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THE PLAYS OF MARLOWE.
graduated as M.A. in 1587. Like some other wild-living college men of that day, he took to the stage as a means of earning his daily bread, and, what perhaps he valued more, of paying his daily tavern-bill. The riotous, licentious life of this gifted man, came to a sad and speedy end. He had barely reached the age of thirty when he died, the victim of a low pot-house scuffle. A serving man, whom he was struggling to stab, seizing his wrist, turned the point of his own dagger upon himself. It pierced through his eye to the brain, and he died of the wound not long afterwards.
Marlowe's first great play, Tamburlaine the Great, is thought to have been brought out while the author's name was still on the Cambridge books. Then followed the Life and Death of Dr. Faustus, in which noble justice is done to the weird story that haunts the memory of the great printer of Mayence. The Jew of Malta, and Edward II., an historical drama, are the chief remaining works of Marlowe. The first of these probably suggested Shakspere's Shylock, while the second may have turned the pen of our greatest dramatist into the field of English history. Though much disfigured with bombastic rant, the style of Marlowe, when uplifted by a great theme, often reaches a grandeur and a power to which few poets attain.
SIR HENRY WOTTON, a gentleman of Kent, born there at Bocton Hall in 1568, may be named among the poets of his time.
He was ambassador at Venice, and afterwards Provost of Eton—the friend of Izaak Walton, and an early discoverer of Milton's transcendent merit. The Reliquiæ Wottoniance were published in 1651, twelve years after the author's death.
JOHN DONNE, Dean of St. Paul's, was born in London in 1573. He deserves remembrance as a very learned man, who began the list of what critics call the Metaphysical poets. Beneath the artificial incrustations which characterize this school, Donne displays a fine vein of poetic feeling. He is also noted in our literary history as the first writer of satire in rhyming couplets. Upon his death in 1631 his body was buried in Westminster Abbey.
FRANCIS BEAUMONT and JOHN FLETCHER united their high
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
talents in the production of fifty-two plays. In this dramatic partnership Beaumont probably followed the bent of his mind by writing chiefly tragedy. Fletcher, a lighter and more sunny spirit, was fonder of the comic muse. Beaumont, the son of a judge, was born in Leicestershire in 1586; he studied at Oxford and the Inner Temple, but was cut off in the bloom of manhood in 1615. Fletcher, a bishop's son, was born in 1576, and died of the plague in 1625. The works of these men were very popular in their own day, even more so than those of Shakspere and Jonson. They have about them an elegance, a spirit, and a light amusing wit, reflecting the gay sprightliness of the upper classes to which their authors belonged; but they are also deeply stained with that viciousness of thought and speech which then prevailed in even the highest circles of English society.
GILES and PHINEAS FLETCHER were cousins of the dramatist. Phineas, who was Rector of Hilgay in Norfolk, lived from 1584 to 1650. Giles, who was Rector of Alderton in Suffolk, was the younger; but the dates of his birth and death are uncertain. The Purple Island of Phineas is a poem descriptive of the human body with its rivers of blood, and the human mind, of which Intellect is prince. From the pen of Giles came Christ's Victory and Triumph, a sacred poem-a work of much higher merit as a whole.
PHILIP MASSINGER, a great dramatist of his day, was born about 1584. Of his life we know absolutely nothing, but that he spent a year or two at Oxford; wrote plays for the London theatres after 1604; like many of his theatrical brethren found his money sometimes running low; and one morning in 1640 was found dead in his bed at Southwark. Eighteen of his plays have lived; but only one, A New Way to Pay Old Debts, is now brought upon the stage. Sir Giles Overreach, a greedy, crafty money-getter, is the great character of this powerful drama. A calm and dignified style, with little passionate fire, characterizes the pen of Massinger.
WILLIAM DRUMMOND of Hawthornden, near Edinburgh, born in 1585, was the finest Scottish poet of his day. Living by the romantic Esk, he caught a deeper inspiration from its beauty.
DRUMMOND OF HAWTHORNDEN.
Though not a poet-laureate by appointment, he had all the feelings of one, and lavishly poured forth his sweet verses in praise of royalty. The Flowers of Zion, Tears on the Death of Moeliades (Prince Henry), The River of Forth Feasting, and his Sonnets, are his chief poetical works. Ben Jonson paid him a visit at Hawthornden, and the Scottish poet has been blamed for making notes, not always complimentary, of his rough guest's habits and character. These notes, however, he did not publish himself. Drummond died in 1649.
John FORD, a Devonshire man, born in 1586, was another of the brilliant dramatic brotherhood adorning this period. Deep tragedy was Ford's excellence. Uniting dramatic authorship with his practice as a lawyer, he contrived to avoid those abysses of debt and drink in which many brightening stars of the time quenched their young lustre. Hallam says that Ford has “the power over tears ;” but his themes are often so revolting, that compassion freezes into disgust. Three of his tragedies are the Brother and Sister, Love's Sacrifice, and The Broken Heart. He wrote also an historical play, Perkin Warbeck. Ford died about 1639.
THOMAS CAREW, born in 1589, of an ancient Gloucestershire family, was one of the brilliant courtier poets who clustered round the throne of the first Charles. His lyrics are, on the whole, graceful and flowing, though often deeply tainted with immorality and irreligion. The masque, Calum Britannicum, is a work from his pen produced by order of the king. The thoughtless gaiety and license of his life cost him many bitter tears, as he lay in 1639 upon his death-bed.
WILLIAM BROWNE, born in 1590, was a native of Tavistock in Devonshire. He wrote pastoral poetry, taking his inspiration from Spenser. His life was chiefly spent in two noble families, those of Caernarvon and Pembrcke. Britannia's Pastorals is the name of his chief work. It is rich in landscape painting, but utterly deficient in the display of character. Browne died in 1645 at Ottery-St-Mary in his native shire.
ROBERT HERRICK, poet and divine, was perhaps the sweetest of the lyrists who sang in the seventeenth century. Born in Cheap
side, London, in 1591, and educated at Cambridge, he became in 1629 Vicar of Dean Prior in Devonshire. During the Civil War and the Commonwealth he lived at Westminster, but at the Restoration went back to his green Devonshire parish, an old man of almost seventy, tired and sick, no doubt, of the convivial life he had spent among the London taverns. He died in 1674. There is a cheerful grace, a light and happy sparkle in the poetry of Herrick; many of his lyrics are matchless. To Blossoms, To Daffodils, Gather the Rosebuds while ye may-names like these suggest the sources whence his verses draw their many-coloured . beauty. Flowers, birds, fruit, gems, pretty women, and little children are his favourite themes.
FRANCIS QUARLES, born in 1592 in Essex, having occupied some courtly positions, became Chronologer to the City of London. Though a keen Royalist, suffering the loss of his dear books and manuscripts in that cause, his poetical works, which form an extravagant specimen of the Metaphysical school, have something of the Puritan tone about them. He died in 1644.
GEORGE HERBERT, Rector of Bemerton in Wiltshire, and younger brother of Lord Herbert of Cherbury, was born at Montgomery Castle, Wales, in 1593. Before entering the Church he lived a gay life at court. He, too, wrote in the strained style of Donne's school ; but his chief work, The Temple, a collection of sacred poems, is filled with solemn, saintly music. His pure and active life came to an untimely end in 1632.
JAMES SHIRLEY, born in London in 1596, was the last of the Elizabethan dramatists. Possessing less fire and force than the rest, he excels them in purity of thought and expression. The true poet shines out in many passages of his plays. the
curacy of St. Albans, when he embraced the Roman Catholic faith ; and, after a vain attempt to get up a school in that town, he went to London to write for bread. The great fire of 1666 burned him out of house and home; and a little after, in one of the suburbs of London, his wife and he died on the same day.
RICHARD CRASHAW was a Fellow of Peterhouse College, Cam. bridge, and took holy orders. In France he became a Roman
He gave up
CAMDEN THE ANTIQUARY,
Catholic, and, having passed to Italy, was made a Canon of Loretto. His religious poetry, and his translations from Latin and Italian, are of the first order, though somewhat marred by the affectations of the time. This scholarly poet died in Italy about 1650.
SIR JOHN SUCKLING, born in 1609, came at eighteen into a great fortune. Having served under the Swedish banner in the Thirty Years' War, he returned to England, to shine as a brilliant but passing meteor in the court of Charles the First. More desirous, perhaps, to win the fame of a skilful gamester and richly dressed gallant than of a literary man, he yet, in the quieter hours of a feverish life, produced some beautiful lyrics, brilliant outpourings of a poetic genius that could not be repressed. Detected in a plot to set Strafford free, he fled to France, where he died before 1642, having, it is thought, committed suicide by poison. His Ballad on a Wedding, and many of his songs are exquisite specimens of their kind.
THOMAS WILSON was a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and afterwards Dean of Durham, who wrote about 1553 a System of Rhetoric and Logic, considered to be the first critical work upon the English tongue. He strongly recommends the use of a simple English style.
WILLIAM CAMDEN, the antiquary and writer of history, was born in London in 1551, and received his higher education at Oxford. Much of his earlier life was spent in connection with Westminster School, in which he was successively Second and Head-master. He afterwards became Clarencieux King-at-arms. The Britannia is his great work. Written in Latin, it is especially devoted to a description of the antiquities of his native land. He wrote, besides other works, Latin narratives of Queen Elizabeth's reign and the Gunpowder Plot. He died in 1623.
RICHARD HAKLUYT and SAMUEL PURCHAS were two English clergymen, who, in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I., compiled books of travel and geographical discovery. Hakluyt's chief work, of which the third volume was completed in 1600,comprised an account