Famous Reviews eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 678 pages of information about Famous Reviews.

...  When it is determined to reprint the writings of an ancient author, it is usual, we believe, to bestow a little labour in gratifying the natural desire of the reader to know something of his domestic circumstances.  Ford had declared in the title-pages of his several plays, that he was of the Inner Temple; and, from his entry there, Mr. Malone, following up the inquiry, discovered that he was the second son of Thomas Ford, Esq., and that he was baptized at Ilsington, in Devonshire, the 17th of April, 1586.  To this information Mr. Weber has added nothing; and he hopes that the meagreness of his biographical account will be readily excused by the reader who has examined the lives of his (Ford’s) dramatical contemporaries, in which we are continually “led to lament that our knowledge respecting them amounts to little better than nothing.”  It would surely be unjust to appear dissatisfied at the imperfect account of an ancient author, when all the sources of information have been industriously explored.  But, in the present case, we doubt whether Mr. Weber can safely “lay this flattering unction to his soul”; and we shall therefore give such a sketch of the poet’s life, as an attentive examination of his writings has enabled us to compile....

Reversing the observation of Dryden on Shakespeare, it may be said of Ford that “he wrote laboriously, not luckily”:  always elegant, often elevated, never sublime, he accomplished by patient and careful industry what Shakespeare and Fletcher produced by the spontaneous exuberance of native genius.  He seems to have acquired early in life, and to have retained to the last a softness of versification peculiar to himself.  Without the majestic march of verse which distinguishes the poetry of Massinger, and with none of that playful gaiety which characterises the dialogue of Fletcher, he is still easy and harmonious.  There is, however, a monotony in his poetry, which those who have perused his scenes long together must have inevitably perceived.  His dialogue is declamatory and formal, and wants that quick chace of replication and rejoinder so necessary to effect in representation.  If we could put out of our remembrance the singular merits of “The Lady’s Trial,” we should consider the genius of Ford as altogether inclined to tragedy; and even there so large a proportion of the pathetic pervades the drama, that it requires the “humours” of Guzman and Fulgoso, in addition to a happy catastrophe, to warrant the name of comedy.  In the plots of his tragedies Ford is far from judicious; they are for the most part too full of the horrible, and he seems to have had recourse to an accumulation of terrific incidents, to obtain that effect which he despairs of producing by pathos of language.  Another defect in Ford’s poetry, proceeding from the same source, is the alloy of pedantry which pervades his scenes, at one time exhibited in the composition of uncouth phrases, at another in perplexity of language; and he frequently labours

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