« PreviousContinue »
two casts of performances ; Genest adds others of 1760, 1774, and 17911; and, finally, Charles Lamb reviewed what I think was probably the last production, in 1819.2 Further evidence of Brome's popularity in the eighteenth century may be seen in the numerous reprints of the two last-mentioned plays in the Bibliography.
But the public interest in a few of the plays did not create much interest in the author, for I find but few personal references to Brome after his death. One allusion occurs in Choyce Drollery (1656), in a satirical piece called on the Time Poets, written in imitation of Suckling's Session of the Poets. The poem begins,
One night the great Apollo pleased with Ben,
and continues with allusions to Shakespeare, May, and others, and satiric hits at Chapman, Dabourn, Ford, etc., and finally has :
Sent by Ben Jonson, as some authors say,
This old pun, which we have met with often enough already, seems to have been a hardy perennial, for an eighteenth-century satirist remarks of William Broome, Pope's collaborator in the Odyssey :
Pope came off clean with Homer, but they say
In 1660, the third edition of Sir Richard Baker's Chronicle of England appeared, with an added account of the reign of Charles I. Here we find the next reference to Brome, in a list of poets of the age 1 : 'Poetry was never more resplendent, nor never more graced ; wherein Johnson, Sylvester, Shakespere, Beaumont, Fletcher, Shirley, Broom, Massinger, Cartwrite, Randolph, Cleaveland,Quarles, Carew, Davenant, and Sucklin, not only far excelled their own Countrymen, but the whole world beside.'
i Genest 3. 591-593 ; 6. 148 ; 7. 67.
2 Lamb's Works, ed. E. V. Lucas, 1. 186. The production, he says, was a revival after seven years.
Nine years later, Edward Phillips added to the seventeenth edition of Thesaurus V. Buchleri of 1669, a treatise on English poets, called Tractatus de Carmine Dramatico Poetarum etc. In this, after mentioning Shakespeare, Jonson, and Fletcher, the greatest poets of the age, he continues : Ante hos in hoc genere Poeseos apud nos eminuit Nemo. Pauci quidem antea scripserunt, at parum foeliciter ; hos autem tanquam duces itineris plurimi saltem æmulati sunt, inter quos præter Sherleium (proximum a supra memorato Triumviratu), Sucklingium, Randolphium, Davenantium et Carturitium. enumerandi veniunt Ric. Bromeus, Tho. Heivodus, etc.'
References like these last two are scarcely worth noticing, but they show, at least, with what names Brome's was associated. The omission of other contemporaries is significant. Another reference of the same sort is the inclusion of Brome in the catalogue of plays for sale by the publisher, Francis Kirkman. He appended this to John Dancer's Translation of Nicomede, 1670. The added title runs : Together with an exact catalogue of all the English Stage Plays printed till this present year, 1671. In the Advertisement to the Reader (p. 16), Kirkman says 3 : ' First, I begin with Skakespeare, who hath in all written forty-eight. Then Beaumont and Fletcher fifty-two, Johnson fifty, Shirley thirty-eight, Heywood twenty-five,
1 Shakespeare Allusion-Book, New Shak. Soc. (1909) 2. 86. 2 Ibid. 2. 160.
8 Ibid. 2. 117.
Middleton and Rowley twenty-seven, Massinger sixteen, Chapman seventeen, Brome seventeen, and D'Avenant fourteen ; so that these ten have written in all, 304.'1 I have not been able to find a copy of this list, but I suppose Kirkman includes, beside the fifteen plays wholly by Brome, the Lancashire Witches and the Royal Exchange, which is merely the Queen's Exchange (printed 1657), with a new title-page (printed 1661).
The first criticism of Brome appears in Edward Phillips' later work, Theatrum Poetarum, 1675. He says: • Richard Brome, a servant to Ben Jonson ; a Servant suitable to such a Master, and who, what with his faithful service and the sympathy of his genius, was thought worthy his particular commendation in Verse ; whatever instructions he might have from his Master Johnson, he certainly by his own natural parts improved to a great heighth, and at last became not many parasangues inferior to him in fame by divers noted Comedies.' After giving an incomplete list, Phillips commends especially the Northern Lass, Jovial Crew, and the Sparagus Garden.
Winstanley's Lives of the Most Famous English Poets (1687) adds nothing to Phillips' criticism, but Langbaine's Account of the English Dramatic Poets (Oxford, 1691) gives us the first real discussion of the dramatist, and adds many facts about the plays. His criticisin is : 'In imitation of his master Mr. Johnson, he studied Men and Humors more than books ; and his genius affecting comedy, his province was more observation than study. His plots were his own, and he forged all his various Characters from the mint of his own experience, and judgment. 'T is not therefore to be expected, that I should be able to trace him, who was so excellent an
1 A similar list, very detailed, but inaccurate, is appended to Thomas Whincop's Scanderbeg, London, 1747.
2 P. 157.
imitator of his master, that he might truly pass for an original.'
The reputation of Brome since the seventeenth century has been lower, and except for the extravagant estimate of Swinburne, the interest in him has become historic rather than intrinsic.2
i Fortnightly (1892) 57. 504.
2 An engraved portrait of Brome by T. Cross precedes the titlepage of Five New Plays, 1653. The verses under it by Alexander Brome declare it to be very lifelike. This portrait is reproduced in Pearson's reprint of 1873, in Garnett and Gosse's Hist. Eng. Lit. (1903) 3. 9, and in Lamb's Specimens of the English Dramatic Poets (Dent and Co., 1903) 2. 246.
CHRONOLOGY OF BROME'S PLAYS
This chronology is merely a condensation of that given in Fleay's Biographical Chronicle. In the main Fleay is right, but I have inserted an interrogation point after the dates that I think he has decided upon with insufficient evidence. The dates unmarked are unquestionably correct. Plays enclosed in parentheses are not extant. Facts enclosed in brackets are given solely on Fleay's authority. All others are from title-pages, the Herbert office-book, or the Stationers' Register.