« AnteriorContinuar »
'THE first play that brought Fletcher and him in esteem was their Philaster; for before that they had written two or three very unsuccessfully. Their plots were generally more regular than Shakespeare's, especially those which were made before Beaumont's death; and they understood and imitated the conversation of gentlemen much better; whose wild debaucheries, and quickness of wit in repartees, no poet before them could paint as they have done. Humour, which Ben Jonson derived from particular persons, they made it not their business to describe; they represented all the passions very lively, but above all love. I am apt to believe the English language in them arrived to its highest perfection; what words have since been taken in are rather superfluous than ornamental.'-Dryden.
Early Editions. In the Stationers' Register, under the date 10 January, 1619-20, we find the entry :
Entred for his copie vnder the handes of
Master Tauernor and Master Jaggard warden vjd
A Play Called Philaster.
The edition here referred to is the Quarto of 1620, with the title: Philaster; or, Love lyes a Bleeding.
by his Maiesties Servants.
Acted at the Globe
Printed at London for Thomas Walkley, and are to be sold at his shop at the Eagle and Child in Brittaines Bursse, 1620, 4o. On the title-page there is also a small woodcut representing 'The Princes,' 'A Cuntrie Gentellman,' and 'Philaster,' and illustrating a situation in Act iv. Scene 3 of the play. This edition begins and ends in an entirely different manner from all its successors. Its text up to line 117 in Act i. and from line 38 in Act v. Scene 4 is manifestly spurious, and it is corrupt in other places. But in certain passages it preserves what appears
to be the true reading. It contains a list of 'The Actors Names,' but no Preface.
The Second Quarto appeared in 1622, with the title: Philaster or Love lies a Bleeding. As it hath been diverse times Acted at the Globe, and Blacke-Friers, by his Maiesties Servants.
The second Impression, corrected, and amended. Printed for Thomas Walkley, and are to be solde at his shoppe, at the signe of the Eagle and Childe, in Brittaines Bursse, 1622, 4°. This edition has no woodcut or list of characters, but it contains the following Preface, 'To the Reader.' Courteous Reader. Philaster and Arethusa his loue, haue laine so long a bleeding, by reason of some dangerous and gaping wounds, which they received in the first Impression that it is wondered how they could go abroad so long, or trauaile as farre as they haue done. Although they were hurt neither by me, nor the Printer; yet I knowing and finding by experience, how many well-wishers they haue abroad, haue adventured to bind up their wounds, to enable them to visite vpon better tearmes, such friends of theirs as were pleased to take knowledge of them, so mained and deformed, as they at the first were, and if they were then gracious in your sight, assuredly they will now finde double fauour, being reformed, and set forth suitable to their birth, and breeding. By your serviceable Friend, Thomas Walkley. This edition was the first to give the true text of the play, and as it appeared during the lifetime of Fletcher, who
may not improbably have resented the publication of the corrupt Quarto of 1620, it is of peculiar value.
The third Quarto appeared in 1628, with the title: Printed by A. M. for Richard Hawkins, and are to be sold at his Shop in Chancery-lane, adioyning to Sarjeants Inne gate. It contains the following Preface from 'The Stationer to The Understanding Gentrie.' This play so affectionatly taken and approved by the Seeing Auditors, or Hearing Spectators (of which sort, I take or conceive you to bee the greatest part) hath received (as appears by the copious vent of two Editions) no lesse acceptance with improouement of you likewise the Readers, albeit the first Impression swarm'd with Errors, proouing it selfe like pure Gold, which the more it hath beene tried and refined, the better is esteemed; the best Poems of this kind, in the first presentation, resemble that all tempting minerall newly digged vp, she acters being onely the labouring Miners, but you the skilfull Triers and Refiners: Now considering how currant this hath passed vnder the infallible stampe of your iudicious censure, and applause, and (like a gainefull office in this Age) eagerly sought for, not onely by those that have heard and seene it, but by others that have meerely heard thereof: here you behold me acting the merchant-aduenturers part, yet as well for their satisfaction as mine own benefit, and if my hopes (which I hope, shall neuer lye like this Loue a Bleeding) doe fairely arrive at their intended Hauen, I shall then be ready to lade a new Bottome, and set forth againe, to gaine the good-will both of you and them. whom respectively I conuey this hearty greeting. Adieu.
This Preface, which is repeated in later Quartos, sufficiently attests the play's popularity, of which still stronger proof is furnished by the number of editions that were rapidly called
for. A fourth Impression' appeared in 1634, and it was followed by a reprint in 1639. This reprint was issued by William Leake, who published two further Quartos in 1652 and in 1660.1 The play was included in the Second Folio Edition of Beaumont and Fletcher's works, 1679, and subsequently was reissued in Quarto form in 1687 and 1717.
Date. The date of Philaster cannot be exactly fixed, but it is probably 1609 or 1610. John Davies of Hereford, in his Scourge of Folly, which is assigned by Oldys to 1611, alludes to the play in an epigram addressed to 'the well-deserving Mr. John Fletcher.' Dryden, in his Essay on Dramatic Poesy, states that the first play that brought Fletcher and [Beaumont] in esteem was their Philaster, for before that they had written two or three very unsuccessfully.' The exact beginning of their literary partnership is not known, but it dates, in all probability, from about 1608. Allowing for the unsuccessful ventures of which Dryden speaks, we arrive at 1609 or 1610 as the approximate date of the play.
The Joint-Authorship of the Play. It is highly questionable whether any very fruitful result has been attained by attempts to pluck out the heart of the mystery of the great twin-brethren's joint-productions, and to assign to each his respective share of the creative work. The unique glory of their dramatic partnership lies in its successful preservation of its secret, and its organic creations cannot be analysed into
1 This is the hypothetical date assigned in the British Museum Catalogue to the Quarto, which contains no statement of its year of publication.