name in a document of 1616, and again in 1625. The same bookseller that published • The Birth of Merlin' associated his name with other writers of eminence besides Shakspere. He is spoken of by Langbaine as “an author that flourished in the reign of King Charles I.;" but there is no doubt that he may be considered as a successful writer in the middle period of James I. It is impossible to think that he could have been associated with Shakspere in writing a play until after Shakspere had quitted the stage; and we must therefore bear in mind that Rowley's supposed associate was at that period the author of Othello' and Lear,' of Twelfth Night' and *As You Like It.'

A few years after the accession of James I. the fondness of the court for theatrical entertainments, and the sumptuousness of the masks that were got up for its special delight, appear to have produced a natural influence upon the public stage, in rendering some of the pieces performed more dependent upon scenery and dresses and processions than in the later years of Elizabeth. The · Birth of Merlin' belongs to the class of show-plays; and the elaboration of that portion which is addressed merely to the eye has imparted a character to those scenes in which the imagination is addressed through the dialogue. There is an essential want of refinement as well as of intellectual force, partly arising from this false principle of art, which addresses itself mainly to the senses.

We have a succession of incidents without any unity of action. The human interest and the supernatural are jumbled together, so as to render each equally unreal. Extravagance is taken for force, and what is merely hideous is offered to us as sublime. The story of course belongs to the fabulous history of Britain. Its movements are so complicated that we should despair of tracing it through its scenes of war and love, and devilry and witchcraft. The Britons are invaded by the Saxons, but the British army is miraculously preserved by the power of Anselm, a hermit. The Saxons sue for peace to Aurelius, the King of Britain, but the monarch suddenly falls in love with Artesia, the daughter of the Saxon general, and marries her, against the wishes of all his court. Uter Pendragon, the brother of Aurelius, has been unaccountably missing, and he, it seems, had fallen in love with the same lady during his rambles. Upon the return of Prince Uter to his brother's court, the queen endeavours to obtain from him a declaration of unlawful attachment. Her object is to sow disunion amongst the Britons, to promote the ascendancy of the Saxons. She is successful, and the weak Aurelius joins his invaders. During the progress of these events we have love-episodes with the daughters of Donobert, a British nobleman. The character of Modestia, one of the daughters, who is resolved to dedicate herself to a religious life, is drawn with considerable skill, and she expresses herself with a quiet strength which contrasts advantageously with the turmoil around her :

“ Noble and virtuous! could I dream of marriage,

I should affect thee, Edwin. Oh, my soul,
Here 's something tells me that these best of creatures,
These models of the world, weak man and woman,
Should have their souls, their making, life, and being,
To some more excellent use : if what the sense
Calls pleasure were our ends, we might justly blame
Great Nature's wisdom, who rear'd a building
Of so much art and beauty, to entertain
A guest so far incertain, so imperfect :
If only speech distinguish us from beasts,
Who know no inequality of birth and place,
But still to fly from goodness ; oh! how base
Were life at such a rate! No, no! that Power
That gave to man his being, speech, and wisdom,
Gave it for thankfulness. To Him alone
That made me thus, may I thence truly know,
I 'll pay to Him, not man, the love I owe."

The supernatural part of this play is altogether overdone, exhibiting no higher skill in the management than a modern fairy spectacle for the Easter holidays. Before Merlin appears we have a Saxon magician produced who can raise the dead, and he makes Hector and Achilles come into the Saxon court very much after the fashion of the apparition of Marshal Saxe in the great gallery at Dresden (see Wraxall's Memoirs'). The stage-direction for this extraordinary exhibition is as follows:

Enter Proximus, bringing in Hector, attired and armed after the Trojan manner, with target, sword, and battle-are; a trumpet before him, and a Spirit in flame-colours with a torch: at the other door, ACHILLES, with his spear and falchion, a trumpet, and a Spirit in black before him: trumpets sound alarm, and they manage their weapons to begin the fight, and after some charges the Hermit steps between them, at which, seeming amazed, the Spirits tremble.

That the poet who produced the cauldron of the weird sisters should be supposed to have a hand in this child's play is little less than miraculous itself. But we soon cease to take an interest in mere Britons and Saxons, for a clown and his sister arrive at court, seeking a father for a child which the lady is about to present to the world. After some mummery which is meant for comedy we have the following stage-direction :-“ Enter the Devil in man's habit richly attired, his feet and his head horrid;" and the young lady from the country immediately recognises the treacherous father. After another episode with Modestia and Edwin, thunder and lightning announce something terrible; the birth of Merlin has taken place, and his father the Devil properly introduces him reading a book and foretelling his own future celebrity. We have now prophecy upon prophecy and fight upon fight, blazing stars, dragons, and Merlin expounding all amidst the din. We learn that Artesia has poisoned her husband, and that Uter has become King Pendragon. The Saxons are defeated by the new king, by whom Artesia, as a murderess, is buried alive. In the mean time the Devil has again been making some proposals to Merlin's mother, which end greatly to his discomfiture, for his powerful son shuts him up in a rock. Merlin then, addressing his mother, proposes to her to retire to a solitude he has prepared for her, “ to weep away the flesh you have offended with;” “and when you die,” he proceeds,

I will erect a monument
Upon the verdant plains of Salisbury,—
No king shall have so high a sepulchre,-
With pendulous stones, that I will hang by art,
Where neither lime nor mortar shall be used-
A dark enigma to the memory,
For none shall have the power to number them;
A place that I will ballow for your rest ;
Where no night-hag shall walk, nor were-wolf tread,
Where Merlin's mother shall be sepulchred."

As this is a satisfactory account of the origin of Stonehenge, we might here conclude; but there is a little more to tell of this marvellous play. Uter, the triumphant king, desires Merlin to

« show the full event, That shall both end our reigu and chronicle."

Merlin thus consents :

“ What Heaven decrees, fate hath no power to alter:

The Saxons, sir, will keep the ground they have,
And by supplying numbers still increase,
Till Britain be no more : So please your grace,
I will, in visible apparitions,
Present you prophecies, which shall concern

Succeeding princes, which my art shall raise,
Till men shall call these times the latter days.

[Merlin strikes.
Hautboys. Enter a King in armour, his shield quartered
with thirteen crowns. At the other end enter divers Princes,
who present their crowns to him at his feet, and do him homage ;
then enters Death, and strikes him ; he, growing sick, crowns

This Merlin explains to represent Uter's son, Arthur, and his successor; at which the prince, much gratified, asserts,

6 All future times shall still record this story,

Of Merlin's learned worth, and Arthur's glory."


• The Merry Deuill of Edmonton : As it hath been sundry times acted by his Maiesties Servants, at the Globe on the Banke-side,' was originally published in 1608. On the 22nd October, 1607, there is an entry of the title of the play on the Stationers' registers; but on the 5th April, 1608, we have a more precise entry of “A book called the Lyfe and Deathe of the Merry Devill of Edmonton, with the pleasant pranks of Smugge the Smyth, Sir John, and mine Hoste of the George, about their stealing of venison. By T. B." This was, in all probability, a second Part. Steevens says, 6. The initial letters at the end of this entry sufficiently free Shakspeare from the charge of having been its author.” It has been supposed that these initials represent Tony, or Antony, Brewer,-a dramatic writer of the time of James I., highly lauded by some of his contemporaries. Kirkman, the bookseller, first affixed Shakspere's name to it in his catalogue. In The Companion to the Playhouse,' published in 1764, it is stated, upon the authority of a laborious antiquary, Thomas Coxeter, who died in 1747, to have been written by Michael Drayton; and in some posthumous papers of another diligent inquirer into literary history, Oldys, the same assertion is advanced. Charles Lamb, who speaks of this play with a warmth of admiration which is probably carried a little too far—and which, indeed, may in some degree be attributed to his familiarity with the quiet rural scenery of Enfield, Waltham, Cheshunt, and Edmonton, in which places the story is laid --says, “I wish it could be ascertained that Michael Drayton was the author of this piece: it would add a worthy appendage to the renown of that panegyrist of my native earth; who has gone over her soil (in his Polyolbion) with the fidelity of a herald, and the painful love of a son; who has not left a rivulet (so narrow that it may be stepped over) without honourable mention; and has animated hills and streams with life and passion above the

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