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they that die most virtạous have in their youth lived most vicious; and none knows the danger of the fire more than he that falls into it.” This, we undertake to say, is not the morality of Shakspere: it is a tolerance beyond his tolerance. But it is the morality which prevails in • The London Prodigal.' The uncle goes on to say that the son is a continual swearer, a breaker of his oaths, a mighty brawler, a great drinker, one that will borrow of any man. The youth knocks at the door; and the father disguised is to be represented as dead. A will is produced by which the son is disinherited; and it is justice to him to say that he displays the same indifference about the loss of fortune as about the death of his father. Old Flowerdale lends him twenty pounds in his assumed character, and agrees to engage with him as a servant. A wooing now commences after a strange fashion. Sir Lancelot Spurcock has three daughters, of whom Luce, the most attractive, has three suitors—Sir Arthur Greenshield, whom she prefers; Oliver, a Devonshire clothier, whom the father patronizes; and young Flowerdale, who is rejected both by father and daughter. A more heartless scoundrel certainly never presented himself in worshipful society. His father being named, he thus speaks of him :
“Ay, God be praised, he is far enough;
He is gone a pilgrimage to Paradise,
His father, who in his assumed character of a servant is called Kester, is desirous to marry his son to the lady; and he thus devises a plan for overcoming the prudential scruples of Sir Lancelot :
“Presently we'll go and draw a will,
Where we'll set down land that we never saw;
The device succeeds. The covetous knight rejects the honest clothier, and Luce is married against her will to the heartless pro
fligate, who thus discloses the nature of his love in confidence to Kester :
“And thou shalt see, when once I have my dower,
In mirth we 'll spend full many a merry hour:
The father and uncle concert to arrest the prodigal on his return from church, that they may try the temper of his wife. The libertine braves it out when this resolve is carried into effect; but the unhappy woman clings to him, now he is her husband, with a tenderness that in the hands of a real poet might have been worked up into subsequent situations of uncommon beauty :
“ Sir Lanc. I am cozen'd, and my hopefullest child undone.
M. Flow. You are not cozen'd, nor is she undone.
Flow. Jun. Ay, sir, I 'll ask no better bail.
Sir Lanc. No, sir, you shall not take my bail, nor bis,
Luce. He is my husband, and high heaven doth know
Sir Lanc. Comfort a cozener! on my curse forsake him.
Luce. This day you caus'd me on your curse to take him.
The wife refuses to go home with her father; and she is left with her husband and his uncle:
“ Luce. O go not yet, good master Flowerdale : Take my word for the debt, my word, my bond.
M. Fluw. Ay, by —, uncle, and my bond too.
Luce. Alas, I ne'er ought nothing but I paid it ;
Flow. Jun. Fair maid, stand up; not in regard of him,
[E.rit FLOWERDALE Jun.
Flow. Sen. Nay, by my faith, sir, you shall pardon me.
M. Flow. And why, sir, pardon you ? Give me the money,
Luce. Pray hold your hands; give it him, honest friend.
money. M. Flow. Content, sir ? 'sblood ! she shall be content whether she will or no. A rattle-baby come to follow me! Go, get you goue to the greasy chuff your father : bring me your dowry, or never look ou me.
Flow. Sen. Sir, she hath forsook her father and all her
M. Flow. Hang thee, her friends and father, all together!
M. Flow. Yes, I mean to part with her and you ; but if I
fellows." The unmitigated villain deserts his wife after this brutality. She is, necessarily, protected by his father; and, disguised as
a Dutch frow,” enters into the service of her own married sister. Matthew Flowerdale loses his hundred angels at the gaming-table; robs Spurcock's unmarried daughter upon the highway; is reduced to starva
tion and beggary; receives alms from his own wife in her Dutch mask; and thus shows how the medicine misfortune has operated upon his soul :-“ By this hand, this Dutch wench is in love with
Were it not admirable to make her steal all Civet's plate, and run away ?” Of course the fellow has his deserts. He is about to be taken to prison on a charge of robbery, and on suspicion of having murdered his wife. The Dutch frow, who sees his arrest, throws off her dress, and the following scene quickly leads to a happy conclusion :
“ Luce. I am no trull, neither outlandish frow :
Sir Lanc. Bastard in nature ! kneel to such a slave ?
Luce. O master Flowerdale, if too much grief
M. Flow. I am indeed, wife, wonder among wives!
For in my blushing cheeks is seen my shame." Old Flowerdale also throws off his disguise, and the son rejoices in a kind wife and a forgiving father :
"M. Flow. My father! O, I shame to look on him.
Flow. Sen. Son, son, I do; and joy at this thy change,
Luce. This addeth joy to joy; high heaven be prais d.
Weath. Master Flowerdale, welcome from death, good
Flow. Sen. I causd that rumour to be spread myself,
For he that 's once curd of that malady,
M. Flow. Heaven helping me, I'll hate the course as hell.
Sir Lanc. Well, being in hope you 'll prove an honest man,
If Shakspere had chosen such a plot, in which the sudden repentance of the offender was to compensate for the miseries he had inflicted, he would have made the prodigal retain some sense of honour, some remorse amidst his recklessness—something that would have given the assurance that his contrition was not hypocrisy. We have little doubt that the low moral tone of the writer's own mind produced the low morality of the plot and its catastrophe. We see in this play that confusion of principles of which the stage was too long the faithful mirror. In Shakspere the partition which separates levity and guilt is never broken down; thoughtlessness and dishonour are not treated with equal indulgence. This is quite argument enough to prove that Shakspere could not have written this comedy, nor rendered the least assistance in its composition. If it exhibited any traces of his wit or his poetry, we should still reject it upon this sole ground.