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Have made, but forc'd by Nature still to fly,
Was born at Norwich about 1560, was educated at Cambridge, travelled in Spain and Italy, and on his return held, for about a year, the vicarage of Tollesbury, in Essex. The rest of his life seems to have been spent in London, with no other support than his
pen, and in the society of men of more wit than worldly prudence. He is said to have died about 1592, from a surfeit occasioned by pickled herrings and Rhenish wine. Greene has acknowledged, with great contrition, some of the follies of his life; but the charge of profligacy which has been so mercilessly laid on his memory, must be taken with great abatement, as it was chiefly dictated by his bitterest enemy, Gabriel Harvey, who is said to have trampled on his dead body when laid in the grave. The story, it may be hoped, for the credit of human nature, is untrue; but it shews to what a pitch the malignity of Harvey was supposed to be capable of being excited. Greene is accused of having deserted an amiable wife; but his traducers rather inconsistently reproach him also with the necessity of writing for her maintenance.
A list of his writings, amounting to forty-five separate productions, is given in the Censura Literaria, including five plays, several amatory romances, and other pamphlets, of quaint titles and rambling contents. The writer of that article has vindicated the personal memory of Greene with proper feeling, but he seems to overrate the importance that could have ever been attached to him as a writer. In proof of the once great popularity of Greene's writings, a passage is quoted from Ben Jonson's Every Man out of his Humour, where it is said that Saviolina uses as choice figures as any in the Arcadia, and Carlo subjoins, or in Greene's works, where she may steal with more security. This allusion to the facility of stealing without detection from an author, surely argues the reverse of his being popular and well known. Greene's style is in truth most whimsical and grotesque. He lived before there was a good model of familiar prose; and his wit, like a stream that is too weak to force a channel for itself, is lost in rhapsody and diffuseness.
When gods had framed the sweets of Woman's face,
To quip fair Venus' overweening pride,
Then grew a wrinkle on fair Venus' brow,
DORASTUS ON FAWNIA.
Ah, were she pitiful as she is fair,
Ah, when she sings, all music else be still,
Ne'er breath'd such glee from Philomela's bill,
Was born in 1562, took a bachelor's degree at Cambridge, and came to London, where he was a contemporary player and dramatic writer with Shakespeare. Had he lived longer to profit by the example of Shakespeare, it is not straining conjecture to suppose, that the strong misguided energy of Marlowe would have been kindled and refined to excellence by the rivalship; but his death, at the age of thirty, is alike to be lamented for its disgracefulness and prematurity, his own sword being forced upon him, in a quarrel, at a brothel. Six tragedies, however, and his numerous translations from the elassics, evince, that if his life was profligate, it was not idle. The bishops ordered his translations of Ovid's Love Elegies to be burnt in public for their licentiousness. If all the licentious poems of that period had been included in the martyrdom, Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis would have hardly escaped the flames.
In Marlowe's tragedy of Lust's Dominion there is a scene of singular coincidence with an event that was, 200 years after, exhibited in the same country, namely Spain. A Spanish queen, insti. gated by an usurper, falsely proclaims her own son to be a bastard.
Prince Philip is a bastard born;
Lust's Dom. Sc. iv, Act 3.
Compare this avowal with the confession which Bonaparte either obtained, or pretended to have obtained, from the mother of Ferdinand VII. in 1808, and one might almost imagine that he had consulted Marlowe's tragedy.
THE PASSIONATE SHEPHERD TO HIS LOVE.
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will sit upon the rocks,
Melodious birds sing madrigals.