1879 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Marston

Thomas Corser, in Collectanea Anglo-Poetica 9 (1879) 23.



Marston has not been admitted into the selections of Headley or Ellis, nor into the general collections of Anderson or Chalmers. Gifford, in his edition of Ben Jonson's works is extremely severe upon Marston, and not only accuses him of scurrility and gross indecency, but also throws severe imputations on his moral character, in his meanness and duplicity towards Jonson. While on the other hand he is called by Mr. Bowle "the British Persius," and his last editor styles him a poet no less admired for the versatility of his genius in tragedy and comedy, than dreaded for the poignancy of his satire, and remarks that "his satirical descriptions and allusions furnish, perhaps, more finished details of manners and customs in higher life, than are to be found in almost any writer of the same period." Perhaps the real truth will be found to lie in the happy medium between these extreme opinions, and that while Marston is not to be ranked amongst the highest and most distinguished of our satirical and dramatic writers, he is not to be altogether neglected for his ruggedness, nor despised for his occasional want of delicacy — the fault of the vitiated taste of his day — but is to be considered as a bold and forcible satirist, and a vigorous and passionate dramatist.