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Copyright, 1894,






The most patient and persistent search into the lives of the old English dramatists is often but meagerly rewarded. Wide and perplexing gaps must be filled by the imagination, or, as it were, a fitting garment of fancy fashioned for the bare and broken skeleton of fact. Such is the case with John Ford. The dramatist was the second son of Thomas Ford, his mother being the sister of John Popham, Lord Chief Justice under James I. The Ford family was one of good standing in Devonshire, where, at Ilsington, John Ford was baptized on the 17th of April, 1586. What schooling he had was obtained in or near his native town. If he went to either of the great universities he could hardly have remained more than one or two terms, for he was enrolled as a memberof the Middle Temple in November, 1602. Popham had been appointed treasurer of this organization twenty years earlier, and it has been conjectured that he took an active interest in his young relative. A cousin and namesake had preceded the poet in London as a ■ member of Gray's Inn, and-between the two there appears to have existed an intimacy and affection almost brotherly. Though he retained his connection with the Temple, there is no evidence to show that Ford was ever called to the bar. In addressing his patrons, several of whom were men of rank, he not infrequently alludes to his determination not to allow his ambitions as a dramatist to interfere with his regular occupation. From this it is seen that he did not depend upon play-writing for support. It has been inferred that he looked after the legal interests of large landed estates, doubtless acting as advisor in matters requiring a knowledge of jurisprudence. A line in the prologue to the comedy, Fancies Chaste and Noble, has led some to conclude that at the time the play was produced the author was probably traveling upon the Continent, but there is no proof that he ever crossed the Channel. In regard to his retirement from London, and his death, nothing very satisfactory can be stated. It is commonly affirmed that he withdrew from the Temple in 1639, and that he then sought his native town, having amassed a considerable fortune, and thinking to pass the remainder of his life in quiet. According to one tradition he married and had children, but this is hardly to be credited. The troublous times which followed his withdrawal from the active world obscured much that otherwise would be clear. It is quite possible that Ford was in his grave before the oncoming of these evil days, but if he was not, the stress of events was sufficient to veil the close of his life, like that of many another, in oblivion.

Of the dramatist's personality almost nothing is known. Because his fancy led him to the choice of somber themes it has been assumed that he was of

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