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On the Dramatic Writers contemporary with Shakespear, Lyly, Marlow, Heywood, Middleton, and Rowley ........ .
On Beaumont and Fletcher, Ben Jonson, Ford, and
LECTURE W. On single Plays, Poems, &c., the Four P's, the Return from Parnassus, Gammer Gurton's Needle, and other Works ........
On Miscellaneous Poems, F. Beaumont, P. Fletcher,
Character of Lord Bacon's Works—compared as to style with Sir Thomas Brown and Jeremy Taylor
A GE OF ELIZABETH, &c.
THE age of Elizabeu, was distinguished, beyond, perhaps, any other in our history, by a number of great men, famous in different ways, and whose names have come down to us with unblemished honours; statesmen, warriors, divines, scholars, poets, and philosophers, Raleigh, Drake, Coke, Hooker, and higher and more sounding still, and still more frequent in our mouths, Shakespear, Spenser, Sidney, Bacon, Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, men whom same has eternised in her long and lasting scroll, and who, by their words and acts, were benefactors of their country, and ornaments of human nature. Their attainments of different kinds bore the same general stamp, and it was sterB
ling: what they did, had the mark of their age and country upon it. Perhaps the genius of Great Britain (if I may so speak without offence or flattery), never shone out fuller or brighter, or looked more like itself, than at this period. Our writers and great men had something in them that savoured of the soil from which they grew: they were not French, they were not Dutch, or German, or Greek, or Latin; they were truly English. They did not look out of themselves to see what they should be; they sought for truth and nature, and found it in themselves. There was no tinsel, and but little art; they were not the spoiled children of affectation and refinement, but a bold, v%o«ms, independent race of thinkers, with prodigious strength and energy, with none but natural grace, and heartfelt unobtrusive delicacy. They were not at all sophisticated. The mind of their country was great in them, and it prevailed. With their learning and unexampled acquirement, they did not forget that they were men: with all their endeavours after excellence, they did not lay aside the strong original bent and character of their minds. What they performed was chiefly nature's handy-work; and time has claimed it for his own.—To these, however, might be added others not less learned, nor with a scarce less happy vein, but less fortunate in the event, who, though as renowned in
their day, have sunk into “mere oblivion,” and of whom the only record (but that the noblest) is to be found in their works. Their works and their names, “poor, poor dumb names,” are all that remains of such men as Webster, Deckar, Marston, Marlow, Chapman, Heywood, Middleton, and Rowley ! “How lov’d, how honour’d once, avails them not:” though they were the friends and fellow-labourers of Shakespear, sharing his fame and fortunes with him, the rivals of Jonson, and the masters of Beaumont and Fletcher's well-sung woes! They went out one by one unnoticed, like evening lights; or were swallowed up in the headlong torrent of puritanic zeal which succeeded, and swept away every thing in its unsparing course, throwing up the wrecks of taste and genius at random, and at long fitful intervals, amidst the painted gewgaws and foreign frippery of the reign of Charles II. and from which we are only now recovering the scattered fragments and broken images to erect a temple to true Fame ! How long, before it will be completed?.
If I can do any thing to rescue some of these
writers from hopeless obscurity, and to do them
right, without prejudice to well-deserved reputa
tion, I shall have succeeded in what I chiefly
propose. I shall not attempt, indeed, to adjust