230 Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
and greater as Time rolls on. Yet, so far as Shakspeare can
be approached, he is approached by Fletcher. Speaking
of him and Shakspeare's other great contemporaries, Hazlitt
They are a mighty phalanx of kindred spirits closing him (Shakspeare) round, moving in the same orbit, and impelled by the same causes in their whirling and eccentric career. They had the same faults and the same excellencies; the same strength and depth and richness, the same truth of character, passion, imagination, thought and language, thrown, heaped, massed together without careful polishing or exact method, but poured out in unconcerned profusion from the lap of nature and genius in boundless and unrivalled magnificence. The sweetness of Deckar, the grace of Fletcher and his young-eyed wit, Jonson's learned sock, the flowing vein of Middleton, Heywood's ease, the pathos of Webster, and Marlow'sdeep designs, add a double lustre to the sweetness, thought, gravity, grace, wit, artless nature, copiousness, ease, pathos and sublime conceptions of Shakspeare's Muse. They are, indeed, the scale by which we can best ascend to the true knowledge and love of him. Our admiration of them does not lessen our relish for him; but, on the contrary, increases and confirms it.
Fletcher died unmarried—in 1625—it is supposed of the plague then raging in London, and was buried at St Mary's, now St. Saviour's, Southwark. Little or nothing is known of his habits of life, except that he and Beaumont were gay young men, "about town," "noble-swelling spirits," affecting a more aristocratic, or, as we should say now-a-days, fashionable tone and air than their great contemporaries. With these, however, we know, from Beaumont's poetic description to Jonson of what they did at the Mermaid, they mingled, and the very talk of the two friends is said to have been a "comedy." Sometimes, too, it must have been something higher, for how richly stored must have been the minds of which such gems as these were the out-flow:—
Hence, all you vain delights, As short as are the nights Wherein you spend your folly; There's nought in this life sweet, If man were wise to see't, But only melancholy. Oh, sweetest melancholy! Welcome folded arms and fixed eyes, A sight that piercing mortifies: