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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.

VI. Philip Massinger

§ 19. Contemporary and posthumous reputation

As to the reception of Massinger’s plays by the public of his own days, we know very little. In his dedications, he repeatedly laments the neglect shown by his contemporaries to poetry in general, mentioning, with bitterness in one instance, his own “despised studies”; and the cutting remark that he presumes his Roman Actor will, in consequence of “the severity and height of the subject distaste such as are only affected with jigs and ribaldry,” indicates, perhaps, that this tragedy had not been successful on the stage. On the other hand, he alludes to the friendly reception of The Bond-Man; and, in the dedication of The Picture, one of his most entertaining dramas, he is able to mention the general approbation the play had found at its presentment. Of prologues expressive of his sentiments, we have but few, because, with characteristic, and, in this case, very justifiable, conservatism, he strongly objected to this innovation, not falling in with it before the performance of his tragicomedy The Emperour of the East, printed in 1631, the first prologue to which begins with a few angry words about the imperiousness of custom. Nevertheless, we are indebted to his poems of this kind for a few noteworthy biographical details. In the two prologues composed for The Emperour of the East, he complains of the censures of those

  • who delight
  • To misapply whatever he shall write,
  • and of
  • the rage
  • And envy of some Catos of the stage
  • by whom “this poor work” had suffered; while, in the prologue of The Guardian, he informs us of the failure of two of his dramatic ventures, which was followed by a silence of two years. We are ignorant of the nature of those two unfortunate plays, because many of Massinger’s dramas were never printed and the manuscripts were inadvertently destroyed by Warburton’s cook.