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Wise, and lesse Occasion of Loosenesse proffered to the Wanton.” Notwithstanding the affectation and pedantry with which these works abound, “all our ladies," says Mi. Edward Blount*, “were his scholars; and that beauty in court, which could not parley Euphueisme, was as little regarded as she which now there speaks not French :" in his title-page this gentleman styles him the witty, comical, facetiously-quick, and unparalleled John Lilly; and though many allowances ought to be made for the partiality of an editor, and the prevailing taste of that age, (which unquestionably contributed greatly to the popularity of our author's works), yet still, as productions which the court of Elizabeth held in admiration, and which Shakspeare condescended to imitate, they cannot be deemed unworthy the attention of the reader. It seems too probable that the popularity of his works was nearly all that he got by them; for notwithstanding his many years attendance on the court, he was eventually forced to write to the queen herself, for some little grant to support him in his old age +:" we may hope this application was not without success; as Mr. Blount, in his preface, says he was an “excellent poet, whom Queen Elizabeth then heard, graced, and rewarded.”
He was also the author of a celebrated pamphlet; against the Martinist, written about 1589, called, “ Pap with a Hatchet ; alias, a Fig for my Godson: or, crack me this Nut; that is, a sound Box on the Ear for the Idiot Martin, to hold his Peace; written by one that dares call a Dog a Dog."
It is almost impossible for a man to attain to a very high reputation, without, in some degree, meriting it; this is the case with Lyly; and the observation of Rousseau on the works of Gibbon, “ that they were deformed by affectation and a perpetual pursuit of brilliancy,” may be applied with some justice to our author's. Though undeserving the enthusiastic encomiums of Mr. Blount, he must, unquestionably, be considered a man of very considerable ability, and his writings might possibly have improved the language of his time. It ought to be added that Drayton is of a different opinion, and compliments Sydney, as the author that
* Mr. Blount, afterwards a knight, says Wood. + MS, notes on Langbaine.
“ Did first reduce
They speak and write all like mere lunatics." This criticism, though highly coloured, has its foundation in truth; as may be discovered from his dramatic writings, particularly his “ Maid's Metamorphosis ;" Winstanley, however, says his plays were acted with great applause of the vulgar, as such things which they understood.” This is strangely at variance with the criticism of Drayton; and from it the reader might infer, that his scenes were taken from common life, and presented in familiar dialogue ; but his plots are from Pliny, Lucian, Ovid, Apuleius, &c. &c. and his language refined with art till it is any thing but colloquial. 66 Mother Bombie” has less of this than any other of his plays.
The following is a list of his dramatic works :
1. Alexander and Campaspe, Tragi-com. 4to. 1584, 1591, D.C. 2. Sapho and Phao, Com. 4to. 1584 ; 4to. 1591. This play has been, through some error, attributed
to Richard Edwards. 3. Endimion, Com. 4to. 1591. 4. Gallathea, Com. 4to, 1592. 5. Midas, Com. 4to. 1592. 6. Woman in the Moon, Com. 4to. 1597. 7. Maid her Metamorphosis, 4to. 1600. 8. Love his Metamorphosis, Past. 4to. 1601. 9. Mother Bombie, Com. 4to. 1594, 1598.
The first five, and “Mother Bombie,” were published in one volume in 12mo. 1632, by Mr. Blount, under the title of “Six Court Comedies.” Wood and Winstantley have erroneously attributed to this author, “A Warning for fair Women."
ACT I. SCENE I.
MEMPHIO and DROMIO.
Mem. Boy, there are three things that make my life miserable; a thread-bare purse, a curst wife, and a fool to my heir.
Drom. Why, then, sir, there are three medicines for these three maladies: a pike-staff to take a purse on the high-way, a holly wand to brush choler from my mistress' tongue, and a young wench for my young master; so that as your worship, being wise, begot a fool; so he, being a fool, may tread out a wise man.
Mem. Ah! but, Dromio, these medicines bite hot on great mischiefs ; for so might I have a rope about my neck, horns upon my head, and in my house a litter of fools.
Drom. Then, sir, you had best let some wise man sit on your son, to hatch him a good wit : they say, if ravens sit on hens'
if ravens sit on hens' eggs, the chickens will be black, and so forth.
Mem. Why, boy, my son is out of the shell, and is grown a pretty cock.
Drom. Carve him, master, and make him a capon, else all your breed will prove cockscombs.
Mem. I marvel he is such an ass, he takes it not of his father. Drom. He
any thing you know. Mem. Why, villain, dost thou think me a fool?
Drom. Oh no, sir; neither are you sure that you are his father.
Mem. Rascal, dost thou imagine thy mistress naught * of her body?
Drom. No; but fantastical of her mind; and it may be, when this boy was begotten, she thought of a fool, and so conceived a fool, yourself being very wise, and she surpassing honest.
Mem. It may be, for I have heard of an Ethiopian, that, thinking of a fair picture, brought forth a fair lady, and yet no bastard.
Drom. You are well read, sir; your son may be a bastard, and yet legitimate; yourself a cuckold, and yet my mistress virtuous; all this in conceit.
Mem. Come, Dromio, it is my grief to have such a son, that must inherit my lands.
Drom. He needs not, sir ; I'll beg him for a fool.
* The following quotation from King Richard III. will sufficiently explain the meaning of this passage.
Brak. With this, my lord, myself have naught to do.
Glo. Naught to do with Mistress Shore ? I tell thee, fellow,
Brak. What one, my lord ?