1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Philip Massinger

Bryan Waller Procter, in Effigies Poeticae, or, the Portraits of the British Poets (1824) 31-32.



From a Print, by Cross, prefixed to his "Dramatic Works."

This likeness of MASSINGER is the only one, we believe, that is known to exist. It certainly looks very little like either a high poet, or an intelligent man. There is something cramped and diminutive about it; and yet withal, it has the look of a portrait, and with that, we (and the reader also) must perforce be satisfied. Massinger was a good dramatist, notwithstanding his picture. His "Fatal Dowry," and "Duke of Milan," — his "Unnatural Combat," — and above all, his Sir Giles Over-reach, in the well-known play of "A new Way to pay Old Debts," are enough to justify a great portion of the renown which he now possesses. He is a little over-rated perhaps, at present, owing to the exertions of his editor, (and we confess that we are not inclined to quarrel with that sort of partizanship; it is better than letting one's author "go down the wind," as some editors have done:) but he will find his level eventually, and it will not he a low one. We cannot rate him equally with Ben Jonson in any way, nor with Fletcher as a writer of poetry. He has neither the richness of the one, nor the fluent elegance of the other. Yet we should he exceedingly perplexed to find in any of their plays, a character so complete, — one which went on so manfully and straightforward to his purposes, from beginning to last, as the "Over-reach" of Massinger. He is quite the beau ideal of a fierce and sordid tyrant. He is brave as a lion; ravenous as a shark; his pity is to be subdued by nothing, and his hate is quenchable only in blood.