Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 36.djvu/266

This page has been validated.

late distinguished Performers of both Sexes,' 2 vols. 1888.

From 1860 to about 1874 Marston's circumstances were prosperous, and his house near the Regent's Park was a favourite meeting-place for poets, actors, and literary men. The latter years of his life were clouded by calamity, especially the successive deaths of his wife in 1870, of his two daughters, Eleanor, wife of Arthur O'Shaughnessy [q. v.], in February 1879, and Cicely in July 1878, and of his gifted and only son, Philip Bourke Marston [q. v.] His circumstances also became much impaired; but his friend Mr. Henry Irving generously organised (1 June 1887) a special performance of 'Werner' for his benefit at the Lyceum Theatre. The full receipts, amounting to 928l. 16s., were paid to Marston; all the expenses being borne by Mr. Irving. Marston died at his lodgings in the Euston Road, 5 Jan. 1890, after a long illness, and was interred with his wife and children in Highgate cemetery. Marston's great title to distinction is that of having long been the chief upholder of the poetical drama on the English stage. His talents, indeed, were unequal to so arduous a task, but the mere fact of his having undertaken it singles him from the crowd. Regarded merely as a dramatist, he is entitled to great praise for the elegance of his diction, the elevation of his sentiments, and the careful construction of his plots; but his perception of individual character is weak, and such effect as he produces is often obtained by unreal exaggeration. None of his plays, unless 'A Hard Struggle' be an exception, have sufficient vitality to keep the stage. As the anecdotic historian of the stage he has an honourable and exceptional place; and some of his minor poems, especially the verses on the Balaklava charge and a few sonnets, are very happy inspirations. He stood higher as a critic than as a poet, but his efforts in this field were of necessity too ephemeral to secure an abiding reputation. As a man he was somewhat enigmatical; his fluency and bonhomie concealed a deep reserve, which itself sometimes appeared but the veil of irresolution; he seemed to oscillate between the mystic and the man of the world; and, though he was entirely unassuming, something theatrical seemed to cling to all he said and did. In 1863 he received the degree of LL.D. from the university of Glasgow. A collection of his dramatic works, with an appendix of poems, was edited by himself in 1876. 'Montezuma,' 'At Bay,' and 'Charlotte Corday' remain in manuscript. He contributed articles to vols. vi. and vii. of this Dictionary.

[Athenæum, January 1890; Powell's Living Authors of England; Home's Spirit of the Age; H. E. Clarke in Miles's Poets and Poetry of the Century; Men of the Time; personal knowledge.]

R. G.

MARSTON, PHILIP BOURKE (1850–1887), poet, son of John Westland Marston [q. v.], was born in London 13 Aug. 1850. Philip James Bailey and Dinah Maria Mulock were his sponsors, and the most popular of the latter s short poems, 'Philip, my King,' is addressed to him. When only three years old he experienced the irreparable misfortune of loss of sight, occasioned by the injudicious administration of belladonna as a prophylactic against scarlet fever, aggravated, it was thought, by an accidental blow. The privation of vision was not for many years so complete as to prevent him from. seeing, in his own words, 'the tree-boughs waving in the wind, the pageant of sunset in the west, and the glimmer of a fire upon the hearth;' and this dim, imperfect perception must have been more stimulating to the imagination than a condition of either perfect sight or total blindness. He indulged, like Hartley Coleridge, in a consecutive series of imaginary adventures and in the reveries called up by music, for which he exhibited the usual fondness of the blind. The inevitable effect was to excite the ideal side of a powerful mind into premature and excessive activity while discouraging reflection and mental discipline, to which he remained a stranger all his life. His extraordinary gifts of verbal expression and melody were soon manifested in poems of remarkable merit for his years, and displaying a power of delineating the aspects of nature which, his affliction considered, seemed almost incomprehensible. These efforts met full recognition from the brilliant literary circle then gathered around his father, and he was intensely happy for a time in the affection of Mary Nesbit, a young lady of great personal and other attractions. The death of his betrothed from rapid consumption, in November 1871, absolutely prostrated him, and was the precursor of a series of calamities which might well excuse the morbid element in his views of life and nature. In 1874 a kindred genius and most faithful friend, Oliver Madox Brown [q.v.], died after a short and entirely unforeseen illness. In 1878 he was bereaved with equal suddenness of his sister Cicely, to whom one of his most beautiful poems is addressed, and whose devotion to him was absolute. His surviving sister, Eleanor, died early in the following year; her husband, Arthur O'Shaughnessy [q. v.], followed shortly, and a few