Biography of Francis Beaumont
Francis Beaumont was a dramatist in the English Renaissance theatre, most famous for his collaborations with John Fletcher.
Beaumont was the son of Sir Francis Beaumont of Grace Dieu, near Thringstone in Leicestershire, a justice of the common pleas. He was born at the family seat and was educated at Broadgates Hall (now Pembroke College, Oxford) at age thirteen. Following the death of his father in 1598, he left university without a degree and followed in his father's footsteps by entering the Inner Temple in London in 1600.
Accounts suggest that Beaumont did not work long as a lawyer. He became a student of poet and playwright Ben Jonson ; he was also acquainted with Micheal Drayton and other poets and dramatists, and decided that was where his passion lay. His first work, Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, appeared in 1602. The 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica describes the work as "not on the whole discreditable to a lad of eighteen, fresh from the popular love-poems of Marlowe and Shakespeare, which it naturally exceeds in long-winded and fantastic diffusion of episodes and conceits." In 1605, Beaumont wrote commendatory verses to Jonson's Volpone.
Beaumont's collaboration with Fletcher may have begun as early as 1605. They had both hit an obstacle early in their dramatic careers with notable failures; Beaumont's The Knight of the Burning Pestle, first performed by the Children of the Blackfriars in 1607, was rejected by an audience who, the publisher's epistle to the 1613 quarto claims, failed to note "the privie mark of irony about it;" that is, they took Beaumont's satire of old-fashioned drama as an old-fashioned drama. The play received a lukewarm reception. The following year, Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess failed on the same stage. In 1609, however, the two collaborated on Philaster, which was performed by the King's Men at the Globe Theatre and at Blackfriars. The play was a popular success, not only launching the careers of the two playwrights but also sparking a new taste for tragicomedy. According to a mid-century anecdote related by John Aubrey, they lived in the same house on the Bankside in Southwark, "sharing everything in the closest intimacy." About 1613 Beaumont married Ursula Isley, daughter and co-heiress of Henry Isley of Sundridge in Kent, by whom he had two daughters, one posthumous. He had a stroke between February and October 1613, after which he wrote no more plays, but was able to write an elegy for Lady Penelope Clifton, who died 26 October 1613. Beaumont died in 1616 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Although today Beaumont is remembered as a dramatist, during his lifetime he was also celebrated as a poet.
It was once written of Beaumont and Fletcher that "in their joint plays their talents are so...completely merged into one, that the hand of Beaumont cannot clearly be distinguished from that of Fletcher." Yet this romantic notion did not stand up to critical examination.
In the seventeenth century, Sir Aston Cockayne, a friend of Fletcher's, specified that there were many plays in the 1647 Beaumont and Fletcher folio that contained nothing of Beaumont's work, but rather featured the writing of Philip Massinger. Nineteenth- and twentieth-century critics like E. H. C. Oliphant subjected the plays to a self-consciously literary, and often subjective and impressionistic, reading — but nonetheless began to differentiate the hands of the collaborators. This study was carried much farther, and onto a more objective footing, by twentieth-century scholars, especially Cyrus Hoy. Short of absolute certainty, a critical consensus has evolved on many plays in the canon of Fletcher and his collaborators; in regard to Beaumont, the schema below is among the least controversial that has been drawn.
Francis Beaumont's Works:
The Knight of the Burning Pestle, comedy (performed 1607; printed 1613)
The Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn, masque (performed 20 February 1613; printed 1613?)
The Woman Hater, comedy (1606; 1607)
Cupid's Revenge, tragedy (c. 1607–12; 1615)
Philaster, or Love Lies a-Bleeding, tragicomedy (c. 1609; 1620)
The Maid's Tragedy, tragedy (c. 1609; 1619)
A King and No King, tragicomedy (1611; 1619)
The Captain, comedy (c. 1609–12; 1647)
The Scornful Lady, comedy (ca. 1613; 1616)
Love's Pilgrimage, tragicomedy (c. 1615–16; 1647)
The Noble Gentleman, comedy (licensed 3 February 1626; 1647)
Beaumont/Fletcher plays, later revised by Massinger:
Thierry and Theodoret, tragedy (c. 1607?; 1621)
The Coxcomb, comedy (c. 1608–10; 1647)
Beggars' Bush, comedy (c. 1612–13?; revised 1622?; 1647)
Love's Cure, comedy (c. 1612–13?; revised 1625?; 1647)
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Francis Beaumont Poems
On The Tombs In Westminster Abbey
MORTALITY, behold and fear! What a change of flesh is here! Think how many royal bones Sleep within this heap of stones:
May I find a woman fair, And her mind as clear as air, If her beauty go alone, 'Tis to me as if't were none.
Never more will I protest, To love a woman but in jest: For as they cannot be true, So, to give each man his due,
Flattering Hope, away and leave me, She'll not come, thou dost deceive me; Hark the cock crows, th' envious light Chides away the silent night;
Lay A Garland On My Hearse
Lay a garland on my hearse, Of the dismal yew, Maidens, willow branches bear, Say I died true.
The Author To The Reader
I sing the fortune of a luckless pair, Whose spotless souls now in one body be; For beauty still is Prodromus to care, Crost by the sad stars of nativity:
Fie On Love
Now fie on foolish love, it not befits Or man or woman know it. Love was not meant for people in their wits, And they that fondly show it
To The True Patronesse Of All Poetrie,
IT is a statute in deepe wisdomes lore, That for his lines none should a patro[n] chuse By wealth or pouerty, by lesse or more,
Mr. Francis Beaumont's Letter To Ben Jon...
The sun, which doth the greatest comfort bring To absent friends (because the self-same thing They know they see, however absent), is Here our best hay-maker (forgive me this,
To The True Patroness Of All Poetry, Cal...
It is a statute in deep wisdom's lore, That for his lines none should a patron chuse By wealth and poverty, by less or more, But who the same is able to peruse:
An Elegy On The Lady Markham
As unthrifts groan in straw for their pawn'd beds, As women weep for their lost maidenheads, When both are without hope or remedy, Such an untimely grief I have for thee.
Ad Comitissam Rutlandiæ
Madam, so may my verses pleasing be, So may you laugh at them and not at me, 'Tis something to you gladly I would say; But how to do't I cannot find the way.
In Laudem Authoris.
Like to the weake estate of a poore friend, To whom sweet fortune hath bene euer slow, VVhich dayly doth that happy howre attend, VVhen his poore state may his affection shew:
On The Marriage Of A Beauteous Young Gen...
Fondly, too curious Nature, to adorn Aurora with the blushes of the morn: Why do her rosy lips breath gums and spice; Unto the East, and sweet to Paradise?
May I find a woman fair,
And her mind as clear as air,
If her beauty go alone,
'Tis to me as if't were none.
May I find a woman rich,
And not of too high a pitch;
If that pride should cause disdain,
Tell me, lover, where's thy gain?