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LETTER FROM JOHN DE COVERLEY.
importance, we shall reserve a fuller bute of his wits, (perhaps no very account of it, as well as of his writings, heavy payment,) it being then conand the literature of the period, to form șidered an incivility if any one took the subject of another article.
away with him than was enough to enable him to stagger home. This custom, however, I allow, is
more to be honoured in the breach MR EDITOR,
than the observance; still I wish we As I have always thought, that had not lost with it the kind hearted whoever takes the trouble to publish ness that promoted sociality and good a periodical work for the amusement neighbourhood. and instruction of others, deserves Though I have been extolling the well of his country, and merits the old fashioned hospitality of our foreassistance of all those who can give fathers, I have been a sufferer from him any, I am desirous of offering the liberality of mine, for after I had you my feeble aid towards your ardu. spent fourteen idle years running ous undertaking, an aid which I am
as wild as any of the young fawns not on the whole unqualified to give, in the park, my grandfather died, since I have seen some variety of life, and my father found there were just have a retentive memory, and what I as many acres of the paternal e. want in wit and ability, I can make state as would pay off every pound up in ample leisure. It is natural, of the paternal debt. To my father, that you, Sir, should inquire who I whose habits were entirely those of am, who make you this unqualified a town, (he had entered early into offer; and though you probably never business, and married the only child heard of me individually, I think I of a merchant in London,) the loss of can venture to say, my name has been the family estate was no more than long endeared to you by early asso- the loss of the thousands it was worth. ciation, if you have ever read the vo- But to me, who saw every thing I . lumes of the Spectator, or danced the had ever loved or delighted in, torn good old English dance of Roger de from me by the ruthless auctioneer, it Coverley. I am the representative, was almost heart-breaking, and the though not a lineal descendant, (for more so, as I had always been told by he, you know, died a bachelor,) of the every servant and dependant about worthy old knight of that name, with the place, that it would be mine, and whom his friend the Spectator has that when my grandfather was gone, made us all so well acquainted. I must keep open house, as he had
My grandfather was his nephew, done, for the credit of the De Coverand was no unworthy member of the ley family. De Coverley family, as I myself can My grandfather considered himself testify, my early years having been as amply providing for my education, spent under his roof. Oh! Mr Edi, by paying a liberal stipend to the tor, what a change since those good curate of the parish, for giving me as old times! In vain do I look around much classical knowledge as he could for one genuine English country teach, or I chose to learn, which, to squire; the whole race is extinct, and say the truth, was nearly equal, not in their stead is arisen a set of fine that he, good man, was deficient in gentlemen, who, after losing their his duty, for he walked up from the time, money, and consequence in Lon- vicarage regularly at the stated hour; don and watering places, return to but then there was generally some intheir family mansions only for a few terruption from the squire, some sick months every year, to rest, and to re- dog, some lame horse, some pond to trench ; who only consider their te- fish, something that would not brooķ nants belonging to them as they pay delay, that called the curate away their rents, and their country neigh- from what was misnamed the study, bours as people, whom it is " a bore” where the Latin Accidence and Cor. to visit.
What a contrast to my nelius Nepos (for we never got any grandfather, and the gentlemen of farther) were left undisturbed, till fortune in his day! Then every house dinner surprised us unawares in the was like an inn, and every guest was stable or the dog-kennel. However, welcome to the hospitable board, happily for me, though Latin and which cost him nothing but the tri, Greek stuck heavily in hand, I had a
great taste for English reading, and thing as I had left it fifty years be Had found a mine of wealth in a clo- fore; but how was I shocked and disset within a large sort of dark lum- appointed! The park was gone-diber-room, where I had once groped in vided into little fields, and many of pursuit of a tame squirrel. Here I them ploughed. The woods, the found the scattered, tattered remains stately hedge-row elms, the avenue of a once choice library, selected by all, all were gone, not a tree left Mr Spectator for my great uncle Sir that would sell for a crown. The Roger, and here would I retreat when- house, indeed, was still standing, but ever I could from the jovial crew be- how! The roof partly fallen in ; the low, to feast on Milton, Shakespeare, upper windows fallen out; the rest and the older poets. On my grande broken, patched, or boarded up. I father's death, I was placed for a few stood transfixed, and exclaimed, “ Disyears at school, where I learnt very mal, dismal indeed!" " It is, indeed," little Greek, and about as much Lac said my wife in her usual calm tone, tin. However, I learnt one piece of “ a very dismal evening, you had knowledge, which has been of use to better button your great-coat." “ And me ever since, namely, that I was not all those oaks too," I proceeded, as the young squire of the parish, und is my way,) without attending to her, the greatest man in the world. “ not one spared; those noble oaks!"
When I was eighteen, I was placed “ They must have been noble oaks," in my father's counting-house, and resumed my companjon ; “this stump though this kind of life was not to my is at least three yards and a quarter taste, being of an accommodating dis- round--I should have liked a table of position, I soon reconciled myself to it.” it, and I found by experience, that the We now reached the great paved most irksome employment will be- court, and the desolation appeared come agreeable, if one can once bring more terrible when near, and lifting one's self to pay attention to it; and í up my hands, I exclaimed," How is contrived to beguile my time, by the pride of the De Coverleys fallen!" forming an agreeable and respectable “Yes, indeed," said my wife, "I should acquaintance, and by a good deal of have fallen over the broken pavement, miscellaneous, and, I hope, not en- if I had not caught hold of this old tirely useless reading. At last when post." We now ascended the loose I came to a sober steady age, my fa- and broken flight of stone steps, where ther recommended me to marry, and my good grandfather in his pompa. exhorted me to make a prudent choice, dour coat of ceremony, and his neat and I trust I bave fulfilled his wish, bob major, (and let the weather be for during the 23 years we have been what it might, without his hat,) was married, I have rarely heard my wife wont to descend to welcome his guests hazard an opinion, and I know no on coinpany days, and hand the ladies woman who uses so few unnecessary from their carriages, and now, even words; have not therefore made a entrance without a welcome, was de prudent choice ? and the more so, as nied us, for the door was not only I myself am a prodigious talker. In- locked, but nailed up, the hall being deed, the most she ever says on any converted into a granary. We now subject is “ Dear me, Mr Coverley!" sought an entrance into the house by We have two sons and a daughter, a sort of postern that led to the offices, but more of them hereafter.
which we found inhabited by a fara Last year, when I lost my good fa- mer’s family; and we desired to be ther, I felt fired with the ambition of shown the rest of the house. Many retiring from business, and repurchas- of the upper rooms were locked up, ing the De Coverley estate, that I and some used as cheese rooms, or might live again in the mansion of wool chambers. In the best drawingmy ancestors. Accordlingly I took my room, I looked in vain for the highwife down into Gloucestershire. When backed damask chairs that stood in we approached De Coverley Hall, I stately rows against the walls, being quitted the carriage, that I might have too heavy to be removed; the little the pleasure of exploring again cach round tea-table placed in the centre well known path, forgetting the lapse of the small Turkey carpet; the pier of years, and expecting to find every table, on which was wont to be placed
ON THE ENGLISH DRAMATIC WRITERS
for the amusement of any chance vi- thing to do, and very much oblige, sitor who might be desirous of a book, your obedient servant, Fairfax's Complete Sportsman, and
JOHN DE COVERLEY. the Militia Officer's Vade Mecum. Nothing remained but some of the dark green flock paper that once covered the walls. It was now the far
WHO PRECEDED SHAKESPEARE, mer's bed-room, and its present state
No. VII. need not be described.
I next desired to be shown the oak Perhaps no poet of the reign of parlour, where, except on state occa- Elizabeth was in greater repute asions, my grandfather commonly sat. mong bis contemporaries and more Here, in his green shooting dress, too immediate successors, than the indi. long to be called a jacket, and too short vidual, one of whose productions forms to be a coat, would he sit, surround- the principal subject of the present ed by his dogs, whips, sticks, guns, article; I mean Christopher Marlow, old hats, and fishing-rods; and here a name I have before had occasion sedid he once display to my boyish and veral times to mention in the course admiring eyes, one of the very whistles of these articles. Ben Jonson speaks made by Will Wimble, and which I of“ Marlow's mighty line,” an epistill have and preserve, as the only re- thet highly characteristic of his via lic that remains to me of the De Co- gorous and lofty style. Chapman has verley property. In this room, en a fine apostrophe to him in the third deared to me by every early recollec- sestyad of their joint production, tion, did I find littered three young “ Hero and Leander ;” but the excalves ; and penned into one corner, pressions of Drayton in his “ Censure where whilome lay the cushions of of the Poets,” give the clearest and those honoured and petted hounds most distinct notion of his powers and Nell and Jowler, did I see an old peculiarities. goose hatching young ganders. This
“ his raptures were turned the scale, and from that mo- All air and fire, which made his verses ment I gave up all hope and all wish of living in the spot so hallowed to For that fine madness still he did retain, my imagination; and turning to my
Which rightly should possess a poet's wife I said, “ I see it will never do,
brain." I shall give up all thoughts of living I shall beg the reader to bear this dehere." “ Dear me, Mr Coverley,” scription in mind during the remainsaid my wife with a more lively ex- der of this article, as a sort of standpression of horror than I thought it ard by which to try the merits of in her nature to display, “ Dear me, some of the quotations, and to account did you really ever think of it?"
for some of the extravagancies of the Being resolved, however, to quit author of them. London, I made it my business to dis- • I have before remarked, that, as it cover some suitable place to retire to is certain that Shakespeare was not with my family, and have just settled the inventor of what are called histomyself, very much to my satisfaction, rical plays, nor the founder of that in the pleasant town of Bandy Bo- school which has vulgarly gone under rough, where I hop: I shall derive all his name, as far as a disregard of the the advantages I promised myself three dramatic unities are concerned, from the change. There is, however, it is a point of some difficulty, at this one thing I find I begin to want, now distance of time, and with such scanthe bustle of unpacking is over, and ty evidence as remains, to settle with the interest excited by our late con- any precision, what writer for the tested election is beginning to subside, stage is entitled to the distinction and that is employment. I feel the which hitherto has been gratuitously want of the unceasing round of occu- given to Shakespeare. Marlow, Greene, pation that a mercantile and London Peele, and, perhaps, Nash and Lodge, life used to afford me.
have all some claim to it; and on for- If, therefore, the history I have mer occasions I have examined progiven of myself encourages you to ductions in this class by the second wish for a continuance of my corre- and third of these poets, postponing a spondence, you will give me some consideration of the pretensions
Marlow, which I am inclined to think Honorable the Lord Admirall his are superior to those of his rivals.
Seruauntes. Now newly Published. It will not be disputed after what Printed by Richard Iones, dwelling at Mr Chalmers has produced in his the signe of the Rose and Crowne, “Supplemental Apology for the Be- near Holborne Bridge, 1592.” The lievers in the Shakespeare papers,"
,” title of the second part I shall notice (p. 292 et seq.) that our greatest dra- hereafter. It is obvious that, although matic poet was under considerable dated as early as 3 592, * the year bem obligations to Marlow, in as much as fore Shakespeare printed his " Venus it now turns out that he only adapted and Adonis,” the“ first heir of his the “ True Tragedy of Richard Duke invention," it is not the first edition; of York” by the latter to the stage, the words, now newly published, are though from that day to our own it decisive upon this point, even if no has been assigned to Shakespeare una copy of the date of 1590 were in existe der the title of “ Henry VI. Part 3." ence. Whether that was the first To this point I have already adverted time it passed through the press is at length, and I shall not now dwell still a question, because there is upon it further than to note the in- evidence that it had been acted at ference, that, as Marlow was a very least as early as 1588; the extreme celebrated writer, his tragedy had popularity of the piece is established most likely been frequently represent on many authorities, but on none ed considerably before Shakespeare's more unquestionably than that of the improvement of it, which is conjec- printer, who, in an epistle prefixed, tured to have been made between talks of the delight it had given 1593 and 1595. There is sufficient when “ shewed in London upon proof that he was acquainted with stages.” From hence, too, we may inost of Marlow's known productions, perhaps infer, that it was acted upon dramatic and undramatic. In “Aš more stages than one. The evidence You Like it,” A. III. sc. 5, he quotes to which I allude as shewing that it a line from “ Hero and Leander," was well known in 1588, is a very with a sort of address to Marlow as a rare pamphlet by Robert Greene, call. “ dead shepherd.” In “ Romeo and ed “Perimedes the Blacksmith," Juliet," A. III. sc. 2, he puts into 1588, in the preface to which the au. the mouth of the heroine four lines thor makes à curious allusion to a in “ Edward II.;" and most readers charge brought against him, that he are aware that ancient Pistol's “ hole could not write blank verse for the low-pampered jades of Asia” are stage in the style of “ that atheist taken from Marlow's “ Tamburlaine." Tamburlaine." This was intended as
This brings us to the play which is a blow at Marlow, whose religious the main subject of the present article, tenets were at least questionable, for and the title of which may be quoted there is nothing in the play which at length with more propriety, be- makes the word " atheist” particu. cause this is the first time any at larly applicable to its hero. tempt has been made to examine it It is to be observed, that both parts critically, with a view to ascertain its of “Tamburlaine" are in blank verse, real merits; to account for some of in writing which it was said Greene the exaggerated and inflated passages, was not skilful, and it is obvious from and to point out, as far as room will this and other circumstances, that the allow, such parts as are obviously the date when this performance was first production of a poet of no mean rank. represented, may be tolerably certainIt is divided into two parts, and the ly fixed upon as the epoch when first is called, “ Tamburlaine the blank verse obtained its footing at the Great; who, from a Scythian Shep- public theatres, to the exclusion of heard, by his rare and wonderfull rhime, which was invariably used in conquestes, became a most puissant the old Mysteries, Moralities, and Inand mightie Monarch: And for his terludes. “ Ferrex and Porrex," by tyrannie and terrour in warre, was Sackville and Norton, so often mentearmed the Scourge of God. The tioned, had set the example, which first part of the two Tragicall Discourses, as they were sundrie times
* It may be just worth remarking, most stately shewed upon stages in that the learned Mr Isaac Read knew of the Citie of London. By the Right no edition before the 4to of 1605.
was followed at a considerable inter A due consideration of these cir. val by Hughes in his “Misfortunes cumstances will or ought to reconcile of Arthur," a performance I have pre- the reader to many of the highlyviously reviewed; but these were both wrought descriptions and bombastic pieces got up by the Inns of Court sentences in the two parts of “ Tamfor the private entertainment of the burlaine." It ought to be recollectqueen, and not represented, that I am ed, that Marlow was obliged to furaware of, upon any public stage. Of nish his auditors with some equivathis change Marlow speaks very une lent for the vnlgar buffoonery with quivocally in the prologue to his work which they had previously been enbefore us, where he says,
tertained, and if Shakespeare, and From iygging vaines of riming mother
Beaumont and Fletcher afterwards, wits,
were enabled successfully to ridicule And such conceits as clownage keepes in such “ braggart puft-stuff,” it was pay,
because the change had then been Weele lead you to the stately tent of war, completed and established. It was Where you shall heare the Scythian Tam- Marlow's business to astonish, and to burlaine
delight by astonishing, and if he had Threatening the world with high astound- not succeeded so well, perhaps it ing tearms,
would have been necessary that even And scourging kingdomes with his con- Shakespeare himself should have pen
quering sword. View but nis picture in this tragicke glasse, style of “ Titus Andronicus.” It is
many more of his plays in the And then applaud his fortunes as you a conjecture by no means devoid of please.
probability, that this semi-barbarous This clearly proves, that Marlow performance was written by him very was attempting two important inno- early, in accommodation to the prevations, the one relating to the sub- vailing taste, before the alteration alject, and the other to the language of ready adverted to was adopted and the stage ; and in forming an opinion confirmed. Besides, it is not to be upon the merits and defects of “ Tam- supposed that Marlow could write no burlaine," it is absolutely necessary to better than most of the ránt put into keep this fact in view; he was en- the mouth of Tamburlaine: this very deavouring to turn the public mind play proves the contrary, without reand taste from the low scurrilous and ference to his “ Edward Il." the chief puerile matters which had previously character of which is drawn with as amused it at the theatres, from " such much truth and delicacy as that of conceits as clownage keepes in pay," Shakespeare's “ Richard II.," for by leading the spectators “to the whom, probably, it served as the model, stately tent of war," and he was anx As to Marlow's claim to be conious, at the same time, to introduce sidered the founder of what has been to them a new style of speaking suited often called the school of Shakespeare, to the loftier theme and more exalted it depends very much upon circumpersonages, by forsaking “ the jig- stances to which I have above alluded. ging veins of rhyming mother-wits.” The minutest and most patient invesIn this view the performance under tigation would not probably enable us consideration assumes a degree of im- to arrive at any definite conclusion on portance, connected with the history the subject, and I shall not discuss it of our language and of the stage, that farther, observing merely in concluhas not before been thought to belong sion, that G. Peele, in his poem called to it. It is necessary here to add, “ The Honour of the Garter,” 1593, that we have not the play handed bears evidence, that his friend was down to us as it was originally writ- then dead, and pays a tribute to his ten and represented, for the printer memory. I apprehend, that about this mentions, that he has omitted many year, or very shortly before it, Shakeparts which in his judgment were de- speare began to write for the stage. rogatory " to so honourable and state. I will now proceed to some quotations ly a history,” probably scenes of low from the two parts of “ Tamburlaine humour inserted by Marlow for the the Great,” apprising the reader, that purpose of gratifying the groundlings, as usual he must bear with the unand rendering his projected change couthness of the old spelling, which I less abrupt and hazardous.
have thought it right to preserve.