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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.

IV. Thomas Heywood

§ 4. His point of view as a Playwright

Nothing is more certain than that he gave little or no thought to the destiny of his plays as “literature.” He wrote them, inprimis, no doubt, for a living, and, also, in obedience to that impulse towards dramatic production which was never more prevalent than in the period of his connection with the stage, but which is not necessarily the same thing as poetic inspiration. Manifestly, he loved the theatre, which was to him a world in itself, as it is to many actors and to not a few playwrights whose sense of their importance in the world outside is too great to allow them to confess it. But this did not make him anxious to find new ways and methods for compassing old ends. Like his fellow dramatists, he was constantly on the look-out for interesting dramatic subjects, and he took them where he found them, setting to work, we may rest assured, without loss of time and accomplishing his task “all of a piece.” To have finished his play and brought it on the stage, was enough for him: he was careless about printing, and, on at least one occasion, had to submit as well as he could to the appearance of a corrupt copy, taken down by some enterprising expert in stenography and “put in print (scarce one word trew).” Such plays of his as he allowed to be published he sent forth “with great modesty and small noise,” and, above all “singly,” not “exposed to the publike view of the world in numerous sheets, and a large volume”—like Ben Jonson’ “works,” or Shakespeare’. But, whether or not his rapidity of production was such as to expose him, as Fleay conjectures, to contemporary dramatic satire in the character of Posthaste—whether or not we are to believe Kirkman’ ingenious statement that he was in the habit of writing his plays on the back of tavern-bills (which, no doubt, would satisfactorily account for the loss of many of them)—whether or not, according to the same authority, he, for several years together, imposed on himself the rule of writing a minimum of a sheet a day—his rate of productivity cannot be said to be left unexplained. His pen was facile, because his mind was both fresh and ready, and because, to use a vigorous German colloquialism, he “sang as his beak had grown.” Heywood’ naïveté is, perhaps, the most delightful element in his genius, although the directness of expression to which it leads him frequently sins against refinement.