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,
And left me to cut a caper against care.
Luce, look on me that am as light as air."

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;
And we will have it of so large a sum,
Sir Lancelot shall entreat you take his daughter.
This being form’d, give it master Weathercock,
And make Sir Lancelot's daughter heir of all:
And make him swear never to show the will
To any one, until that you be dead.
This done, the foolish changing Weathercock
Will straight discourse unto Sir Lancelot
The form and tenor of your testament.
Ne'er stand to pause of it: be ruld by me:
What will ensue, that shall you quickly see."

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:
As for this wench, I not regard a pin,
It is her gold must bring my pleasures in."

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.
They slander me; by this light, they slander me.
Look you, my uncle here 's an usurer,
And would undo me; but I 'll stand in law;
Do you but bail me, you shall do no more :
You, brother Civet, and master Weathercock, do but bail me,
And let me have my marriage-money paid me,
And we 'll ride down, and your own eyes shall see
How my poor tenants there will welcome me.
You shall but bail me, you shall do no more :-
And you, you greedy gnat, their bail will serve ?

Flow. Jun. Ay, sir, I 'll ask no better bail.

Sir Lanc. No, sir, you shall not take my bail, nor bis,
Nor my son Civet's : I 'll not be cheated, I.
Shrieve, take your prisoner; I'll not deal with him.
Let his uncle make false dice with his false bones;
I will not have to do with him: mock'd, gulld, and wrong'd!
Come, girl, though it be late, it falls out well;
Thou shalt not live with him in beggar's hell.

Luce. He is my husband, and high heaven doth know
With what unwillingness I went to church;
But you enforc'd me, you compelld me to it.
The holy churchman pronounc'd these words but now,
“I must not leave my husband in distress :'
Now I must comfort him, not go with you.

Sir Lanc. Comfort a cozener! on my curse forsake him.

Luce. This day you caus'd me on your curse to take him.
Do not, I pray, my grieved soul oppress :
God knows my heart doth bleed at his distress."

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 ;
And I can work : alas, he can do nothing.
I have some friends perhaps will pity me :
His chiefest friends do seek his misery.
All that I can or beg, get, or receive,
Shall be for you. O do not turn away:
Methinks, within a face so reverend,
So well experienc'd in this tottering world,
Should live some feeling of a maiden's grief :
For my sake, his father's and your brother's sake,
Ay, for your soul's sake, that doth hope for joy,
Pity my state; do not two souls destroy.

Flow. Jun. Fair maid, stand up; not in regard of him,
But in pity of thy hapless choice,
I do release him. Master sheriff, I thank you;
And, officers, there is for you to drink.
Here, maid, take this money; there is a hundred angels :
And, for I will be sure he shall not have it,
Here, Kester, take it you, and use it sparingly ;
But let not her have any want at all.
Dry your eyes, niece; do not too much lament
For him whose life hath been in riot spent:
If well he useth thee, he gets him friends,
Itill, a shameful end on him depends.

M. Flow. A plague go with you for an old foruicator !
Come, Kit, the money; come, honest Kit.

Flow. Sen. Nay, by my faith, sir, you shall pardon me.

M. Flow. And why, sir, pardon you ? Give me the money,
you old rascal, or I will make you.

Luce. Pray hold your hands; give it him, honest friend.
Flow. Sen. If you be so content, with all my heart.

(Gires the

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
friends for you.

M. Flow. Hang thee, her friends and father, all together!
Flow. Sen. Yet part with something to provide her lodging.

M. Flow. Yes, I mean to part with her and you ; but if I
part with one angel, hang me at a post. I'll rather throw
them at a cast of dice, as I have done a thousand of their

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 :
Nor he nor I shall to the prison go.
Know you me now? Nay, never stand amaz'd.
Father, I know I have offended you ;
And though that duty wills me bend my knees
To you in duty and obedience,
Yet this way do I turn, and to him yield
My love, my duty, and my humbleness.

Sir Lanc. Bastard in nature ! kneel to such a slave ?

Luce. O master Flowerdale, if too much grief
Have not stopp'd up the organs of your voice,
Then speak to her that is thy faithful wife:
Or doth contempt of me thus tie thy tongue ?
Turn not away; I am no Æthiop,
No wanton Cressid, nor a changing Helen;
But rather one made wretched by thy loss.
What! turn'st thou still from me? O then
I guess thee wofull'st among hapless men.

M. Flow. I am indeed, wife, wonder among wives!
Thy chastity and virtue hath infus d
Ano her soul in me, red with defame,

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.
Pardon, dear father, the follies that are past.

Flow. Sen. Son, son, I do; and joy at this thy change,
And applaud thy fortune in this virtuous maid,
Whom heaven hath sent to thee to save thy soul.

Luce. This addeth joy to joy; high heaven be prais d.

Weath. Master Flowerdale, welcome from death, good
master Flowerdale. "T was said so here, 't was said so here,
good faith.

Flow. Sen. I causd that rumour to be spread myself,
Because I 'd see the humours of my son,
Which to relate the circumstance is needless.
And, sirrah, see
You run no more into that same disease :

For he that 's once curd of that malady,
Of riot, swearing, drunkenness, and pride,
And falls again into the like distress,
That fever 's deadly, doth till death endure;
Such men die mad, as of a calenture.

M. Flow. Heaven helping me, I'll hate the course as hell.
Flow. Jun. Say it, and do it, cousin, all is well.

Sir Lanc. Well, being in hope you 'll prove an honest man,
I take you to my favour."

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.

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