The Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets

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The Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets (1698)
by Gerard Langbaine
3174076The Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets1698Gerard Langbaine






English Dramatick Poets.


An Exact ACCOUNT of all the PLAYS that were ever yet Printed in the English Tongue; their Double Titles, the Places were Acted, the Dates when Printed, and the Persons to whom Dedicated; with Remarks and Observations on most of the said Plays.

First begun by Mr. Langbain, improv’d and continued down to this Time, by a Careful Hand.


Printed for Tho. Leigh at the Peacock against St. Dunstan’s-church, and William Turner at the White Horse, without Temple-Bar.


Epistle Dedicatory,




Bonnington in Hertfordshire.

Honoured Sir,

I Have long had an Ambition to lay something at your Feet that might be worthy your Protection, but despairing to produce any thing my self deserving of that Honour, and impatient of making known how Proud I am of being in the Crowd of your Admirers, I cou'd not but lay hold of this Opportunity, where the Merit of the Subject, and Assistants I have had, might in some Measure attone for what is deficient in my Performance. I offer, Sir, to your Protection this History of the Lives and Works of all the Dramatick Poets of your Native Country, of which few Nations have produc'd so great a Number under so very little Encouragements. But to shew them, Sir, the more Worthy your Patronage, I shall lay down a short Account of what Value their Art has been, in the most Polite and Politick, as well as most successful Government in the World.

Athens, Rome, and France will furnish me with the Proofs I want. Athens gave Birth and Perfection to the Art, and seems, like the true Mother, to have been most fond of it, and therefore gave its professors the greatest Encouragement. The Value that Government had for both is evident from these two Instances: Sophocles, as a Reward of his Antigone, had the Government of the City and Island of Samos confer'd upon him: And on the Death of Eupolis in a Sea-Fight, there was a Law publish'd, that no Poet for the Future shou'd go to the Wars; so great a Loss they thought the Death of one Poet to the Commonwealth.

Thus we see that Athens that was the most Populous and Trading City of Greece, and which produc'd braver, better, and more learned Men than all Greece besides, prove, by the Encouragement she gave Dramatick Poetry, that it was the Opinion of the Wisdom of that State, that Plays were so far from being destructive of Industry and good Morals, that they were equally conducive to the Honour and Advantage of its People.

To say nothing of the Care that was taken of the Poets, and the Esteem they were in among the Greatest and Bravest of the Old Romans; I shall only mention the Great Mæcenas, who laid the Foundation of the greatest Monarchy that ever was in the World; who form'd as Great and Politick Designs, did as Great Services to his Prince as any Man whatever; and and who indeed establish'd the greatest Emperor over the most Free and Polite People in the Universe; Mæcenas I say, thought Poetry so worthy his peculiar Care, that we owe the best of the Roman Poets to him, and his Name is pass'd from a Proper to a Common Name for all Generous Patrons.

'Tis yet fresh in our Memories what that Master in Politicks, the great Richelieu has done for these Politer Studies in France. The Theatres, the Academy remain a glorious Monument of it; and yet no Man could have fled with a better Pretence to the Multiplicity of Affairs, no Man ever dispatching more Business, or forming more Successful, and Serviceable Designs for his Master's Advantage, and the present and succeeding Glory and Grandeur of France; for to his Counsels the French Monarchy owes all that Terror and Power, with which we have seen all Europe so lately struggle with: And yet this great and busy Polititian could find a time in spight of the Weight of the whole Administration of France, to take Care of the Muses, and thought it an Honour to himself and Country for the lasting Advantage of learned Men and Poets. He took Care of the Reformation of the Stage, and by his Order the Abbe Hedeline, compos'd a Piece of the whole Art of the Stage.

But our Nation, alas! Furnish'd with as brave a People, and a greater Genius for Poetry than our Neighbours, has never yet been so happy, as to find in the Administration, any Man with Soul enough, to think the Care of the Muses worth their Thoughts; and yet the World will never be induc'd to believe, that they are wiser or greater Politicians than Mæcenas or Richelieu.

This Neglect of their Science has forc'd the Poets, who had nothing to expect from the Government, to make the most Noble and useful School of Vertue, degenerate into a meer Diversion; that they might Please an Audience, whence they cou'd only hope for their Support. And this has laid the Stage open to the weak Assaults of those whom either Biggottry, Interest, or Hypocrisy have made its Enemies.

'Tis not therefore the supine and criminal Neglect of the Great Men (I mean the Ministers) of our Nation, that we are to form the Esteem that is due to this Science by; but the Care and value the most refin'd and most successful Polititians in the World have Discover'd for it; If the English States-Men come short of this, 'tis to be look'd on by all Men of true Sense, as their Defect and Infamy, not their Wisdom.

Wherefore, tho' the Publick has not yet thought fit to take this into its Consideration and Protection, yet I had reason to think a Man of Mr. Cæsar's Qualifications, cou'd not but be pleas'd to extend his Protection to those, whose Business it is to celebrate the Vertues that gain you the general Esteem. You that forsook the lower Pleasures of Fortune and Youth, for the Pursuit of Honour and Glory in the War; You, Sir, that in your Actions have shown the Hero, have a nearer Reason than other Men, to take care of the Poets, whose task it is to celebrate the Heroes Deeds, and to transmit them in their most engaging Form to Posterity, for their Honour and Imitation.

Carmen amat quisq; carmina digna gerit.

You, Sir, that have added to your Birth and Fortune so strong and general a Love, that your Wit, Sweetness of Temper, and Honour, defeat that Envy which Merit usually raises, will naturally take care of those, whose Imployment it is to distinguish betwixt the Pretence, and Reality; the Man of true Sense and Bravery, and the Flashy Opiniator, and the vain Boaster of his own Deeds.

From you therefore I hope, Sir, a favourable Reception, when I shelter all our Dramatick Writers under the Protection of your Name; for in you we shall find a Manly, yet Modest Merit

Worthy at once, and negligent of Fame.

Wit without Opiniatreture; but balanc'd with a true and penetrating Judgment; Bravery which has nobly distinguish'd you from the Remisness of the Inglorious Youth of the Age, witness your Voluntary Campaigns in Flanders; a Generosity that gets you the Esteem of all Men, while the sordid are the Contempt and Laughter of Men of Sense.

I need be no farther particular in the Enumeration of your Vertues, since where ever Generosity goes justly to the making up of a Character, there can be no Vertue wanting. On this Vertue, Sir, it is that I depend for your Pardon for the Presumption of this Dedication, which I hope I shall gain with the greater ease, because I have kept clear of the Crime of Dedications, Flattery, having confin’d my self much within the Compass of severe Truth, and the Sentiments of, Sir,

Your most Devoted, Humble,
and Obedient Servant, &c.



I Do not trouble the Reader with this Preface because 'tis the Mode to say something before ev'ry Book; but because there is a Necessity of premising a Word or two as to the following Treatises, and the other Essays of this Nature, that have already been seen. I shall take no notice of Mr. Winstanley's or Mr. Phillips's, for one I never saw, and the other I could not read, and Mr. Langbain has discovered their Defects sufficient to justify his undertaking a more perfect Work; and which he indeed in the last Edition he has pretty near accomplish'd. I must own that his Undertaking has sav'd me a great deal of Trouble, but then he is every where so partial, that he destroys the Character of a Critick and Historian at once, whose Object ought always to be Truth; whereas Mr. Langbain seems every where to gratify some private Pique, and seldom to regard the Merit of the Person he reflects upon. This I have every where avoided, and distinguish'd betwixt the Desert and Defect of the Author. Mr. Langbain is farther generally mistaken in his Censures as a Critick, he seems to have known nothing of the Matter, to have had little or no Taste of Dramatick Poetry: and a Stranger to our Stage wou'd from his Recommendation make a very odd and ridiculous Collection of our English Plays. He often commends, Shirley, Heywood, &c. and will scarce allow Mr. Dryden a Poet; whereas the former have left us no Piece that bears any Proportion to the latter; the All for Love of Mr. Dryden, were it not for the false Moral, wou'd be a Masterpiece that few of the Ancients or Moderns ever equal'd; and Mr. Shirley, and Mr. Heywood have not left enough in all their Writings to compose one tolerable Play, according to the true Model and Design of a Play.

Mr. Langbain has in many of the Lives, swell'd them out with interlarding them with tedious Copies of Verses little to the purpose in Hand, which I was obliged to avoid for Two Reasons; First I design'd to give the Reader as compendious an Account of our Dramatick Writers as I cou'd, and so to bring my Book to an easier Price than Mr. Langbain's. And therefore I was, Secondly, forc'd to leave out all that was Superfluous: And this the rather, because I had several Lives and Remarks to add to this Edition, which he cou'd give no Account of, some of the Authors having appear'd since his time, and others, by the Advantage of the ingenious Mr. Ash's admirable Collection of English Plays, I have met with, which he never saw; all which has render'd this more Perfect in its Kind than his cou'd be: besides, writing after him, I have endeavoured to avoid his Faults, and preserve his Beauties.

Next I have to inform the Reader, that the following Piece is not writ all by one Hand, as will, I believe, be perceived in the Reading. And lastly, I find on the perusal of it, something in the Book, which I must differ from in the Preface, and that is in the Account of Mr. Oldmixon's Amintas, where 'tis remark'd, that Pastoral is a Modern Invention, when in reality, the Ancients had a sort of Dramatick Performance not unlike it, that is, their Satyrs, which might be said to be something of a nature with our Pastoral; but if we may guess at what is lost by what remains of that kind, it was also something different. In the Cyclops of Euripides, we find the Shepherds were the major part of the Dramatis Personæ; for such was Polyphemus, Silenus, and the Chorus: But the Character of Ulysses hightned the Play, and gives a greater Force to the Passions; 'tis not the Love of Polyphemus, but his Cruelty we see; and the Dexterity and Wisdom of Ulysses. Of this sort of Poem, Mr. Dacier in his Preface to the Satyrs of Horace, will give you something a fuller Account. And as this takes its Rise from Antiquity, so Farce, in some Measure, may derive it self from the Pantomimi; at least that sort of Farce which the Italian Players in Paris us'd to act; tho' the Mimi and the Pantomimi were esteem'd for their admirable Expression of Nature in Action and Dancing; but our Farce is something beyond Nature, and Extravagant to a Degree of Nauseousness, to all good judges.

I have lately read Mr. Congreve's Love for Love over, and am of Opinion, that the Contrivance of the Marriage of Tattle and Mrs. Frail is highly probable, tho' the Reflections on that Play do seem not to admit it as absolutely so.

Lastly, I have to advertise the Reader, that on the Perusal of the last Sheets of this Book, I found that in the Remark on Beauty in Distress, one of my Assistants has seem'd to imply, that the Author is more a Comick than Tragick Poet; I cannot agree with him, for I think 'tis an extraordinary Effort for the first Undertaking in Tragedy, in which most have fail'd in their first Attempt: I say this, least any thing my Friend said, should seem a lessening of that Performance of the Author, which he assures me he never meant.




Known Authors.

ALexander, William, Earl of Sterline
Armin, Robert
page 1
BAily, Abraham
Bancroft, John
Banks, John 6
Barnes, Barnaby 7
Baron, Eſq; Robert 8
Barrey, Lodow Ibid.
Beaumont, Francis, ſee Fletcher 57
Bedloe, William 8
Behn, Aphara Ibid.
Belchier, Dawbridgecourt 10
Bernard, Richard Ibid.
Boothby, Mrs. Frances 11
Boyle, Roger, Earl of Orrery Ibid.
Brandon, Samuel 12
Breton, Nicholas Ibid.
Brewer, Anthony Ibid.
Brome, Alexander Ibid.
Brome, Richard 13
Brook, Grevile, Fulk, Lord, ſee Grevile 180
Bourn, Ruben 13
Birkhead, Henry 14
Burnel, Eſq; Henry Ibid.
CArew, Lady Elizabeth
Carew, Thomas
Carlell, Eſq; Lodowick 15
Carliſle, James Ibid.
Carpenter, Richard 16
Cartwright, George Ibid.
Cartwright, William Ibid.
Chamberlain, Robert 17
Chamberlain, William Ibid.
Chapman, George 18
Cibber, Colley 19
Cockain, Sir Aſton 21
Congreve, William Ibid.
Cook, Eſq; Edward 25
Cook, John 26
Corey, John Ibid.
Cotton, Eſq; Charles Ibid.
Cowley, Abraham 27
Cox, Robert 28
Crown, John Ibid.
DAncer, John
Daniel, Samuel
D’Avenant, Sir William 32
D’Avenant, Dr. Charles 35
Davenport, Robert Ibid.
Dauborn, Robert Ibid.
Day, John Ibid.
Deckar, Thomas Ibid.
Denham, Sir John 37
Dennis, John 38
Dilke, Thomas Ibid.
Dogget, Thomas 39
Dover, John Ibid.
Drake, Dr. James 40
Dryden, Eſq; John Ibid.
Dryden, Junior, John 47
Duffet, Thomas 48
D’Urfey, Thomas Ibid.


ECcleſton, Edward
Etheridge, Sir George


FAne, Sir Francis
Fanſhaw, Sir Richard
Falkland, Henry, Lord Viſcount 55
Field, Nathaniel Ibid.
Filmer, Dr. Edward Ibid.
Fiſhbourn 56
Flecknoe, Richard Ibid.
Fletcher, John 57
Ford, John 61
Ford, Thomas 62
Fountain, John Ibid.
Fraunce, Abraham Ibid.
Freeman, Sir Ralph Ibid.
Fulwell, Ulpian 63


GAſcoign, Eſq; George
Glapthorn, Henry
Goff, Thomas Ibid.
Gomerſhal, Robert 65
Gould, Robert Ibid.
Gouldſmith, Eſq; Francis 65
Granvile, Eſq; George 66
Green, Alexander Ibid.
Green, Robert Ibid.


HAbington, Eſq; William
Harris, Joſeph
Hauſted, Peter Ibid.
Haynes, Joſeph 68
Head, Richard Ibid.
Hemings, William Ibid.
Heywood, Jaſper 69
Heywood, John Ibid.
Heywood, Thomas 70
Higden, Eſq; Henry 72
Holyday, Barton Ibid.
Hool, Charles 73
Hopkins, Charles Ibid.
Howard, Eſq; Edward 74
Howard, Eſq; James 75
Howard, Sir Robert Ibid.
Howell, Eſq; James 76


JEvorn, Thomas
Ingeland, Thomas
Johnſon, Benjamin Ibid.
Jones, John 81
Jordan, Thomas Ibid.
Joyner, William 82


KIlligrew, Henry
Killigrew, Thomas
Killigrew, Sir William 83
Kirk, John 84
Knevet, Ralph Ibid.
Kid, Thomas Ibid.


LAcey, John
Leanard, John
Lee, Nathaniel Ibid.
Lilly, John 87
Lodge, Thomas 88
Lower, Sir William Ibid.
Lupon, Thomas Ibid.
MAchin, Lewis
Maine, Dr. Jasper Ibid.
Manley, Mrs. Delarivier 90
Manuch, Cosmo 91
Markham, Gervase 92
Marlow, Christopher Ibid.
Marmion, Shakerly 93
Marston, John Ibid.
Mason, John 94
Massenger, Philip Ibid.
May, Thomas 96
Mead, Robert 97
Medbourn, Matthew Ibid.
Meriton, Thomas Ibid.
Middleton, Thomas 98
Milton, John 100
Montague, Esq; Walter 101
Motteux, Peter Ibid.
Mountford, William 102
NAbs, Thomas
Nash, Thomas
Nevile, Alexander 104
Nevile, Robert Ibid.
Newcastle, Duke Ibid.
Newcastle, Dutchess 105
Newton, Thomas 106
Norton, Thomas Ibid.
Nuce, Thomas 107
OTway, Thomas
Oldmixon, John
PAlsgrave, John
Peel, George Ibid.
Philips, Mrs. Catharine Ibid.
Pix, Mrs. Mary 111
Pordage, Esq; Daniel 112
Porter, Henry Ibid.
Porter, Thomas Ibid.
Powel, George 113
Preston, Thomas Ibid.
Prestwich, Edmund 114
QUarles, Francis 114
RAndolph, Thomas
Ravenscroft, Edward
Rawlins, Thomas 117
Revet, Edward Ibid.
Richards, Nathaniel 118
Rider, William Ibid.
Rowley, William Ibid.
Rowley, Samuel 119
Rutter, Joseph Ibid.
Rymer, Thomas Ibid.
SAckvile, Thomas, see Norton
St. Serf, Thomas
Sampson, William Ibid.
Sandys, Esq; George 121
Saunders, Charles Ibid.
Scot, Thomas Ibid.
Settle, Elkanah 122
Shadwell, Esq; Thomas 124
Shakespear, William 126
Sharp, Lewis 129
Sharpham, Edward 130
Shepheard, S. Ibid.
Sherburn, Esq; Edward Ibid.
Shipman, Esq; Thomas Ibid.
Shirley, Henry 131
Shirley, James Ibid.
Sidley, Sir Charles 134
Smith, John Ibid.
Smith, William Ibid.
Southern, Thomas 135
Stanley, Esq; Thomas 137
Stapleton, Sir Robert Ibid.
Stephens, John Ibid.
Strode, William Ibid.
Studley, J. 138
Suckling, Sir John Ibid.
Swinhoe, Gilbert 139


TAte, Esq; Nahum
Tateham, John
Taylor, Robert 141
Thompson, Thomas Ibid.
Trot, Nicholas Ibid.
Tuke, Richard Ibid.
Tuke, S. Ibid.
Turner, Cyril 142
Tutchin, John Ibid.


VAnbrug, Captain 142


WAger, Lewis
Waller, Esq; Edward
Wapul, George 146
Wager, William Ibid.
Waver, R. Ibid.
Webster, John 146
Weston, Esq; John 147
Whitaker Ibid.
Wild, Dr. Robert 148
Willan, Leonard Ibid.
Wilkins, George Ibid.
Wilmot, Robert Ibid.
Wilson, John Ibid.
Wilson, Robert 149
Wood, Nathaniel Ibid.
Wright, John Ibid.
Wright, Thomas Ibid.
Wycherly, William Ibid.


YArrington, Robert 150

Supposed Authors 151
Unknown Authors 156

In the Appendix.

GIldon, Charles 174
Grevile, Fulk, Lord Brook 180
Pembrook, Countess 177
Phillips, Esq; William Ibid.
Pix, Mrs. Mary 178
Plautus 181
Rivers 178
Shadwell, Esq; Thomas 178
Shirley, James 179
Terence Ibid.
Trother, Mrs. Catharine 179
Walker, William 180


PAge 3. Line 12. put the Comma after she. p. 9. l. 7. for is read are. p. 16. l. 18. read Antiquary. p. 22. l. 40. for Nor read And. p. 39. l. 22. for Account read Action. l. 27. dele e. p. 41. l. 16. read Albianus. p. 45. l. ult. for first read last. p. 47. l. 20. read Lollius. p. 51. l. 3. read Victrix. l. 11. read Vandosme. l. 17 dele fairer. l. 33. dele Cinic. p. 90. l. 36. for adding read Address. p. 102. for Three read Four. p. 175. l. 3. read proboq;

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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