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The fact that the Salisbury Court Theatre, in spite of Brome's failing to furnish his full quota of plays, made such a liberal offer for the renewal of the contract before the trouble that I have just discussed, indicates that the plays written under the first three-year arrangement must have been very successful. Among them are, if our chronology is correct, Queen and Concubine, Sparagus Garden, Mad Couple well Matched, English Moor, and Damoiselle. As the lost play, Wit in a Madness, was entered in the Stationers Register March 19, 1639/40, along with the Sparagus Garden and the Antipodes, it is possibly of the same period of composition. Two other lost plays, Christianetta and Jewish Gentleman, entered the same year, admit of no conjecture as to the date of composition.
Some of the plays just mentioned as written for the Revels Company at Salisbury Court must have passed to the Queen’s Company when it absorbed the Revels in 1637, just before the expiration of Brome's first contract. The history of the transference of plays at this time is extremely confusing and doubtful. Two of the plays went to Beeston's Boys after they were organizedthe Mad Couplel and the Antipodes. All the plays of this period were first produced at Salisbury Court.
The only extant plays that were written for Beeston's Boys seem to be the Court Begger (c. 1640) 3 and the Jovial Crew 4 (1641). We may presume that, during the three years he was with this company before the elosing of the theatres in 1642, he wrote other plays that have been since lost.
1 J. T. Murray, op. cit. 1. 369.
3 Not 1632, as the title-page states. Fleay (Biog. Chron. 1. 40) is undoubtedly right in this correction.
4 Fleay (ibid.) says it was acted by their Majesties' servants.' He may mean the King and Queen's Young Company, the official title of Beeston's Boys, who were the only company at the Cockpit from 1637-1642.
We have one more glimpse of him during this period, when we find him editing, apparently as a labor of love,1 the first edition of Fletcher's Monsieur Thomas, which appeared in quarto in 1639, with a dedication to Charles Cotton.
Between the time that Brome was deprived of the opportunity to pursue his calling by the downfall of things theatrical in 1642 and his death about 1652, we have but three references to him. One is his long poem in praise of Fletcher, which appeared among the verses of admirers in the folio of Beaumont and Fletcher's works in 1647. Two years later he contributed to the Lachrymæ Musarum, a collection of elegies in memory of Henry, Lord Hastings, and in all probability was the R. B.? who edited the volume. Other contributors to this volume were the Earl of Westmorland, Lord Falkland, Sir Aston Cokayne, Charles Cotton, Herrick, Denham, Marvell, Alexander Brome, J. Bancroft, and the young Dryden, who here appeared in print for the first time.
In 1652 Brome published the very popular Jovial Crew, undoubtedly his best play. The dedication to Thomas Stanley shows that the old dramatist had fallen on evil days. He says fortune has made him a beggar, but he is 'poor and proud.' 'You know, Sir, I am old, and cannot cringe, nor Court with the powder'd and ribbanded Wits of our daies. ... The Times conspire to make us all Beggers.' If forty shillings were still the price of a dedication,3 Brome must have found other means of
See Dedication and Prefatory Verses. ? A break in the pagination and an added note show that Brome's verses were to be placed last, as the volume was originally planned. See Grolier Club Catalogue, and Corser.
8 Field, A Woman is a Weathercock, Dedication (1612); see also below, p. 24.
livelihood at this period of his misfortune and decline. In the above mentioned dedication he hints at favors from his patron. This may suggest possible aid. His condition must have been much the same as that mentioned in the Actor's Remonstrancel (1643): ‘For some of our ablest ordinary Poets instead of their annuall stipends and beneficiall second-dayes, being for meere necessitie compelled to get a living by writing contemptible penny pamphlets in which they have not so much as poeticall license to use any attribute of their profession but that of Quidlibet audendi ? and faining miraculous stories and relations of unheard of battels.'
The publication of the Jovial Crew is the last we hear of Brome during his lifetime. The following year, 1653, Alexander Brome, who edited Five New Plays, says in his preface : 'for the Author bid me tell you that, now that he is dead, he is of Falstaffs minde, and cares not for Honour. We may therefore place the date of his death as 1652 or 1653. The same editor, who brought out five more plays in 1659, refers with some pathos to the poverty in which he died:
He was his own Executor, and made
Beside these facts about Brome's career proper, a number of hints in regard to his literary relationships are furnished by prefaces and commendatory verses, which the imaginative student will find to supply bases for
1 Ed. Hazlitt, 264.
indefinite conjecture. This, I fear, is rather shaky ground, for the littérateur of the sevententh century, I fancy, often responded to the request for prefatory verses in much the same manner as one might subscribe to worthy charities which bore one. Many of the hundred odd gentlemen who acceded to Tom Coryat's request for verses to print before his Crudities were the merest acquaintances, who did not scruple to take any opportunity to make fun of Coryat and his curious work for twentyfive years after. Such verses, therefore, seem to me rather slight evidence of friendship. However, some of the contributions to the publications of Brome during his lifetime, and immediately after, may, taken with other facts, lead us to a few conclusions.
Besides Jonson, the most important of the older generation of literary men with whom Brome had relations was Dekker. His verses before the Northern Lass (1632), sufficiently uninteresting in themselves, are addressed 'to my Sonne Broom and his Lasse,' and begin :
Which, then of Both shall I commend ?
Langbaine's remark1 that Brome was a friend of Dekker, and ' always stil'd him by the title of Father,' was probably based on these very verses. But we have a much stronger evidence of some connection between the two men in the fact that Brome shows the influence of Dekker's work to a certain degree. This will be taken up under the consideration of Brome as a dramatist. The friendship of Brome with two mutual enemies like Jonson and Dekker need not be wondered at, for the War of the Theatres, which happened in 1601,
1 Account of the Eng. Dram. Poets (1691), p. 121.
was so far forgotten in 1604 that Jonson was then collaborating with Marston, with whom he had been quite as much at odds as with Dekker.
That Brome was well acquainted with Fletcher is evident from his lines to Fletcher's memory in the folio of 1647. After a long and humorously humble introduction on the subject of how he dares appear in the company of the great, he says of Fletcher :
You that have known him, know
Besides these verses, the editorship of Monsieur Thomas, already mentioned, substantiates the existence of a friendship between the two men.
John Ford, in his verses before the Northern Lass, calls himself 'The Author's very Friend,' and there is a possibility that Brome found a few suggestions in Ford's work. The author of these verses, however, may have been the John Ford of Gray's Inn, a cousin of the dramatist, to whom Tatham, Brome's friend, dedicated a book. But the fact that the dramatist contributed to Jonsonus Virbius shows that he was a friend of Jonson, and thus makes the chances about even either way.
With Heywood I find no indication of any relation, for the plays registered as by Brome and Heywood are doubt
1 In Eastward Hoe. 2 Beaumont and Fletcher, Works 1. lxv.