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HYMENÆI OR THE SOLEMNITIES OF MASQUE AND BARRIERS AT A MARRIAGE.] This is the title in the fol. 1616. Upon which Chetwood remarks:- "What reason our author had for not being more particular in the title of this Masque, neither when nor for whom it was performed, we cannot conceive; but we have, with some little search, found out it was ordered by the court, for the celebration of the nuptials between the Palsgrave and the princess Elizabeth." "This Masque, by the description, was very magnificent, and the reader may find the expence of the machinery, &c., set down in the cost of that prince's marriage." Life of Jonson, p. 41.
Chetwood's labour was thrown away. Had he fortunately met with the 4to. edition of this Masque, he would have found all his doubts removed. There the title-page runs, Hymenai, or the Solemnities of Masque and Barriers, magnificently performed on the eleventh and twelfth nights, from Christmas, at court: to the auspi cious celebrating of the Marriage-union betweene Robert, Earle of Essex, and the lady Frances, second daughter of the most noble Earle of Suffolke, 1606.
Jam veniet virgo, jam dicetur Hymenæus."
The author's reason for "not being more particular" is now sufficiently apparent. The marriage was a most inauspicious one, and terminated in shame and guilt. The earl of Essex (only son of the unfortunate favourite of Elizabeth and the English nation,) was in his fifteenth, and the lady Frances in her fourteenth year, when the ceremony took place. Not long afterwards, the Earl set out on his travels, and was abroad about four years. The Countess, who in the interim had transferred her affections to Robert Carr, viscount Rochester, the well known minion of James, was with difficulty persuaded to cohabit with her husband, whom, after a series of bickering, little to the honour of any of the parties concerned, she finally abandoned in 1613. She then solicited and obtained a divorce, under a pretence of his being incompetent to the duties of matrimony, and on the 5th of December in the same year, espoused Carr, who had been created, the day before, earl of Somerset.
This infamous connexion led to the murder of sir Thomas Overbury, the execution of the minor agents in that diabolical transaction, and the trial and condemnation of the Earl and Countess, whose lives, though spared by the weakness of James, were worn out in mutual disgust. Somerset died neglected and despised,
and his wife an object of loathing and horror. Essex (the repudiated husband) lived to be a famous rebel, and to command the Parliamentary army with skill and success, till he sunk under the ascendancy of Cromwell.
It is to Jonson's praise, that he took no part in the celebration of the second marriage, which was solemnized with great pomp, and for which a Masque was composed by Campion, a writer of some name. It is melancholy to reflect that this adulterous marriage was eagerly promoted by the lord chancellor Bacon, to whom Campion inscribed his performance, "he being (as the dedication says) the Principall, and in effect, the onely person that did both incourage and warrant the gentlemen (of Graies Inn) to shew their good affection towards so noble a Conjunction."
With respect to the Masque of which Chetwood speaks, (and which was written six years after the present,) he might have learned from the official papers, that it was called the Lord's Masque. It was not written by Jonson, but by Campion, and published by him in 4to. 1613. It is of very rare occurrence, but I have been favoured with it from the valuable collection of Mr. Dent. Mr. Chamberlaine, who was present at the representation, tells his correspondent that, "though it was rich and sumptuous, yet it was long and tedious, and with many devices more like a play than a masque." Winwood's Memoirs, vol. iii. p. 435. It cost the court £400. The masquers probably paid their own expenses. After all it is but a poor affair, trite though extravagant, and manifesting neither taste nor fancy.
T is a noble and just advantage that the things subjected to understanding have of those which are objected to sense; that the one sort are but momentary, and merely taking; the other impressing, and lasting else the glory of all these solemnies had perished like a blaze, and gone out, in the beholders' eyes. So short lived are the bodies of all things, in comparison of their souls. And though bodies oftimes have the ill luck to be sensually preferred, they find afterwards the good fortune (when souls live) to be utterly forgotten. This it is hath made the most royal princes, and greatest persons (who are commonly the personaters of these actions) not only studious of riches, and magnificence in the outward celebration or shew, which rightly becomes them; but curious after the most high and hearty inventions, to furnish the inward parts; and those grounded upon antiquity, and solid learning: which though their voice be taught to sound to present occasions, their sense or doth or should always lay hold on more removed mysteries. And howsoever some may squeamishly cry out, that all endeavour of learning and sharpness in these transitory devices, especially where it steps beyond their little, or (let me not wrong them,) no brain at all, is superfluous; I am contented, these fastidious stomachs should