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mented that the play of his which has been most admired (''Tis Pity She's a Whore') had not a less exceptionable subject. I do not know, but I suspect that the exceptionableness of the subject is that which constitutes the chief merit of the play. The re
enormous possessions-to what ?--to a title, a sound, to make his daughter 'right honourable,' the wife of a lord whose name he cannot repeat without loathing, and in the end he becomes the dupe of, and falls a victim to, that very opinion of the world which he despises!
"The character of Sir Giles Overreach has been found fault with as unnatural; and it may, perhaps, in the present refinement of our manners, have become in a great measure obsolete. But we doubt whether even still, in remote and insulated parts of the country, sufficient traces of the same character of wilful selfishness, mistaking the inveteracy of its purposes for their rectitude, and boldly appealing to power, as justifying the abuses of power, may not be found to warrant this an undoubted original-probably a facsimile of some individual of the poet's actual acquaintance. In less advanced periods of society than that in which we live, if we except rank, which can neither be an object of common pursuit nor immediate attainment, money is the only acknowledged passport to respect. It is not merely valuable as a security from want, but it is the only defence against the insolence of power. Avarice is sharpened by pride and necessity. There are then few of the arts, the amusements, and accomplishments, that soften and sweeten life, that raise or refine it: the only way in which any one can be of service to himself or another, is by his command over the gross commodities of life; and a man is worth just so much as he has. Where he who is not 'lord of acres' is looked upon as a slave and a beggar, the soul becomes wedded to the soil by which its worth is measured, and takes root in it in proportion to its own strength and stubbornness of character. The example of Wellborn may be cited in illustration of these remarks. The loss of his land makes all the difference between 'young master Wellborn' and 'rogue Wellborn;' and the treatment he meets with in this latter capacity is the best apology for the character of Sir Giles. Of the two, it is better to be the oppressor than the oppressed. Massinger, it is true, dealt generally in extreme characters, as well as in very repulsive ones. The passion is with him wound up to its height at first, and he never lets it down afterwards. It does not gradually arise out of previous circumstances, nor is it modified by other passions. This gives an appearance of abruptness, violence, and extravagance to all his plays. Shakspeare's characters act from mixed motives, and are made what they are by various circumstances. Massinger's characters act from single motives, and become what they are, and remain so, by a pure effort of the will, in spite of circumstances. This last author endeavoured to embody an abstract principle; labours hard to bring out the same individual trait in its most exaggerated state; and the force of his impassioned characters arises for the most part from the obstinacy with which they exclude every other feeling. Their vices look of a gigantic stature from their standing alone. Their actions seem extrava
pulsiveness of the story is what gives it its critical interest; for it is a studiously prosaic statement of facts, and naked declara tion of passions. It was not the least of Shakspeare's praise, that he never tampered with unfair subjects. His genius was above it; his taste kept aloof from it. I do not deny the power of simple painting and polished style in this tragedy in general, and of a great deal more in some few of the scenes, particularly in the quarrel between Annabella and her husband, which is wrought up to a pitch of demoniac scorn and phrensy with consummate art and knowledge; but I do not find much other power in the author (generally speaking) than that of playing with edged tools, and knowing the use of poisoned weapons. And what confirms me in this opinion is the comparative inefficiency of his other plays. Except the last scene of The Broken Heart' (which I think extravagant-others may think it sublime, and be right), they are merely exercises of style and effusions of wire-drawn sentiment. Where they have not the sting of illicit passion, they are quite pointless, and seem painted on gauze, or spun of cobwebs. The affected brevity and division of some
of the lines into hemisticks, &c. so as to make in one case a
gant from their having always the same fixed aim-the same incorrigible purpose. The fault of Sir Giles Overreach, in this respect, is less in the excess to which he pushes a favourite propensity, than in the circumstance of its being unmixed with any other virtue or vice.
"We may find the same simplicity of dramatic conception in the comic as in the tragic characters of the author. Justice Greedy has but one idea or subject in his head throughout. He is always eating, or talking of eating. His belly is always in his mouth, and we know nothing of him but his appetite; he is as sharpset as travellers from off a journey. His land of promise touches on the borders of the wilderness: his thoughts are constantly in apprehension of feasting or famishing. A fat turkey floats before his imagination in royal state, and his hunger sces visions of chines of beef, venison pasties, and Norfolk dumplings, as if it were seized with a calenture. He is a very amusing personage; and in what relates to eating and drinking, as peremptory as Sir Giles himself-Merall is another instance of confined comic humour, whose ideas never wander beyond the ambition of being the implicit drudge of another's knavery or good fortune. He sticks to his stewardship, and resists the favour of a salute from a fine lady, as not entered in his accounts. The humour of this character is less striking in the play than in Munden's personification of it. The other characters do not require any particular analysis. They are very insipid, good sort of people."
mathematical stair-case of the words and answers given to dif ferent speakers,* is an instance of frigid and ridiculous pedantry. An artificial elaborateness is the general characteristic of Ford's style. In this respect his plays resemble Miss Baillie's more than any others I am acquainted with, and are quite distinct from the exuberance and unstudied force which characterized his immediate predecessors. There is too much of scholastic subtlety, an innate perversity of understanding or predominance of will, which either seeks the irritation of inadmissible subjects, or to stimulate its own faculties by taking the most barren, and making something out of nothing, in a spirit of contradiction. He does not draw along with the reader: he does not work upon our sympathy, but on our antipathy or our indifference; and there is as little of the social or gregarious principle in his productions as there appears to have been in his personal habits, if we are to believe Sir John Suckling, who says of him, in the Sessions of the Poets
"In the dumps John Ford alone by himself sat
I do not remember without considerable effort the plot or persons of most of his plays-' Perkin Warbeck,' 'The Lover's Melancholy,' Love's Sacrifice,' and the rest. There is little character, except of the most evanescent or extravagant kind (to which last class we may refer that of the sister of Calantha in The Broken Heart')-little imagery or fancy, and no action. It is but fair, however, to give a scene or two, in illustration of these remarks (or in confutation of them, if they are wrong), and I shall take the concluding one of The Broken Heart,' which is held up as the author's master-piece.
"SCENE-A Room in the Palace.
A Flourish.-Enter EUPHRANEA, led by GRONEAS and HEMOPHIL: PROPHILUS. led by CHRISTALLA and PHILEMA: NEARCHUS Supporting CALANTHA, CBOTOLON, and AMELUS.
Cal. We miss our servants, Ithocles and Orgilus. On whom attend they?
Whisper'd some new device, to which these revels
Lord Ithocles and he himself are actors.
Cal. A fair excuse for absence. As for Bassanes, Delights to him are troublesome. Armostes
Cousin, hand you the bride: the bridegroom must be
Euphranea; I shall scarcely prove a temptress.
Fall to our dance!
(They dance the first change, during which enter ARMOSTES.)
Arm. (In a whisper to Calantha.) The king your father's dead.
They dance the second change.-Enter BASSANES.
Bass. (Whispers Calantha). Oh! Madam,
Penthea, poor Penthea's starv'd.
Cal. Beshrew thee!
Lead to the next!
Bass. Amazement dulls my senses.
They dance the third change.-Enter ORGILUS.
Org. Brave Ithocles is murder'd, murder'd cruelly.
Cal. How dull this music sounds! Strike up more sprightly
Our footings are not active like our heart,*
Which treads the nimbler measure,
Org. I am thunderstruck.
The last change.
Cal. So; let us breathe awhile. (Music ceases.) Hath not this motion Rais'd fresher colours on our cheek?
Near. Sweet princess,
A perfect purity of blood enamels
The beauty of your white.
Cal. We all look cheerfully:
And, cousin, 'tis, methinks, a rare presumption
"High as our heart."-See passage from the 'Malcontent.'
In any who prefers our lawful pleasures
Before their own sour censure, to interrupt
Cal. Yes, yes; some hollow voice deliver'd to me
Arm. The king is dead," &c. &c.
This, I confess, appears to me to be tragedy in masquerade. Nor is it, I think, accounted for, though it may be in part redeemed by her solemn address at the altar to the dead body of her husband.
"Cal. Forgive me. Now I turn to thee, thou shadow
(Places a ring on the finger of ITHOCLES.)
Thus I new marry him, whose wife I am:
Of death, and death, and death: still I danced forward;
Be such mere women, who with shrieks and outcries
Can vow a present end to all their sorrows,
Yet live to court new pleasures, and outlive them:
They are the silent griefs which cut the heartstrings:
Let me die smiling.
Near. 'Tis a truth too ominous.
Cal. One kiss on these cold lips-my last: crack, crack
Argos, now Sparta's king, command the voices
Which wait at th' altar, now to sing the song
I fitted for my end."
And then, after the song, she dies.
This is the true false gallop of sentiment: anything more artificial and mechanical I cannot conceive. The boldness of the attempt, however, the very extravagance, might argue the reliance of the author on the truth of feeling prompting him to hazard it; but the whole scene is a forced transposition of that already alluded to in Marston's' Malcontent.' Even the form of the stage directions is the same.