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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.

IX. Lesser Jacobean and Caroline Dramatists

§ 10. Brome’s debt to Dekker; The Sparagus Garden

Among the less interesting of the comedies of manners which may be regarded as fairly representative of Brome’s usual work, The Sparagus Garden, acted 1635, takes its title from the custom of going to eat asparagus in a garden where it was grown. Such places were haunts of disreputable people of both sexes, and the “humours” of the garden are coarse though sketched with much vivacity and some wit. They bulk so largely in the play that it is justly classed as a comedy of manners. The scenes in which Timothy Hoyden, a yeoman’s son from the country, is shown the way to become a fine gentleman, are excellent comedy; they are whimsical as well as witty, and written with a genuine gaiety. When Brome’s humours have this gaiety and lightness of touch, we are reminded of another master than Jonson; we are conscious of something of the spirit of Dekker. Among the commendatory verses prefixed to The Northern Lasse are some characteristic lines “To my Sonne Broom and his Lasse,” by Thomas Dekker. How much friendship these words imply we have no means of discovering; but Brome is more truly a “son” of Dekker than of Jonson. His best and happiest work is in the vein of Dekker. But the scenes of our play are not all in the asparagus garden. The first two suggest a quiet domestic drama which might turn to tragedy or comedy, but would not harmonise properly with the garden humours. Two young men decide to attempt the reconcilement of two angry old men by proposing a match between the son of one of them and the adopted daughter of the other. The first scene describes the attempt and its failure. In the second scene, the two friends try to console the son for their failure and resolve to help him. Brome’s verse rises to an almost passionate height, as Gilbert insists that

  • Love is wit itself,
  • And through a thousand lets will find a way
  • To his desired end.
  • Both these scenes describe common life simply and naturally, and with a touch of idealism not very common in Brome, who recants his usual creed when he confesses:
  • Poets they are the life and death of things.
  • The play is a mine of allusions and references to the life of old London. From this point of view, Brome will always be worth reading.