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we referred, when we said Ford's youth had fallen on fortunate days. Bright and glorious, beyond all imaginings, as the flight of the Eagle was, yet many were the pinions that could wing a separate course, and the eyes, whose piercing lustre could bear undazzled the noon-day effulgence of that sun, at which they kindled the energies of their nature. Beyond all question, the pinnacle that Shakspeare holds is far above that of the Jonsons, the Beaumonts, the Marlows, and the Fletchers of his age. But it is the superiority of Chimborazo, to the Andes that surround his throne! And, we confess, we have often amused ourselves with reveries of the pleasure we should have felt in sitting round the table at the Mermaid, amidst the choice, and master spirits we have enumerated; listening to the wild exuberances of their fancy, and the sportive gambols of their wit; yet, what with us is a mere humour of the brain, a sort of Macadamizing in the air, with Ford was actual truth. Of his personal character, and of any events that might interest us as bearing on his conduct through life, we are, however, almost entirely ignorant; nor has the present edition done much to remove the obscurity in which former biographers had left our author. The few traditions that have been preserved, point him out to us as of a reserved and melancholy temper: an old doggrel couplet assures us, that
Deep in a dump John Forde was alone got,
With folded arms, and melancholy hat.” He makes frequent allusions in his prologues to his having early embraced the profession of the law; but always coupled with anxious disavowals to his patrons
of permitting his dramatic labours to encroach on his proper
business. The first fruits of his poetic vein was an elegy in quarto ! dedicated to the countess of Devonshire, and professing to bewail the death of her husband. We shall not detain the reader any longer with this unworthy performance, than to quote the following exquisite passage:
“ Life? ah ! no life, but soon-extinguish'd tapers !
Tapers ? no tapers, but a burnt-out light !
Sight? ah! no sight, but hell's eternal night!
Fame's Memorial. That any one, who at twenty could write such execrable stuff as this, should start forth at forty-three a fervid, delicate, impassioned votary of the Muses, is one of those phenomena which awaken the interest even of the obtuser portion of mankind (because even to them is held out the excitement of vanity), and serve to vary the somewhat monotonous prospect of the literary world.
His first play was published in 1629; and he retired from his dramatic, as well as professional life in 1640. • Faint traditions in the neighbourhood of his birth-place “ lead to the supposition, that having, from his legal
pursuits, acquired a sufficient fortune, he retired to his “ home to pass the remainder of his days among the youth“ ful connections whom time had yet spared him. Nor “ were there wanting powerful motives for the retirement “ of one of Ford's lonely and contemplative mind, who “ watched the signs of the times. Deep and solemn notes
“ of preparation for a tragedy, far more terrible than
aught the stage could show, were audible in the dis"tance; and hollow mutterings, which could not be mis“ taken, told that the tempest was gathering round the metropolis with fearful acceleration.
It is possible “ that he may have foreseen the approaching storm, “ and fled from the first efforts of its violence.
Apparent diræ facies, inimicaque Troja
Numina ! “ The Covenanters were already in arms, and advanc
ing towards the borders; and at home the stern and “ uncompromising enemies of all that was graceful “ and delightful, were rapidly ascending in the scale of
We do not know how we can better preface the few specimens of our author's peculiar manner, which it is our intention to lay before our readers, than by the masterly delineation of its beauties and defects which Mr. Gifford has given us in his Introduction :
as has been said of the dramatic poets of Elizabeth “ and James's days, full justice has never yet been “ rendered to their independence on one another : gene“ rally speaking, they stand insulated, and alone, and “ draw, each in his station, from their own stores. “ Whether it be that poetry in that age
Wanton'd, as in its prime, and played at will
Its virgin fancies,' “ or that some other fruitful cause of originality was “ in secret and powerful operation ; so it is, that every “ writer had his peculiar style, and was content with it.
* Gifford. Introduction, pp. 44, 45.
“ At present, we are become an imitative, not to say a
mimic, race. A successful poem, a novel, nay even a
happy title-page, is eagerly caught at, and a kind of “ Ombre Chinoise representation of it propagated from one
extremity of the kingdom to the other.' . Invention " seems almost extinct among us. That it does not some" where exist, it would be folly to imagine ; but it
appears to move, comet-like, in very eccentric orbits, “and to have its periods of occultation of more than “ usual duration. It may, and undoubtedly will, revisit
us; meanwhile, as the knight of the enchanted cavern judiciously advises, 'patience, and shuffle the cards !
“ I have been led into these desultory remarks, not“ withstanding it may be urged that an exception to the “ subject of them may be found in Ford.
be found in Ford. He appears to have discovered, indeed, that one of the nameless “ charms of Shakspeare's diction consisted in the skill “ with which he has occasionally vivified it, by convert
ing his substantives into verbs, and to have aspired “ to imitate him. He cannot be complimented on his
success ; nor, indeed, can much be expected, without “such a portion of Shakspeare's taste and feeling, as it “ seems almost hopeless to expect. ' Ford's grammatical “ experiments take from the simplicity of his diction, " while they afford no strength whatever to his descrip" tions. Not so with the great original ; in his conver“ sions all is life. Take, for example, the following
passage; it is not a description that we read; it is " a series of events that we hear and see :
• Our Alexandrian revels ; Antony
Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness . l'th' posture of a whore.' “With this slight exception, which, after all, may be
purely visionary, the style of Ford is altogether original, 66 and his own. Without the majestic march that dis
tinguishes the poetry of Massinger, and with little, or “none of that light and playful humour which charac“ terizes the dialogue of Fletcher, or even of Shirley, “ he is yet elegant, and easy, and harmonious; and
though rarely sublime, yet sufficiently elevated for the “ most pathetic tones of that passion, on whose romantic “ energies he chiefly delighted to dwell. It has, as has “ been observed, its inherent beauties and defects; among “the latter of which may be set down a pedantic affec“ tation of novelty, at one time exhibited in the com
position of uncouth phrases, at another (and this is “ Ford's principal failure) in perplexity of language: “ frequently, too, after perversely labouring with a re
mote idea, till he has confused his meaning, instead of “throwing it aside, he obtrudes it upon the reader in“ volved in inextricable obscurity. Its excellencies, “however, far outweigh its defects; but they are rather “ felt than understood. I know few things more difficult
to account for than the deep and lasting impression “ made by the more tragic portions of Ford's poetry. “Whence does it derive that resistless power, which " all confess, of afflicting, I had almost said harassing, “ the better feelings? It is not from any peculiar beauty “ of language ; for in this he is equalled by his contem
poraries ; and, by some of them, surpassed; nor is it