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dramatic capacity than was employed upon their exposition, is hastily patched up and slurred over to leave place for a last superfluous exhibition of such burlesque eloquence as had already been admitted to encumber the close oé another comedy, more perfect than this in construction, but certainly not more interesting in conception. In spite however of this main blemish in the action, Monsieur d Olive may properly be counted among the more notable and successful plays of chapman.
Of his two remaining comedies I may as well say a word here as later. Mayday, which was printed five years after the two last we have examined, is full of the bustle and justle of intrigue which may be expected in such comedies of incident as depend rather on close and crowded action than on fine or forcible character for whatever they may merit of success. There is no touch in it of romance or poetical interest, but several of the situations and dialogues may have credit for some share of vigour and humour. But of these qualities Chapman gave much fuller proof next year in the unchivalrous comedy of The Widow's Tears. This discourteous drama is as rich in comic force as it is poor in amiable sentiment. There is a brutal exuberant fun throughout the whole action which finds its complete expression and consummation in the brawny gallantry and muscular merriment of Tharsalio. A speculative commentator might throw out some conjecture to the effect that the poet at fifty-three may have been bent on revenge for a slight offered to some unseasonable courtship oí his own by a lady less amenable to the proffer o future fame than the 'belle marquise' who has the credit for all time to come of having lent a humble ear to the haughty suit and looked with a gracious eye on the grey hairs of the great Corneille. But whether this keen onslaught on the pretensions of the whole sex to continence or constancy were or were not instigated by any individual rancour, the comedy is written with no little power and constructed with no little ingenuity; the metrical scenes are pure and vigorous in style, and the difficulty of fitting such a story to the stage is surmounted with scarcely less of dexterity than of daring. The action of the last scene is again hampered by the intrusion of forced and misplaced humours, and while the superfluous underlings of the play are breaking and bandying their barren jests, the story is not so much wound up as huddled up in whispers and byplay ; but it may certainly be pleaded in excuse of the poet that the reconciliation of the Ephesian matron to her husband was a somewhat difficult ceremony to exhibit at length and support with any plausible or effectual explanation.
Two other titles are usually found in the catalogue of Chapman's extant: comedies; but it seems to me as difficult to discover any trace of Chapman in the comedy of The Ball as of Shirley in the tragedy of Chabot. These two plays, were issued by the same printer in the same year for the same publishers, both bearing the names of Chapman and Shirley linked together in the bonds of a most incongruous union : but I know not if there be any further ground for belief in this singular association. The mere difference in age would make the rumour of a collaboration between the eldest of old English dramatists and the latest disciple of their school so improbable as to demand the corroboration of some trustworthier authority than a bookseller's title-page bearing date five years after the death of Chapman. In the very next year a play was published under the name of Fletcher, who had then been fifteen years dead ; this play was afterwards reclaimed by Shirley as the work of his own hand, and of his alone ; nor is there any doubt that Fletcher had not a finger in it. Of the authorship of Chabot there can be no question ; the subject, the style, the manner, the metre, the construction, the characters, all are perfectly Chapman's. The Ball, on the other hand, is as thoroughly in the lightest style of Shirley, and not a bad example of his airily conventional manner; it is lively and easy enough, but much below the mark of his best comedies, such as The Lady of Pleasure (where an allusion to this earlier play is brought into the dialogue), which but for a single ugly incongruity would be one of the few finest examples of pure high comedy in verse that our stage could show against that of Molière. A foundling of yet more dubious parentage has been fathered upon Chapman by the tradition which has affixed to his name the puta. tive paternity of 'a comical moral censuring the follies of this age,' anonymously published in his sixty-first year. It has been plausibly suggested that the title of this wonderful medley, Two Wise Men and all the rest Fools, was the first and last cause of its attribution to the hand of Chapman, and that the error arose from a confusion of this with the title of All Fools, the best of Chapman's comedies. In any case it is difficult to believe that this voluminous pamphlet in the form of dialogue on social questions can have been the work of any practised or professional dramatist. It is externally divided into seven acts, and might as reasonably have been divided into twenty-one. A careful and laborious perusal of the bulky tract from prologue to epilogue, which has enabled me in some measure to appreciate the double scientific experiment of Mr. Browning on 'Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis,'emboldens me also to affirm that it has no vestige of dramatic action, no trace of a story, no phantom of a plot ; that the reader who can believe the assertion of its title-page that it was 'divers times' or indeed ever 'acted' on any mortal stage by any human company before any living audience will have a better claim to be saved by his faith than the author by this sample at least of his works ; that it contains much curious and sometimes amusing detail on social matters of the day, and is not wanting in broad glimpses or intervals of somewhat clownish humour In the strong coarse satire on female Puritanism those who will may discern touches which recall the tone if not the handiwork of the author of An Humorous Day's Mirth. The fact that several names occurring in the course of the dialogue, though not in the long list of marvellously labelled interlocutors, are anagrams of the simplest kind, being merely common English names spelt backwards, may be thought to indicate some personal aim in this elaborate onslaught on usurers, money-lenders, brokers, and other such cattle ; and if so we have certainly no right to lay an anonymous attack of the kind, even upon such as these, to the charge of a poet who so far as we know never published a line in his long life that he feared to subscribe with his own loyal and honourable name.
one is not lightly to be suspected of the least approach in form or substance to the dirty tactics of a verminous pseudonymuncule, who at the risk of being ultimately shamed into avowal or scared into denial of his ignominious individuality may prefer for one rascally moment the chance of infamy as a slanderer to the certitude of obscurity as a scribbler.
Although, however, we may be inclined to allow no great weight to the tradition current fifty-seven years after the death of Chapman, which according to Langbaine was at that date the only authority that led him to believe in the general vague ascription of this work to the poet under whose name it has ever since found a questionable place in the corners of catalogues at the tail of his authentic comedies, the very fact of this early attribution gives it a certain external interest of antiquarian curiosity, besides that which it may fairly claim as a quaint example of controversial dialectics on the conservative side. The dialogues are not remark. able either for Platonic skill or for Platonic urbanity; for which reason they may probably be accepted with the more confidence as fairly expressive of the average of opinion then afloat among honest English citizens of the middle class, jealous of change, suspicious of innovation, indignant at the sight of rascality which they were slow to detect, much given to growl and wail over the decay of good old times and the collapse of good old landmarks, the degeneracy of modern manners, and the general intolerability of things in an age of hitherto unknown perversity ; men of heavy-headed patience and heavy-witted humour, but by no means the kind of cattle that it would be safe for any driver to goad or load overmuch. The writer may be taken as an exponent of Anglican conservatism if not of Catholic reaction in matters of religious doctrine and discipline; he throws his whole strength as a dialectician (which is not Herculean, or quite equal to his evident good-will) into the discussion of a proposal to secularize the festivals and suppress the holidays appointed by the Church ; and the ground of his defence is not popular but clerical ; these holidays are to be observed not for the labourer's but for the saint's sake ; and above all because our wiser forefathers have so willed it, for reasons which we are in duty bound to take on trust as indisputably more valid than any reasoning of our own. He has a hearty distrust of lawyers and merchants, and a cordial distate for soldiers and courtiers ; his sentiments towards a Puritan are those of Sir Andrew Aguecheek, his opinion of an agitator is worthy of a bishop, and his view of a demagogue would do honour to a duke.
A very different work from the effusion of this worthy pamphleteer bears likewise, or at least has once borne, the dubious name of Chapman. This is a tragic or romantic drama without a title of its own, labelled it should seem for the sake of convenience by the licenser of plays as a “second Maiden's Tragedy.” It was first printed in 1824 with a brief note of introduction, from which we learn that the manuscript was originally inscribed with the name of William Goughe ; that Thomas was then substituted for William, while a third Goughe, Robert, seems to have figured as one of the principal actors ; that a second correction struck out either Goughe at one sweep of the pen, and supplanted bɔth names by that of
George Chapman ; and that last of all this also was erased to make way for no less a claimant than William Shakespeare. To this late and impudent attempt at imposture no manner of notice need be accorded ; but the claim preferred for Chapman deserves some attention from all students of our dramatic poetry. In style and metre this play, which bears the date of his fifty-third year (1611), is noticeably different from all his acknowledged tragedies, one only excepted ; but it is not more different from the rest than this one, which, though not published till twenty years after the death of Chapman, has never yet been called in question as a dubious or spurious pretender to the credit of his authorship. And if, as I am un. willing to disbelieve, Chapman was actually the author of Revenge for Honour, one serious obstacle is cleared out of the way of our belief in the justice of the claim advanced for him to this play also. Not that the two can be said to show many or grave points of likeness to each other ; but between all other tragedies assigned to Chapman such points of intimate resemblance do undoubtedly appear, while the points of unlikeness between any one of these and either of the plays in question are at once as many and as grave. Of the posthumous tragedy I purpose to say a word in its turn ; meantime we may observe that it is not easy to conjecture any motive of interest which might have induced a forger of names to attribute an illegitimate issue of this kind to Chapman rather than to another. His name was probably never one of those whose popularity would have sufficed to float the doubtful venture of a spurious play. To Shakespeare or to Fletcher it was of course a profitable speculation for knavish booksellers to assign the credit or discredit of any dramatic bantling which they might think it but barely possible to leave undetected at the door of such a foster-father, or to pass off for a time on the thickest-witted of his admirers as a sinful slip of the great man's grafting in his idler hours of human infirmity. But if there was in effect no plea for the intrusion of such a changeling into the poetic household of Chapman, whose quiver was surely full enough without the insertion of a stranger's shaft, the gratuitous selection of this poet as sponsor for this play appears to me simply unaccountable. No plausible reason can as far as I see be assigned for the superscription of Chapman's name in place of the cancelled name of Goughe, unless the writer did actually believe that the genuine work of George Chapman had been wrongly ascribed to Thomas or William Goughe ; whereas no reader of the play will imagine it possible that the name of Shakespeare can have been substituted in good faith and singleness of heart by a corrector honestly desirous of repairing a supposed error. Again, if the doubtless somewhat fragile claim of Chapman be definitely rejected, we find hitherto no other put forward to take its place. The author of Death's Fest-book, in that brilliant correspondence on poetical questions which to me gives a higher view of his fine and vigorous intelligence than any other section of his literary remains, reasonably refuses to admit a suggestion that the authorship of this nameless and fatherless poem might be ascribed to Massinger. ' The poisoning and painting is like him, but also like Cyril Tourneur ; and it is too poetical for old Philip. He might have added that it is also far too loose and feeble in construction for the admirable artist of whom Coleridge so justly remarked that his plays have the interest of novels; but Beddoes, whose noble instinct for poetry could never carry him in practice beyond the production of a few lofty and massive fragments of half-formed verse which stand better by themselves when detached from the incoherent and disorderly context, was apparently as incapable of doing justice to the art of Massinger as of reducing under any law of harmony to any fitness of form his own chaotic and abortive conceptions of a plot ; for the most faithful admirer of that genius which is discernible beyond mistake in certain majestic passages of his blank verse must admit that his idea of a play never passed beyond the embryonic stage of such an organism as that upon which he conferred the gift of lyric utterance in his best and favourite song, and that his hapless dramatic offspring was never and could never have been more than 'a bodiless childful of life in the gloom, Crying with frog voice, What shall I be ?' Perhaps too for him the taint of Gifford's patronage was still on Massinger, and the good offices of that rancorous pedant may have inclined him to undervalue the worth of a poet announced and accompanied by the proclamation of such a herald. This connexion, fortunate as in one way it was for the dramatist to whose works it secured for ever a good and trustworthy text admirably edited and arranged, was unfortunate in its influence on the minds of men who less unnaturally than unjustly were led to regard the poet also with something of the distaste so justly and generally incurred by his editor. This prepossession evidently inflamed and discoloured the opinions of the good Leigh Hunt, who probably would under no conditions have been able adequately to estimate the masculine and unfanciful genius of such writers as Ben Jonson, Massinger, and Ford ; and a like influence may not impossibly have disturbed the far surer judgment and affected the far finer taste of a student so immeasurably superior to either Hunt or Beddoes in the higher and rarer faculties of critical genius as Charles Lamb. To Massinger at least, though assuredly not to Ford (who had not yet been edited by Gifford when Lamb put forth his priceless and incomparable book of “Specimens "), the most exquisite as well as the most generous of great critics was usually somewhat less than liberal, if not somewhat less than just. But what is most notable to me in the judgment above cited from the correspondence of Beddoes is that he should have touched on the incidental point of action which this anonymous play has in common with The Revenger's Tragedy and The Duke of Milan, and should also have remarked on the poetical or fanciful quality which does undoubtedly distinguish its language from the comparatively unimaginative diction of Massinger, without taking further account of the general and radical dissimilarity of workmanship which leaves the style of this poem equidistant from the three several styles of the sober Philip, the thoughtful George, and the fiery Cyril. It is singular that the name of a fourth poet, the quality of whose peculiar style is throughout perceptible, should have been missed by so acute and well-read a student of our dramatic poetry. The style is certainly and equally unlike that of Chapman, Massinger, or Tourneur ; but it is very like the style of Middleton.