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graceful and delightful were rapidly ascending in the scale of power.
Of what nature Ford's chief employment at the Temple was, we have no means of ascertaining. That he was not called to the bar may be fairly surmised, as he never makes the slightest allusicn to his pleadings; and his anxious disavowals to his several patrons of permitting his dramatic labours to encroach upon his proper business would almost lead to a conclusion that he acted as a kind of auditor, or comptroller for the landed property of the nobility, and managed the pecuniary concerns of their estates, for which his knowledge of the law afforded facility on the one side, and security on the other.
Of his social habits there is little can be told with certainty. There is sufficient, however, to show that he lived, if not familiarly, yet friendly, with the dramatic writers of his day, and neither provoked nor felt personal enmities. He speaks, indeed, of opposition: but this is merely the language of the stage-opposition is experienced by every dramatic writer worth criticism, and has nothing in common with ordinary hostility. In truth, with the exception of an allusion to the “ voluminous" and rancorous Prynne, nothing can be more general than his complaints. Yet Ford looked not much to the brighter side of life: he could, like Jaques, “suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs ;" but he was unable, like this wonderful creation of our great poet, to extract mirth from it. When he touched a lighter string, the tones, though pleasingly modulated, were still sedate ; and it must, we think, be admitted that his poetry is rather
that of a placid and serene than of a happy mind; he was, in truth, an amiable ascetic amid a busy world.
No village anecdotes are told of him, as of his countryman Herrick, nor do any memorials of his private life remain. The troubles which followed, and the confusion which frequently took place in the parish registers in consequence of the intrusion of ministers little interested in local topics have flung a veil of obscurity over much of the domestic history of that turbulent and disastrous period. In these troubles the retreat of the Fords is known to have largely shared; and it is more than probable that the family suffered under the Usurpation. The neighbourhood was distinguished for its loyalty; and many of the fugitives who escaped from the field after the overthrow of Lord Wentworth, at Bovey-Tracy, by Cromwell, unfortunately for the village, took refuge in Ilsington church, whither they were pursued and again driven to flight by the victorious army.
There is no appearance of Ford's being married at the period of his retirement from the Temple, as none of his dedications or addresses make the slightest allusion to any circumstance of a domestic nature; but there is—or rather was—an indistinct tradition among his neighbours, that he married and had children. A person of our poet's character and fortune could not, indeed, have had far to seek for a worthy partner, and with such a one it is pleasing to hope that he spent the residue of his blameless and honourable life.
The LovER's MELANcholy.] This piece, the author tells us, was “the first of his that ever courted reader.” It was licensed by Sir Henry Herbert in 1628, and brought out on the 24th of November in that year. In 1629 it was given to the press, accompanied (as the manner was) by several recommendatory poems. “The Lover's Melancholy” seems to have been favourably received. A slight analysis of the plot will, without too much forestalling that pleasure which the reader's own conjectures and anticipations might furnish, enable him more easily to encounter those difficulties which are not unfrequently to be met with in Ford's dialogue, some of them owing to the defective state of the MSS., but more originating in the author's very peculiar style of composition.
Meleander, a noble statesman of Cyprus, was the father of two daughters, Eroclea and Cleophila. A marriage between the former of these and his son, Palador, had been projected by the reigning prince of Cyprus; the appearance, however, of the beautiful Eroclea at court awoke less friendly designs in the heart of the monarch, and it was found necessary to steal away and convey to a distant country the object of his violent passion. A deep melancholy seizes on Palador at the loss of his intended bride ; while the still more unfortunate Meleander, accused of treason and stripped of his honours, becomes bereft of reason, and remains a prisoner to his castle, under the care of his other daughter, the tender-hearted and faithful Cleophila. The author of all this mischief shortly after dies; but, at the time the drama commences, no intelligence had been heard of the lovely creature whom his unhallowed desires had made a fugitive and a wanderer. The play opens with the return of Menaphon, a nephew of Meleander and a son of Sophronos, his successor in office, from his travels. These had been undertaken with the view of “disburthening himself of the discontents” which the haughty conduct of his mistress, Thamasta, a cousin of the prince, Palador, had occasioned him ; and with that ill success which too often attends such attempts to heal a wounded mind.