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on the other hand, appears to have composed rapidly and carelessly; and, sometimes, even without considering, while writing the earlier acts, how the catastrophe was to be huddled up, in that which was to conclude the piece. We may fairly conclude him to have been indifferent about fame, who would take so little pains to win it. Much, perhaps, might have been achieved by the union of those opposed qualities, and by blending the art of Jonson with the fiery invention and fluent expression of his great contemporary. But such a union of opposite excellences in the same author was hardly to be expected; nor, perhaps, would the result have proved altogether so favourable, as might at first view be conceived. We should have had more perfect specimens of the art; but they must have been much fewer in number; and posterity would certainly have been deprived of that rich luxuriance of dramatic excellences and poetic beauties, which, like wild flowers upon a common field, lie scattered profusely among the unacted plays of Shakspeare."

From the facts we have narrated respecting the personal and literary history of Jonson, it will be perceived that his private character was not free from blemishes; and that his writings, in their general tendency, are not of an unexceptionable character.

There were seasons, however, though they came but too seldom, when this admirable poet, like other authors of his time, turned his thoughts to sacred topics, and abandoned for a time the service of the profane muse. He wrote a few pieces on devotional subjects, which though not equal in power of thought and vigour of style to his other productions, are not deficient in taste and feeling. Specimens of this description have been embodied in various collections of sacred poetry; and we have selected one or two of the best. In the last scene of his life, he lamented that he had not more frequently employed his pen on topics of a serious nature, and regretted having profaned in his plays the holy name of his Maker. To quote the concluding words of S. C. Hall, in his short and graphic sketch of this great author, “we leave to the reader those thoughts of 'Rare Ben Jonson,' adding merely in the emphatic language of a friend and contemporary, ‘he writ like a man!"" The Biography of the Eminent, Literary, and Scientific Men in Great Britain and Ireland,” forming part of Lardner's “Cabinet Cyclopedia," contains an excellent life of Jonson; and for an admirable essay on his dramatic powers, see the edition of his works, edited by the Rev. Alexander Dyce, in eleven volumes. The able criticism on Mr. Dyce's literary labours in the number of “The Quarterly Review,” for September, 1848, will amply repay the trouble of perusal.

BEAUMONT, BORN, 1586; DIED, 1616. FLETCHER, BORN, 1576; DIED, 1625.

They still have slept together,
Rose at an instant, learn'd, play'd, eat together;
And wheresoe'er they went, like Juno's swans,
Still they went coupled and inseparable.

Shakspeare. THESE two dramatic authors, connected together by cordial friendship as well as by kindred genius, have acquired a lasting celebrity by their joint contributions to dramatic literature. Francis Beaumont was the son of Judge Beaumont, of the Common Pleas, and was born at GraceDieu, in Leicestershire, in 1586, during the reign of Elizabeth. His grandfather was Master of the Rolls. He was a student at Cambridge University, and afterwards entered the Middle Temple. There is no satisfactory evidence to show that he made any considerable progress in his legal studies. To a man of his literary taste and genius, poetry was more fascinating than law; but he was nevertheless remarkable for his industry, and for the rapidity with which he composed his voluminous works. He was only in his twenty-first year when his first play was produced, in conjunction with Fletcher; and from that period until his death, he appears to have devoted himself almost exclusively to dramatic composition in which he obtained so brilliant a reputation. He was married to a lady of rank, by whom he had two daughters. He died on the 6th of March, 1615–16, aged 30. His remains were interred at the entrance of Saint Benedict's chapel, Westminster Abbey. His tomb is without an inscription; but his elder brother, Sir John Beaumont, and Bishop Corbet, wrote two epitaphs to his memory.

John Fletcher was the son of Dr. Richard Fletcher, Bishop of London. He is said to have been born in the metropolis in 1576. He received his education at Cambridge; but very little is known of his life. Previous to his marriage, he and Beaumont lived together; and being possessed of similar literary tastes, they determined to raise the character of the British stage, and published, under their joint names, upwards of fifty tragedies, comedies, and other works. Fletcher died in London of the plague in 1625, and was buried in the church of St. Mary, Southwark. No memorial was placed over his grave.

It is creditable to both these eminent authors, that they were perfectly free from envy or jealousy of each other. Fletcher survived Beaumont by about ten years, and though senior to the latter, he permitted the name of his dramatic associate to appear first in the literary firm. Campbell, in his criticisms on the British poets, makes some interesting remarks on the comparative merits of these writers, and concludes by observing, that “on the whole, while it is generally allowed, that Fletcher was the gayer, and Beaumont the graver genius of their amusing theatre, it is unnecessary to depreciate either, for they were both original and creative; or to draw invidious comparisons between men who disclaimed themselves to be rivals." His remarks on the faults exhibited in the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, and his just censure of the impurities by which their beauties are defaced, are elegantly expressed, and were no doubt intended as a salutary caution to the readers of their works. The following is a short extract :-“The theatre of Beaumont and Fletcher contains all manner of good and evil. There are such extremes of grossness and magnificence in their drama, so much sweetness and beauty interspersed with views of nature either falsely romantic, or vulgar beyond reality; there is so much to animate and amuse us, and yet so much that we would willingly overlook, that I cannot help comparing the contrasted impressions which they make, to those which we receive from visiting some great and ancient city, picturesquely but irregularly built, glittering with spires and surrounded with gardens, but exhibiting in many quarters the lanes and hovels of wretchedness. They have scenes of wealthy and high life which remind us of courts and palaces, frequented by elegant females and high-spirited gallants; whilst their noble old martial characters, with Caractacus in the midst of them, may inspire us with the same sort of regard which we pay to the roughhewn magnificence of an ancient fortress. Unhappily, the same simile, without being hunted down, will apply but too faithfully to the nuisances of their drama. Their language is often basely profligate. Shakspeare's and Jonson's indelicacies are but casual blots; whilst theirs are sometimes essential colours of their painting, and extend, in one or two instances, to entire and offensive scenes.”

This debasing indelicacy of thought and language, which Campbell so strongly and properly condemns, and which even the profligacy of the time cannot wholly excuse, must always render the productions of Beaumont and Fletcher unfit for general perusal. A writer in "The Penny Cyclopedia" says, with great truth—“A selection from their works would make as exquisite a volume of refined sentiments, lofty and sweet poetry, excellent sense, humour and pathos, as any in the language, excepting Shakspeare and Chaucer. Nothing can surpass the exquisite and virgin poetry scattered throughout the whole collection of their plays. In lyrics they have no equal, not Shakspeare himself, nor Milton. A miniature volume of the truest lyrical poetry might be collected out of their dramas, of compositions which sing their own music."

Leigh Hunt's observations on these eminent poets, in a late work, “Imagination and Fancy,” are in the same mingled strain of censure and encomium:-"Poetry of the highest order and of the loveliest character,” says that acute critic, "abounds in Beaumont and Fletcher, but so mixed up with inconsistent, and too often, alas i revolting matter; that, apart from passages which do not enter into the plan of this book, I had no alternative but either to confine the extracts to the small number which ensue, or to bring together a heap of the smallest quotations; two or three lines at a time.”

The writer of the critical notice referred to then adds, “it is a pity that Beaumont and Fletcher had not been born earlier, and in the neighbourhood of Shakspeare, and become his playmates. Every devout lover of poetry must have experienced the wish of Coleridge, that they had written poems instead of tragedies. Imagine as voluminous a set of the one, as they have given of the other. It would have been to sequestered real life, what Spenser was to the land of faery-a retreat beyond all groves and gardens, a region of medicinal sweets of thought and feeling. Nor would plenty of fable have been wanting. What a loss! and this, their birthright with posterity, these extraordinary men sold for the mess of the loathsome pottage of the praise and profligacy of the court of James I. What exquisite beauty in the following very small extract, descriptive of morning :

"See, the day begins to break,
And the light shoots like a streak
Of subtle fire. The wind blows cold,

While the morning doth unfold.'" We have not space to multiply either poetical extracts from the works of Beaumont and Fletcher, or criticisms on their literary merits. The reader is referred to Hallam's “Introduction to the Literature of Europe;" to the thirtyeighth volume of “The Edinburgh Review;" to Charles Lamb's “Specimens,” and to Sir Walter Scott's “Essays on the Drama,” for a series of admirable sketches of the old English dramatists. From the last-mentioned author we transcribe one passage, with which we conclude our notice of Beaumont and Fletcher:-"To compensate for their irregularities, their plays have still a high poetical value. If character be sometimes violated, probability discarded, and the interest of the plot neglected, the reader is, on the other hand, often gratified by the most beautiful description, the most tender and passionate dialogue; a display of brilliant wit and gaiety, or a feast

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