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SOME



ACCOUNT



O F T H E



Life and Writings



O F



PHILIP MASSINGER.



, ,1 1 1



LONDON:

I 7 S^i

MDCCLXXXIX.






1* H E



V

I



L IF E

O F
PHILIP MAS SINGER.



THOUGH Majfinger\ Claim to an emi-
nent Rank amongft the Englifh Drama-
si' tick Writers has never been contefled, and the
Criticks have placed him immediately after
Shakefpeare, B. Jo?ifon^ Beaumont and Fletcher-,
notwithftanding v/e have certain Evidence that
his Plays v^^ere much applauded in their Re-
prefentation, and warmly commended by co**-
temporary Writers, yet fuch has been the
ijnaccountable Fate of this excellent Author,
that the Name of Majjinger^ till within thefe
twenty Years, has been funk in Obfcurity,
and almoft buried in Oblivion. None of our
Stage Poets, from the Reftoration to the Be-
ginning of his prefent Majefty's Reign, have
taken the leafl Notice of him or his Writings *.

B The

* In the Year 1751 Propofals were printed for a new
Edition of /t/^w^-fr's Works with Notes and Oblervations



2 . rhe 1.17 -E. of

The Silence of Dryden is not to be accomiited
for on any Principk of tleafon or Juftice. But
indeed the Man who could treat Shirley with
fuch Contempt as to rank him with the
Dunces of his Macfleckno, might wilh to ftifle
the Memory of a Writer, who was as much
fuperior to him in Dramatick Excellence, as
Dryden himfelf was above all other Writers of
his Time, in the Vigour, Harmony and Va-
riety of his Numbers.

Mr, Rowe has paid MaJpnger-SLVtry great Com-
pliment indeed, bt it muft be granted that it is
at the Expence of his own Candour and Honefty*
In his Tragedy of the Fair Penitent, he con-
defceixled to ileal the Plot, Cliara(fbers, and
Ibmetimes the Sentiments of the Fatal Dow-
ry* But this Condul was as weak as it
was unfair ; for a fmall Acknowledgement
of his Obligations to the original Author would
not only have faved him from the Diigrace of
a fhameful Detection, but have made that a
legal Prize which is now an A&. of Piracy.

We* are told indeed, that Rowe lived in the
Days of literary filching ; when Plagiarifm was
a fafhioaable 1 rick amongft Authors. Such an

in five Volumes i2mo, at the moderate Price of Two Shil-
lings and Sixpence per Vohimc, but the Subfcription went
fin fo'flowly that the Projcft was <iropt.

* It was the Fafliion with the Wits of the laft Age to
conceal the Places from whence they took their Hints or
their Suhjcds.

Coldfmith\ Life of Parrtell.

Excufe



PHILIP MASSINGER. 3

Excufe 1 think ought no more to be admitted
in the Courts of Parnafus, than a Robber's juf-
tifying his Thefts by the great Number of
his Aflbciates and Companions, would be al-
lowed to be a good Plea in fFefimin/Ier Hall or
at the OU Bailey.

The little that can be known of MaJJinger,
I have principally gleaned from the fcanty
Materials which Antony IVood^ in his Athen^e
Oxonlenfes, and Mr. Langbaine in his Lives of
the Dramatick Poets, have afforded me. That
curious and laborious Searcher into Hiftory,
Biography and Antiquities, Mr. John OlJys, in
his MS. Notes on Langbaine* s Poets, has point-
ed out fome Miftakes of both thefe Authors
refpe^ling MaJJinger^ and has fometimes fug-
gefled Matter of Intelligence not unworthy of
Notice. To Mr. Reed of Staples Inn I am in-
debted for the frank Communication of thefe
MS. Notes, a complete Lift of the various
Editions of MaJJinger'' ?> Plays, and feveral ufeful
Hints relating to him and his Works.

Fhilip MaJJinger, the Son of* Philip Majjln-
ger, a Servant belonging to the Family of
Pembroke, was born at Salijhury in the Year
1584. He was entered a Commoner at St.

* I cannot guefs from what Information Oldys in his MS.
Notes gives the Chrijitan Name of Jrihur to MaJJinger' s Fa-
ther; nor why he Ihould reproach /-/^c J for calling him
I^hilip ; fince Moffmger himfelf, in the Dedication of the
Bondman to the Larl oi Montgomery^ fays exprefely that, hit
F'ather Philip Majfinger lived and died m the Service of the
Honourable Houle of Pembroke.

B 2 Albans



4 l^he LIFE of

Alharis Hall, Oxford^ in the feventeenth Year of
bis Age, ill 1 6oi ; where, though encourage d in
his Studies by the Earl of Pembroke, yet, fays
IVood, he applied his Mind more to Poetry and
Romances for about four Years or more than
to Logick and Philofophy, which he ought to
have done, as he was patronized to that End.

By ftyling Majfinger" % Father a Servant, Wood
did not, I fuppofe, intend to convey any Mark
of Degradation, or any other Meaning than
that he was a Gentleman of the Earl of Pem-
broke^ ^ Retinue. It is certain that, in the Year
1597, he w^as employed by that Nobleman as a
Meflenger on no trifling Bufinefs to Queen JLli-
%aheth, whofe Chara5ler would admit of nothing
unimportant or infignificant in her Service. A-
mongft the Sydney Papers, publifhed by CoUinSy
there is a Letter of Rowland JVh'ite^ Efq; to
Sir Robert Sydney, in which he acquaints him
that Mr. MaJJinger y\7i^ newly come from the
Earl of Pembroke with Letters to the Queen for
his Lordfhip's Leave of Abfence on St. George's
Day. This carries a confiderable Proof that
the Bearer of Letters to Elizabeth, on a Matter
perhaps which fhe thought important, was no
mean Perfon ; for no Monarch ever exal:ed from
the Nobility in general, and the Officers of State
in particular, a more rigid and fcrupujous Com-
pliance to ftated Order than this Princcfs.

A different Relation of Majfinger'^s College
Education is given by Langbaine: He informs
us, that Majfingeri Father was a Gentleman be-.

longing



PHILIP MASSINGER. 5

longing to the Earl of Montgomery *, in whole
Service, after having lived many Years, he

^- Langbaine lias committed a Miftake refpefling the Title
of Montgomery, which did not belong to the Family of Pem-
broke till the T>cctz(c oi TFiUla)nY.2ix\oi Pe?nbrokey who died
1630, Clarendon^ in his Charafter of P/;/7//) Earl of J/s/-
goTKery.^who was afterwards Patron to Maffmger, informs us
that he was very young wlien "Jamesl, came to the Crown ;
that he was taken with Lord Herbert's Comiinefs of Perfon,
and his Skill in Riding and Hunting; and that after be-
llowing many Honours upon him, he c-reated him in 1605,
Earl of Montgomery, But Clarendon perhaps did not know
the real Caufe of Lord Herbert^ Advancement. The Be-
liaviour of the Scots to the EngUJh on "James's Acceffion to
the Throne of England \V3.s generally obnoxious and much
refented. At a Meeting of EngUJb and Scotch Gentlemen,
at a Horfe Race near Croyden^ a fudden Quarrel arofe between
them, occalioned by one Mr. Ramfays ftriking Philip Lord
Herbert in the Face with a Switch. The Englijh would
have fo far refented this Affront, as to have made inftantly
a national Quarrel of the Matter ; and one Gentleman,
Mr. Pinchbeck^ rode about the Field with a Dagger in his
Hand, crying out, ' Let us break our Fajl with them here^
and Cine with them in London.' But Herbert not refentinoT this
contumacious Behaviour -of Ramfay^ the King was fo charm-
(Cd with his peaceable Difpofition, that he made him a
Knight, a Baron, a Vifcount and an Earl, all in one Day.
OJhorne, from whom I tranfcribe this, and who lived during
thefe Tranfaftions, intimates, that Herbert^ Cowardice pre-
vented not only that Day from being fatal to the Scots^ but
ever after through all England. The Mother of Herbert,
the renowned Countefs of Pembroke, to whom Sir Philip
Sydney, her Brotlier, dedicated his Arcadia, tore her Hair
when file heard the News of her Son's Difhonour. It is
certainly more probable, that King Jarnes Ihould rajfe Her"
lert to the Title of Earl for this pacitick Behaviour, which
prevented a national Quarrel, than that he fhould confer
that Honour upon him merely for his handfomc Face ; inore
efpecially as he v^'as never lufpe6led to be a Minion of
ya?n,es.



6 n^ Lip^ of

died ; ffiat he bef^owed a liberal Education on
his Son, fending him to the Univerfity of O.v-
Jor^ 2Lt the Age of Eighteen, in 1602, where he
clofely purfued his Studies in ^/ban Hall for
three or four Years.

The Accounts of PP^oo^i and Langba'me are fb
contradictory, that it is impoffible to reconcile
them. Nor can we, perhaps, decide perempto-
rily which of thefe Guides we fhould follow.
Both were diligent Inveftigators of Truth, and
both we fhould imagine to be equally capable
of getting fuch Materials as were futFicient to
authenticate their Narratives. But, after feri-
oufly balancing their Merits, I believe the Rea-
der will be inclined to juftify my preferring
the A.uthority of Wood to Langbaine. The for-
mer lived nearer the Times of Mqfjinger than
the latter ; he was conftantly refident at Oxford^
and had the beft Opportunities to know in
what Manner the Students then profccuted their
Studies, Befides, it was a Pradice familiar to
our ancient Nobility, to patronize and educate
the Children of Gentlemen who formed their
Retinue. The illuftrious Houfe oi Pembroke I
believe has ever diflinguifhed itfelf by the Love
and Encouragement of the fine Arts ; Shakefpeare'' s
and Beaumont and Fletcher's Works, and many
other Books of Poetry, dedicated to the Family
oi Herbert, give an irrefragable Proof of their

fenerous Dilpofitlon to favour and reward the
ollowers of the Mufes,

V IFood



PHILIP MASSINGER, 7

Wood fays that Majfmger was fent to Oxford
in 1601 ; but according to Langbaine he was
not there before 1602. This feeming Diffe-
rence may be eafily reconciled ; for the Year
then began and ended according to that Mode
'of Reckoning which took place before the Al-
teration t)f the Style by Ad of Parliament
'752.

William Earl of Pembroke fucceeded his Fa-
ther Henry ^ who died January 19, 1601.-^
Majinger mufh then, agreeably to PFood's Ac-
count, have been fupp^rted at the Univerfity
'by the Generofity of this Nobleman. But it
feems, our Author's Application to the more
luperficial, though alluring Studies of Poetry
and Romances, fruftrated the Intention of his
Patron, and difqualified him from receiving a
Degree; to obtain which, an Application to
L'Ogick and Philofophy was abfolutely necefla-
ly ; as the Candidate for that Honour muft pafs
through an Examination in both before he can
obtain it.

A Degree conferred upon a Scholar by ail
Univerfity is, in our Days, held a diftinguifhed
Mark of Merit ; and in thofe Times of fevere
Difcipline and ftrid Application to Learning, I
fuppofe it was efteemed a neceflary Appendage
to him, who was ambitious to rife either in
Church or Stal^e ; and perhaps it was thought
byPerfons of the graver Caft, a Kind of Dif-
grace in a Scholar to quit his College without
that Proof of Approbation. This fame Earl of
B 4 Fembroh



8 ng J:.IFE of

Pembroke fecms to have exacted that Stamp of
Merit from William Brown, the Author of
Britannia s Pajiorah, who was educated at jEa:-
eier College, Oxford, much about the fame Time
our MaJJinger refided there. From Wood we
learn, that Brown left the Univerfity before he
had taken an Academical Degree, and retired
to the Inner Temple, London : That he return-
ed feveral Years after, viz. in 1624, to his
College with * Robert Dormer, his Pupih Oa
the 25th of March, in the fame Year, Brown
received PermifTion to be adlually created M. A.
although the Degree was not conferred upon him
till the November following: After he had left
College with his Pupil he was gladly received mto
the Family of V^\\)l\2.vs\ Earl ^'Pembroke, who
had a great Refpedlfor him, and there he made his
Fortune fo well that he purchafed an EJiafe f.

MaJJinger flayed at the Univerfity of Oxford
three or four Years, and then it feems he fet
put for London, <is if impatient to improve him-
felf in the Converfation of the eminent Wits
and Poets in that Metropolis : And now com-
menced the ^ra of his Misfortunes, as well
as his Fame. I can find no Trace of the pre-
cife Time when he began to write for the Stage.
The Oxford Hijlorian, I have fo often quoted,

* Robert Dormer afterwards Earl of Carnarvon ; he mar-
ried Lady Sophia Herbert^ Sifter of the Earl of Pembroke^
and \va killed at the Battle of Najely, fighting for Charles
the Firft.

f frio^Ts Minna, Vol. I.

fays,



PHILIP MASSINGER. 9

fhys, indeed, that after throwing himfelf out in
fhort Eflays, he ventured to try his AbiUties in
the writing of Plays : but what thefe Effays were,
whether Interlude, Mafque, Song, or any other
Entertainment of the Stage, we are left to con-
jedlure. The Virgin Martyr \N7i%^ I believe, one
of our Author's firft Pieces which he wrote in
Conjunction with Decker, and is far inferior to
any of his other Productions. The Plot and
Machinery are very extravagant ; and the Play
i-s difgraced by vulgar Dialogue and vile Obfce-
nity, Faults which cannot fairly be laid to Maf"
Jingers Charge, who, though occafionally licen-
tious, is never fo ofFenlive and diigufting.

Wood and Langbaine agree, that MaJJinger ^Vixz.-
matick Pieces were approved ; but whatever
might be their Succefs, he foon experienced the
unhappy Confequences of difobliging his Patron
the Earl oi Pembroke. This Nobleman's Cha-
racter is drawn at large by the copious and elo-
quent Pen of Lord Clarendon ; who ftyles him
one of the worthieft and heft beloved Men of the
Age in which he lived. ' He was a Man, fays
the noble Hiflorian, who converfed with Per-
fons of the moft pregnant Parts and Underftand-
ing ; and to fuch, w^ho needed Support or En-
couragement, if fairly recommended, he was
very liberal. How comes it to pafs, that Maf-
jinger, who was born in the Family oi Herbert y
and bred at the Univerfity of O.v/^r^, at the Ex-
pence of this amiable Man, fhould be fo totally
neglected, as it appears from himfelf that he
jreally was ?

It



> T/je LIFE of

It is moft probable^ that our Autlior*s a6bing
hi Oppoiition to the Intention of his Pa-
tron, and leaving the Univerfity without his
Permiffion, was the leading Caule of that low
Dependence and Straitnels of Circumftances
which he lanaents fo paffionately in almoft all
his Applications to the great Men, whofe Pa-
tronage he feems rather to have implored than
Solicited.

It muft hurt a generous Mind to read the al-
fnoft fervile Supplications and humiliating
Acknowledgements with which moft of his
Dedications abound. In the EpiiHe dedica-
tory of his excellent Tragedy the Duke of
Milan^ he * intreats Lady Catherine Stanhope to
Juffer the Kxamplcs of more knowing ami experienced
Writers to plead his Pardon for addr effing his Play
to her^ the rather^ as his Mi fortunes have left him
no other Courfe to furfue.^ He frankly acquaints
Sit Rcl>ert IVifeman* ^ that he had but faintly fub^
Jj/ied f he had not often tafed of his Bounty. The
like Acknowledgement of munificent Favour
he makes to Sir Francis Folianby f , and Sir T'ho^
mas Bland. 1 n (hort, the fame Language, though
fomewhat varied, runs through thegreateft Part
of his Addrefles to his Patrons. The queru-
lous and petitionary Style is peculiar to MaJJin-
ger above all other Writers,

When we read the complimentary Eplflles
of this Author's Cotcmporaries, many of whom

* Dedication of the Great Duke of Florence,
t 'D^C2.\Aon.oi\X\c Maid of Honour,

were



PHILIP MASSINGER. ii

were diftlngulfhed for Wit and Learning, and
fbme of them Perfons of fuperior Rank, abound-
ing with the fulleft Approbation of his Merit,
and extolling the Force and Grandeur of h\^
Genius, we are at a Lofs to account for fuch
a Man's unhappy Condition and dependent Si-
tuation.

What the Profits were which accrued to him
from the Reprefentation of his Plays, cannot
now be afcertained ; That the Dramatic Poets
were entitled to One Third Night's Profits in
the Days of Elizabeth and James the Firft* I
believe is not generally known, but can be au-
thenticated from a Prologue of Z)^r^^r to one of
his Plays, t

* The Progrefs of Liberality is flow; though after the R^
ftoration, fome Plays were acted Twenty or Thirty Nights
without Interruption, and particularly Dryden^ Sir Martin
Marr-Ally yet the Poets could not obtain mofe than the Pro-
fits of one Night, till the latter End of the laft C-entury,
when, upon the great Succefs of a Play of Southern-, I believe
it was Oroonoko^ the Author obtained the Favour of two
Nights: But, in Juftice to the A<5lors, I muftobferve, that
before the Enlarging the Number of Benefits in Favour of
Authors, the Latter received the whole Money taken on their
Benefit Night without any Deduction for Charges; Dotvnety
in his Rofcius Anglicaniis^ acquaints us, that Shadwell re-
ceived for his Third Night of the Squire of Jlfatia., 130I
which, fays Downes, was the greateft Receipt they ever
had at that Houfe, [Drury Lane) in fingle Prices. A few
Years after Oroonoko was aded, Rowe^ by the Succefs of
one of his Tragedies, had the Honour to increafe the Poets
Nights to the Number of Three; fince that Time the Li-
berality of feveral Managers has frequently gone farther
than the ftated Rule, by giving four, and, I belic^^e, fome-
times five Nights to very fuccefsful Plays.

|~ If this be not a good Play the Devil's in it.



12 ^ The LIFE 0/

// is not Praife is fought for n.w, but Pence ^
^ough drop'' d from greafv apron d Audience ;
Clafd may he be with Thunder^ that plucks Bays
With fuchj Old Hands ^ and with fquiat Eyes does ga%^
On Pallas' Shield, not caring though he gains
A crarndthird Night, what Filth drops from his
brains.

But we know how precarious the Benefit
Kights of Authors often are, even in this liberal
Age, for by a ftrange Perverfcnels of Fortune,
we fee the Boxes lefs frequented, when an Au-
thor's Pains and Merit ought to bp rewarded,
than at other Times,

Towards the Beginning of the laft Century
the Tafte for Plays became fo univerfal, that
the Number of Theatres, as Mr. Steevens aflures
me from the MSS. of Rymer the Hiflorio-r
grapher, amounted to no lefs than twenty
three.*

So many rival Theatres muft have confidera^
bly diminiftied the Profits of them all. And
though fome of them, fuch as the Black Friars,
the Globe, tht Phanix, the PJayhoufe in ^'^///Z'i^ry

* Btforc the A<51 which limited the Number of Theatres
in 1736, we had in London no lefs than fix regular The-
atresThe Playhoufcs of Drury Lane, Covent Garden, Lin"
tolns Inn Fields, the King's Theatre, the little Theatre in the
Jiasmarket, and Goodman s Fields, were all open at one Time
and exhibited Plays, Operas, &c. bcfidcs a Playhoufe in
'^ames Street, called th Slaughter Houfe, and another in Fll-
liers Street, Yor.{ Buildings ; there was a Third at Iflndmill
Hill, and another .tt May Fair ; and in many of the great
Taverns of this Metropolis, particularly the Drjil Tavern,
Temple ^^, Plays were occafionally adlcd.

Court,



PHILIP MASSINGER. ij

Court, and the Cock Pit, were more efleemed and
frequented by the better Sort of People than
the others ; yet from the SmaUnefs of the Price
paid for the beft Seat, which was Half a Crown^
we cannot fuppofe, that the Sum Total taken at
One of thele Theatres, upon an Average,
amounted to more than about 25 or 30/.*

From this Eftimation we may fairly conclude,
that it was impoffible for MaJJtnger to acquire a
competent Income from the Reprefentation of
his Plays. What Prefents his Dedications pro*
duced we cannot eafily conje6ture; but from
the precarious Circumftances of the Poet, it is
reafonable to fuppofe that they were rather fcanty
than generous. Nor could the Printer afford
a large Sum for the Copy of a Play confifling
of ten Sheets, which he fold at the Price of Six
Pence. This Information I learn from fome
Lines oiJV. B, to Majfinger, on his Bondman*

'Tis granted for yourTwelve Pence you did fit.
And fee and hear, and underjiood not yet \\

The

% From the Diary of Edward Allen, a celebrated A6tor,
who founded a College at Dulwich, in the Reign of King
James the Firft, we find that the whole Amount of Money
taken at the Ailing of a Play at his own Theatre, called
The Fortune, was no more than 3I. and a few Shillings ;
the Diary fays, indeed that the Audience was very llender.

-Y This feems to be a much valued Compliment which
was frequently paid to our old Dramatic Authors. Beau^
7nont tells B. 'Jonjon in fome vcrfes in praife of his Ca-
tal'mc, that he was fo deep in fenfe he would not be under-
ftood in three Ages An unhappy Panegy rick for a Dra-
matic Writer, whofe worft Pault muft be Obfcuritv.

' Dr.



14 ne hlFB of

The Author in a Chriftian Pity, takes
Care of your Good, and prints it for your Sake^,
That fuch as will but venture SixPefice imre.
May know what they but faw and heard before*

I am inclined to believe that * Shakefpeare^
as a fharing A6tor, gained more Money than any
of his brother Poets did by the Profits of their
Plays.

Though Beaumont and Fletcher were the Sons
of Men dignified in the Church and the Law,
and confequently fuperior to Indigence ; yet I
do not find that they rejected any lucrative Ad-
vantages they could acquire by their Writings,
It was a Cuftom, fays Langbaine, with Fletcher^
after he had written the three firft A6ls of a
Play, to Ihew them to the A(n:ors, and make
Terms with them for the whole.

Without any other Refource but his Pen,
and furrounded as he was with many Inconve-
niences, Majfinger might iudeed be permitted
to complain, that his Misfortunes obliged him
to write for the Stage.

But however mean the Gratifications which
he obtained from his Patrons, and however fmall

Dr. Pcrcy^ in an Appendix to the Firft Volume of his Re-
licks of Ancient Poetry, quotes, from GreerC s Groat' s ^Varth
efWtt^ a Paflage which will tend to confirm what I have
conjectured of Sbakej'peare^ Share as an Adlor. A Player is
introduced in this Pamphlet of Green^ boafting that his
Share in Stage Apparel would not be fold i\ji I'wo Hun-
dred Pounds.

the



PHILIP MASSINGER. 15

the Profits were which arofe from the Ailing
and Printing of his Plays, he was by no mean?
wanting to himfelf ; he was not remifs in pur-
fuing his Intereft, or flow in making known hi^
Pretenlions. He appHed to fuch noble Lords
and Ladies as were allied by Birth or Marri^
age to the Pembroke Family, and laid Claim to
their Favour on Account of his Father's Con-
nelions with that noble Houfe.

The Earl of Montgomery being accidentally
at the Reprefentation of the Bondman^ and
openly approving it, furnifhed the Author w^th
a fair Pretence to dedicate that Plav to his
Lordihip. The Beginning of his Addrefs is
remarkable, and we may guefs from it that
the Dedicator had made fome fruitlefs Attempts
to be introduced to the Earl.

However I could never arrive at the Happinefs to
be made known to your Lordjjyip, a Dejire born with
ine^ to make a 'Tender of all Duties and Services to
the noble Fajnily of the Herberts, defcended to
me as an Inheritance from my dead Father^ Philip
Maffinger : many Years he happily [pent in the Ser-
vice of your honourable Houfe, and died a Servant
of it.

This claim to Patronage and Prote6lian is here
plainly, though modeftly, infinuated. What
Favour he afterwards experienced from this
Nobleman during the Life of his Brother Z/^//-
Ham Earl ai Pembroke y concernhig whom Maffm-



!6 ne LIFfe of

ger always obferves the moft profound Silence'y
cannot now be known : But when, by the Death
of the * latter, the Earl of Montgomery acquired
the Title and Eftate oi Pembroke, there is reafon
to fuppofe that our Author's uneafy Circum-
ftanccs were happily relieved, for in a Copy of
Verfes written by him on the Death oi Charles
Lord Herbert, the Earl's Son, he addreffed hini
not only as his fingular good Lord, but his Pa^


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Online LibraryThomas DaviesSome account of the life and writings of Philip Massinger → online text (page 1 of 3)