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his “ Account of the Russe Commonwealth, or Manner of S6 Government by the Russe Emperor, commonly called the “ Emperor of Moskovia, with the Manners and Fashions “ of the people of that Country." This he printed on his return in 1590; but it was suppressed lest it should give offence. A second edition of this book appeared however in 1643.
Dr. Fletcher was appointed, subsequently to his mission to Russia, Secretary to the City of London, and one of the masters of the Court of Requests. In 1597 he was chosen Treasurer of St. Paul's. Besides the work already noticed, which will be found in Hakluyt’s Voyages, Dr. Fletcher was the author of a discourse, the object of which was, to prove that the Tartars are the descendants of the Ten Tribes, who were led captive by Shalmaneser. Whiston adopted the same opinion, and even printed the discourse in the first volume of his Memoirs. Dr. Fletcher died in 1610.
Our author was allied to several men of eminence, besides his father. His uncle was the famous Fletcher, Bishop of Peterborough, who attended Mary, Queen of Scots, to the place of her execution, and exhorted her to change her religion ; his cousin was the celebrated dramatic writer, whose name is so often mentioned in connexion with that of Beaumont; and his elder brother Giles Fletcher, was a poet of considerable merit. Benlowes in some verses which he addressed to our author, says, 66 Thy very name's a
prove the authorill be regul's equests. Londently to
Little is known of the life of Phineas Fletcher : but Mr. Ellis conjectures he was born in 1584; He was educated at Eton; and admitted a scholar of King's College, Cambridge in 1600, took his Bachelor's degree in 1604, and his Master's degree in 1608. He entered into the church; and was presented to the living of Hilgay in Norfolk, in 1621, by Sir Henry Willoughby, which he held during a period of twenty-nine years. He died about the year 1650,
Besides the poem which is here reprinted, he was the author of seven Piscatory Eclogues, Eliza an Elegy, and several minor poems. He likewise wrote a drama, entitled SICELIDES, which was performed at King's College, Cambridge, and printed in 1631. “ It was intended, originally," says the editor of the Biographia Dramatica, “ to be pers
56 formed before King James the First, on the 13th of May,
The following remarks on the Poetry of our author, are from the elegant pen of the late lamented Henry Headley, A. B.
“ Was cropped in his prime,
They are extracted from his “ Select Beauties of An66 cient English Poetry;" and it inay be observed that a distinguished place in that collection is assigned to Phineas Fletcher.
“ Were the celebrated Mr. Pott compelled to read a lecture upon the anatomy of the human frame at large, in a regular set of stanzas, it is much to be questioned whether he could make himself understood, by the most apprehensive auditor, without the advantage of professional knowledge. Fletcher seems to have undertaken a nearly similar task, as the five first cantos of The Purple Island are almost entirely taken up with an explanation of the title ; in the course of which the reader forgets the poet, and is sickened with the anatomist. Such minute attention to this part of the subject was a material error in judgment; for which, however, ample amends are made in what follows. Nor is Fletcher wholly undeserving of praise for the intelligibility with which he has struggled through his difficulties, for his uncommon command of words, and facility of metre. After describing the body, he proceeds to personify the passions and intellectual
.......................................................... faculties. Here fatigued attention is not merely relieved, but fascinated and enraptured ; and, notwithstanding his figures, in many instances, are two arbitrary and fantastic in their habiliments, often disproportioned and overdone, sometimes lost in a superfluity of glaring colours, and the several characters, in general, by no means sufficiently kept apart; yet, amid such a profusion of images, many are distinguished by a boldness of outline, a majesty of manner, a brilliancy of colouring, a distinctness and propriety of attribute, and an air of life, that we look for in vain in modern productions, and that rival, if not surpass, what we meet with of the kind even in Spenser, from whom our author caught his in- , spiration. After exerting his creative powers on this department of his subject, the virtues and better qualities of the heart, under their leader Eclecta, or Intellect, are attacked by the vices : a battle ensues, and the latter are vanquished, after a vigorous opposition, through the interference of an angel, who appears at the prayers of Eclecta. The poet here abruptly takes an opportunity of paying a fulsome and unpardonable compliment to James the First (canto xii. stanza 55) ; on that account, perhaps, the most unpalatable passage in the book. From Fletcher's dedication of this his poem, with his Piscatory Eclogues and Miscellanies, to his friend Edmund Benlowes, it seems, that they were written very early; as he calls them “ raw essays of my very unripe years, and al66 most childhood." It is to his honour that Milton read and imitated him, as every attentive reader of both poets must soon discover. He is eminently intitled to a very high rank among our old English classics.”
Mr. Headley's Supplement furnishes us with the following luminous criticisms : “ At the bright lamp of Spenser, whose flame will never expire but with our language, many inferior bards have lighted their slender torches. The perusal of the Fairy Queen biassed the minds both of Cowley and More * to the pursuit of poetry. And to them we may add Fletcher, who, not contented with deriving his general taste for allegory and personification from him, has gone so far as immediately to adopt ima
riving his may add ore * to the
* Preface to his Philosopbical Poems, 1647.
gery and particular figures. Though it may somewhat detract from the invention of Fletcher to compare him in some instances with his original, yet it is the only method of forming a real estimate of his merits ;, and as Dr. Johnson well observes," it is the business of critical justice to give every bird of the Muses his proper feather;" nor has he himself been backward in due acknowledgment, as these instancès sufficiently evince :
“ Two shepherds most I love with just adoring;
« And next our homebred Colin's t. sweetest firing ;
" Their steps not following close, but far admiring ; “ To lacquey one of these is all my pride's aspiring."
Purple Island, Cant. vi. St. 5.
« The eulogium to Spenser's memory, Cant. i. stanza 19. does equal credit to his heart as to his abilities, and deserves being brought forward to notice.
" He again touches on the misfortune of Spenser, Cant. vi. St. 52.
“ But to come more immediately to the several parallel passages, let the reader compare Fletcher's Gluttonie. Cant. vii. St. 80. with Spenser's B. 1. Cant. iv. St. 21 and 22.; compare. Fletcher's Atimus, Cant. viii. St. 42, &c. with Spenser's Idleness, B. 1. Cant. iv. St. 18.; compare Fletcher's Thumos, Cant. vii. St. 55. with Spenser's Wrath, B. 1. Cant. iv. St. 33.; compare Fletcher's Aselges, Cant. vii. St. 23. with Spenser's Lechery, B. 1. Cant. iv. St. 24.; compare Fletcher's Pleonectes, Cant. viii. St. 24., with Spenser's Avarice, B. 1. Cant. iv. St. 27.; compare Fletcher's Envie, Cant. vii. St. 66. with Spenser's Envy, B. 1. Cant. iv. St. 30.; likewise with another description. B. 5. Cant. xii. St. 31. Some of Fletcher's lines well express what Pope with great felicity styles, “ damning with faint praise.'
* When needs he must, yet faintly, then he praises;
. * Compare Fletcher's Deilos, Cant. viji. St. 10. with Spenser's Fear, B. 3. Cant. xii. St. 12. There seems to be more nature and real poetry in Fletcher's describing him as but starting at the sight of his arms, than in Spenser, who on the same occasion represents him as absolutely “ flying fast away ;" but perhaps Spenser has heightened the image by making him equally terrified with the sound of them as the sight; this is omitted in Fletcher. No one of Fletcher's figures is more consistently habited than his Death.
.“ A dead man's skull supplied his helmet's place,
Cant. xii. St. 38.
" Yet the first of these terrific attributes is suggested by Spenser, who has given it to Meleager :
“ Upon his head he wore an helmet light,
B. XI. Cant. xi. St. 22.
« In the preceding part of this Canto of Spenser, in which the foes of Temperance besiege her dwelling-place, we find sight, hearing, smell, and taste, personified, which remind us of Fletcher, and disgrace Spenser. I have often thought that a painter of taste might extract from the Purple Island a series of allegorical figures, which if well executed might do honour to his pencil; though in some instances he would find Fletcher (i nimis Poeta," in others he would have little to do but to supply the colours : and as there can be no necessity for implicitly tying him down to his original, the liberty of rejecting superfluities, and supplying deficiences, should be allowed. The mottos and impresses, which in general are very happily adapted, give Fletcher's figures an air