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64

FORD

HIS WITCH OF EDMONTON.

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Pen. 'T is long agone, since first I lost my heart;
Long have I liv'd without it; else for certain
I should have given that too; But instead
Of it, to great Calantha, Sparta's heir,
By service bound, and by affection vowd,
I do bequeath in holiest rites of love
Mine only brother, Ithocles.

Cal. What say'st thou?
Pen

I must leave the world
To revel in Elysium; and 't is just
To wish my brother some advantage here ;
Yet by my best hopes, Ithocles is ignorant
Of this pursuit.
Cul.

You have forgot, Penthea,
How still I have a father.
Pen.

But remember
I am a sister, though to me this brother
Hath been, you know, unkind : Oh, most unkind!”

vol. i. 291-293.

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There are passages of equal power and beauty in the plays called “ Love's Sacrifice," “ The Lover's Melancholy," and in “ Fancies Chaste and Noble.” In “ Perkin Warbeck," there is a more uniform and sustained elevation of style. But we pass all those over, to give our readers a word or two from “ The Witch of Edmonton," a drama founded upon the recent execution of a miserable old woman for that fashionable offence; and in which the devil, in the shape of a black dog, is a principal performer! The greater part of the play, in which Ford was assisted by Dekkar and Rowley, is of course utterly absurd and contemptible—though not without its value as a memorial of the strange superstition of the age; but it contains some scenes of great interest and beauty, though written in a lower and more familiar tone than most of those we have already exhibited. , As a specimen of the range of the author's talents, we shall present our readers with one of these. - Frank Thorney had privately married a woman of inferior rank ;; and is afterwards strongly urged by his father, and his own inclination, to take a second wife, in the person of a rich yeoman's daughter whose affections were fixed upon him. After taking this unjustifiable step, he is naturally troubled with certain inward compunctions, which manifest

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themselves in his exterior, and excite the apprehensions of his innocent bride. It is her dialogue with him that we are now to extract; and we think the picture that it affords of unassuming innocence and singleness of heart, is drawn with great truth, and even elegance. She begins with asking him why he changes countenance so suddenly. He answers

" Who, I? For nothing.
Sus. Dear, say not so: a spirit of your constancy
Cannot endure this change for nothing. I've observ'd
Strange variations in you.
Frank.

In me?
Sus.

you,

sir.
Awake you seem to dream, and in your sleep
You utter sudden and distracted accents,
Like one at enmity with peace. Dear loving husband,
If I may dare to challenge any interest
In you, give me thee fully! you may trust
My breast as safely as your own.
Frank,

With what?
You half amaze me; pr’ythee-
Sus.

Come, you shall not,
Indeed you shall not shut me from partaking
The least dislike that grieves you,

I'm all yours.
Frank. And I all thine.
Sus.

You are not; if you keep
The least grief from me: but I know the cause;
It grows

from me.
Frank. From you?
Sus.

From some distaste
In me or my behaviour; you're not kind
In the concealment. 'Las, sir, I am young,
Silly and plain ; more strange to those contents
A wife should offer. Say but in what I fail,
I'll study satisfaction.
Frank.

Come: in nothing.
Sus. I know I do; knew I as well in what,
You should not long be sullen. Pr'ythee, love,
If I have been immodest or too bold,
Speak't in a frown; if peevishly too nice,
Shew't in a smile. Thy liking is a glass
By which I'll habit

my

behaviour.
Frank.

Wherefore
Dost weep now?
Sus.

You, sweet, have the power
To make me passionate as an April day.
Now smile, then weep; now pale, then crimson red.
You are the powerful moon of my

blood's

sea, VOL. II.

F

66

FORD

WITCH OF EDMONTON.

To make it ebb or flow into my face,
As your looks change.
Frank.

Change thy conceit, I pr‘ythee:
Thou'rt all perfection: Diana herself
Swells in thy thoughts and moderates thy beauty.
Within thy clear eye amorous Cupid sits
Feathering love-shafts, whose golden heads he dips
In thy chaste breast.

Sus. Come, come: these golden strings of flattery
Shall not tie up my speech, sir: I must know
The ground of your disturbance.
Frank.

Then look here;
For here, here is the fen in which this hydra
Of discontent grows rank.
Sus.

Heaven shield it! Where?
Frank. In mine own bosom! here the cause has root;
The poisoned leeches twist about my heart,
And will, I hope, confound me.
Sus.

You speak riddles.”

vol. ii. p. 437–440. The unfortunate bigamist afterwards resolves to desert this innocent creature: but, in the act of their parting, is moved by the devil, who rubs against him in the shape of a dog! to murder her. We are tempted to give the greater part of this scene, just to show how much beauty of diction and natural expression of character may be combined with the most revolting and degrading absurdities. The unhappy bridegroom says

Why would you delay? we have no other business
Now, but to part.

Sus. And will not that, sweet-heart, ask a long time?
Methinks it is the hardest piece of work
That e'er I took in hand.
Frank.

Fie, fie! why look,
I'll make it plain and easy to you.

Farewell. [Kisses her.
Sus. Ah, 'las ! I'm not half perfect in it yet.
I must have it thus read a hundred times.
Pray you take some pains, I confess my dulness.
Frank. Come! again and again, farewell. [Kisses her.] Yet

wilt return ?
All questions of my journey, my stay, employment,
And revisitation, fully I have answered all.
There's nothing now behind but-
Sus.

But this request
Frank. What is't?

Sus. That I may bring you thro' one pasture more,
Up to yon knot of trees : amongst those shadows
I'Îl vanish from you ; they shall teach me how.

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Frank. Why, 'tis granted: come, walk then.
Sus.

Nay, not too fast:
They say, slow things have best perfection;
The gentle show'r wets to fertility,
The churlish storm makes mischief with his bounty.

Frank. Now, your request
Is out : yet will you

leave me?
Sus.

What? so churlishly?
You'll make me stay for ever,
Rather than part with such a sound from you.

Frank. Why, you almost anger me. -- 'Pray you begone.
You have no company, and 'tis very early ;
Some hurt may

betide you homewards.
Sus.

Tush! I fear none : To leave you is the greatest I can suffer.

Frank. So! I shall have more trouble.” Here the dog rubs against him; and, after some more talk, he stabs her! * Sus.

Why then I thank you ;
You have done lovingly, leaving yourself,
That you

would thus bestow me on another.
Thou art my husband, Death! I embrace thee
With all the love I have. Forget the stain
Of my unwitting sin: and then I come
A crystal virgin to thee. My soul's purity
Shall, with bold wings, ascend the doors of mercy,
For innocence is ever her companion.

Frank. Not yet mortal ? I would not linger you,
Or leave you a tongue to blab.

[Stabs her again.
Sus. Now heaven reward you ne'er the worse for me !
I did not think that death had been so sweet,
Nor I so apt to love him. I could ne'er die better,
Had I stay'd forty years for preparation :
For I'm in charity with all the world.
Let me for once be thine example, heaven ;
Do to this man as I; forgive him freely,
And may he better die, and sweeter live. [Dies."

vol. ii. p. 452.-455. We cannot afford any more space for Mr. Ford; and what we have said, and what we have shown of him, will probably be thought enough, both by those who are disposed to scoff, and those who are inclined to admire. It is but fair, however, to intimate, that a thorough perusal of his works will afford more exercise to the former disposition than to the latter. His faults are glaring and abundant; but we have not thought it necessary to produce any specimens of them, because they

68

FORD FAULTS AND MERITS.

are exactly the sort of faults which every one acquainted with the drama of that age reckons upon finding. Nobody doubts of the existence of such faults: But there are many who doubt of the existence of any counterbalancing beauties; and therefore it seemed worth while to say a word or two in their explanation. There is a great treasure of poetry, we think, still to be brought to light in the neglected writers of the age to which this author belongs; and poetry of a kind which, if purified and improved, as the happier specimens show that it is capable of being, would be far more delightful to the generality of English readers than any other species of poetry. We shall readily be excused for our tediousness by those who are of this opinion ; and should not have

; been forgiven, even if we had not been tedious, by those who look upon it as a heresy." Itobora wid to sol

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