1662 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Fletcher

Thomas Fuller, in History of the Worthies of England (1662) 2:288-89.



JOHN FLETCHER, son of Richard Fletcher, D.D. was (as by proportion of time is collectable) born in this County [Northamptonshire], before his Father was Bishop of Bristol or London, and whilst as yet he was Dean of Peterborough. He had an excellent wit, which the back-friends to Stage plays will say was neither idle, nor well imploy'd. For he and Francis Beaumont Esquire, like Castor and Pollux (most happy when in conjunction) raised the English to equal the Athenian and Roman Theatre; Beaumont bringing the ballast of judgment, Fletcher the sail of phantasie; both compounding a Poet to admiration.

Meeting once in a Tavern, to contrive the rude draft of a Tragedy, Fletcher undertook to kill the King therein, whose words being over-heard by a listener (though his Loyalty not to be blamed therein) he was accused of High Treason, till the mistake soon appearing, that the plot was onely against a Drammatick and Scenical King, all wound off in merriment.

Nor could it be laid to Fletcher's charge, what Ajax doth to Ulysses,

Nihil hic Diomede remoto.
When Diomede was gone,
He could do nought alone.

For surviving his partner, he wrote good Comedies himself, though inferior to the former; and no wonder, if a single thread was not so strong as a twisted one. He died (as I am inform'd) in London of the plague in the first of King Charles, 1625.