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or a phrase in which the expression was the solely appropriate and indissoluble garment of the meaning; but such lines are most rare in him. In this respect and it is a most essential one-he stands far below others of that great dramatic age who in many other respects-in judgment, in vigor, in art, in knowledgemust yield him due precedence; far below (to put Shakspeare, Fletcher, and Beaumont aside) Ford; below Heywood, Marston, Middleton, and Webster; far, far below Marlowe, and even Massinger, who, great as he is, is not among the first in the possession of the special poetic faculty. Jonson never forces language till it cracks with the strain imposed on it, in striving to convey something which language scarcely can convey. He never would have spoken of: "Heaven's cherubim horsed Upon the sightless couriers of the wind." He thought that to make Cæsar say, "Cæsar did never wrong but with just cause,"* was absolute nonsense; and so it would be in any other man's mouth; but in Cæsar's mouth, can any thing more fully express the sweeping self-centered ambition, the inordinate self-reliance of the mind, than this sort of assumption that a thing which from any other would be a wrong, or even in its own nature was so, yet, coming from him, the relations in which it stood were so mighty, so distinct from all others, as to be capable of giving it an impress of right? Can any thing be conceived more imperious than the haughty claim which lies hidden in the words, that Cæsar's needs had power to change the moral aspects of things? This way of conveying meanings by suggestion rather than expression was intolerable to Jonson; there is nothing he treats with more contempt than the absence of a specific meaning definitely expressed. His own style, both in verse and prose, is often harsh and cumbrous; but he never

* This line is not to be found in Shakspeare's printed works; but Jonson's stricture is pretty good evidence Shakspeare once used it. It is scarcely possible the only phrase at all like it now to be found in Julius Caesar, could have been utterly misquoted by one whose memory was so good as Jonson's. Probably he heard the line he quotes at the theater; and very possibly too it was altered on his remonstrance, for a poet may write what is good, and find

himself unable to defend it.

wrote without knowing with exactness what he meant to say; and though occa sionally there may be some obscurity, from a pedantic or involved form of expression, there is a certain unmistakable meaning always there. For what he esteemed corrrectness, he thought no sacrifice too great. It was his habit to write his poetry by first setting down his ideas in prose, and then translating them into verse. It is impossible to believe he al ways followed this course, because he has written a little, though very little, genuine poetry; but the mass of his writings very well bear out his statement to Drummond, that this was his mode of writing. He learned it, he said, from his master Camden. Jonson's language is copious, nervous, exact, discriminating, but it is very seldom felicitous; and his metaphors, which are a part of the poet's language, run in the same track-they are very rarely indeed of the essence of his matter. His will enters largely into his imagination; he gives it a narrow field, and compels it to exhaust it. Hence he seeks effect by the cumulation of ideas and epithets. His studied poetical outbursts, among which may be specially indicated the speeches of Volpone and Sir Epicure Mammon, are all in the nature of minute and highly worked description. This is work in which knowledge and learning tell. Hence, too, his comic genius is a genius of caricature and exaggeration. He takes a character or a situation, and confining himself strictly to it, exhausts with a wonderful skill and perseverance all the elements of satire and ridicule that can be found in it. Shakspeare is always playing on the edge of his subject, and pursuing it along the infinite threads which unite it with other things. Jonson is always concentrated on the very matter in hand, which he cuts off from its connection and considers apart, turns it round and inside out, and drains to the very dregs all its elements of humor.

"He hath consumed a whole night," so he told Drummond, "in lying looking to his great toe, about which he hath seen Tartars and Turks, Romans, and Carthaginians, fight in his imagination." This is vastly characteristic. Observe the pointd'appui which he takes in his great toe, and how he deals with definite warriors about whom he knows something. Haying this tangible ground work, there is no limit to the changes he can ring, or the

extremes his fancy can reconcile; on that little space he can marshal his armies with varied adventures the whole night. There is something very remarkable in this patient occupation of the imagination with one theme, which is observable in all Johnson's writings. Out of how few and narrow elements is The Fox constructed Volpone, a rich Venetian, feigns sickness, and at last death; and he and his parasite Mosca play with the hopes of those who, building on being remembered in his will, visit him in his supposed last hours with costly presents. The Hæredipeta are Voltore, Corvino, Corbaccio, the Vulture, the Crow, and the Raven; and though well distinguished, have all a close family relationship as birds of prey; and the whole comic gist of the play turns on the mode in which they debase themselves in their pursuit of the inheritance, and are beguiled and brought to shame. Celia and Bonario inspire us with no interest, and Sir Politick Would-be and his wife are mere excrescences, who weary us with their laborious displays of far-fetched absurdities. The termination of the play is peculiar and characteristic. Jonson in many respects lived after the free ideas of his time; but his plays stand apart from those of most of his contemporaries, in the absence of that utter licentiousness not only of language but of idea, and that willful disregard of all moral distinctions, which so often marks them. Jonson has not the purity of Shakspeare, he is often far from cleanly in his mirth; but his plays are generally arranged on the assumption of the existence of abiding moral truths, and the propriety of their observance. He is severe, if not to himself, at least to others; and in The Fox he feels no compunction in sentencing the witty Mosca, who has amused us so gayly through five acts, to finish his life in the galleys, and in committing the profuse magnifico Volpone to prison and irons. Indeed, judgment so justly and so sternly overtakes all the principal occupants of the scene, as to convince us that we have throughout been amused with things which are not the legitimate subjects of laughter. And Jonson often thus errs, in wringing his comedy out of the baser vices and out of degraded natures. This latter defect casts its stain over all the inexhaustible wit, exquisite comic humor, and laughable caricature of The Alchymist; one's gorge rises at being confined

for five acts without relief to the society of such utter scoundrels, knaves, and fools as are here brought together. If all Henry the Fourth were made out of Dame Quickly, Doll Tearsheet, Poins, Bardolph, and Pistol, even with Sir John and the Prince to bear them through, we should tire of their society. But that is nothing to what we have here: there a certain airiness gives grace to the real wickedness it is not vice we see, but only the humorous side of vice: but in Jonson, the depravity itself is insisted upon; the coarse body of the thing is painted; its real native deformity not only undisguised, but elaborately set out; and human nature in its depths mocked with jests so cruel and heartless-the redeeming elements of good yet there so remorselessly thrust out of sight-that the whole savors somewhat of dancing over graveyard, and a certain savor of corruption and clank of dead bones mingles in the orgie.


Subtle, an old cheating alchymist and fortune-teller; Face, a cunning bold rogue; and Doll Common, whose name indicates her profession-get possession of a house in London deserted on account of the plague, and confederate together to cheat all they can bring into their toils. Dapper, a lawyer's clerk, comes to them for a spirit to secure him luck at play; Drugger, a tobacco-man, wants charms to secure him custom; Sir Epicure Mammon, a nobler victim, is deluded into the conviction that he is on the point of grasping the philosopher's stone, and indulges in gorgeous dreams of luxury and magnificence; Tribulation Wholesome wants gold made for the uses of the fanatical brethren. The way in which these and others are tricked and made fools of by the confederates, and the infinite ingenuity with which the detection that seems constantly at hand is staved off, make the staple of the play; which ends in the general confusion and rout of all concerned, and the return of the surprised owner to his desecrated house.

Jonson is himself in his descriptions of alchemy; he seems, with his usual industry and love of exact reality, to have mastered the whole pretended science, as the first step towards destroying it by ridicule. His elaborate display of terms of art; his vivification, mortification, and cohobation; his ultimum supplicium auri, lapis philosophicus, and lac virginis; his lato, azoch, zernich, chibrit, and heautarit,

with a thousand others seem more weari- | the best insight we have into the manners some to us than they did to hearers of his and intercourse of the young men of own time, when the false arts of gold- fashion of the day. These are contrasted making and star-gazing were as much, or with two ridiculous would-be leaders of perhaps even more, in vogue than table-ton-Sir John Daw, who is a professed turning and spirit-rapping now are among ourselves. The whole thing is conducted with wonderful spirit, and must be still better on the stage than in the closet. The variety of comic situation; the mocksolemnity of Subtle; Face's imperturbable impudence, witty speech, and inexhaustible readiness of device, and the contrasted humors, vain hopes, and deserved disappointments of the various dupes-make up a play which one can never sufficiently admire and laugh at, and which yet one can never entirely conquer one's repugnance for. It is like playing at mud-pies in the kennel on a magnificent scale.

The Silent Woman is far pleasanter; lighter, freer, more humane. Its being in prose, instead of Jonson's usual prosaic verse, gives it a great advantage. It is the prototype of such comedies as She Stoops to Conquer, or The School for Scandal, but on a scale far more massive and elaborate than any thing the later stage can show; and it probably exceeds in real comic vis any English play except those of Shakspeare. The Fox and Alchymist, though the materials, of the latter at least, are purely English, have yet something in their cast and conduct which makes them read like Terence, a thousand times enriched and elaborated. The Silent Woman, on the contrary, though, curiously enough, founded on a hint from a Greek sophist, and full of classical quotations interwoven into the matter of it, is thoroughly modern and native. The scene is laid in London. Morose is an elderly gentleman with an insane susceptibility to noise. He has taken refuge from street outcries in a passage without thoroughfare, barricades his door with a feather-bed nailed outside, and admits the society of nobody but Cutbeard, a silent barber, and servants who answer him only by mute signs. He is on the look-out for a dumb wife, with the object of disinheriting his nephew Sir Eugenie Dauphine; who, on his side, has found a young lady in his interests, whom, with the confederacy of a friend and the silent barber, who is a traitor to his master, he proposes to pass off on his uncle. The conversation of the young gallants is easy, spirited, and witty, and gives us perhaps

poet and man of learning, and an arrant gull, as his name indicates; and Sir Amorous La-Foole, a mass of fashionable affectation and shallowness, proud in his descent from the most ancient and widely-distributed family of the Fooles. We are introduced, too, to a college of fine ladies-Haughty, Centaure, and Davis— something like, and yet very different from, the Précieuses Ridicules of Molière. Sir John Daw is a professed servant of Dauphine's protégée the Silent Lady, and La-Foole has arranged a fine dinner at which she is to be introduced to the ladies of the college. Truewit, who is not at first in the plot of his friend Dauphine, hearing that Morose contemplates matrimony, thinks to do his friend a clever service; and in the disguise of a post, gains admittance to Morose's house, where, enforcing his admonition with the music of a large horn, he thunders into his ears an eloquent denunciation of marriage, and leaves the unfortunate old gentleman nearly dead. "Come, have me to my chamber," says he, in a state of melancholy prostration, when his tormentor leaves him; "but first shut the door." Cutbeard, Cutbeard, Cutbeard! here has been a cut-throat with me; help me into my bed, and give me physic with thy counsel." Truewit boasts to Dauphine that he has effectually frightened his uncle out of matrimony, and is overwhelmed by the reproaches of his friend for having destroyed his cherished scheme. This is interrupted by Cutbeard, who comes to say that all is for the best; for Morose is so enraged at the intrusion, which he supposes to have been managed by Dauphine, that he is determined to marry the Silent Lady that very day, and has sent Cutbeard for her and a parson. The Silent Woman's interview with Morose is admirable. He admires her beauty and modesty, his only difficulty is that she can scarcely be made to speak at all, and when she does, it is so low he has to make her say every thing twice over. She refers all things to his superior wisdom; and Morose is in an ecstasy of happiness at having found a partner who exeeeds in reticence and taciturnity his fondest hopes, and he triumphs in antici

Cut. Cough again.
Mor. What says he?

[Aside to Parson.

Cut. He will cough out the rest, sir.
Par. Uh, uh, uh!

Mor. Away, away with him? stop his mouth! away! I forgive it.

[Exit Cut. thrusting out the Par. this violence to a man of the church. Epi. Fie, master Morose, that you will use

Mor. How!

Epi. It does not become your gravity, or breeding, as you pretend in court, to have offered this outrage on a waterman, or any more boisterous creature, much less on a man of his civil coat.

Mor. You can speak, then!
Epi. Yes, sir.

pation over the disappointed expectations | five shillings of my money back, As it is bounty of his nephew. He, on his side, secure in to reward benefits, so it is equity to mulet inthe marriage, is determined to invade his juries. I will have it. What says he? Cler. He can not change it, sir. uncle with the noisiest possible celebration Mor. It must be changed. of his nuptials. He and his friends ar range to divert La-Foole's grand party into Morose's house; and a certain Captain Otter, famous for his alternate servile submission to his wife in her presence, and his bold and passionate execration of her in her absence, and for his ridiculous humors in drinking from his three favorite cups, which he calls his bear, his bull, and his horse, is to be of the party. To give a further zest to the jest, and to accumulate horrors on the head of poor Morose, they hire all the musicians they can get, especially trumpets and drums. Cutbeard obeys his master's injunctions, and supplies him with a parson well suited to his humor; one that has catched a cold, sir, and can scarce be heard six inches off; as if he spoke out of a bulrush that were not picked, or his throat were full of pith;" and the next scene opens immediately after the performance of the ceremony which has united Morose and Epicone. There are few things in the whole range of the comic drama equal to this situation, when Morose finds, to his inexpressible consternation, that the lady to whom he has just been bound by indissoluble ties has a concealed tongue and temper of her own; and when, to add to his misery, he is invaded by the whole company of gentlemen, collegians, fools, and musicians. Fortunately part of it is decent enough to bear quotation:



A Room in Morose's House. Enter MOROSE, EPICENE, Parson, and CUTBEARD. Mor. Sir, there's an angel for yourself, and a brace of angels for your cold. Muse not at this manage of my bounty. It is fit we should thank fortune, double to nature, for any benefit she confers upon us; besides, it is your imperfection, but my solace.

Par. [speaks as having a cold.] I thank your worship; so it is mine, now.

Mor. What says he, Cutbeard?

Cut. He says, præsto, sir, whensoever your worship needs him, he can be ready with the like. He got this cold with sitting up late, and singing catches with cloth-workers.

Mor. No more. I thank him.

Par. God keep your worship, and give you much joy with your fair spouse !-uh, uh, uh! Mor. Oh! oh! stay, Cutbeard! let him give me

Mor. Speak out, I mean.

Epi. Ay, sir. Why, did you think you had married a statue, or a motion only? one of the French puppets, with the eyes turned with a wire? or some innocent out of the hospital, that would stand with her hands thus, and a plaise mouth, and look upon you?

What, Cutbeard!
Mor. O immodesty a manifest woman!

Epi. Nay, never quarrel with Cutbeard, sir; it is too late now. I confess it doth bate somewhat of the modesty I had, when I writ simply maid: but I hope I shall make it a stock still competent to the estate and dignity of your


Mor. She can talk!
Epi. Yes, indeed, sir.

Enter MUTE.

Mor. What, sirrah! None of my knaves there? where is this impostor Cutbeard? [Mute makes signs. Epi. Speak to him, fellow, speak to him! I'll have none of this coacted unnatural dumbness in my house, in a family where I govern.

[Exit Mute. married a Penthesilea, a Semiramis; sold my Mor. She is my regent already! I have liberty to a distaff.


True. Where's master Morose? Mor. Is he come again? Lord have mercy upon me!

True. I wish you all joy, mistress Epicone, with your grave and honorable match.

Epi. I return you the thanks, master Truewit, so friendly a wish deserves.

Mor. She has acquaintance too!

True. God save you, sir, and give you all contentment in your fair choice, here! Before, I was the bird of night to you, the owl; but now I am the messenger of peace, a dove, and

bring you the glad wishes of many friends to | tion into their own hands by blindfolding the celebration of this good hour.

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She forgets his hatred of noise in joining Truewit in overwhelming the barber with witty curses; but soon the crowd of visitors breaks in like a sea, and overwhelms him. Epicone receives them with all the graces of a fine lady, welcomes them to the feast; and the scene ends in the ladies disputing for precedence with shrill voices, and a grand crash of trumpets and drums. The wretched Morose, after an ineffectual resistance, betakes himself to flight; and Dauphine thus describes his city of refuge:

"Daup. Oh! hold me up a little, I shall go away in the jest else. He has got on his whole nest of night-caps, and locked himself up in the top of the house, as high as ever he can climb from the noise. I peeped in at a cranny, and saw him sitting over a cross-beam of the roof, like him on the saddler's horse in Fleet-street, upright; and he will sleep there."

the victims. Morose comes among them wife affects to think him mad, and his again, and is terribly tormented; his new misery culminates when he learns that she talks ten times worse in her sleep, and snores like a porpoise. All his hopes turn upon a divorce, and he is obliged to have recourse to his nephew, and implore his assistance. He goes, indeed, himself to the lawyers; but makes nothing of it. There is such a noise in the court of wrangling lawyers, that he says "the riot at home is a sort of calm midnight to it." Hence he grasps eagerly at a suggestion of Truewit's, who engages to provide him with two learned doctors, who shall discuss the matter quietly in a chamber for him, and satisfy him what hopes he may entertain of getting rid of his incubus of Otter as a divine, and Cutbeard as a a talking wife. The confederates dress up canon-lawyer; and the two argue the whole question of the grounds of divorce with unparalleled humor and an utter disregard of decency; they cavil and dispute over every one of their twelve impedimenta, with a profusion of Latin terms of wit, and with warming temper and rising voices. Each hoped-for impediment is in turn disposed of as inapplicable to the case in hand. Daw and La-Foole, who plume themselves on a reputation for irresistibility with women, are seduced by the wits to boast of the favors of Epicœne; but even this brings no relief to Morose. His nephew at last asks him what he shall deserve, if he shall free him absolutely and forever from his uuhappy condition; and Morose though incredulous of his ability, eagerly agrees to give him an allowance for life, and leave him all his property; and in spite of the eager protestations and lamentations of Epicone, he signs deeds to this effect: and then comes the sudden catastrophe:

"Mor. Come, nephew, give me the pen; I will subscribe to any thing, and seal to what thou wilt, for my deliverance. Thou art my restorer. Here, I deliver it thee as my deed. If there be a word in it lacking, or writ with false orthography, I protest before [heaven] I will not take the advantage. [Returns the writings.

The action is now filled up for some time by the ridiculous humors of the lady col. legians and the two foolish knights. The former are all betrayed into declarations of love for Dauphine by the skill of Truewit; and the latter are engaged in a preposter-off Epicone's peruke and other disguises.] You Daup. Then here is your release, sir. [Takes ous quarrel, into which each separately have married a boy, a gentleman's son, that I betrays his craven spirit, and voluntarily have brought up this half year at my great submits to be beaten by the other; a com- charges, and for this composition, which I have position of which the wits take the execu- now made with you. What say you, master

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