Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Heywood, Thomas (d.1650?)

HEYWOOD, THOMAS (d. 1650?), dramatist, was, according to his own account, a native of Lincolnshire (see his verses prefixed to James Yorke's Book of Heraldry, and his funeral elegy on Sir George St. Poole of Lincolnshire, his ‘countreyman,’ in Pleasant Dialogues and Dramas); but Mr. Symonds has found no Heywood pedigree in the ‘Visitations’ of the county. In the dedication of the ‘English Traveller’ Heywood speaks of a Sir William Elvish as his ‘countreyman.’ From his reference (ib.) to ‘that good old Gentleman, mine vnkle (Master Edmund Heywood), whom you’ (Sir Henry Appleton, bt.) ‘pleased to grace by the Title of Father,’ he may be concluded to have been of good family. He can hardly have been born much later than 1575. In the ‘Apology for Actors’ (bk. i.) he incidentally mentions ‘his residence at Cambridge;’ and William Cartwright (d. 1687) [q. v.], in the dedication to the ‘Actor's Vindication,’ 1658, says that Heywood was a fellow of Peterhouse. There is, however, no record of him at Cambridge.

Heywood is first mentioned in ‘Henslowe's Diary,’ p. 78. Among a list of sums lent to Edward Alleyn and others since 14 Oct. 1596 occurs: ‘Lent unto them for Hawode's booke xxxs.’ In a memorandum (ib. p. 260) of 25 March 1598, attested by Anthony Munday, Gabriel Spencer, and others, ‘Thomas Hawoode’ is regularly engaged by Henslowe as a member of his, the lord admiral's, company. As no wages are mentioned he presumably had a share in the profits. In the preface to his ‘Four Prentices of London’ (printed 1601) he says that this was his first play, written ‘some fifteen or sixteen years ago.’ According to a statement in his elegy on the death of James I (cited in Introduction to Apology, p. v), Heywood was also for a time one of the theatrical retainers of Henry Wriothesley, third earl of Southampton. His ‘Edward IV’ was played several times by the servants of William Stanley, sixth earl of Derby. He was afterwards a member of the company belonging to Edward Somerset, fourth earl of Worcester, which, upon the accession of James I, became the queen's servants, and performed at the Red Bull in St. John Street, Smithfield, and at the Cockpit (see Collier, i. 336–7). Heywood had attended the queen's funeral in 1619 as ‘one of her Majesty's players,’ and afterwards seems to have re-entered the service of the Earl of Worcester (see the dedication to Worcester of the Nine Books of Various History concerning Women, 1624). His literary labours embraced every form of literature, and were not confined to the drama. Shakerley Marmion speaks of him as writing upon

All history, all actions,
Counsels, Decrees, man, manners, State and factions,
Playes, Epicediums, Odes and Lyricks,
Translations, Epitaphs and Panegyricks.

In the ‘Address to the Reader’ prefixed to the ‘English Traveller’ he states himself to have had either an entire hand, or at least a ‘maine finger,’ in 220 plays; and the statement was made in 1633, before the end of his career. He also for many years composed the lord mayor's pageants in the city of London till they were dropped in 1640. His bookseller, Kirkman, asserts him to have been ‘very laborious; for he not only acted almost every day, but also obliged himself to write a sheet every day for several years together;’ yet, according to the same authority, ‘many of his plays were composed in the tavern, on the backside of tavern-bills, which may be the occasion that so many of them are lost’ (cf. Symonds, pp. ix, xx). Though many of his plays succeeded, he only published a few, to guard against ‘corrupt and mangled’ editions, and never collected his works (see addresses prefixed to the Rape of Lucrece and the English Traveller). He must also have been an omnivorous reader. He translated Lucian and a variety of Latin writers, both ancient and modern, borrowed two of his plots from Plautus, and busied himself as translator or adaptor with both ancient and modern history. But he also, as Mr. Herford (pp. 170, 239–40) expresses it, loved the byways of literature, German anecdotical history, and in especial magical lore (see above all the Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels). Occasionally, as in his account of the big ship of the period, he was a mere bookmaker.

We know nothing of any special patronage; but he was probably rewarded at court for such a play as ‘Love's Mistress’ (1636), which was repeated three times within eight days, and called ‘The Queen's Masque’ in honour of Henrietta Maria, to whom he had dedicated his ‘Hierarchy’ a year earlier. The Earl of Dover, too, seems in Heywood's later days to have been a liberal patron, both in Broad Street and at Hunsdon House (see Pleasant Dialogues and Dramas). Loyal and patriotic, mindful of the great days ‘of that good queene Elizabeth’ (A Marriage Triumph), and an ardent protestant (England's Elizabeth, passim), Heywood was at the same time careful not to give offence to the state or great men (Apology, p. 61; cf. Collier, ii. 349 n.; and cf. ‘To the Reader’ before pt. ii. of the Iron Age; see, however, Collier, iii. 87, as to the personalities imputed to his company in 1601). He was always ready, however, to protest against the ‘vilification’ of actors by such a ‘separisticall humorist’ as the author of ‘Histrio-Mastix’ (dedications of the English Traveller, 1633. For a curious earlier attack upon puritanism see his Britain's Troy, canto iv. st. 50–4). The lines in the ‘Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels’ (bk. iv.), repeatedly quoted by modern writers, in which he dwells on the genial custom of calling the great dramatists of his day ‘Will’ and ‘Ben,’ and so forth, and ends by declaring ‘I hold he loves me best that calls me Tom,’ show also his generous admiration for his superiors. The keynote to his character seems to have been an unaffected modesty. After at least fourteen years' authorship he calls himself ‘the youngest and weakest of the nest wherein he was hatched’ (Apology, ad in.; cf. Introduction, p. iv). It is to be regretted that he never carried out his design of writing ‘the lives of all the poets, foreign and modern, from the first before Homer to the novissimi and last, of what nation or language soever’ (Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels, p. 245, cited in Introduction to Apology, p. xiv). He is noticed as still alive in 1648 (in the Satire against Separatists; cf. ib. p. vi). It is not known whether he left a family behind him; the conjecture in Introduction to ‘A Marriage Triumph,’ p. x, is worthless.

As a dramatist Heywood essayed many styles, beginning apparently with plays resembling the old chronicle histories, and chiefly designed for city audiences. ‘The Four Prentices of London’ was so typical of its kind that Beaumont and Fletcher ridiculed it in ‘The Knight of the Burning Pestle’ (1611 c.) ‘Edward IV,’ written about the same time, likewise appeals to city sentiment, and shows Heywood's pathetic power in the episode of Jane Shore. The two early plays on the history of Queen Elizabeth's troubles are uniformly prosaic. In part ii. the foundation of the Royal Exchange and of Gresham College is put alongside of the destruction of the Spanish Armada. Not later than 1603, when Henslowe paid him 3l. for the play (Diary, p. 249), Heywood produced his masterpiece in the domestic drama, ‘A Woman Killed with Kindness.’ The scene of this piece is laid in contemporary English middle-class life, which none of our dramatists has portrayed more naturally. But the simplicity and directness of his pathos are even more distinctive of his dramatic genius. Of a rather different type is his best-known romantic drama, written possibly at an even earlier date, ‘The Royal King and the Loyal Subject,’ the hero of which is a kind of Patient Grissel of chivalrous loyalty. To a later period belong ‘The English Traveller,’ which in the development of its main plot is almost as pathetic as ‘A Woman Killed with Kindness,’ and three comedies of adventure, through which blows a salt breeze of the sea, ‘The Fair Maid of the West,’ the recently recovered ‘Captives,’ and ‘Fortune by Land and Sea’ (in which Heywood was assisted by William Rowley). ‘The Wise Woman of Hogsdon,’ probably a late piece, is a comedy of very low life, but by far the most skilfully constructed of Heywood's dramas. A distinct group is formed by the very successful ‘Four Ages,’ which reproduces in a dramatic form, not without an occasional touch of burlesque, the best-known stories of Greek mythology down to the siege of Troy, and the ‘Rape of Lucrece,’ likewise very popular, but largely so, it is to be feared, because of the comic songs of the ‘merry Lord Valerius.’ ‘Love's Mistress,’ through which Apuleius and Midas carry on a running critical comment in the Jonsonian manner, was aided by the inventions of Inigo Jones; the long series of city pageants was rendered remarkable by the ingenuity of Gerard Christmas [q. v.] (Heywood's love of pageants is also illustrated by passages in his ‘England's Elizabeth.’) Most of Heywood's works in print bore his favourite motto, ‘Aut prodesse solent aut delectare.’ In many of them the author makes use of chorus and dumb show; the earlier may usually be distinguished by the abundant use of rhyme (see the Epilogue to The Royal King and Loyal Subject). Some of them contain pleasing and musical songs (Symonds, pp. xvi, xxii); but as a rule the lyrics in Heywood's dramas are commonplace. Like all the Elizabethans he indulged himself in the construction of out-of-the-way phrases and vocables, but his genius did not lie in the direction of style. On the other hand, it is true that, as might be expected from a dramatist of his experience, ‘his criticism is often quite as valuable as his dramatic poetry’ (ib. p. x). Tieck, who translated one of the most pleasing, and not least characteristic, of his dramas, well describes him as ‘a man of facile and felicitous endowment, who wrote many plays, and among them several that are excellent.’ Few contemporary tributes to him remain; he is praised by Shakerley Marmion (ante); his friend Samuel King congratulates the author of ‘The Wise Woman of Hogsdon’ on a fame needing no ‘apology,’ and the ‘Apology for Actors’ itself evokes the sympathy of John Webster, of some of Heywood's fellow-actors, and of John Taylor the Water-poet. Dryden, in ‘Mac Flecknoe,’ thinking apparently of Heywood's translations as much as of his plays, refers to him slightingly. It was his power of creating powerful effects with everyday materials which excuses Charles Lamb's paradoxical description of him as ‘a prose Shakspere.’

The following is a list of Heywood's published and unpublished productions, so far as ascertainable. The lists in the ‘Biographia Dramatica’ and in vol. vi. of ‘Old Plays’ need revision: A. Dramatic: 1. ‘The Four Prentices of London, with the Conquest of Jerusalem,’ 1615, but produced ‘some fifteen or sixteen years’ earlier; also 1632. 2 and 3. ‘Edward IV.’ Two parts, 1600, 1605; also two early editions without dates. Edited for the Shakespeare Society by Barron Field, 1842. 4 and 5. ‘If you know not me, you know nobody; or, the Troubles of Queen Elizabeth.’ First part 1605, 1606, 1608, 1613, 1632; second part 1606, 1609, 1623, 1633 (Prologue and Epilogue for the revival at the Cockpit are for part i. only). Edited for the Shakespeare Society by J. P. Collier, 1851. 6. ‘The Royal King and the Loyal Subject,’ 1637, but first acted at a much earlier date (see Epilogue). Edited for ‘Old Plays,’ vol. vi. 1816, and for the Shakespeare Society by J. P. Collier, 1850. 7. ‘A Woman Killed with Kindness.’ Acted 1603, printed 1607, 1617. Edited for the Shakespeare Society from the third (the earliest extant) edition by J. P. Collier, 1850. Acted by the Dramatic Students' Society in London, 1887 (see their acting edition). 8. ‘The Fair Maid of the Exchange,’ 1607, 1625, 1635, 1637. Edited for the Shakespeare Society by Barron Field, 1837. 9. ‘The Rape of Lucrece,’ 1608, 1630, 1638; acted at the Red Bull from the last named edition. 10. ‘The Golden Age,’ 1611. 11. ‘The Silver Age.’ Acted before the court at Greenwich early in 1612; 1613. This and the preceding were edited for the Shakespeare Society by J. P. Collier, 1851. 12. ‘The Brazen Age,’ 1613. 13 and 14. ‘The Fair Maid of the West; or, A Girl with Gold,’ two parts. Acted 1617, printed 1631. Edited for the Shakespeare Society by J. P. Collier, 1850. 15. ‘The Captives; or, The Lost Recovered;’ entered in Sir Henry Herbert's manuscript ‘Office Book,’ 1624, as a new play for the Cockpit company; edited from a manuscript in the British Museum by Mr. A. H. Bullen, and printed in his ‘Old English Plays’ (vol. iv.), 1885. 16 and 17. ‘The Iron Age,’ two parts; 1632. 18. ‘The English Traveller.’ Acted at the Fortune (see act iv.) and the Cockpit, printed 1633. Edited for vol. vi. of ‘Old Plays,’ 1816. 19. ‘A Maidenhead well Lost,’ 1634. 20. ‘Love's Mistress; or, the Queen's Masque.’ Acted at the Court and the Phœnix; 1636. 21. ‘A Challenge for Beauty.’ Acted at the Blackfriars and the Globe; printed 1636. Edited for vol. vi. of ‘Old Plays,’ 1816. 22. ‘The Wise Woman of Hogsdon,’ 1638. 23. With William Rowley, ‘Fortune by Land and Sea,’ printed 1655, but probably written by 1603. 24. With Richard Brome [q. v.], ‘The Late Lancashire Witches,’ 1634; translated by L. Tieck in Shakespeare's ‘Vorschule,’ vol. i., Leipzig, 1823. (As to the subject cf. J. Crossley in Chetham Society's Publications, vol. vi. 1845.) All the above are extant, and with the exception of ‘The Captives’ are reprinted in J. Pearson's edition of ‘The Dramatic Works of Thomas Heywood,’ 1874.

The following plays are lost: 25. ‘War without Blows and Love without Suit (or Strife).’ Written by 1598 (Henslowe, Diary, pp. 140, 143). 26. ‘Joan as Good as my Lady.’ Written by 1599 (ib. pp. 144, 145). 27. ‘The Blind eat many a Fly.’ Written by 1602 (ib. pp. 244, 246). 28. ‘How to Learn of a Woman to Woo.’ Acted at court December 1605 (Halliwell). 29. ‘Love's Masterpiece.’ Entered on the Stationers' Registers 22 May 1640 (ib.) 30. With Wentworth Smith, ‘Alberte Galles’ (sic). Written by 1602 (Henslowe, Diary, p. 239). 31. With the same, ‘Marshal Osrick.’ Written by 1602 (ib. pp. 240, 243). 32. With Chettle, ‘The London Florentine.’ Written by 1602 (apparently a play in two parts; part i. by Heywood and part ii. by Chettle) (ib. pp. 229, 230, 231). 33. With the same, ‘Like Quits Like.’ Written by 1602 (ib. p. 230). 34. With Chettle, Dekker, and Webster, ‘Christmas comes but Once a Year.’ Written by 1602 (ib. pp. 243, 244, 245). 35. With the above and Wentworth Smith, ‘Lady Jane [Grey?],’ part i. (ib. p. 242); part ii., by Dekker (ib. p. 243).

Of the ‘pageants’ written by Heywood for lord mayor's day those for 1631, 1635, 1637, 1638, and 1639 are printed in vols. iv. and v. of Pearson's edition; those for 1632 and 1633 are described by F. W. Fairholt, ‘Lord Mayor's Pageants,’ part i., ‘Percy Society's Publications,’ vol. iii. 1843.

B. Miscellaneous: 1. ‘Translation of Sallust,’ 1608. 2. ‘Troia Britannica, or Great Britain's Troy,’ 1609 (a long heroic poem chiefly in ottave rime, with epistles and other passages in the heroic couplet; cf. as to the negligent printing and editing of this Heywood's postscript to his ‘Apology,’ addressed to the printer, N. Okes). 3. ‘An Apology for Actors,’ in three books, 1612; reprinted in 1658 by William Cartwright, with alterations, under the title of ‘The Actors' Vindication.’ Edited for the Shakespeare Society, 1841. (From this work, admirable in tone, though not very powerful in argument, Heywood is said to have been called by a contemporary poet ‘the apologetic Atlas of the stage.’ It was answered in ‘A Refutation of the Apology for Actors,’ by T. G., 1615, where it is noticeable that no personal attack is attempted against Heywood himself.) 4. ‘A Funeral Elegy on the Death of Prince Henry,’ 1613. 5. ‘A Marriage Triumph on the Nuptials of the Prince Palatine and the Princess Elizabeth,’ 1613. Edited for the Percy Society (vol. vi.), 1842 (heroic couplets with lyrics interspersed). 6. ‘Γυναικείον; or, Nine Books of Various History concerning Women, inscribed by the Names of the Nine Muses,’ 1624, and reprinted in 1657 with a new address ‘To the Reader,’ signed E. P., under the title, ‘The General History of Women, containing the Lives of the most Holy and Profane, the most Famous and Infamous in all Ages, exactly described, not only from Poetical Fictions, but from the most Ancient, Modern, and Admired Historians to our Times. By T. H., Gent.’ 7. ‘England's Elizabeth: her Life and Troubles during her Minority from the Cradle to the Crown,’ 1631; reprinted in ‘Harleian Miscellany,’ ed. Pitt, vol. x. (partly taken from the ‘Herologia’ of H. H.; see ‘Dedication’ to the Earl of Dover). 8. ‘Eromena; or, Love and Revenge,’ 1632. 9. ‘The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels,’ 1635. (A didactic poem in nine books, mostly unreadable, but containing some curious passages and much varied learning in the lengthy prose excursuses added to each book. As to the subject, cf. Warton's ‘History of English Poetry,’ ed. W. C. Hazlitt, 1871, iii. 235 n. The cost of the allegorical engravings appears to have been defrayed by the author's friends, Christopher Beeston, the Christmases, and others.) 10. ‘A True Description of His Majesty's Royal Ship [the Sovereign of the Seas], built this year [by Phineas Pett] at Woolwich in Kent,’ 1637 (cf. the city pageant, Porta Pietatis, 1638, in Pearson's edition, v. 270). 11. ‘Pleasant Dialogues and Dramas, selected out of Lucian [14], Erasmus, Textor, Ovid, &c., with Emblems from J. Catsius, and a variety of Prologues and Epilogues, Elegies, Epitaphs, Epithalamions, Epigrams, and sundry other Fancies’ (gleanings from the author's portfolio; to some of the translations he has added notes), 1637; reprinted (not completely) in Pearson's edition, vi. 85 seq. 12. ‘The Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts of Nine the most Worthy Women of the World: three Jews, three Gentiles, three Christians.’ Written by the author of the ‘History of Women,’ 1640 (with portraits). 13. ‘The Life of Ambrosius Merlin,’ 1641.

Heywood was also a contributor to the ‘Annalia Dubrensia; or, Celebration of Captain Robert Dover's “ Cotswold Games,”’ 1636; privately reprinted by Dr. Grosart (cf. Gosse}, Seventeenth-century Studies, 1883, pp. 107–8, where Heywood's ‘Panegerick’ is said to come in at the end of the book as a kind of appendix). He has also (Old Plays, p. 105, and Biographia Dramatica) been credited with the authorship of ‘Philocothoaista, a Preparation to Study, or the Virtue of Sack,’ 1641.

[For general information concerning Thomas Heywood and his writings see the Introductions to an Apology for Actors (Shakespeare Society's Publications, 1841); The English Traveller in Old Plays, a continuation of Dodsley's Collection, 6 vols. 1816, vi. 101–5; Pearson's reprint of Heywood's Dramatic Works, 6 vols. 1874, vol. i.; J. A. Symonds and A. W. Verity's (select plays of) Thomas Heywood in the Mermaid Series, 1888; A Marriage Triumph in Percy Society's Publications, vol. vi. 1842; Henslowe's Diary, edited by J. P. Collier (Shakespeare Society's Publications, 1845); Halliwell's Dictionary of Old English Plays, 1860; Biographia Dramatica, 1812, vol. i. pt. i.; Collier's History of English Dramatic Poetry, &c., new edition, 1879; A. W. Ward's History of English Dramatic Literature, 1875, ii. 105–31; C. H. Herford's Studies in the Literary Relations of England and Germany in the Sixteenth Century, 1886. For criticism on Heywood as a dramatic poet see Charles Lamb's Specimens of Early Dramatic Poetry, 1808; Retrospective Review, xi. 126–54, 1825; Edinburgh Review for April 1841, art. ‘Beaumont and Fletcher and their Contemporaries;’ Symonds's Shakespeare's Predecessors; Ward's Hist. English Drama.]

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