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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

§ 3. His relations with the Herberts

Two of the dedications show that the poet did his best to keep up that connection with the Pembroke family which he regarded as a paternal inheritance. In 1624, he dedicated his tragicomedy The Bond-Man to the younger brother of the third earl of Pembroke—Philip Herbert, earl of Montgomery—with respectful allusions to the many happy years his father had spent in the service of that honourable house; and, nine years later, in 1633, he recommended his famous comedy A New Way to Pay Old Debts to the favourable acceptance of Montgomery’s son-in-law, Robert Dormer, earl of Carnarvon, in very humble and complimentary terms. Besides these dedications, two of his rare non-dramatic poems refer to members of the same family. One of these poems is a poetical supplication of uncertain date, addressed to the “Earl of Pembroke, Lord Chamberlain.” The earl’s Christian name is missing; but the whole tenor of this petition leads to the conclusion that it was meant to reach the ear of the third earl of Pembroke, the William Herbert frequently mentioned in biographies of Shakespeare, who had been appointed lord chamberlain in 1615. It is to be feared, however, that this most persuasive poetical begging-letter, in which Massinger speaks of his “trod-down poverty,” had not the desired effect; for, had the earl proved kind, Massinger would assuredly have shown his gratitude by dedicating one of his later dramas to this powerful nobleman. There is an old tradition that William Herbert had been the protector of young Massinger during the years of his university life, but had withdrawn his helping hand later, for unknown reasons. This rumour is not verified by the epistle in question, the manuscript of which was rediscovered but a few years ago; for it contains no reference to former benefits received by the poet.

The other poem, with the motto Sero sed serio, is an elegy on the death of Charles, lord Herbert, third son of Philip Herbert, who, after the death of his brother, in 1630, had become fourth earl of Pembroke. The poet blames himself for having remained silent on the occasion of the wedding of this unfortunate young nobleman, which had taken place at Christmas, 1634, a few weeks only before his early death at Florence in January, 1635; and he evidently tries to compensate for this sin of omission by courtly flattery in a funeral poem, the most undignified of all his compositions and a striking contrast to the above mentioned supplication, in which the poet declares that neither a pension nor a place could induce him “to part with his own candour!” It is stated that this fourth earl of Pembroke granted him an annuity of £30 or £40 with reversion to his widow.