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superstitious fancies, such as the supposed sanctity of certain relics, or the expiatory value of some particular ceremonial ;sometimes from nobler impulses, such as the conviction that such solitude is essential to the purity of the soul of the recluse, or to the usefulness of his life;-but always, in some degree, from other causes of still deeper root and far wider expansion. Such are, the servile spirit, which desires to abdicate the burden of freewill and the responsibilities of free agency;-and the feeble spirit, which can stand erect, and make progress, only when sustained by the pressure and the impulse of a crowd;-and the wavering spirit, which takes refuge from the pains of doubt in the contagion of monastic unanimity.
Neither is the success of the Franciscan institute, if viewed as distinct from all other conventual orders, involved in any real obscurity. So reiterated, indeed, and so just have been the assaults on the Mendicant Friars, that we usually forget that, till the days of Martin Luther, the Church had never seen so great and effectual a reform as theirs. During nearly two centuries, Francis and his spiritual descendants, chiefly, if not exclusively, directed the two great engines of the Christian warfare-the Mission and the Pulpit. Nothing in the histories of Wesley or of Whitfield, can be compared with the enthusiasm which every where welcomed them, or with the immediate and visible results of their labours. In an age of oligarchal tyranny they were the protectors of the weak; in an age of ignorance the instructors of mankind; and in an age of profligacy the stern vindicators of the holiness of the sacerdotal character, and the virtues of domestic life. While other religious societies withdrew from the world, they entered, studied, and traversed it. They were followed by the wretched, the illiterate, and the obscure, through whom, from the first, the Church has been chiefly replenished, but not by them only. In every part of Europe, the rich, the powerful, and the learned, were found among their proselytes. In our own land, Duns Scotus, Alexander Hales, Robert Grostête, and Roger Bacon, lent to this new Christian confederacy the lustre and the authority of their names. even when, by the natural descent of corruption, it had fallen into well-deserved contumely, the mission and the pulpit, and the tradition of the great men by whom it was originally organised and nurtured, were sufficient to arrest the progress of decay, and to redeem for the Franciscan Order a permanent and a conspicuous station among the Princedoms, Dominations, Powers,' which hold their appointed rank and perform their appropriate offices in the great spiritual dynasty of Rome.
The tragedy of Hamlet, leaving out the character of the Prince
of Denmark; the biography of Turenne, with the exception of his wars; may, perhaps, be but inadequate images of a life of Saint Francis, omitting all notice of the doctrines he taught, and excluding any account of the influence of his theology on himself or his contemporaries, and on the generations which have succeeded him. This, however, is not a biography, but a rapid sketch put forth by secular men to secular readers. It would be indecorous to suppose that our profound divines, Scottish or English, would waste the midnight oil over so slight an attempt as this to revive the memory of a once famous Father of the Church, now fallen into unmerited neglect and indiscriminate opprobrium among us. Yet if, indeed, any student of Jewell or of Knox should so far descend from his Bodleian eminences as to cast a hasty glance over these lines, let him heartily censure if he will, then supply their too palpable omissions. Let him write the complete story of Saint Francis, and estimate impartially his acts, his opinions, his character, and his labours; and he will have written one important chapter of a History of the Monastic Orders, and will have contributed to supply one great deficiency in the ecclesiastical literature of the Protestant world.
ART. II. The Works of Beaumont and Fletcher; the Text formed from a new collation of the early editions: with Notes and a Biographical Memoir. By the Rev. ALEXANDER DYCE. 11 vols. 8vo. London: 1843-1846.
Or F the beautiful though faulty works which compose these volumes, a considerable number were the fruit of one of those singular literary Partnerships, which, hardly known in any department of poetical art except the drama, have repeatedly been formed by dramatic poets both in our own country and elsewhere. The old English drama abounds with examples. None of these alliances, however, was so steadfast, none so successful, none so evidently prompted by 'consimility of genius,' as that which has, by a consent almost universal, elevated the inseparable names of the two friends, Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, to a place in our dramatic literature second only to that of the one unapproachable master of the art.
In regard to the personal history of the two poets, all that is known scarcely suffices to do more than excite a vain curiosity. But few facts have been collected which have any interest in themselves, or any value as the groundwork of critical speculation. The principal of these relate to the family history of both.
Among the western hills of Leicestershire, there has lately been erected a monastery, which, inhabited by thirty or forty
Cistercian monks, carries back our thoughts from the busy world of manufactures by which it is surrounded, to the antiquities and the poetry of the middle ages. Similar reflections are prompted by another scene, situated about a mile from this modern abbey of Saint Bernard. In the midst of a little valley, on a meadow beside a dashing brook, is to be seen at the present day a group of ivy-mantled ruins. There, in the thirteenth century, a pious lady founded an Augustinian nunnery, in honour of Saint Mary and the blessed Trinity. Confiscated on the suppression of the religious houses at the Reformation, the priory of Gracedieu and its demesne were acquired by John Beaumont, a lawyer of old family. He afterwards became Master of the Rolls; but was soon charged with corruption, disgraced, and deprived of his estates. His widow recovered from the wreck of his fortunes the manor of which he had dispossessed the nuns of Lady Roesia de Verdun. Her son Francis, distinguishing himself in his father's profession, was appointed one of the Justices of the Common Pleas, and received knighthood from the hands of Queen Elizabeth. He is spoken of as a 'grave, learned, and reverend judge.' He married a lady of the family of Pierrepoint in Nottinghamshire; from which long afterwards came the sprightly Lady Mary Wortley Montague.
Of Judge Beaumont's three sons, the eldest died young. John, the second, inherited the estates, and obtained a baronetcy. Sir John Beaumont was a man of reflection, taste, and feeling. In right of his Bosworth Field,' and other poems, he is remembered among our minor poets, and among the earliest improvers of English heroic verse. The third son, FRANCIS BEAUMONT, was born at Gracedieu, probably in the year 1585. The family of Gracedieu did not comprise the only men of genius of the name. Among their kinsmen the Beaumonts of Coleorton, we find, in the seventeenth century, Dr Joseph Beaumont, a poet from whom Pope did not disdain to borrow wisely; and, in our own time, this branch of the ancient stock has been represented by one of the most accomplished gentlemen of any age-the late Sir George Beaumont, himself a pleasing artist, and the generous friend of artists and of poets.
The birth-place of Francis Beaumont was a fit nursery for the boyhood of a poet. The spot itself is still beautiful: the region in which it lies was then sylvan and romantic. Charnwood Forest, on the edge of which Gracedieu stands, was in the sixteenth century a thickly wooded chase. Drayton indeed, not long afterwards, lamented that the high-palmed harts were fled, and the dryads dead with the oaks they had inhabited. Even for him,
however, the scene was the ideal of a forest: and about the very time when his Poly-olbion' was composed, Bishop Corbet and his fellow-travellers lost their way among its rocky glades. Wordsworth, the intimate friend of the late Sir George Beaumont, has since revived its poetical renown in an inscription reminding us, that—
There, on the margin of a streamlet wild,
Did Francis Beaumont sport, an eager child;
With which his genius shook the buskin'd stage.'
But the earliest breathings of nature upon the poetic heart do not generally awaken a sound which is their own echo. The young poet is for a time a mocking-bird. Beaumont's earliest known work, published when he was certainly less than seventeen years of age, was the Salmacis and Hermaphroditus,' a poem of nine hundred heroic lines. In this boyish piece, the voluptuous sketch of the Metamorphoses is worked up into a minutely touched and overcoloured picture. The fancy which it unquestionably exhibits, is expended on mythological inventions, ingenious like those of their prototype, and even more artificial. There emerges in it little, if any thing, of original observation of external nature. But the scenes, amid which his early youth was past, were secretly nourishing the sympathies which afterwards flowed out with imaginative fulness upon the world of human action and passion: nor did those scenes pass away without leaving images which were afterwards enlarged and coloured into richer landscapes in unfading
The Salmacis,' and an equally free imitation of the Remedy of Love,' are our chief or only means of estimating the influence exerted on his mind by his academical education. He became a gentleman commoner of Broadgates Hall in Oxford, when he was about twelve years old but he seems to have resided there only a short time; and he was certainly too young to have received from it any deep impression, in the classical studies of the place, in the more home-sprung learning of Camden who had lived within the same walls a generation before, or in the puritanism and patriotism of Pym, who was his college-contemporary. The Inner Temple, where he entered while still a boy, introduced him to new companionships of a nature more congenial to his own; and we now approach the sphere in which his brief existence was destined to be spent.
Meanwhile the friend whose name has become identified with his, was entering upon life under circumstances far less favourable. Richard Fletcher, the son of a vicar in Kent, had distinguished himself at Cambridge, and been Master of Bene't College. He was also minister of Rye, where, in December 1579, was born his third son, JOHN FLETCHER the poet. John Fletcher was a child of seven years, when his father, now Dean of Peterborough, laid the foundation of his future fortunes by insulting the unhappy Mary, Queen of Scots, upon the scaffold. His zealous services upon this occasion, his courtly manners, his handsome person, and his intimacy with Burleigh, concurred in recommending him to the favour of the maiden queen. Subject to certain simoniacal suspicions, he soon became Bishop of Bristol. Elizabeth, delighting in the good looks of her comely bishop, had found fault with him for cutting his beard too short: 'whereas, good lady,' wrote Harington, although she knew it not, that which he had cut too 'short was his bishopric, not his beard.' He was made, successively, High Almoner, Bishop of Worcester, and in 1595, Bishop of London. A widower at the time of this last promotion, he immediately married the very recent widow of a Kentish knight. The queen's distaste of the marriage of clergymen was aggravated in this instance by the doubtful reputation of the lady. The bishop was accordingly suspended from his functions by the primate, and forbidden by the queen to appear at court. A partial restoration to the royal favour came too late to heal the wound which public disgrace had inflicted upon a proud and worldly heart. On a June evening in 1596, as he sat smoking in his chair, Bishop Fletcher suddenly fell back and expired.
He left eight children in beggary; and his property was seized by the Exchequer, in satisfaction of official debts to the crown. Intercession was made for the orphans by his brother Dr Giles Fletcher, an eminent civilian, diplomatist, and scholar, and father of the two poets Giles and Phineas. The family had a still more powerful advocate in the chivalrous Essex, prompted by Anthony Bacon, brother of the great chancellor. But there is no reason to believe that the government relented.
John Fletcher had at twelve years of age been admitted a pensioner of his father's college at Cambridge; where, two years later, he is said by his last biographer to have been made one of the Bible clerks-an assertion which not improbably involves some mistake; Bible clerk being an Oxford, not a Cambridge title. Of his university studies nothing further is known. his father's death he was only in his seventeenth year; and it can hardly be doubted that this event cast him loose upon the world.