Richard Flecknoe

Anonymous, in Cibber-Shiels, Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) 3:61-63.

This poet lived in the reign of King Charles II. and is more remarkable for having given name to a satire of Mr. Dryden's, than for all his own works. He is said to have been originally a jesuit, and to have had connexions in consequence thereof, with such persons of distinction in London as were of the Roman Catholic persuasion, Langbaine says, his acquaintance with the nobility was more than with the mules, and he had a greater propensity to rhiming, than genius to poetry.

Tho' he wrote several plays, yet he never could obtain the favour to have more than one of them acted.

His dramatic works are:

1. Damoiselles a-la-mode, a Comedy, printed 8vo, Lord. 1667, and addressed to the duke and duchess of Newcastle. This comedy was designed by the author to have been acted by his Majesty's servants, which they thought proper however to refuse, we know not for what reason. — The poet indeed has assigned one, whether true or false is immaterial but it may serve to shew his humour.

"For the acting this comedy (says he) those who have the government of the stage have their humours, and would be intreated; and I have mine, and won't entreat them; and were all dramatic writers of my mind, they should wear their old plays thread-bare, er'e they should have any new, till they better understood their own interest, and how to distinguish between good and bad?"

This anger of Mr. Flecknoe's at the players for refusing the piece, bears some resemblance to that of Bayes, when the players went to dinner without his leave. "How! are the players gone to dinner? If they are I will make them know what it is to injure a person who does them the honour to write for them, and all that; a company of proud, conceited, humorous, cross-grain'd persons, and all that; I'll make them the most contemptible, despicable, inconsiderable persons, and all that; &c. &c. &c."

2. Ermina, or the chaste lady; printed in octavo, London 1665.

3. Love's Dominion; a dramatic piece, which the author says, is full of excellent morality; and is written as a pattern of the reformed stage, printed in octavo, London 1654, and dedicated to the lady Elizabeth Claypole. In this epistle the author insinuates the use of plays, and begs her mediation to gain license to act them.

4. Love's Kingdom, a Tragi-Comedy; not as it was acted at the theatre in Lincoln's-Inn; but as it was written and since corrected, printed in octavo, London 1664, and dedicated to his excellency William lord marquis of Newcastle. This is no more than the former play a little alter'd, with a new title; and after the king's return, it seems the poet obtained leave to have it acted, but it had the misfortune to be damned by the audience, which Mr. Flecknoe stiles the people, and calls them judges without judgment, for want of its being rightly represented to them; he owns it wants much of the ornaments of the stage, but that, he says, by a lively, imagination may be easily supplied. "To the same purpose he speaks of his damoiselles a la Mode: That together with the persons represented, he had set down the comedians he had designed should represent them; that the reader might have half the pleasure of seeing it acted, and a lively imagination might have the pleasure of it all entire."

5. The Marriage of Oceanus and Britannia, a Masque.

Our author's other works consist of Epigrams and Enigmas. There is a book of his writing, called the Diarium, or the Journal; divided into twelve jornadas, in burlesque verse.

Dryden, in two lines in his Mac Flecknoe, gives the character of our author's works.

In prose and verse was own'd without dispute,
Then' all the realms of nonsense absolute.

We cannot be certain in what year Mr. Flecknoe died: Dryden's satire had perhaps rendered him so contemptible, that none gave themselves the trouble to record any particulars of his life, or to take any notice of his death.