1691 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Baron

Gerard Langbaine, in Account of the English Dramatick Poets (1691) 10-14.



This Author was a young Gentleman, bred first at Cambridge, and afterwards brought up in the worthy Society of Gray's-Inn: During his abode there, he writ a romance called The Cyprian Academy, printed octavo Lond. 1647. He dedicated it to the famous Traveler Mr. James Howel, in particular, and to the Ladies and Gentlewomen of England, in general. In his Romance, are included two Dramaticks, which Mr. Kirkman has inserted in his Catalogue, tho' they are not entire Tracts of themselves, nor of any signal Eminence; but since they have been mention'd in former Catalogues, I shall not omit them.

Deorum Dona, a Masque presented before Flaminius and Clorinda, King and Queen of Cyprus, at their Regal Palace in Nicosia. Part of this piece is borrow'd from Mr. Waller's Poem to the King on his Navy.

Gripus and Hegio, or The Passionate Lovers; a Pastoral, acted by the Lady Julio's Servants, for the Entertainment of Flaminius. This Play consists but of three Acts, and is borrow'd very much from Waller's Poems, and Webster's Dutchess of Malfy; which is excusable only on the account of the Author's Youth, he being but 17 Years of age, when he compos'd that Romance, which was the reason that it was so highly commended by twelve Copies of Verses writ by his Friends, and printed with his Book.

Mirza, a Tragedy, really acted in Persia, in the last Age: Illustrated with Historical Annotations, printed octavo Lond. — and dedicated to his Majesty, by a Copy of Verses. This Play is much beyond either of the former, and has the repute of a good Play. It is commended by five Copies of Verses, written by the Author's Cambridge-Friends. On this very Subject, the famous Denham, had before writ a Play called The Sophy, "Tho' our Author had finished three compleat Acts of this Tragedy, before he saw that; nor was he then discouraged, seeing the most Ingenious Author of that, has made his seem quite another Story from this." Mr. Baron has follow'd not only the Honourable Sr. Thomas Herbert's printed Account in his Travels, but likewise made use of a Manuscript Letter, which Sr. Dodmore Cotton, (Embassador to Abbas King of Persia, from King Charles the First in the Year 1626.) sent to a Friend of his in Cambridge, according to which Letter, he prosecuted the Story throughout.

The Author seems to have propos'd for his pattern the famous Catiline, writ by Ben Johnson: and has in several places not only hit the model of his Scenes: but even imitated the Language tolerably, for a young Writer. Whoever pleases to compare the Ghost of Emirhamze-mirza, with that of Scilla, may easily see his Imitation, but that being too long to transcribe, I shall set down the first words of Catiline, in that admirable Play; and afterwards those of Abbas, and then submit my opinion to my Reader's judgment.

Catiline, Act first.
It is decreed: Nor shall thy fate, O Rome
Resist my Vow. Though hills were set on hills,
And seas met seas, to guard thee; I would thro':
I'll plough up Rocks, steep as the Alpes, in dust:
And lave the Tyrhene waters into clouds;
But I would reach thy head, thy head, proud City.

Mirza, Act first.
The vow is made, nor shall thy flattering Fate,
O Mirza, contradict it; though thy Troops
Stood like a wall about thee, nay tho' Jove
Press all the gods to guard thee, and should arm
Them every one with thunder, I would through:
I'll tear the groundsells of thy Towers up;
And make their nodding Spires kiss the centre,
But I will reach thy heart, thy heart, proud Victor.

This is the first Author taken notice of, either by Mr. Phillips in his Theatrum Poetarum, or his Transcriber Mr. Winstanley, in his Lives of the English Poets: and though neither of them give any other Account of our Author, but what they collected from my former Catalogue printed 1680. yet through a mistake in the method of that Catalogue, they have ascrib'd many Anonymous Plays to the foregoing Writers, which belonged not to them: and thus have committed mistakes in almost all the Dramatick Writers they have handled. To give an Instance of this Author: they both ascribe to him Don Quixote, or The Knight of the ill-favoured Countenance, a Comedy; I know not whence they had their Intelligence: but I never heard or read any such Play, nor do I believe there is any other Book which bears that title, except the fam'd Romance, written by the admirable Pen of that famous Spanish Author, Miguel de Cervantes. They have likewise ascribed several other Dramatick Pieces to this Author, which I dare be confident, are not of his Writing; as Dick Scorner, Destruction of Jerusalem, Marriage of Wit and Science, Masques, and Interludes; and have omitted two other Pieces written by him, viz. Poems, octavo, and a Book intituled, An Apology for Paris. Neither do I believe Mr. Phillips's Account, that any of his Pieces appear'd on the Stage. I shall conclude all with the following Anagram, written by his Friend Mr. John Quarles, sometimes of St. Peter's College in Cambridge.

ROBERTUS BARONUS.
RARUS AB ORBE NOTUS.

Rarus, huad cuiquam peperit Natura secundum.
Notus es, & scriptis (Baron) ab orbe tuis.