1691 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas D'Urfey

Gerard Langbaine, in Account of the English Dramatick Poets (1691) 179-85.



A Person now living, who was first bred to the Law, but left that rugged way, for the flowry Fields of Poetry. He is accounted by some for an Admirable Poet, but it is by those who are not acquainted much with Authors, and therefore are deceiv'd by Appearances, taking that for his own Wit, which he only borrows from Others: for Mr. Durfey like the Cuckow, makes it his business to suck other Birds Eggs. In my Opinion he is a much better Ballad-maker, than Play-wright: and those Comedies of his which are not borrow'd, are more ally'd to Farce, than the true Comedy of the Ancients. The Plays to which he lays claim, are Thirteen in Number; viz.

Banditti, or A Ladies Distress, a Comedy acted at the Theatre-Royal, printed in quarto Lond. 1686. This Play was affronted in the Acting by some who thought themselves Criticks, and others with Cat-calls, endeavour'd at once to stifle the Author's Profit, and Fame: which was the occasion, that through Revenge he dedicated it to a certain Knight under this Ironical Title. To the extream Witty and Judicious Gentleman, Sir Critick-Cat-call. The chief Plot of this Play is founded on a Romance, written by Don Francisco de las Coveras, call'd Don Fenise translated into English, in 8vo. See the History of Don Antonio, Book 4. p. 250. The design of Don Diego's turning Banditti, and joining with them to rob his supposed Father; resembles that of Pipperollo in Shirley's Play call'd The Sisters.

Common-wealth of Women, a Tragi-Comedy acted at the Theatre-Royal, by Their Majesties Servants, printed in quarto Lond. 1686. and dedicated to the truly Noble and illustrious Prince Christopher Duke of Albermarle. This Play is Fletcher's Sea-Voyage reviv'd, with the Alteration of some few Scenes; tho' what is either alter'd or added may be as easily discern'd from the Original, as Patches on a Coat from the main Piece.

Fond Husband, or The Plotting Sisters; a Comedy acted at his Royal Highness the Duke's Theatre, printed in quarto Lond. 1678. and dedicated to his Grace the Duke of Ormond. This is One of his best Comedies, and has been frequently acted with good Applause: tho' methinks the business of Sneak, Cordelia, and Sir Roger Petulant, end but abruptly.

Fool turn'd Critick, a Comedy acted at the Theatre-Royal by His Majesties Servants, and printed in quarto Lond. 1678. The Prologue to this Play is the same with that of Mr. Anthony, and was I suppose borrow'd from thence. The Characters of Old Wine-love, Tim, and Small-wit, resemble those of Simo, Asotus, and Balio in the Jealous Lovers.

Fools Preferment, or The Three Dukes of Dunstable, a Comedy acted at the Queens Theatre in Dorset-Garden by their Majesties Servants, with the Songs and Notes to them, Composed by Mr. Henry Purcel, printed in quarto Lond. 1688. and dedicated to the Honourable Charles Lord Morpeth, with this familiar Title, My Dear Lord, and subscrib'd like a Person of Quality, only with his Sir-name D'Urfey. Nor is his Epistle less presumptuous, where he arrogates to himself a Play, which was writ by another, and owns only a hint from an old Comedy of Fletcher's, when the whole Play is in a manner trascrib'd from the Noble Gentleman, abating the Scene that relates to Basset, which is borrow'd from a late translated Novel, call'd The Humours of Basset. As to part of the first Paragraph of his Dedication 'tis borrow'd from the translation of Horace's Tenth Satyr, by the Earl of Rochester: and any Man that understands French, and should read a Place he there quotes out of Montaigne, would be so far from taking him to be (as he stiles himself Nephew to the famous D'Urffee, the Author of the Excellent Astraea; that they would rather think he understood not the Language, or was extreamly negligent, in suffering such Errata to go uncorrected. For my part, I should rather take him to be lineally descended from the Roman Celsus, whom Horace makes mention of in his Epistle to his Friend Julius Florus: at least I am sure the Character will fit our Author.

Quid mihi Celsus agit? monitus, multumque, monendus,
Privatas ut quaerat opes, & tangere vitet
Scripta, Palatinus quaecunque recepit Apollo:
Ne, si forte suas repetitum venerit olim
Grex avium plumas, moveat cornicula risum,
Furtivis nudata coloribus.—

Injur'd Princess, or The fatal Wager, a Tragi-Comedy acted at the Theatre-Royal by His Majesties Servants, printed in quarto Lond. 1682. The Design and the Language of this Play is borrow'd from a Play call'd the Tragedy of Cymbeline. In this Play he is not content with robbing Shakespear, but tops upon the Audience an old Epilogue to the Fool turn'd Critick, for a new Prologue to this Play. So that what Mr. Clifford said of Mr. Dryden, is more justly applicable to our Author, "That he is a strange unconscionable Thief, that is not content to steal from others, but robbs his poor wretched Self too."

Madam Fickle, or The Witty false One, a Comedy acted at his Royal Highness the Duke's Theatre, printed in quarto Lond. 1677. and dedicated to his Grace the Duke of Ormond. This Play is patcht up from several other Comedies, as the Character of Sir Arthur Old Love, is borrow'd from Veterano in the Antiquary; Zechiel's creeping into the Tavern Bush, and Tilbury Drunk in the Street under it, with a Torch, Act 5. Sc. 2. is borrow'd from Sir Reverence Lamard, and Pimp-well in the Walks of Islington and Hogsden. There are other Hints likewise borrow'd from the Fawn: so that the Author did well to prefix that Verse of Horace before his Play,

Non cuivis Homini contingit adire Corinthum,

plainly implying, that he could not write a Play without stealing.

Royalist, a Comedy acted at the Duke's Theatre, and printed in quarto Lond. 1682. This Comedy was well receiv'd on the Stage, but patcht up from Novels, as the former from Plays. Witness the Tryals which Camilla put upon her Husband Sir Oliver Old-cut, for the Love of Sir Charles King-love; which the Author borrow'd from Boccace, Day 7. Nov. 9. Les Contes de M. de la Fontaine pag. 47. and other Hints. Nay our Author who sets up himself for Madrigals, has stoln the Song of Hey Boys up go We, &c. in the fourth Act, from The Shepherds Oracle, an Eclogue printed in quarto Lond. 1644.

Siege of Memphis, or The Ambitious Queen, a Tragedy acted at the Theatre-Royal, printed in quarto Lond. 1676. This Play is writ in Heroick Verse, and dedicated to the Truly Generous Henry Chivers Esq; who shew'd himself truly such, in defending a Play so full of Bombast, and Fustian. There goes more to the making of a Poet, than capping Verses, or taging Rimes, 'tis not enough "concludere versum," as Horace calls it, but a Poet must be such a One,

Ingenium cui sit, cui mens divinior, atque os
Magna sonaturum, des nominis hujus honorem.

I would therefore advise all these Poetasters in the words of a Modern Prologue [author's note: Prol. to Atheist];

Rimesters, get Wit e're ye pretend to shew it,
Nor think a game at Crambo makes a Poet.

Squire Old-sap, or The Night Adventurers, a Comedy acted at his Royal Highness the Duke's Theatre, printed in quarto Lond. 1679. This Comedy is very much beholding to Romances for several Incidents; as the Character of Squire Old-sap, and Pimpo's tying him to a Tree, Act 1. is borrow'd from the begining of the Romance call'd the Comical History of Francion. Trick-love's cheating Old-sap with the Bell, and Pimpo's standing in Henry's place, Act 4. Sc. 3. is borrow'd from Boccace's Novels, Day 7. Nov. 8. The same is related in Les Contes de M. de la Fontaine in the Story intituled La Gageure des trois Commeres Tom. 1. pag. 47. Trick-love's contrivance with Welford, to have Old-sap beaten in her Habit, Act 4. Sc. the last, is borrow'd from Boccace Day 7. Nov. 7. tho' the same is an incident in other Plays, as in Fletcher's Women Pleas'd, London Cuckolds, &c. There are other passages borrow'd likewise, which I purposely omit to repeat.

Sir Barnaby Whig, or No Wit like a Womans, a Comedy acted by their Majesties Servants at the Theatre-Royal, printed in quarto Lond. 1681. and dedicated to the Right Honourable George Earl of Berkley. This Play is founded on a Novel of Monsieur S. Bremond, call'd The Double Cuckold; and the part of the Humor of Captain Porpuss is borrow'd from a Play called The Fine Companion.

Trick for Trick, or The Debauch'd Hypocrite, a Comedy acted at the Theatre-Royal by his Majesties Servants, printed in quarto Lond. 1678. This Play is only Fletcher's Monsieur Thomas reviv'd: tho' scarce at all acknowledg'd by our Author.

Virtuous Wife, or Good luck at last; a Comedy acted at the Dukes Theatre by His Royal Highness his Servants, printed 4to. Lond. 1680. This Comedy is one of the most entertaining of his; tho' there are many little hints borrow'd from other Comedies, as particularly the Fawn; and the Humor of Beaufort, is copy'd from Palamede, in Marriage A-la-mode.

Besides these Plays, he has written several Songs, which (if I mistake not) were collected into one entire Vol. and printed 8vo. Lond. 1682. But I wou'd not have him ascribe all his Songs, any more than his Plays, to his own Genius, or Imagination; since he is equally beholding for some of them to other Mens pains; Witness the above-mention'd Song in the Royalist, And didst thou not promise me when thou ligst by me, &c. He has writ besides other pieces, as Butler's Ghost, printed 8vo. Lond. 1682. Poems, 8vo. Lond. 1690. Collin's Walk, 8vo. Lond. 1690. &c.