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This same pedantic attitude of mind is specially characteristic of The New Inn or The Light, where Jonson's views on the nature of ideal love are fully stated. To Lovel, the hero of this comedy

"All thoughts, all passions, all delights

That stir this mortal frame,

Are but the messengers of Love,

And feed his secret flame."

"There is no life on earth, he says, but being in love; there are no
studies, no delights, no business, no intercourse, no trade of sense or
soul." Then he proceeds to answer the question, "What is Love,"
and although the definitions do real and infinite credit to
Jonson's morality, so ideal in an age when Love was corrupted
"the Miltonic
and debased, yet he lacks, as Mr. Ward says,
afflatus with which to wing this noble morality:

"Love is a spiritual coupling of two souls,
So much more excellent as it least relates
Unto the body; circular, eternal;

Not feign'd or made but born; and then so precious

As nought can value it but itself; so free,

As nothing can command it but itself.

And in itself so round and liberal,

As, where it favours, it bestows itself.

But we must take and understand this love,
Along still as a name of dignity,

Not pleasure.

True love hath no unworthy thought, no light,
Loose, unbecoming appetite, or strain;

But fixed, constant, pure, immutable.

And love is never true that is not lasting,
No more than any can be pure or perfect
That entertains more than one object."

Not the nobility of Jonson's morality but his consciousness of it was the snare of his genius. His great sense of moral superiority to his age, though this superiority was real not imagined, gave him too much of the attitude of a teacher, to allow of his being a truly great artist: it caused him to disfigure his work by suggestions of egoism and arrogance, which characterised only too forcibly his strong personality. Yet Ben Jonson has great claims to the memory and admiration of posterity, not only because he possessed, in common with other artists of his great age, a various many-sided imaginative nature, with the capacity for expressing itself in rich and abun

dant language, but because, in addition to this, he influenced powerfully the development of the drama. And thus, not only by his theory of comic characterisation, which, though crude, did much to reform the comic stage, giving to it the idea of interest in character, replacing that which belongs to a lower stage of art, viz. interest in incident alone; but by his conscientious work and high aims as a dramatist, he gave a true and high ideal to dramatic art and the dramatic profession,-an ideal to which the genius of Shakspere had unconsciously conformed, and which, although neglected by Jonson's successors, will always remain the true one of a great national drama.

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CHAPTER XI.

BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.

FLETCHER, JOHN, born December 1579; went to Bene't College, Cambridge,

1591.

BEAUMONT, FRANCIS, born probably 1585; went for a short time to Broadgate's Hall, Oxford; entered the Inner Temple, 1600. Probably a few years later the friendship between the two poets began. Beaumont died 1616; Fletcher died 1625. Principal works written :— (1) By FLETCHER alone-The Faithful Shepherdess, prob. by 1610; The Loyal Subject, 1618; (?) Bonduca, before 1619; (?) Valentinian, before 1619; The Pilgrim, first acted 1621; The Wild Goose Chase, 1621; The Custom of the Country, before 1628; The Elder Brother, acted after 1625; (?) Nice Valour, or the Passionate Madman, about 1624.

(2) By BEAUMONT and FLETCHER together—(?) The Woman Hater, acted 1606-07; Philaster, circ. 1608; The Maid's Tragedy, circ. 1610; The Knight of the Burning Pestle, circ. 1611; Cupid's Revenge, 1612; (?) The Honest Man's Fortune, 1613; Four Plays in One, before 1616; (?) Thierry and Theodoret, before 1616.

BEAUMONT and FLETCHER lived when the more glorious phase of the Elizabethan had passed away—when men were no longer stirred and excited-when their emotions were no longer stimulated and purified by great events and great crises which broke through the crust of convention, and called forth the real humanity underneath. They lived when the large national life had been superseded by the mean grovelling politics of James I.'s Court, at variance alike with the interests and instincts of the nation, when a cultivated Court which had surrounded and worshipped Gloriana, the perfect queen, idealised by fervid imaginations, had given place to profligate and illiterate courtiers, dealing out shameless flattery to a weak and unimpressive king. Cowardice and self-seeking had taken the place in political life of bravery and patriotism, and belief in the national capabilities: a time of depression, the inevitable reaction following on an eager life lived at high pressure, had come: the

enthusiasm that had prompted heroic and great deeds and emotions had not only passed away, but had given place to a scepticism which scoffed at its very existence, and which justified itself at the expense of belief in the nobler side of humanity. It is of such an age that Beaumont and Fletcher are the representatives their works are a truthful reflection of its thoughts and feelings, of its attitude towards life and the world: they recognise the existence and the power of emotions which play on the surface of life, but of impersonal enthusiasms and of the deepest and grandest feelings of human nature they have no conception. It is said that the truly great, whether in science or art, are always above their age; that they are unconsciously its teachers; that their vision is not the commonplace one of the ordinary mortal, but the ideal one of a prophet, the vision of what the human race might be, of what it might some day attain. All our greatest men, artists or not, have been raised above the world to which they appealed, by a point of view to which they have been always faithful, which has made the platform from which they have spoken to their fellow-men. But among these men Beaumont and Fletcher cannot be ranked. They indeed emerge above the mass of their contemporaries, but they are not distinguished by virtue of their insight into the deeper currents and problems of life; their poetry is not "the finer breath of life:" it is too much the breath of the coarse, degenerate age in which they lived. What made the

source of their popularity with their age and of their interest with ours, is their intense sense of the picturesque situations which this life offered,—situations which brought out the more obvious pathos and tragedy of life, which called forth the tenderness, the self-devotion, the real passions and feelings of men and women, their power of telling a story, and above all their power of giving the most graceful, charming, and musical expression to the feelings and thoughts of their characters. Their view of their own age is vivid, glowing, and intense; all that they comprehend they feel; they share their age's want of aspiration, its scepticism, but it is a scepticism which brings no pain or bitterness with it, because their soul is filled with the surface interest of life-it affords them all the satisfaction they require. There is about their work a truthfulness to human nature as they conceive it, a reality in their treatment of the limited emotions they comprehend, and a genius in the capacity for simple sweet expression, which will always give them a decided place among artists. They had no theory about their art, like Ben Jonson. They

wrote, and this is the secret of the excellence of their style, because they felt impelled to write for the sake of writing; both of them were men of good position, who had no need to seek their fortune as playwrights. To them, as they express it in the Triumph of Love

"Sweet poetry's

A flower, where men like bees and spiders may
Bear poison, or else sweets and wax away;
Be venom-bearing spiders they that will,
I'll be the bee, and suck the honey still.”

Poetry, to them, was the result of nature: it came by natural process; it was not that elaborate structure of art as conceived by the highminded but self-conscious Jonson.

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It was because neither Beaumont nor Fletcher possessed genius of the first order, that their partnership was so possible and so complete. Great genius implies a strong and marked individuality in its possessor; "it is a divinity which doth hedge' even one great genius from another; but genius such as that of Beaumont and Fletcher has its points of view in common; it showed itself in this case capable of a partnership so intimate as to succeed in baffling the subtlest analysis aiming at distinguishing mind from mind. Commentators have spent a vast amount of energy and ingenuity in attempting the distinction; some speak of Beaumont's judgment, of Fletcher's fancy, of "Fletcher's keen treble and deep Beaumont's bass," but it is impossible to discern any tangible difference between their work: they are rather "the two full congenial souls, twin stars that roll round Shakspere's sun." Differences of individuality there must have been, but none so decided as to make it possible to distinguish the work of one from the other. Perhaps, as one commentator says, the plays that Fletcher wrote alone are less moral than those which he wrote with Beaumont, and his diction when writing alone is perhaps more exaggerated in its tendencies; his verse has more feminine endings, is sweeter, more tender, and therefore more liable to the faults of weakness and feebleness, than it was when he wrote in conjunction with Beaumont. The Elizabethan stage was very familiar with the idea of dramatic partnership, though probably none so intimate had before occurred; Shakspere, Ben Jonson, Chapman, Dekker, Middleton, and Wm. Rowley, had all known what it was to work in partnership. As Mr. Ward says, they either worked with one another, or made additions to old plays, eking out the labour of fellow dramatists, till it was not known where the work

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