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wright, he followed the wars, married a wife, "a shrew but like many another? of his honest," and took part in the kind. He trailed a pike in bustling adventure of his age. Flanders, and was rightly The town of Jonson's time and proud of the adventure. “In of Shakespeare's was packed his service in the Low Coun by sailors, wits, and scholars, tries," he told Drummond, “he all agog to try their fortunes, had, in the face of both the and Jonson followed the other camps, killed an enemy, and poets to the stage. He became taken opima spolia from him." a strolling player, for the road This was a feat after Jonson's to fame then lay, very often, own heart; the danger and through the booth, and met the glory of it belonged to him with little or no success.
He alone. Though he had a just was not born to be an actor. contempt for Captain Hungry, His rough visage—it was said who went a-soldiering to fill to resemble a rotten russet his belly—“Come, be not angry, apple when it was bruised ”you are hungry;
hungry ; eat : Do might have given a hint of his what you come for, captain, poetic genius; it had no power there's your meat”-he held of attraction in the theatre. “true soldiers ” in high esteem, Moreover, his figure was unand celebrated them, with him- gainly, as his voice was harsh, self, in modest verse :
and he found a craft better
suited to his talent in doing up “Strength of my country, whilst I bring to view
old plays, or writing new plays Such as are miscall’d captains, and for Henslowe. His experiwrong you;
ence did not differ from the And your high names: I do desire that thence
experience of the others. Now Be nor put on you, nor you take
he receives a respectable sum offence.
for work that he has finished ; I swear by your true friend, my
now he is borrowing what Muse, I love Your great profession; which I once money he can from the pendid prove :
urious Henslowe. Before long And did not shame it with my actions he is in trouble over a play,
then, No more than I dare now do with my
entitled “The Isle of Dogs, pen.
which Nashe had left unfinished, He that not trusts me, having vow'd and which Jonson and another thus much,
completed without the knowBut's angry for the captain still, is such."
ledge or approval of the author.
No sooner was the work perAnd truly Jonson did not shame formed than it was denounced his profession, whether he held as “a lewd play which was a pen or a sword.
played in one of the play-houses His sojourn in the Low Coun- on the Bank Side, containing tries did not last long. He very seditious and slanderous returned presently to London matter.” Jonson was presently and his “wonted studies," released, but he had seen the
inside of a jail, and not for the law. In 1604 the susceptibilities last time.
of the Scots were wounded by a His love of a quarrel kept play in which Jonson had a pace with his genius. The hand, and after his wont he came year 1598
marked for well out of the danger. He told Jonson by two vastly dis- the story to Drummond with similar events. The Lord a force and amplitude which Chamberlain's men performed that ingenious poet has hap‘Every Man in his Humour,'the pily preserved. “ He was demasterpiece of Jonson's comic lated,” said he at Hawthomart, with Shakespeare heading den, “ by Sir James Murray to the list of actors ; and Jonson the king for writing something fought a duel with Gabriel against the Scots in a play Spencer, a player in Henslowe's 'Eastward Hoe,' and voluncompany, and left him dead in tarily imprisoned himself with Hoxton fields. Jonson himself Chapman and Marston, who looked back upon this fray had written it amongst them. with certain pride. He The report was that they should boasted that his sword was then have had their ears out and ten inches shorter than Spen- noses. After their delivery he cer's, and to be sure he had banqueted all his friends. There no cause of shame. Charged was Camden, Selden, and others; with felony, he pleaded guilty, at the midst of the feast his was saved from the gallows by old mother drunk to him, and pleading benefit of clergy, and showed him a paper which she carried the Tyburn T branded had (if the sentence had taken upon his thumb unto the end execution) to have mixed in of his life. One thing only he the prison among his drink, resented in this business. Two which was full of lusty strong spies were set to watch him in poison, and that she was no jail and haply to surprise his churl, she told, she minded thoughts. Two damned vil- first to have drunk of it herlains," he called them, and he self.” The episode is wholly was cunning enough to answer characteristic of Jonson, the their demands with nothing gallant son of a gallant mother. but I and No. So he came How else should he celebrate forth unbetrayed, and solaced his enlargement save by feasthis anger with an epigram on ing? And how should he or spies >
his mother, who minded not "Spies, you are lights in state, but of death, willingly endure mutilabase stuff,
tion ? Who, when you've burnt yourselves For the most of dramatists down to the snuff,
the production of a play is a Stink, and are thrown away.
End fair enough.”
test of artistry. For Jonson
it was, besides a test, commonly One otheraffair brought him pre- a ground for quarrel. 'Every sently within the clutch of the Man out of his Humour' set
alight the enmity of Marston, the independence of his spirit wbich, fiercely countered by made him everywhere welcome. Ben Jonson, amused the town In 1602 Maningham tells us for many a day. To the fire that “Ben Jonson the poet now lit by 'Every Man out of his lives upon one Townsend, and Humour' the ‘Poetaster' scorns the world.” Presently added abundant fuel, and he accepts the hospitality of though Jonson got the better D'Aubigny, who always reof the dispute, he prepared a mained his friend. In some violent reception for the plays great houses
respect for which he might produce in the poetry and poets was tradifuture. By his own will be tional, and Ben Jonson was lived in an atmosphere of con- made much of at Belvoir as troversy, and saw his works at Woburn. But it was among not judged on their merits, but the poets and writers that he assailed by foes and defended found his warmest, most faithby friends as though they were ful friends. Such men as Cam. expressions of malice or par- den, Selden, and Cotton were tiality. If he suffered in a of his intimates, and worldly sense from his indis- fact that he was a good hater cretions, no other way of life proved and implied that he was possible to him. He did was a good lover also. At the but indulge his temperament, Mermaid Tavern in Bread and paid the price of the in- Street he presided over such dulgence willingly enough. an assembly of poets as had
'He would rather lose his never been got together. The friend than his jest," said the authority of Fuller is not untimid Drummond. “He would impeachable. He wrote after not flatter
flatter though he saw the men of the great age were death.” Such was his own dead and gone. Yet he was & comment upon himself, and he repository of tradition, and he was nearer to the truth than who will believe in Fuller's the Scot.
accuracy may easily accept as If his boisterous tempera- the words of truth his famous ment won him enemies, it won contrast of Shakespeare with him also the closest friends. Jonson. Many were the wit At his approach the barriers combats," says Fuller, “beof society, strong in his day, tween Shakespeare and Ben were broken down. He lived Jonson, which two I behold on terms of easy familiarity like a Spanish great galleon with the great. His famous and an English man-of-war. ' Masques,' the masterpieces of Master Jonson, like the former, their kind, made him welcome was built far higher in learnat Court, whence not even his ing, solid but slow in his perconstant brawlings with Inigo formances. Shakespeare, with Jones availed for many years the English man-of-war, lesser to exclude him. His wit and
His wit and in bulk, but lighter in sailing,
could turn with all tides, tack That Jonson took the reabout, and take advantage of sponsibilities of his throne at all winds, by the quickness of the Tavern with some gravity his wit and invention.” It is
It is is clear enough. He drew up à noble comparison, and for such a code of conviviality as those that have eyes to see it has never been seen elsewhere. bears upon it the fair imprint What laws he gave of poetry of truth.
we know not. We know very The poets were eloquent in well what laws he, as the praise of the Mermaid, the Old arbiter bibendi, gave of drinking. Devil, the Dog, and the other He would not permit his guests taverns where it was Jonson's to hold themselves as they pleasure to lay down the laws liked or to drink at haphazard. of poetry and of drink. Him- He imposed upon his subjects self, we are told, was sometimes that good behaviour without inclined to silence, as though which the Mermaid, or any it was the monarch's duty and other tavern, might become a privilege to be sparing of his bear-garden. Here are some words as he was unsparing of of the Leges Conviviales which his tyranny. As for the other he had engraven in the Apollo poets, they talked and praised of the Old Devil Tavern in even as they obeyed. When Temple Bar :they were in the country, they sighed for the joyous pleasures “Nemo asymbolus, nisi umbra, huo
venito. of the town. “Ah, Ben!"
Idiota, insulsus, tristis, turpis abesto. sings Herrick :
Eruditi, urbani, hilares, honesti adsci
Shall we, thy guests,
That for a beginning, and
thereafter he insists upon all The Dog, the Triple Tun;
shall Where we such clusters had,
promote As made us nobly wild, not mad ? fellowship. The raillery shall
And yet each verse of thine be without malice; no bad Out-did the meat, out-did the frolic
poems shall be recited; nowine."
body shall demand extemAnd Beaumont, remote also pore verses of another; there from town and at work, sadly shall be no arguments nor dreams of “the full Mermaid quarrels ; and he who betrays wine," and recalls the words what is done or said within that there he had heard :
the sacred walls of the Apollo
shall never thenceforth be ad“Words that have been
mitted into the company of the So nimble, and so full of subtle flame, As if that every one from whence they poets. Nor were women ex
cluded : nec lectæ fæminæ reHad meant to put his whole wit in a
pudiantor. jest, And had resolved to live a fool the rest
Thus the Apollo set Of his dull life.”
for the feast, and there was VOL. CCXVIII.-NO. MCCCXXI.
2 D 2
old Simon Wadloe, bustling English poetry itself. His about to serve his customers, natural advantage was judg. and quick to obey the master's ment to order and govern injunction : obsonator et coquus fancy rather than excess of convivarum gulæ periti sunto. fancy, his productions being A gallant fellow was old Sim, slow and upon deliberation, who had a natural love of wine yet then abounding with great drinkers :
wit and fancy, and will live
accordingly; and surely as he Hang up all the poor hop-drinkers,
did exceedingly exalt the Eng. Cries old Sim, the king of skinkers ; He the half of life abuses,
lish language in eloquence, proThat sits watering with the Muses." priety, and masculine expres
sions, so he was the best judge Faithful as Jonson had been of and fittest to prescribe rules to Canary, he lost not his in- to poetry and poets of any fluence when increasing years man who had lived with or forced upon him an unwelcome before him or since.” Truly sobriety. As his contempor- his position was unique, and aries went one after another it was based not on into their graves, the succeed- literary doctrine but upon pering generation rallied about sonal authority. The sons its master. “ The Tribe of of Ben” followed their own Ben remained loyal and as several paths in prose or verse; siduous, and if Jonson fell upon they were united only in devopoverty and ill-health, he was tion. And the force of Jonstill a king in the realm of son's influence was shown, as letters. Among his later sub- Messrs Herford and Simpson jects were the best men of the point out, "in the almost time. Clarendon and Falk- total absence during his later land, Digby and Cavendish, years of pronounced and deCotton and Carew, Randolph clared reaction from his ways." and Howell, were content to Thus he was doubly fortunate. sit at his feet. It mattered not He had been the leader of his that the wits of the theatre contemporaries in his earlier clamoured against his plays : life. He did not know the his “sons" were active in his displeasure of being scouted, support, and gladly treasured as one who lagged too long every word that he spoke. The upon the stage, by the rising great Mr Hyde himself did not generation. stint his praise.
“ Ben Jon He remained to the end son's name," he wrote, “can something of a tyrant. If he never be forgotten, having by did not insist that the whole his very good learning and the tribe of Ben should follow severity of his nature and exactly in his footsteps, he manners, very much reformed did insist that they should the stage, and, indeed, the be faithful to humane letters,