1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Gerard Langbaine

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 19:509-10.



GERARD LANGBAINE, son of the preceding, was born in Oxford July 15, 1656; and after being educated in grammar-learning, was bound apprentice to a bookseller in St. Paul's church-yard, London. But he was soon called thence on the death of an elder brother, and entered a gentleman-commoner of University-college in 1672; where, as Wood informs us, he became idle, a great jockey, married, and spent a considerable part of his property; but afterwards restrained his folly, and lived some years a retired life, near Oxford, employing his time in researches into the history of dramatic poetry. His literature, Mr. Warton says, chiefly consisted in a knowledge of the novels and plays of various languages, and be was a constant and critical attendant of the play-houses for many years. Such a pursuit was at that time neither creditable nor profitable; and accordingly, in 1690 we find him glad to accept the place of yeoman beadle of arts, and soon after he was chosen esquire beadle of law, probably out of respect to his father's memory.

About this time, he published An Appendix to a catalogue of all the graduates in divinity, law, and physic, &c. written by R. Peers, superior beadle of arts and physic. Langbaine's appendix contains the names of all who proceeded from the 14th of June 1688, where Peers left off, to the 6th of August 1690. He did not survive this long, some disorder carrying him off in June 1692. But he is best known as the author of the Account of the English dramatic poets. His first attempt in this way was by a republication of a catalogue of plays collected originally by Kirkman, a London bookseller, and appended to Nicomede, a translation of a play from Corneille in 1671. This Langbaine followed in 1688 by Momus Triumphans, which appeared afterwards under the titles of A new Catalogue of English Plays, &c. The author at length digested his work anew, with great accessions and improvements, which he entitled An Account of the English Dramatic Poets, &c. Oxford, 1691, 8vo, reprinted by Gildon in 1699. Langbaine's own collection amounted, as he says, to "above 980 English plays and masques, besides drolls and interludes." The copy of his Account in the British Museum, with Oldys's MS notes, is well known to every student of dramatic history.