Page images

sky likewise leaves us with this impres- is a poem of man's experience with desion, though in fact the episode had been sires and the world, and the second of romanced and distorted out of all

recog- his experience with phantoms, ideas, and nition by the good-natured buffoon and that essentially morbid person, himself. adventurer who wrote it.

To many they are as different in quality In the critical portions of the work, the as Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. reader will occasionally be taken aback The second poem of both masters has by unabashed superlatives. In the sui- been anticlimaxed by the first; the griffe cide Werther“ fell the noblest and purest du lion is less and less evident, and the of human souls.” This is distinctly an greatest poetry less and less frequent. eighteenth-century estimate. “Werther, Bielschowsky follows many commentathe great masterpiece,” is, “next to Ham- tors in speaking of Faust simply as the let, the most unique (eigenthümlich] fig- Gretchen Episode. Part II contains the ure in the literature of the world.” We body of the poem. Yet nearly a quarter are given reasons why Goethe's Iphige- of a century had elapsed between the nia is greater than the Iphigenia of publication of the two. The fact that Euripides. Of the youthful fragment, Paradise Regained was Milton's favorite The Marriage of Hanswurst, it is writ- does not make it his greatest poem, and ten, “If the play had been completed for the critic Goethe's views will not be we should possess a comedy little inferior decisive here. His two works, whatever to Aristophanes in wit, and superior in their relation to the central theme, exbold license." Those who feel that Aris- hibit two distinct conceptions of poetry, tophanes was conscious of the limits of his and if they are both great world-literature art will necessarily misconstrue Bielschow- they are great for different reasons and sky's intended compliment.

they should have been treated separately. When he turns to the works of the clos- Through following his master so closeing years, in which the aging Goethe oc- ly, Bielschowsky has given us a convinccasionally wanders far from the poet's ing, by all odds the most convincing, porprovince, the concrete, and writes in that trait of the great Sage of Weimar, the compressed, telescoped style not unlike largest, fullest personality in history. He Shakespeare's last manner, the critic con- shows us how he lived and moved and fuses two categories. He seems to believe had his being, how “he could split a day that a work of art is beautiful in propor- into a million parts and rebuild it into a tion as it is profound, forgetting that miniature eternity.” As such it is an inwhen poetry ceases to be simple, sensu- dependent and valuable contribution to ous, and passionate, it runs grave danger literature. For estimates of the literary of ceasing to be poetry. Thus the second achievement of Goethe, we shall still read part of Faust is coupled with the first in with profit the book of his larger-minded, one indiscriminate laud, though the first saner admirer, George Henry Lewes.




[ocr errors]

In 1833 Coleridge, full of enthusiasm ors should not have taken account of for Beaumont and Fletcher, exclaimed, Professor Thorndike's admirable Influ“How lamentable it is that no gentleman ence of Beaumont and Fletcher on Shakand scholar can be found to edit these spere. Even if they could not accept beautiful plays!” Ten years later the Professor Thorndike's views, they should Reverend Alexander Dyce, a scholar and certainly have considered them, particua gentleman, and the man to whom the larly as to the relation of Cymbeline to Elizabethan drama owes more than to Philaster. In explanatory notes Dyce is almost any one, re-collated the early texts usually followed, but with valuable adand published an edition which has re- ditions. For text the old editions have mained standard for sixty years. Now been re-collated and many variants, distwo new complete editions are offered to regarded by Dyce, have been noted. the public. It is to be hoped that this Not all, however. For example, Maid's means, or will create, a renewal of inter

Tragedy, IV, 1, line 1, Mr. Bullen's ediest in the old dramatists, and that a gen- tion, in common with all others, omits eration which has been somewhat sur- the at least possibly solemn and drafeited with Ibsen will turn its attention matic “God” of the first quarto. for a time to plays of a different charac- The Cambridge edition, like the Camter. To be sure, Beaumont and Fletcher bridge Shakespeare, pays no attention to are infinitely grosser than the prophet of anything but the text, although a supplethe North, but it may be doubted whether mentary volume of comment is promised. The Chances is not, in fundamentals, less The second folio is reprinted verbatim et unhinging to the moral sense than Ghosts, litteratim, apparently with great accuracy, and the English play is certainly the more and a very extensive collection of varientertaining of the two.

ants in earlier editions is given in an apMr. Bullen reserves elaborate critical pendix; but all emendations of modern discussion for a supplementary volume; editors are disregarded. In a work which but each play is preceded by a brief in- appears, from its price, to be intended troduction, of which the most original largely for popular reading, this method feature is a sketch of the theatrical his- of procedure cannot be too emphatically tory of the piece. In determining chro- condemned. Wantonly to reject everynology it is unfortunate that the edit- thing that has been done to make the old

1 The Works of Francis Beaumont and John poets more approachable and intelligible, Fletcher. Variorum Edition. London: George and to hide carefully at the back of the Bell & Sons and A. H. Bullen. (In course

book all the different readings of earlier of publication.)

and perhaps often better editions, is simThe Works of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. Edited by ARNOLD GLOVER and

ply without excuse. To show what this A. R. WALLER. Cambridge (England): The leads to, I may point out that we get the

I University Press. (In course of publication.) beautiful verse of The Elder Brother in

The Maid's Tragedy and Philaster. By its plain prosaic second-folio garb; and FRANCIS BEAUMONT and John FLETCHER.

although in this case the earlier verse Edited by ASHLEY H. THORNDIKE, Ph. D.

form is printed in the appendix, the ediBelles Lettres Series, Section III. General Editor, GEORGE PEIRCE BAKER. Boston: D. C. tors take pains to state that in general Heath & Co. 1906.

they have paid no attention to the efforts



of modern editors to extract verse from which, when once recognized, it becomes the old chaotic prose.

a comparatively easy matter to distinProfessor Thorndike's unpretentious guish their work. Of all the dramatists, volume shows the care and scholarship Fletcher is the most marked in this rewhich we should expect from him and spect. In the plays which are known to from the excellent “ Belles Lettres Se- be by him alone, he shows such striking ries.” The introductory matter is abund- peculiarities of metre, as well as of style, ant and suggestive, both for scholars and that any one who is thoroughly familiar for the general reader. The bibliograph- with him will hardly confuse his work ics, especially, as with other volumes of with that of others. The same thing is the series, are very useful. The text true, though in a less degree, of Massinhas evidently been prepared with much ger, and, in a less degree again, of Beauthought and labor. I must confess to a mont; so that we can say, with a reasonshadow of doubt as to the advantage of able amount of confidence, that certain following the lawless spelling of the old plays are by Massinger and Fletcher, quartos; but Professor Thorndike's whole others by Beaumont and Fletcher; and, treatment of the question is totally differ- in the case of the former, especially, we ent from the slavish process of facsimile can point out the acts and scenes that are adopted by the Cambridge editors. attributable to each author. With Beau

It has long been well known that in mont and Fletcher this is more difficult, the vast collection of dramas printed un- for we often find distinct traces of both der the names of Beaumont and Fletch- authors in the same scene, and these er, Beaumont had but a comparatively marks of intimate association of thought small share. Massinger was recognized and workmanship agree pleasantly with by contemporaries as an occasional col- old traditions of the poets' close friendlaborator with Fletcher, while Shake- ship and intimate association in their speare, Jonson, Middleton, Rowley, and lives. Shirley are all mentioned as part au- Unfortunately tradition and shreds of thors of different plays, and many were doubtful hearsay are all that have come undoubtedly written by Fletcher. alone. to us in the matter. As with Shakespeare, The elaborate investigations made in and with so many of his great fellows, we recent years by Fleay, Boyle, Oliphant, know little of Beaumont and Fletcher and others, have put the question into beyond a dry and meagre collection of much more scientific shape, and it is now dates. Fletcher was born in 1579, enpossible in a large number of cases to tered as a pensioner in Benet College, distinguish the different authors with a Cambridge, 1591, probably began playreasonable degree of certainty. This re- writing about 1604, and died in 1625. sult has been brought about mainly by Beaumont (sometimes spelled by contemthe careful study of different forms of poraries Bewmont and possibly so proverse. In the work of Shakespeare, taken nounced) was born about 1585, went to in its chronological order of development, Oxford in 1597, was entered at the Inner we find a very great variety in the iambic Temple in 1600, married, perhaps in 1613, metre, a steady progression from simple and died in 1616, the year which also saw and primitive numbers in the early histor- the death of Shakespeare. Both poets ical plays to the complicated and subtle were of good family, Fletcher being the harmony of The Tempest and A Winter's son of a bishop. Both had certainly the Tale. In Shakespeare's contemporaries opportunity of a good education, and no such elaborate process of development were well qualified to mingle on equal has yet been traced; but many of them terms with the gay and courtly gentlemen seem to have inclined to some special who figure so largely in their plays. Both phase or phases of metrical expression, by were intimate with their fellow dramatists. The most brilliant account that has And the finish, the perfection of Beaucome down to us of the witty doings at the mont's workmanship are much more apMermaid Tavern is contained in a letter parent in his style than in his handling of Beaumont's to Ben Jonson; and Jon- of plot. In this regard he is as remote son's answer shows genuine affection, from Fletcher as he is from Shakespeare. although in his frank talks with Drum- Shakespeare crowds his lines, strains mond he remarked "that Francis Beau- them with thought and figure, sometimes mont loved too much himself and his sublime above all other sublimity, someown verses!” For any closer acquaint- times ill-chosen and tasteless; he loads ance with the characters and fortunes of and strains language almost beyond its the two celebrated partners we have to capacity of bearing. Fletcher rushes onrely, as with Shakespeare, mainly upon ward in a golden flood, clear, but unthe study of their writings.

checked, exuberant, garrulous at moIn considering Beaumont's work we ments. Beaumont is as clear as Fletcher, must always bear in mind his extreme as simple, no labor in him, no overstrain; youth. If Professor Thorndike's chro- but every

word tells. The progress, the nology is to be accepted, Beaumont began modulation of the thought is as delicate play-writing at twenty, and some of his and perfect as the modulation of the best pieces had almost certainly been verse, and moves with it in absolute harproduced by the time he was twenty-five, mony. From the nature of the case these an age at which Shakespeare had not qualities can be well shown only in pasattempted even such immature perform- sages longer than I have space to quote; ances as The Two Gentlemen of Verona but let the reader turn to Philaster's and The Comedy of Errors. Dying at but well-known description of his first meetlittle over thirty, Beaumont is to be ing with Bellario and observe the exquiclassed with Chatterton and Keats and site adjustment of sound to sense, the Shelley, among those who had time to

grace and purity of the diction, the deligive the world only the promise of what cate restraint in the use of figurative they might have accomplished.

expressions. An odd little illustration of Yet the contemporaries of this preco- the working of prejudice in these matcious genius seem to have thought quite ters occurs in a note of Steevens on as highly of his discretion as of his in- Twelfth Night. He calls attention to the spiration. Pope's remark that Beaumont lines of Viola,

checked what Fletcher writ” is hardly Lady, you are the cruell'st she alive to be accepted as final, any more than If you will lead these graces to the grave Dryden's astonishing statement that Jon- And leave the world no copy, son" used his (Beaumont's] judgment in and adds, “how much more elegantly is correcting, if not contriving all his plots;" this thought expressed by Shakespeare but such observations must have been than by Beaumont and Fletcher' in their founded on an enduring tradition which Philaster : had much basis in fact. And, in general, I grieve such virtue should be laid in earth the plays written by the two poets in Without an heir. collaboration, as compared with Fletch- We must remember that Viola's mood er's unassisted work, show a greater tends to irony; but surely any one who solidity of design, more forethought and is not blinded by the good Steevens's broad sense of dramatic effect in the con- Shakespeariolatry will feel that, taken in duct of the action. They have not Fletch- itself, the Twelfth Night passage, with er's verve, his inexhaustible fertility of its fanciful conceit and its tricky alliteraresource; but Beaumont would hardly tion, is far inferior to the Beaumont bit have been guilty of the structural defects in grace, in delicacy, in short, precisely of The Chances.

in elegance.


Do it by me,

This instinct of perfection in Beau- liness. Beaumont has no Portias, no mont has been too often overlooked, be- Imogens. But who can resist the passion cause until recently critics have not been of the forlorn Aspatia, offering her own sufficiently able to separate his work from likeness as the model of Ariadne's sorthe glittering imperfection of Fletcher;

row? and no better testimony can be found to the utility of minute investigation Do it again by me, the lost Aspatia, in questions of authorship than that it And you shall find all true but the wild island. clears the way for such a result. It is

Suppose I stand upon the sea-beach now,

Mine arms thus, and mine hair blown with the worth while to insist on Beaumont's ex

wind, cellence in this respect, because it is so Wild as that desert; and let all about me peculiarly un-Elizabethan. Ben Jonson

Be teachers of my story. complained that Shakespeare wanted

Or the pathos of the abandoned Viola ? – art, and, after all the frenzy of German

Woman, they say, was only made of man. hypercriticism, I think the sober reader

Methinks,'t is strange they should be so unlike. of the twentieth century will end by

It may be, all the best was cut away agreeing with Ben Jonson. Beaumont

To make the woman, and the naught was left did not live to arrive at maturity. He was

Behind with him. -I 'U sit me down and weep. hampered, as well as benefited, by asso- All things have cast me from 'em but the earth. ciation with a genius of a totally different

The evening comes and every little flower

Droops now as well as I. stamp. But if he had lived and had come to work independently, I cannot help Or the divine tenderness of Euphrasia (as thinking that he might have given to the

the boy Bellario) comforting Philaster English drama just the something which

who mourns that her life should be cut Shakespeare, supreme poet and supreme

off before the prime ? creator as he was, did not give to it. In Alas, my Lord, my life is not a thing all the peculiar excellences of the dra- Worthy your noble thoughts. 'T is not a life ; matic art we may, perhaps, take Racine to

'Tis but a piece of childhood thrown away. have been the exact opposite, the comple- On another side, however, Beaumont ment of Shakespeare. And Beaumont shows his truly Elizabethan affinities had it in hiin to have become the English and reaches out into a world of comedy Racine.

quite beyond the grasp of the classical In the creation of character Beaumont author of Les Plaideurs. Bessus and has also much of Racine, as well as in Merrythought are as far removed from style and in faculty of design. Like Ra- the starched humors of Jonson as from cine, the English poet succeeded best the dry brilliance of Fletcher. They have with women, and his heroines have the the warmth, the mellow, fruity richness grace, the delicacy, the peculiarly femi- in which only Beaumont, Dekker, and nine qualities, which belong to Phèdre, Middleton approach the golden sunshine to Andromaque, to Bérénice. Beau- of Shakespeare. Merrythought, especialmont's heroes undeniably fall short of ly, is a real comic creation and stands the heroic. Amintor, Philaster, Arbaces, out as such in that rather elementary Ricardo, are too much victims of the burlesque medley, The Knight of the storms of passion, they lack command Burning Pestle. How gay he is, with his over others and even over themselves; we old tags of song, his inextinguishable feel in them the want not only of heroism, laughter, his joyous confidence that the but too often of simple manliness, which, future will be like the past and that, if perhaps, is the same thing as the only it is not, mirth will mend it. heroism that counts. Nor, indeed. have

“How have I done hitherto these forty his women always quite that element of

years ? I never came into my diving-room womanliness which corresponds to man- but at eleven and six o'clock I found excellent VOL. 101 No. 1


« PreviousContinue »