Middleton, Thomas (1570?-1627) (DNB00)
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Middleton, Thomas (1570?-1627)
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MIDDLETON, THOMAS (1570?–1627), dramatist, was the son of William Middleton, gentleman, and Anne, daughter of William Snow, and was probably born in London, to which both parents belonged. Of his early training nothing is directly known; but his writings, though seldom obtrusively learned (as in ‘A Game at Chess,’ v. 1), contain plenty of evidence of classical scholarship, and bear, as a whole, the stamp of culture and breeding. Whether or not, however, Middleton studied at either university, he entered, while still a young man, at Gray's Inn, being probably the earlier of two Thomas Middletons admitted there in 1593 and 1596. It is plain that he used his opportunities, and his earlier plays in particular abound with vigorous sketches of legal life at first-hand. His first essays, however, probably belonged to the domain, which was still thought more reputable for a ‘gentleman,’ of pure literature. The ‘Wisdom of Solomon Paraphrased’ (1597) and the ‘Microcynicon’ (1599) have commonly been assigned to Middleton in default of any other qualified claimant with the same name or initials; but the former recalls his acknowledged work only in its metrical fluency, the latter only in the satirical animus of which the fashion had just been set by the ‘Virgidemiæ’ of Joseph Hall [q. v.]
Middleton's connection with the stage cannot be shown to have begun before 1599, when, according to hardly disputable internal evidence, his ‘Old Law’ was written in conjunction with William Rowley [q. v.]—to the end his most frequent coadjutor. In 1601–2 he was writing regularly for the ‘Admiral's Men,’ taking part, according to the system of combined production prevalent in that company, with Munday, Drayton, Webster, and ‘others,’ in a play called ‘Cæsar's Fall,’ for which Henslowe on 22 May advanced 5l. Seven days later Henslowe paid the four dramatists named 3l. for a play called ‘Too Harpes,’ i.e. ‘Two Harpies.’ The following autumn we find him receiving 6l. in two instalments (21 Oct. and 9 Nov.) for a play of his own, variously called by Henslowe ‘The Chester Tragedy’ and ‘Randowlle earlle of Chester.’ In December he was employed to write a prologue and epilogue for Greene's ‘Friar Bacon’ on its performance at court; and an obscure entry of 2 Oct. further describes him as writing a play, not named, for Lord Worcester's company. In 1602 also his ‘Blurt, Master-Constable,’ was published, after having been ‘sundry times privately acted.’ Although the pieces recorded by Henslowe are all lost, their subjects were evidently—like that of ‘The Old Law’—taken in name from remote history; and it seems likely that the only other play of Middleton's which shares this feature, ‘The Mayor of Quinborough,’ was at least sketched at this time.
Within the next few years, however, he had discovered a more congenial path, the comedy of contemporary manners, and to this species the abounding energy, vivacity, and invention of his early maturity were devoted. His prose tracts of 1603–4, ‘The Black Book’ and ‘Father Hubburd's Tales,’ are vivid and richly coloured satirical sketches of London life, in the manner of Nashe and Dekker. The publication of not less than six plays of his in 1607–8 shows with what success he worked this vein on the stage. These plays contain, however, much poor and hasty work, as well as a good deal of scattered excellence, and it is likely that Middleton abused his facile powers under the stimulus of popularity. The remainder of his extant plays appeared (so far as their dates are known) at longer intervals, and they include his most powerful work.
Twice in 1613 he was commissioned to take a literary part in public ceremonials. In September he composed speeches for the formal opening of the New River, the work of the public-spirited goldsmith Hugh Myddelton [q. v.] In October he wrote a pageant in celebration of the mayoralty of Sir Thomas Myddelton (29 Oct.), the first of a long series of ‘Triumphs’ contributed by him for the same annual occasions. Such work was usually entrusted to the city poet, Anthony Munday [q. v.], and although Middleton undertook in each of the cases specified to eulogise men of his own name, he does not appear to have claimed relationship with either, and did not owe his selection to family partiality (cf. Nichols, London Pageants, p. 97). On 4 Jan. 1614 he produced the ‘Mask of Cupid’—of which nothing is known—for the reception of Somerset and Lady Frances Howard, whose marriage had been celebrated with another masque at court in the previous December. A minute in the ‘City Records’ (18 Jan.) directs that Middleton be recouped for the ‘Mask’ as well as for ‘other shows lately made’ at Merchant Taylors' Hall by him. Middleton's work in this department culminates in the elaborate and effective masque ‘The World Tost at Tennis,’ performed at court in 1620, and published in July of that year. In the following September Middleton was, on his own petition and as a direct recognition of his services to the city, appointed city chronologer (City Records, 6 Sept. 1620), being required ‘to collect and set down all memorable acts of this city and occurrences thereof,’ with a yearly salary of ten marks (6l. 13s. 4d.) The same ‘Records’ attest numerous extra payments made to him in connection with this office. His salary was on 20 Nov. raised to 10l. On 17 April 1621, 7 May 1622, and 24 April 1623, freedoms were granted him in aid of his labours; on 17 Sept. 1622, 6 Feb. 1623, and 2 Sept. 1623, he received gifts ranging from twenty marks to twenty pounds for special services. Of Middleton's official writings nothing remains. Two manuscript books of his were, however, extant in the last century, and were briefly described by Oldys in his annotations to Langbaine's ‘Account of the English Dramatick Poets.’ One of them (‘Annales’) was devoted to specifically civic events (among others the arrest and imprisonment of Bacon), the other (‘Middleton's Farrago’) to various non-civic, political, and social topics of the day. The latter collection, which was doubtless not a part of his official work, indicates that he followed contemporary affairs with some zest.
Middleton was at the very height of his powers when he produced the ‘Changeling,’ and probably also the ‘Spanish Gipsy,’ in 1621–2. In 1624 he ventured on a remarkable political drama called ‘A Game at Chess.’ The national hatred of Spain had in March of that year found expression in the despatch of six thousand men into Flanders; but the ‘peace-making’ king had stubbornly resisted to the last, and, despite the ignominious failure (October 1623) of the proposed Spanish match, had taken action with reluctance. To represent the situation on the stage was a matter of some delicacy; and Middleton hit upon the device of disguising the leading politicians of Spain and England in his play under the names of the pieces on a chess-board. He thus did not conceal, but rendered it possible to ignore, the true character of his plot. The play was acted early in August by the king's players for nine days continuously, and excited unparalleled interest: persons accustomed to avoid the theatre crowded to see the protestant play, and the nine performances are said to have produced 1,500l. It is significant that James first heard of the matter from the Spanish ambassador, who complained of a ‘very scandalous comedy acted publickly by the king's players,’ in which they brought on the stage ‘in a rude and dishonourable fashion’ both the two kings themselves and Gondomar, the ambassador's predecessor, who had returned to Spain in 1622. James at once took action, and on 12 Aug. sent, through Secretary Conway, an indignant letter to the privy council requiring them to immediately summon and punish the poet and the actors. On 21 Aug. the lords replied that the players on appearing before them had produced an ‘original and perfect copy’ of the play duly ‘seen and allowed’ by the master of the revels, Sir H. Herbert. The players were accordingly dismissed with a ‘round and sharp reproof,’ but forbidden to act any play whatever until the king's pleasure were known, and bound over in 300l. bonds to appear when called for. Middleton himself did not obey the summons. The lords informed the king that the poet was ‘one Middleton who, shifting out of the way, and not attending the Board as was expected, we have given warrant to a messenger for the apprehending of him.’ The search was apparently not at once successful, and on 27 Aug. a warrant was issued to bring Middleton's son Edward, a youth of twenty, before the board. On 30 Aug. he accordingly appeared and his indemnity was formally recognised. A tradition, preserved in a manuscript note by a contemporary hand in Dyce's copy of the play, records that Middleton himself was ‘committed to prisson, where hee lay some Tyme, and at last gott oute upon this petition presented to King James’—(six verses follow); but as the ‘chief actors’ are said to have been likewise imprisoned, which the official documents show was not the case, this statement cannot be relied on. Moreover, the king's resentment had rapidly cooled, and already on 27 Aug. the lord chamberlain wrote to the lord president of the council intimating that ‘in consideration of those his poor servants, his Majesty would have their Lordships connive at any common play lycensed by authority, that they shall act as before.’ The lords were, it is true, directed to proceed with their investigations into ‘the originall roote of this offence;’ but it is evident that the inquiry was now little more than academic, and Middleton's punishment, if he suffered any, was probably trivial.
Of the remaining three years of Middleton's life we know only that he wrote in 1626 one more pageant, ‘The Triumphes of Health and Prosperity.’ At Midsummer 1627 he died, probably in his house at Newington Butts, where he had lived at least four years. He was buried, according to the register of the parish church, on 4 July. Middleton married (according to pedigree in ‘Visitation of Surrey,’ 1623) Mary, daughter of Edward Morbeck of London, one of the six clerks of chancery, by whom he had one son, Edward, born 1604. She probably died before 1627, and Middleton married again. His second wife, Magdalen, survived him, and applied in the February after his death to the city for pecuniary aid, and received twenty nobles. She is possibly the ‘Mrs. Midleton’ who was buried at Newington Butts on 18 July 1628.
Of Middleton's relations to his fellow-dramatists little is known. He collaborated repeatedly with Thomas Dekker [q. v.] and with William Rowley [q. v.], in his apprentice days also with Drayton, Webster, and Anthony Munday [q. v.] To Webster's ‘Duchess of Malfi’ he contributed complimentary verses (1623); but he does not seem to have been highly regarded by his fellow-authors. Jonson not only alluded publicly to ‘A Game at Chess’ as a ‘poor … play’ (Staple of News, iii. 1), but spoke of Middleton himself to Drummond as a ‘base fellow’ (Conversations, § 11). Unlike his successor, Jonson, Middleton evidently gave high satisfaction in his function of ‘city chronologer,’ and his pageants were admired by his city patrons. He seems also to have been popular with the playgoing public both before and after the civil wars. None of his pieces is known to have failed on the stage. But before the revolution he had fallen, in common with all but one or two of his dramatic contemporaries, into a neglect from which he has been among the last to recover. This is partly due to his striking inequality. A facile and inventive writer, he could turn out an abundance of sufficiently effective work with little effort; but he had little sustained inspiration; he is very great only in single scenes. He is rather prone to repeat motives (e.g. the ‘Mayor of Quinborough,’ ‘A Mad World,’ and the ‘Spanish Gipsy,’ all contain variations of the play within the play); in his earlier plays the same stock types incessantly reappear, and many of them are not only gross but dull. Yet even here he habitually shows keen observation of the London world he knew, and of which he is, on the whole, the most veracious painter, avoiding both the airy extravagance of Dekker and the laborious allusiveness of Jonson. His later plays show more concentrated as well as more versatile power. His habitual occupation with depraved types becomes an artistic method; he creates characters which fascinate without making the smallest appeal to sympathy, tragedy which harrows without rousing either pity or terror, and language which disdains charm, but penetrates by remorseless veracity and by touches of strange and sudden power. While, however, his greatest triumphs are in the region of moral pathology, he could on occasion represent with great force and brilliance fresh and noble types of character, such as Captain Ager (No. 11 below), Pretiosa (No. 13), Phœnix (No. 4), and the ‘Roaring Girl’ (No. 10).
The writings attributed to Middleton fall into four groups: plays, masques and pageants, miscellaneous verse, and miscellaneous prose. They are enumerated in their presumed chronological order, the titles and dates being those of the first extant editions. Those of which his authorship is doubtful or improbable are marked with an asterisk.
I. Plays.—1. ‘The Old Law, or A New Way to please you, by Phil. Massinger, Tho. Middleton, William Rowley,’ 4to, 1656. In its present state doubtless largely revised, with the aid of Rowley, whose hand is traceable in several scenes (esp. v. 1), and probably edited by Massinger. But the first version can hardly be dated later than 1599 (cf. iii. 1), and in this version Rowley can hardly have been concerned, while Massinger is out of the question. The play, granting the farcical extravagance of its motive, is highly effective. 2. ‘The Mayor of Quinborough,’ a comedy, 4to, 1661. A romantic drama, crude in structure and treatment, but finely written. Like No. 1, this play can hardly have been planned later than Middleton's first period; its present state, however, also shows his mature hand. There are striking reminiscences of the ‘Tempest’ in iv. 3, and of ‘Hamlet’ in v. 1. The dumb show and chorus (perhaps suggested by ‘Pericles’) are borrowed from the early drama to symbolise, it would seem, the antiquity of the subject. Raynulph of Chester, i.e. Ranulf Higden [q. v.], author of the ‘Polychronicon,’ the ‘chorus,’ was the direct source of the story, as Gower in the case of ‘Pericles.’ The caricature of a puritan secured the revival and publication of the play after the Restoration. 3. ‘Blurt, Master-Constable, or the Spaniards Nightwalke,’ 4to, 1602. The plot, which contains effective elements, is not quite clearly worked out. Lazarillo is a portrait in Jonson's elaborate manner; Blurt has traces of Dogberry; but the imitation is nowhere close. 4. ‘The Phœnix,’ 4to, 1607; 1630; licensed for the press 9 May 1607. A felicitous conception, allied both to the Jonsonian humour comedy (a virtuous critic or censor contemplating a corrupt world) and to ‘Measure for Measure’ (the censor being a prince in disguise), but where Jonson paints follies Middleton paints crimes. 5. ‘Michaelmas Terme,’ 4to, 1607; 1630; licensed for the press 15 May 1607. A lively and effective comedy of city intrigue. 6. ‘A Trick to Catch the Old-One,’ 4to, 1608; 1616; licensed for the press 7 Oct. 1607. A highly ingenious and well-constructed plot, the strongest of Middleton's comedies of intrigue. 7. ‘The Familie of Love,’ 4to, 1608; licensed for the press 12 Oct. 1607. The introduction of the familists merely serves as an opening to a comedy of intrigue of the usual kind; as a representation of manners it has no value except as it reflects the scandal of the time. The play was very successful, and probably contributed much to establish Middleton's reputation, the ‘Prologue’ describing the author as not yet famous, while the ‘Address to the Reader’ refers complacently to the applause the play had excited when new. The terms of this address hardly permit us to date the play later than 1605. 8. ‘Your Five Gallants,’ 4to, n.d. ; licensed for the press 22 March 1608. The play ‘The Fyve Wittie Gallants,’ entered on the Stationers' Registers under the same date, is doubtless the same. A hasty and loosely constructed comedy of intrigue. 9. ‘A Mad World, my Masters,’ 4to, 1608; 1640; licensed for the press 4 Oct. 1608. 10. ‘The Roaring Girle, by T. Middleton and T. Dekkar’ (sic), 4to, 1611. Dekker is easily traced in the ‘canting’ scenes (v. 1), less certainly elsewhere. The original of the heroine was Mary Frith [q. v.]; Middleton, who was strong in moral pathology, has idealised her character in an unexpected and remarkable way, ‘but it is the excellency of a writer to leave things better than he finds 'em’ (Preface). 11. ‘A Faire Quarrell, by Thomas Midleton and William Rowley,’ 4to, 1617; 1622. The remainder of the first edition was issued, the same year, ‘with new Additions of Mr. Chaugh's and Trimtram's Roaring …’ The main plot is without a parallel in Middleton's plays for intensity of moral passion. But it is easier to assign it to Middleton, a man of refined sensibility who chose to deal with gross materials, than to Rowley's coarse though gifted nature. The story of Jane and the physician is apparently borrowed in part from Cinthio's ‘Hecatommithi,’ Novel 5 of Dec. 4 (stories of persons who fall victims to their own plots). 12. ‘The Changeling, by Thomas Midleton (sic) and William Rowley,’ 4to, 1653. The remainder of this edition was reissued in 1668 with a new title-page, referring to its revival after the Restoration. Sir H. Herbert's ‘Office-book’ mentioned it as played 4 Jan. 1623 (Malone, Shakespeare, iii. 227). The main plot was taken from Reynolds's ‘The Triumphs of God's Revenge against … Murther,’ book i. hist. 4. The extraordinary strength of one scene (iii. 4) has given this play a reputation which as a whole it hardly deserves. This scene, however, shows in the highest degree Middleton's power of producing intense dramatic effects without the aid of sympathetic characters. The play was revived with great success at the Restoration, when it was witnessed by Pepys (23 Feb. 1661). 13. ‘The Spanish Gipsie, by Thomas Midleton (sic) and William Rowley,’ 4to, 1653; 1661. Sir H. Herbert's ‘Office-book’ mentioned it as acted at court 5 Nov. 1623, under the title ‘The Gipsye’ (Malone, Shakespeare, iii. 227). A significantly emphasised allusion in ii. 1 (‘Yes, father, I will play the changeling’) makes probable that this play was written as well as acted after No. 12. The two stories here combined (of Pretiosa and Clara) are founded upon two of Cervantes's ‘Novelas Ejemplares:’ ‘La Jitanilla’ (A) and ‘La Fuerza de la Sangre’ (B). The following are the principal modifications: Clara, a mere child in B, is treated with tragic dignity; of the three friends who take part in her capture, Louis is represented, with some absurdity, as engaged to her; Diego is identified with the ‘soldier’ (unnamed) who in A attacks Don Juan, and is wounded (in A killed) by him. The comic figure, Sancho (due probably to Rowley), is suggested by Clemente, the poet-lover in A. The Hamlet-like device of the play, by which Fernando seeks to ‘catch the conscience’ of Roderigo, is a characteristic addition of Middleton's. The happy ending of the gipsy story is facilitated by Carducha's confession of her treachery, and by Diego's being only wounded (in A his death is compounded for by a money payment). The time of the action is greatly contracted, and the crisis is brought about by an accident, not, as in B, to Clara's son, but to herself. The story of Alvarez is new. The treatment of the gipsy story is more humorous and vivacious, but much inferior in refined art to A; and the roystering songs bear no resemblance to the charming romances of the original. It is, however, one of Middleton's most attractive plays. 14. ‘More Dissemblers besides Women,’ 8vo, 1657 (with ‘Women Beware Women’); licensed by Sir George Buc before May 1622, when he resigned his office. The arch-dissembler Lactantio is felicitously described by Mr. Swinburne as a ‘poetic or romantic Joseph Surface.’ 15. ‘A Game at Chess,’ 4to, n.d. , three editions. There are also three early manuscript copies (British Museum, Bridgewater House, Trinity College, Cambridge). A fourth copy, stated to differ widely from the others, was in the book-market some years ago (Works, ed. Bullen, vii. 3), but has now disappeared. Much of the abundant detail, and some of the wit, are drawn from contemporary tracts, especially Scott's ‘Vox Populi,’ Gee's ‘Foot out of the Snare,’ and Robinson's ‘Anatomy of the English Nunnery at Lisbon.’ The piece does not stand high in strictly dramatic qualities: the action is thin, and to a modern reader in parts obscure, but it is written with great satiric brilliance, and abounds with telling dialogue.
The date of the following plays is conjectural: 16. ‘A Chast Mayd in Cheape-side,’ 4to, 1630. Said on the title-page to have been ‘often acted at the Swan on the Bankside, by the lady Elizabeth her servants.’ As this company was formed in 1611, and left the Swan in 1613, it has been urged that the play was composed between these years (Fleay). But it was not necessarily composed for the company, nor do we know that the company never performed at the Swan after 1613. The play belongs in character, however, decidedly to the former half of Middleton's career. No other play of his is so rich in humour extracted from situations of unvaried, but by no means insidious, grossness. 17. ‘No Wit, No Help like a Woman's,’ 8vo, 1657. The play, which was revived in 1638 (iii. 1) by Shirley, is assigned to 1613 by Mr. Bullen on the basis of this passage; but it is hardly safe to press the ‘five-and-twenty’ years there referred to. It is ingeniously contrived, with a romantic plot of classical rather than Elizabethan type. An adaptation of the play, ‘The Counterfeit Bridegroom,’ with some new scenes and changed names, appeared after the Restoration (4to, 1677). 18. ‘Women Beware Women,’ 8vo, 1657 (with ‘More Dissemblers besides Women’). The main plot is adapted from the history of Bianca Capello; the minor plot is said by Langbaine (Account of Dramatick Poets) to be founded on a romance called ‘Hyppolito and Isabella.’ This is no doubt the most powerful single play of Middleton's. The main plot is worked out with great mastery, the leading characters are most vividly drawn, and, unattractive as they all are, strikingly illustrate what Middleton could achieve by sheer dra- matic force. 19. ‘The Witch,’ first printed in 1778 from a unique manuscript entitled ‘A Tragi-Coomodie called the Witch; long since acted by His Matie's Servants at the Black-friers,’ which passed from the actor Griffin (b. 1680) through several hands to Steevens and Malone, and is now in the Bodleian Library. Much of the incident is drawn from Machiavelli's ‘Florentine History,’ perhaps through the medium of Belleforest, ‘Histoires Tragiques,’ iv. 73. The play, which is gross without being effective, derives its whole interest from certain points of contact with ‘Macbeth.’ The same witch-motive is in both plays, and two songs, of which the first lines only are given in ‘Macbeth,’ are supplied at length in ‘The Witch.’ It has therefore been suggested either that Middleton was responsible for the witch scenes in ‘Macbeth’ and for the two songs alluded to in those scenes, or that Shakespeare was a plagiarist of Middleton. But these theories may safely be rejected. The absence of any marks of date in ‘The Witch’ renders the question difficult, but Middleton's tragic plots belong, with no certain exception, to a period later than ‘Macbeth,’ and in ‘The Witch’ he is doubtless, as he is frequently elsewhere, an imitator of Shakespeare. The use of semi-supernatural beings is altogether alien to his realistic manner; and though his witches are largely transformed to vulgar instruments of crime, the figure of Hecate is a significant remnant of a style not his own. As for the two songs in ‘The Witch’ (iii. 3 and v. 2), the first lines of which are quoted in ‘Macbeth’ (iii. 5 and iv. 1), the quoted lines, with parts of the continuations, might certainly be allowed to Shakespeare, but Middleton was not incapable of such efforts, and on the other hand, portions of the complete songs can only be his. The whole may fairly be assigned to Middleton, and were probably foisted by stage-managers into the acting edition of ‘Macbeth.’ 20. ‘Anything for a Quiet Life,’ 4to, 1662. A not very striking play of intrigue. Mr. Bullen suspects revision by Shirley. 21. ‘The Widdow, a Comedie, written by Ben. Johnson, John Fletcher, Tho. Middleton,’ 4to, 1652. In a copy possessed by Dyce was a manuscript note, in an old hand, ascribing the play to Middleton ‘alone.’ There are signs of Jonson, or of a follower of Jonson, in act iv., but the play is no doubt mainly by Middleton.
Of several of Middleton's plays only the titles are known. Such are: 1. ‘The Puritan Maid, Modest Wife, and Wanton Widow, by T. Middleton,’ entered on the Stationers' Registers, 9 Sept. 1653. 2. ‘The Chester Tragedy.’ Middleton had also, according to Henslowe, some share in Dekker's ‘Honest Whore,’ pt. i. 1604; but his share was doubtless slight. A share has also been claimed for him, on grounds of style solely, in ‘The Puritan,’ printed 1607, ‘by W. S.,’ and in ‘A Match at Midnight,’ printed 1633, ‘by W. R.’ (Bullen and Fleay).
II. Pageants and Masques.—1. ‘The Triumphs of Truth: a Solemnity,’ &c., celebrating the mayoralty of Sir Thomas Middleton; ‘Also his Lordship's Entertainment at the Opening of the New River,’ 4to, 1613; two editions. 2. ‘Civitatis Amor: an Entertainment,’ &c., at Whitehall, on the creation of the Prince of Wales, 4 Nov. 1616, 4to. 3. ‘The Tryumphs of Honor and Industry: a Solemnity,’ &c., on the mayoralty of George Bowles, 4to, 1617. 4. ‘The Inner Temple Masque, or Masque of Heroes, presented, as an Entertainment for many worthy Ladies, by Gentlemen of the same Ancient and Noble House,’ 4to, 1619, entered on the Stationers' Registers 10 July 1619, the masque being there dated 1618. 5. ‘The Triumphs of Love and Antiquity,’ for the mayoralty of Sir W. Cockayn, 4to, 1619. 6. ‘The World Tost at Tennis (a Courtly Masque, The Device called): As it hath been divers times Presented … by the Prince his Servants,’ 4to, 1620. By far the most elaborate and striking of Middleton's masques. Like Jonson's later masques it shows a marked approximation to the drama. 7. ‘The Sunne in Aries,’ for the mayoralty of Edward Barkham, 4to, 1621. 8. ‘An Invention performed for the Service of … E. Barkham, L. Mayor,’ at an entertainment at his house, Easter 1623, first printed by Bullen; manuscript in ‘State Papers, Domestic,’ vol. cxxix. 9. ‘The Triumphs of Honor and Virtue,’ for the mayoralty of Peter Proby, 4to, 1622. 10. ‘The Triumphs of Integrity,’ for the mayoralty of Martin Lumley, 4to, 1623. 11. ‘The Triumphs of Health and Prosperity,’ for the mayoralty of Cuthbert Hacket, 4to, 1626.
Middleton also wrote a lost masque: 12. ‘The Mask of Cupid,’ performed at Merchant Taylors' Hall, 4 Jan. 1614. He likewise contributed a speech of sixty lines (Zeal) to Dekker's ‘Entertainment to King James on his Passage through the City,’ 15 March 1604. Ten minor entertainments—some of which were not previously printed—were published in 1621 under the title, ‘Honorable Entertainments compos'de for the Seruice of this Noble Cittie. Some of which were fashion'd for the Entertainment of the Lords of his Maiesties most Honorable Privie Councell upon the Occasion of their late Royall Employment. Inuented by Thomas Middleton, imprinted at London by G. E.’ A description of the work, which is believed to be unique, was communicated to the Athenæum by its discoverer, Mr. F. A. Wheeler, on 2 Oct. 1886. It was subsequently sold to an American collector.
III. Miscellaneous Verse.—1*. ‘The Wisdome of Solomon Paraphrased, written by Thomas Middleton,’ 4to, 1597. The preliminary address ‘To the Gentlemen Readers’ shows singular confidence in the work. 2*. ‘Microcynicon: Sixe Snarling Satyres,’ 8vo, 1599. The introductory stanzas, ‘His Defiance to Envy,’ are signed ‘T. M., gent.;’ so that, the work being confessedly unworthy of him, its authenticity rests on a slender basis. The character of the verse in these two pieces is wholly distinct. It is hardly possible to attribute both to the same writer. Mr. Swinburne peremptorily rejects Middleton's authorship of either.
IV. Miscellaneous Prose.—1. ‘The Blacke Booke,’ 4to, 1604; entered on Stationers' Registers 22 March 1604; the Preface signed ‘T. M.’ Though only signed with initials, this and the following piece bear the stamp of Middleton far more palpably than either of the foregoing. Mr. Fleay assigns all the writings signed ‘T. M.’ to Thomas Moffat [q. v.], a student of physic. 2. ‘Father Hubburd's Tales, or The Ant and the Nightingale,’ 4to, 1604. Another edition, in which the second title precedes, and one tale is omitted, appeared in the same year. The ‘Address to the Reader’ is signed ‘T. M.’ Entered on Stationers' Registers 3 Jan. 1604. The vivid sketch of a spendthrift heir has many parallels in Middleton's plays (e.g. Nos. 4 and 5). 3*. ‘Sir Robert Sherley, sent Ambassador, in the name of the King of Persia, to Sigismund the Third, King of Poland,’ &c., 4to, 1609. The dedication is signed ‘Thomas Midleton.’ A curious pamphlet, consisting mainly of translations of the complimentary speeches and poems lavished upon Sherley at the Polish court. It has some interest as a picture of Polish manners. 4*. ‘The Peacemaker: or, Great Britaines Blessing,’ 4to, 1618; anonymous, but described in the ‘Calendar of Domestic State Papers,’ 19 July 1618, as by ‘Thomas Middleton.’ The dramatist's authorship is very doubtful: the style is totally unlike his. Mr. Bullen supposes that the author attempts to personate the king; but there is no suggestion of this except in the prefixed address, ‘To all our True-loving and Peace-embracing Subjects,’ nor does the style resemble that of James. It is highly probable that this, with iii. 1, 2, and iv. 3, are due to some more obscure owner or owners of Middleton's not uncommon name. Undoubtedly genuine, however, were the lost writings before named—1, ‘Annales;’ 2, ‘Middleton's Farrago’—which are not known to have been printed.
Middleton's works were never collected in his own day. Attention was first recalled to him by the discovery of ‘The Witch’ (printed 1778); but Lamb's ‘Specimens’ first disclosed his rare merits. In 1840 appeared the admirable collected edition of his works by Dyce. This had been long out of print when, in 1886, Mr. A. H. Bullen published what will no doubt remain the final edition, in eight volumes. Five of the best plays (Nos. 6, 12, 13, 16, 18) have been separately edited by Havelock Ellis with an introduction by Mr. A. C. Swinburne in the ‘Mermaid Series’ (1887).
The only known portrait of Middleton is a rough woodcut prefixed to ‘Two New Plays’ (i.e. Nos. 14 and 18), 1657. It is reproduced, as an etching, by Bullen, and also in the volume of the ‘Mermaid Series.’
[Dyce's and Bullen's Memoirs of Middleton, prefixed to their editions; Ward's Engl. Dram. Lit. ch. vi.; Langbaine's English Dramatick Authors, and Oldys's notes; Rapp's Englisches Theater; Fleay's Shakspereana, vol. xii., and Biographical Chronicle of the English Drama; A. C. Swinburne's ‘Middleton’ in Nineteenth Century, January 1886, and the ‘Mermaid’ selection above named.]