On this page
- Text (2)
Note: This text has been automatically extracted via Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. The text has not been manually corrected and should not be relied on to be an accurate representation of the item.
Additionally, when viewing full transcripts, extracted text may not be in the same order as the original document.
even - poets ; ' s vigour , and his massive music , place him in a much higher rank , yet even his merits are small when compared -with the really fine poets ; separate lines , and even passages , may be quoted ¦ which most readers would admire , but no entire page . Mr . Bell has prefixed memoirs of Greene and Marlowe , and added some explanatory notes . The memoirs , although scanty , contain all that is known of these writers ; and convey a not uninteresting picture of the vagabond life led by those roystering dramatists—the men about town just emancipated from college , and writing for the theatre as a means of loose livelihood . On this point , Mr . Bell remarks : — It is not known at what time Nash , Greene , and Marlowe formed that connexion in which we find their names subsequently associated ; but it could not have been very long after the publication of these invectives , as in four or five years from that date both Greene and Marlowe were dead . Meeting in the theatre , the centre of their labours and their dissipation , they soon discovered those kindred tastes which afterwards drew them constantly together ; while the encroachments Shakspeare -was beginning to make about this period upon their position as dramatic writers , imparted something like a character of combination to their fellowship . They had a common interest in opposing the new luminary who was climbing the horizon of the stage with a broader and clearer lustre than their own ; and we can easily imagine , without drawing any . very fanciful picture , that the discussion of Shakspeare ' s pretensions , and the denunciation of his depredations on their manor , stimulated them at their orgies to many an additional flask of Rhenish .
Greene was , probably , the leader on such occasions . He was tbe oldest of the three ; he lad travelled , and brought home with him the -vices of Italy and France ; and he had been established in London before either of tbe other two Lad found his way to the metropolis . For this pre-eminence he paid a hitter penalty in the end . Subsequent circumstances show that his companions shunned the responsibility of his friendship when the full glare of publicity fell upon the errors of hia life , in which they had themselves so largely participated . They deserted him in his last illness , and after his death disowned the terms of intimacy on which they had lived together . Marlowe was deeply implicated in these excesses . He was one of that group of dramatists whose lives and writings were held up to public execration l ) y the zealots
who attacked the stage ; and Greene has left an express testimony of the height to which Marlowe carried the frenzy of dissipation . In his address to his old associates , he implores them to abandon their wicked mode of life , their blaspheming , drinking , and debauchery , setting forth his own example as a fatal warning ; and specially exhorts Marlowe to repentance by reminding him that they had formerly said together , like the fool in his heart , " There is no God . " This admonition , written under the influence of a death-bed conversion , can scarcely be considered sufficient to justify the imputation of deliberate atheism . It seems intended rather to warn Marlowe against the revolting levity of speech , in which they had both , indulged , and which was a sort of fashion in the dissolute society they frequented , than to accuse Mm of systematic scepticism . The charge , however , was afterwards Irought forward in a specific shape by Thomas Beard , a Puritan minister of the most ascetic and
uncompromising cast . Taking advantage of Marlowe ' s death to illustrate the terrible punishment which , even in this world , awaits the sinner who denies his God , le asserted tlat Marlowe had in his conversation blasphemed the Trinity , and had also written a book against the Bible . But no such book is known to exist , and the allegation rests on the sole authority of Beard , who himself repeats it upon hearsay . Marlowe ' s plays , which Beard is supposed to have attacked in another publication , furnish no more tenable grounds for the charge of atheism than Paradise Lost ; and Milton might just as rationally be held responsible for the sentiments he has put into the mouth of Satan , as Marlowe for the speculations , strictly rising out of the circumstances of the scene , which he has given to some of his characters in the Jew of Malta and Doctor Faustus . Marlowe ' s writings contain ample evidence of licentiousness and laxity of principle , but supply no proof that he held atheistical opinions . To what extent the practical impiety of his life may have justified such an imputation , it would be presumptuous to hazard , a judgment . Mr . Bell also very properly corrects a common error , when distinguishing between , these Elizabethan dramatists : —
The strict observance of chronology , as far as it can be fixed , is indispensable to the history of what is loosely called the Elizabethan drama . The whole period it occupied was about half a century ; and , considering how much was accomplished within that time , every step of the progress , and each individual ' s share in it , becomes of importance . Yet there is hardly any portion of our literary annals in which greater confusion prevails ; and Peele and Massinger , Kyd and Webster , Greene and Ben Jonson , who were really distant from , each other , are commonly mixed up together , as if , instead of forming an interlinked series , they were all writing simultaneously . It might be a question of minor biographical interest , whether Marlowe was a little before Shakspeare , or Shakspeare a little before Marlowe ; but it is a question of a very different order of interest , whether the weighty versification of Tamlurlaine preceded or followed the delicate melody of the Midsummer Nigh ?* Dream . Dates are here essential to enable us to trace thceourse of our dramntic poetry from its source to that point where the stream is at its full . Marlowe is close to the spring ; to him is ascribed , on apparently valid grounds , the fust use of blank verse in dramatic composition ; and wo must , therefore , treat him as a poet who struck out a path for himself , and not as a follower of Shakspeare . In conclusion , we may add that to students of our earlier literature this volume will be interesting ; but to those who read poetry for other purposes than historical or critical purposes , it will bo without attraction .
STATE PAPER ANECDOTES . State Papers and Correspondence Illustrative of the Social and Political State of Europe from , the Revolution , to the Accession of the House of Hanover , Edited by John M . Kemble , M . A . j . w , Parker and Son . Of the letters and papers in the collection , the most important were found among the correspondence of Leibnitz , preserved in Hanover . Others are from the British Museum , and a few from printed books . By fur the largest number , however , are now published from the original manuscripts , and arc , in general , translations from the French—the French of England and Germany as often as that of France . At intervals , Mr . Kemblc has interposed biographical notices , —of Sophia , Elcctress of Hanover , of Elizabeth Charlotte , Duchess of Orleans , of Schiining , Madame < le Kocklitz , of Sehuleuburg , Patkul , and Cavalier . These sketches , carefully compiled from tlie best authorities , serve to illustrate the correspondence which refers to nearly all the great events that took place in Europe during the reigns of James II ., William III ., Anne , and George I . Historical personages arc brought in crowds upon the scene—a mob of Umperors , Kings , Electors ,
Queens , Electresses , and reigning Duchesses , Leibnitz , Sarah , Duchess of Marlborough , Addison , Halifax , Shaftesbury , Gilbert Burnet , Harley , Paul Rycaut , Philippe of Orleans , Caroline of Anspach , —the great and the little , who played their parts in Europe after the Peace of Westphalia . Indeed , Mr . Kemble is justified in believing that this volume supplies new and valuable materials for the history of Europe during the last years of the seventeenth , and the first of the eighteenth , century . It exhibits the leading princes and statesmen of the period in a familiar and often undignified light ; it brings out their intrigues , cabals , and jealousies , and , as the Editor remarks , it does justice to the memory of Leibnitz . Leibnitz the Jurist , the Mathematician , the Historian , the Philosopher , the Theologian , is known to most readers ; but not Leibnitz the Politician , Courtier , and Gentleman .
Ihe events of the long period which elapsed between the Revolution and the accession of the House of Hanover , though perhaps less dramatic than those of the preceding period , were nevertheless , sufficiently remarkable . To that epoch belong the names of William III . and Anne , of Peter I ., of Louis XIV ., of Frederick , and Frederick William I . of Prussia , of Amadeus II . and Sobieski , of the Fourth Mahomet , the Third Solyman , and the Second Mustapha , —names , that by their splendour , or by their insignificance , recal a multitude of chances and changes , that befel the old powers of Europe . Tet it is less with an eye to their value as materials of public history—though their value in this respect is considerable—than with regard to their illustrations of court life and character , that we are interested in Mr . Kemble ' s collection of letters and memorials . A good deal of the historical matter is upon a minute scale , dealing with incidents and individualities of no great importance ; hut every page by Leibnitz is of worth , and pleasant to read . It is amusing to find him writing from Hanover in 1692 , that of English-books in general , not even the titles were known in Germany : but , he adds : —
They give us hopes of an important work of Mx Newton , who is one of tbe greatest geniuses of this time for his knowledge of mathematics and nature . In July , 1700 , there was a dramatic festival at Liitzenburg , in honour of the Elector ' s birthday . Leibnitz describes the mummery , the doctor , the tooth-drawer , the gipsy-girls , the litter carried by Turks : — - They also saw an astrologer make his appearance with his spectacles or a . telescope in his hand . This was to ^ have been my character , but M . le Comte de Wittgenstein charitably took it off my hands . Instead of playing his part , he retired among the spectators : —
I placed , myself in a favourable position to see everything near with my little spectacles , in order to be able to give your Electoral Highness a report of it . Madame the Princess of HohenzoUern ' s lady lad the toothache , and the tooth-drawer , doing his duty with a pair of farrier ' s tonga in his hand , produced a tooth which was about as thick as my arm , and , to tell the truth , it was a walrus ' s tooth . The doctor , praising the skill of his tooth-drawer , left the company to judge how adroit he must be to draw such a tooth as that without hurting anybody . Among the sick who wanted remedies were MM . d'Alefeld and de Fleming , the Envoys of Denmark and Poland , and our M . d'llten , all dressed like peasants of their several countries , each Jack with his Jill .
He is next met with in a more serious mood : — There is a French translation of a book by t celebrated Englishman , named Mr Locke , entitled " An Essay on the Human Understanding . " As his philosophy does not agree over-well with mine ( as for instance when he thinks the soul not imperishable ) , and as he does not fail to show a great deal of penetration , I made some remarks upon it while reading a portion of the Work when I -was going to Brunswick and Wolfenbuttel , and when I have leisure I will finish the rest . It will he an occupation for the time , which will give me the advantage of paying my court at Ltitzenburg . His sentiments are popular enough , and will have the approbation of many who do not look deeply into things ; and this is why it seems to me important to answer it . This is very characteristic : —
If the verses which have been put at the bottom of my portrait are to stay there , I must get some one to kill me , for fear that those who may afterwards see me should be disabused of the high opinion which the verses will give them of my great knowledge ; as we never canonize Saints till long after their deaths , when their weaknesses are no longer remembered , so peop l * ought not to heap praises upon men of letters till they are no longer in a condition to give the lie to their panegyrists . Upon the whole , the character of Leibnitz is exhibited in this correspondence as that of ^ a noble-minded statesman , generous , frank , and faithful . Other personages appear more coarse and mean the closer we look at them . Among these is Sophie Charlotte , the wife of Frederick of Prussia , who sent her son to be educated by the Comte de Dohna . She always affected , however , the airs of refinement , and even encouraged the licentious conduct of the young prince , on the ground that " love polishes the mind and improves the manners . " " Do not oppose his gallantries , therefore . " In July , 1797 , this lady was introduced to " the great Czar" at Coppenbrugge , a village in Celle . He pretended to be shy , and would not show himself for upwards of an hour : —
At last he agreed that Monaieur the Duke of Celle , my mother , my brothers , ani myself should come and meet him in the supper-room , which ho would enter at the same time by another door , in order not to be seen ; for tlie crowd of people which ho had perceived upon a parapet on arriving , had made him turn back from the village . My mother nnd myself began to mako our compliment to him , which he made M . Le Fort answer for him , for it seems he is airy , and hid his face witli his hand : " lch kann nicht sprechen . " However we soon tamed him , and ho sat down to table between Madame my mother and ine , where each of us entertained him in turn , and the question was which of us should have him to herself . Sometimes he answers himself ; sometimes through his two interpreters : and assuredly ho said nothing but
was very much a jwojws , nnd that upon all the subjects on which we put him , for tlie liveliness of Madam * my mothor gave plenty of questions , which he answered with the same readiness ; and I am astonished that ho was not tired with the conversation , aince they say there is not much of it in his country . As for hia grimaces , I expected to find them worse than they were , and some of them it ia not in Ida powor to correct . One sees too that ho never had a maBter to teach him to eat cleanly ; but he has a natural nir , and his manner ia without constraint , which pleased me ; for Iuj soon behaved as if lie were at homo , and after having permitted the gentlemen who served to come in , and all the ladiea whom ty > made dillicultica at first of seeing , lie made his people shut the door , and placed his favourite , whom ho call } Mfl right arm ,
T H E L E E B the thirdrate and if Marlowe January 3 , j . 857 . ] _ Aj ) ,. 17
Leader (1850-1860), Jan. 3, 1857, page 17, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/l/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2174/page/17/