1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Chapman

Thomas Campbell, in Specimens of the British Poets (1819; 1845) 130.



GEORGE CHAPMAN was born at Hitching-hill, in the country of Hereford, and studied at Oxford. From thence he repaired to London, and became the friend of Shakespeare, Spenser, Daniel, Marlowe, and other contemporary men of genius. He was patronized by Prince Henry, and Carr Earl of Somerset. The death of the one, and the disgrace of the other, must have injured his prospects; but he is supposed to have had some place at court, either under King James or his consort Anne. He lived to an advanced age; and, according to Wood, was a person of reverend aspect, religious, and temperate. Inigo Jones, with whom he lived on terms of intimate friendship, planned and erected a monument to his memory over his burial place, on the south side of St. Giles's church in the fields: but it was unfortunately destroyed with the ancient church.

Chapman seems to have been a favourite of his own times; and in a subsequent age, his version of Homer excited the raptures of Waller, and was diligently consulted by Pope. The latter speaks of its daring fire, though he owns that it is clouded by fustian. Webster, his fellow dramatist, praises his "full and heightened style," a character which he does not deserve in any favourable sense; for his diction is chiefly marked by barbarous ruggedness, false elevation, and extravagant metaphor. The drama owes him very little; his Bussey D'Ambois is a piece of frigid atrocity, and in the Widow's Tears, where his heroine Cynthia falls in love with a sentinel guarding the corps of her husband, whom she was bitterly lamenting, he has dramatized one of the most puerile and disgusting legends ever fabricated for the disparagement of female constancy.