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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

III. Middleton and Rowley

§ 1. Biographical details

IT is believed that Thomas Middleton was born in London about 1570; he died there, and was buried at Newington Butts on 4 July, 1627. The known facts about his life are that he married a daughter of one of the six clerks in chancery, and had a son in 1604; that he was city chronologer from 1620 till the time of his death, when he was succeeded by Ben Jonson; that, in 1624, he was summoned before the privy council, with the actors who had played in his Game at Chesse, and, it appears, put in prison at the instigation of Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador; and that, in 1619, Ben Jonson spoke of him to Drummond of Hawthornden as “a base fellow.” This hard saying may, after all, have been meant as no more than a literary criticism. The words are: “that Markham (who added his English Arcadia) was not of the number of the Faithful, i.e. Poets, and but a base fellow. That such were Day and Middleton.” This might mean no more than that, to Jonson, Middleton’s art or verse seemed “base,” in the sense of pedestrian, or going on a low level. Nothing more was said about him by anyone of consequence, except a passing word from Scott, before the appearance, in 1808, of Lamb’s Specimens of English Dramatic Poets. Lamb gave copious and carefully chosen extracts from his plays, and said almost all the essential things about him; Leigh Hunt followed, picking up the one grain left over by Lamb; and, in 1860, Dyce brought out a complete edition of the plays, which was re-edited and extended by Bullen in 1885.

Of William Rowley, there has never been any edition, and we know even less of him than of Middleton. It is conjectured that he was born about 1585 and died some time after 1637, the year of his marriage. He was an actor in various companies, and is supposed to have revised plays for new performances. For the most part, he collaborated with other playwrights, especially with Middleton; and the finest work of both Middleton and Rowley was done in this collaboration. Rowley’s chief play, Alls Lost by Lust, has never been reprinted from the scarce original edition of 1633. Besides the plays, he published, in 1609, A Search for Money; or, the Lamentable Complaint for the Loss of the Wandering Knight, Monsieur L’Argent, a pamphlet in the manner of the time full of crude realistic satire, written in his abrupt, lean and straightforward prose.