1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Francis Beaumont

Philip Bliss, Athenae Oxonienses (1815) 2:437-39.



FRANCIS BEAUMONT, the celebrated dramatic poet, notwithstanding Wood's caution not to admit him among the Oxford writers, claims a place in these ATHENAE. Although, in chronological correctness, he should have been noticed earlier, yet has been thought better to insert his name, (for no materials for his life exist,) immediately following his brother's, since, by these means, Wood's error is more easily pointed out and corrected.

He was the third son of judge Beaumont of Grace-Dieu, and brother to sir John Beaumont just noticed, with whom, and their elder brother Henry, he entered as a gentleman-commoner of Broadgate's hall, Feb. 4, 1596-97, aged twelve years. He left the university, probably after a very short residence, and without taking any degree, when he repaired to London and entered as a member of the Inner Temple. There appears no reason to suppose that he paid any attention to the study of the law; indeed his dramatic pursuits must have precluded the necessary application, and there can be little doubt but that his whole time, as well as his inclination, was devoted to the business of the stage.

Our author's literary partnership with Fletcher is too well known to require explanation in this place. On this subject, Aubrey, whose accounts are always curious and entertaining, and who has served so many interesting anecdotes of the celebrated characters of his day, says, "There was a wonderfull consimility of phansy between him and Mr. Jo. Fletcher, which caused that dearnesse of frendship between them. I have heard Dr. Jo. Earle (since bish. of Sarum) say, who knew them, that his maine businesse was to correct the overflowings of Mr. Fletcher's witt. They lived together on the Banke side, not far from the play house, both batchelors, lay together, had one wench in the house between them which they did so admire; the same cloaths and cloake, &c. between them. He writt (amongst many other) an admirable Elegie on the Countesse of Rutland, which is printed with verses before Sir Thomas Overburie's Characters. He was buryed at the entrance of St. Benedict's chapell, in Westminster abbey, March 9, 1615-16."

Little else is known of Beaumont than that he married Ursula, daughter and co-heir of Henry Isley of Sundridge in Kent, by whom he had two daughters. One of these, Frances, was living at a great age, in Leicestershire, in the year 1700, when she received a pension of 100 a year from the duke of Ormond, in whose family, it is reported, she had resided as a domestic.

Besides the numerous plays written in conjunction with Fletcher, our author wrote

Poems, London 1640, 1653, 1660, 8vo. Reprinted in Chalmers's body of English poetry, Lond. 1810, and in Weber's edition of the Works of Beaumont and Fletcher.

Salmacis and Hermaphroditus. From Ovid: In MS. in Dr. Rawlinson's collection, and printed in1602, 4to.

Vertue engraved a head of the dramatic poet, from an original picture in the possession of the duke of Dorset. This has been reduced and copied by Basire and Evans.

Beaumont's poems are all of considerable, some of them high, merit, but they are so ready of attainment in the modern editions, that the following extract only is given, to shew the sprightly style of his composition:

Flattering Hope! away, and leave me!
Shee'l not come, thou dost deceive me:
Hark! the cock crows — th' envious light
Chides away the silent night:
Yet she comes not! oh! how I tire
Betwixt cold fear and hot desire.

Here alone enforced to tarry,
While the tedious minutes marry
And get hours, those days and years,
Which I count with sighs and fears:
Yet she comes not — oh! how I tire
Betwixt cold fear and hot desire....

Come then, Love, prevent day's eyeing,
My desire would fain be dying:
Smother me with breathless kisses,
Let me dream no more of blisses,
But tell me, which is in Love's fire
Best, to enjoy or to desire.