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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.

VIII. Ford and Shirley

§ 2. Ford’s life and early work

John Ford was a native of Ilsington in Devonshire, where he was baptised on 17 April, 1586. On his father’s side, he belonged to an old landed family, and, on his mother’s, he was related to lord chief justice Popham. He may have studied at Oxford, since there is a record of the matriculation of a John Ford at Exeter college in 1601; but his university career must, in any case, have been short, as he became a member of the Middle Temple in the November of the following year. Further information about his career is confined to what can be gathered from the dedications of his works, and from the exchange of commendatory verses of the conventional sort. After the publication of his last play, in 1639, he disappears from view. He seems to have been a man of a somewhat melancholy temperament, independent in his attitude towards the public taste, and capable of espousing unpopular causes.

An instance of this last named quality appears in his first publication, Fame’s Memorial (1606), an elegy on the death of Charles Blount, earl of Devonshire, second husband of the famous Penelope Devereux. No reason is known why Ford should have chosen to publish a eulogy of a man who had died out of favour at court; but the fact is noteworthy as hinting an interest in a story which, as we shall see, may not improbably have suggested to him part of the plot of one of his most famous plays. The poem itself is long and tiresome, smooth in versification, abstract in diction, often obscure and affected in style.