« PreviousContinue »
After a dedication to Alexander Radcliffe, Baiensis Miles, come two and a half pages omnibus et singulis, and then the Argument. Being in a learned language, we may venture to notice it, as giving the plot of the comedy, and a specimen of the Latinity." Cornelius ex nimiâ licentia suâ ægrè se habens, et jam morti (nec minus quám omnes expectant) appropinquans è grabato se paululum sublevans, omnes dehortatur ab iis lenociniis, quibus ipse in adultâ ætate indulserat: meretricias artes et earum astutias apertè narrat. Cornelius in extremis positus, à Peregrino Neapolitano, præter omnem spem, pristinæ incolumitati restituitur. Suadet interim Neapolitanum, ut eum pro mortuo daret; qud fama ipsius mortis per totum oppidum increbesceret : et eo hoc facit, qud emeritam altionem caperet de iis pellicibus et latrunculis, qui tantam sibi injuriam intulissent: Quod quidem (nec sine magno periculo) præstat : Sepeliri enim se mandat, uno cum ingenti thesauri mole: Quem eâdem nocte quâ ipse sepultus est, Lurcanio et Latrunculus, duo egregii latrones, uno cum consilio et consensu meretricum, effractis sacrarii portis, eruere et eripere quærunt. Removentur saxa, reseratur cista, in quâ positus est Cornelius : quâ reclusa, et se super pedes erigente Cornelio, tanto metu perculsi sunt, at sacris ædibus relictis, dementes excurrunt; eâque dementiâ correpti, insolentius se gerunt, donec communi voto et voce, ne eorum rabies aliis etiam vim inferret, Fatuano, vulgo Bedlam, sunt traditi; et pellices, quæ consciæ consules erant facti, Plagiario, vulgò Bridewell, sunt mandatæ. Residuum temporis fructuosè expendit Cornelius, multum distribuens æris publicis Gymnasiis.”
Valetudinarium was written by William Johnson, a fellow of Queen's College, where it was acted, February the sixth 1637. The scene lies at Bartholomew's Hospital, London. There is a copy of this play in Queen's, St. John's, Emmanuel, and the University Libraries. The Emmanuel copy formerly belonged to Archbishop Sancroft. The copy in the University Library contains the stage directions, and thus opens : "after the prologue is spoken, let there be a great cry without of ignis, ignis
, incendium, incendium, which done, let Mimulus enter with a bucket.” A rhyming Latin song, without any merit, at the end of the fourth act, is set to music.
Upon the tenth of February 1638, Naufragium Joculare was performed at Trinity College ; written by Cowley, before he had taken his B.A. degree: Dr. Johnson censures this composition, for being written without due attention to the ancient models, and, indeed, justly; for, it is certainly the very worst of the Latin plays we have read, and mere prose. It was printed first in 12mo, 1631, with a Latin dedication in verse, to Dr. Comber, Dean of Carlisle, and head of his College ; a second edition was inserted in the collection of his works, published in three volumes, 8vo., in 1712. As it is not our intention at any future period to notice this work particularly, for, in reality, it is not worth the trouble, having neither the facility of a popular, nor the accuracy of a learned work, it may be dismissed with a few words. The author of the Poetical Decameron* thinks, very ingeniously, that Cowley took the idea of his play from Junius's book, called The Drunkard's Character, or å true Drunkard with such sins as raign in him," wherein is this passage; “ And have you not heard what Athenæus relates, how a tavern was, by the fancy and imagination of a drunken crew, turned into a gally; who having a tempest in their heads, caused by a sea of drinke within, verily thought this tap-house on land, a pinnace at sea; and the present storm so vehement, that they unladed the ship, throwing the goods out at window, instead of overboard, calling the constable Neptune, and the officers Tritons; whereupon some got under the tables, as if they lay under hatches, another holding a great pot for the mast; all crying out, that so many brave gentlemen should be cast away.” Or, if Cowley did not draw his plot from this book, he might, with more probability, as the same author conjectures, take it from Heywood's play of the English Traveller, printed five years before either, in which the scene described by Athenæus is humorously brought upon the stage. (See Retros. Rev. vol. xi.)
Upon March the 12th, 1641, Prince Charles passed through Cambridge, on his way to York, when he was entertained by the representation of Paria, written by Thomas Vincent, and by the Guardian, a second play, written by Cowley, before he was Master of Arts, and performed like his former one at Trinity College. The author of the Guardian says, “ it was but rough-drawn by him, yet it was acted with good approbation.”
Being printed during his absence from his country, he considered it as injurious to his reputation, and, accordingly, upon his return, he changed it almost entirely, and brought it before the public, under the new title of the Cutter of Coleman Street. Though he, at considerable length, in the preface, vindicates the character of it from the aspersions of disloyalty, the play was condemned on the stage, and whatever power of fixing attention and exciting merriment it may possess, it seems now almost entirely to be forgotten. The minute reader will find some interesting information concerning this play, in Dr. Johnson's life of the author; but as it relates entirely to it under its latter title, in which form it was not represented before the University, it does not come within the limits of this article.
JE may now reasonably be asked, why these performances by Masters of Arts and Students were discontinued? This question cannot be positively answered, since no University record, now existing, expressly prohibits them. This change is to be explained by political events. Our latest was in 1641,* the civil war broke out in the ensuing year, and, as is usual in times of general calamity, all public diversions and recreations were laid aside. By an ordinance of September the second, 1642, it was declared, that, “ whereas public sports do not well agree with public calamities, por public stage-plays with the seasons of humiliation; this being an exercise of sad and pious solemnity; the other being spectacles of pleasure, too commonly expressing lascivious mirth and levity; it is, therefore, declared, that while these sad causes, and set times of humiliation continue, public stage-plays shall cease and be forborne ; instead of which, are recommended to the people of this land, the profitable duties of repentance, and making their peace with God.”+ This ordinance caused, without a doubt, the complete suppression of the Academic theatricals : if any one should think otherwise, they must confess, that they were entirely abolished by the year 1647, when a more severe law was passed, “ that all actors in plays for time to come, being convicted, shall be publicly whipped ; and all spectators of plays, for every offence are to pay five shillings.” But the state of the University, during these seven years of tumult and bloodshed, did not admit of its accustomed amusements : when three hundred soldiers of the parliamentary army were quartered in St. John's College, and all the plate of that and other societies lent to relieve the distresses of the king, the few students who remained would be little likely, and from the loyalty many of them evinced, little disposed, to promote their former amusements. The temper, indeed, of the faction was completely changed : a few years before, it presented every where a scene of profligacy and vicious pleasure. But now came in fashion a form of godliness, which, through the means of puritans, precisians, and presbyterians, and under the mask of religion,
The fact of Adelphe having been performed in 1662, does not militate against this opinion, taking it generally; though one play should have been performed after a lapse of twenty years, we well know that no other was, until the year 1747, when Christopher Smart's comedy of the Grateful Fair was represented at Pembroke College. Cowley's Guardian was the last play following its precursors in regular order, and according to established custom, and may, therefore, be considered the last that was publicly represented.
+ Rushworth's Collections, v. i. p. iii. p. 1.
worked a complete reformation in public manners. It is to these causes, strengthened by the circumstance of our not knowing any play dated after the year 1641, that we say, with the civil war, the public performance of Latin and English plays ceased in the University of Cambridge.
Art. II.-Two Choice and Useful Treatises: the one, Lur Orientalis;
or, an Inquiry into the Opinion of the Eastern Sages, concerning the Pre-existence of Souls, being a Key to Unlock the Grand Mysteries of Providence, in relation to Man's Sin and Misery. The other, a Discourse of Truth, by the late Reverend Dr. Rush, Lord Bishop of Dromore, in Ireland: with Annotations on them both. London, 1682.
In the common Biographical Dictionary, to which alone we have present reference, the first of these works is not enumerated among the writings of its author, the well known Saducismus Triumphatus Glanvill
. It is not, indeed, deserving of particular notice for any extraordinary merit of its own; but, in connection with his other works, becomes curious, as a further evidence of the excursive imagination of the writer, whom not even orthodoxy, and preferment, could keep altogether quiet and confiding. Glanvill was a clergyman of the church by law established; that is to say; a rigid calvinist and zealous republican, proud of being chaplain to old Francis Rouse, one of Cromwell's Lords, until the Restoration satisfied him of his error, when he was re-ordained, got a vicarage and a rectory, and the appointment of chaplain to the king. In the opinions of a church so established, and backing its other influential reasons by such self-evident merits, we have no doubt he had a most relying faith; he was assuredly an obedient servant, bowing to all its decisions, and conforming to all its directions ; but the delight, and almost gratitude, of his mind was refining and speculating upon every thing not so pre-determined and established; and the nearer it approached to, without touching upon, interdicted subjects, the more it satisfied and delighted him. He begins the preface to this work, by observing, “It is none of the least commendable indulgencies of our church, that she allows a latitude of judging in points of speculation;" neither could it have been in the eyes of a man, whose whole intellectual existence was passed in speculation. Glanvill delighted to conjure up" unreal mockeries,” and to contend with these shadowy nothings to feed and pamper his imagination, until the only realities, to him, were unreal,- the incomprehensible, the only thing he could understand. Though, in some things, and at a very humble distance, not unlike Sir Thomas Brown, they differed in this, that as the pia mater of the one was not stretched with what he justly and expressively calls “wingy mysteries,” the pia mater of the other was blown up, by such vapours to the consistency of a rapidly ascending balloon. Yet, with all his follies, Glanvill was one that early and strenuously opposed the exclusive authority of Aristotle and the schoolmen, and the then revived artificial and merely logical philosophy; was an early member of the Royal Society; and, indirectly, an encourager of sound reasoning and rational learning. The truth we suspect to have been, that a faith in Aristotle was not one of the thirty-nine articles; and logical precision was not convenient to so excursive and “errant” a genius. More conclusive reasons were, indeed, assigned by an enemy, namely, that he could not construe the one, and did not understand the other : but, as“ honest Antony Wood,” who reports it, assures us the man was much given to slander, we treat the opinion as libellous, though Wood himself, who professes to have known Glanvill, makes no other mention of his learning than that he was “a great master of the English language, expressing himself therein with easy fluency, and in à manly, yet, withal, a smooth style."
Glanvill was certainly born“ an age too late,” or many ages too soon. He was, we believe, a quietist,--a mystic,-a disciple of the great Dr. Henry More, " the profound restorer and refiner of almost extinct Platonism,”-a pre-existant,one of the last educated men who wrote in favour of demonology and witchcraft. As we do not quite comprehend the utility of these abstruse speculations, we shall not presume to offer an opinion on them, lest we should come under the censure passed, in the preface to the last mentioned and most celebrated of his works, on such "narrow and confined spirits, who account all discourses needless that are not for their particular purposes, and judge all the world to be of the size and genius of those within the circle of their knowledge and acquaintance; so that, with a pert and pragmatick insolence, they censure all the braver designs and notices that lie beyond their ken, as nice and impertinent speculations : an ignorant and proud injustice ;-hence it comes to pass, that the greatest and worthiest things that are written, or said, do always meet with the most general neglect and scorn; since the lesser people, for whom they were not intended, are quick to shoot their bolt, and to condemn what they do not understand, and because they do not.”