1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Francis Beaumont

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 46.



Francis Beaumont (1586-1616) and John Fletcher (1576-1625) were intimate friends; "the Orestes and Pylades of the poetical world." Both were of good descent. Beaumont's father was a Judge of the Common Pleas; Fletcher was the son of the Bishop of London, and had for cousins Phineas and Giles Fletcher, the one the author of The Purple Island, a tedious allegorical poem; the other the author of Christ's Victory and Triumph, a work from which Milton is said to have borrowed a feather or two.

There was a difference of ten years between the ages of Beaumont and Fletcher. The latter, who was the elder, survived his friend for nine years, continued to write, and died at the age of forty-nine. Beaumont died at thirty, in 1616, the same year as Shakspeare. Beaumont's poetical taste, it was said, controlled, in their joint work, Fletcher's luxuriance of wit and fancy. Their united works amount to about fifty dramas, and were very popular in their day, even ore so than those of Shakspeare and Jonson. As lyrical and descriptive poets, they are entitled to high praise. Their dramas are sprightly, and abound in poetical ornament, but are often censurable for looseness of plot, repulsiveness of subject, and laxity of moral tone.