1894 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Middleton

Edmund Gosse, in The Jacobean Poets (1894) 123-24.



One of the latest to attract attention of all the Jacobean dramatists was Thomas Middleton, to whom, however, recent criticism assigns an ever-increasing prominence. Neither Hazlitt nor Charles Lamb, although the latter did Middleton the signal service of copious quotations, was nearly so much struck by his powers as our latest critics have been. The reason, probably, was to be found in Middleton's extreme inequality, or rather, perhaps, in the persistence with which he combined with men of talents far inferior to his own. He seems to have had no ambition, and his best plays were all posthumously published. He attracted very little notice in his own lifetime; to Ben Jonson he was nothing but "a base fellow." His style was irregular and careless; but no one even in that age had a more indubitable gift of saying those "brave sublunary things" which stir the pulse.