Page images
PDF
EPUB

shewed them wherefore he sent for them, as how he had found his son in this default, for the which he said his intent was to put him to death, as he had well deserved. Then all the people answered to that case with one voice, and said, “Sir, saving your grace, we will not that Gaston should die ; he is your heir, and ye have no more.' And when the count heard the people, how they desired for his son, he somewhat refrained his ire. Then he thought to chastise him in prison a month or two, and then to send him on some voyage for two or three years, till he might somewhat forget his evil will, and that the child might be of greater age and of more knowledge.

" Then he gave leave to all the people to depart; but they of Foix would not depart from Orthes till the count should assure them that Gaston should not die ; they loved the child so well. Then the count promised them, but he said he would keep him in prison a certain time to chastise him; and so upon this promise every man departed, and Gaston abode still in prison.

“These tidings spread abroad into divers places, and at that time Pope Gregory the Eleventh was at Avignon. Then he sent the Cardinal of Amiens in legation into Bierne, to have come to the Count of Foix for that business. And by that time he came to Beziers, he heard such tidings that he needed not to go any further for that matter ; for there he heard how Gaston, son of the Count of Foix, was dead. Since I have showed you so much, now I shall show you how he died.

“The Count of Foix caused his son to be kept in a dark chamber, in the town of Orthes, a ten days ; little did he eat or drink, yet he had enough brought him every day, but when he saw it he would go therefrom, and set little thereby. And some said that all the meat that had been brought him stood whole and entire the day of his death, wherefore it was great marvel that he lived so long, for divers reasons. The count caused him to be kept in the chamber alone, without any company, either to counsel or comfort him; and all that season the child lay in his clothes as he came in, and he argued in himself, and was full of melancholy, and cursed the time that ever he was born and engendered, to come to such an end.

"The same day that he died, they that served him of meat and drink, when they came to him, they said, 'Gaston, here is meat for you ;' he made no care thereof and said, 'Set it down there.' He that served him regarded and saw in the prison all the meat stand whole as it had been brought him before, and so departed and closed the chamber-door, and went to the count and said, “Sir, for God's sake have mercy on your son, Gaston, for he is near famished in prison ; there he lieth. I think he never did eat any thing since he came into prison, for I have seen there this day all that ever I brought him before, lying together in a corner.' Of these words the count was sore displeased ; and without any word speaking, went out of his chamber, and came to the prison where his son was, and in an evil hour. He had the same time a little knife in his hand to pare withal his nails. He opened the prison door and came to his son, and had the little knife in his hand, and in great displeasure he thrust his hand to his son's throat, and the point of the knife a little entered into his throat, into a certain vein, and said, 'Ah, traitor! why dost not thou eat thy meat ?' And therewith the count departed without any more doing or saying, and went into his own chamber. The child was abashed, and afraid of the coming of his father, and also was feeble of fasting, and the point of the knife a little entered into a vein of his throat, and so he fell down suddenly and died. The count was scarcely in his chamber, but the keeper of the child came to him, and said,

Sir, Gaston, your son, is dead!' Dead ?' quoth the count. Yea, truly, Sir, answered he. The count would not believe it, but sent thither a squire that was by him, and he went, and came again, and said, 'Sir, surely he is dead.' Then the count was sore displeased and made great complaint for his son, and said, 'Ah,

teab on and

Gaston ! what a poor adventure is this for thee, and for me! In an evil hour thou wentest to Navarre to see thy mother; I shall never have the joy that I had before!' Then the count caused his barber to shave him, and clothed himself in black, and all his house, and with much sore weeping the child was borne to the Friars in Orthes, and there buried.

* Thus, as I have showed you, the Count of Foix slew Gaston, his son ; but the King of Navarre gave the occasion of his death."

3.-OLD DRAMATIC POETS.

SCENES FROM THE CITY MADAM.

MASSINGER. [PHILIP MASSINGER, one of the most illustrious of the successors of Shakspere, was born at Salisbury, in 1584. His father was in the household of the Earl of Pembroke. He was probably sent to college by the earl: but the favour of the great man appears to have been withdrawn from him in his mature years. He became a writer for the stage, and there is distinct evidence that his genius scarcely gave him bread. His dramas, which have been collected by Gifford, in four volumes, are of unequal merit; but of some the dramatic power, the characterization, the poetry, and the exhibition of manners, are of the very highest order. Massinger died in 1640.

In selecting a few scenes from The City Madam,' we endeavour to connect them with the plot, and with each other, by very slight links.]

SCENE I. Sir John Frugal is a city merchant; his wife and two daughters of extravagant habits and boundless pride. Luke is brother to Sir John Frugal-a dependant on his bounty, having spent all his own substance. Lady Frugal and her daughters are first shown as treating Luke with unmitigated scorn and tyranny :

Lady Frugal. Very good, Sir,
Were you drunk last night, that you could rise no sooner,
With humble diligence, to do what my daughters
And women did command you ?

Luke. Drunk, an't please you !

L. Frugal. Drunk, I said, sirrah ! dar'st thou, in a look,
Repine, or grumble? Thou unthankful wretch,
Did our charity redeem thee out of prison,
(Thy patrimony spent,) ragged, and lousy,
When the sheriff's basket, and his broken meat
Were your festival-exceedings! and is this
So soon forgotten?

Luke. I confess I am
Your creature, madam.

L. Frugal. And good reason why
You should continue so.

Anne. Who did new clothe you?
Mary. Admitted you to the dining-room?

Milliscent (Lady Frugal's maid). Allow'd you
A fresh bed in the garret ?

L. Frugal. Or from whom
Received you spending money?

Luke. I owe all this
To your goodness, madam; for it you have my prayers,
The beggar's satisfaction: all my studies
(Forgetting what I was, but with all duty
Remembering what I am) are now to please you.
And if in my long stay I have offended,
I ask your pardon ; though you may consider,
Being forced to fetch these from the Old Exchange,
These from the Tower, and these from Westminster,
I could not come much sooner.

SCENE II. Lord Lacy is a nobleman who is desirous that his son should marry one of the rich merchant's daughters. His deportment to Luke is a contrast to the vulgar insolence of Lady Frugal and her daughters :-

Lord Lacy. Your hand, Master Luke: the world's much changed

with you
Within these few months; then you were the gallant:
No meeting at the horse-race, cocking, hunting,
Shooting, or bowling, at which Master Luke
Was not a principal gamester, and companion
For the nobility.

Luke. I have paid dear
For those follies, my good lord; and 'tis but justice
That such as soar above their pitch and will not
Be warn’d by my example, should, like me,
Share in the miseries that wait upon it.
Your honour, in your charity, may do well
Not to upbraid me with those weaknesses,
Too late repented.

L. Lasy. I nor do, nor will;
And you shall find I'll lend a helping hand
To raise your fortunes: how deals your brother with you ?

Luke. Beyond my merit, I thank his goodness for 't.
I am a free man ; all my debts discharged;
Nor does one creditor, undone by me,
Curse my loose riots. I have meat and clothes,
Time to ask Heaven remission for what's past;
Cares of the world by me are laid aside,
My present poverty's a blessing to me;
And though I have been long, I dare not say
I ever lived till now.

SCENE III. The extravagance and pride of The City Madam' and her daughters, who have rejected the suit of two honourable men in the wantonness of their ambition, determine Sir John Frugal, in concert with Lord Lacy, to give out that he has retired into a monastery, and has left all his riches to his brother. Luke soliloquises upon his greatness :

Luke. 'Twas no fantastic object, but a truth,
A real truth; nor dream: I did not slumber,

And could wake over with a brooding eye
To gaze upon't! it did endure the touch;
I saw and felt it! Yet what I beheld
And handled oft, did so transcend belief
(My wonder and astonishment pass'd o'er,)
I faintly could give credit to my senses.
Thou dumb magician-[Taking out a key]— that without a charm
Didst make my entrance easy, to possess
What wise men wish, and toil for! Hermes' moly,
Sibylla's golden bough the great elixir,
Imagined only by the alchymist,
Compared with thee are shadows--thou the substance,
And guardian of felicity! No marvel
My brother made thy place of rest his bosom,
Thou being the keeper of his heart, a mistress
To be hugg'd ever? In by-corners of
This sacred room, silver in bags, heap'd up
Like billets saw'd and ready for the fire,
Unworthy to hold fellowship with bright gold
That flow'd about the room, conceal'd itself.
There needs no artificial light; the splendour
Makes a perpetual day there, night and darkness
By that still-burning lamp for ever banish'd!
But when, guided by that, my eyes had made
Discovery of the caskets, and they open'd,
Each sparkling diamond, from itself, shot forth
A pyramid of flames, and, in the roof,
Fix'd it a glorious star, and made the place
Heaven's abstract, or epitome !---rubies, sapphires,
And ropes of orient pearl, these seen, I could not
But look on with contempt. And yet I found,
What weak credulity could have no faith in,
A treasure far exceeding these : here lay
A manor bound fast in a skin of parchment,
The wax continuing hard the acres melting;
Here a sure deed of gift for a market-town,
If not redeem'd this day, which is not in
The unthrift's power; there being scarce one shiro
In Wales or England, where my monies are not
Lent out at usury, the certain hook
To draw in more. I am sublimed! gross earth
Supports me not; I walk on air.

SCENE IV. Luke, who, in his abasement, was all gentleness and humility, treats his brother's debtors with the most wanton harshness; and degrades his sister-in-law and nieces to the condition of menials. The ladies appear before him, clothed in the coarsest weeds :

Luke. Save you, sister!
I now dare style you so: you were before
Too glorious to be look'd on, now you appear
Like a city matron; and my pretty nieces

Such things as were born and bred there. Why should you ape
The fashions of court-ladics, whose high titles
And pedigrees of long descent, give warrant
For their superfluous bravery? "twas monstrous:
Till now you ne'er look'd lovely.

L. Frugal. Is this spoken
In scorn?

Luke. Fie! no; with judgment. I make good
My promise, and now show you like yourselves,
In your own natural shapes; and stand resolved
You shall continue so.

L. Frugal. It is confess'd, sir.
Luke. Sir! sirrah: use your old phrase, I can bear it.

L. Frugal. That, if you please, forgotten, we acknowledge
We have deserv'd ill from you; yet despair not,
Though we are at your disposure, you'll maintain us
Like your brother's wife and daughters.

Luke. 'Tis my purpose.
L. Frugal. And not made us ridiculous.

Luke. Admired rather,
As fair examples for our proud city dames,
And their proud brood to imitate. Do not frown;
If you do, I laugh and glory that I have
The power, in you, to scourge a general vice,
And rise up a new satirist: but hear gently,
And in a gentle phrase I'll reprehend
Your late disguised deformity, and cry up
This decency and neatness, with the advantage
You shall receive by 't.

L. Frugal. We are bound to hear you.

Luke. With a soul inclined to learn. Your father was
An honest country farmer, goodman Humble,
By his neighbours ne'er callid master. Did your pride
Descend from him? but let that pass: your fortune,
Or rather your husband's industry, advanced you
To the rank of a merchant's wife. He made a knight,
And your sweet mistress-ship ladyfied, you wore
Satin on solemn days, a chain of gold,
A velvet hood, rich borders, and sometimes
A dainty miniver-cap, a silver pin,
Headed with a pearl worth three-pence, and thus far
You were privileged, and no man envied it;
It being for the city's honour that
There should be a distinction between
The wife of a patrician, and plebeian.

Milliscent. Pray you, leave preaching, or choose some other text;
Your rhetoric is too moving, for it makes
Your auditory weep.

Luke. Peace, chattering magpie!
I'll treat of you anon :-- but when the height
And dignity of London's blessings grew
Contemptible, and the name lady mayoross

« PreviousContinue »