1691 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Aston Cokayne

Gerard Langbaine, in Account of the English Dramatick Poets (1691) 67-71.



A Gentleman that in the Reign of K. Charles the Second, liv'd at Ashbourn, a Market-town in Darby-shire, (situate between the Rive Dove and Compton). He was of an Ancient Family, as Mr. Camden observes in the Entrance of his Description of Darby-shire. Not further Mr. John Cokain of Ruston (our Authors Kinsman and Cousin-German to the Lord Obrian Cokain, Viscount Cullen in Ireland) had an Ancient Evidence to prove that Sr. — Cokain their Predecessor was anciently allyed to King William the Conqueror, and in those days lived at Hemmingham-Castle in Essex. But whether our Author fetcht his Pedigree from so Ancient a Stock or no; certain it is, that he was well descended, and had a Liberal Education bestowed on him, being in his youth bred in Trinity College, in Cambridge, and when he was about Four and Twenty years of Age, he was sent to make a Journey though France and Italy, which he compleated in a Twelve-months space, An. 1632. an Account of which he has writ to his Son. He was very much addicted to Books, and the study of Poetry; spending most of his time in the Muses company. Amongst his other Poetical Productions, he has written Three Plays, and a Masque which are in print; of which take the following Account.

Masque presented at Bretbie in Darby-shire, on Twelfth-Night 1639. This Entertainment has hitherto been omitted in all former Catalogues, as I suppose through an Over-sight, it being but short, and printed in the body of the Author's Poems, amongst others of a different Nature. It was presented, (as I find upon perusal of it) before the Right Honourable Phillip the first Earl of Chesterfield, and his Countess, Two of their Sons acting in it. The diversion terminated in a Ball.

Obstinate Lady, a Comedy printed in octavo, Lond. 1658. This Play, with other Poems were left in the Custody of a Friend, at the Author's Removal from London, who dying, they were disperst into several Hands. One Mr. William Godbid, (a Bookseller as I suppose) got this Play into his Hands, and tho' he found it imperfect, the last Leaf being wanting, wherein were the Authors Conclusion and Epilogue: he procured some of his Acquaintance to supply that defect, and so printed it. And tho' this Comedy were very much of it writ in Number (as the Author calls it) he put it forth as if the most part of it were Prose. In this Edition you have that defect much amended, and the Authors own Conclusion, and Epilogue added. Sr. Aston's Obstinate Lady, seems to be Cousin-German to Massinger's Very Woman; as they that will compare Don John, Antonio, and Almira, with Carionil and Lucora in this Play, may easily perceive.

Ovid's Tragedy, printed in octavo Lond. 1669. This Play was printed since the rest of his Works, tho 'tis frequently bound with them. I know not why the Author gave this Play the Title of Ovid's Tragedy, except that he lays the Scene in Tomos, and brings him to fall down dead with grief at the News he received from Rome, in sight of the Audience: otherwise he has not much business on the Stage, and the Play ought rather to have taken the Name from Bassanes Jealousy, and the dismal effects thereof, the murther of his new Bride Clorina, and his Friend Pyrontus. But this is an Error which Beaumont and Fletcher have heretofore committed, (as Mr. Rimer has observ'd.) in the King and no King, and therefore the more excusable in our Author. The passage of Captain Hannibal's inviting the dead Carcass of Helvidius to Supper, is possibly borrow'd from the Italian Play called Il Atheisto Fulminato, to which Language our Author was no Stranger; and on which Foundation the Catastrophe of the Libertine is built.

Trapolin creduto Principe, or Trapolin suppos'd a Prince, an Italian Tragi-comedy, printed in octavo Lond. 1658. The Design of this Play, the Author borrow'd from One which he saw, or rather heard, twice Acted in Venice during his abode in that City; since he built this on that Foundation: So that as he pleads in his Prologue it is no Translation. This Play was reviv'd on our Stage since the King's Return, and a new Prologue writ by Duffet, printed in his Poems pag. 82. and has since that, been alter'd by Mr. Tate, and acted at the Theatre in Dorset-Garden 1685.

Mr. Philips and Mr. Winstanley have committed mistakes in this Author, having omitted the Tragedy of Ovid, and plac'd two anonymous Plays to him, which I dare be confident are none of his; viz. Thersites, and Tyranical Government. All his Poems being collected, and publisht together, in octavo Lond. 1669, by Mr. Kirkman, who knew Plays far better than either of these Authors.

Having given you this Account of his Plays, I am next to speak of his other Poems, and Pieces, but since the Author has reckon'd them up in Verse, in an Epigram directed to his Honoured Friend, Major William Warner, I shall transcribe his own Lines, which may inform the Reader of his Stile, as well as his Poems.

Plays, Eclogues, Songs, a Satyr I have writ,
A Remedy for those i' th amorous Fit,
Love Elegies, and Funeral Elegies,
Letters of things of divers Qualities,
Encomiastick Lines to Works of some,
A Masque, and an Epithalamium,
Two Books of Epigrams: All which I mean
Shall (in this Volume) come upon the Scene;
Some Divine Poems, which when first I came
To Cambridge I writ there, I need not name;
Of Dianea, neither my Translation,
Omitted here as of another Fashion.
For Heavens sake name no more you say, I cloy you,
I do obey you; Therefore (Friend) God b'wy you.