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Altogether this romantic comedy attracts by a singular vigour and freshness; but its principal charm lies in the appropriately naïf treatment of its simple, not to say childlike, theme.-WARD, ADOLPHUS WILLIAM, 1875-99, A History of English Dramatic Literature, vol. II. p. 459.



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Dekker had very much the best of the contest. From Gifford's saying that "Dekker writes in downright passion, and foams through every page," we should infer that he had never read "Satiromastrix," were it not the case that he makes mistakes equally gross concerning plays that he must have read. Dekker writes with the greatest possible lightness of heart, easy mockery, and free abuse. It is absurd to say that he "makes no pretensions to invention, but takes up the characters of his predecessor, and turns them. the seamy side without." Tucca is the only character that he borrows, and a very ingenious idea it is--one of the best parts of the joke-to set Jonson's own free-spoken swaggerer to abuse himself. Dekker's Tucca is much more ably wrought out than Jonson's; he has a much finer command of what Widow Minever calls "horrible ungodly names;" and his devices to obtain money are equally shameless and amusing. All the other characters, and what plot there is, are Dekker's own; he, of course, uses the names Horace, Crispinus, and Demetrius, otherwise there would have been no point in his reply--but he gives them very different characters. MINTO, WILLIAM, 1874-85, Characteristics of English Poets, p. 344.

The controversial part of the play is so utterly alien from the romantic part that it is impossible to regard them as component factors of the same original plot. It seems to me unquestionable that Dekker must have conceived the design, and probable that he must have begun the composition, of a serious play on the subject of William Rufus and Sir Walter Tyrrel, before the appearance of Ben Jonson's "Poetaster" impelled or instigated him to some immediate attempt at rejoinder; and that being in a feverish hurry to retort the blow inflicted on him by a heavier hand than his own he devised--perhaps between jest and earnest the preposterously

incoherent plan of piecing out his farcical and satirical design by patching and stitching it into his unfinished scheme of tragedy. It may be assumed, and it is much to be hoped, that there never existed another poet capable of imagining— much less of perpetrating an incongruity so monstrous and so perverse.

That Dekker was unable to hold his own against Jonson when it came to sheer hard hitting that on the ground or platform of personal satire he was as a light weight pitted against a heavy weight is of course too plain, from the very first round, to require any further demonstration. But it is not less plain that in delicacy and simplicity and sweetness of inspiration the poet who could write the scene in which the bride takes poison (as she believes) from the hand of her father, in presence of her bridegroom, as a refuge from the passion of the king, was as far above Jonson as Jonson was above him in the robuster qualities of intellect or genius. This most lovely scene, for pathos tempered with fancy and for passion distilled in melody, is comparable only with higher work, of rarer composition and poetry more pure, than Jonson's: it is a very treasure-house of verses like jewels, bright as tears and sweet as flowers. When Dekker writes like this, then truly we seem to see his right hand in the left hand of Shakespeare.-SWINBURNE, ALGERNON CHARLES, 1887, Thomas Dekker, The Nineteenth Century, vol. 21, pp. 84, 85.


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that seem to raise, revive, and give a new zest to our being. Vain the complaint! We should never have known their value, if we had not known them always: they are old, very old acquaintance, or we should not recognise them at first sight. We only find in books what is already written within "the red-leaved tables of our hearts."-HAZLITT, WILLIAM, 1820, Lectures on the Literature of the Age of Elizabeth.

In this play, which to my mind has every mark of being essentially his, Dekker has treated with powerful simplicity the most terrible of the sins of a great city, and although I am by no means inclined to assign to "The Honest Whore," from a literary point of view, the highest eminence among his dramatic works, the depth of its general conception and the broad effectiveness of its execution have justly caused this to be regarded as one of the most interesting productions of the popular Elisabethan drama.

Dekker's age, whatever its vices and weaknesses, had not lost the power of holding up to them a true and uncompromising mirror; and it must be allowed that in "The Honest Whore" the main lesson of the action is brought home not merely with the utmost directness of speech, but also with unmistakeable integrity of purpose.-WARD, ADOLPHUS WILLIAM, 1875-99, A History of English Dramatic Literature, vol. II, p. 462.

His smypathy with sinful and sorrowing humanity was genuine and deep; but his poignant feelings sometimes found expression in language which seems to have the air of insincerity. In the fine scenes where Hippolito implores Bellafront to abandon her vicious course of life, and again where he strives to undo the effect of his former teaching, one feels that the arguments and illustrations are enforced with over-heated vehemence. This note of exaggeration is never absent from Dekker's work; he let his fancy have full swing and did not write "with slower pen." But he was the most natural of writers, lovable at all points, full of simplicity and tenderness. The character of Orlando Friscobaldo is drawn in Dekker's cheeriest, sunniest manner. . . . Had Middleton's share in "The Honest Whore" been at all considerable, we may be tolerably sure that his name would not

have been omitted from the title-page. BULLEN, A. H., 1885, ed., The Works of Thomas Middleton, Introduction, vol. 1, p. XXV, xxvii.

My own reason for preferring it to almost all the non-tragical work of the time out of Shakespere, is the wonderful character of Bellafront, both in her unreclaimed and her reclaimed condition. In both she is a very woman-not as conventional satirists and conventional encomiasts praise or rail at women, but as women are. If her language in her unregenerate days is sometimes coarser than is altogether pleasant, it does not disguise. her nature, the very nature of such a woman misled by giddiness, by curiosity, by love of pleasure, by love of admiration, but in no thorough sense depraved. Her selection of Matheo not as the instrument of her being "made an honest woman, not apparently because she had any love for him left, or had ever had much, but because he was her first seducer, is exactly what, after a sudden convincing of sin, such a woman would have done; and if her patience under the long trial of her husband's thoughtlessness and occasional brutality seem excessive, it will only seem so to one who has been unlucky in his experience. Matheo indeed is a thorough good-for-nothing, and the natural man longs that Bellafront might have been better parted; but Dekker was a very moral person in his own way, and apparently he would not entirely let herImogen gone astray as she is off her penance. - SAINTSBURY, GEORGE, 1887, History of Elizabethan Literature, p. 205.

Of all Dekker's works, "The Honest Whore" comes nearest to some reasonable degree of unity and harmony in conception and construction: his besetting vice of reckless and sluttish incoherence has here done less than usual to deform the proportions and deface the impression of his design. SWINBURNE, ALGERNON CHARLES, 1887, Thomas Dekker, The Nineteenth Century, vol. 21, p. 87.


Quick Anti-Horace.-CHETTLE, HENRY, 1603, England's Mourning Garment.

Why, sir, sayd I, there is a booke called "Greenes Ghost haunts Conycatchers;' another called "Legerdemaine," and "The Blacke Dog of Newgate;" but the most

wittiest, elegantest and eloquentest peece (Master Dekkers, the true heire of Appolo composed) called "The Bell-man of London, "have already set foorth the vices of the time so vively, that it is unpossible the Anchor of any other mans braine can sound the sea of a more deepe and dreadful mischeefe.-FENNOR, WILLIAM, 1617, The Compter's Commonwealth.

A high-flier in wit, even against Ben Jonson himself, in his Comedy called "The Untrussing of the Humourous Poet.". PHILLIPS, EDWARD, 1675, Theatrum Poetarum Anglicanorum, ed. Brydges, p. 237.

A Poet that liv'd in the Reign of King James the First, and was Contemporary with that admirable Laureat, Mr. Benjamin Johnson. He was more famous for the contention he had with him for the Bays, than for any great Reputation he had gain'd by his own Writings. Yet even in that Age, he wanted not his Admirers, nor his Friends amongst the Poets: in which number I reckon the Ingenious Mr. Richard Brome; who always stil'd him by the Title of Father. He clubb'd with Webster in writing Three Plays; and with Rowley and Ford in another: and I think I may venture to say, that these Plays as far exceed those of his own Brain, as a platted Whipcord exceeds a single Thread in strength. Of those which he writ alone, I know none of much Esteem, except "The Untrussing the Humourous Poet," and that chiefly on account of the Subject of it, which was the Witty Ben Johnson.-LANGBAINE, GERARD, 1691, An Account of the English Dramatick Poets, p. 121.

Upon the whole, Decker cannot be ranked with Chapman and Heywood, and it is very probable that he could not have been half so well respected as he was, had not the envy of Jonson, who had he possessed an atom of good sense would have smiled and passed by him, lifted him into. a consequence, not only fancied by him but credited by the world.-DIBDIN, CHARLES, 1795, A Complete History of the Stage, vol. III, p. 260.

Decker was a very popular writer, whose numerous tracts exhibit to posterity a more detailed narrative of the manners of the town in the Elizabethan age than is elsewhere to be found.-DISRAELI, ISAAC, 1812-13, Jonson and Decker, Quarrels of Authors.

On the same elevation with Middleton, as to dramatic merit, may we place the name of Thomas Decker, who, if he has not equalled his contemporary in the faculty of imagination, has, in some instances, exceeded him, in the vigorous conception of his characters, and the skilful management of his fable.-DRAKE, NATHAN, 1817, Shakspeare and His Times, vol. II, p. 566.

Yet more versatile, whimsical, and even prolific than either of the foregoing writers (perhaps not excepting Greene) was Thomas Dekker.-DIBDIN, THOMAS FROGNALL, 1824, The Library Companion, note, p. 594.

I take Webster and Decker to have been the two greatest of the Shakspeare men, for unstudied genius, next after Beaumont and Fletcher; and in some respects they surpassed them. Beaumont and Fletcher have no such terror as Webster, nor any such piece of hearty, good, affecting human clay as Decker's "Old Signior Orland Friscobaldo." Is there any such man even in Shakspeare? any such exaltation of that most delightful of all things, bonhomie? Webster sometimes overdoes his terror; nay, often. He not only riots, he debauches in it; and Decker, full of heart and delicacy as he is, and qualified to teach refinement to the refined, condescends to an astounding coarseness. Beaumont and Fletcher's good company saved them from that, in words. In spirit they are full of it. But Decker never mixes up (at least not as far as I can remember) any such revolting and impossible contradictions in the same character as they do. Neither does he bring a doubt on his virtues by exaggerating them. He believes heartily in what he does believe, and you love him in consequence.-HUNT, LEIGH, 1844, Imagination and Fancy, p. 197.

One of the most fascinating dramatists of his generation, and, with much vulgarity and trash, has passages worthy of the greatest. He is light, airy, sportive, humane, forgetive, and possesses both animal and intellectual spirits to perfection. He seems flushed and heated with the very wine of life; throws off the sunniest morsels of wit and wisdom with a beautiful heedlessness and unstudied ease; and in his intense enjoyment of life and motion appears continually to exclaim,

with his own Matheo, "Do we not fly high?" WHIPPLE, EDWIN P., 1846, Old English Dramatists, Essays and Reviews, vol. II, p. 39.

He appears to have been by no means destitute of imagination, of pathos, or of humour; though his genius has always appeared to us rather lyric than dramatic. SHAW, THOMAS B., 1847, Outlines of English Literature, p. 130.

Dekker must not be estimated from Jonson's character of him. He wrote a great number of plays, and was joined in several by Webster, Ford, and others. His pieces are remarkably unequal. His plots are not always well chosen, and are generally careless in construction. But in occasional scenes he rises to an unexpected height of power, and exhibits a range of fancy that fairly entitles him to take rank with the majority of his contemporaries.—BELL, ROBERT, 1867? ed., Songs from the Dramatists, p. 176.

I am not certain whether I may not now be calling up a singer whose song will appear hardly to justify his presence in the choir. But its teaching is of high import, namely, of content and cheerfulness and courage, and being both worthy and melodious, it gravitates heavenward. The singer is yet another dramatist: I presume him to be Thomas Dekker. I cannot be certain, because others were concerned with him in the writing of the drama from which I take it.-MACDONALD, GEORGE, 1868, England's Antiphon, p. 140.

Though his lyrical gifts were of a rare quality, though he was master of a vigorous if not elevated rhetoric, and though his natural humour, which shows itself at its height already in his earliest extant comedy, seems to have been constantly fed by lively observation, he produced no one dramatic work of a high order. It is in scattered scenes and passages rather than in the working out of characters or plots that he displays elements of real tragic power; for at times his pathos is singularly sudden and direct. A fuller measure of success he commands only within a limited sphere. Inside of this, although the grossness of his realism makes it impossible for a more refined age to dwell with unalloyed pleasure on his pictures of contemporary life, the unaffected healthiness of his spirit and the vigour of his comic genius are beyond

dispute. —WARD, ADOLPHUS WILLIAM, 1875-99, A History of English Dramatic Literature, vol. II, p. 471.

Dekker had several qualities which made him a desirable coadjutor in playwriting. He was a master of the craft of the stage. A man of quick sympathies, unconquerable buoyancy of spirit, infinite readiness and resource, he had lived among the people who filled the theatres, and took a genuine delight in moving them by the exhibition of common joys and sorrows. His whole heart went with his audience, and, though he had not the loftiness of aim of his greatest contemporaries, none of them had a finer dramatic instinct. He knew London as well as Dickens, and had something of the same affection for its oddities and its outcasts. The humour which lights up its miseries, the sunshine which plays over its tears, the simple virtues of the poor and unfortunate, patience, forgiveness, mirthfulness, were the favourite themes of this tender-hearted dramatist. His plays are full of life and movement, of pathos that is never maudlin and humour that is never harsh. Vice always gets the worst of it, hardness of heart above all never goes unpunished, but relenting leniency always comes in to keep retribution within gentle bounds. Virtue is always triumphant, but it is discovered. in the most fantastic shapes and the least conventional habiliments.-MINTO, WILLIAM, 1880, English Poets, ed. Ward, vol. II, p. 55.

A hopeful, cheerful, humane spirit, who turned vexations and miseries into commodities.-WELSH, ALFRED H., 1882, Development of English Literature and Language, vol. I, p. 425, note.

Dekker would have taken a high place among the finest if not among the greatest of English poets if he had but had the sense of form the instinct of composition. Whether it was modesty, indolence, indifference or incompetence, some drawback or short-coming there was which so far impaired the quality of his strong and delicate genius that it is impossible for his most ardent and cordial admirer to say or think of his very best work that really it does him justice that it adequately represents the fullness of his unquestionable powers. SWINBURNE, ALGERNON CHARLES, 1886, Thomas Middleton, The Nineteenth Century, vol. 19, p. 143.

Honest Dekker, with his easy-going sensibilities and facile touch on human feeling. SYMONDS, JOHN ADDINGTON, 1887, Marlowe, (Mermaid Series), General Introduction to the Drama, p. xxiv.

When all deductions have been made on the score of inartistic and reckless workmanship, Dekker's best plays rank with the masterpieces of the Elizabethan drama; and his numerous tracts, apart from their sterling literary interest, are simply invaluable for the information that they afford concerning the social life of Elizabethan and Jacobean times.-BULLEN, A. H., 1888, Dictionary of National Biography, vol. XIV, p. 300.

There is good meat in what Dekker wrote: he had humor; he had pluck; he had gift for using words-to sting or to praise or to beguile one. There are traces not only of a Dickens flavor in him, but of a Lamb flavor as well; and there is reason to believe that, like both these later humorists, he made his conquests without the support of a university training. Swinburne characterizes him as a "modest, shiftless, careless nature:" but he was keen to thrust a pin into one who had offended his sensibilities; in his plays he warmed into pretty lyrical outbreaks, but never seriously measured out a work of large proportions, or entered upon execution of such with a calm, persevering temper. He was many-sided, not only literary-wise, but also conscience-wise. It seems incredible that one who should write the coarse things which appear in his "Bachelor's Banquet" should also have elaborated, with a pious unction (that reminds of Jeremy Taylor) the saintly invocations of the "Foure Birds of Noah's Ark:" and as for his "Dreame" it shows in parts a luridness of color which reminds of our own Wigglesworth-as if this New England poet of fifty years later may have dipped his brush into the same paint-pot. MITCHELL, DONALD G., 1889, English Lands Letters and Kings, From Celt to Tudor, p. 287.

A marked difference between Dekker and Nash resulted from the fact that Dekker had not only a love of poetry, but a poetical faculty of a high order. He went far beyond the picturesqueness of Nash's word-painting, and reached in his prose as well as in his verse true lyrical emotion and pathos; he had, said Lamb,

"poetry enough for anything;" and while Nash's gaiety, true and hearty as it is, takes often and naturally a bitter satirical turn, Dekker's gaiety though sometimes bitter, more usually takes a pretty, graceful, and fanciful turn.

Dekker did not write novels properly so called, but his prose works abound with scenes that seem detached from novels, and that were so well fitted for that kind of writing that we find them again in the works of professional novelists of his or of a later time. -JUSSERAND, J. J., 1890, The English Novel in the Time of Shakespeare, pp. 332, 335.

Is unrivalled in short pathetic scenes, has a tenderness that is all his own, combines with a sweet fancy a rare lyrical gift, but is excessively unequal as a craftsman, and mars some of his finest efforts by his impatience, his incoherence, and his carelessness. It is difficult to understand how it can be possible that the author of the detestable stuff called "If it be not good, the Devil is in it," could have turned away to contribute to Massinger's "Virgin Martyr" the exquisite episode between the heroine and the angel. This extravagant inequality, ever recurring, creates the standing difficulty about the literary position of Dekker.-GOSSE, EDMUND, 1894, The Jacobean Poets, p. 22.

Dekker is the complement of Chapman, with whom, as with Jonson and Marston, he was conjoined in a series of now inextricable literary friendships and quarrels. Chapman was a scholar and a ripe one; Dekker is not known to have had any education. Chapman had a rugged obscurity and a native force tending to extravagance as his chief gifts; Dekker combines sweetness, which is never cloying or merely sentimental, with a curious limpidity and fluency of diction. He wrote, so far as we know, no poems of note, save the charming lyrics inserted in his plays; but his prose is a sort of manual of the lower London life of the times of Elizabeth and James; and his best plays, "Old Fortunatus" and "The Honest Whore," exalt pathos, which is never maudlin or conventional, to nearly its highest pitch. A parallel contrast between Dekker and Dickens would be very instructive; I do not know that it has ever been drawn.SAINTSBURY, GEORGE, 1895, Social England, ed. Traill, vol. IV, p. 108.

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