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with, in a note on Milton's Masque, said that “these compositions were trifling and perplexed allegories, the persons of which are fantastical to the last degree. Ben Jonson, in his Masque of Christmas,' has introduced Minced Pie,' and

Baby Cake,' who act their parts in the drama.* But the most wretched performances of this kind could please by the help of music, machinery, and dancing.” Granger blunders, describing by two farcical characters a species of composition of which farce was not the characteristic. Such personages as he notices would enter into the Anti-masque, which was a humorous parody of the more solemn Masque, and sometimes relieved it. Malone, whose fancy was not vivid, condemns Masques and the age of Masques, in which, he says, echoing Granger's epithet," the wretched taste of the times found amusement.” And lastly comes Mr. Todd, whom the splendid fragment of the “ Arcades," and the entire Masque, which we have by heart, could not warm; while his neutralising criticism fixes him at the freezing point of the thermometer. “ This dramatic entertainment, performed not without prodigious expense in machinery and decoration, to which humour we certainly owe the entertainment of • Arcades,' and the inimitable Mask of 'Comus.”Comus, however, is only a fine dramatic poem, retaining scarcely any features of the Masque. The only modern critic who had written with some research on this departed elegance of the English drama was Warton, whose fancy responded to the fascination of the fairy-like magnificence and lyrical spirit of the Masque. Warton had the taste to give a specimen from “ The Inner Temple Mask by William Browne," the

pastoral poet, whose Address to Sleep, he observed, “ reminds

* It is due to a great poet like Ben Jonson, that, without troubling the reader to turn to his works, we should give his own description of these characters, to show that they were not the “perplexed allegories" they are asserted to be by Granger; nor inappropriate to the Masque of Christmas, for which they were designed. MINCED-Pie was habited “like a fine cook’s wife, drest neat, her man carrying a pie, dish, and spoon.” Baby-CAKE was "drest like a boy, in a fine long coat, biggin-bib, muckender (or handkerchief), and a little dagger ; his usher bearing a great cake, with a bean and a pease;" the latter being indicative of those generally inserted in a Christmas cake, which, when cut into slices and distributed, indicated by the presence of the bean the person who should be king ; the slice with the pea doing the same for the queen. Neither of these characters speak, but make part of the show to be described by Father Christmas. Jonson's inventive talent was never nuore conspicuous than in the concoction of court Masques.

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us of some favourite touches in Milton's Comus, to which it perhaps gave birth.” Yet even Warton was deficient in that sort of research which only can discover the true nature of these singular dramas.

Such was the state in which, some years ago, I found all our knowledge of this once favourite amusement of our court, our nobility, and our learned bodies of the four inns of court. Some extensive researches, pursued among contemporary manuscripts, cast a new light over this obscure child of fancy and magnificence. I could not think lightly of what Ben Jonson has called “The Eloquence of Masques ;" entertainments on which from three to five thousand pounds were expended, and on more public occasions ten and twenty thousand. To the aid of the poetry, composed by the finest poets, came the most skilful musicians and the most elaborate machinists; Ben Jonson, and Inigo Jones,* and Lawes blended into one piece their respective genius; and Lord Bacon, and Whitelocke, and Selden, who sat in committees for the last grand Masque presented to Charles the First, invented the devices; composed the procession of the Masquers and the Anti-Masquers; while one took the care of the dancing or the brawlers, and Whitelocke the musicthe sage Whitelocke! who has chronicled his self-complacency on this occasion, by claiming the invention of a Coranto, which for thirty years afterwards was the delight of the nation, and was blessed by the name of “ Whitelocke's Coranto," and which was always called for, two or three times over, whenever that great statesman came to see a play!”+ So much personal honour was considered to be involved in the conduct of a Masque, that even this committee of illustrious men was on the point of being broken up by too serious a discussion concerning precedence; and the Masque had nearly not taken place, till they hit on the expedient of throwing dice to decide on their rank in the procession ! On this jealousy of honour in the composition of a Masque, I discovered, what hitherto had escaped the knowledge, although not the curiosity, of literary inquirersthe occasion of the memorable enmity between Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones, who had hitherto acted together with brotherly affection; "a circumstance," says Gifford, to whom I communicated it, “not a little important in the history of our calumniated poet.” The trivial cause, but not so in its consequences, was the poet prefixing his own name before that of the architect on the title-page of a Masque, which hitherto had only been annexed ;* so jealous was the great architect of his part of the Masque, and so predominant his power and name at court, that he considered his rights invaded by the inferior claims of the poet! Jonson has poured out the whole bitterness of his soul in two short satires: still more unfortunately for the subject of these satires, they provoked Inigo to sharpen his pen on rhyme; but it is edgeless, and the blunt composition still lies in its manuscript state.

* The first employment of these two great men was upon The Masque of Blackness, performed at Whitehall on Twelfth-Night, 1603; and which cost nearly 10,0001, of our present money.

+ The music of Whitelocke's Coranto is preserved in Hawkins's “ His. tory of Music.” Might it be restored for the ladies as a waltz ?


While these researches had engaged my attention, appeared Gifford's Memoirs of Ben Jonson. The characteristics of Masques are there, for the first time, elaborately opened with the clear and penetrating spirit of that ablest of our dramatic critics. I feel it like presumption to add to what has received the finishing hand of a master; but his jewel is locked up in a chest, which I fear is too rarely opened, and he will allow me to borrow something from its splendour. “The Masque, as it attained its highest degree of excellence, admitted of dialogue, singing, and dancing; these were not independent of one another, but combined, by the introduction of some ingenious fable, into an harmonious whole. When the plan was formed, the aid of the sister-arts was called in; for the essence of the Masque was pomp and glory. Moveable scenery of the most costly and splendid kind was lavished on the Masque; the most celebrated masters were employed on the songs and dances; and all that the kingdom afforded of vocal and instrumental excellence was employed to embellish the exhibition. Thus magnificently constructed, the Masque was not committed to ordinary performers. It

* This was Chloridia, a Masque performed by the queen and her ladies at court, on Shrovetide, 1630; upon the title-page of which is printed “the inventors-Ben Jonson, Inigo Jones.” Jonson was, by reason of the nfluence of Inigo, deprived of employ at court ever after, supplanted by other poets named by the architect, and among them Heywood, Shirley, and Davenant.

+ George Chapman's Memorable Maske, performed at Whitehall, 1630, by the gentlemen of the Middle Temple and Lincoln's Inn, cost the latter society nearly 20001. for their share of the expenses.

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was composed, as Lord Bacon says, for princes, and by princes it was played.* Of these Masques, the skill with which their ornaments were designed, and the inexpressible grace with which they were executed, appear to have left a vivid impression on the mind of Jonson. His genius awakes at once, and all his faculties attune to sprightliness and pleasure. He makes his appearance, like his own Delight, accompanied with Grace, Love, Harmony, Revel, Sport, and Laughter.'

" Io curious knot and mazes so

The Spring at first was taught to go;
And Zephyr, when he came to woo
His Flora, bad his motionst too;
And thus did Venus learn to lead
The Idalian brawls, and so to tread,
As if the wind, not she, did walk,

Nor press'd a flower, nor bow'd a stalk. “ But in what,” says Gifford, “was the taste of the times wretched ? In poetry, painting, architecture, they have not since been equalled ; and it ill becomes us to arraign the taste of a period which possessed a cluster of writers the meanest would now be esteemed a prodigy.” Malone did not live to read this denouncement of his objection to these Masques, as “bungling shows;

“ bungling shows ;” and which Warburton treats as “fooleries ;" Granger as “ wretched performances ;" while Mr. Todd regards them merely as “the humour of the times !”

Masques were often the private theatricals of the families of our nobility, performed by the ladies and gentlemen at their seats; and were splendidly got up on certain occasions :

such as the celebration of a nuptial, or in compliment to some ; great visitor. The Masque of Coinus was composed by

Milton to celebrate the creation of Charles the First as Prince of Wales; a scene in this Masque presented both the castle and the town of Ludlow, which proves, that although our small public theatres had not yet displayed any of the scenical illusions which loug afterwards Davenant introduced, these scenical effects existed in great perfection in the Masques. The minute descriptions introduced by Thomas Campion, in his “Memorable Masque,” as it is called, will convince us that the scenery must have been exquisite and

Ben Jonson records the names of the noble ladies and gentlemen who enacted his inventions at court.

+ The figures and actions of dancers in Masques were called motions.




fanciful, and that the poet was always a watchful and anxious partner with the machinist, with whom sometimes, however, he had a quarrel.

The subject of this very rare Masque was “The Night and the Hours." It would be tedious to describe the first scene with the fondness with which the poet has dwelt on it. It was a double valley ; one side, with dark clouds hanging before it; on the other, a green vale, with trees, and nine golden ones of fifteen feet high ; from which grove, towards “ the State," or the seat of the king, was a broad descent to the dancing-place : the bower of Flora was on the right, the house of Night on the left; between them a hill, hanging like a cliff over the grove. The bower of Flora was spacious, garnished with flowers and flowery branches, with lights among them; the house of Night ample and stately, with black columns studded with golden stars; within, nothing but clouds and twinkling stars; while about it were placed, on wire, artificial bats and owls, continually moving. As soon as the king entered the great hall, the hautboys, out of the wood on the top of the hill, entertained the time, till Flora and Zephyr were seen busily gathering flowers from the bower, throwing them into baskets which two silvans held, attired in changeable taffeta. The song is light as their fingers, but the burden is charming :

Now hath Flora robb’d her bowers
To befriend this place with flowers;

Strow about! strow about!
Divers, divers flowers affect
For some private dear respect;

Strow about! strow about !
But he's none of Flora's friend
That will not the rose commend;

Strow about! strow about! I cannot quit this Masque, of which collectors know the rarity, without preserving one of those Doric delicacies, of which, perhaps, we have outlived the taste! It is a playful dialogue between a Silvan and an Hour, while Night appears in her house, with her long black hair spangled with gold, amidst her Hours; their faces black, and each bearing a lighted black torch. Silvan. Tell me, gentle Hour of Night,

Wherein dost thou most delight ?
HOUR, Not in sleep!

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