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A Collection of Old English Plays, Volume 2   By:

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In Four Volumes

Edited by


1882 89.


Preface Dick of Devonshire The Lady Mother The Tragedy of Sir John Van Olden Barnavelt Captain Underwit Appendix I. Appendix II. Footnotes.


The plays in this volume are printed for the first time. All are anonymous; but it is absolutely certain that Sir John Van Olden Barnavelt is a masterpiece by Fletcher and Massinger; that Captain Underwit is a comedy of Shirley's; and that the Lady Mother (a piece of no particular merit) is by Glapthorne. I am not at all sure that I am right in ascribing Dick of Devonshire to Heywood. But, whoever may have been the author, I am confident that this well written play will be welcomed by all. In Appendix I I give an account of the folio volume (Eg. MS. 1,994) from which the two last pieces are taken.

To Mr. ROBERT BOYLE, of St. Petersburg, I offer my sincere thanks for the very interesting note ( Appendix II ) which he sent me after reading the proof sheets of Barnavelt . Elsewhere I have expressed my gratitude to Mr. F.G. FLEAY for his valuable help.

The preparation of this volume has been a work of great labour, for everything has been transcribed by my own hand; but the tedious delay in publication has been due in great part to circumstances beyond my control.

January 27, 1883.


The play of Dick of Devonshire , now first printed (from Eg. MS., 1994[1]), is distinctly a well written piece, the work of a practised hand. There is nothing amateurish in the workmanship; the reader is not doomed to soar into extravagances at one moment, and sink into flatnesses at another. Ample opportunities were offered for displays of boisterous riot, but the playwright's even balanced mind was not to be disturbed. Everywhere there are traces of studious care; and we may be sure that a style at once so equable and strong was not attained without a long apprenticeship. Nor will the reader fail to note the lesson of charitableness and Christian forbearance constantly, yet unobtrusively, inculcated.

The hero of the play, Richard Pike, published, under the title of Three to One , a pamphlet (reprinted in vol. i. of Mr. Arber's valuable English Garner ) describing his exploits. There is no date to the pamphlet; but it was no doubt issued very shortly after Pike's return, which took place on April 20, 1626. At the outset the writer apologises for the rudeness of his style, "I know not," he says, "what the court of a king means, nor what the fine phrases of silken courtiers are. A good ship I know, and a poor cabin; and the language of a cannon: and therefore as my breeding has been rough, scorning delicacy; and my present being consisteth altogether upon the soldier (blunt, plain and unpolished), so must my writings be, proceeding from fingers fitter for the pike than the pen." In those days a soldier was never at a loss to express himself, and honest Dick Pike was no exception to the rule. He goes straight to the point, and relates his adventures very vividly in the homeliest language. Returning from an expedition against Algiers "somewhat more acquainted with the world, but little amended in estate," he could not long rest inactive; and soon, "the drum beating up for a new expedition," set out to try his fortunes again. The design was against Cadiz; the fleet, under the command of the Earl of Essex, numbered some 110 sail. There is no need to continue the story, for I have nothing to add to the facts set forth in the pamphlet and the play. If Britannia's Pastorals had been written a few years later, we may be sure that William Browne would have paid a fitting compliment to his fellow townsman's bravery. But Pike's famous deeds were not forgotten by his countymen; for in a broadside of the late seventeenth century, bearing the title of A Panegyric Poem; or, Tavestock's Encomium ,[2] he is thus enthusiastically praised:

"Search whether can be found again the like For noble prowess for our Tav'stock Pike, In whose renowned never dying name Live England's honour and the Spaniard's shame... Continue reading book >>

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