1914 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Rowlands

Edmund Gosse, "Samuel Rowlands" in Seventeenth Century Studies (1914) 81-102.



In an age when the newly-awakened taste for letters had suddenly thrown open to men who could wield a pen every door that led to the arena of literary publicity, Samuel Rowlands made less effort than most of his contemporaries to gain the plaudits of the cultivated, or to secure the garland of lasting fame. His name appears in no list of honoured poets in his own generation; in the next, his writings found no editor, and his life no biographer. He comes down to us merely as a voluble pamphleteer, of whose numerous works some are altogether lost, and others, become nearly unique, are purchased by the curious at such prices for a single copy as the author never made by a whole edition. Of the minor masters of the Greek stage, of Ion or of Iophon, we have plentiful record, though their works are gone; but in the case of the lesser stars of the Elizabethan galaxy the work of oblivion has been reversed — we have their works, but not the record of their lives. In no case has history been more persistent in silence than when summoned to give us news of Samuel Rowlands. Of almost every other writer we have succeeded in discovering something; but of him nothing. We do not know when he was born, or when he died, whether he was a scholar of either university, whether he had taken orders, or whether he had married a wife. It is left to us, therefore, as to those who map the heavens, to draw an approximate outline of his life by the conjunction of those works or stars that form his constellation. They are very numerous, they extend over a period of thirty years, and they give some, but very slight, internal evidence of their author's personality.

In all probability Samuel Rowlands was born soon after 1570. We may roughly conjecture that 1573, the year that saw the birth of Donne and of Ben Jonson, saw his also. Should this be correct, he was from six to eighteen years younger than the five famous friends in whose steps he was to walk, with a gentler, tamer tread than theirs. When he was about ten years old, Lodge, Peele, and Greene began to write, and it was not long before Nash and Marlowe joined the company of the penners of love-pamphlets. These men, united rather by their boisterous friendship than any innate similarity of genius, were among the first professional men of letters in England. Lodge and Greene began as Euphuists at the feet of Lyly; they were drawn by the example of Nash into the practice of satire, and into the compilation of catchpenny pamphlets on passing events. They very quickly ran through their brief careers, and had already died or retired from public life before Rowlands began to write. But their influence had been immense; they had inaugurated a new epoch in popular literature; and though the main current of such writing proceeded to flow in the channel of the drama, they still counted their followers in the younger generation. Of these followers Rowlands, and fifteen years later Braithwait, were the most important, and to both of these authors, entirely neglected for more than two centuries, public interest has of late returned. That either the one or the other was a writer of much merit, or deserved in any strict sense the name of poet, may easily and safely be denied, but neither lacks that quality of force that renders an author worthy of more than mere antiquarian attention.

Like Drayton, and other secular poets of that age, Rowlands commenced his career with a volume of devotional pieces. The Betraying of Christ, which bore the more apt sub-title of Poems on the Passion, appeared in 1598, and went through two editions within that year. We have guessed the age of the author at twenty-five, and certainly the style of his verses gives us no sign of precocity or extreme youth. The poems are indeed remarkably smooth, with the even grace and monotonous polish of a writer to whom the art of verse presents no difficulties and contains no surprises. They are composed in an heroic stanza of six lines, rhyme royal with the fifth line omitted, and this form, one of the simplest that can be devised, remained a favourite with Rowlands until he ceased to publish.

But it was not with nerveless paraphrases of the New Testament that he was destined to catch the popular ear. In 1600 he produced two works which greatly extended his reputation, and made him, if not famous, at least widely notorious. The first of these, entitled A Merry Meeting, or 'Tis Merry when Knaves Meet, was successfully suppressed by the authorities, and has only come down to us in an expurgated edition of 1609. It was so offensive in its personality, so acrid in its satire, that it was ordered to be burned publicly, and in the Hall Kitchen of the Stationers' Company. A month later the poet hurried through the press another collection, The Letting of Humour's Blood in the Head Vein, and this has fortunately survived in at least four copies. It is a very creditable production, full of the animation of the time, with none of its pedantry, and a little of its genius. The greater part of the book is occupied with small satirical pieces, called Epigrams, describing, mainly in the six-line stanza, those fantastic figures of the day which the poets delighted to caricature. These are very well written, clear, pointed, and even, never rising to the incisive melody of a great poet, but never sinking below a fairly admirable level, while for the student of manners they abound in picturesque detail and realistic painting. The following lines from an address to the poet's contemporaries, stripped of their antique spelling, give a fair notion of the modern tone of the book, and its easy elegance:—

Will you stand spending your invention's treasure
To teach stage parrots speak for penny pleasure,
While you yourselves, like music-sounding lutes,
Fretted and strange, gain them their silken fruits?
Leave Cupid's cuts, women's face-flattering praise,
Love's subject grows too threadbare nowadays,
Change Venus' swans to write of Vulcan's geese,
And you shall merit golden pens apiece.

The dislike of the theatre here so strongly expressed continued to the last, and Rowlands seems never to have been tempted to try his skill in the lucrative field of the stage. It is not improbable that his facile pen and experience in the humours of low life would have enabled him to develop a comic talent which might have ranged between that of Dekker and that of Heywood; but he would have missed the tenderness of the former, and the flowery fancy of the latter. The end of the volume called The Letting of Humour's Blood is composed of satires in the Roman style, in heroic couplets. Here again Rowlands shows rather his quickness in seizing an idea than his faculty for originating one, since the trick of writing these pieces had been invented by Lodge in 1595, and had been imitated by Hall, Guilpin, and Marston before Rowlands adopted it. He is, however, in some respects the superior of these preceding writers. In all probability he was not, as they were, men of any classic learning, and he was seduced by no desire of emulating Persius into those harsh and involved constructions which make the satires of Donne and Marston the wonder of grammarians.

The early works of Rowlands gave promise of much greater attainment than their author ultimately achieved. His fourth book, 'Tis Merry when Gossips Meet, published in 1602, is an admirable piece of comedy, bright, fresh, and limpid, and composed in a style only too dangerously smooth and rapid. It opens with a fine tribute to Chaucer, "our famous reverend English Poet," and proceeds to give a valuable piece of contemporary manners in a conversation between a gentleman and a bookseller, in prose. The gentleman has no taste for new books; he prefers the old ones. He says, "Canst help me to all Greene's books in one volume? But I will have them every one, not any wanting." The modern book-hunter starts at the idea of a volume containing all Greene's works in the original quartos; even the bookseller of 1602 finds that he has some half-a-dozen lacking. Then the gentleman is urged to buy a book of Nash's, but he has it already; at last he is persuaded to buy the very poem to which this conversation is a preface, and we are interested to learn that he pays sixpence for it, less than one-thousandth part of the sum that would be asked to-day for a clean copy.

The poem is in Rowlands' usual six-line stanza, but it is singular among his works as being in a dramatic form. It is, in fact, a dialogue between a Widow, a Wife, a Maid, and a Vintner. The Widow meets the Wife, whom she has not seen for a long time, outside a tavern, and while they stand talking the Maid goes by. The Widow stops her, and vows that they must all three drink a glass together before they part. The Wife and the Maid object, but their objections are overruled by the boisterous joviality of the Widow, who drags them into the tavern. They are shown upstairs into a private room, and the Vintner brings them claret. Over their wine they discuss old times and their present fortunes in a very humorous and natural way. The Widow is a coarse, good-humoured woman, full of animal spirits, and still rebellious with the memory of her red-haired husband, who used her ill; the Wife, on the other handy praises her husband, an easy soul who lets her have her way; the Maid talks very little at first, but as she warms with the wine, she describes the sort of husband she means to have. Presently they finish the claret, and the Wife and the Maid wish to go, but the Widow will not hear of it, bidding the Vintner rather burn some sack and fry some sausages. Over this feast they linger a long while gossiping, till the Maid has burning cheeks and the Widow becomes indisputably drunk. She talks so broadly that the Vintner's boy laughs, and then she becomes extremely dignified, demanding an apology. In the end she patronises the Vintner, and makes him drink with them; and when at last her friends rise to go, she insists on paying the whole reckoning. It will be seen that the poem has no plot, and that the contents are very slight; but the workmanship is admirable, and the little realistic touches combine to form an interior as warm and full in colour as any painted by Brouwer or Ostade. It is one of the best studies of genre we possess in all Elizabethan literature. 'Tis Merry when Gossips Meet went through at least seven editions before the end of the century.

Simultaneously with this humorous poem, Rowlands published, in 1602, a collection of prose stories of smart cheating and cozening under the title of Greene's Ghost Haunting Coneycatchers, adopting this popular name to attract public notice. As a catcher of rabbits, or conies, trades upon the stupidity of his victims, so it was represented by the pamphleteers of the day that knaves took advantage of the credulity of simple citizens, and hence the popularity of a title that Greene had invented, but which found a score of imitators. Rowlands' tales are lively, but for us the main interest of the book centres in its preface and in its address to the reader, in which Rowlands comes forward distinctly as a pamphleteer, disclaiming any pretension to learning or an ambitious style. From this time forth he appears solely as a caterer for the frivolous and casual reader, and demands notice rather as a journalist than as an author. His little books are what we should now term social articles; they answer exactly to the "middles" of our best weekly newspapers.

Our curiosity is excited by the lapses in his composition, and we wonder how such a man subsisted in the intervals between the publication of his works. His familiarity with the book-trade, and his cunning way of adapting his titles and subjects to the exact taste of the moment, suggest that he may have found employment in one of the booksellers' shops. In this connection we turn in hope of confirmation to the imprints of his volumes, but in vain. He published with a great variety of booksellers, and rarely more than twice with the same. From 1600 to 1605 he was, however, in business with William White, in Pope's Head Alley, near the Exchange, and for ten years his tracts were sold by George Loftus, in Bishopsgate Street, near the Angel. As Loftus would seem to have succeeded White, or to have removed from his employment into a separate business, it is within the bounds of legitimate speculation to guess that Rowlands spent fifteen of his busiest years in the employment of these city booksellers.

In 1604 he published, under the sensational title of Look to It, or I'll Stab You, a fresh collection of satirical characters in verse, in form and substance precisely like the epigrams in his Letting of Humour's Blood. His style had by this time reached its highest refinement and purity, without the slightest trace of elevation. The character of the Curious Divine forms a good example of his fluent and prosaic verse:—

Divines, that are together by the ears,
Puffed up, high-minded, seedsmen of dissension,
Striking until Christ's seamless garment tears,
Making the Scripture follow your invention,
Neglecting that whereon the soul should feed,
Employed in that whereof souls have no need;

Curious in things you need not stir about,
Such as concern not matter of salvation,
Giving offence to them that are without,
Upon whose weakness you should have compassion,
Causing the good to grieve, the bad rejoice,—
Yet you, with Martha, make the worser choice,
I'll stab you!

From this time forward every year saw one, at least, of his facile productions. In 1605 it was Hell's Broke Loose, one of the poorest things he ever wrote, a mean kind of epic poem in his favourite six-line stanza, on the life and death of John of Leyden. In the same year he returned to his first love, and published A Theatre of Divine Recreation, a collection of religious poems, founded on the Old Testament. This book, which was in existence as late as 1812, has disappeared.

The best of all Rowlands' works, from a literary point of view, is the rarest also. A Terrible Battle between Time and Death exists only in a single copy, which has been bound in such away that the imprint and date are lost. There is little doubt, however, that the latter was 1606. The dedication is odd; Rowlands inscribes his book to a Mr. George Gaywood, whom he does not personally know, but who has shown more than fatherly kindness to a friend of the author's. We wonder if the "friend" may have been the author's wife, by a concealment not unprecedented in that age, and Mr. Gaywood her godfather or patron. At any rate, some singular chain of circumstances seems hinted at in this very cryptic dedication. The poem itself contains the best things that Rowlands has left behind him. It opens in a most solemn and noble strain, with a closer echo of the august music of the tragic Elizabethans than Rowlands attains anywhere else:—

Dread potent Monster, mighty from thy birth,
Giant of strength against all mortal power,
God's great Earl Marshal over all the earth,
Taking account of each man's dying hour,
Landlord of graves and tombs of marble stones,
Lord Treasurer of rotten dead men's bones.

Thus Time addresses Death, whom he has met wandering over the world on his dread mission. But Death cannot stay to talk with him; he has to mow down proud kings and tender women, gluttons and atheists and swaggering bullies, all who live without God, and take no thought of the morrow. Yet Time beguiles him to stay awhile, since, without Time, Death has no lawful right or power, and so they agree to converse together while half the sand runs through the hourglass of Time. Their conversation deals with the obvious moralities, the frivolity of man, the solemnity of eternity, the various modes in which persons of different casts of character meet the advent of death. The dialogue is dignified, even where it is most quaint, and the reader is reminded of the devotional poetry of a later time, sometimes of Herbert, more often of Quarles. But Rowlands has not the strength of wing needed for these moral flights; his poem becomes tedious and then grotesque. At the close of Time's pleasant conversation with Death, they fall out, and the latter, who prides himself on his personal beauty, is extremely disconcerted at the rudeness with which Time compares his arm and hand to a gardener's rake, and his head to a dry empty oil-jar. After these amenities the reader prepares for that "terrible bloody battle" promised on the title-page, but he is disappointed, for the pair make up their quarrel immediately, and proceed together to their mortuary labours.

The year 1607 was one of great literary activity with Rowlands. He published no fewer than three books, though, singularly enough, we possess the first edition of but one of these. A work of 1607, of which the first edition has been lost, is Doctor Merryman, a series of bright sallies in verse, describing and ridiculing the popular affectations or "humours" of the day. In this book a slight change of tone is apparent; the fun becomes broader, the style more liquid, and Rowlands reminds us of a writer the very opposite of an ordinary Elizabethan, namely, Peter Pindar, and sometimes of the younger Colman. That the smartness and voluble wit have not entirely evaporated yet accounts for the immense popularity enjoyed by such a work as this when it was new; yet such writing can hardly be admitted to a place in literature. Another humorous volume of 1607, Six London Gossips, has absolutely disappeared, and the only first edition of that prolific year which we still possess is Diogenes' Lanthorn. In 1591 Lodge had used the name of Diogenes for the title of a prose satire, and Rowlands' is but a feeble copy of that quaint and witty book. Lodge brings out the venom of Diogenes in a dialogue; Rowlands makes him soliloquise, and after his cynical monologue in the streets of Athens, abruptly drops his hero, and closes the volume with a series of fables, put into easy popular verse with his customary facility.

In The Famous History of Guy, Earl of Warwick, he showed very plainly the limitation of his powers. This poem, printed in 1608, as if in heroic couplets, but really in the six-line stanza, was spoken of by Mr. Utterson as a travesty, intended to bring chivalric literature into ridicule; but this was entirely a mistake. Nothing could be more serious than the twelve heavy cantos of Rowlands' tedious romance, which seems to have been written in imitation or emulation of Fairfax's Tasso, published a few years earlier.

The year 1608 also saw the publication of Humour's Looking-Glass, a collection precisely similar in character to The Letting of Humour's Blood. As before, we find no spark of poetic fancy, but plenty of rhetorical skill, a picturesque and direct style, and much descriptive verve. The boastful traveller was a frequent and favourite subject with the poets of Elizabeth; he was a product of their showy and grandiloquent age, and, while they laughed at his bravado, they were half inclined to like him for his impudence. But not one of them has drawn his portrait better than Rowlands has in Humour's Looking-Glass:—

Come, my brave Gallant, come, uncase, uncase!
Ne'er shall oblivion your great acts deface:
He has been there where never man came yet,
An unknown country, ay, I'll warrant it;
Whence he could ballast a good ship in hold
With rubies, sapphires, diamonds and gold,
Great orient pearls esteemed no more than notes,
Sold by the peck, as chandlers measure oats;
I marvel, then, we have no trade from thence?
"Oh! 'tis too far, it will not bear expense."
'Twere far, indeed, a good way from our main,
If charges eat up such excessive gain....

I heard him swear that he, — 'twas in his mirth,—
Had been in all the corners of the earth;
Let all his wonders be together stitched;
He threw the bar that great Alcides pitched;
Yet he that saw the Ocean's farthest strands,
You pose him if you ask where Dover stands.

It would be difficult to quote a more favourable example of Rowlands' versification, and there are couplets in this passage which Waller would not have disdained to use. The instances of such smoothness of heroic verse early in the century are commoner than has been supposed, although they were rarely sustained. This, as well as all other branches of the universal art of poetry, was understood by the great Elizabethan masters; and if they did not frequently employ it, it was because they left to such humbler writers as Rowlands an instrument incapable of those noble and audacious harmonies on which they chiefly prided themselves.

In 1609, unless I am wrong in my conjecture that the Whole Crew of Kind Gossips of that year was but a new edition of the Six London Gossips of 1607, Rowlands confined himself to the reprinting of several of his tracts, and to this fact we owe the possession of one or two of the earlier books already described. His first book of satires, which had been condemned to be burned in 1600, he now brought out anew, under the title of The Knave of Clubs, and as in this later form it contains nothing which could reasonably give offence, it is to be supposed that the peccant passages had been expunged. It is not a very clever performance, rather dull and ribald, and inferior in vivacity to the fables at the close of Diogenes' Lanthorn.

The Whole Crew of Kind Gossips is a fairly diverting description of six citizens' wives, who meet in council to denounce their husbands, the latter presently entering to address the public, and turn the tables on their wives. This humble sort of Ecclesiazusae has nothing very Aristophanic about it; it is, indeed, one of Rowlands' failures. Seldom has he secured a subject so well suited to his genius for low humour, and never has he more completely missed the point of the situation. The writing shows traces of rapid and careless composition, the speeches of the wives are wanting in variety and character, and those of the husbands are dragged on without rhyme or reason, unannounced and unexplained. The language, however, is admirably clear and modern. It is to be feared that our poet had fallen upon troublous days, for his works about this time are the merest catchpenny things, thrown off without care or self-respect. Martin Mark-all, his contribution to 1610, is an arrant piece of book-making. It professes to be an historical account of the rise and progress of roguery up to the reign of Henry VIII., as stated to the Bellman of London by the Beadle of Bridewell. It has this special interest to modern students, that it contains a very curious dictionary of canting terms, preceding by more than half a century that in the English Rogue. Moreover, buried in a great deal of trash, it includes some valuable biographical notes about famous highwaymen and thieves of the sixteenth century. It is entirely in prose, except some queer Gipsy songs. The wrath of Dekker, it is supposed, was roused by a charge of plagiarism brought against some author unknown in this book, and he appears to attack Rowlands in his Lanthorn and Candlelight. This very slight encounter is the only incident that associates Rowlands with any of his contemporaries, and even this might fairly be disputed on the ground of dates.

The success of the Knave of Clubs induced Rowlands to repeat his venture with the Knave of Hearts in 1612, and The Knaves of Spades and Diamonds in 1613. These works are in no way to be distinguished from those that preceded them; their author was perhaps growing a little coarser, a little heavier, but for the rest there is the same low and trivial view of life, the same easy satire, the same fluency and lucidity of language. The increasing heaviness of his style is still more plainly seen in his next work, A Fool's Bolt is soon Shot, though this is far from being the worst of his productions. In this volume, sure of a large body of readers, he disdains the artifice of a dedication, and simply inscribes his poem "To Rash judgment, Tom Fool and his fellows." It consists of a series of tales, in heroic verse, concerning the practical blunders of all sorts of foolish people, and these stories happen to be particularly rich in those personal details that make the works of Rowlands so valuable to antiquaries.

By far the best written and most important of his late works is the Melancholy Knight of 1615. The title-page of this pamphlet is adorned by a most curious woodcut, faithfully rendered in facsimile in the reprint of the Hunterian Club. This represents a gentleman, apparelled in the richest gala-dress of that period, with his hat pulled over his eyes, and his head deeply sunken in his capacious ruff of point-lace. His arms are folded before him, and he lounges on, lost in melancholy reverie. It is he who is supposed to indite the poems. He says:—

I have a melancholy skull,
That's almost fractured, 'tis so full!
To ease the same these lines I write
Tobacco, boy! a pipe! some light!

His reflections upon the follies and knaveries of the age, its vices, its affectations, and its impertinencies, are full of bright and delightful reading, but especially when it is found that the Knight is a bookworm, and spends his time in devouring old folio romances and chivalric tales "of ladies fair and lovely knights," like any Don Quixote; and most of all when he ventures to recite a very touching ballad of his own about Sir Eglamour and the Dragon. No doubt the fame of Cervantes' masterpiece, published just ten years before, had reached the English pamphleteer, and he had certainly seen The Knight of the Burning Pestle performed in 1611. Rowlands was never original, but he was very quick in adopting a new idea. In some of the descriptions of oddity in the Melancholy Knight he shows a greater richness in expression than in his early works. He had probably read the satires of Donne.

The remaining works of Rowlands need not detain us very long. In 1617 he published a poem called The Bride, but it is lost. In 1618 he brought out A Sacred Memory of the Miracles of Christ, remarkable only for the preface, in which he exhorts "all faithful Christians," with such confident unction as to suggest that he may possibly by this time have found a sphere for his energies within the Church of England. In the poems themselves there is nothing important; they present all the features of conventionality and effete piety which are to be met with in English poems on sacred narrative subjects before the days of Quarles. With The Night Raven, in 1620, and Good News and Bad News, in 1622, the long series of Rowlands' humoristic studies closes. These two books, exactly like one another in style, consist of the usual chain of stories, less ably told than before, but still occupied, as ever, with knavery and simplicity, the endless joke, now repeated to satiety, at the case with which dulness is gulled by roguery. According to all probable computation, Rowlands by this time was at least fifty years of age; and after producing this sort of homely poetry for more than a quarter of a century, he possibly found that the public he once addressed had abandoned him. At all events, Good News and Bad News is the last of his comic writings.

Six years later there appeared a little duodecimo volume of sacred verse and prose, entitled Heaven's Glory, Seek it; Earth's Vanity, Fly it; Hell's Horror, Fear it. Under this affected title a writer who signs himself Samuel Rowland issues a collection of sufficiently tedious homilies, interspersed with divine poems. That this book was written by Samuel Rowlands has been freely affirmed, and as freely denied; but I do not think that any doubt on the subject can remain on the mind of any one who carefully reads it. The prose pages, it is true, have all the dogged insipidity and absolute colourlessness of style which mark the minor theological literature of the seventeenth century, but the poems are not so undecipherable. They are printed in a delusive way, so as to seem to be in a short ballad metre; but they are really, in all cases, composed in that identical six-line stanza which Rowlands affected throughout his life. Nor is there more similarity to his authentic poems in the form than in the style of these religious pieces. There is precisely the same fluid versification, the same easy and sensible mediocrity, and the same want of elevation and originality. At the end of this hortatory work there is found a collection of Prayers for use in Godly Families, and appended to these latter a collection of poems entitled Common Calls, Cries and Sounds of the Bellman, consisting of religious posies and epigrams, very poorly written, but still distinctly recognisable as the work of Rowlands. I do not think there can be the slightest doubt that this miscellaneous volume is rightly included among his veritable works.

From this year (1628) he passes out of our sight, having kept the booksellers busily engaged for exactly thirty years. His books continued to find a sale for another half-century, and were reprinted at least as late as 1675. But they were considered as scarcely above the rank of chapbooks, and Rowlands is included among the English poets in not one of the lists of contemporary or former authors. In 1630 he wrote a few verses of congratulation to his loving friend John Taylor, the Water Poet, and in earlier life he had paid the same compliment to two still more obscure writers. In 1612, W. Parkes, of whom absolutely nothing is known, quoted a short poem by Rowlands in his Curtain-Drawer of the World. Such, and such alone, are the minute points of connection with his contemporaries which the most patient scholarship has succeeded in discovering, and they show a literary isolation which would be astounding in so fertile an author if we were not to consider the undignified and ephemeral nature of Rowlands' writings, which the passage of time has made interesting to us, but which to his cultivated contemporaries must have scarcely seemed to belong to literature at all.

In an age when newspapers were unknown and when poetry was still the favourite channel for popular thought, such pamphlets as those of Samuel Rowlands formed the chief intellectual pabulum of the apprentice and of his master's wife, of the city shopkeeper and of his less genteel customers. When we consider the class addressed, and the general license of those times, we shall be rather inclined to admire the reticence of the author than to blame his occasional coarseness. Rowlands is never immoral, he is rarely indecent; his attitude towards vice of all sorts is rather indifferent, and he assumes the judicial air of a satirist with small success. He has neither the integrity nor the savagery that is required to write satire; he neither indulges in the sensual rage of Donne, nor the clerical indignation of Hall; he is always too much amused at vice to be thoroughly angry with it. His favourite subject of contemplation is a sharper; to his essentially bourgeois mind nothing seems so irresistibly funny as the trick by which a shrewd rascal becomes possessed of the purse or the good name of an honest fool; and no doubt it was this that peculiarly endeared his muse to the apprentice and to the serving-maid.

As a purely literary figure Rowlands has little importance save what he owes to those details which were commonplace in his own time, but which are of antiquarian importance to us. Yet however accidental the merit may be, we cannot refuse to him the praise of having made the London of Shakespeare more vivid to us than almost any other author has done. In his earlier works, and especially in his 'Tis Merry when Gossips Meet, he has displayed the existence in him of a comic vein which he neglected to work, but which would have assured him a brilliant success if he had had the happy thought of writing for the stage. In comedy those bright and facile qualities of style which are wasted in the frivolous repetitions of his later tales and satires, might have ripened into a veritable dramatic talent. As it is, he is a kind of small non-political Defoe, a pamphleteer in verse whose talents were never put into exercise except when their possessor was pressed for means, and a poet of considerable talent without one spark or glimmer of genius. 1880.

In 1880 I had the privilege of editing for the first time the complete works of Rowlands, in three volumes, for the Hunterian Club. At that time my attention had not been drawn to a quarto pamphlet existing in a unique example in the library of Mr. Henry Huth. This was the poem of Ave Caesar: God Save the King, an address of welcome to James I., printed in 1603, but not entered at Stationers' Hall. Although this tract is anonymous, I am convinced that it was written by Samuel Rowlands, and in 1888 the Hunterian Club was persuaded to issue a separate reprint of it. There is inserted in the text of the original an elegy on Queen Elizabeth, signed S. R., but the whole is obviously by the same hand. The poem was sold by George Loftus, whom we have seen to have acted as Rowlands' publisher at that date, and, in short, both internal and external evidence unite in pointing to his certain authorship.