Page images

text itself, he had not, in a similar manner, somewhat freely already, was very much said something in the odi profanum vul- from 1616 to 1618 cannot be ascertained; gus strain, or dared the public, at their but in the summer of this latter year took peril

, to dislike the play, or abused other place that famous foot-journey to Scotland writers, and proclaimed himself to be the which brought him into such close aconly true artist. Now, if there is any one quaintance with Drummond of Hawthornthing that the public will not put up with, den.* He resided with Drummond some it is being bullied. There was perhaps an weeks, but he remained in Scotland several element of unpopularity in Ben's dramas months in all, and visited the Highlands themselves; but Ben's explosions of “silent and various parts of the Lowlands. After contempt” in their behalf made the case his return to England in the spring of worse. In short, cabals were formed 1619, various pieces of good fortune against him, and his later plays were ill awaited him. In July he received an inreceived. There were, of course, many- vitation to Oxford, where, amid other honand they were chiefly among the learned ors, he had the degree of Master of Arts classes-who stood by Ben; who liked conferred on him in a full convocation; his doctrines about poetry and the drama; and la in he same year, he was apliked his learned allusions, and liked his pointed by the king to the dignity of style. There were others, doubtless, who, Poet-Laureate. Samuel Daniel, then just though they saw not only the immense supe-dead, had virtually held this office, but on riority of Shakspeare personally to Jonson, Jonson's appointment it was converted but also the intrinsic superiority of the into something of substantial value by Shakspearean theory of dramatic art to that having an annual pension of one hundred which Jonson represented and inculcated, merks attached to it. The reversion of still recognized the service which Jonson the office of Master of the Revels was also had done to the drama by his massive un- conferred on Jonson by the king, and it was derstanding, and felt the truth of some of with some difficulty, we are informed, that his criticisms, and liked to hear him roar. his Majesty was prevented from knighting But both these classes together could not his favorite poet. It would have been save him from the general censure. He done but for Ben's own reluctance to acperceived this, and hence it was that in cept the honor. The reversion to the 1616, instead of persevering so as to obtain Mastership of the Revels brought Ben no the sceptre which Shakspeare's hand had increase of fortune, as he did not live to dropped, he withdrew in dudgeon from see the office vacant; but his salary as the theatre. His appeal with respect to Laureate, together with what he derived what he had already done was from the from other sources, enabled him to rest ignorant many” to the “judicious and from his labors for the stage without learned few” of his own time, and from his contemporaries to posterity; and as

* Drummond's conduct in committing to paper notes for the further exertions of his genius, why of Jonson's private conversations with him has been these, again, were to be of that nobler kind made the subject of much controversy. Gifford's which would be done better aloof, tirade against Drummond is simply preposterous.

Not that we can acquit Drummond altogether, per“ Safe from the wolf's black jaw and the dull haps. To make notes in any case whatever of conass's hoof."

fidential conversations, and more especially where

bits of scandal are involved, would not, by a very After all, however, had not outward cir- strict taste, be considered honorable. The amount cumstances conspired to assist Ben's in- of the offence, however, in Drummond's case, depends tention, it might have been difficult for very much on the intention he had. It is for those him to keep to it. But it so happened, that, Drummond' was to say what this may have been;

who know, independently, what kind of a man about the very time when he determined but, so far as appears, he had no other motive than to retire among the learned, it became that natural interest which a man of letters living in possible for him to do so. His wife, it Scotland would have in the kind of gossip Jonson appears, had recently died, and this of it could bring from London. The notes seem to have

been intended for private keeping. See the case self naturally induced some changes in his clearly stated by Mr. David Laing, of the Signet Liarrangements and mode of living. The brary, Edinburgh, in his Preface to the “Conversahouse in Blackfriars was probably given tions," as published by the Shakspeare Society. up, and, at all events, that liberty of leav- For our part, seeing that the accuracy and truthfuling London and moving about at plea- wish is that Drummond had sinned more, while be

ness of the notes can hardly be doubted, our chief sure among his friends which he had used was about it

, and given us more of Ben's gossip.

serious inconvenience. During the re- / stead of it had arisen the even more famous increased. What his movements were Apollo Club, held at the Devil Tavern in mainder of the reign of James, therefore, Fleet Street, of which Ben himself had we are to imagine him engaged only on been the founder, and the laws of which, masques, and miscellaneous literary work. written by him in pure and classical Latin, It was probably during these years that were engraved in gold letters over the firehe accumulated most of those MSS.-in- place in the room where the Club met. cluding an account of his journey to Scot- Hither came all who, as the phrase was, land, a translation of Aristotle's Poetics, “desired to be sealed of the tribe of Ben;" and a history of Henry the Fifth-which here from the chair, which no one else dared were afterwards lost to the world by a to occupy, he promulgated his critical dicta fire.

to his admiring disciples, showing them 3. From 1625 to 1637, or from Ben's also by example, with the help of Canary, fifty-third to his sixty-fifth year.-During what true wit was, and sometimes, we fear, these last twelve years of Ben's life, his under the same influence singing, “Old position with respect to his contempora- Sir Simon the King.” Not Dryden afterries was that of a literary patriarch, re-wards at Wills's, nor Jonson's namesake, taining enough of his old fire and strength later still, at the Literary Club, ruled with to hold the supremacy against all compet- greater authority than he did at the itors but on the whole living chiefly on Apollo, during the later years of his life. the reputation of what he had already Among the scores of young men whom he done. *One or two of his old brother- took under his patronage here, was Hyde, Elizabethans, such as Chapman, Donne, afterwards Lord Clarendon, then a student and Drayton, survived for a time to bear of law, for whom he showed an extrahim company; Massinger and Ford, out of ordinary partiality till the youth began to those few newer men who had taken their attend to business, “which he thought places during James's reign among the ought never to be preferred to his comElizabethan dramatists, also survived and pany.” It was very much in consequence were in the prime of their activity; among of the personal influence thus exerted over non-dramatic poets and general writers who rising young men in his declining years, had made their appearance in the same that Ben's poetry, and his theories about reign, and still continued to be known in poetry, continued so powerfully to affect literary circles, were Selden, Herbert, English literature throughout the whole Herrick, Quarles, Withers, Phineas Flet- of the seventeenth century. cher, Carew, Browne, and others; and But while Jonson's literary influence gradually adding themselves to those out thus remained as great as ever, his per- of the generation then rising into manhood, sonal fortunes were on the wane. The

. were the Shirleys, the Wallers, the Dave death of King James had affected them nants, the Sucklings, the Felthams, the Cla- very considerably for the worse. Charles, rendons, the Miltons, the Clevelands, and it is true, continued to show as much the Cowleys, who were in their turn to live kindness as he conveniently could to the on and be the literary powers of a new and poet whom his father had liked and honvery different era. In these last years of ored; but his own tastes did not lead him Ben Jonson's life, in fact, the age of Shak- to have so much personal intercourse with speare and his contemporaries connects it- poets, or to take so much interest in their self

, and principally through Ben himself, affairs, as his father had found agreeable. with the age of which Milton is the great- While Ben's nominal relations to the est representative. Ben never knew Mil- Court, therefore, were the same as before, ton, though Milton was almost thirty years they were, in reality, far less intimate and of age before he died; but that he had an far less profitable to himself. He was instinctive sense of his function as a living now seldom called upon for any of those link between a past time and that of which courtly entertainments, in the shape of he now saw the beginning, is proved by the masques and the like, which had been in personal relations which he cultivated to so much request during the life of James, other men who were of the same age as and which had brought him so consideraMilton, or even younger. The Mermaid ble a part of his income. Only three Club, where Ben had been but one con- masques in all of those printed among his spicuous member among others older than works were produced for the Court during himself, now no longer existed ; and in- this period of his life—the first for Twelfth

Night, 1626; the next not till 1630; and been proof against all the excesses with the last in the same year. Something which he had tried it; but now dropsy, more, however, than a mere change in the palsy, and a complication of other dispersonal tastes and habits of the sovereign orders, came upon him at once, and for was involved in this diminution of the the last years of his life he was scarcely demand for Ben's services at Court. Inigo able to go abroad. At least as early as Jones was now a far greater man at Court 1628, these maladies had begun to show than he had been when he and Ben first themselves, and to unfit him for the work joined their heads together in getting up required to make up the loss of his Court masques for the late queen and her ladies. perquisites. Still he made the attempt. Then, according to Ben, he had been a Despite his vows against the stage, he poor youth, with a capital of “thirty ventured in 1629 to try the public favor pounds in pipkins ;” but now he was no- with a comedy called The New Inn; and, thing less than court-architect and court- though that failed so conspicuously as to surveyor, moving about as a grandee, be driven off the stage, his necessities talking familiarly of Euclid, Archimedes, obliged him to digest the affront, and Vitruvius, and Architectonics, and betray- again appeal to the public in his Maging himself occasionally by misquotations netic Lady and his Tale of a Tub. These in Latin. This portrait, it must be re- three plays, with the pastoral called The membered, is drawn by Ben in his spleen, Sad Shepherd, and one or two short and as we cannot enter into particulars, poetical entertainments written on comthe simple fact for us is, that here again, mission from noble patrons, were the last whether with right or wrong on his side, efforts of his pen. The receipts from

. Ben had got into one of his quarrels. them, whatever they were, were by no During James's life, Inigo and he had means sufficient, even when added to his managed to coöperate harmoniously and pension as Laureate, to save Ben in his with mutual compliments; but not long declining years from destitution; and after the accession of Charles, the archi- letters of his, both to the king and to tect and the poet came to a deadly strife various noblemen, are extant, in which on a point of precedence—the architect he pleads his extreme poverty, and begs insisting that the essential part of the their assistance. It is pleasant to have masques was his machinery, and the poet to record that Charles was not appealed maintaining that the masque was naught to in vain. Besides sending the poet a without his verses. The quarrel came to present of a hundred pounds after the a height when Ben, in publishing one of failure of his comedy in 1629, he raised his masques, placed his own name before his salary as Laureate in 1630, from a the architect's in the title-page. Inigo, hundred merks to a hundred pounds, using his influence at Court, was able to adding the annual tierce of wine so cele show his sense of the wrong done to his brated in the history of the Laureateship. dignity, by having Ben's services dispens- More than this, it has been proved by the ed with in future at court masques, and researches of Mr. Dyce into the life of the having other poets, among whom was one poet Middleton, that a salary of a hunAurelian Townshend, called in as substi- dred nobles a year, which had been voted tutes. Ben, on his side, took his revenge to Jonson by the city of London on his in those lampoons on Inigo which are appointment to succeed Middleton as city printed with his other works. Those poet in 1628, but of which they had who are interested in the “quarrels of stopped payment since 1631, because Jonauthors,” will find the history of this one son had a shown no fruits of his laborg" related at length in Gifford and else in the post, was renewed and paid, with where.

arrears, in 1634, expressly on the ground Deprived of a portion of his emoluments of the king's solicitation. At this time from the Court, Ben, among whose virtues Jonson may be said to have been prudence had been one of the least, began on his death-bed; for disease had now to be really in want, and that at a time confined him to his house, and it was only when his bodily powers were failing him. a question how long he would survive. Though of a scorbutic habit of body from He died on the 6th of August, 1637, and his boyhood, and of late years grown so

on the 9th was buried in Westminster enormously corpulent as to be the wonder Abbey. A subscription was begun with of Fleet Street, his health had hitherto I a view to erect a suitable monument to

him; but as in those days of political as he was passing through the Abbey, to excitement in anticipation of the Civil secure at least an epitaph for the poet, by Wars, the subscription rather lagged, an giving a mason eighteenpence to cut on eccentric Oxfordshire squire, commonly the stone which covered the grave the called Jack Young, took the opportunity, words, “O rare Ben Jonson !»


the London Review.


The great duty of a historian indisput- upon their relations and general bearing. ably is, to narrate all the facts he can col. What constitutes the right of Herodotus lect as circumstantially as possible, and in to the title of “Father of History?” Those such terms and arrangement as may best very qualities, that guilelessness, that gartend to perspicuity. We do not want rulous innocence, those long-drawn imposfrom him theories, but facts unabridged sible stories, which procured for him from and unadulterated; being apt enough of the little philosopher, Vicesimus Knox, the ourselves to form deductions, to general sobriquet of “Father of Lies.” Much we ize, and come to conclusions more or less should have thanked the old Halicarnassagacious and impartial. The more valu- sean, at this enlightened date, for a view of ble the history, and the greater the his- the invariable causes of human action, with torian, the more minutely and lucidly re- facts to match, selected from the early hislated are the facts. Yet this, which is un- tory of Greece, with which we should assurdoubtedly the case, has, in the present age, edly have been regaled, had his task fallen been most woefully lost sight of. It is a tothe lot ofone of the so-called historians of common remark that, fertile as we are in the day. As it is, the old Ionian goes greatness of various kinds, we seem inca- rambling on-coherently enough, indeed; pable of producing a great historian. We for his great design, the history of the have essays upon history, reviews of pe- wars between the Greeks and the barbariods, theories of development, growths, rians, reäppears from time to time-looklaws of progress, harmonic philosophies, ing with the same vivid interest on the innumerable; but we have no history. We wagon of the Scythian and the towercannot find a man who will be content la- temple of the Babylonian, and then leaving boriously to investigate facts, and to nar- them as he found them, until he has colrate them plainly, without stringing them lected a mass of fact, detail, and anecdote, upon some theory of his own, and favoring from which the intelligent students of all us with generalizations which are often ages and nations have been able to draw mere platitudes, and aphorisms which are their own conclusions, and derive their often mere truisms. A true historian is own instruction; and to this day we acan artist, and therefore deals with individ- knowledge that Herodotus is among the ual things, and ought to be very careful greatest historians, and that we owe nearhow he abstracts from his subject the life ly all we know of the remoter periods of and action which can belong only to indi- antiquity to his unwearied industry and vidual things, in his eagerness to unfold love of truth. their principles, and give his own ideas It may be affirmed that the history of

England is yet to be written. All the * Lives of the Princesses of England, from the Nor. essays and dissertations so constantly man Conquest. By MARY ANN EVERETT GREEN, Editor of the "Letters of Royal and Illustrious La

produced, are comments upon an unedited dies.” In Six Volumes. London: Henry Colburn. text—the jostling opinions of lawyers upon 1850-1854.

an unreported case. The so-called “ dignity of history” is now exploded, more as Annals of the reign of Tiberius, should be a phrase than in reality : for though we intolerable to the reader in comparison have a few writers who certainly are in- with the splendid achievements which it dustrious enough in collecting facts, and was in the power of the more ancient hisnot intentionally dishonest in narrating torian to describe. But Tacitus's love of them, yet so long as there is a theory in truth was greater than his love of admi. the case, it is impossible but that facts ration; and he persevered in his irksome should be imperceptibly warped and col- task, omitting no dreary detail from fear ored, that prominence should be given to of the reader's weariness or his own; and favored coincidences, and that the author the result has been that his work is proshould step before his work. The real nounced universally to be the master-piece “dignity of history” consists in ascertaining of antiquity. truth; this is its function, in the discharge We should not have so much cause of of which alone history can attain to its complaint against the kind of writers in own peculiar perfection. And we ask, in question, if they would proclaim them. which case is a man more likely to acquire selves to be what they are. Their comthis perfection and resultant dignity, positions are often extremely valuable in when he is writing in support of some their own way, reasonable in hypothesis, scheme, philosophy, march, or develop- and eloquent in language. But when the ment of his own imagination, and which ory after theory is propounded, when must have its origin in some kind of van- studies of character and essays on influity—or when he is writing simply be-ences innumerable are put forth by writers cause he takes delight in truth, and wishes of repute in the name and form of history, to present it to others with what accuracy not only is actual damage done-a good he can. A great deal has been said by the dissertation turned into a bad history—but defenders of theoretical history about com- the wrong fashion is set; and those who position, breadth, color, light and shadow, might be capable of doing something in and grouping as indispensable to a his- real history, are drawn away from the torical tableau : the meaning of which is, proper and natural course. Why not call that the historical writer, in order to make such compositions by their own names, and his pictures as effective as possible, is at let them in propriả personâ do good, acliberty to suppress whatever he thinks may cording to the amount of truth they may mar their effect, or be derogatory to their severally contain ? Meanwhile, let those grandeur and beauty. Here we have the who hold to the dignity of history, who "dignity of history" again. It will be despise little things, and who in the true admitted by common consent, that the German way, imagine that no individual business of the historian is to relate the fact can stand for itself, without being truth, not to compose pictures; that he is linked into some harmonic theory of exnot to suppress, alter, or translate at will; planation, take a lesson from a poet, that and that the first quality desirable in him is extreme may correct extreme. Says a strong universal sympathy with human Keats: action, in whatever way manifested. More

may be affirmed, that the success “ The wars of Troy, towers smouldering o'er of the historian in no way depends upon their blaze, the scenic character of what he may have Stiff-holden shields, far-piercing spears, keen to relate: a tendency to select events of

blades, comparative magnitude for separate dis

Struggling, and blood, and shrieks—all dimly quisition, is one of the worst consequences


Into some backward corner of the brain.
of the theorizing spirit. No man can judge
of the effect of what he

Yet in our very souls we feel amain
himself con-

The close of Troilus and Cressid sweet. sider to be of small moment, upon other Hence, pageant history! hence, gilded cheat! minds; and no man has a right to suppress, Swart planet in the universe of deeds! in his course, the least thing that may pos- Wide sea, that one continuous murmur breeds sibly illustrate a phasis of human nature.

Along the pebbled shores of memory! Tacitus is a greater historian than Livy:

Many old rotten-timbered boats their be and Tacitus himself expresses his appre

Upon thy vaporous bosom, magnified hension lest the continued details of

To goodly vessels ; many a sail of pride,

And golden-keeled, is left unlaunched and dry. tedious and uniform prosecutions, which But wherefore this? What care, though owl occupy the largest share in his immortal

did fly

over, it

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »