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former histrionic biographers; and this, added to the information acquired in revising Dodsley's Old Plays, gave his volumes a des cided superiority over those of his predecessors. Thirty years have elapsed since Reed's publication, during which the labour bestowed on the illustration of Shakspeare in particular, and on the early dramatic poets generally, has produced more materials relating to the history of the stage, than had been obtained by the researches of a century preceding. We cannot, therefore, but think it extremely ill-judged, to reprint the jeune and vapid · Introduction prefixed to the former editions of the Biograpbia Dramatica. But thus it is : a work on the drama is called for,--a former book, the best perhaps on the subject, is adopted for a foundation,
--some humble corrector of the press offers his services as editor,—the publishers know nothing of his ability, and care as little;- but the undertaker,' nothing doubting,'hurries through his job; the volumes are ready by the winter season, the market is supplied, and literature is disgraced. All this is truly pitiable, and impeaches in no slight degree the character of a set of men, who are assuredly not wanting in liberality; though,-as the Lord Chief Justice said to one of their fraternity, they certainly betray a terrible lack of judginent.' This inconsiderate employınent of incompetent persons is the more to be regretted, and the more strongly to be censured, since with the assistance now so liberally and laudably afforded by collectors, a work illustrative of the history of the drama might be written worthy of the subject. Such a work must not, we fear, be expected at the hands of Mr. Stephen Jones; who, though he boasts of long acquaintance with the early British dramatists, appears to be a faithful representative of the spectator in Bartholomew Fuir;-namely, one whose judgment shews it is constant, and hath stood still these tive and twenty or thirty years.'
We have adverted to the favourable circumstances under which the present volumes were undertaken; the reader will therefore learn, not without astonishment, that, with the exception of the last edition of Shakspeare, Mr Jones has made no attempt to correct the errors and omissions of his predecessors, by examining the numerous editions of dramatic poets, separate lives, and other pubJications, from which authentic and valuable information might have been obtained. The list of plays by Hatherwaye, Wentworth, Smith, and others, which Mr. Jones has taken (without acknowledgment) from Malone's History of the Stage, shews, at least, that he has not been indifferent to this gentleman's labours; but if he had made due use of his observations, he would scarcely have repeated the unauthorised assertion, that during the joint lives of Beaumont and Fletcher, those two great poets wrote nothing sepasately, excepting one little piece by each, which seemed of too tri
vial a nature, for either to require assistance in.' It provokes a smile, to learn that the little trivial piece' in which Fletcher declined the assistance of his colleague, was the beautiful masque of the Faithful Shepherdess. It can answer no possible purpose thus to repeat from volume to volume, traditionary errors which have been exploded for the most satisfactory reasons.
Sir Aston Cockaine, the fast friend of Fletcher, expressly declared that Beaumont shared hut in the composition of a few plays,
the main Being the issue of sweet Fletcher's brain;' and Langbaine, who was surely a safer guide on this point than David Erskine Baker, asserted that · Fletcher composed several dramatic pieces which were well worthy the hand of so great a master.' An authority in this case, inferior neither to Cockaine nor Langbaine,--the office-book of Sir Henry Herbert, confirms the declaration of both; and yet, in utter contempt of these evidences, Mr. Jones tells us that · Beaumont and Fletcher wrote nothing separately,'—just as Baker and Reed had told us before him.
V.1-82. * Thomas Campion was a physician in the reign of James the first, and was author of
1. A Masque presented at Whitehall, &c.
3. A Masque, presented at Whitehall, &c.-This is perfectly true,—and hence we look for some account of Thomas Campion;- but we are left to seek it, where Mr. Jones himself might have found it, in Wood's Fasti, or in Sir John Hawkins's History of Music, Vol. III. p. 316, and IV. p. 24. In the latter of these references, the editor would have learned that the various merits of Campion,--as a lyric, as well as a dramatic poet, as a critic and a musician,-- were such as entitled him to particular attention..
V.1–113. With similar indifference, Mr. Jones dismisses Harry Chettle, who, according to the compiler's own acknowledgment, wrote and shared in the composition of twenty-five dramas. It is no excuse for the omission that his predecessors were equally neg. ligent, for Chettle’s labours were not known to be so extensive, till the discovery of Henslowe's MSS. nor were the means for illustrating his life, until lately, attainable.
V. 1-181. By mingling the information obtained from Malone's History of the Stage, with the account of Decker as given by Baker and Reed, the present compiler has made the article on this valuable poet, a jumble of absurdity. After stupidly attributing the foundation of Decker's fame to the success of the Satiromastix, which, he says, was one of his first pieces, he proceeds to give us the titles of at least seven of his plays, all anterior to that
satire. Here, too, we observe not a little of that original pleasantry about Jopson's jealousy,' and so forth, of which Mr. Jones had already exhibited a specimen, in his life of Chapman.
V. 1-251. The article on Ford forms a perfect epitome of the general manner in which this work has been compiled. The date of this poet's birth was unknown to the former editors; Mr. Malone discovered it, and Mr. Jones indulges us with it, without one word as to his authority. We are now turned over to his predecessor, who tells us that • Ford wrote in the reigns of James and Charles the First;' and 1699 is given as the date of his earliest play. It is then said that, he wrote eleven dramatic pieces, all on his own foundation,'—which is at best incorrect;-and that, according to the custom of his time,' (a custom which it would be vain to seek,)
his name is not prefixed to any of his plays,'—though all the plays published during his life-time have dedications signed John Ford.' Then follows a list of Ford's dramas, a mere copy of his predecessor's, and like his, imperfect. But a sovereign panacea for all these ills is conveyed in the information contained in an appendix, that the dramatic works of John Ford have been collected and published in an elegant form, by Henry Weber, Esq.'—and so they have.
V.1–268. The passion which exists for raking up the 'trash of ancient days,' has contributed to revive the memory
of the romantic George Gascoigne:-his life has been written, his portrait engraved, and his works re-printed; and Mr. Jones might have benefited by the industry of others, if he were too supine to search for information himself. But no! Mr. Jones contents himself with transcribing his predecessor's narrative, compiled for the most part from Antony Wood, which happens to be false almost to the letter. That Gascoigne was born at Walthamstow in the forest,' is at best very doubtful,—that he was educated at Oxford,' is contradicted by himself;-certainly, ' he was for some time in various cities in Holland, but it was only in a inilitary capacity:and that · he went to France, where he happened to meet with a Scottish lady, whom he fell in love with and afterwards married, is a ludicrous mistake of honest Antony's, arising from a hasty inspection of Gascoigne's works;—while the ' belief that he died at Wal hamstow' is contradicted by the recovery of George Whetstones’ « remembrance of the well-employed life and godly end of George Gascoigne, Esq. who deceased at Stamford, in Lincolnshire, the 7th October, 1577.' While on this subject, we may just observe, that the curious tract by Whetstones, here referred to, sheni's the Book of Venerie or Hunting,' appended to Turberville's Falconrie, 1575, to be the work of George Gascoigne. In the wish, which we have more than once expressed, that Mr.
Jones had looked into the later collections of dramatic poetry, we have perhaps counted more upon the advantage to be derived from the search, than on the inconveniences which miglit be sustamed by such a process. Thus Mr. Jones, had he dipped into the life of Massivger prefixed to the last edition of that poet's works, would have found that the name of the poet's father was Arthur, not Phillip, but then he might have been tempted to inquire farther; and this correction would be obtained at the expense of two columns of profitable disquisition, as to the time of Massinger's death, which now add to the bulk of the volume, and consequently to the requisite number of sheets. There is we know, a time for all things,-a time to withhold and a time to communicate,-and when the transcript of Reed's pages, which assign bis death to three widely different periods, was completed, the present editor (in an appendix) informs us from the parish register,-after personal inspection, no doubt, for he quotes no authority,—that the entry of Massinger's burial in Saint Saviour's, Southwark, is as follows; March the 20th, 1639—40, buried Philip Massinger, a strunger. Meaning, we suppose,' he adds, not a parishioner. Had Mr. Jones forgotten that he bad, in the same volume, told us that Massinger died at his own house, near the play-house, on the bank-side, Southwark?
We do not purpose pursuing our inquiry into the merits of the biographical portion of these volumes, but we cannot end it without remarking that even the last edition of Shakspeare, which appears to have supplied the editor with almost all the information not privately communicated, was examined with the most culpable indifference: thus, the birth of the great bard is erroneously dated; and when Mr. Jones is about to give a catalogue of his plays, he says,
the arrangement of them is adopted from that of Mr. Malone, the accuracy of which not having been disputed, we presume has received the sanction of the learned. It has received the sanction of Mr. Stephen Jones ; that's something yet!'--and more than could be looked for at the hands of a critic who had already celebrated the contents of Mr. Chalmers's octavos.
We turn with pleasure from the biograpbical part of these volumes, in which we have found much to condenm and nothing to approve, to that portion which is devoted to the catalogue of plays; and here, as Mr. Jones bas bestowed some pains, he has cllected some improvement: the titles of many dramas are revived, dates are added, and sometimes desirable information is given. Yet even here, where nothing but plodding was required, Mr. Jones's labours are far from being perfect; and while many titles are either omitted or rejected, we are at a loss lo guess why others bave ob
tained admission. Italian, French, and American plays in abundance have found their way into this account of the British stage.
We have discovered no such proofs of Mr. Jones's judgment as would lead us to expect him to exclude wbat had been, however improperly, admitted by his predecessors; we were therefore prepared to find Chichevache and Bycorne’; but, indeed, this old satire has an equal claim to a place in a dramatic catalogue with lyric odes; and we think that Mr. Todd and Mr. Shone must feel unexpected pleasure at finding themselves advanced to the dignity of dramatic authors for writing notes upon Comus and the Jew of Malta. For the reasons just suggested, we looked to find the monatonous tragedy of Andromana attributed to Shirley, to whose acknowledged productions it bears not the slighest resemblance; but, we must confess, we did not expect to see the Yorkshire Tragedy' ascribed to that poet on the respectable authority of Doctor Farmer, and that 'without a doubt on his part. That reverend commentator generally knew what he was saying: and if he had attributed this drama to Shirley, we will do him the justice to believe that it would be after mature consideration ; but we are sure this is an error: farther, we believe the error to be Mr. Jones's, who has confounded the opinion of Farmer, relative to the Yorkshire Tragedy,' with that on the Double Falsehood,' which he concluded was Shirley's; and the internal evidence of that play strongly confirms his decision. Shirley was but fourteen years old when the Yorkshire Tragedy' was printed! We should, perhaps, sympathise with Mr. Jones in the indignation which he more than once expresses at the uncouth orthography of Mr. Henslowe's MS. were it not for the happiness of illustration which it has enabled him to exbibit. Thus, in that curious record, under the date of March, 1591, he finds an entry of . four representations in one,' which, he says, it is clear was a juvenile work of Fletcicio,' represented when that poet was only fifteen years of age! Antony and Vallia, in the same register (1595), is with equal probability supposed to be the Antonio and Mellida of Marston, produced seven years afterwards.
The scrupulous fidelity with which Mr. Jones preserves former errors, taught us confidently to look for a revival of the opinions respecting Ben Jonson's envy, jealousy, and such like amiable qualities; accordingly, in various parts of these volumes, ' a deal of skimble skamble stuff' to this effect is scattered up and down; the great collection of those heresies being properly reserved for • The Lover's Melancholy.' We were inclined to pass over this article, which has now lost something of its novelty; but, willing to use all due diligence in the way of our vocation,' we turned to the subject, and have reason to felicitate ourselves upon the disco