1691 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Bankes

Gerard Langbaine, in Account of the English Dramatick Poets (1691) 7-9.



A Person now living, and if I mistake not, a Member of the Honourable Society of New Inn: One whose Genius to Poetry led him to make several Attempts on the Stage, with different success: but of whom I may say with justice, that if he be not accounted a Poet of the first form, yet he bears up with his Contemporaries of the second. His Genius lays wholly to Tragedy; and he has had the Fortune to please the fair Sex in the Earl of Essex, and Anna Bullen. He has five Plays in print, of which in their Alphabetical Order.

Destruction of Troy, a Tragedy, acted at his Royal Highness the Duke's Theatre, printed in quarto Lond. 1679. and dedicated to the Right Honourable the Lady Katherine Roos. If this Play fall short of Shakspear's Troilus and Cressida, at least it surpasses Heywood's Iron Age; and how unkind soever the Criticks were to it, I believe they have seen worse Tragedies on the Stage. Various are the Authors that have toucht on this subject, as Homer, Virgil, Ovid, &c. but none more fully than Dares Phrygius, and Dictis Cretensis: though Learned Men suppose those pieces we have under their Names, to be spurious: yet Natalis Comes has turned Dares into Latin Verse: and our Countryman Lydgate into old English Meetre.

Island Queens, or The Death of Mary Queen of Scotland, a Tragedy: published only in defence of the Author and the Play, against some mistaken Censures occasioned by its being prohibited the Stage, printed in Quarto Lond. 1684. and dedicated to the Illustrious Princess, Mary Dutchess of Norfolk. Most Historians of those Times have written her Story, as well Forreigners, as our own: See Buchanan, Speed, in the Reign of Q. Elizabeth, Camden, Du chesne, Brantome's Memoirs, Causin's Holy Court. Nay even Writers of Romances have thought her Story an ornament to their Work; witness the Princess Cloria, where part 2. her Story is succinctly related, and she pourtrayed under the title of Minerva Queen of Mysta.

Rival Kings, or The Loves of Oroondates and Statira; a Tragedy in Heroick Verse, acted at the Theatre-Royal; printed in quarto 1677. and dedicated to the Right Honourable the Lady Katherine Herbert. The Play is founded chiefly on Cassandra, a famed Romance in Fol. As to what concerns Alexander, I refer you to Curtius, and Justin.

Vertue betrayed, or Anna Bullen; a Tragedy, acted at his Royal Highness the Duke's Theatre; printed in quarto Lond. 1682. and dedicated to the Illustrious Princess Elizabeth Dutchess of Somerset. The Author has followed a little Novel translated from the French; and called The Novels of Elizabeth Queen of England, containing the History of Queen Ann Bullen. For the Story, most of our Chronicles relate it: See Speed's Chron. in the Reign of Hen. VIII. Ld. Herbert, Duchesne, Dr. Burnet's Hist. Reform Book the 2. &c.

Unhappy Favourite, or The Earl of Essex; a Tragedy, acted at the Theatre-Royal by their Majesties Servants; printed in quarto London 1682. and dedicated to the most High and most Illustrious Princess the Lady Ann, Daughter to his Royal-Highness (the present Princess of Denmark.) This Play was acted with good success: The Prologue and Epilogne were written by Mr. Dryden: and the play it self founded on a Novel called, The Secret History of the most Renowned Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex, printed in 12mo. Lond. 1680. For the true Story; see Cambden's Elizabeth, Speed, Duchesne, Stow, Baker, &c. in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. There have been two French Plays, one by Monsieur Calpranede; the other by the Younger Corneille; which I have read, and am of opinion, that the English play is not short of the French, notwithstanding the high commendations given it by the Mercury Gallant, January 1687.