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BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER was the name of the most famous of literary firms
Francis Beaumont (1584-1616) and John Fletcher (1579–1625). They wrote some plays in collaboration, and each wrote some alone; and no editor has been able to classify them completely. In their partnership, which lasted from about 1607 till the death of Beaumont, they lived in the same house and had even their clothes in common. Fletcher was a son of the Dean of Peterborough, and was a native of Rye, Sussex. He was educated at Cambridge, and about the time of his graduation, in 1597, his father's death left him in poverty. He produced one play, “The Woman-hater,” before his partnership with Beaumont. After the death of Beaumont he collaborated with Massinger, Rowley, and Shirley, and he also assisted Shakespeare in the composition of "The Two Noble Kinsmen," and probably in “ Henry the Eighth.” He died of the plague in August, 1625. The entire works attributed to Beaumont and Fletcher include fifty-two plays, a masque, and a few minor poems. The masque and all the poems except one were the work of Beaumont alone. Eighteen plays are attributed to Fletcher alone, beginning with “The Loyal Subject" (1618) and ending with “The Noble Gentleman (1626). Of these, “The Faithful Shepherdess," produced at some date before 1610, is believed to have been unsuccessful on its first representation; but it was revived in 1633, and was played before the Court and at Blackfriars Theatre. Thirty years later Pepys wrote of it in his diary: “A most simple thing, and yet much thronged after, and often shown, but it is only for the scene's sake, which is very fine indeed and worth seeing.” Ben Jonson wrote these lines on "The Faith. ful Shepherdess”:
“The wise and many-headed bench, that sits
1 Fr. pucelle.
TO THAT NOBLE AND TRUE LOVER OF LEARNING,
SIR WALTER ASTON, 1
KNIGHT OF THE BATH
SIR, I must ask your patience and be true;
Given to your service,
. One of the first created baronets, made a Knight of the Bath at the coronation of James I.
TO THE INHERITOR OF ALL WORTHINESS
SIR WILLIAM SCIPWITH 1
IF, from servile hope or love,
I may prove
Is to please,
For no itch of greater name,
Which some claim
'Tis the best;
Nor to make it serve to feed
At my need,
In their journies
Far from me are all these aims,
Whose true touch
The admirer of your virtues,
1 Celebrated among his friends for his witty conceits in making fit and acute epigrams, pocsics, mottoes, and devices. – Burton,
TO THE PERFECT GENTLEMAN
SIR ROBERT TOWNSHEND I
If the greatest faults may crave
Upon my faith, I'll tell you frankly,
Yet, according to my talent,
But when better comes ashore,
Till when, like our desperate debtors,
Only for to please the pallet,
1 Youngest son of Sir Roger Townshend, ancestor of the present noble family of that name. He was a member of all parliaments from the Forty-second Elizabeth to the last of James I.
2 A fault of long continuance. -Dyce. 3 Wearers of the finest velvet.
TO THE READER
IF you be not reasonably assured of your knowledge in this kind of poem, lay down the book, or read this, which I would wish had been the prologue. It is a pastoral tragi-comedy, which the people seeing when it was played, having ever had a singular gift in defining, concluded to be a play of country hired shepherds in gray cloaks, with curtailed dogs in strings, sometimes laughing together, and sometimes killing one another; and, missing Whitsun-ales, cream, wassail, and morris-dances, began to be angry. In their error I would not have you fall, lest you incur their censure. Understand, therefore, a pastoral to be a representation of shepherds and shepherdesses with their actions and passions, which must be such as may agree with their natures, at least not exceeding former fictions and vulgar traditions; they are not to be adorned with any art, but such improper I ones as nature is said to bestow, as singing and poetry; or such as experience may teach them, as the virtues of herbs and fountains, the ordinary course of the sun, moon, and stars, and such like. But you are ever to remember shepherds to be such as al the ancient poets, and modern, of understanding, have received them ; that is, the owners of flocks, and not hirelings. A tragi-comedy is not so called in respect of mirth and killing, but in respect it wants deaths, which is enough to make it no tragedy, yet brings some near it, which is enough to make it no comedy, which must be a representation of familiar people, with such kind of trouble as no life be ques. tioned; so that a god is as lawful in this as in a tragedy, and mean people as in a comedy. Thus much I hope will serve to justify my poem, and make you understand it; to teach you more for nothing, I do not know that I am in conscience bound.
PERIGOT, a Shepherd in love with Amoret.