1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Marston

Thomas Campbell, in Specimens of the British Poets (1819; 1845) 127.



This writer was the antagonist of Jonson in the drama, and the rival of Bishop Hall in satire, though confessedly inferior to them both in their respective walks of poetry. While none of his biographers seem to know any thing about him Mr. Gifford (in his Memoirs of Ben Jonson) conceives that Wood has unconsciously noticed him as a gentleman of Coventry, who married Mary, the daughter of the Rev. W. Wilkes, chaplain to King James, and rector of St. Martin, in Wiltshire. According to this notice, our poet died at London, in 1634, and was buried in the church belonging to the Temple. These particulars agree with what Jonson said to Drummond respecting this dramatic opponent of his, in his conversation at Hawthornden, viz. that Marston wrote his father-in-law's preachings, and his father-in-law Marston's comedies. Marston's comedies are somewhat dull; and it is not difficult to conceive a witty sermon of those days, when puns were scattered from the pulpit, to have been as lively as an indifferent comedy. Marston is the Crispinus of Jonson's Poetaster, where he is treated somewhat less contemptuously than his companion Demetrius, (Dekker;) an allusion is even made to the respectability of his birth. Both he and Dekker were afterwards reconciled to Jonson; but Marston's reconcilement, though he dedicated his Malcontent to his propitiated enemy, seems to have been subject to relapses. It is amusing to find Langbaine descanting on the chaste purity of Marston as a writer and the author of the Biographia Dramatica transcribing the compliment immediately before the enumeration of his plays, which are stuffed with obscenity. To this disgraceful characteristic of Marston an allusion is made in The Return from Parnassus, where it is said,

Give him plain naked words stript from their shirts,
That might beseem plain-dealing Aretine.