1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Dekker

Leigh Hunt, in Imagination and Fancy (1844) 220-21.



I take Webster and Decker to have been the two greatest of the Shakspeare men, for unstudied genius, next after Beaumont and Fletcher; and in some respects they surpassed them. Beaumont and Fletcher have no such terror as Webster, nor any such piece of hearty, good, affecting human clay, as Decker's "Old Signior Orlando Friscobaldo." Is there any such man even in Shakspeare? — any such exaltation of that most delightful of all things, bonhomie? Webster sometimes overdoes his terror; nay, often. He not only riots, he debauches in it; and Decker, full of heart and delicacy as he is, and qualified to teach refinement to the refined, condescends to an astounding coarseness. Beaumont and Fletcher's good company saved them from that, in words. In spirit they are full of it. But Decker never mixes up (at least not as far as I remember) any such revolting and impossible contradictions in the same character as they do. Neither does he bring a doubt on his virtues by exaggerating them. He believes heartily in what he does believe, and you love him in consequence.