- Massinger. An unsigned review of Étude sur la collaboration de Massinger avec Fletcher et son groupe, by Maurice Chelli; and Massinger’s A New Way to Pay Old Debts, ed. A. H. Cruickshank
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852 ] Massinger An unsigned review of Étude sur la collaboration de Massinger avec Fletcher et son groupe, by Maurice Chelli Paris: Les Presses universitaires de France, 1926. Pp. 310. Massinger’s A New Way to Pay Old Debts ed. A. H. Cruickshank Oxford: Clarendon, 1926. Pp. xxxiv + 141. Times Literary Supplement, 1294 (18 Nov 1926) 814 Philip Massinger has been fortunate beyond his contemporaries in having received such close attention from two scholars of the distinction of Canon Cruickshank and the late Maurice Chelli.1 The larger books of Canon Cruickshank and M. Chelli were reviewed in these columns at the times of their appearance; the two now under consideration are important supplements .2 The editing of Massinger does not present such difficulties of corrupt texts as does that of some of his elder contemporaries; but it is useful to have his greatest play well edited by itself. In the introduction Canon Cruickshank discusses the possible original of the character of Sir Giles, and criticizes with his usual justice and acumen the opinions of Hazlitt, Leslie Stephen and M. Chelli.3 M. Chelli’s posthumous book is edited by Professor Legouis.4 We regret the absence of any biographical note: Chelli shows himself a scholar of great promise, whose death is to be deplored. His brilliance is indeed, in his textual criticism, at moments a little overpowering; one feels that his confidence in his methods is excessive, that such confidence would be excessive even had he been an Englishman born. We say, his confidence in his methods, for on the whole we think he is justified in his confidence in his results. For the fact always remains that attributions on the ground of internal evidence, of style and versification, depend ultimately upon taste and sensibility as much as upon exact tests: we can perfect our taste and sharpen our sensibility, but it is taste and sensibility that direct us in seeking the tests. We feel that M. Chelli is usually right in his general distinctions, but that his enthusiasm – which is great – sometimes leads him to push attribution farther than is possible. But [ 853 Massinger M. Chelli is not on dangerous ground. The cases with which he is dealing are not so difficult as, for instance, the partition of labour between Middleton andRowley.M.Chellidoesnottrytoupsetanyofoursettledopinionsofthe literaryvalueofBeaumontorofFletcherorofMassinger.Fortheplayswhich come into question are not any of the best plays: the plays on which must always be based our criticism of Beaumont and Fletcher, and of Fletcher, and of Massinger, remain as they were; and it is largely our knowledge of these plays which enables us to parcel out the plays in which collaboration was probable. The reader of M. Chelli’s book will not, therefore, expect to find any startling disturbance of literary reputations. But some conclusions of considerable interest issue from M. Chelli’s work. One of these conclusions is that collaboration in the manner of the Elizabethan dramatists is not conducive to the best work. (We are distinguishing , as does M. Chelli, the work of collaboration proper from the remodeling of one man’s play by another, which is a different problem of criticism.) The most successful collaboration is of course that between Beaumont and Fletcher; and it is (in our opinion) precisely because this was an association of two writers of great cleverness, rather than of two writers of genius, that it was successful. Some may maintain that the association of Middleton and Rowley was beneficial to both; but it is equally possible to maintain that the genius of these two – for both had genius – did, just because it was genius, make them incompatible. Some of the conditions of the Elizabethan world which made the collaboration possible may have been beneficial to literary activity; incidentally, the younger dramatists are likely to have got a training out of their apprenticeship which they would otherwise has missed; but that fact remains – we believe that M. Chelli was of this opinion – that the great plays of the period are, so far as they are great and so far as they are works of art, each of them the work of one man. And as the chief motive of the collaboration was economic – the necessity of turning out plays very quickly in order to make a living – it is natural that this method of writing should be responsible for the existence of a large body of mediocre and worse than mediocre work. The very possibility of such cooperation as took place between Fletcher...