopsychia_. I shall not, I hope, be suspected of being ignorant of
Greek, or disinclined to metaphysics, if I say that the _Song of the
Soul_ appears to me a venerable mistake. A philosophical controversy
carried on in this fashion--

    "But contradiction, can that have place
    In any soul? Plato affirms ideas;
    But Aristotle, with his pugnacious race,
    As idle figments stiffly them denies,"

seems to me to be a signal instance of the wrong thing in the wrong place.
It is quite true that More has, as Southey says, "lines and passages of
sublime beauty." A man of his time, actuated by its noble thought, trained
as we know More to have been in the severest school of Spenser, and thus
habituated to the heavenly harmonies of that perfect poet, could hardly
fail to produce such. But his muse is a chaotic not a cosmic one.

Something the same may be said of Joseph Beaumont, a friend of Crashaw, and
like him ejected from Peterhouse, son-in-law of Bishop Wren, and, later,
head of Jesus College. Beaumont, a strong cavalier and an orthodox
churchman, was a kind of adversary of More's, whose length and quaintness
he has exceeded, while he has almost rivalled his learning in _Psyche_ or
_Love's Mystery_, a religious poem of huge dimensions, first published in
1648 and later in 1702. Beaumont, as both fragments of this vast thing and
his minor poems show, had fancy, taste, and almost genius on opportunity;
but the prevailing mistake of his school, the idea that poetry is a fit
vehicle for merely prosaic expression, is painfully apparent in him.

First, for various reasons, among the nondescripts of the Caroline school,
deserves to be mentioned William Habington, a Roman Catholic gentleman of
good upper middle-class station, whose father was himself a man of letters,
and had some trouble in the Gunpowder Plot. He was born at Hindlip Hall,
near Worcester, in the year of the plot itself, courted and married Lucy
Herbert, daughter of his neighbour, Lord Powis, and published her charms
and virtues in the collection called _Castara_, first issued in 1634.
Habington also wrote a tragic comedy, _The Queen of Aragon_, and some other
work, but died in middle life. It is upon _Castara_ that his fame rests. To
tell the truth it is, though, as had been said, an estimable, yet a rather
irritating work. That Habington was a true lover every line of it shows;
that he had a strong infusion of the abundant poetical inspiration then
abroad is shown by line after line, though hardly by poem after poem, among
its pieces. His series of poems on the death of his friend Talbot is full
of beauty. His religion is sincere, fervent, and often finely expressed;
though he never rose to Herbert's pure devotion, or to Crashaw's flaming
poetry. One of the later _Castara_ poems may be given:--

    "We saw and woo'd each other's eyes,
      My soul contracted then with thine,
    And both burnt in one sacrifice,
      By which our marriage grew divine.

    "Let wilder youths, whose soul is sense,
      Profane the temple of delight,
    And purchase endless penitence,
      With the stolen pleasure of one night.

    "Time's ever ours, while we despise
      The sensual idol of our clay,
    For though the sun do set and rise,
      We joy one everlasting day.

    "Whose light no jealous clouds obscure,
      While each of us shine innocent,
    The troubled stream is still impure;
      With virtue flies away content.

    "And though opinions often err,
      We'll court the modest smile of fame,
    For sin's black danger circles her,
      Who hath infection in her name.

    "Thus when to one dark silent room
      Death shall our loving coffins thrust:
    Fame will build columns on our tomb,
      And add a perfume to our dust."

But _Castara_ is a real instance of what some foreign critics very unjustly
charge on English literature as a whole--a foolish and almost canting
prudery. The poet dins the chastity of his mistress into his readers' heads
until the readers in self-defence are driven to say, "Sir, did any one
doubt it?" He protests the freedom of his own passion from any admixture of
fleshly influence, till half a suspicion of hypocrisy and more than half a
feeling of contempt force themselves on the hearer. A relentless critic
might connect these unpleasant features with the uncharitable and more than
orthodox bigotry of his religious poems. Yet Habington, besides
contributing much agreeable verse to the literature of the period, is
invaluable as showing the counterside to Milton, the Catholic Puritanism
which is no doubt inherent in the English nature, and which, had it not
been for the Reformation, would probably have transformed Catholicism in a
very strange fashion.

There is no Puritanism of any kind in a group--it would hardly be fair to
call them a school--of "Heroic" poets to whom very little attention has
been paid in histories of literature hitherto, but who lead up not merely
to Davenant's _Gondibert_ and Cowley's _Davideis_, but to _Paradise Lost_
itself. The "Heroic" poem was a kind generated partly by the precepts of
the Italian criticism, including Tasso, partly by the practice of Tasso
himself, and endeavouring to combine something of the unity of Epic with
something and more of the variety of Romance. It may be represented here by
the work of Chalkhill, Chamberlayne, Marmion, and Kynaston. John Chalkhill,
the author of _Thealma and Clearchus_, was, with his work, introduced to
the public in 1683 by Izaak Walton, who styles him "an acquaintant and
friend of Edmund Spenser." If so, he must have been one of the first of
English poets to adopt the very loose enjambed decasyllabic couplet in
which his work, like that of Marmion and still more Chamberlayne, is
written. His poem is unfinished, and the construction and working-up of the
story are looser even than the metre; but it contains a great deal of
charming description and some very poetical phrase.

Much the same may be said of the _Cupid and Psyche_ (1637) of the dramatist
Shakerley Marmion (_v. inf._), which follows the original of Apuleius with
alternate closeness and liberty, but is always best when it is most
original. The _Leoline and Sydanis_ (1642) of Sir Francis Kynaston is not
in couplets but in rhyme royal--a metre of which the author was so fond
that he even translated the _Troilus and Cressida_ of Chaucer into Latin,
retaining the seven-line stanza and its rhymes. Kynaston, who was a member
of both universities and at one time proctor at Cambridge, was a man
interested in various kinds of learning, and even started an Academy or
_Museum Minervæ_ of his own. In _Leoline and Sydanis_ he sometimes comes
near to the mock heroic, but in his lyrics called _Cynthiades_ he comes
nearer still to the best Caroline cry. One or two of his pieces have found
their way into anthologies, but until the present writer reprinted his
works[60] he was almost unknown.

[60] In _Minor Caroline Poets_, vols. i. and ii. (Oxford, 1905-6). An
important addition to the religious verse of the time was made by Mr.
Dobell with the _Poems_ (London, 1903) of Thomas Traherne, a follower of
Herbert, with some strange anticipations of Blake.

The most important by far, however, of this group is William Chamberlayne,
a physician of Shaftesbury, who, before or during the Civil War, began and
afterwards finished (publishing it in 1659) the very long heroic romance of
_Pharonnida_, a story of the most involved and confused character but with
episodes of great vividness and even sustained power: a piece of
versification straining the liberties of _enjambement_ in line and want of
connection in syntax to the utmost; but a very mine of poetical expression
and imagery. Jewels are to be picked up on every page by those who will
take the trouble to do so, and who are not offended by the extraordinary
nonchalance of the composition.

The _Theophila_ of Edward Benlowes (1603?-1676) was printed in 1652 with
elaborate and numerous engravings by Hollar, which have made it rare, and
usually imperfect when met with. Benlowes was a Cambridge man (of St.
John's College) by education, but lived latterly and died at Oxford, having
been reduced from wealth to poverty by the liberality which made his
friends anagrammatise his name into "Benevolus." His work was abused as an
awful example of the extravagant style by Butler (_Character of a Small
Poet_), and by Warburton in the next century; but it was never reprinted
till the date of the collection just noted. It is a really curious book,
displaying the extraordinary _diffusion_ of poetical spirit still existing,
but in a hectic and decadent condition. Benlowes--a Cleveland with more
poetry and less cleverness, or a very much weaker Crashaw--uses a
monorhymed triplet made up of a heroic, an octosyllable, and an Alexandrine
which is as wilfully odd as the rest of him.

Randolph, the youngest and not the least gifted of the tribe of Ben, died
before he was thirty, after writing some noteworthy plays, and a certain
number of minor poems, which, as it has been well observed, rather show
that he might have done anything, than that he did actually do something.
Corbet was Bishop first of Oxford and then of Norwich, and died in 1635.
Corbet's work is of that peculiar class which is usually, though not
always, due to "University Wits," and which only appeals to people with a
considerable appreciation of humour, and a large stock of general
information. It is always occasional in character, and rarely succeeds so
well as when the treatment is one of distinct _persiflage_. Thus the elegy
on Donne is infinitely inferior to Carew's, and the mortuary epitaph on
Arabella Stuart is, for such a subject and from the pen of a man of great
talent, extraordinarily feeble. The burlesque epistle to Lord Mordaunt on
his journey to the North is great fun, and the "Journey into France,"
though, to borrow one of its own jokes, rather "strong," is as good. The
"Exhortation to Mr. John Hammond," a ferocious satire on the Puritans,
distinguishes itself from almost all precedent work of the kind by the
force and directness of its attack, which almost anticipates Dryden. And
Corbet had both pathetic and imaginative touches on occasion, as here:--

    "What I shall leave thee none can tell,
    But all shall say I wish thee well,
    I wish thee, Vin, before all wealth,
    Both bodily and ghostly health;
    Nor too much wealth, nor wit, come to thee,
    So much of either may undo thee.
    I wish thee learning, not for show,
    Enough for to instruct and know;
    Not such as gentlemen require
    To prate at table, or at fire.
    I wish thee all thy mother's graces,
    Thy father's fortunes, and his places.
    I wish thee friends, and one at court,
    Not to build on, but support
    To keep thee, not in doing many
    Oppressions, but from suffering any.
    I wish thee peace in all thy ways,
    Nor lazy nor contentious days;
    And when thy soul and body part
    As innocent as now those art."

Cartwright, a short-lived man but a hard student, shows best in his dramas.
In his occasional poems, strongly influenced by Donne, he is best at
panegyric, worst at burlesque and epigram. In "On a Gentlewoman's Silk
Hood" and some other pieces he may challenge comparison with the most
futile of the metaphysicals; but no one who has read his noble elegy on Sir
Bevil Grenvil, unequal as it is, will think lightly of Cartwright. Sir
Edward Sherburne was chiefly a translator in the fashionable style. His
original poems were those of a very inferior Carew (he even copies the name
Celia), but they are often pretty. Alexander Brome, of whom very little is
known, and who must not be confounded with the dramatist, was a lawyer and
a cavalier song-writer, who too frequently wrote mere doggerel; but on the
other hand, he sometimes did not, and when he escaped the evil influence,
as in the stanzas "Come, come, let us drink," "The Trooper," and not a few
others, he has the right anacreontic vein.

As for Charles Cotton, his "Virgil Travesty" is deader than Scarron's, and
deserves to be so. The famous lines which Lamb has made known to every one
in the essay on "New Year's Day" are the best thing he did. But there are
many excellent things scattered about his work, despite a strong taint of
the mere coarseness and nastiness which have been spoken of. And though he
was also much tainted with the hopeless indifference to prosody which
distinguished all these belated cavaliers, it is noteworthy that he was one
of the few Englishmen for centuries to adopt the strict French forms and
write rondeaux and the like. On the whole his poetical power has been a
little undervalued, while he was also dexterous in prose.

Thomas Stanley has been classed above as a translator because he would
probably have liked to have his scholarship thus brought into prominence.
It was, both in ancient and modern tongues, very considerable. His
_History of Philosophy_ was a classic for a very long time; and his edition
of Æschylus had the honour of revision within the nineteenth century by
Porson and by Butler. It is not certain that Bentley did not borrow from
him; and his versions of Anacreon, of various other Greek lyrists, of the
later Latins, and of modern writers in Spanish and Italian are most
remarkable. But he was also an original poet in the best Caroline style of
lyric; and his combination of family (for he was of the great Stanley
stock), learning, and genius gave him a high position with men of letters
of his day. Sidney Godolphin, who died very young fighting for the King in
Hopton's army, had no time to do much; but he has been magnificently
celebrated by no less authorities than Clarendon and Hobbes, and fragments
of his work, which has only recently been collected, have long been known.
None of it, except a commendatory poem or two, was printed in his own time,
and very little later; while the MSS. are not in very accomplished form,
and show few or no signs of revision by the author. Some, however, of
Godolphin's lyrics are of great beauty, and a couplet translation of the
_Fourth Æneid_ has as much firmness as Sandys or Waller. Another precocious
poet whose life also was cut short, though less heroically, and on the
other side of politics, was John Hall, a Cambridge man, who at barely
twenty (1645-6) issued a volume of poems and another, _Horæ Vacivæ_, of
prose essays, translated Longinus, did hack-work on the Cromwellian side,
and died, it is said, of loose and lazy living. Hall's poems are of mixed
kinds--sacred and profane, serious and comic--and the best of them, such as
"The Call" and "The Lure," have a slender but most attractive vein of
fantastic charm. Patrick Carey, again, a Royalist and brother of the famous
Lord Falkland, brought up as a Roman Catholic but afterwards a convert to
the Church of England, left manuscript pieces, human and divine, which were
printed by Sir Walter Scott in 1819, and are extremely pleasant; while
Bishop King, though not often at the height of his well-known "Tell me no
more how fair she is," never falls below a level much above the average.
The satirist John Cleveland, whose poems were extremely popular and exist
in numerous editions (much blended with other men's work and hard to
disentangle), was made a sort of "metaphysical helot" by a reference in
Dryden's _Essay of Dramatic Poesy_ and quotations in Johnson's _Life of
Cowley_. He partly deserves this, though he has real originality of thought
and phrase; but much of his work is political or occasional, and he does
not often rise to the quintessential exquisiteness of some of those who
have been mentioned. A few examples of this class may be given:--

                                    "Through a low
    Dark vale, where shade-affecting walks did grow
    Eternal strangers to the sun, did lie
    The narrow path frequented only by
    The forest tyrants when they bore their prey
    From open dangers of discovering day.
    Passed through this desert valley, they were now
    Climbing an easy hill, whose every bough
    Maintained a feathered chorister to sing
    Soft panegyrics, and the rude winds bring
    Into a murmuring slumber; whilst the calm
    Morn on each leaf did hang the liquid balm
    With an intent, before the next sun's birth
    To drop it in those wounds which the cleft earth
    Received from's last day's beams. The hill's ascent
    Wound up by action, in a large extent
    Of leafy plains, shows them the canopy
    Beneath whose shadow their large way did lie."

                    CHAMBERLAYNE, _Pharonnida_, iv. 1. 199-216.

It will be observed that of these eighteen lines all but _four_ are
overrun; and the resemblance to the couplet of Keats's _Endymion_ should
not be missed.

    "April is past, then do not shed,
      And do not waste in vain,
    Upon thy mother's earthy bed
      Thy tears of silver rain.

    "Thou canst not hope that the cold earth
      By wat'ring will bring forth
    A flower like thee, or will give birth
      To one of the like worth.

    "'Tis true the rain fall'n from the sky
      Or from the clouded air,
    Doth make the earth to fructify,
      Ann makes the heaven more fair.

    "With thy dear face it is not so,
      Which, if once overcast,
    If thou rain down thy showers of woe,
      They, like the sirens, blast.

    "Therefore, when sorrow shall becloud
      Thy fair serenest day,
    Weep not: thy sighs shall be allow'd
      To chase the storm away.

    "Consider that the teeming vine,
      If cut by chance [it] weep,
    Doth bear no grapes to make the wine,
      But feels eternal sleep."

                    KYNASTON.

      "Be conquer'd by such charms; there shall
          Not always such enticements fall.
    What know we whether that rich spring of light
          Will staunch his streams
          Of golden beams
      Ere the approach of night?

      "How know we whether't shall not be
          The last to either thee or me?
    He can at will his ancient brightness gain,
          But thou and I
          When we shall die
      Shall still in dust remain."

                    JOHN HALL.

This group of poets seems to demand a little general criticism. They stand
more by themselves than almost any other group in English literary history,
marked off in most cases with equal sharpness from predecessors, followers,
and contemporaries. The best of them, Herrick and Carew, with Crashaw as a
great thirdsman, called themselves "sons" of Ben Jonson, and so in a way
they were; but they were even more sons of Donne. That great writer's
burning passion, his strange and labyrinthine conceits, the union in him of
spiritual and sensual fire, influenced the idiosyncrasies of each as hardly
any other writer's influence has done in other times; while his technical
shortcomings had unquestionably a fatal effect on the weaker members of the
school. But there is also noticeable in them a separate and hardly
definable influence which circumscribes their class even more distinctly.
They were, as I take it, the last set of poets anywhere in Europe to
exhibit, in that most fertile department of poetry which seeks its
inspiration in the love of man for woman, the frank expression of physical
affection united with the spirit of chivalry, tempered by the consciousness
of the fading of all natural delights, and foreshadowed by that
intellectual introspection which has since developed itself in such great
measure--some think out of all measure--in poetry. In the best of them
there is no cynicism at all. Herrick and Carew are only sorry that the
amatory fashion of this world passeth; they do not in the least undervalue
it while it lasts, or sneer at it when it is gone. There is, at least to my
thinking, little coarseness in them (I must perpetually except Herrick's
epigrams), though there is, according to modern standards, a great deal of
very plain speaking. They have as much frank enjoyment of physical
pleasures as any classic or any mediævalist; but they have what no classic
except Catullus and perhaps Sappho had,--the fine rapture, the passing but
transforming madness which brings merely physical passion _sub specie
æternitatis_; and they have in addition a faint preliminary touch of that
analytic and self-questioning spirit which refines even further upon the
chivalric rapture and the classical-renaissance mysticism of the shadow of
death, but which since their time has eaten up the simpler and franker
moods of passion itself. With them, as a necessary consequence, the
physical is (to anticipate a famous word of which more presently) always
blended with the metaphysical. It is curious that, as one result of the
change of manner, this should have even been made a reproach to them--that
the ecstasy of their ecstasies should apparently have become not an excuse
but an additional crime. Yet if any grave and precise person will read
Carew's _Rapture_, the most audacious, and of course wilfully audacious
expression of the style, and then turn to the archangel's colloquy with
Adam in _Paradise Lost_, I should like to ask him on which side, according
to his honour and conscience, the coarseness lies. I have myself no
hesitation in saying that it lies with the husband of Mary Powell and the
author of _Tetrachordon_, not with the lover of Celia and the author of the
lines to "A. L."

There are other matters to be considered in the determination of the
critical fortunes of the Caroline school. Those fortunes have been rather
odd. Confounded at first in the general oblivion which the Restoration
threw on all works of "the last age," and which deepened as the school of
Dryden passed into the school of Pope, the writers of the Donne-Cowley
tradition were first exhumed for the purposes of _post-mortem_ examination
by and in the remarkable "Life" of Johnson, devoted to the last member of
the class. It is at this time of day alike useless to defend the
Metaphysical Poets against much that Johnson said, and to defend Johnson
against the charge of confusion, inadequacy, and haste in his
generalisations. The term metaphysical, originating with Dryden, and used
by Johnson with a slight difference, may be easily miscomprehended by any
one who chooses to forget its legitimate application both etymologically
and by usage to that which comes, as it were, behind or after nature. Still
Johnson undoubtedly confounded in one common condemnation writers who have
very little in common, and (which was worse) criticised a peculiarity of
expression as if it had been a deliberate substitution of alloy for gold.
The best phrases of the metaphysical poets more than justify themselves to
any one who looks at poetry with a more catholic appreciation than
Johnson's training and associations enabled him to apply; and even the
worst are but mistaken attempts to follow out a very sound principle, that
of "making the common as though it were not common." Towards the end of the
eighteenth century some of these poets, especially Herrick, were revived
with taste and success by Headley and other men of letters. But it so
happened that the three great critics of the later Romantic revival,
Hazlitt, Lamb, and Coleridge, were all strongly attracted to the bolder and
more irregular graces of the great dramatic poets, to the not less quaint
but less "mignardised" quaintnesses of prose writers like Burton, Browne,
and Taylor, or to the massive splendours of the Elizabethan poets proper.
The poetry of the Caroline age was, therefore, a little slurred, and this
mishap of falling between two schools has constantly recurred to it. Some
critics even who have done its separate authors justice, have subsequently
indulged in palinodes, have talked about decadence and Alexandrianism and
what not. The majority have simply let the Cavalier Poets (as they are
sometimes termed by a mere historical coincidence) be something more than
the victims of the schools that preceded and followed them. The lovers of
the school of good sense which Waller founded regard the poets of this
chapter as extravagant concettists; the lovers of the Elizabethan school
proper regard them as effeminate triflers. One of Milton's gorgeous but
constantly illogical phrases about the poets of his day may perhaps have
created a prejudice against these poets. But Milton was a politician as
well as a poet, a fanatic as well as a man of letters of seldom equalled,
and never, save in two or three cases, surpassed powers. He was also a man
of a more morose and unamiable private character than any other great poet
the world has known except Racine. The easy _bonhomie_ of the Caroline muse
repelled his austerity; its careless good-breeding shocked his middle-class
and Puritan Philistinism; its laxity revolted his principles of morality.
Not improbably the vein of sympathy which discovers itself in the exquisite
verse of the _Comus_, of the _Allegro_ and _Penseroso_, of _Lycidas_
itself, infuriated him (as such veins of sympathy when they are rudely
checked and turned from their course will often do) with those who indulged
instead of checking it. But because _Lycidas_ is magnificent, and _Il
Penseroso_ charming poetry, we are not to think meanly of "Fair
Daffodils," or "Ask me no more," of "Going to the Wars," or "Tell me no
more how fair she is."

Let us clear our minds of this cant, and once more admit, as the student of
literature always has to remind himself, that a sapphire and diamond ring
is not less beautiful because it is not a marble palace, or a bank of wild
flowers in a wood because it is not a garden after the fashion of Lenôtre.
In the division of English poetry which we have been reviewing, there are
to be found some of the most exquisite examples of the gem and flower order
of beauty that can be found in all literature. When Herrick bids Perilla

                          "Wind me in that very sheet
    Which wrapt thy smooth limbs when thou didst implore
    The gods' protection but the night before:
    Follow me weeping to my turf, and there
    Let fall a primrose and with it a tear;
    Then lastly, let some weekly strewings be
    Devoted to the memory of me.
    _Then shall my ghost not walk about; but keep_
    _Still in the cool and silent shades of sleep;_"

or when he writes that astonishing verse, so unlike his usual style--

    "In this world, _the Isle of Dreams_,
    While we sit by sorrow's streams,
    Tears and terrors are our themes;"

when Carew, in one of those miraculous closing bursts, carefully led up to,
of which he has almost the secret, cries

    "_Oh, love me then, and now begin it,_
    _Let us not lose this present minute;_
    _For time and age will work that wrack_
    _Which time nor age shall ne'er call back;_"

when even the sober blood in Habington's decent veins spurts in this
splendid sally--

    "So, 'mid the ice of the far northern sea,
    A star about the Arctic circle may
    Than ours yield clearer light; _yet that but shall_
    _Serve at the frozen pilot's funeral_:"

when Crashaw writes as if caught by the very fire of which he speaks,--the
fire of the flaming heart of Saint Theresa; when Lovelace, most careless
and unliterary of all men, breaks out as if by simple instinct into those
perfect verses which hardly even Burns and Shelley have equalled since,--it
is impossible for any one who feels for poetry at all not to feel more than
appreciation, not to feel sheer enthusiasm. Putting aside the very greatest
poets of all, I hardly know any group of poetical workers who so often
cause this enthusiasm as our present group, with their wonderful felicity
of language; with their command of those lyrical measures which seem so
easy and are so difficult; with their almost unparalleled blend of a
sensuousness that does not make the intellect sluggish and of the loftiest
spirituality.

When we examine what is said against them, a great deal of it is found to
be based on that most treacherous of all foundations, a hard-driven
metaphor. Because they come at the end of a long and fertile period of
literature, because a colder and harder kind of poetry followed them, they
are said to be "decadence," "autumn," "over-ripe fruit," "sunset," and so
forth. These pretty analogies have done much harm in literary history. Of
the Muse it is most strictly and soberly true that "Bocca bacciata non
perde ventura, anzi rinuova come fa la luna." If there is any meaning about
the phrases of decadence, autumn, and the like, it is derived from the idea
of approaching death and cessation. There is no death, no cessation, in
literature; and the sadness and decay of certain periods is mere fiction.
An autumn day would not be sad if the average human being did not (very
properly) take from it a warning of the shortness of his own life. But
literature is not short-lived. There was no sign of poetry dying when
Shelley lived two thousand five hundred years after Sappho, when Shakespere
lived as long after Homer. Periods like the periods of the Greek Anthology
or of our Caroline poetry are not periods of decay, but simply periods of
difference. There are no periods of decay in literature so long as anything
good is produced; and when nothing good is produced, it is only a sign
that the field is taking a healthy turn of fallow. In this time much that
was good, with a quite wonderful and charming goodness, was produced. What
is more, it was a goodness which had its own distinct characteristics, some
of which I have endeavoured to point out, and which the true lover of
poetry would be as unwilling to lose as to lose the other goodnesses of all
the great periods, and of all but the greatest names in those periods. For
the unapproachables, for the first Three, for Homer, for Shakespere, for
Dante, I would myself (though I should be very sorry) give up all the poets
we have been reviewing. I should not like to have to choose between Herrick
and Milton's earlier poems; between the Caroline poets, major and minor, as
just reviewed on the one hand, and _The Faërie Queene_ on the other. But I
certainly would give _Paradise Regained_ for some score of poems of the
writers just named; and for them altogether I would give all but a few
passages (I would not give those) of _Paradise Lost_. And, as I have
endeavoured (perhaps to my readers' satiety) to point out, this comparative
estimate is after all a radically unsound one. We are not called upon to
weigh this kind of poetry against that kind; we are only incidentally, and
in an uninvidious manner, called upon to weigh this poet against that even
of the same kind. The whole question is, whether each is good in his own
kind, and whether the kind is a worthy and delightful one. And in regard of
most of the poets just surveyed, both these questions can be answered with
an unhesitating affirmative. If we had not these poets, one particular
savour, one particular form, of the poetical rapture would be lacking to
the poetical expert; just as if what Herrick himself calls "the brave
Burgundian wine" were not, no amount of claret and champagne could replace
it. For passionate sense of the good things of earth, and at the same time
for mystical feeling of their insecurity, for exquisite style without the
frigidity and the over-correctness which the more deliberate stylists
frequently display, for a blending of Nature and art that seems as if it
must have been as simply instinctive in all as it certainly was in some,
the poets of the Tribe of Ben, of the Tribe of Donne, who illustrated the
period before Puritanism and Republicanism combined had changed England
from merriment to sadness, stand alone in letters. We have had as good
since, but never the same--never any such blending of classical frankness,
of mediæval simplicity and chivalry, of modern reflection and thought.[61]

[61] Since this book first appeared, some persons whose judgment I respect
have expressed to me surprise and regret that I have not given a higher and
larger place to Henry Vaughan. A higher I cannot give, because I think him,
despite the extreme beauty of his thought and (more rarely) of his
expression, a most imperfect poet; nor a larger, because that would involve
a critical arguing out of the matter, which would be unsuitable to the plan
and scale of this book. Had he oftener written as he wrote in the famous
poem referred to in the text, or as in the magnificent opening of "The
World"--

    "I saw Eternity the other night,
    _Like a great ring of pure and endless light_,
        All calm as it was bright,"

there would be much more to say of him. But he is not master of the
expression suitable to his noble and precious thought except in the
briefest bursts--bursts compared to which even Crashaw's are sustained and
methodical. His admirers claim for "The Retreat" the germ of Wordsworth's
great ode, but if any one will compare the two he will hardly complain that
Vaughan has too little space here.



CHAPTER XI

THE FOURTH DRAMATIC PERIOD


Two great names remain to be noticed in the Elizabethan drama (though
neither produced a play till after Elizabeth was dead), some interesting
playwrights of third or fourth-rate importance have to be added to them,
and in a postscript we shall have to gather up the minor or anonymous work,
some of it of very high excellence, of the second division of our whole
subject, including plays of the second, third, and fourth periods. But with
this fourth period we enter into what may really be called by comparison
(remembering always what has been said in the last chapter) a period of
decadence, and at its latter end it becomes very decadent indeed. Only in
Ford perhaps, of our named and individual authors in this chapter, and in
him very rarely, occur the flashes of sheer poetry which, as we have seen
in each of the three earlier chapters on the drama, lighten the work of the
Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists proper with extraordinary and lavish
brilliance. Not even in Ford are to be found the whole and perfect studies
of creative character which, even leaving Shakespere out of the question,
are to be found earlier in plays and playwrights of all kinds and
strengths, from _The Maid's Tragedy_ and _Vittoria Corombona_, to _The
Merry Devil of Edmonton_ and _A Cure for a Cuckold_. The tragedies have Ben
Jonson's labour without his force, the comedies his coarseness and lack of
inspiriting life without his keen observation and incisive touch. As the
taste indeed turned more and more from tragedy to comedy, we get attempts
on the part of playwrights to win it back by a return to the bloody and
monstrous conceptions of an earlier time, treated, however, without the
redeeming features of that time, though with a little more coherence and
art. Massinger's _Unnatural Combat_, and Ford's _'Tis Pity She's a Whore_,
among great plays, are examples of this: the numerous minor examples are
hardly worth mentioning. But the most curious symptom of all was the
gradual and, as it were, imperceptible loss of the secret of blank verse
itself, which had been the instrument of the great triumphs of the stage
from Marlowe to Dekker. Something of this loss of grasp may have been
noticed in the looseness of Fletcher and the over-stiffness of Jonson: it
is perceptible distinctly even in Ford and Massinger. But as the
Restoration, or rather the silencing of the theatres by the Commonwealth
approaches, it becomes more and more evident until we reach the chaotic and
hideous jumble of downright prose and verse that is neither prose nor
verse, noticeable even in the early plays of Dryden, and chargeable no
doubt with the twenty years' return of the English drama to the comparative
barbarism of the couplet. This apparent loss of ear and rhythm-sense has
been commented on already in reference to Lovelace, Suckling (himself a
dramatist), and others of the minor Caroline poets; but it is far more
noticeable in drama, and resulted in the production, by some of the
playwrights of the transition period under Charles I. and Charles II., of
some of the most amorphous botches in the way of style that disfigure
English literature.

With the earliest and best work of Philip Massinger, however, we are at any
rate chronologically still at a distance from the lamentable close of a
great period. He was born in 1583, being the son of Arthur Massinger, a
"servant" (pretty certainly in the gentle sense of service) to the Pembroke
family. In 1602 he was entered at St. Alban's Hall in Oxford: he is
supposed to have left the university about 1609, and may have begun writing
plays soon. But the first definite notice of his occupation or indeed of
his life that we have is his participation (about 1614) with Daborne and
Field in a begging letter to the well-known manager Henslowe for an advance
of five pounds on "the new play," nor was anything of his printed or
positively known to be acted till 1622, the date of _The Virgin Martyr_.
From that time onwards he appears frequently as an author, though many of
his plays were not printed till after his death in 1640. But nothing is
known of his life. He was buried on 18th March in St. Saviour's, Southwark,
being designated as a "stranger,"--that is to say, not a parishioner.

Thirty-seven plays in all, or thirty-eight if we add Mr. Bullen's
conjectural discovery, _Sir John Barneveldt_, are attributed to Massinger;
but of these many have perished, Massinger having somehow been specially
obnoxious to the ravages of Warburton's cook. Eighteen survive; twelve of
which were printed during the author's life. Massinger was thus an
industrious and voluminous author, one of many points which make Professor
Minto's comparison of him to Gray a little surprising. He was, both at
first and later, much given to collaboration,--indeed, there is a theory,
not without colour from contemporary rumour, that he had nearly if not
quite as much to do as Beaumont with Fletcher's great work. But oddly
enough the plays which he is known to have written alone do not, as in
other cases, supply a very sure test of what is his share in those which he
wrote conjointly. _The Old Law_, a singular play founded on a similar
conception to that in the late Mr. Anthony Trollope's _Fixed Period_, is
attributed also to Rowley and Dekker, and has sometimes been thought to be
so early that Massinger, except as a mere boy, could have had no hand in
it. The contradictions of critics over _The Virgin Martyr_ (by Massinger
and Dekker) have been complete; some peremptorily handing over all the fine
scenes to one, and some declaring that these very scenes could only be
written by the other. It is pretty certain that the argumentative
theological part is Massinger's; for he had a strong liking for such
things, while the passages between Dorothea and her servant Angelo are at
once more delicate than most of his work, and more regular and even than
Dekker's. No companion is, however, assigned to him in _The Unnatural
Combat_, which is probably a pretty early and certainly a characteristic
example of his style. His demerits appear in the exaggerated and crude
devilry of the wicked hero, old Malefort (who cheats his friend, makes away
with his wife, kills his son in single combat, and conceives an incestuous
passion for his daughter), in the jerky alternation and improbable conduct
of the plot, and in the merely extraneous connection of the farcical
scenes. His merits appear in the stately versification and ethical interest
of the debate which precedes the unnatural duel, and in the spirited and
well-told apologue (for it is almost that) of the needy soldier, Belgarde,
who is bidden not to appear at the governor's table in his shabby clothes,
and makes his appearance in full armour. The debate between father and son
may be given:--

    _Malef. sen._ "Now we are alone, sir;
                  And thou hast liberty to unload the burthen
                  Which thou groan'st under. Speak thy griefs.

    _Malef. jun._ I shall, sir;
                  But in a perplex'd form and method, which
                  You only can interpret: Would you had not
                  A guilty knowledge in your bosom, of
                  The language which you force me to deliver
                  So I were nothing! As you are my father
                  I bend my knee, and, uncompell'd profess
                  My life, and all that's mine, to be your gift;
                  And that in a son's duty I stand bound
                  To lay this head beneath your feet and run
                  All desperate hazards for your ease and safety:
                  But this confest on my part, I rise up,
                  And not as with a father (all respect,
                  Love, fear, and reverence cast off) but as
                  A wicked man I thus expostulate with you.
                  Why have you done that which I dare not speak,
                  And in the action changed the humble shape
                  Of my obedience, to rebellious rage
                  And insolent pride? and with shut eyes constrain'd me,
                  I must not see, nor, if I saw it, shun it.
                  In my wrongs nature suffers, and looks backward,
                  And mankind trembles to see me pursue
                  What beasts would fly from. For when I advance
                  This sword as I must do, against your head,
                  Piety will weep, and filial duty mourn,
                  To see their altars which you built up in me
                  In a moment razed and ruined. That you could
                  (From my grieved soul I wish it) but produce
                  To qualify, not excuse your deed of horror,
                  One seeming reason that I might fix here
                  And move no farther!

    _Malef. sen._ Have I so far lost
                  A father's power, that I must give account
                  Of my actions to my son? or must I plead
                  As a fearful prisoner at the bar, while he
                  That owes his being to me sits a judge
                  To censure that which only by myself
                  Ought to be question'd? mountains sooner fall
                  Beneath their valleys and the lofty pine
                  Pay homage to the bramble, or what else is
                  Preposterous in nature, ere my tongue
                  In one short syllable yield satisfaction
                  To any doubt of thine; nay, though it were
                  A certainty disdaining argument!
                  Since though my deeds wore hell's black lining,
                  To thee they should appear triumphal robes,
                  Set off with glorious honour, thou being bound,
                  To see with my eyes, and to hold that reason
                  That takes or birth or fashion from my will.

    _Malef. jun._ This sword divides that slavish knot.

    _Malef. sen._ It cannot:
                  It cannot, wretch, and if thou but remember
                  From whom thou had'st this spirit, thou dar'st not
                        hope it.
                  Who trained thee up in arms but I? Who taught thee
                  Men were men only when they durst look down
                  With scorn on death and danger, and contemn'd
                  All opposition till plumed Victory
                  Had made her constant stand upon their helmets?
                  Under my shield thou hast fought as securely
                  As the young eaglet covered with the wings
                  Of her fierce dam, learns how and where to prey.
                  All that is manly in thee I call mine;
                  But what is weak and womanish, thine own.
                  And what I gave, since thou art proud, ungrateful,
                  Presuming to contend with him to whom
                  Submission is due, I will take from thee.
                  Look therefore for extremities and expect not
                  I will correct thee as a son, but kill thee
                  As a serpent swollen with poison; who surviving
                  A little longer with infectious breath,
                  Would render all things near him like itself
                  Contagious. Nay, now my anger's up,
                  Ten thousand virgins kneeling at my feet,
                  And with one general cry howling for mercy,
                  Shall not redeem thee.

    _Malef. jun._ Thou incensed Power
                  Awhile forbear thy thunder! let me have
                  No aid in my revenge, if from the grave
                  My mother----

    _Malef. sen._ Thou shalt never name her more."

                              [_They fight._

_The Duke of Milan_ is sometimes considered Massinger's masterpiece; and
here again there are numerous fine scenes and noble _tirades_. But the
irrationality of the _donneé_ (Sforza the duke charges his favourite not to
let the duchess survive his own death, and the abuse of the authority thus
given leads to horrible injustice and the death of both duchess and duke)
mars the whole. The predilection of the author for sudden turns and twists
of situation, his neglect to make his plots and characters acceptable and
conceivable as wholes, appear indeed everywhere, even in what I have no
doubt in calling his real masterpiece by far, the fine tragi-comedy of _A
New Way to Pay Old Debts_. The revengeful trick by which a satellite of the
great extortioner, Sir Giles Overreach, brings about his employer's
discomfiture, regardless of his own ruin, is very like the denouement of
the Brass and Quilp part of the _Old Curiosity Shop_, may have suggested it
(for _A New Way to Pay Old Debts_ lasted as an acting play well into
Dickens's time), and, like it, is a little improbable. But the play is an
admirable one, and Overreach (who, as is well known, was supposed to be a
kind of study of his half namesake, Mompesson, the notorious monopolist) is
by far the best single character that Massinger ever drew. He again came
close to true comedy in _The City Madam_, another of the best known of his
plays, where the trick adopted at once to expose the villainy of the
apparently reformed spendthrift Luke, and to abate the ruinous extravagance
of Lady Frugal and her daughters, is perhaps not beyond the limits of at
least dramatic verisimilitude, and gives occasion to some capital scenes.
_The Bondman_, _The Renegado_, the curious _Parliament of Love_, which,
like others of Massinger's plays, is in an almost Æschylean state of
text-corruptness, _The Great Duke of Florence_, _The Maid of Honour_ (one
of the very doubtful evidences of Massinger's supposed conversion to Roman
Catholicism), _The Picture_ (containing excellent passages, but for
improbability and topsy-turviness of incident ranking with _The Duke of
Milan_), _The Emperor of the East_, _The Guardian_, _A Very Woman_, _The
Bashful Lover_, are all plays on which, if there were space, it would be
interesting to comment; and they all display their author's strangely mixed
merits and defects. _The Roman Actor_ and _The Fatal Dowry_ must have a
little more attention. The first is, I think, Massinger's best tragic
effort; and the scene where Domitian murders Paris, with his tyrannical
explanation of the deed, shows a greater conception of tragic poetry--a
little cold and stately, a little Racinish or at least Cornelian rather
than Shakesperian, but still passionate and worthy of the tragic
stage--than anything that Massinger has done. _The Fatal Dowry_, written in
concert with Field and unceremoniously pillaged by Rowe in his once famous
_Fair Penitent_, is a purely romantic tragedy, injured by the unattractive
character of the light-of-love Beaumelle before her repentance (Massinger
never could draw a woman), and by not a few of the author's favourite
improbabilities and glaring or rather startling non-sequiturs of action,
but full also of fine passages, especially of the quasi-forensic kind in
which Massinger so much delights.

To sum up, it may seem inconsistent that, after allowing so many faults in
Massinger, I should protest against the rather low estimate of him which
critics from Lamb downwards have generally given. Yet I do so protest. It
is true that he has not the highest flashes either of verbal poetry or of
dramatic character-drawing; and though Hartley Coleridge's dictum that he
had no humour has been exclaimed against, it is only verbally wrong. It is
also true that in him perhaps for the first time we perceive, what is sure
to appear towards the close of a period, a distinct touch of _literary_
borrowing--evidence of knowledge and following of his forerunners. Yet he
had a high, a varied, and a fertile imagination. He had, and was the last
to have, an extensive and versatile command of blank verse, never perhaps
reaching the most perfect mastery of Marlowe or of Shakespere, but
singularly free from monotony, and often both harmonious and dignified. He
could deal, and deal well, with a large range of subjects; and if he never
ascends to the height of a De Flores or a Bellafront, he never descends to
the depths in which both Middleton and Dekker too often complacently
wallow. Unless we are to count by mere flashes, he must, I think, rank
after Shakespere, Fletcher, and Jonson among his fellows; and this I say,
honestly avowing that I have nothing like the enthusiasm for him that I
have for Webster, or for Dekker, or for Middleton. We may no doubt allow
too much for bulk of work, for sustained excellence at a certain level, and
for general competence as against momentary excellence. But we may also
allow far too little; and this has perhaps been the general tendency of
later criticism in regard to Massinger. It is unfortunate that he never
succeeded in making as perfect a single expression of his tragic ability as
he did of his comic, for the former was, I incline to think, the higher of
the two. But many of his plays are lost, and many of those which remain
come near to such excellence. It is by no means impossible that Massinger
may have lost incomparably by the misdeeds of the constantly execrated, but
never to be execrated enough, minion of that careless herald.

As in the case of Clarendon, almost absolutely contradictory opinions have
been delivered, by critics of great authority, about John Ford. In one of
the most famous outbursts of his generous and enthusiastic estimate of the
Elizabethan period, Lamb has pronounced Ford to be of the first order of
poets. Mr Swinburne, while bringing not a few limitations to this
tremendous eulogy, has on the whole supported it in one of the most
brilliant of his prose essays; and critics as a rule have bowed to Lamb's
verdict. On the other hand, Hazlitt (who is "gey ill to differ with" when
there are, as here, no extra-literary considerations to reckon) has
traversed that verdict in one of the most damaging utterances of
commonsense, yet not commonplace, criticism anywhere to be found, asking
bluntly and pointedly whether the exceptionableness of the subject is not
what constitutes the merit of Ford's greatest play, pronouncing the famous
last scene of _The Broken Heart_ extravagant, and fixing on "a certain
perversity of spirit" in Ford generally. It is pretty clear that Hartley
Coleridge (who might be paralleled in our own day as a critic, who seldom
went wrong except through ignorance, though he had a sublime indifference
as to the ignorance that sometimes led him wrong) was of no different
opinion. It is not easy to settle such a quarrel. But I had the good
fortune to read Ford before I had read anything except Hartley Coleridge's
rather enigmatic verdict about him, and in the many years that have passed
since I have read him often again. The resulting opinion may not be
exceptionally valuable, but it has at least stood the test of frequent
re-reading of the original, and of reading of the main authorities among
the commentators.

John Ford, like Fletcher and Beaumont, but unlike almost all others of his
class, was a person not compelled by need to write tragedies,--comedies of
any comic merit he could never have written, were they his neck verse at
Hairibee. His father was a man of good family and position at Ilsington in
Devon. His mother was of the well-known west-country house of the Pophams.
He was born(?) two years before the Armada, and three years after
Massinger. He has no university record, but was a member of the Middle
Temple, and takes at least some pains to assure us that he never wrote for
money. Nevertheless, for the best part of thirty years he was a playwright,
and he is frequently found collaborating with Dekker, the neediest if
nearly the most gifted gutter-playwright of the time. Once he worked with
Webster in a play (_The Murder of the Son upon the Mother_) which must have
given the fullest possible opportunity to the appetite of both for horrors.
Once he, Rowley, and Dekker combined to produce the strange masterpiece
(for a masterpiece it is in its own undisciplined way) of the _Witch of
Edmonton_, where the obvious signs of a play hastily cobbled up to meet a
popular demand do not obscure the talents of the cobblers. It must be
confessed that there is much less of Ford than of Rowley and Dekker in the
piece, except perhaps its comparative regularity and the quite unreasonable
and unintelligible bloodiness of the murder of Susan. In _The Sun's
Darling_, due to Ford and Dekker, the numerous and charming lyrics are
pretty certainly Dekker's; though we could pronounce on this point with
more confidence if we had the two lost plays, _The Fairy Knight_ and _The
Bristowe Merchant_, in which the same collaborators are known to have been
engaged. _The Fancies_, _Chaste and Noble_, and _The Lady's Trial_ which we
have, and which are known to be Ford's only, are but third-rate work by
common consent, and _Love's Sacrifice_ has excited still stronger opinions
of condemnation from persons favourable to Ford. This leaves us practically
four plays upon which to base our estimate--_'Tis Pity She's a Whore_, _The
Lover's Melancholy_, _The Broken Heart_, and _Perkin Warbeck_. The
last-named I shall take the liberty of dismissing summarily with the same
borrowed description as Webster's _Appius and Virginia_. Hartley Coleridge,
perhaps willing to make up if he could for a general distaste for Ford,
volunteered the strange judgment that it is the best specimen of the
historic drama to be found out of Shakespere; and Hazlitt says nothing
savage about it. I shall say nothing more, savage or otherwise. _The
Lover's Melancholy_ has been to almost all its critics a kind of lute-case
for the very pretty version of Strada's fancy about the nightingale, which
Crashaw did better; otherwise it is naught. We are, therefore, left with
_'Tis Pity She's a Whore_ and _The Broken Heart_. For myself, in respect to
the first, after repeated readings and very careful weighings of what has
been said, I come back to my first opinion--to wit, that the Annabella and
Giovanni scenes, with all their perversity, all their availing themselves
of what Hazlitt, with his unerring instinct, called "unfair attractions,"
are among the very best things of their kind. Of what may be thought unfair
in them I shall speak a little later: but allowing for this, the sheer
effects of passion--the "All for love and the world well lost," the
shutting out, not instinctively or stupidly, but deliberately, and with
full knowledge, of all other considerations except the dictates of
desire--have never been so rendered in English except in _Romeo and Juliet_
and _Antony and Cleopatra_. The comparison of course brings out Ford's
weakness, not merely in execution, but in design; not merely in
accomplishment, but in the choice of means for accomplishment. Shakespere
had no need of the _haut goût_ of incest, of the unnatural horrors of the
heart on the dagger. But Ford had; and he in a way (I do not say fully)
justified his use of these means.

_The Broken Heart_ stands far lower. I own that I am with Hazlitt, not
Lamb, on the question of the admired death scene of Calantha. In the first
place, it is certainly borrowed from Marston's _Malcontent_; in the second,
it is wholly unnatural; in the third, the great and crowning point of it is
not, as Lamb seemed to think, Calantha's sentimental inconsistency, but the
consistent and noble death of Orgilus. There Ford was at home, and long as
it is it must be given:--

     _Cal._ "Bloody relator of thy stains in blood,
            For that thou hast reported him, whose fortunes
            And life by thee are both at once snatch'd from him,
            With honourable mention, make thy choice
            Of what death likes thee best, there's all our bounty.
            But to excuse delays, let me, dear cousin,
            Intreat you and these lords see execution
            Instant before you part.

    _Near._ Your will commands us.

     _Org._ One suit, just queen, my last: vouchsafe your clemency
            That by no common hand I be divided
            From this my humble frailty.

     _Cal._ To their wisdoms
            Who are to be spectators of thine end
            I make the reference: those that are dead
            Are dead; had they not now died, of necessity
            They must have paid the debt they owed to nature,
            One time or other. Use dispatch, my lords;
            We'll suddenly prepare our coronation.

                    [_Exeunt_ CAL., PHIL., _and_ CHRIS.

     _Arm._ 'Tis strange, these tragedies should never touch on
            Her female pity.

    _Bass._ She has a masculine spirit,
            And wherefore should I pule, and, like a girl,
            Put finger in the eye? Let's be all toughness
            Without distinction betwixt sex and sex.

    _Near._ Now, Orgilus, thy choice?

     _Org._ To bleed to death.

     _Arm._ The executioner?

     _Org._ Myself, no surgeon;
            I am well skilled in letting blood. Bind fast
            This arm, that so the pipes may from their conduits
            Convey a full stream; here's a skilful instrument:

                    [_Shows his dagger._

            Only I am a beggar to some charity
            To speed me in this execution
            By lending the other prick to the other arm
            When this is bubbling life out.

    _Bass._ I am for you,
            It most concerns my art, my care, my credit,
            Quick, fillet both his arms.

     _Org._ Gramercy, friendship!
            Such courtesies are real which flow cheerfully
            Without an expectation of requital.
            Reach me a staff in this hand. If a proneness

                    [_They give him a staff._

            Or custom in my nature, from my cradle
            Had been inclined to fierce and eager bloodshed,
            A coward guilt hid in a coward quaking,
            Would have betray'd me to ignoble flight
            And vagabond pursuit of dreadful safety:
            But look upon my steadiness and scorn not
            The sickness of my fortune; which since Bassanes
            Was husband to Penthea, had lain bed-rid.
            We trifle time in words: thus I show cunning
            In opening of a vein too full, too lively.

                    [_Pierces the vein with his dagger._

     _Arm._ Desperate courage!

    _Near._ Honourable infamy!

     _Hem._ I tremble at the sight.

    _Gron._ Would I were loose!

    _Bass._ It sparkles like a lusty wine new broach'd;
            The vessel must be sound from which it issues.
            Grasp hard this other stick--I'll be as nimble--
            But prithee look not pale--Have at ye! stretch out
            Thine arm with vigour and unshaken virtue.

                    [_Opens the vein._

            Good! oh I envy not a rival, fitted
            To conquer in extremities: this pastime
            Appears majestical; some high-tuned poem
            Hereafter shall deliver to posterity
            The writer's glory, and his subjects triumph.
            How is't man?--droop not yet.

     _Org._ I feel no palsies,
            On a pair-royal do I wait in death:
            My sovereign as his liegeman; on my mistress
            As a devoted servant; and on Ithocles
            As if no brave, yet no unworthy enemy:
            Nor did I use an engine to entrap
            His life out of a slavish fear to combat
            Youth, strength, or cunning; but for that I durst not
            Engage the goodness of a cause on fortune
            By which his name might have outfaced my vengeance.
            Oh, Tecnicus, inspired with Phoebus' fire!
            I call to mind thy augury, 'twas perfect;
            _Revenge proves its own executioner._
            When feeble man is lending to his mother
            The dust he was first framed in, thus he totters.

    _Bass._ Life's fountain is dried up.

     _Org._ So falls the standard
            Of my prerogative in being a creature,
            A mist hangs o'er mine eyes, the sun's bright splendour
            Is clouded in an everlasting shadow.
            Welcome, thou ice that sit'st about my heart,
            No heat can ever thaw thee.

                    [_Dies._

The perverse absurdity of a man like Orgilus letting Penthea die by the
most horrible of deaths must be set aside: his vengeance (the primary
absurdity granted), is exactly and wholly in character. But if anything
could be decisive against Ford being "of the first order of poets," even of
dramatic poets, it would be the total lack of interest in the characters of
Calantha and Ithocles. Fate-disappointed love seems (no doubt from
something in his own history) to have had a singular attraction for Lamb;
and the glorification, or, as it were, apotheosis of it in Calantha must
have appealed to him in one of those curious and illegitimate ways which
every critic knows. But the mere introduction of Bassanes would show that
Ford is not of the first order of poets. He is a purely contemptible
character, neither sublimed by passion of jealousy, nor kept whole by salt
of comic exposition; a mischievous poisonous idiot who ought to have had
his brains knocked out, and whose brains would assuredly have been knocked
out, by any Orgilus of real life. He is absolutely unequal to the place of
central personage, and causer of the harms, of a romantic tragedy such as
_The Broken Heart_.

I have said "by any Orgilus of real life," but Ford has little to do with
real life; and it is in this fact that the insufficiency of his claim to
rank among the first order of poets lies. He was, it is evident, a man of
the greatest talent, even of great genius, who, coming at the end of a long
literary movement, exemplified the defects of its decadence. I could
compare him, if there was here any space for such a comparison, to
Baudelaire or Flaubert with some profit; except that he never had
Baudelaire's perfect sense of art, and that he does not seem, like
Flaubert, to have laid in, before melancholy marked him for her own, a
sufficient stock of living types to save him from the charge of being a
mere study-student. There is no Frédéric, no M. Homais, in his repertory.
Even Giovanni--even Orgilus, his two masterpieces, are, if not exactly
things of shreds and patches, at any rate artificial persons, young men who
have known more of books than of life, and who persevere in their eccentric
courses with almost more than a half knowledge that they are eccentric.
Annabella is incomplete, though there is nothing, except her love,
unnatural in her. The strokes which draw her are separate imaginations of a
learned draughtsman, not fresh transcripts from the living model. Penthea
and Calantha are wholly artificial; a live Penthea would never have thought
of such a fantastic martyrdom, unless she had been insane or suffering from
green-sickness, and a live Calantha would have behaved in a perfectly
different fashion, or if she had behaved in the same, would have been quit
for her temporary aberration. We see (or at least I think I see) in Ford
exactly the signs which are so familiar to us in our own day, and which
repeat themselves regularly at the end of all periods of distinct literary
creativeness--the signs of _excentricité voulue_. The author imagines that
"all is said" in the ordinary way, and that he must go to the ends of the
earth to fetch something extraordinary. If he is strong enough, as Ford
was, he fetches it, and it _is_ something extraordinary, and we owe him,
with all his extravagance, respect and honour for his labour. But we can
never put him on the level of the men who, keeping within ordinary limits,
achieve masterpieces there.

Ford--an Elizabethan in the strict sense for nearly twenty years--did not
suffer from the decay which, as noted above, set in in regard to
versification and language among the men of his own later day. He has not
the natural trick of verse and phrase which stamps his greatest
contemporaries unmistakably, and even such lesser ones as his collaborator,
Dekker, with a hardly mistakable mark; but his verse is nervous, well
proportioned, well delivered, and at its best a noble medium. He was by
general consent utterly incapable of humour, and his low-comedy scenes are
among the most loathsome in the English theatre. His lyrics are not equal
to Shakespere's or Fletcher's, Dekker's or Shirley's, but they are better
than Massinger's. Although he frequently condescended to the Fletcherian
license of the redundant syllable, he never seems to have dropped (as
Fletcher did sometimes, or at least allowed his collaborators to drop)
floundering into the Serbonian bog of stuff that is neither verse nor
prose. He showed indeed (and Mr. Swinburne, with his usual insight, has
noticed it, though perhaps he has laid rather too much stress on it) a
tendency towards a severe rule-and-line form both of tragic scheme and of
tragic versification, which may be taken to correspond in a certain fashion
(though Mr. Swinburne does not notice this) to the "correctness" in
ordinary poetry of Waller and his followers. Yet he shows no sign of
wishing to discard either the admixture of comedy with tragedy (save in
_The Broken Heart_, which is perhaps a crucial instance), or blank verse,
or the freedom of the English stage in regard to the unities. In short,
Ford was a person distinctly deficient in initiative and planning genius,
but endowed with a great executive faculty. He wanted guidance in all the
greater lines of his art, and he had it not; the result being that he
produced unwholesome and undecided work, only saved by the unmistakable
presence of poetical faculty. I do not think that Webster could ever have
done anything better than he did: I think that if Ford had been born twenty
years earlier he might have been second to Shakespere, and at any rate the
equal of Ben Jonson and of Fletcher. But the flagging genius of the time
made its imprint on his own genius, which was of the second order, not the
first.

The honour of being last in the great succession of Elizabethan dramatists
is usually assigned to James Shirley.[62] Though last, Shirley is only in
part least, and his plays deserve more reading than has usually fallen to
their lot. Not only in the general character of his plays--a character
hardly definable, but recognisable at once by the reader--but by the
occurrence of such things as the famous song, "The glories of our blood and
state," and not a few speeches and tirades, Shirley has a right to his
place; as he most unquestionably has also by date. He was born in London in
1596, was educated at Merchant Tailors' School, and was a member of both
universities, belonging to St. John's College at Oxford, and to Catherine
Hall at Cambridge. Like other dramatists he vacillated in religion, with
such sincerity as to give up a living to which, having been ordained, he
had been presented. He was a schoolmaster for a time, began to write plays
about the date of the accession of Charles I., continued to do so till the
closing of the theatres, then returned to schoolmastering, and survived the
Restoration nearly seven years, being buried at St. Giles's in 1666. He
appears to have visited Ireland, and at least one monument of his visit
remains in the eccentric play of _St. Patrick for Ireland_. He is usually
credited with thirty-nine plays, to which it is understood that others, now
in MS., have to be added, while he may also have had a hand in some that
are printed but not attributed to him. Shirley was neither a very great nor
a very strong man; and without originals to follow, it is probable that he
would have done nothing. But with Fletcher and Jonson before him he was
able to strike out a certain line of half-humorous, half-romantic drama,
and to follow it with curious equality through his long list of plays,
hardly one of which is very much better than any other, hardly one of which
falls below a very respectable standard. He has few or no single scenes or
passages of such high and sustained excellence as to be specially quotable;
and there is throughout him an indefinable flavour as of study of his
elders and betters, an appearance as of a highly competent and gifted pupil
in a school, not as of a master and leader in a movement. The palm is
perhaps generally and rightly assigned to _The Lady of Pleasure_, 1635, a
play bearing some faint resemblances to Massinger's _City Madam_, and
Fletcher's _Noble Gentleman_ (Shirley is known to have finished one or two
plays of Fletcher's), and in its turn the original, or at least the
forerunner of a long line of late seventeenth and eighteenth century plays
on the extravagance and haughtiness and caprice of fine ladies. Shirley
indeed was much acted after the Restoration, and exhibits, though on the
better side, the transition of the older into the newer school very well.
Of his tragedies _The Traitor_ has the general suffrage, and perhaps
justly. One of Shirley's most characteristic habits was that not of exactly
adapting an old play, but of writing a new one on similar lines
accommodated to the taste of his own day. He constantly did this with
Fletcher, and once in _The Cardinal_ he was rash enough to endeavour to
improve upon Webster. His excuse may have been that he was evidently in
close contact with the last survivors of the great school, for besides his
work with or on Fletcher, he collaborated with Chapman in the tragedy of
_Chabot_ and the comedy of _The Ball_--the latter said to be one of the
earliest _loci_ for the use of the word in the sense of an entertainment.
His versification profited by this personal or literary familiarity. It is
occasionally lax, and sins especially by the redundant syllable or
syllables, and by the ugly break between auxiliary verbs and their
complements, prepositions and their nouns, and so forth. But it never falls
into the mere shapelessness which was so common with his immediate and
younger contemporaries. Although, as has been said, long passages of high
sustained poetry are not easily producible from him, two short extracts
from _The Traitor_ will show his style favourably, but not too favourably.
Amidea, the heroine, declares her intention--

[62] There was a contemporary, Henry Shirley, who was also a playwright.
His only extant play, _The Martyred Soldier_, a piece of little merit, has
been reprinted by Mr. Bullen.

                        "To have my name
    Stand in the ivory register of virgins,
    When I am dead. Before one factious thought
    Should lurk within me to betray my fame
    To such a blot, my hands shall mutiny
    And boldly with a poniard teach my heart
    To weep out a repentance."

And this of her brother Florio's is better still--

    "Let me look upon my sister now:
    Still she retains her beauty,
    Death has been kind to leave her all this sweetness
    Thus in a morning have I oft saluted
    My sister in her chamber: sat upon
    Her bed and talked of many harmless passages.
    _But now 'tis night, and a long night with her:_
    _I shall ne'er see these curtains drawn again_
    _Until we meet in heaven._"

Here the touch, a little weakened it may be, but still the touch of the
great age, is perceptible, especially in the last lines, where the metaphor
of the "curtains," common enough in itself for eyelids, derives freshness
and appositeness from the previous mention of the bed. But Shirley is not
often at this high tragic level. His supposed first play, _Love Tricks_,
though it appeared nearly forty years before the Restoration, has a curious
touch of post-Restoration comedy in its lively, extravagant, easy farce.
Sometimes, as in _The Witty Fair One_, he fell in with the growing habit of
writing a play mainly in prose, but dropping into verse here and there,
though he was quite as ready to write, as in _The Wedding_, a play in verse
with a little prose. Once he dramatised the _Arcadia_ bodily and by name.
At another time he would match a downright interlude like the _Contention
for Honour and Riches_ with a thinly-veiled morality like _Honoria and
Mammon_. He was a proficient at masques. _The Grateful Servant_, _The Royal
Master_, _The Duke's Mistress_, _The Doubtful Heir_, _The Constant Maid_,
_The Humorous Courtier_, are plays whose very titles speak them, though the
first is much the best. _The Changes_ or _Love in a Maze_ was slightly
borrowed from by Dryden in _The Maiden Queen_, and _Hyde Park_, a very
lively piece, set a fashion of direct comedy of manners which was largely
followed, while _The Brothers_ and _The Gamester_ are other good examples
of different styles. Generally Shirley seems to have been a man of amiable
character, and the worst thing on record about him is his very ungenerous
gibing dedication of _The Bird in a Cage_ to Prynne, then in prison, for
his well-known attack on the stage, a piece of retaliation which, if the
enemy had not been "down," would have been fair enough.

Perhaps Shirley's comedy deserves as a whole to be better spoken of than
his tragedy. It is a later variety of the same kind of comedy which we
noted as written so largely by Middleton,--a comedy of mingled manners,
intrigue, and humours, improved a good deal in coherence and in stage
management, but destitute of the greater and more romantic touches which
emerge from the chaos of the earlier style. Nearly all the writers whom I
shall now proceed to mention practised this comedy, some better, some
worse; but no one with quite such success as Shirley at his best, and no
one with anything like his industry, versatility, and generally high level
of accomplishment. It should perhaps be said that the above-mentioned song,
the one piece of Shirley's generally known, is not from one of his more
characteristic pieces, but from _The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses_, a
work of quite the author's latest days.

Thomas Randolph, the most gifted (according to general estimate rather than
to specific performance) of the Tribe of Ben, was a much younger man than
Shirley, though he died more than thirty years earlier. Randolph was born
near Daventry in 1605, his father being a gentleman, and Lord Zouch's
steward. He was educated at Westminster, and at Trinity College, Cambridge,
of which he became a fellow, and he was also incorporated at Oxford. His
life is supposed to have been merry, and was certainly short, for he died,
of what disease is not known, in his thirtieth year. He left, however, no
inconsiderable literary results; and if his dramas are not quite so
relatively good as his poems (there is certainly none of them which is in
its own kind the equal of the fine answer to Ben Jonson's threat to leave
the stage and the Ode to Anthony Stafford), still they are interesting and
show a strong intellect and great literary facility. The two earliest,
_Aristippus_ and _The Conceited Pedlar_, the first a slight dramatic
sketch, the second a monologue, are eminent examples of the class of
university, not to say of undergraduate, wit; but far stronger and fuller
of promise than most specimens of that class. _The Jealous Lovers_, a play
with classical nomenclature, and at first seeming to aim at the Terentian
model, drifts off into something like the Jonsonian humour-comedy, of which
it gives some good studies, but hardly a complete example. Much better are
_The Muses' Looking-Glass_ and _Amyntas_, in which Randolph's academic
schemes and names do not hide his vivid and fertile imagination. _The
Muses' Looking-Glass_, a play vindicating the claim of the drama in general
to the title, is a kind of morality, but a morality carried off with
infinite spirit, which excuses the frigid nature of the abstractions
presented in it, and not seldom rises to the height of real comedy. The
scene between Colax and Dyscolus, the professional flatterer and the
professional snarler, is really excellent: and others equally good might be
picked out. Of the two I am inclined to think that this play shows more
natural genius in the writer for its style, than the pretty pastoral of
_Amyntas_, which has sometimes been preferred to it. The same penchant for
comedy appears in _Down with Knavery_, a very free and lively adaptation of
the _Plutus_ of Aristophanes. There is no doubt that Randolph's work gives
the impression of considerable power. At the same time it is fair to
remember that the author's life was one very conducive to precocity,
inasmuch as he underwent at once the three stimulating influences of an
elaborate literary education, of endowed leisure to devote himself to what
literary occupations he pleased, and of the emulation caused by literary
society. Jonson's friendship seems to have acted as a forcing-house on the
literary faculties of his friends, and it is quite as possible that, if
Randolph had lived, he would have become a steady-going soaker or a
diligent but not originally productive scholar, as that he would have
produced anything of high substantive and permanent value. It is true that
many great writers had not at his age done such good work; but then it must
be remembered that they had also produced little or nothing in point of
bulk. It may be plausibly argued that, good as what Randolph's first thirty
years gave is, it ought to have been better still if it was ever going to
be of the best. Hut these excursions into possibilities are not very
profitable, and the chief excuse for indulging in them is that Randolph's
critics and editors have generally done the same, and have as a rule
perhaps pursued the indulgence in a rather too enthusiastic and sanguine
spirit. What is not disputable at all is the example given by Randolph of
the powerful influence of Ben on his "tribe."

Very little is known of another of that tribe, Richard Brome. He was once
servant to Ben Jonson, who, though in his own old age he was himself an
unsuccessful, and Brome a very successful, dramatist, seems always to have
regarded him with favour, and not to have been influenced by the rather
illiberal attempts of Randolph and others to stir up bad blood between
them. Brome deserved this favour, and spoke nobly of his old master even
after Ben's death. He himself was certainly dead in 1653, when some of his
plays were first collected by his namesake (but it would seem not
relation), Alexander Brome. The modern reprint of his dramas takes the
liberty, singular in the collection to which it belongs, of not attempting
any kind of critical or biographical introduction, and no book of reference
that I know is much more fertile, the latest authority--the _Dictionary of
National Biography_, in which Brome is dealt with by the very competent
hand of the Master of Peterhouse--having little enough to tell. Brome's
work, however, speaks for itself and pretty distinctly to all who care to
read it. It consists, as printed (for there were others now lost or
uncollected), of fifteen plays, all comedies, all bearing a strong family
likeness, and all belonging to the class of comedy just referred to--that
is to say, a cross between the style of Jonson and that of Fletcher. Of the
greater number of these, even if there were space here, there would be very
little to say beyond this general description. Not one of them is rubbish;
not one of them is very good; but all are readable, or would be if they had
received the trouble spent on much far inferior work, of a little editing
to put the mechanical part of their presentation, such as the division of
scenes, stage directions, etc., in a uniform and intelligible condition.
Their names (_A Mad Couple well Matched_, _The Sparagus Garden_, _The City
Wit_, and so forth) tell a good deal about their most common form; while
in _The Lovesick Court_, and one or two others, the half-courtly,
half-romantic comedy of Fletcher takes the place of urban humours. One or
two, such as _The Queen and Concubine_, attempt a statelier and tragi-comic
style, but this was not Brome's forte. Sometimes, as in _The Antipodes_,
there is an attempt at satire and comedy with a purpose. There are,
however, two plays which stand out distinctly above the rest, and which are
the only plays of Brome's known to any but diligent students of this class
of literature. These are _The Northern Lass_ and _A Jovial Crew_. The first
differs from its fellows only as being of the same class, but better; and
the dialect of the _ingénue_ Constance seems to have been thought
interesting and pathetic. _The Jovial Crew_, with its lively pictures of
gipsy life, is, though it may have been partly suggested by Fletcher's
_Beggar's Bush_, a very pleasant and fresh comedy. It seems to have been
one of its author's last works, and he speaks of himself in it as "old."

Our two next figures are of somewhat minor importance. Sir Aston Cokain or
Cockaine, of a good Derbyshire family, was born in 1608, and after a long
life died just before the accession of James II. He seems (and indeed
positively asserts himself) to have been intimate with most of the men of
letters of Charles I.'s reign; and it has been unkindly suggested that
posterity would have been much more indebted to him if he had given us the
biographical particulars, which in most cases are so much wanted concerning
them, instead of wasting his time on translated and original verse of very
little value, and on dramatic composition of still less. As it is, we owe
to him the knowledge of the not unimportant fact that Massinger was a
collaborator of Fletcher. His own plays are distinctly of the lower class,
though not quite valueless. _The Obstinate Lady_ is an echo of Fletcher and
Massinger; _Trappolin Creduto Principe_, an adaptation of an Italian farce,
is a good deal better, and is said, with various stage alterations, to have
held the boards till within the present century under the title of _A Duke
and no Duke_, or _The Duke and the Devil_. It is in fact a not unskilful
working up of some well-tried theatrical motives, but has no great literary
merit. The tragedy of _Ovid_, a regular literary tragedy in careful if not
very powerful blank verse, is Cokain's most ambitious effort. Like his
other work it is clearly an "echo" in character.

A more interesting and characteristic example of the "decadence" is Henry
Glapthorne. When the enthusiasm excited by Lamb's specimens, Hazlitt's, and
Coleridge's lectures for the Elizabethan drama, was fresh, and everybody
was hunting for new examples of the style, Glapthorne had the doubtful luck
to be made the subject of a very laudatory article in the _Retrospective
Review_, and two of his plays were reprinted. He was not left in this
honourable but comparatively safe seclusion, and many years later, in 1874,
all his plays and poems as known were issued by themselves in Mr. Pearson's
valuable series of reprints. Since then Glapthorne has become something of
a butt; and Mr. Bullen, in conjecturally attributing to him a new play,
_The Lady Mother_, takes occasion to speak rather unkindly of him. As usual
it is a case of _ni cet excès d'honneur ni cette indignité_. Personally,
Glapthorne has some of the interest that attaches to the unknown. Between
1639 and 1643, or for the brief space of four years, it is clear that he
was a busy man of letters. He published five plays (six if we admit _The
Lady Mother_), which had some vogue, and survived as an acted poet into the
Restoration period; he produced a small but not despicable collection of
poems of his own; he edited those of his friend Thomas Beedome; he was
himself a friend of Cotton and of Lovelace. But of his antecedents and of
the life that followed this short period of literary activity we know
absolutely nothing. The guess that he was at St. Paul's School is a mere
guess; and in the utter and total absence of the least scrap of
biographical information about him, his editor has thought it worth while
to print in full some not unamusing but perfectly irrelevant documents
concerning the peccadillos of a certain _George_ Glapthorne of Whittlesea,
who was certainly a contemporary and perhaps a relation. Henry Glapthorne
as a writer is certainly not great, but he is as certainly not
contemptible. His tragedy of _Albertus Wallenstein_ is not merely
interesting as showing a reversion to the practice, almost dropped in his
time (perhaps owing to censorship difficulties), of handling contemporary
historical subjects, but contains passages of considerable poetical merit.
His _Argalus and Parthenia_, a dramatisation of part of the _Arcadia_,
caught the taste of his day, and, like the _Wallenstein_, is poetical if
not dramatic. The two comedies, _The Hollander_ and _Wit in a Constable_,
are of the school which has been so frequently described, and not of its
strongest, but at the same time not of its weakest specimens. _Love's
Privilege_, sometimes held his best play, is a rather flabby tragi-comedy
of the Fletcher-Shirley school. In short, Glapthorne, without being
positively good, is good enough to have made it surprising that he is not
better, if the explanation did not present itself pretty clearly. Though
evidently not an old man at the time of writing (he has been guessed,
probably enough, to have been a contemporary of Milton, and perhaps a
little older or a little younger), his work has the clear defects of age.
It is garrulous and given to self-repetition (so much so that one of Mr.
Bullen's reasons for attributing _The Lady Mother_ to Glapthorne is the
occurrence in it of passages almost literally repeated in his known work);
it testifies to a relish of, and a habituation to, the great school,
coupled with powers insufficient to emulate the work of the great school
itself; it is exactly in flavour and character the last _not_ sprightly
runnings of a generous liquor. There is nowhere in it the same absolute
flatness that occurs in the lesser men of the Restoration school, like the
Howards and Boyle; the ancient gust is still too strong for that. It does
not show the vulgarity which even Davenant (who as a dramatist was ten
years Glapthorne's senior) too often displays. But we feel in reading it
that the good wine has gone, that we have come to that which is worse.

I have mentioned Davenant; and though he is often classed with, and to some
extent belongs to the post-Reformation school, he is ours for other
purposes than that of mere mention. His Shakespere travesties (in one of
which he was assisted by a greater than he), and even the operas and
"entertainments" with which he not only evaded the prohibition of stage
plays under the Commonwealth, but helped to produce a remarkable change in
the English drama, do not concern us. But it must be remembered that
Davenant's earlier, most dramatic, and most original playmaking was done at
a time far within our limits. When the tragedy of _Albovine_ (Alboin) was
produced, the Restoration was more than thirty years distant, and Jonson,
Chapman, Dekker, and Marston--men in the strictest sense of the Elizabethan
school--were still living, and, in the case of all but Marston, writing.
_The Cruel Brother_, which, though printed after, was licensed before,
dates three years earlier; and between this time and the closing of the
theatres Davenant had ten plays acted and printed coincidently with the
best work of Massinger, Shirley, and Ford. Nor, though his fame is far
below theirs, is the actual merit of these pieces (the two above mentioned,
_The Wits_, _News from Plymouth_, _The Fair Favourite_, _The Unfortunate
Lovers_, etc.), so much inferior as the fame. The chief point in which
Davenant fails is in the failing grasp of verse above noted. This is
curious and so characteristic that it is worth while to give an example of
it, which shall be a fair average specimen and not of the worst:--

    "O noble maid, what expiation can
    Make fit this young and cruel soldier for
    Society of man that hath defiled
    The genius of triumphant glorious war
    With such a rape upon thy liberty!
    Or what less hard than marble of
    The Parian rock can'st thou believe my heart,
    That nurst and bred him my disciple in
    The camp, and yet could teach his valour no
    More tenderness than injured Scytheans use
    When they are wroth to a revenge? But he
    Hath mourned for it: and now Evandra thou
    Art strongly pitiful, that dost so long
    Conceal an anger that would kill us both."

                    _Love and Honour_, 1649.

Here we have the very poetical counterpart of the last of Jaques' ages, the
big manly voice of the great dramatists sinking into a childish treble that
stutters and drivels over the very alphabet of the poetical tongue.

In such a language as this poetry became impossible, and it is still a
matter for wonder by what trick of elocution actors can have made it
tolerable on the stage. Yet it was certainly tolerated. And not only so,
but, when the theatre came to be open again, the discontent with blank
verse, which partly at least drove Dryden and others into rhyme, never
seems to have noticed the fact that the blank verse to which it objected
was execrably bad. When Dryden returned to the more natural medium, he
wrote it not indeed with the old many-voiced charm of the best
Elizabethans, but with admirable eloquence and finish. Yet he himself in
his earliest plays staggered and slipped about with the rest, and I do not
remember in his voluminous critical remarks anything going to show that he
was consciously aware of the slovenliness into which his master Davenant
and others had allowed themselves and their followers to drop.

One more example and we shall have finished at once with those dramatists
of our time whose work has been collected, and with the chief names of the
decadence. Sir John Suckling, who, in Mr. Swinburne's happy phrase--

                        "Stumbled from above
    And reeled in slippery roads of alien art,"

is represented in the English theatre by four plays, _Aglaura_,
_Brennoralt_, _The Sad One_, and the comedy of _The Goblins_. Of the
tragedies some one, I forget who, has said truly that their names are the
best thing about them. Suckling had a fancy for romantic names, rather
suggesting sometimes the Minerva press of a later time, but still pretty.
His serious plays, however, have all the faults, metrical and other, which
have been noticed in Davenant, and in speaking of his own non-dramatic
verse; and they possess as well serious faults as dramas--a combination of
extravagance and dullness, a lack of playwright's grasp, an absence in
short of the root of the matter. How far in other directions besides mere
versification he and his fellows had slipped from the right way, may be
perhaps most pleasantly and quite fully discovered from the perusal, which
is not very difficult, of his tragi-comedy or extravaganza, _The Goblins_.
There are several good points about this play--an abundance of not
altogether stagey noble sentiment, an agreeable presentment of fresh and
gallant youths, still smacking rather of Fletcher's madcap but heart-sound
gallants, and not anticipating the heartless crudity of the cubs of the
Restoration, a loveable feminine character, and so forth. But hardly a
clever boy at school ever devised anything so extravagantly puerile as the
plot, which turns on a set of banished men playing at hell and devils in
caverns close to a populous city, and brings into the action a series of
the most absurd escapes, duels, chance-meetings, hidings, findings, and all
manner of other devices for spinning out an unnatural story. Many who know
nothing more of Suckling's plays know that _Aglaura_ enjoys the eccentric
possession of two fifth acts, so that it can be made a tragedy or a
tragi-comedy at pleasure. _The Sad One_, which is unfinished, is much
better. The tragedy of _Brennoralt_ has some pathos, some pretty scenes,
and some charming songs; but here again we meet with the most inconceivably
bad verse, as here--a passage all the more striking because of its attempt,
wilful or unconscious, to echo Shakespere:--

    "Sleep is as nice as woman;
    The more I court it, the more it flies me.
    Thy elder brother will be kinder yet,
    Unsent-for death will come. To-morrow!
    Well, what can to-morrow do?
    'Twill cure the sense of honour lost;
    I and my discontents shall rest together,
    What hurt is there in this? But death against
    The will is but a slovenly kind of potion;
    And though prescribed by Heaven, it goes against men's stomachs.
    So does it at fourscore too, when the soul's
    Mewed up in narrow darkness: neither sees nor hears.
    Pish! 'tis mere fondness in our nature.
    A certain clownish cowardice that still
    Would stay at home and dares not venture
    Into foreign countries, though better than
    Its own. Ha! what countries? for we receive
    Descriptions of th' other world from our divines
    As blind men take relations of this from us:
    My thoughts lead me into the dark, and there
    They'll leave me. I'll no more on it. Within!"

Such were the last notes of the concert which opened with the music, if not
at once of _Hamlet_ and _Othello_, at any rate of _Tamburlaine_ and
_Faustus_.

To complete this sketch of the more famous and fortunate dramatists who
have attained to separate presentation, we must give some account of lesser
men and of those wholly anonymous works which are still to be found only in
collections such as Dodsley's, or in single publications. As the years
pass, the list of independently published authors increases. Mr. Bullen,
who issued the works of Thomas Nabbes and of Davenport, has promised those
of W. Rowley. Nabbes, a member of the Tribe of Ben, and a man of easy
talent, was successful in comedy only, though he also attempted tragedy.
_Microcosmus_ (1637), his best-known work, is half-masque, half-morality,
and has considerable merit in a difficult kind. _The Bride_, _Covent
Garden_, _Tottenham Court_, range with the already characterised work of
Brome, but somewhat lower. Davenport's range was wider, and the interesting
history of _King John and Matilda_, as well as the lively comedy of _The
City Nightcap_, together with other work, deserved, and have now received,
collection. William Rowley was of a higher stamp. His best work is probably
to be found in the plays wherein, as mentioned more than once, he
collaborated with Middleton, with Massinger, with Webster, with Fletcher,
with Dekker, and in short with most of the best men of his time. It would
appear that he was chiefly resorted to for comic underplots, in which he
brought in a good deal of horseplay, and a power of reporting the low-life
humours of the London of his day more accurate than refined, together with
not a little stock-stage wit, such as raillery of Welsh and Irish dialect.
But in the plays which are attributed to him alone, such as _A New Wonder_,
_a Woman Never Vexed_, and _A Match at Midnight_, he shows not merely this
same _vis comica_ and rough and ready faculty of hitting off dramatic
situations, but an occasional touch of true pathos, and a faculty of
knitting the whole action well together. He has often been confused with a
half namesake, Samuel Rowley, of whom very little is known, but who in his
chronicle play _When you see Me you know Me_, and his romantic drama of
_The Noble Spanish Soldier_, has distinctly outstripped the ordinary
dramatists of the time. Yet another collected dramatist, who has long had a
home in Dodsley, and who figures rather curiously in a later collection of
"Dramatists of the Restoration," though his dramatic fame was obtained many
years before, was Shakerley Marmion, author of the pretty poem of _Cupid
and Psyche_, and a "son" of Ben Jonson. Marmion's three plays, of which the
best known is _The Antiquary_, are fair but not excessively favourable
samples of the favourite play of the time, a rather broad humour-comedy,
which sometimes conjoined itself with, and sometimes stood aloof from,
either a romantic and tragi-comical story or a downright tragedy.

Among the single plays comparatively few are of the latter kind. _The
Miseries of Enforced Marriage_, a domestic tragi-comedy, connects itself
with the wholly tragical _Yorkshire Tragedy_, and is a kind of introduction
to it. These domestic tragedies (of which another is _A Warning to Fair
Women_) were very popular at the time, and large numbers now lost seem to
have been produced by the dramatisation of notable crimes, past and
present. Their class is very curiously mixed up with the remarkable and, in
one sense or another, very interesting class of the dramas attributed, and
in general estimation falsely attributed, to Shakespere. According to the
fullest list these pseudo-Shakesperian plays number seventeen. They are
_Fair Em_, _The Merry Devil of Edmonton_, _Edward III._, _The Birth of
Merlin_, _The Troublesome Reign of King John_, _A Warning to Fair Women_,
_The Arraignment of Paris_, _Arden of Feversham_, _Mucedorus_, _George a
Green the Pinner of Wakefield_, _The Two Noble Kinsmen_, _The London
Prodigal_, _Thomas Lord Cromwell_, _Sir John Oldcastle_, _The Puritan or
the Widow of Watling Street_, _The Yorkshire Tragedy_, and _Locrine_. Four
of these, _Edward III._, _The Merry Devil of Edmonton_, _Arden of
Feversham_, and _The Two Noble Kinsmen_, are in whole or parts very far
superior to the rest. Of that rest _The Yorkshire Tragedy_, a violent and
bloodthirsty little piece showing the frantic cruelty of the ruined
gambler, Calverley, to his wife and children, is perhaps the most powerful,
though it is not in the least Shakesperian. But the four have claims, not
indeed of a strong, but of a puzzling kind. In _Edward III._ and _The Two
Noble Kinsmen_ there are no signs of Shakespere either in plot,
character-drawing, or general tone. But, on the contrary, there are in both
certain scenes where the versification and dialogue are so astonishingly
Shakesperian that it is almost impossible to account for the writing of
them by any one else than Shakespere. By far the larger majority of critics
declare for the part authorship of Shakespere in _The Two Noble Kinsmen_; I
avow myself simply puzzled. On the other hand, I am nearly sure that he did
not write any part of _Edward III._, and I should take it to be a case of a
kind not unknown in literature, where some writer of great but not very
original faculty was strongly affected by the Shakesperian influence, and
wrote this play while under it, but afterwards, either by death or
diversion to non-literary employments, left no other monument of himself
that can be traced or compared with it. The difficulty with _Arden of
Feversham_ and _The Merry Devil_ is different. We shall presently speak of
the latter, which, good as it is, has nothing specially Shakesperian about
it, except a great superiority in sanity, compactness, pleasant human
sentiment, and graceful verse, to the ordinary anonymous or named work of
the time. But _Arden of Feversham_ is a very different piece of work. It is
a domestic tragedy of a peculiarly atrocious kind, Alice Arden, the wife,
being led by her passion for a base paramour, Mosbie, to plot, and at last
carry out, the murder of her husband. Here it is not that the versification
has much resemblance to Shakespere's, or that single speeches smack of him,
but that the dramatic grasp of character both in principals and in
secondary characters has a distinct touch of his almost unmistakable hand.
Yet both in the selection and in the treatment of the subject the play
definitely transgresses those principles which have been said to exhibit
themselves so uniformly and so strongly in the whole great body of his
undoubted plays. There is a perversity and a dash of sordidness which are
both wholly un-Shakesperian. The only possible hypothesis on which it could
be admitted as Shakespere's would be that of an early experiment thrown off
while he was seeking his way in a direction where he found no thoroughfare.
But the play is a remarkable one, and deserves the handsome and exact
reproduction which Mr. Bullen has given it. _The Second Maiden's Tragedy_,
licensed 1611, but earlier in type, is one of the gloomy pity-and-terror
pieces which were so much affected in the earlier part of the period, but
which seem to have given way later in the public taste to comedy. It is
black enough to have been attributed to Tourneur. _The Queen of Aragon_, by
Habington, though in a different key, has something of the starchness
rather than strength which characterises _Castara_. A much higher level is
reached in the fine anonymous tragedy of _Nero_, where at least one
character, that of Petronius, is of great excellence, and where the verse,
if a little declamatory, is of a very high order of declamation. The
strange piece, first published by Mr. Bullen, and called by him _The
Distracted Emperor_, a tragedy based partly on the legend of Charlemagne
and Fastrada, again gives us a specimen of horror-mongering. _The Return
from Parnassus_ (see note, p. 81), famous for its personal touches and its
contribution to Shakespere literature, is interesting first for the
judgments of contemporary writers, of which the Shakespere passages are
only the chief; secondly, for its evidence of the jealousy between the
universities and the players, who after, in earlier times, coming chiefly
on the university wits for their supplies, had latterly taken to provide
for themselves; and thirdly, for its flashes of light on university and
especially undergraduate life. The comedy of _Wily Beguiled_ has also a
strong university touch, the scholar being made triumphant in it; and
_Lingua_, sometimes attributed to Anthony Brewer, is a return, though a
lively one, to the system of personification and allegory. _The Dumb
Knight_, of or partly by Lewis Machin, belongs to the half-romantic,
half-farcical class; but in _The Merry Devil of Edmonton_, the authorship
of which is quite unknown, though Shakespere, Drayton, and other great
names have been put forward, a really delightful example of romantic
comedy, strictly English in subject, and combining pathos with wit,
appears. _The Merry Devil_ probably stands highest among all the anonymous
plays of the period on the lighter side, as _Arden of Feversham_ does on
the darker. Second to it as a comedy comes Porter's _Two Angry Women of
Abingdon_ (1599), with less grace and fancy but almost equal lightness, and
a singularly exact picture of manners. With _Ram Alley_, attributed to the
Irishman Lodowick Barry, we come back to a much lower level, that of the
bustling comedy, of which something has been said generally in connection
with Middleton. To the same class belong Haughton's pleasant _Englishmen
for my Money_, a good patriot play, where certain foreigners, despite the
father's favour, are ousted from the courtship of three fair sisters;
_Woman is a Weathercock_, and _Amends for Ladies_ (invective and palinode),
by Nathaniel Field (first one of the little eyasses who competed with
regular actors, and then himself an actor and playwright); Green's "_Tu
Quoque_" or _The City Gallant_, attributed to the actor Cook, and deriving
its odd first title from a well-known comedian of the time, and the
catchword which he had to utter in the play itself; _The Hog hath Lost his
Pearl_, a play on the name of a usurer whose daughter is married against
his will, by Taylor; _The Heir_ and _The Old Couple_, by Thomas May, more
famous still for his Latin versification; the rather overpraised _Ordinary_
of Cartwright, Ben Jonson's most praised son; _The City Match_ by Dr.
Jasper Mayne. All these figure in the last, and most of them have figured
in the earlier editions of Dodsley, with a few others hardly worth separate
notice. Mr. Bullen's delightful volumes of _Old Plays_ add the capital play
of _Dick of Devonshire_ (see _ante_), the strange _Two Tragedies in One_ of
Robert Yarington, three lively comedies deriving their names from originals
of one kind or another, _Captain Underwit_, _Sir Giles Goosecap_, and _Dr.
Dodipoll_, with one or two more. One single play remains to be mentioned,
both because of its intrinsic merit, and because of the controversy which
has arisen respecting the question of priority between it and Ben Jonson's
_Alchemist_. This is _Albumazar_, attributed to one Thomas Tomkis, and in
all probability a university play of about the middle of James's reign.
There is nothing in it equal to the splendid bursts of Sir Epicure Mammon,
or the all but first-rate comedy of Face, Dol, and Subtle, and of Abel
Drugger; but Gifford, in particular, does injustice to it, and it is on the
whole a very fair specimen of the work of the time. Nothing indeed is more
astonishing than the average goodness of that work, even when all
allowances are made; and unjust as such a mere enumeration as these last
paragraphs have given must be, it would be still more unjust to pass over
in silence work so varied and so full of talent.[63]

[63] A note may best serve for the plays of Thomas Goff (1591-1629), acted
at his own college, Christ Church, but not published till after his death.
The three most noteworthy, _The Raging Turk_, _The Courageous Turk_, and
the _Tragedy of Orestes_, were republished together in 1656, and a comedy,
_The Careless Shepherdess_, appeared in the same year. The tragedies, and
especially _The Raging Turk_, have been a byword for extravagant frigidity,
though, as they have never been printed in modern times, and as the
originals are rare, they have not been widely known at first hand. A
perusal justifies the worst that has been said of them: though Goff wrote
early enough to escape the Caroline dry-rot in dramatic versification. His
lines are stiff, but they usually scan.



CHAPTER XII

MINOR CAROLINE PROSE


The greatest, beyond all doubt, of the minor writers of the Caroline period
in prose is Robert Burton. Less deliberately quaint than Fuller, he is
never, as Fuller sometimes is, puerile, and the greater concentration of
his thoughts and studies has produced what Fuller never quite produced, a
masterpiece. At the same time it must be confessed that Burton's more
leisurely life assisted to a great extent in the production of his work.
The English collegiate system would have been almost sufficiently justified
if it had produced nothing but _The Anatomy of Melancholy_; though there is
something ironical, no doubt, in the fact that this ideal fruit of a
studious and endowed leisure was the work of one who, being a beneficed
clergyman, ought not in strictness to have been a resident member of a
college. Yet, elsewhere than in Oxford or Cambridge the book could hardly
have grown, and it is as unique as the institutions which produced it.

The author of the _Anatomy_ was the son of Ralph Burton of Lindley in
Leicestershire, where he was born on the 8th of February 1577. He was
educated at Sutton Coldfield School, and thence went to Brasenose College,
Oxford. He became a student of Christchurch--the equivalent of a fellow--in
1599, and seems to have passed the whole of the rest of his life there,
though he took orders and enjoyed together or successively the living of
St. Thomas in Oxford, the vicarage of Walsby in Lincolnshire, and the
rectory of Segrave in Leicestershire, at both of which latter places he
seems to have kept the minimum of residence, though tradition gives him the
character of a good churchman, and though there is certainly nothing
inconsistent with that character in the _Anatomy_. The picture of him which
Anthony à Wood gives at a short second hand is very favourable; and the
attempts to harmonise his "horrid disorder of melancholy" with his "very
merry, facete, and juvenile company," arise evidently from almost ludicrous
misunderstanding of what melancholy means and is. As absurd, though more
serious, is the traditionary libel obviously founded on the words in his
epitaph (_Cui vitam et mortem dedit melancholia_), that having cast his
nativity, he, in order not to be out as to the time of his death, committed
suicide. As he was sixty-three (one of the very commonest periods of death)
at the time, the want of reason of the suggestion equals its want of
charity.

The offspring in English of Burton's sixty-three years of humorous study of
men and books is _The Anatomy of Melancholy_, first printed in 1621, and
enlarged afterwards by the author. A critical edition of the _Anatomy_,
giving these enlargements exactly with other editorial matter, is very much
wanted; but even in the rather inedited condition in which the book, old
and new, is usually found, it is wholly acceptable. Its literary history is
rather curious. Eight editions of it appeared in half a century from the
date of the first, and then, with other books of its time, it dropped out
of notice except by the learned. Early in the present century it was
revived and reprinted with certain modernisations, and four or five
editions succeeded each other at no long interval. The copies thus
circulated seem to have satisfied the demand for many years, and have been
followed without much alteration in some later issues.

The book itself has been very variously judged. Fuller, in one of his least
worthy moments, called it "a book of philology." Anthony Wood, hitting on a
notion which has often been borrowed since, held that it is a convenient
commonplace book of classical quotations, which, with all respect to
Anthony's memory (whom I am more especially bound to honour as a Merton
man), is a gross and Philistine error. Johnson, as was to be expected,
appreciated it thoroughly. Ferriar in his _Illustrations of Sterne_ pointed
out the enormous indebtedness of Tristram Shandy to Democritus Junior.
Charles Lamb, eloquently praising the "fantastic great old man," exhibited
perhaps more perversity than sense in denouncing the modern reprints which,
after all, are not like some modern reprints (notably one of Burton's
contemporary, Felltham, to be noticed shortly), in any real sense garbled.
Since that time Burton has to some extent fallen back to the base uses of a
quarry for half-educated journalists; nevertheless, all fit readers of
English literature have loved him.

The book is a sufficiently strange one at first sight; and it is perhaps no
great wonder that uncritical readers should have been bewildered by the
bristling quotations from utterly forgotten authorities which, with full
and careful reference for the most part, stud its pages, by its elaborate
but apparently futile marshalling in "partitions" and "members," in
"sections" and "subsections," and by the measureless license of digression
which the author allows himself. It opens with a long epistle, filling some
hundred pages in the modern editions, from Democritus Junior, as the author
calls himself, to the reader--an epistle which gives a true foretaste of
the character and style of the text, though, unlike that text, it is not
scholastically divided. The division begins with the text itself, and even
the laziest reader will find the synopses of Burton's "partitions" a
curious study. It is impossible to be, at least in appearance, more
methodical, and all the typographical resources of brackets (sub-bracketed
even to the seventh or eighth involution) and of reference letters are
exhausted in order to draw up a conspectus of the causes, symptoms, nature,
effects, and cure of melancholy. This method is not exactly the method of
madness, though it is quite possible for a reader to attach more (as also
less) importance to it than it deserves. It seems probable on the whole
that the author, with the scholastic habits of his time, did actually draw
out a programme for the treatment of his subject in some form not very
different from these wonderful synopses, and did actually endeavour to keep
to it, or at any rate to work on its lines within the general compass of
the scheme. But on each several head (and reducing them to their lowest
terms the heads are legion) he allowed himself the very widest freedom of
digression, not merely in extracting and applying the fruits of his
notebook, but in developing his own thoughts,--a mine hardly less rich if
less extensive than the treasures of the Bodleian Library which are said to
have been put at his disposal.

The consequence is, that the book is one quite impossible to describe in
brief space. The melancholy of which the author treats, and of which, no
doubt, he was in some sort the victim, is very far from being the mere
Byronic or Wertherian disease which became so familiar some hundred years
ago. On the other hand, Burton being a practical, and, on the whole, very
healthy Englishman, it came something short of "The Melencolia that
transcends all wit," the incurable pessimism and quiet despair which have
been thought to be figured or prefigured in Durer's famous print. Yet it
approaches, and that not distantly, to this latter. It is the Vanity of
Vanities of a man who has gone, in thought at least, over the whole round
of human pleasures and interests, and who, if he has not exactly found all
to be vanity, has found each to be accompanied by some _amari aliquid_. It
is at the same time the frankly expressed hypochondria of a man whose
bodily health was not quite so robust as his mental constitution. It is the
satiety of learning of a man who, nevertheless, knows that learning, or at
least literature, is the only cure for his disease.

In mere style there is perhaps nothing very strongly characteristic in
Burton, though there is much that is noteworthy in the way in which he
adapts his style to the peculiar character of his book. Like Rabelais, he
has but rarely occasion to break through his fantastic habit of stringing
others' pearls on a mere string of his own, and to set seriously to the
composition of a paragraph of wholly original prose. But when he does, the
effect is remarkable, and shows that it was owing to no poverty or
awkwardness that he chose to be so much of a borrower. In his usual style,
where a mere framework of original may enclose a score or more quotations,
translated or not (the modern habit of translating Burton's quotations
spoils, among other things, the zest of his own quaint habit of adding, as
it were, in the same breath, a kind of summary or paraphrase in English of
what he has said in Latin or Greek), he was not superior to his time in the
loose construction of sentences; but the wonder is that his fashion of
writing did not make him even inferior to it. One of his peculiar
tricks--the only one, perhaps, which he uses to the extent of a
mannerism--is the suppression of the conjunctions "or" and "and," which
gives a very quaint air to his strings of synonyms. But an example will do
more here than much analysis:--

     "And why then should baseness of birth be objected to any man?
     Who thinks worse of Tully for being _Arpinas_, an upstart? or
     Agathocles, that Sicilian King, for being a potter's son?
     Iphicrates and Marius were meanly born. What wise man thinks
     better of any person for his nobility? as he[64] said in
     Machiavel, _omnes codem patre nati_, Adam's sons, conceived all
     and born in sin, etc. _We are by nature all as one, all alike, if
     you see us naked; let us wear theirs, and they our clothes, and
     what's the difference?_ To speak truth, as Bale did of P.
     Schalichius, _I more esteem thy worth, learning, honesty, than
     the nobility; honour thee more that thou art a writer, a doctor
     of divinity, than earl of the Hunnes, baron of Skradine, or hast
     title to such and such provinces, etc. Thou art more fortunate
     and great_ (so Jovius writes to Cosmus Medices, then Duke of
     Florence) _for thy virtues than for thy lovely wife and happy
     children, friends, fortunes, or great Duchy of Tuscany_. So I
     account thee, and who doth not so indeed? Abdalonymus was a
     gardener, and yet by Alexander for his virtues made King of
     Syria. How much better is it to be born of mean parentage and to
     excel in worth, to be morally noble, which is preferred before
     that natural nobility by divines, philosophers, and politicians,
     to be learned, honest, discreet, well qualified to be fit for any
     manner of employment in country and commonwealth, war and peace,
     than to be _degeneres Neoptolemi_ as so many brave nobles are,
     only wise because rich, otherwise idiots, illiterate, unfit for
     any manner of service? Udalricus, Earl of Cilia, upbraided John
     Huniades with the baseness of his birth; but he replied, _In te
     Ciliensis comitatus turpiter exstinguitur, in me gloriose
     Bistricensis exoritur_; thine earldom is consumed with riot; mine
     begins with honour and renown. Thou hast had so many noble
     ancestors; what is that to thee? _Vix ea nostra voco_; when thou
     art a disard[65] thyself, _quid prodest Pontice longo stemmate
     censeri_? etc. I conclude, hast thou a sound body and a good
     soul, good bringing up? Art thou virtuous, honest, learned, well
     qualified, religious? Are thy conditions good? Thou art a true
     nobleman, perfectly noble though born of Thersites, _dummodo tu
     sis Aeacidæ similis non natus sed factus_, noble kat' exochên,
     _for neither sword, nor fire, nor water, nor sickness, nor
     outward violence, nor the devil himself can take thy good parts
     from thee_. Be not ashamed of thy birth then; thou art a
     gentleman all the world over, and shalt be honoured, whenas he,
     strip him of his fine clothes, dispossess him of his wealth, is a
     funge[66] (which Polynices in his banishment found true by
     experience, gentry was not esteemed), like a piece of coin in
     another country, that no man will take, and shall be contemned.
     Once more, though thou be a barbarian born at Tontonteac, a
     villain, a slave, a Saldanian negro, or a rude Virginian in
     Dasamonquepeuc,[67] he a French monsieur, a Spanish don, a
     seignior of Italy, I care not how descended, of what family, of
     what order--baron, count, prince--if thou be well qualified and
     he not but a degenerate Neoptolemus, I tell thee in a word thou
     art a man and he is a beast."

[64] Burton, with others of the time, constantly wrote "he" as the
equivalent of the classical demonstratives. Modern, but not better, use
prefers "the man," or something similar.

[65] A "dizzard" = a blockhead. Said to be connected with "dizzy."

[66] Fungus, mushroom.

[67] Saldania is Saldanha Bay. As for Tontonteac and Dasamonquepeuc, I
shall imitate the manly frankness of the boy in _Henry V._, and say, "I do
not know what is the French for fer, and ferret, and firk."

Such, in his outward aspects, is Burton; but of him, even more than of most
writers, it may be said that a brick of the house is no sample. Only by
reading him in the proper sense, and that with diligence, can his great
learning, his singular wit and fancy, and the general view of life and of
things belonging to life, which informs and converts to a whole his
learning, his wit, and his fancy alike, be properly conceived. For reading
either continuous or desultory, either grave or gay, at all times of life
and in all moods of temper, there are few authors who stand the test of
practice so well as the author of _The Anatomy of Melancholy_.

Probably, however, among those who can taste old authors, there will always
be a friendly but irreconcilable difference as to the merits of Fuller and
Burton, when compared together. There never can be any among such as to the
merits of Fuller, considered in himself. Like Burton, he was a clerk in
orders; but his literary practice, though more copious than that of the
author of _The Anatomy_, divorced him less from the discharge of his
professional duties. He was born, like Dryden, but twenty-two years
earlier, in 1608, at Aldwinkle in Northamptonshire, and in a parsonage
there, but of the other parish (for there are two close together). He was
educated at Cambridge, and, being made prebendary of Salisbury, and vicar
of Broadwindsor, almost as soon as he could take orders, seemed to be in a
fair way of preferment. He worked as a parish priest up to 1640, the year
of the beginning of troubles, and the year of his first important book,
_The Holy War_. But he was a staunch Royalist, though by no means a bigot,
and he did not, like other men of his time, see his way to play Mr.
Facing-both-ways. For a time he was a preacher in London, then he followed
the camp as chaplain to the victorious army of Hopton, in the west, then
for a time again he was stationary at Exeter, and after the ruin of the
Royal cause he returned to London, where, though he did not recover his
benefices, he was leniently treated, and even, in 1655, obtained license to
preach. Nevertheless, the Restoration would probably have brought him
promotion, but he lived not long enough to receive it, dying on the 15th of
August 1661. He was an extremely industrious writer, publishing, besides
the work already mentioned, and not a few minor pieces (_The Holy and
Profane State_, _Thoughts and Contemplations in Good, Worse, and Better
Times_, _A Pisgah-sight of Palestine_), an extensive _Church History of
Britain_, and, after his death, what is perhaps his masterpiece, _The
Worthies of England_, an extraordinary miscellany, quartering the ground by
counties, filling, in the compactest edition, two mighty quartos, and
containing perhaps the greatest account of miscellaneous fact to be found
anywhere out of an encyclopedia, conveyed in a style the quaintest and most
lively to be found anywhere out of the choicest essayists of the language.

A man of genius who adored Fuller, and who owes to him more than to any one
else except Sir Thomas Browne, has done, in small compass, a service to his
memory which is not easily to be paralleled. Lamb's specimens from Fuller,
most of which are only two or three lines long, and none a pageful, for
once contradict the axiom quoted above as to a brick and a house. So
perfectly has the genius of selector and author coincided, that not having
myself gone through the verification of them, I should hardly be surprised
to find that Lamb had used his faculty of invention. Yet this would not
matter, for they are perfectly Fullerian. Although Fuller has justly been
praised for his method, and although he never seems to have suffered his
fancy to run away with him to the extent of forgetting or wilfully
misrepresenting a fact, the conceits, which are the chief characteristic of
his style, are comparatively independent of the subject. Coleridge has
asserted that "Wit was the stuff and substance of his intellect," an
assertion which (with all the respect due to Coleridge) would have been
better phrased in some such way as this,--that nearly the whole force of
his intellect concentrated itself upon the witty presentation of things. He
is illimitably figurative, and though his figures seldom or never fail to
carry illumination of the subject with them, their peculiar character is
sufficiently indicated by the fact that they can almost always be separated
from the subject and from the context in which they occur without any
damage to their own felicity. To a thoroughly serious person, to a person
like Lord Chesterfield (who was indeed very serious in his own way, and
abhorred proverbial philosophy), or to one who cannot away with the
introduction of a quip in connection with a solemn subject, and who thinks
that indulgence in a gibe is a clear proof that the writer has no solid
argument to produce, Fuller must be nothing but a puzzle or a disgust. That
a pious and earnest divine should, even in that day of quaintness, compare
the gradual familiarisation of Christians with the sacraments of the Church
to the habit of children first taking care of, and then neglecting a pair
of new boots, or should describe a brother clerk as "pronouncing the word
_damn_ with such an emphasis as left a dismal echo in his auditors' ears a
good while longer," seems, no doubt, to some excellent people,
unpardonable, and almost incomprehensible. Yet no one has ever impeached
the sincerity of Fuller's convictions, and the blamelessness of his life.
That a grave historian should intersperse the innumerable trivialities of
the _Worthies_ may be only less shocking. But he was an eminent proof of
his own axiom, "That an ounce of mirth, with the same degree of grace, will
serve God farther than a pound of sadness." Fuller is perhaps the only
writer who, voluminous as he is, will not disappoint the most superficial
inquirer for proofs of the accuracy of the character usually given to him.
Nobody perhaps but himself, in trying to make the best of the Egyptian
bondage of the Commonwealth, would have discovered that the Church, being
unrepresented by any of the four hundred and odd members of Cromwell's
Parliament, was better off than when she had Archbishops, Bishops, and a
convocation all to herself, urging, "what civil Christian would not plead
for a dumb man," and so enlisting all the four hundred and odd enemies as
friends and representatives. But it is impossible to enter fully on the
subject of Fuller's quips. What may fairly be said of them is, that while
constantly fantastic, and sometimes almost childish, they are never really
silly; that they are never, or hardly ever in bad taste; and that, quaint
and far fetched as they are, there is almost always some application or
suggestion which saves them from being mere intellectual somersaults. The
famous one of the "Images of God cut in ebony," is sufficient of itself to
serve as a text. There is in it all the good side of the emancipation
propaganda with an entire freedom from the extravagance, the vulgarity, the
injustice, the bad taste which marked that propaganda a century and more
afterwards, when taken up by persons very different from Fuller. Perhaps it
may be well to give an extract of some length from him:--

     "A lady big with child was condemned to perpetual imprisonment,
     and in the dungeon was delivered of a son, who continued with her
     till a boy of some bigness. It happened at one time he heard his
     mother (for see neither of them could, as to decern in so dark a
     place) bemoan her condition.

     "Why, mother (said the child) do you complain, seeing you want
     nothing you can wish, having clothes, meat, and drink sufficient?
     Alas! child (returned the mother), I lack liberty, converse with
     Christians, the light of the sun, and many things more, which
     thou, being prison-born, neither art nor can be sensible of in
     thy condition.

     "The _post-nati_, understand thereby such striplings born in
     England since the death of monarchy therein, conceive this land,
     their mother, to be in a good estate. For one fruitful harvest
     followeth another, commodities are sold at reasonable rates,
     abundance of brave clothes are worn in the city, though not by
     such persons whose birth doth best become, but whose purses can
     best bestow them.

     "But their mother, England, doth justly bemoan the sad difference
     betwixt her present and former condition; when she enjoyed full
     and free trade without payment of taxes, save so small they
     seemed rather an acknowledgment of their allegiance than a burden
     to their estate; when she had the court of a king, the House of
     Lords, yea, and the Lord's house, decently kept, constantly
     frequented, without falsehood in doctrine, or faction in
     discipline. God of His goodness restore unto us so much of these
     things as may consist with His glory and our good."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "I saw a servant maid, at the command of her mistress, make,
     kindle, and blow a fire. Which done, she was posted away about
     other business, whilst her mistress enjoyed the benefit of the
     fire. Yet I observed that this servant, whilst industriously
     employed in the kindling thereof, got a more general, kindly, and
     continuing heat than her mistress herself. Her heat was only by
     her, and not in her, staying with her no longer than she stayed
     by the chimney; whilst the warmth of the maid was inlaid, and
     equally diffused through the whole body.

     "An estate suddenly gotten is not so lasting to the owner thereof
     as what is duly got by industry. The substance of the diligent,
     saith Solomon, Prov. xii. 27, is precious. He cannot be counted
     poor that hath so many pearls, precious brown bread, precious
     small beer, precious plain clothes, etc. A comfortable
     consideration in this our age, wherein many hands have learned
     their lesson of labour, who were neither born nor bred with it."

The best judges have admitted that, in contradistinction to this perpetual
quipping, which is, as far as it goes, of his time, the general style of
Fuller is on the whole rather more modern than the styles of his
contemporaries. It does not seem that this is due to deliberate intention
of shortening and proportioning his prose; for he is as careless as any
one of the whole century about exact grammatical sequence, and seems to
have had no objection on any critical grounds to the long disjointed
sentence which was the curse of the time. But his own ruling passion
insensibly disposed him to a certain brevity. He liked to express his
figurative conceits pointedly and antithetically; and point and antithesis
are the two things most incompatible with clauses jointed _ad infinitum_ in
Clarendon's manner, with labyrinths of "whos" and "whiches" such as too
frequently content Milton and Taylor. Poles asunder from Hobbes, not merely
in his ultimate conclusions but in the general quality of his mind, he
perhaps comes nearest to the author of the treatise on _Human Nature_ in
clear, sensible, unambiguous presentation of the thing that he means to
say; and this, joined to his fecundity in illustration of every kind,
greatly helps the readableness of his books. No work of his as a working
out of an original conception can compete with _The Anatomy of Melancholy_;
but he is as superior in minor method to Burton as he is inferior in
general grasp.

The remainder of the minor Carolines must be dismissed rapidly. A not
unimportant position among the prose writers of this time is occupied by
Edward Herbert, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, the elder brother of George
Herbert the poet. He was born in 1583, and finished his life ingloriously,
and indeed discreditably, during the troubles of the civil war, on the 20th
of August 1648. His earlier career is elaborately if not exactly truthfully
recorded in his _Autobiography_, and its details have been carefully
supplemented by his latest editor, Mr. Lee. His literary activity was
various and considerable. His greatest work--a treatise which has been
rashly called the foundation of English deism, but which rather expresses
the vague and not wholly unorthodox doubt expressed earlier by Montaigne,
and by contemporaries of Herbert's own, such as La Mothe le Vayer--was
written in Latin, and has never been translated into English. He was an
English verse writer of some merit, though inferior to his brother. His
ambitious and academic _History of Henry VIII._ is a regular and not
unsuccessful effort in English prose, prompted no doubt by the
thoroughgoing courtiership which ranks with his vanity and want of
stability on the most unfavourable aspect of Herbert's character. But
posterity has agreed to take him as an English writer chiefly on the
strength of the Autobiography, which remained in manuscript for a century
and more, and was published by Horace Walpole, rather against the will of
Lord Powis, its possessor and its author's representative. It is difficult
to say that Lord Powis was wrong, especially considering that Herbert never
published these memoirs, and seems to have written them as much as anything
else for his own private satisfaction. It may be doubted whether there is
any more astounding monument of coxcombry in literature. Herbert is
sometimes cited as a model of a modern knight-errant, of an Amadis born too
late. Certainly, according to his own account, all women loved and all men
feared him; but for the former fact we have nothing but his own authority,
and in regard to the latter we have counter evidence which renders it
exceedingly doubtful. He was, according to his own account, a desperate
duellist. But even by this account his duels had a curious habit of being
interrupted, in the immortal phrase of Mr. Winkle, by "several police
constables;" while in regard to actual war the exploits of his youth seem
not to have been great, and those of his age were wholly discreditable,
inasmuch as being by profession an ardent Royalist, he took the first
opportunity to make, without striking a blow, a profitable composition with
the Parliament. Nevertheless, despite the drawbacks of subject-matter, the
autobiography is a very interesting piece of English prose. The narrative
style, for all its coxcombry and its insistence on petty details, has a
singular vivacity; the constructions, though sometimes incorrect ("the
edict was so severe as they who transgressed were to lose their heads"),
are never merely slovenly; and the writer displays an art, very uncommon in
his time, in the alternation of short and long sentences and the general
adjustment of the paragraph. Here and there, too, there are passages of
more elevated style which give reason for regretting that the _De Veritate_
was not written in English. It is very much to be feared that the chief
reason for its being written in Latin was a desire on the author's part to
escape awkward consequences by an appearance of catering for philosophers
and the learned only. It must be admitted that neither of the two great
free-thinking Royalists, Hobbes and Herbert, is a wholly pleasant
character; but it may be at least said for the commoner (it cannot be said
for the peer) that he was constant to his principles, and that if somewhat
careful of his skin, he never seems to have been tempted to barter his
conscience for it as Herbert did.

Hardly any other writer among the minor Caroline prosaists is important
enough to justify a substantive notice in a work which has already reached
and almost exceeded the limits accorded to it. The excellent style of
Cowley's _Essays_, which is almost more modern than the work of Dryden and
Tillotson, falls in great part actually beyond the limits of our time; and
by character, if not by date, Cowley is left for special treatment in the
following volume. He sometimes relapses into what may be called the general
qualities with their accompanying defects of Elizabethan prose--a contempt
of proportion, clearness, and order; a reckless readiness to say everything
that is in the writer's mind, without considering whether it is appropriate
or not; a confusion of English and classical grammar, and occasionally a
very scant attention even to rules which the classical grammars indicate
yet more sternly than the vernacular. But as a rule he is distinguished for
exactly the opposite of all these things. Much less modern than Cowley, but
still of a chaster and less fanciful style than most of his contemporaries,
is the famous Protestant apologist, Chillingworth--a man whose orderly mind
and freedom from anything like enthusiasm reflected themselves in the easy
balance of his style. Sanderson, Pearson, Baxter, the two former luminaries
of the Church, the latter one of the chief literary lights of
Nonconformity, belong more or less to the period, as does Bishop Hall.
Baxter is the most colloquial, the most fanciful, and the latest, of the
three grouped together; the other two are nearer to the plainness of
Chillingworth than to the ornateness of Jeremy Taylor. Few English prose
writers again are better known than Izaak Walton, though it might be
difficult to prove that in matter of pure literature he stands very high.
The engaging character of his subjects, and the still more engaging display
of his own temper and mode of thought which he makes in almost every
sentence, both of his _Complete Angler_ and of his hardly less known
_Lives_, account for the survival and constant popularity of books which
are neither above nor below the better work of their time in literary form.
Walton was born in 1593 and died ninety years later. His early manhood was
spent in London as a "linen-draper," but in friendly conversation with the
best clerical and literary society. In 1643 he retired from London to avoid
the bustle of the Civil War, and the _Complete Angler_ appeared in 1653.
Another writer contemporary with Walton, though less long-lived, James
Howell, has been the subject of very varying judgments; his appeal being
very much of the same kind as Walton's, but addressed to a different and
narrower class of persons. He was born in 1594(?) of a fair Welsh family,
was educated at Jesus College, Oxford, was employed more than once on
confidential business errands on the Continent, entered Parliament, was
made Clerk of the Council, was imprisoned for years in the Fleet during the
Civil War, received at the Restoration the post of Historiographer, and
died in 1666. He wrote all manner of things, but has chiefly survived as
the author of a large collection of Familiar Letters, which have been great
favourites with some excellent judges. They have something of the agreeable
garrulousness of Walton. But Howell was not only much more of a gossip than
Izaak; he was also a good deal of a coxcomb, while Walton was destitute of
even a trace of coxcombry. In one, however, as in the other, the attraction
of matter completely outdoes the purely literary attraction. The reader is
glad to hear at first hand what men thought of Raleigh's execution; how
Ben Jonson behaved in his cups; how foreign parts looked to a genuine
English traveller early in the seventeenth century, and so forth. Moreover,
the book was long a very popular one, and an unusual number of anecdotes
and scraps passed from it into the general literary stock of English
writers. But Howell's manner of telling his stories is not extraordinarily
attractive, and has something self-conscious and artificial about it which
detracts from its interest. The _Characters_ of Overbury were followed and,
no doubt, imitated by John Earle, afterwards Bishop of Salisbury, and a man
of some importance. Earle, who was a fellow of Merton, called his sketches
_Microcosmography_. Nothing in them approaches the celebrated if perhaps
not quite genuine milkmaid of Overbury; but they give evidence of a good
deal of direct observation often expressed in a style that is pointed, such
as the description of a bowling green as a place fitted for "the expense of
time, money, and oaths." The church historian and miscellanist Heylin
belongs also to the now fast multiplying class of professional writers who
dealt with almost any subject as it might seem likely to hit the taste of
the public. The bold and fantastic speculations of Bishop Wilkins and Sir
Kenelm Digby, and the _Oceana_ or Ideal Republic (last of a long line) of
James Harrington (not to be confounded with the earlier Sir John Harington,
translator of Ariosto), deserve some notice. The famous _Eikon Basilike_
(the authorship of which has perhaps of late years been too confidently
ascribed to Dr. Gauden independently, rather than to the king, edited by
Gauden) has considerable literary merit. Last of all has to be mentioned a
curious book, which made some noise at its appearance, and which, though
not much read now, has had two seasons of genuine popularity, and is still
highly thought of by a few good judges. This is the _Resolves_ of Owen
Feltham or Felltham. Not much is known of the author except that he was of
a respectable family in East Anglia, a family which seems to have been
especially seated in the neighbourhood of Lowestoft. Besides the _Resolves_
he wrote some verse, of which the most notable piece is a reply to Ben
Jonson's famous ode to himself ("Come Leave the Loathed Stage")--a reply
which even such a sworn partisan as Gifford admits to be at least just if
not very kind. Felltham seems also to have engaged in controversy with
another Johnson, a Jesuit, on theological subjects. But save for the
_Resolves_ he would be totally forgotten. The estimate of their value will
differ very much, as the liking for not very original discussion of ethical
subjects and sound if not very subtle judgment on them overpowers or not in
the reader a distaste for style that has no particular distinction, and
ideas which, though often wholesome, are seldom other than obvious.
Wordsworth's well-known description of one of his own poems, as being "a
chain of extremely valuable thoughts," applies no doubt to the _Resolves_,
which, except in elegance, rather resemble the better-known of Cicero's
philosophical works. Moreover, though possessing no great elegance, they
are not inelegant; though it is difficult to forget how differently Bacon
and Browne treated not dissimilar subjects at much the same time. So
popular were they that besides the first edition (which is undated, but
must have appeared in or before 1628, the date of the second), eleven
others were called for up to 1709. But it was not for a hundred years that
they were again printed, and then the well-meaning but misguided zeal of
their resuscitator led him not merely to modernise their spelling, etc. (a
venial sin, if, which I am not inclined very positively to lay down, it is
a sin at all), but to "improve" their style, sense, and sentiment by
omission, alteration, and other tamperings with the text, so as to give the
reader not what Mr. Felltham wrote early in the seventeenth century, but
what Mr. Cummings thought he ought to have written early in the nineteenth.

This chapter might easily be enlarged, and indeed, as Dryden says, shame
must invade the breast of every writer of literary history on a small scale
who is fairly acquainted with his subject, when he thinks how many worthy
men--men much worthier than he can himself ever pretend to be--he has
perforce omitted. Any critic inclined to find fault may ask me where is the
ever-memorable John Hales? Where is Tom Coryat, that most egregious
Odcombian? and Barnabee of the unforgotten, though scandalous, Itinerary?
Where is Sir Thomas Urquhart, quaintest of cavaliers, and not least
admirable of translators, who not only rendered Rabelais in a style worthy
of him, who not only wrote in sober seriousness pamphlets with titles,
which Master Francis could hardly have bettered in jest, but who composed a
pedigree of the Urquhart family _nominatim_ up to Noah and Adam, and then
improvised chimney pieces in Cromarty Castle, commemorating the prehistoric
ancestors whom he had excogitated? Where are the great Bishops from
Andrewes and Cosin onwards, and the lesser Theologians who wrangled, and
the Latitudinarians who meditated, and the historians with Whitelocke at
their head, and the countless writers of countless classes of books who
multiplied steadily as time went on? It can only be answered that they are
not, and that almost in the nature of things they cannot be here. It is not
that they are not intrinsically interesting; it is not merely that, being
less intrinsically interesting than some of their forerunners or
contemporaries, they must give way when room is limited. It is that even if
their individual performance were better than that of earlier men, even if
there were room and verge enough for them, they would less concern the
literary historian. For to him in all cases the later examples of a style
are less important than the earlier, merely because they are late, because
they have had forerunners whom, consciously or unconsciously, they have
(except in the case of a great genius here and there) imitated, and because
as a necessary consequence they fall into the _numerus_--into the gross as
they would themselves have said--who must be represented only by choice
examples and not enumerated or criticised in detail.



CONCLUSION


A conclusion, like a preface, is perhaps to some extent an old-fashioned
thing; and it is sometimes held that a writer does better not to sum up at
all, but to leave the facts which he has accumulated to make their own way
into the intelligence of his readers. I am not able to accept this view of
the matter. In dealing with such a subject as that which has been handled
in the foregoing pages, it is at least as necessary that the writer should
have something of _ensemble_ in his mind as that he should look carefully
into facts and dates and names. And he can give no such satisfactory
evidence of his having possessed this _ensemble_, as a short summary of
what, in his idea, the whole period looks like when taken at a bird's-eye
view. For he has (or ought to have) given the details already; and his
summary, without in the least compelling readers to accept it, must give
them at least some means of judging whether he has been wandering over a
plain trackless to him, or has been pursuing with confidence a well-planned
and well-laid road.

At the time at which our period begins (and which, though psychological
epochs rarely coincide exactly with chronological, is sufficiently
coincident with the accession of Elizabeth), it cannot be said with any
precision that there was an English _literature_ at all. There were eminent
English writers, though perhaps one only to whom the first rank could even
by the utmost complaisance be opened or allowed. But there was no
literature, in the sense of a system of treating all subjects in the
vernacular, according to methods more or less decidedly arranged and
accepted by a considerable tradition of skilled craftsmen. Something of the
kind had partially existed in the case of the Chaucerian poetic; but it was
an altogether isolated something. Efforts, though hardly conscious ones,
had been made in the domain of prose by romancers, such as the practically
unknown Thomas Mallory, by sacred orators like Latimer, by historians like
More, by a few struggling miscellaneous writers. Men like Ascham, Cheke,
Wilson, and others had, perhaps with a little touch of patronage,
recommended the regular cultivation of the English tongue; and immediately
before the actual accession of Elizabeth the publication of Tottel's
_Miscellany_ had shown by its collection of the best poetical work of the
preceding half century the extraordinary effect which a judicious xenomania
(if I may, without scaring the purists of language, borrow that useful word
from the late Karl Hillebrand) may produce on English. It is to the
exceptional fertilising power of such influences on our stock that we owe
all the marvellous accomplishments of the English tongue, which in this
respect--itself at the head of the Teutonic tongues by an almost
unapproachable distance--stands distinguished with its Teutonic sisters
generally from the groups of languages with which it is most likely to be
contrasted. Its literary power is originally less conspicuous than that of
the Celtic and of the Latin stocks; the lack, notorious to this day, of one
single original English folk-song of really great beauty is a rough and
general fact which is perfectly borne out by all other facts. But the
exquisite folk-literature of the Celts is absolutely unable either by
itself or with the help of foreign admixture to arrive at complete literary
perfection. And the profound sense of form which characterises the Latins
is apparently accompanied by such a deficiency of originality, that when
any foreign model is accepted it receives hardly any colour from the native
genius, and remains a cultivated exotic. The less promising soil of
Anglo-Saxon idiom waited for the foreign influences, ancient and modern, of
the Renaissance to act upon it, and then it produced a crop which has
dwarfed all the produce of the modern world, and has nearly, if not quite,
equalled in perfection, while it has much exceeded in bulk and length of
flowering time, the produce of Greece.

The rush of foreign influences on the England of Elizabeth's time,
stimulated alike by the printing press, by religious movements, by the
revival of ancient learning, and by the habits of travel and commerce, has
not been equalled in force and volume by anything else in history. But the
different influences of different languages and countries worked with very
different force. To the easier and more generally known of the classical
tongues must be assigned by far the largest place. This was only natural at
a time when to the inherited and not yet decayed use of colloquial and
familiar Latin as the vehicle of business, of literature, and of almost
everything that required the committal of written words to paper, was added
the scholarly study of its classical period from the strictly humanist
point of view. If we could assign marks in the competition, Latin would
have to receive nearly as many as all its rivals put together; but Greek
would certainly not be second, though it affected, especially in the
channel of the Platonic dialogues, many of the highest and most gifted
souls. In the latter part of the present period there were probably
scholars in England who, whether their merely philological attainments
might or might not pass muster now, were far better read in the actual
literature of the Greek classics than the very philologists who now disdain
them. Not a few of the chief matters in Greek literature--the epical
grandeur of Homer, the tragic principles of the three poets, and so
forth--made themselves, at first or second hand, deeply felt. But on the
whole Greek did not occupy the second place. That place was occupied by
Italian. It was Italy which had touched the spring that let loose the
poetry of Surrey and Wyatt; Italy was the chief resort of travelled
Englishmen in the susceptible time of youth; Italy provided in Petrarch
(Dante was much less read) and Boccaccio, in Ariosto and Tasso, an
inexhaustible supply of models, both in prose and verse. Spain was only
less influential because Spanish literature was in a much less finished
condition than Italian, and perhaps also because political causes made the
following of Spaniards seem almost unpatriotic. Yet the very same causes
made the Spanish language itself familiar to far more Englishmen than are
familiar with it now, though the direct filiation of euphuism on Spanish
originals is no doubt erroneous, and though the English and Spanish dramas
evolved themselves in lines rather parallel than connected.

France and Germany were much (indeed infinitely) less influential, and the
fact is from some points of view rather curious. Both were much nearer to
England than Spain or Italy; there was much more frequent communication
with both; there was at no time really serious hostility with either; and
the genius of both languages was, the one from one side, the other from the
other, closely connected with that of English. Yet in the great productions
of our great period, the influence of Germany is only perceptible in some
burlesque matter, such as _Eulenspiegel_ and _Grobianus_, in the furnishing
of a certain amount of supernatural subject-matter like the Faust legend,
and in details less important still. French influence is little greater; a
few allusions of "E. K." to Marot and Ronsard; a few translations and
imitations by Spenser, Watson, and others; the curious sonnets of
_Zepheria_; a slight echo of Rabelais here and there; some adapted songs to
music; and a translated play or two on the Senecan model.[68]

[68] Some, like my friend Mr. Lee, would demur to this, especially as
regards the sonnet. But Desportes, the chief creditor alleged, was himself
an infinite borrower from the Italians. Soothern, an early but worthless
sonneteer, _c._ 1584, did certainly imitate the French.

But France had already exercised a mighty influence upon England; and
Germany had very little influence to exercise for centuries. Putting aside
all pre-Chaucerian influence which may be detected, the outside guiding
force of literary English literature (which was almost exclusively poetry)
had been French from the end of the fourteenth century to the last
survivals of the Scoto-Chaucerian school in Hawes, Skelton, and Lindsay.
True, France had now something else to give; though it must be remembered
that her great school coincided with rather than preceded the great school
of England, that the _Défense et Illustration de la Langue Française_ was
but a few years anterior to Tottel's _Miscellany_, and that, except Marot
and Rabelais (neither of whom was neglected, though neither exercised much
formal influence), the earlier French writers of the sixteenth century had
nothing to teach England. On the other hand, Germany was utterly unable to
supply anything in the way of instruction in literary form; and it was
instruction in literary form which was needed to set the beanstalk of
English literature growing even unto the heavens. Despite the immense
advantage which the English adoption of German innovations in religion gave
the country of Luther, that country's backwardness made imitation
impossible. Luther himself had not elaborated anything like a German style;
he had simply cleared the vernacular of some of its grossest
stumbling-blocks and started a good plain fashion of sentence. That was not
what England wanted or was likely to want, but a far higher literary
instruction, which Germany could not give her and (for the matter of that)
has never been in a position to give her. The models which she sought had
to be sought elsewhere, in Athens, in old Rome, in modern Tuscany.

But it would probably be unwise not to make allowance for a less
commonplace and more "metaphysical" explanation. It was precisely because
French and German had certain affinities with English, while Italian and
Spanish, not to mention the classical tongues, were strange and exotic,
that the influence of the latter group was preferred. The craving for
something not familiar, for something new and strange, is well known enough
in the individual; and nations are, after all, only aggregates of
individuals. It was exactly because the models of the south were so utterly
divided from the isolated Briton in style and character that he took so
kindly to them, and that their study inspired him so well. There were not,
indeed, wanting signs of what mischief might have been done if English
sense had been less robust and the English genius of a less stubborn
idiosyncrasy. Euphuism, the occasional practice of the Senecan drama, the
preposterous and almost incredible experiments in classical metre of men
not merely like Drant and Harvey, but like Sidney and Spenser, were
sufficiently striking symptoms of the ferment which was going on in the
literary constitution of the country. But they were only harmless
heat-rashes, not malignant distempers, and the spirit of England won
through them, with no loss of general health, probably with the result of
the healthy excretion of many peccant humours which might have been
mischievous if driven in. Even the strongest of all the foreign forces, the
just admiration of the masterpieces of classical antiquity, was not in any
way hurtful; and it is curious enough that it is only in what may be called
the autumn and, comparatively speaking, the decadence of the period that
anything that can be called pedantry is observed. It is in Milton and
Browne, not in Shakespere and Hooker, that there is an appearance of undue
domination and "obsession" by the classics.

The subdivisions of the period in which these purely literary influences
worked in combination with those of the domestic and foreign policy of
England (on which it is unnecessary here to dilate), can be drawn with
tolerable precision. They are both better marked and more important in
verse than in prose. For it cannot be too often asserted that the age, in
the wide sense, was, despite many notable achievements in the _sermo
pedestris_, not an age of prose but an age of poetry. The first period
extends (taking literary dates) from the publication of Tottel's
_Miscellany_ to that of _The Shepherd's Calendar_. It is not distinguished
by much production of positive value. In poetry proper the writers pursue
and exercise themselves upon the track of Surrey, Wyatt, and the other
authors whom Grimoald, or some other, collected; acquiring, no doubt, a
certain facility in the adjustment to iambic and other measures of the
altered pronunciation since Chaucer's time; practising new combinations in
stanza, but inclining too much to the doggerel Alexandrines and
fourteeners (more doggerel still when chance or design divided them into
eights and sixes); repeating, without much variation, images and phrases
directly borrowed from foreign models; and displaying, on the whole, a
singular lack of inspiration which half excuses the mistaken attempt of the
younger of them, and of their immediate successors, to arrive at the
desired poetical medium by the use of classical metres. Among men actually
living and writing at this time Lord Buckhurst alone displays a real
poetical faculty. Nor is the case much better in respect of drama, though
here the restless variety of tentative displays even more clearly the
vigorous life which underlay incomplete performance, and which promised
better things shortly. The attempt of _Gorboduc_ and a few other plays to
naturalise the artificial tragedy, though a failure, was one of those
failures which, in the great literary "rule of false," help the way to
success; the example of _Ralph Roister Doister_ and _Gammer Gurton's
Needle_ could not fail to stimulate the production of genuine native farce
which might any day become _la bonne comédie_. And even the continued
composition of Moralities showed signs of the growing desire for life and
individuality of character. Moreover, the intense and increasing liking for
the theatre in all classes of society, despite the discouragement of the
authorities, the miserable reward offered to actors and playwrights, and
the discredit which rested on the vocations of both, was certain in the
ordinary course of things to improve the supply. The third division of
literature made slower progress under less powerful stimulants. No
emulation, like that which tempted the individual graduate or templar to
rival Surrey in addressing his mistress's eyebrow, or Sackville in stately
rhyming on English history, acted on the writers of prose. No public
demand, like that which produced the few known and the hundred forgotten
playwrights of the first half of Elizabeth's reign, served as a hotbed. But
it is the great secret of prose that it can dispense with such stimulants.
Everybody who wished to make his thoughts known began, with the help of
the printing press, to make them known; and the informal use of the
vernacular, by dint of this unconscious practice and of the growing
scholarship both of writers and readers, tended insensibly to make itself
less of a mere written conversation and more of a finished prose style.
Preaching in English, the prose pamphlet, and translations into the
vernacular were, no doubt, the three great schoolmasters in the
disciplining of English prose. But by degrees all classes of subjects were
treated in the natural manner, and so the various subdivisions of prose
style--oratorical, narrative, expository, and the rest--slowly evolved and
separated themselves, though hardly, even at the close of the time, had
they attained the condition of finish.

The year 1580 may be fixed on with almost mathematical accuracy as the date
at which the great generation of Elizabethan writers first showed its hand
with Lyly's _Euphues_ in prose and Spenser's _Shepherd's Calendar_ in
verse. Drama was a little, but not more than a little, later in showing the
same signs of rejuvenescence; and from that time forward till the end of
the century not a year passed without the appearance of some memorable work
or writer; while the total production of the twenty years exceeds in
originality and force, if not always in artistic perfection of form, the
production of any similar period in the world's history. The group of
University Wits, following the example of Lyly (who, however, in drama
hardly belongs to the most original school), started the dramas of history,
of romance, of domestic life; and, by fashioning through their leader
Marlowe the tragic decasyllable, put into the hands of the still greater
group who succeeded them an instrument, the power of which it is impossible
to exaggerate. Before the close of the century they had themselves all
ceased their stormy careers; but Shakespere was in the full swing of his
activity; Ben Jonson had achieved the freshest and perhaps capital fruit of
his study of humours; Dekker, Webster, Middleton, Chapman, and a crowd of
lesser writers had followed in his steps. In poetry proper the magnificent
success of _The Faërie Queen_ had in one sense no second; but it was
surrounded with a crowd of productions hardly inferior in their own way,
the chief being the result of the great and remarkable sonnet outburst of
the last decade of the century. The doggerel of the earlier years had
almost entirely disappeared, and in its place appeared the perfect
concerted music of the stanzas (from the sonnet and the Spenserian
downwards), the infinite variety of the decasyllable, and the exquisite
lyric snatches of song in the dramatists, pamphleteers, and music-book
writers. Following the general law already indicated, the formal advance in
prose was less, but an enormous stride was made in the direction of
applying it to its various uses. The theologians, with Hooker at their
head, produced almost the first examples of the measured and dignified
treatment of argument and exposition. Bacon (towards the latter end it is
true) produced the earliest specimens of his singular mixture of gravity
and fancy, pregnant thought and quaint expression. History in the proper
sense was hardly written, but a score of chroniclers, some not deficient in
narrative power, paved the way for future historians. In imaginative and
miscellaneous literature the fantastic extravagances of Lyly seemed as
though they might have an evil effect. In reality they only spurred
ingenious souls on to effort in refining prose, and in one particular
direction they had a most unlooked for result. The imitation in little by
Greene, Lodge, and others, of their long-winded graces, helped to
popularise the pamphlet, and the popularisation of the pamphlet led the way
to periodical writing--an introduction perhaps of doubtful value in itself,
but certainly a matter of no small importance in the history of literature.
And so by degrees professional men of letters arose--men of letters,
professional in a sense, which had not existed since the days of the
travelling Jongleurs of the early Middle Ages. These men, by working for
the actors in drama, or by working for the publishers in the prose and
verse pamphlet (for the latter form still held its ground), earned a
subsistence which would seem sometimes to have been not a mere pittance,
and which at any rate, when folly and vice did not dissipate it, kept them
alive. Much nonsense no doubt has been talked about the Fourth Estate; but
such as it is, for good or for bad, it practically came into existence in
these prolific years.

The third period, that of vigorous manhood, may be said to coincide roughly
with the reign of James I., though if literary rather than political dates
be preferred, it might be made to begin with the death of Spenser in 1599,
and to end with the damnation of Ben Jonson's _New Inn_ just thirty years
later. In the whole of this period till the very last there is no other
sign of decadence than the gradual dropping off in the course of nature of
the great men of the preceding stage, not a few of whom, however, survived
into the next, while the places of those who fell were taken in some cases
by others hardly below the greatest, such as Beaumont and Fletcher. Many of
the very greatest works of what is generally known as the Elizabethan
era--the later dramas of Shakespere, almost the whole work of Ben Jonson,
the later poems of Drayton, Daniel, and Chapman, the plays of Webster and
Middleton, and the prose of Raleigh, the best work of Bacon, the poetry of
Browne and Wither--date from this time, while the astonishingly various and
excellent work of the two great dramatists above mentioned is wholly
comprised within it. And not only is there no sign of weakening, but there
is hardly a sign of change. A slight, though only a slight, depression of
the imaginative and moral tone may be noticed or fancied in those who, like
Fletcher, are wholly of the period, and a certain improvement in general
technical execution testifies to longer practice. But Webster might as well
have written years earlier (hardly so well years later) than he actually
did; and especially in the case of numerous anonymous or single works, the
date of which, or at least of their composition, is obscure, it is very
difficult from internal evidence of style and sentiment to assign them to
one date rather than to another, to the last part of the strictly
Elizabethan or the first part of the strictly Jacobean period. Were it not
for the occasional imitation of models, the occasional reference to dated
facts, it would be not so much difficult as impossible. If there seems to
be less audacity of experiment, less of the fire of youth, less of the
unrestrainable restlessness of genius eager to burst its way, that, as has
been already remarked of another difference, may not improbably be mainly
due to fancy, and to the knowledge that the later efforts actually were
later as to anything else. In prose more particularly there is no change
whatever. Few new experiments in style were tried, unless the _Characters_
of Overbury and Earle may be called such. The miscellaneous pamphlets of
the time were written in much the same fashion, and in some cases by the
same men, as when, forty years before Jonson summoned himself to "quit the
loathed stage," Nash had alternately laughed at Gabriel Harvey, and
savagely lashed the Martinists. The graver writers certainly had not
improved upon, and had not greatly changed the style in which Hooker broke
his lance with Travers, or descanted on the sanctity of law. The
humour-comedy of Jonson, the romantic _drame_ of Fletcher, with the
marmoreally-finished minor poems of Ben, were the nearest approaches of any
product of the time to novelty of general style, and all three were
destined to be constantly imitated, though only in the last case with much
real success, during the rest of our present period. Yet the
post-Restoration comedy is almost as much due to Jonson and Fletcher as to
foreign models, and the influence of both, after long failing to produce
anything of merit, was not imperceptible even in Congreve and Vanbrugh.

Of the fourth period, which practically covers the reign of Charles I. and
the interregnum of the Commonwealth, no one can say that it shows no signs
of decadence, when the meaning of that word is calculated according to the
cautions given above in noticing its poets. Yet the decadence is not at all
of the kind which announces a long literary dead season, but only of that
which shows that the old order is changing to a new. Nor if regard be
merely had to the great names which adorn the time, may it seem proper to
use the word decadence at all. To this period belong not only Milton, but
Taylor, Browne, Clarendon, Hobbes (four of the greatest names in English
prose), the strange union of learning in matter and quaintness in form
which characterises Fuller and Burton, the great dramatic work of Massinger
and Ford. To it also belongs the exquisite if sometimes artificial school
of poetry which grew up under the joint inspiration of the great personal
influence and important printed work of Ben Jonson on the one hand, and the
subtler but even more penetrating stimulant of the unpublished poetry of
Donne on the other--a school which has produced lyrical work not surpassed
by that of any other school or time, and which, in some specially poetical
characteristics, may claim to stand alone.

If then, we speak of decadence, it is necessary to describe with some
precision what is meant, and to do so is not difficult, for the signs of it
are evident, not merely in the rank and file of writers (though they are
naturally most prominent here), but to some extent in the great
illustrations of the period themselves. In even the very best work of the
time there is a want of the peculiar freshness and spontaneity, as of
spring water from the rock, which characterises earlier work. The art is
constantly admirable, but it is almost obtrusively art--a proposition which
is universally true even of the greatest name of the time, of Milton, and
which applies equally to Taylor and to Browne, to Massinger and to Ford,
sometimes even to Herrick (extraordinary as is the grace which he manages
to impart), and almost always to Carew. The lamp is seldom far off, though
its odour may be the reverse of disagreeable. But in the work which is not
quite so excellent, other symptoms appear which are as decisive and less
tolerable. In the poetry of the time there appear, side by side with much
exquisite melody and much priceless thought, the strangest blotches,
already more than once noticed, of doggerel, of conceits pushed to the
verge of nonsense and over the verge of grotesque, of bad rhyme and bad
rhythm which are evidently not the result of mere haste and creative
enthusiasm but of absolutely defective ear, of a waning sense of harmony.
In the drama things are much worse. Only the two dramatists already
mentioned, with the doubtful addition of Shirley, display anything like
great or original talent. A few clever playwrights do their journey-work
with creditable craftsmanship. But even this characteristic is wanting in
the majority. The plots relapse into a chaos almost as great as that of the
drama of fifty years earlier, but with none of its excuse of inexperience
and of redeeming purple patches. The characters are at once uninteresting
and unpleasant; the measure hobbles and staggers; the dialogue varies
between passages of dull declamation and passages of almost duller
repartee. Perhaps, though the prose names of the time are greater than
those of its dramatists, or, excluding Milton's, of its poets, the signs of
something wrong are clearest in prose. It would be difficult to find in any
good prose writer between 1580 and 1625 shameless anomalies of arrangement,
the clumsy distortions of grammar, which the very greatest Caroline writers
permit themselves in the intervals, and sometimes in the very course of
their splendid eloquence; while, as for lesser men, the famous incoherences
of Cromwell's speeches are hardly more than a caricature of the custom of
the day.

Something has yet to be said as to the general characteristics of this
time--characteristics which, scarcely discernible in the first period, yet
even there to be traced in such work as that of Surrey and Sackville,
emerge into full prominence in the next, continue with hardly any loss in
the third, and are discernible even in the "decadence" of the fourth. Even
yet they are not universally recognised, and it appears to be sometimes
thought that because critics speak with enthusiasm of periods in which,
save at rare intervals, and as it were by accident, they are not
discernible at all, such critics are insensible to them where they occur.
Never was there a grosser mistake. It is said that M. Taine, in private
conversation, once said to a literary novice who rashly asked him whether
he liked this or that, "Monsieur, en littérature j'aime tout." It was a
noble and correct sentiment, though it might be a little difficult for the
particular critic who formulated it to make good his claim to it as a
motto. The ideal critic undoubtedly does like everything in literature,
provided that it is good of its kind. He likes the unsophisticated
tentatives of the earliest minstrel poetry, and the cultivated perfection
of form of Racine and Pope; he likes the massive vigour of the French and
English sixteenth centuries, and the alembicated exquisiteness of Catullus
and Carew; he does not dislike Webster because he is not Dryden, or Young
because he is not Spenser; he does not quarrel with Sophocles because he is
not Æschylus, or with Hugo because he is not Heine. But at the same time it
is impossible for him not to recognise that there are certain periods where
inspiration and accomplishment meet in a fashion which may be sought for in
vain at others. These are the great periods of literature, and there are
perhaps only five of them, with five others which may be said to be almost
level. The five first are the great age of Greek literature from Æschylus
to Plato, the great ages of English and French literature in the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries, the whole range of Italian literature from Dante
to Ariosto, and the second great age of English from the _Lyrical Ballads_
to the death of Coleridge. It is the super-eminent glory of English that it
counts twice in the reckoning. The five seconds are the Augustan age of
Latin, the short but brilliant period of Spanish literary development, the
Romantic era in France, the age of Goethe in Germany, including Heine's
earlier and best work, and (with difficulty, and by allowance chiefly of
Swift and Dryden) the half century from the appearance of _Absalom and
Achitophel_ to the appearance of _Gulliver_ and _The Dunciad_ in England.
Out of these there are great men but no great periods, and the first class
is distinguished from the second, not so much by the fact that almost all
the greatest literary names of the world are found in it, as because it is
evident to a careful reader that there was more of the general spirit of
poetry and of literature diffused in human brains at these times than at
any other. It has been said more than once that English Elizabethan
literature may, and not merely in virtue of Shakespere, claim the first
place even among the first class. The full justification of this assertion
could only be given by actually going through the whole range of the
literature, book in hand. The foregoing pages have given it as it were in
_précis_, rather than in any fuller fashion. And it has been thought better
to devote some of the space permitted to extract as the only possible
substitute for this continual book-in-hand exemplification. Many subjects
which might properly form the subject of excursus in a larger history have
been perforce omitted, the object being to give, not a series of
interesting essays on detached points, but a conspectus of the actual
literary progress and accomplishment of the century, from 1557 to 1660.
Such essays exist already in great numbers, though some no doubt are yet to
write. The extraordinary influence of Plato, or at least of a more or less
indistinctly understood Platonism, on many of the finer minds of the
earlier and middle period, is a very interesting point, and it has been
plausibly connected with the fact that Giordano Bruno was for some years a
resident in England, and was acquainted with the Greville-Sidney circle at
the very time that that circle was almost the cradle of the new English
literature. The stimulus given not merely by the popular fancy for rough
dramatic entertainments, but by the taste of courts and rich nobles for
masques--a taste which favoured the composition of such exquisite
literature as Ben Jonson's and Milton's masterpieces--is another side
subject of the same kind. I do not know that, much as has been written on
the Reformation, the direct influence of the form which the Reformation
took in England on the growth of English literature has ever been estimated
and summarised fully and yet briefly, so as to show the contrast between
the distinctly anti-literary character of most of the foreign Protestant
and the English Puritan movement on the one side, and the literary
tendencies of Anglicanism on the other. The origins of Euphuism and of that
later form of preciousness which is sometimes called Gongorism and
sometimes Marinism have been much discussed, but the last word has
certainly not been said on them. For these things, however (which are
merely quoted as examples of a very numerous class), there could be found
no place here without excluding other things more centrally necessary to
the unfolding of the history. And therefore I may leave what I have written
with a short final indication of what seems to me the distinguishing mark
of Elizabethan literature. That mark is not merely the presence of
individual works of the greatest excellence, but the diffusion throughout
the whole work of the time of a _vivida vis_, of flashes of beauty in prose
and verse, which hardly any other period can show. Let us open one of the
songbooks of the time, Dowland's _Second Book of Airs_, published in the
central year of our period, 1600, and reprinted by Mr Arber. Here almost at
random we hit upon this snatch--

    "Come ye heavy states of night,
    Do my father's spirit right;
    Soundings baleful let me borrow,
    Burthening my song with sorrow:
    Come sorrow, come! Her eyes that sings
    By thee, are turnèd into springs.

    "Come you Virgins of the night
    That in dirges sad delight,
    Quire my anthems; I do borrow
    Gold nor pearl, but sounds of sorrow.
    Come sorrow, come! Her eyes that sings
    By thee, are turnèd into springs."

It does not matter who wrote that--the point is its occurrence in an
ordinary collection of songs to music neither better nor worse than many
others. When we read such verses as this, or as the still more charming
Address to Love given on page 122, there is evident at once the _non so
che_ which distinguishes this period. There is a famous story of a
good-natured conversation between Scott and Moore in the latter days of Sir
Walter, in which the two poets agreed that verse which would have made a
fortune in their young days appeared constantly in magazines without being
much regarded in their age. No sensible person will mistake the meaning of
the apparent praise. It meant that thirty years of remarkable original
production and of much study of models had made possible and common a
standard of formal merit which was very rare at an earlier time. Now this
standard of formal merit undoubtedly did not generally exist in the days of
Elizabeth. But what did generally exist was the "wind blowing where it
listeth," the presence and the influence of which are least likely to be
mistaken or denied by those who are most strenuous in insisting on the
importance and the necessity of formal excellence itself. I once undertook
for several years the criticism of minor poetry for a literary journal,
which gave more room than most to such things, and during the time I think
I must have read through or looked over probably not much less than a
thousand, certainly not less than five or six hundred volumes. I am
speaking with seriousness when I say that nothing like the note of the
merely casual pieces quoted or referred to above was to be detected in more
than at the outside two or three of these volumes, and that where it seemed
to sound faintly some second volume of the same author's almost always came
to smother it soon after. There was plenty of quite respectable poetic
learning: next to nothing of the poetic spirit. Now in the period dealt
with in this volume that spirit is everywhere, and so are its sisters, the
spirits of drama and of prose. They may appear in full concentration and
lustre, as in _Hamlet_ or _The Faërie Queene_; or in fitful and
intermittent flashes, as in scores and hundreds of sonneteers,
pamphleteers, playwrights, madrigalists, preachers. But they are always not
far off. In reading other literatures a man may lose little by obeying the
advice of those who tell him only to read the best things: in reading
Elizabethan literature by obeying he can only disobey that advice, for the
best things are everywhere.[69]

[69] In the twenty years which have passed since this book was first
published, monographs on most of the points indicated on p. 459 have
appeared, both in England and America.



INDEX


I.--BIBLIOGRAPHICAL

Single plays, poems, etc., not mentioned in this Index will be found in the
collections referred to under the headings Arber, Bullen, Farmer, Grosart,
Hazlitt, Park, Simpson.

  Alexander, Sir William. _See_ Stirling.

  Arber, E., English Garner, vols. i.-viii., Birmingham and London,
        1877-96.
    _Also_ new editions in redistributed volumes by Lee, Collins,
        and others.

  Ascham, Roger, Toxophilus. Ed. Arber, London, 1868.
    The Schoolmaster. Ed. Arber, London, 1870.
    Works. Ed. Giles, 4 vols., London, 1865.


  Bacon, Francis, Works of. 3 vols. folio, London, 1753.

  Barnabee's Journal. By R. Braithwaite. Ed. Haslewood and Hazlitt, London,
        1876.

  Barnes, Barnabe, Parthenophil and Parthenophe. In Grosart's Occasional
        Issues, vol. i.
    The Devil's Charter. Ed. M'Kerrow, Louvain.

  Barnfield, Richard, Poems. Ed. Arber, Birmingham, 1882.

  Basse, William, Poems of. Ed. Bond, London, 1893.

  Beaumont, Francis, Poems of. In Chalmers's British Poets, vol. vi.

  Beaumont, Sir John, Poems of. In Chalmers's British Poets, vol. vi.

  Beaumont, Joseph, Poems of. Ed. Grosart, 2 vols. Privately printed, 1880.

  Beaumont and Fletcher, Dramatic Works of. 10 vols., London, 1750.
    2 vols., Ed. Darley, London, 1859.
    11 vols., Ed. Dyce, London, 1843.
    Two new editions in progress now (1907)--one Ed. Bullen, London,
    the other Ed. Waller, Cambridge.

  Benlowes, Edward, Theophila. In Minor Caroline Poets, vol. i., Oxford,
        1905.

  Bible. The Holy Bible, Authorised Version, Oxford, 1851.
    Revised Version, Oxford, 1885.

  Breton, Nicholas, Works of. Ed. Grosart, 2 vols. Privately printed, 1879.

  Brome, Alexander, Poems of. In Chalmers's Poets, vol. vi.

  Brome, Richard, Plays of. 3 vols., London, 1873.

  Brooke, Fulke Greville, Lord, Works of. Ed. Grosart, 4 vols. Privately
        printed, 1870.

  Browne, Sir Thomas, Works of. Ed. Wilkin, 3 vols., London, 1880.
    Religio Medici. Ed. Greenhill, London, 1881.

  Browne, William, Poems of. In Chalmers's British Poets, vol. vi.
    _Also_ 2 vols. Ed. Hazlitt, London, 1868.
    _Also_ Ed. Goodwin, 2 vols., London, 1894.

  Bullen, A. H., Old Plays, 4 vols., London, 1882-85.
    Ditto, New Series, Vols, i. ii. iii., London, 1887-90.
    Lyrics from Elizabethan Song-books, 2 vols., 1887-88. Ditto, Romances,
        1890. Ditto, Dramatists, 1890.
    _Speculum Amantis_, 1891.
    Davison's Poetical Rhapsody, 2 vols., 1891.
    England's Helicon. London, 1887.
    Arden of Feversham. London, 1887.

  Burton, Robert, The Anatomy of Melancholy. 2 vols., London, 1821.


  Carey, Patrick. In Minor Caroline Poets, vol. ii., Oxford, 1906.

  Carew, Thomas, Poems of. Edinburgh, 1824.
    _Also_ in Chalmers's Poets, vol. v.
    _Also_ Ed. Hazlitt, London, 1868.

  Cartwright, William, Poems of. In Chalmers's Poets, vol. vi.

  Chalkhill, John, Thealma and Clearchus. In Minor Caroline Poets, vol. ii.

  Chalmers, A., British Poets, 21 vols., London, 1810.

  Chamberlayne, William, Pharonnida. In Minor Caroline Poets, vol. i.

  Chapman, George, Works of. 3 vols., London, 1875.

  Churchyard, T. No complete edition. Some things reprinted by Collier and
        in Heliconia.

  Clarendon, Edward Hyde, Earl of. Works, 1 vol., Oxford, 1843.

  Cleveland, John. Contemporary edd. numerous but puzzling and
        untrustworthy.
    A recent one by J. M. Berdan, New York, n.d.

  Cokain, Sir Aston, Plays of. Edinburgh, 1874.

  Constable, Henry, Diana. In Arber's English Garner, vol. ii.

  Corbet, Bishop, Poems of. In Chalmers's Poets, vol. v.

  Cotton, Charles, Poems of. In Chalmers's Poets, vol. vi.

  Crashaw, Richard, Poems of. Ed. Grosart, 2 vols. Privately printed, 1872.
    _Also_ in Chalmers's British Poets, vol. vi.
    _Also_ Ed. Waller, Cambridge, 1904.


  Daniel, Samuel, Delia. In Arber's English Garner, vol. iii.
    _Also_ Works of. In Chalmers's British Poets, vol. iii.
    _Also_ Works of. Ed. Grosart, 5 vols. Privately printed, 1885-96.

  Davenant, Sir William, Dramatic Works of. 5 vols., Edinburgh, 1872-73.
    Poems of. Chalmers's British Poets, vol. iv.

  Davies, Sir John, Poems of. In Chalmers's British Poets, vol. v.

  Davies, John, of Hereford, Works. Ed. Grosart, 2 vols. Privately printed,
        1878.

  Day, John, Works of. Ed. Bullen. Privately printed, 1881.

  Dekker, Thomas, Dramatic Works of. 4 vols., London, 1873.
    Prose Works of. 5 vols. Ed. Grosart. Privately printed, 1884-86.

  Donne, John, Poems of. Ed. Grosart, 2 vols. Privately printed, 1872.
    _Also_ Ed. Chambers, 2 vols., London, 1896.

  Drayton, Michael, Idea. In Arber's English Garner, vol. vi.
    Works of. In Chalmers's British Poets, vol. iv.

  Drummond, William, Poems of. In Chalmers's British Poets, vol. v.
    _Also_ Published for the Maitland Club. Edinburgh, 1832.

  Dyer, Sir Edward, Poems of. In Hannah's Courtly Poets.


  Early English Dramatists. Ed. Farmer, vols. i.-ix., London, 1905-6.

  Eden, Richard, The First Three English Books on America. Ed. Arber,
        Birmingham, 1885.

  Elizabethan Critical Essays. Ed. G. Smith, 2 vols., Oxford, 1904.

  Elizabethan Sonnets. Ed. Lee, 2 vols., London, 1904.


  Felltham, Owen, Resolves. London, 1820 (but _see_ p. 443).

  Fletcher, Giles, Licia. In Grosart's Occasional Issues, vol, ii.

  Fletcher, Giles, the younger, Poems of. In Chalmers's British Poets,
        vol. vi.

  Fletcher, Phineas, Poems of. In Chalmers's British Poets, vol. vi.

  Ford, John, Works of. Ed. Hartley Coleridge, London, 1859.

  Fuller, Thomas, Worthies of England. Ed. Nichols, 2 vols. 4to, London,
        1811.
    Thoughts in Good Times. London, 1885.
    Holy and Profane State. London, 1642.
    Church History. London, 1655.


  Gascoigne, George, Works of. Ed. Hazlitt, London, 1868.
    _Also_ in Chalmers's British Poets, vol. ii.

  Gifford, Humphrey, A Posy of Gillyflowers. In Grosart's Occasional
        Issues, vol. i.

  Glapthorne, Henry, Works of. 2 vols., London, 1874.

  Godolphin, Sidney, Poems of. In Minor Caroline Poets, vol. ii.

  Goff, Thomas, Plays. London, 1656.

  Googe, Barnabe, Eclogues, Epitaphs, and Sonnets. Ed. Arber, London, 1871.

  Greene, Robert, Dramatic Works of. Ed. Dyce, London, 1883.
    _Also_ Ed. Collins, 2 vols., Oxford, 1905.
    _Also_ Complete Works of. Ed. Grosart, 13 vols. Privately printed,
        1881-86.

  Griffin, Bartholomew, Fidessa. In Grosart's Occasional Issues, vol. ii.

  Grosart, A. B., Fuller Worthies Library. Chertsey Worthies Library.
    Occasional Issues. Privately printed, v.d.

  Guilpin, Edward, Skialetheia. In Grosart's Occasional Issues, vol. vi.


  Habington, William, Castara. Ed. Arber, London, 1870.
    _Also_ in Chalmers's Poets, vol. vi.

  Hakluyt, Richard, The Voyages, etc., of the English Nation: Edinburgh.
    _Also_ a later edition, Glasgow.

  Hales, John, Works of. 3 vols., Glasgow, 1765.

  Hall, John, Poems of. In Minor Caroline Poets, vol. ii.

  Hall, Joseph, Virgidemiarum, etc. In Grosart's Occasional Issues,
        vol. ix.
    _Also_ in Chalmers's Poets, vol. v.

  Hannah, Dr., Poems of Raleigh, Wotton, and other Courtly Poets. Aldine
        Series, London, 1885.

  Harvey, Gabriel, Works. Ed. Grosart, 3 vols. Privately printed, 1884-85.

  Hazlitt, W. C., Dodsley's Old Plays, 15 vols., London, 1874-76.
    Shakespere's Library. 6 vols., London, 1875.

  Herbert, Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Autobiography. Ed. Lee,
        London, 1886.

  Herbert, George, Poems of. Ed. Grosart, London, 1876.

  Herrick, Robert, Poems of. Ed. Grosart, 3 vols., London, 1876.
    _Also_ Ed. Pollard, 2 vols., London, 1891; and Ed. Saintsbury,
        2 vols., London, 1893.

  Heywood, Thomas, Dramatic Works of. 6 vols., London, 1874.
    Pleasant Dialogues, etc. Ed. Bang, Louvain, 1903.

  Hobbes, Thomas, Works. Ed. Molesworth, 16 vols., London, 1839-45.

  Hooker, Richard, Ecclesiastical Polity. 3 vols., Oxford, 1820.

  Howell, James, Familiar Letters. The Eleventh Edition, London, 1754.

  Howell, Thomas, The Arbour of Amity. In Grosart's Occasional Issues,
        vol. viii.


  J. C., Alcilia. In Grosart's Occasional Issues, vol. viii.
    _Also_ in Arber's English Garner, vol. iv.

  Jonson, Ben, Works of. Ed. Cunningham, 3 vols., London, n.d.


  Knolles, Richard, History of the Turks. Third Edition, London, 1621.

  Kyd, Thomas, Cornelia. In Hazlitt's Dodsley, vol. v.
    Jeronimo, (?) in do. vol. iv.
    The Spanish Tragedy, in do. vol. v.
    Works. Ed. Boas, Oxford, 1900.

  Kynaston, Sir Francis, Poems of. In Minor Caroline Poets, vol, ii.


  Lodge, Thomas, Euphues' Golden Legacy in Shakespere's Library, vol. ii.,
        London, 1875.

  Lovelace, Richard, Poems of. Ed. Hazlitt, London, 1864.

  Lyly, John, Euphues. Ed. Arber, London, 1868.
    Dramatic Works. Ed. Fairholt, 2 vols., London, 1858.
    Complete Works. Ed. Bond, 3 vols., Oxford, 1902.

  Lynch, Diella. In Grosart's Occasional Issues, vol. iv.


  Marlowe, Christopher, Works of. Ed. Dyce, London, 1859.
    _Also_ Ed. Bullen, 3 vols., London, 1887.

  Marmion, Shakerley, Plays of. Edinburgh, 1874.
    Cupid and Psyche. In Minor Caroline Poets, vol. ii.

  Marprelate, Martin, Tracts by and against. _See_ text.
    The Epistle. Ed. Petheram.
    _Also_ Ed. Arber, The English Scholars' Library.
    Diotrephes, by N. Udall. Ed. Arber.
    Demonstration of Discipline, by N. Udall. Ed. Arber.
    An Admonition to the People of England, by T. C. Ed. Petheram.
    _Also_ Ed. Arber.
    Hay any Work for Cooper. Ed. Petheram.
    Pap with a Hatchet. Ed. Petheram.
    An Almond for a Parrot. Ed. Petheram.
    A Counter-Cuff to Martin Junior, etc., in Works of Nash. Ed. Grosart.
    Plain Percival, the Peacemaker of England. Ed. Petheram.

  Marston, John, Works of. Ed. Halliwell, 3 vols., London, 1856.
    _Also_ Ed. Bullen, 3 vols., London, 1885.
    Poems of. In Grosart's Occasional Issues, vol. xi.

  Massinger, Philip. Ed. Hartley Coleridge, London, 1859.

  Middleton, Thomas, Dramatic Works of. Ed. Bullen, 8 vols., London, 1886.

  Milton, John, Poems of. In Chalmers's British Poets, vol. vii.
    Prose Works of. 2 vols., Philadelphia, 1847.
    Ed. Masson, 3 vols., London, 1890.

  Minor Caroline Poets, vols. i. and ii., Oxford, 1905-6.

  Mirror for Magistrates, The. Ed. Hazlewood, 3 vols., London, 1815.

  Miscellanies, Seven Poetical. Ed. Collier, London, 1867.
    Some in Heliconia.

  More, Henry, Poems of. Ed. Grosart. Privately printed, 1878.

  Mulcaster, Richard, Positions. Ed. Quick, London, 1888.


  Nabbes, Thomas, Works of. In Bullen's Old Plays, New Series, vols. i.
        and ii.

  Nash, Thomas, Works of. Ed. Grosart, 6 vols. Privately printed, 1883-85.
    Ed. M'Kerrow, 4 vols., London, 1904.


  Park, T., Heliconia. 3 vols., London, 1814.

  Pee