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But, singing in the morning's ear, she weeps,
INDIGNATION AT THE SALE OF A WIFE'S HONOUR.
FROM THE PHOENIX.
Or all deeds yet this strikes the deepest wound
Reverend and honourable matrimony,
That whispering separation every minute,
FROM THE PHOENIX.
THOU angel sent amongst us, sober Law,
As bird in cage debarr'd the use of wings,
So here captived I many days did spend
Save only to be heard, but not to rail-
This is true justice, exercised and used;
To send a man without a sheet to his grave,
'Tis not their mind it should be, nor to have A suit hang longer than a man in chains, Let him be ne'er so fasten'd.
THE plan of the Mirror for Magistrates, begun by Ferrers and Sackville, was followed up by Churchyard, Phayer, Higgins, Drayton, and many others. The last contributor of any note was Niccols, in 1610, in his Winter Night's Vision. Niccols was the author of the Cuckow,' written
in imitation of Drayton's 'Owl,' and several poems of temporary popularity, and of a drama, entitled The Twynne's Tragedy. He was a Londoner, and having studied (says Wood) at Oxford, obtained some employment worthy of his faculties; but of what kind, we are left to conjecture.
FROM THE LEGEND OF ROBERT DUKE OF NORMANDY.
Robert, Duke of Normandy, eldest son of William the Conqueror, on his return from the crusades was imprisoned by Henry I. in Cardiff Castle. He thus describes a walk with his keeper, previous to his eyes being put out.
Where as a prisoner though I did remain;
To quell the common speech, which did complain
When I did please I to and fro might go,
CHARLES FITZGEFFREY was rector of the parish of St. Dominic, in Cornwall.
DAUGHTER of Time, sincere Posterity,
Yet changeable (like Proteus) on the rth,
Unpartial judge of all, save present state,
Look how the industrious bee in fragrant May,
Doth leave his honey-limed delicious bowers, More richly wrought than prince's stately towers,
Waving his silken wings amid the air,
First falls he on a branch of sugar'd thyme,
So in the May-tide of his summer age
FROM FITZGEFFREY'S LIFE OF SIR FRANCIS Leaving his country for his country's sake; Loathing the life that cowardice doth stain, Preferring death, if death might honour gain.
TILL Mr. Gilchrist and Mr. Gifford stood forward in defence of this poet's memory, it had become an established article of literary faith that his personal character was a compound of spleen, surliness, and ingratitude. The proofs of this have been weighed and found wanting. It is true that he had lofty notions of himself, was proud even to arrogance in his defiance of censure, and in the warmth of his own praises of himself was scarcely surpassed by his most zealous admirers; but many fine traits of honour and affection are likewise observable in the portrait of character, and the charges of malice and jealousy his that have been heaped on his name for an hundred years, turn out to be without foundation. In the quarrel with Marston and Dekker his culpability is by no means evident. He did not receive benefits from Shakspeare, and did not
Then on the budding rosemary doth light,
[Born, 1574. Died, 1637.]
him an injury at court. As to Jonson's envying Shakspeare, men, otherwise candid and laborious in the search of truth, seem to have had the curse of the Philistines imposed on their understandings and charities the moment they approached the subject. The fame of Shakspeare himself became an heir-loom of traditionary calumnies against the memory of Jonson; the fancied relics of his envy were regarded as so many pious donations at the shrine of the greater poet, whose admirers thought they could not dig too deeply for trophies of his glory among the ruins of his imaginary rival's reputation. If such inquirers as Reed and Malone went wrong upon this subject, it is too severe to blame the herd of literary labourers for plodding in their footsteps; but it must excite regret as well as wonder that a man of pre-eminent living geniust should have been one of those
quos de tramite recto
Impia sacrilega flexit contagio turbæ,
and should have gravely drawn down Jonson to a parallel with Shadwell, for their common traits of low society, vulgar dialect, and intemperance. Jonson's low society comprehended such men as Selden, Camden, and Cary. Shadwell (if we may trust to Rochester's account of him) was probably rather profligate than vulgar; while either of Jonson's vulgarity or indecency in his recorded conversations there is not a trace. But they both wore great-coats-Jonson drank canary, and Shadwell swallowed opium. "There is a river in Macedon, and there is, moreover, a river at Monmouth."
The grandfather of Ben Jonson was originally of Annandale, in Scotland, from whence he removed to Carlisle, and was subsequently in the service of Henry VIII. The poet's father, who lost his estate under the persecution of Queen Mary, and was afterwards a preacher, died a month before Benjamin's birth, and his widow married a master bricklayer of the name of Fowler. Benjamin, through the kindness of a friend, was educated at Westminster, and obtained an exhibition to Cambridge; but it proved insufficient for his support. He therefore returned from the university to his father-inlaw's house and humble occupation; but disliking the latter, as may be well conceived, he repaired as a volunteer to the army in Flanders, and in the campaign which he served there distinguished himself, though yet a stripling, by killing an enemy in single combat, in the presence of both armies. From thence he came back to
[Their enmity began in the very early part of their connexion; for in the complete copy of Drummond's Notes there are several allusions to this hostility. Inigo had the best retaliation in life-but Jonson has it now, and for ever.]
[ Sir Walter Scott. See Gifford's Ben Jonson, vol. i. p. clxxxi., and Scott's replies in Misc. Prose Works, vol. i. p. 227, and vol. vii. p. 374-382.]
England, and betook himself to the stage for support; at first, probably, as an actor, though undoubtedly very early as a writer. At this period he was engaged in a second single combat which threatened to terminate more disastrously than the former; for having been challenged by some player to fight a duel with the sword, he killed his adversary indeed, but was severely wounded in the encounter, and thrown into prison for murder. There the assiduities of a catholic priest made him a convert to popery, and the miseries of a gaol were increased to him by the visitation of spies; sent, no doubt in consequence of his change to a faith of which the bare name was at that time nearly synonymous with the suspicion of treason. He was liberated however, after a short imprisonment, without a trial. At the distance of twelve years, he was restored to the bosom of his mother church. Soon after his release, he thought proper to marry, although his circumstances were far from promising, and he was only in his twentieth year. In his two-and-twentieth year he rose to considerable popularity, by the comedy of Every Man in his Humour, which, two years after, became a still higher favourite with the public, when the scene and names were shifted from Italy to England, in order to suit the manners of the piece, which had all along been native. It is at this renovated appearance of his play (1598) that his fancied obligations to Shakspeare for drawing him out of obscurity have been dated; but it is at this time that he is pointed out by Meres as one of the most distinguished writers of the age.
The fame of his Every Man out of his Humour drew Queen Elizabeth to its representation, whose early encouragement of his genius is commemorated by Lord Falkland. It was a fame, however, which, according to his own account, had already exposed him to envy-Marston and Dekker did him this homage. He lashed them in his Cynthia's Revels, and anticipated their revenge in the Poetaster. Jonson's superiority in the contest can scarcely be questioned; but the Poetaster drew down other enemies on its author than those with whom he was at war. His satire alluded to the follies of soldiers, and the faults of lawyers. The former were easily pacified, but the lawyers adhered to him with their wonted tenacity; and it became necessary for the poet to clear himself before the lord chief justice. In our own days, the fretfulness of resenting professional derision has been deemed unbecoming even the magnanimity of tailors.
Another proof of the slavish subjection of the stage in those times is to be found soon after the accession of King James, when the authors of Eastward Hoe were committed to prison for some satirical reflections on the Scotch nation, which that comedy contained. Only Marston and Chapman, who had framed the offensive passages,
were seized; but Jonson, who had taken a share in some other part of the composition, conceived himself bound in honour to participate their fate, and voluntarily accompanied them to prison. It was on this occasion that his mother, deceived by the rumour of a barbarous punishment being intended for her son, prepared a lusty poison, which she meant to have given him, and to have drunk along with him. This was maintaining in earnest the consanguinity of heroism and genius.
The imagined insult to the sovereign being appeased, James's accession proved, altogether, a fortunate epoch in Jonson's history. A peaceable reign gave encouragement to the arts and festivities of peace; and in those festivities, not yet degraded to mere sound and show, poetry still maintained the honours of her primogeniture among the arts. Jonson was therefore congenially employed, and liberally rewarded, in the preparation of those masques for the court, which filled up the intervals of his more properly dramatic labours, and which allowed him room for classical impersonations, and lyrical trances of fancy, that would not have suited the business of the ordinary stage. The reception of his Sejanus, in 1603, was at first unfavourable; but it was remodelled, and again presented with better success, and kept possession of the theatre for a considerable time. Whatever this tragedy may want in the agitating power of poetry, it has a strength and dramatic skill that might have secured it, at least, from the petulant contempt with which it has been too often spoken of. Though collected from the dead languages, it is not a lifeless mass of antiquity, but the work of a severe and strong imagination, compelling shapes of truth and consistency to rise in dramatic order from the fragments of Roman eloquence and history; and an air not only of life but of grandeur is given to those curiously adjusted materials. The arraignment of Caius Silius before Tiberius, is a great and poetical cartoon of Roman characters; and if Jonson has translated from Tacitus, who would not thank him for embodying the pathos of history in such lines as these, descriptive of Germanicus ?
Reader, as remarkable for the strength of its style, as for the contempt of popular judgments which it breathes. Such an appeal from ordinary to extraordinary readers ought at least to have been made without insolence; as the difference between the few and the many, in matters of criticism, lies more in the power of explaining their sources of pleasure than in enjoying them. Catiline, it is true, from its classical sources, was chiefly to be judged of by classical readers; but its author should have still remembered, that popular feeling is the great basis of dramatic fame. Jonson lived to alter his tone to the public, and the lateness of his humility must have made it more mortifying. The haughty preface, however, disappeared from later editions of the play, while its better apology remained in the high delineation of Cicero's character, and in passages of Roman eloquence which it contains ; above all, in the concluding speech of Petreius. It is said, on Lord Dorset's authority, to have been Jonson's favourite production.
In 1613 he made a short trip to the Continent, and, being in Paris, was introduced to the Cardinal du Perron, who, in compliment to his learning, showed him his translation of Virgil. Ben, according to Drummond's anecdotes, told the cardinal that it was nought: a criticism, by all accounts, as just as it was brief.
O that man!
In images and pomp, they had supplied
Of his two next pieces, Bartholomew Fair (in 1614), and the Devil is an Ass (in 1616), the former was scarcely a decline from the zenith of his comic excellence, the latter certainly was: if it was meant to ridicule superstition, it effected its object by a singular process of introducing a devil upon the stage. After this he made a long secession of nine years from the theatre, during which he composed some of his finest masques for the court, and some of those works which were irrecoverably lost in the fire that consumed his study. Meanwhile he received from his sovereign a pension of 100 marks, which, in courtesy, has been called making him poet laureat. The title, till then gratuitously assumed, has been since appropriated to his successors in the pension.
The poet's journey to Scotland (1619), awakens many pleasing recollections, when we conceive him anticipating his welcome among a people who might be proud of a share in his ancestry, and setting out, with manly strength, on a journey of 400 miles, on foot. We are assured, by one who saw him in Scotland, that he was treated with respect and affection among the nobility and gentry; nor was the romantic scenery of Scotland lost upon his fancy. From the poem which he meditated on Lochlomond, it is seen that he looked on it with a poet's eye. But, unhappily, the meagre anecdotes of Drummond have made this event of his life too prominent by the overimportance which have been attached to them.
By his three succeeding plays, Volpone (in 1605), the Silent Woman (in 1609), and the Alchemist (in 1610), Jonson's reputation in the comic drama rose to a pitch which neither his own nor any other pen could well be expected to surpass. The tragedy of Catiline appeared in
1611, prefaced by an address to the Ordinary | Drummond, a smooth and sober gentleman, seems