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the first, and never guilty of the last.” Further reasons for so small a number of his plays having been printed, are assigned in the preface to The English Traveller. “True it is,” he says, “that my plays are not exposed unto the world in volumes, to bear the title of works, as others; one reason is, that many of them, by shifting and change of companies, have been negligently lost; others of them are still retained in the hands of some actors, who think it against their peculiar profit to have them come in print; and a third, that it never was any great ambition in me, to be in this kind voluminously read.”
To the above slender facts, relative to the biography of our author, we have nothing to add, but our regret, that we are unable to communicate more of the history of so modest, so honest, and so ingenious an individual. One cannot recollect without something like indignation, that such men as Heywood, and Rowley, and Massinger, the skilful fabricators of divine inventions, the authors of beautiful thougbts and touching colloquies; men, who, from their knowledge of the human heart, might have “conversed with the angels,” and caught their power of unveiling, without ceasing to feel, the kind and the noble in their species,—that such men should be the hirelings of the stage, receive a paltry remuneration for their labours, hardly sufficient to keep body and soul together, and be frequently dependant on the precarious bounty of managers, even for a small advance, by way of mortgage, on the productiveness of their brains. The unknown contributor of half a sheet to a popular magazine, a mere nullius filius, is paid as much for a paper, on a topic of only temporary interest, as one of the genuine sons of the Muses for an immortal drama : and the author of a modern play, if he can contrive, by favour or affection, to get it acted, receives for it nearly as much as these men made during a long and laborious life.
At that period the admirers of the drama were but few, compared with the multitude who now take an interest either in the representation or perusal of dramatic productions. The cultivated few were, probably, not numerous enough to support all the “ children of the sun,” whilst the groundlings were as well pleased with King Cambises’ vein, or the rude mockery and undigested humour of the clown, as with the most refined and delicate touches of dramatic genius; and, indeed, would after all, probably, prefer the exhibition of Bruin on the Bankside, or the bipedal contests of the Cockpit, to the best piece that ever drew an audience to the Globe, the Fortune, or the Red Bull. But if the encouragement and remuneration had been greater, it is certain, that some of our old dramatists would not have been the richer ; nay, if Melpomene herself had wooed them in showers of gold, they would still have been beggars: they had the faculty of throwing about their wit and their money with the same facility; in reward for, and for the rich outpourings of genius, they would still have had nothing but poverty for their companion. They were a careless race, and whilst their vigour lasted, kept themselves in good heart, mightily aided, doubtless, with the nectar of the day, “ good sack wine," and this they seldom lacked whilst there was money in the purse, or encouragement in the patron. But when the lamp of genius burnt dim, and the corruscations of wit ceased to sparkle, when the audience tired of the old plays, and managers no longer called for new ones, then the wit was forgotten at the patron's table, and the empty pockets, like the muffled drum, sounded the death of dramatic reputation. Such was the case with Green and Lilly, and Nash and Marlowe, and various others. Heywood, however, belonged, as far as we can ascertain or judge, to a steadier and more sedate order of writers.Indeed, he appears to have had no time for dissipation, for, if we are to believe Kirkman, “ he not only acted almost daily, but also obliged himself to write a sheet every day, for several years together;" it is true, however, that the same person adds, that—“ many of his plays were composed loosely in taverns,” which, if it is true, it seems, he frequented for a very untavern-like purpose.
The character of his dramas is very various--he is so dissimilar from himself, that we are tempted to doubt his identity. One can only reconcile the fact of his having written some of the plays ascribed to him, by supposing, with Kirkman, that he wrote them loosely in taverns, or that he was spurred on to their hasty production by necessity; or, lastly, that he did not originate, but only added to and altered many of them. How else can we account for the author of “ A Woman killed with Kindness,” and “ The English Traveller," writing such plays as “ Edward IV.” “ Fair Maid of the Exchange," &c. ? We will slightly notice these inferior productions before we speak of those of a more elevated kind.
The play of “ Edward the 4th” is a long and tedious business. There are one or two touching parts in those scenes in which Jane Shore is introduced, but Heywood has not made any thing like what he might have done with such materials, nor, indeed, any thing at all approaching to what he has himself done in other pieces.-With the exception of those parts, the play is mere chronicle without poetry or dramatic situation. The character of Matthew Shore, however, is not bad, and there is, in the midst of the misery and disaster, with which the play abounds, a spirit of kindness and humanity which obtains our good will, notwithstanding we find so little
to excite our feelings. The author has made Richard III. a very vulgar villain. The first part of the play of “ If you know not me, you know Nobody, or the Troubles of Queen Elizabeth,” of the inaccurate printing of which the author very much com plaius, possesses neither character, passion, nor poetry. The second part has a more poetical air about it, and possesses more of character than the first. Old Hobson, a blunt, honest and charitable citizen-John Gresham, a wild indomitable youth,—and Timothy, a puritanical hypocrite and knave, are well discriminated.— The only foundation for the strange title of this piece is the answer of old Hobson to an inquiry made by the queen, “ Knowest thou not me? then thou knowest nobody.”
"The Wise Woman of Hogsden” is characterised by some humorous situations, but possesses little interest and less poetry. Sir Boniface, one of the characters, is a humorous caricature of a pedant-he speaks almost as good doggrel Latin as Sir Aminadab, in that most humorous comedy of “ How to chuse a Good Wife from a Bad."* .
“The Fair. Maid of the Exchange,” (Heywood's title to which is exceedingly doubtful,) and “ The Fair Maid of the West,” are hardly worthy of notice. “ The Four Prentices of London" is a rhyming, braggart production, which is ridiculed in Beaumont and Fletcher's “ Knight of the Burning Pestle.” 6A Maidenhead well Lost," is not worth finding, and the “ Four Ages” are as poor as the author is said to have been hy a writer of the day, who observes that
-“ Well of the golden age he could entreat,
How different in style, in pathos, in the very tone of ordinary feeling, are these from the plays we are about to mention.
Heywood's best comedies are distinguished by a peculiar air, a · superior manner; his gentlemen are the most refined and
finished of gentlemen, refined in their nice sense of the true and beautiful, their fine moral perception, and finished in the most scrupulous attention to polite manners, most exact in the observances of decorum, without appearing rigorously precise ductile as fused gold to that which is good, and unmalleable to that which is evil; men, in short, “ of most erected spirits.” There is an inexpressible charm about those characters, a politeness founded on benevolence and the charities of life, a spirit of the good and kind which twines around our affections,
* Lately reprinted in The Old English Drama.
which gives us an elevation above the infirmities which flesh is heir to, and identifies us with the nobleness of soul and strength of character which shed “a glory” round their heads.
Heywood, like many of our old dramatists, deals in the extreme of character, which frequently amounts to heroism. His heroes are of unshaken purpose, of irresistible patience; men who will stand beneath the sword suspended by a single hair; and, with the power of motion, still resolutely bide the consequence. The point of honour is discriminated with the most subtle nicety; a vow is considered as registered in heaven; it is the sentence of fate, and must be equally inexorable. The spirit, however, is frequently sacrificed to the letter, and the good and the true are disregarded, to preserve a consistency with a supposed virtue—a sort of character better calculated to supply, from the passionate and deep internal conflicts which it occasions, affecting subjects for the stage, than useful example or instruction for human happiness. To some, this character will appear unnatural; and so it would be, if man were left to his own natural tendencies; but, if we grant the existence of the artificial notions of honour and virtue, on which it is founded, then the characters are perfectly consistent and natural, although acting under a false impression of what is right and just. Fancy, for instance, a generous, honest, and valiant gentleman, induced by a noble duke to convey a letter to an unyielding lady, who is, as that gentleman conceives, unknown to him; and, by the duke's dictation, who suspects that he is more intimately connected with her than is agreeable to his grace's interest, to swear that he will not cast an amorous look on her, speak “no familiar syllable, touch, or come near her bosom,” &c. Fancy him hastening to perform the duke's behests, and discovering, to his amazement, that he has undertaken to solicit his own wife for another. Imagine him tricked into a vow, in total ignorance of the circumstances, and resolving to bind himself to so unjust a stipulation, the effect of which is to make two persons miserable, and not to make the third happy ; yet, Heywood makes Spencer, in “ The Fair Maid of the West,” rigidly perform this vow, and leave his mistress in a swoon, without attempting to render her any assistance. The consequence is, that the Fair Maid of the West, the lady in question, is under the necessity of tricking the duke into another vow, in order to get out of the difficulty.
These exaggerated situations, however, are mixed with others of the deepest feeling, the most glorious overflowings of the affections, the kindest sympathies, the tenderest sentiments. Heywood knew well the nature of human passions, but he threw them into extravagant positions. He was, says Lamb,“ a sort of prose Shakspeare.” ' He caught the mantle of Elijah, but not before it touched the earth, and therefore was he peculiarly human in his delineations of passion. He did not deal skilfully with the invisible world, and yet he was not altogether unacquainted with “ the winged spirits of the air ;" he introduces them gracefully in “ Love's Mistress," one of the most beautiful and purest of masques founded upon classical mythology.
In a rank, in many respects considerably above the plays we first mentioned, we must place the “ Rape of Lucrece,” one of the most wild, irregular, and unaccountable productions of his age. Amongst the most extravagant buffoonery,' we find sparks of genius which would do honour to any dramatist; touches of feeling, to which no' reader can be indifferent. The extracts we shall make from the scene in which the crime is perpetrated, and from that which immediately follows, are of this description. The dreadful consummation is preceded by an awful note of preparation: a solemn pause in the stride of guilt, which makes the boldest hold his breath, and is succeeded by a display of the most exquisitely touching grief.
Sextus. Night, be as secret as thou art close, as close