Page images

deceased.” &c. an elegiac poem, in 4to. which he dedicated to the Countess, his widow. Why he

honour, and held a command in the fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada. His extraordinary merits did not escape the quick eye of Elizabeth, who gave him various tokens of her favour, and thus exposed him to the envy of Essex. In 1600, the Queen constituted him Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, when he repulsed the Spaniards with great bravery at Kinsale. In truth, the whole of his conduct with regard to that agitated country was meritorious in the highest degree, and as such fully acknowledged by her, as well as by James, who, on his accession, conferred on him the same important office, and very shortly afterwards (July, 1603,) made him a Knight of the Garter, and created him #arl of Devonshire. “Certainly,” says his secretary, Morrison, “ he was beautiful in his person as well as valiant, and learned as well as wise." And Camden styles him “a person famous for conduct, and so eminent in courage and learning, that, in these respects, he had no superior, and but few equals.” It is distressing to pursue his history. About two years after his prosperous career in Ireland, (Dec. 25, 1605,) he married Lady Rich, with whom, probably, he had never ceased to converse; and, by this one step, which, according to our notions, and, probably, his own, was calculated to repair, in some measure, the injury which the lady's character had sustained, ruined both her and himself. There is something in this which is not easily explained. While the Earl maintained an adulterous commerce with the lady, all went smoothly; but the instant he married her, he lost the protection of the Court, and the estimation of the public. “ The King,” says Sanderson, “was so much displeased thereat, as it broke the Earl's heart; for his Majesty told him that he had purchased a fair woman with a black soul.” Hearts are not always broken in the way supposed; but there was more than enough to depress the lofty spirit of this great Earl in the sudden blow given to his reputation. He died a few months after his marriage, “ soon and early," as Chamberlaine says, “ for his years (forty-three), but late enough for himself: and happy had he been if he had gone two or three years since, before the world was weary of him, or that he had left his scandal behind him.”

came forward in so inauspicious a cause, cannot now be known. He was a stranger to both par

Penelope, Countess of Devonshire, was the daughter of Walter, first Earl of Essex, and the beloved sister of Robert, the unfortunate favourite of Elizabeth, and the victim of her fears and jealousies. There was a family intimacy between the Devereuxes and the Mountjoys, which seems to have faci. litated the meetings of this beautiful young creature with Sir Charles Blount, and led, as in the usual mode, to a mutual attachment, and a promise of marriage. In those“ blessed days,” marriages among the great were not quite so easily managed as at present; the Queen regarded the state with a strange mixture of envy and spleen; and the accursed Court of Wards eternally troubled “ the current of true love." Lady Penelope was forced, with a heart full of affection for Mountjoy, into the arms of Lord Rich, a man whom she appears to have regarded with peculiar aversion. Thus far she was more sinned against than sinning ; but she seems to have thought her private engagement of a more binding character than her vow at the altar; and the usual consequences followed. After a few miserable years with Lord Rich, she deserted him partly or wholly, and renewed her connection with her first lover, to whom she bore several children.

There must have been something peculiar in this lady's case; perhaps the violence put upon her early affections wrought some pardon or pity for her; for she lost no caste, even under Elizabeth, and she was one of the first ladies selected by her council to proceed to Holyrood House, and conduct the wife of the new monarch to Whitehall. Her accomplishments were of the highest kind, and in every splendid and graceful measure she appears among the foremost. To Ann she made herself very agreeable, from her first introduction; and the Queen's partiality to her is noted with an evident tincture of displeasure by the high-born and high-spirited Lady Ann Clifford, at this period a young woman. It seems uncertain, whether Lady Rich was actually and legally divorced from her husband, or whether the separation took place in consequence of articles drawn up between themselves; but though Mountjoy returned from Ireland in 1603, he did not marry the Countess till two years afterwards, so that she appears as Lady ties; yet he appears to bewail the death of the Earl, as if it had been attended with some failure of professional hope to himself. “ Elegies” and “ Memorials” were sufficiently common at that period, and indeed long after it; but the authors stedfastly looked to the surviving heir, for pay or patronage, in return for their miserable dole of consolation; and our youthful poet sets out with affirming (and he deserves the fullest credit) that his Muse was unfeed. Be this as it may, it argued no little spirit in him to advocate an unpopular cause, and step forward in the sanguine expectation of stemming the current of general opinion : not to add, that the praise which he lavishes on the Earl of Essex could scarcely fail to be ill-received by the Lord Chief Justice, who was one of those commissioned by the Queen to inquire into the purport of the military assemblage at his house, was detained there by the troops during the crazy attempt of this ill-starred nobleman to raise an insurrection, and was finally a witness against him for the forcible detention

“ Fame's Memorial” adds little or nothing to the poet's personal history. It would seem, if we might venture to understand him literally, (for he takes especial pains to keep all but those familiarly acquainted with him in complete ignorance of his story,) that he had involved himself in some unsuccessful affair of love, while at home, with a young lady, whom he at one time calls Rich in the Masque of Blackness, and in the splendid procession from the Tower to Whitehall, where she walks, " by especial commandement," immediately after the Countess of Shrewsbury.

the cruel Lycia, and, at another, the cruel subtile Lycia. He wishes that she were less wise; and in truth she does exhibit no unfavourable symptom of good sense in “ confining her thoughts to elder merits," instead of “ solacing” her youthful admirer, who, at the period of first taking the infection into his eye, could not have reached his eighteenth year. Yet he owes something to this pursuit. He had evidently wooed the lady (herself a muse) in verse, and symptoms of wounded vanity occasionally appear at the inflexibility of this second Lyde, to whose obstinate ears he sang in vain: yet the attempt gave him some facility in composition; for though he evinces little of either taste or judgment, his lines flow smoothly, and it may be said of him, as it was of a greater personage,

He caught at love, and fill’d his arms with bays.

In consequence of the lady's blindness or obduracy, Ford declares his intention of “ travailing till some comfort reach his wretched heart forlorn.” This is merely a rhetorical flourish; for the travail which he contemplated, appears to be the labour and pains employed, to divert the current of his thoughts, on the “ lamentation for this great lord.”

He found, however, better resources against illrequited love, than “ perpetual lamentation” for one who was not unwillingly forgotten by his contemporaries, in the pursuit of the law, to which he prudently adhered; a circumstance which he never forgets, nor ever suffers his patrons to forget, as if he feared to pass with them more for a poet than a man of business. · But he had yet another resource. He had apparently contracted a strong and early passion for the Stage, to which he devoted most of his leisure hours; and, without prematurely grasping at a name, wrote, as the custom then was, in conjunction with the regular supporters of the minor theatres. That he published nothing, we are warranted to conclude from the assertion in the dedication to the “ Lover's Melancholy,” (given to the press in 1629,) that this was “ the first” (dramatic) “ piece of his that ever courted reader.But in the twenty-three years which had elapsed since the appearance of his Elegy, he had more than once courted the favour of the spectator,* and “ stood rubrick” with others in the title-page of several plays which have come down to us, and in more, perhaps, which remain to be discovered.

Of these joint-compositions two will be found in our second volume of Ford, the “Sun's Darling," and the “ Witch of Edmonton."

The first of these, in the composition of which Ford joined with Decker, is termed a “ Moral Masque.”—For a moral masque, however, it sets the main business of life sufficiently low : there is nothing in it worthy of a wise and good man; nothing, in short, beyond what one of the herd of Epicurus might desire-sensual pleasures and gross

* We have the authority of Singleton for the fact, who, in the lines prefixed to this very play, (the Lover's Melancholy,) says,

“ Nor seek I praise for thee, when thine own pen Hath forced a praise long since from knowing men."

« PreviousContinue »