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doctor? This is justum impedimentum, I hope, | us to a world ridiculous enough, but error persona?

Ott. Yes, sir, in primo gradu.
Cut. In primo gradu."

And with this discovery, which comes in startling suddenness, not only on the spectators, but on all the actors, even the confederates of Dauphine, the play briefly winds up. It is perhaps the best unraveling of a plot that has ever been invented; it is like the pulling of a single thread which loosens and betrays all the structure of a complex web. And the play is worthy of the plot; it is one of the few of Jonson's in which we seem to be associating with real living people; and Dryden said truly of it, that "there is more wit and acuteness of fancy in it than in any of Ben Jonson's." It does not carry much of praise to modern ears, to say that the time occupied by the events of the play is not longer than that in which they are played, that the continuity of scenes is almost unbroken, and the change of scene restricted to the narrowest limits; but it is real praise to say that, whatever may be the advantages of such an arrangement, it is here obtained without the least sacrifice of ease or richness.

neither real nor natural.

There is little of geniality in Jonson's writings. He is by nature a satirist, and was possessed by a settled conviction that the display and satire of existing manners was the most legitimate function of comedy; and the mass of all his amusement is extracted either from the caricature of some individual monstrosity, or from the affected and ridiculous habits of some particular class. He adopts Cicero's definition, "who would have a comedy to be imitatio vitæ, speculum consuetudinis, imago veritatis." The court especially is a favorite subject with him; and absurd and overcharged as some of his descrip tions seem, we must be cautious in discrediting them. Jonson, though a cari caturist, was a keen and accurate observer; he had little tendency or power to invent, and a basis of matter-of-fact no doubt underlies all his fictions He is one of the best and completest authorities we have for ascertaining the manners of the court and city in the time of James I.

His strength lies in his wit. Generally it has a special character of its own it is ponderous built-up mirth, heavy unsparing caricature. He lays on coat after coat of We have no space to discuss the less the same paint without relief or variety; famous comedies of our author, though yet he covers a wider field of wit than many of them would afford ground for most men, and it would be difficult to say special criticism. They have all one dis- in which department he has proved himtinction common to them, which Jonson self most successful. The Fox is most himself admits, and which has been patent witty, The Silent Woman most humorous, to all his readers. They deal not with The Alchymist most grotesque. Perhaps men so much as with what he calls his genius leans most in the latter direc "humors" of men. Every character is tion. This is a field of laughter not much selected for some special humor, and his occupied in the present day; perhaps it situations and actions are all arranged so belongs to a coarser and simpler state of as to show this humor off. In the Poet- mind than now prevails. Such caricatures aster, he makes his opponent describe him- as those of Leonardo da Vinci show it in self (Jonson) as "a mere sponge; nothing its rudest forms. It prevailed in the time but humors and observation; he goes up of George III.: Smollett and Gilray are and down sucking from every society, and grotesque, Sterne is often so. It is the when he comes home squeezes himself dry element of the ridiculous that lies either in again ;" and the description is in the main the native disproportion or in the voluna true one. Aubrey says he gathered tary distortion of real things. The figure humors of men daily wherever he went. of Punch is the type of the grotesque. It In his earlier plays, such as The Case is Al- deals much with the disease and wretchtered and Every Man in his Humor, this edness and baseness of human nature, and description of personal eccentricities is is generally more or less inhuman. It is united to a body of personal character. rare in Shakspeare: perhaps the ApotheKitely is a man, and so is Bobadil, how-cary in Romeo and Juliet, and Falstaff's ever caricatured; but in his later comedies, ragged regiment, are the only instances such as The Magnetic Lady and A Tale of it. In Jonson, on the other hand, it of a Tub, his characters degenerate into is common; but rather in its moral than mere bundles of oddities, and introduce physical manifestations. Bartholomew

Fair is made up of it, in the most degraded forms; The Alchymist, The Staple of News, The New Inn, contain abundant specimens of it. His worst works are full of instances of his unbounded power of imagining ludicrous situations.

Jonson wrote two tragedies, Sejanus and Catiline. The former is incomparably the better. His aim was not to represent man under the influence of deep and moving passion, but to find occasion for pompous periods and stately diction. It was his ambition to "do it after the high Roman fashion." He laments that it is not possible in modern times "to observe the old state and splendor of dramatic poems;" but he adds, "in the mean time, if in truth of argument, dignity of persons, gravity and height of elocution, fullness and frequency of sentence, I have discharged the other offices of a tragic poet, let not the absence of these forms be imputed to me." And if indeed these be the only other offices of the tragic poet, Jonson has succeeded in tragedy; and in some respects he has gone beyond these requisitions, especially in the character of Tiberius, which displays great insight, and is remarkable for its power and originality. The picture is in great measure probably true to the original; and the stage has no figure like it, of deep and crafty dissimulation and unbounded selfindulgence pressing into their service an astute intellect and large mental capacity. Catiline is history distorted into poetry; and both history and poetry suffer from the forced transformation. We would rather read the In Catilinam in the original than translated into blank verse, and made a speech in a tragedy. To say nothing of other objections, it stops the way. The description of the battle, with which the play concludes, is a fine specimen of height of elocution" and "fullness of sentence." Compare it with a similar description in Macbeth. It was well said by Oldys of these classical tragedies, that the author "had pulled down all antiquity on his head."


sent purpose so well to say, that a man does not care to inquire too closely whether it be correct or not. No doubt the minor poems of Jonson add something to our knowledge of him; but the insight derived from them into either his genius or his character is insignificant compared to that afforded by his greater works. Even the lighter and more graceful side of his poetical faculty is to be found exercised in greater perfection in the "Sad Shepherd"

though that piece has been preposterously over-estimated-and in the songs scattered through his plays and masques, than in the "Forest" and "Underwoods."

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The minor poems rank higher in common estimation than they deserve. People are familiar with a few admirable specimens, and are apt to think there must be many more like them; whereas the fact is, that our popular anthologies contain all Jonson's best songs, which are separated by a wide interval from his worse ones. The origin of many of the most popular among them has been traced back by the commentators to classical originals, and it is probable that many others are indebted to sources not discovered; for Jonson was not only a good scholar, but, if we may trust Gifford, a most excursive reader of all that had been written in the languages of Greece and Rome. "Drink to me only with thine eyes!" is from the love-letters of Philostratus, the different ideas being scattered through several letters of the original, but each idea having its exact antecedent, as may be seen in Gifford's edition, where the passages are quoted; and though the combination of such scattered thoughts may show, as the present editor urges, and as is undoubtedly true, a high degree of artistic ingenuity, it is a much more cold-blooded plagiarism than even the transference of a whole poem. be neat, still to be drest," is taken from a little Latin poem of Jean Bonnefons; though, oddly enough, the point of the original, "Fingere se semper non est

"Still to

Mr. Bell, the editor of the neat little edition of Jonson's poetical works lately It is a serious defect, that in a work professing published, tells us that "it is in his minor to contain the poetical works of Ben Jonson, these songs should not have been collected. The consepoems we must look for him as he lived, quence is, that the reader will turn the pages of this felt, and thought;" and that from his volume in vain for one or two of Jonson's very best plays alone we should arrive at very im- minor productions. No cheapness can compensate perfect and erroneous conclusions upon the absence of any index or detailed table of confor want of completeness. Another marked blot is his personal and poetical character." This tents. On the other hand, the life prefixed is well is one of those things that it suits a pre-written, and the notes brief and pertinent.


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confide amori," and to which Jonson's tion of pure metal. It is probable he song too seems to lead, is omitted himself underrated this side of his genius, in his version. "Come, my Celia, let us and cramped its exercise; but every now prove," and "Kiss me, sweet, the wary and then he has given it expression in lover," are from Catullus. Jonson bor- forms of crystalline clearness and perfect rows every where largely from the an- symmetry. Such a one is the "Hymn to cients, not with the idea of surreptitiously Diana." We quote this and others, not avaling himself of their ideas, but in con- because they will be new to any one, but formity with the opinion in his day, that because criticism on poetry is dull and to adapt them well was at least as happy inappreciable unless the poems be not an effort of genius as to invent for one's only known to have been written, but are self. He boldly avows, and defends, his fresh in the memory of the reader: practice:

"And for his true use of translating men,
It still hath been a work of as much palm
In clearest judgments as to invent or make."

No man was ever less of a copyist. He is master of what he uses. In some cases, indeed, he puts in a borrowed plume in the most odd and extravagantly inappropriate place, as when he makes one of his shepherds refer to "the lovers' scriptures, Heliodores or Statii, Longi, Eustathii, Prodromi ;" and in others overwhelms all dramatic propriety from the desire to insert a good translation: as where in Catiline he introduces Cicero speaking something like the whole of the In Catilinam; in the Silent Woman makes Truewit lecture on love out of Ovid by the pageful; or concludes an act of the Poetaster with a literal translation of one of Horace's satires. In general, however, he shows a remarkable dexterity in transferring his

"Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair,
State in wonted manner keep.

Hesperus entreats thy light,
Goddess, excellently bright.

"Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose;
Cynthia's shining orb was made
Heaven to clear, when day did close
Bless us, then, with wishéd sight,
Goddess, excellently bright.

"Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
And thy crystal shining quiver;
Give unto the flying hart

Space to breathe, how short soever-
Thou that mak'st a day of night,
Goddess, excellently bright."

"If I freely may discover

There is a calm serenity in the whole movement of this piece like that of the exquisite harmony with the subject-matmoon through the floating clouds, and in borrowed material into the substance of his work; and it is only the retriever-like ter. The following, too, is very perfect his work; and it is only the retriever-like in a very different style, and more light, sagacity of some industrious commentator which informs the reader that a cast writings of Jonson, who is apt to lean easy, and playful than we often find in the serving man is talking Statius, or a Vene- somewhat too heavily in his most trifling tian magnifico quoting Libanius. Jon-productions: son, however, borrows not only from the ancients, but frequently from himself; repeating ideas, and even whole lines, of his own, and thus furnishing the strongest proof that the absence of what he calls " copia" in his own resources is what often throws him on those of others. His songs, however, are very far from being mere borrowings from the antique. The originals have often little to recommend them he supplements the idea; his strong artistic taste comes into play, and he gives to his little poem a completeness and justness of form, and a finish which make it truly his own. Nor can it ever be denied that Jonson had a vein of sweet and fanciful imagination, which, though it was narrow, contained a large propor

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What would please me in my lover-
I would have her fair and witty,
Savoring more of court than city;
A little proud, but full of pity;
Light and humorous in her toying,
Soon building hopes, and soon destroying;
Long, but sweet, in the enjoying;
Neither too easy nor too hard:
All extremes I would have barred.

"She should be allowed her passions,
So they were but used as fashions.
Sometimes froward, and then frowning;
Sometimes sickish, and then swowning:
Every fit with change still crowning.
Purely jealous I would have her,
Then only constant when I crave her;
'Tis a virtue should not save her.

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Oh! do not wanton with those eyes,
Lest I be sick with seeing;

Nor cast them down, but let them rise,
Lest shame destroy their being.

"Oh! be not angry with those fires,

For then their threats will kill me;
Nor look too kind on my desires,

For then my hopes will spill me.

"Oh! do not steep them in thy tears,
For so will sorrow slay me;
Nor spread them as distract with fears;
Mine own enough betray me."

Gifford was a most able and industrious commentator, but his opinion on poetry is not valuable; and for Jonson he has a blind partiality, partly the result of a good deal of similarity in their natures, and still more from his forming an excellent field on which to do battle with other critics, and furnishing a good opportunity for venting the acrimony of his disposition on those who had previously abused, and, it is fair to add, traduced his author. To us, it seems that the above song is a favorable specimen of Jonson when thrown entirely on his own resources, and that, like the rest of his love-songs, it is artificial and thoroughly heartless. No where has Jonson depicted the passion of love with nature or delicacy. It is scarcely too much to say, that he has never depicted it at all, and was himself incapable of feeling it. The attitude of the ancients towards women found something in his nature which answered to it very exactly. In his life, he seems freely to have indulged his appetites, without the sanction of any deep or permanent attachments. He has not in any of his plays drawn a female character with the slightest power to inspire us with interest. He uses them in general only as a sort of block on which

* By some slip, Mr. Bell has assigned this dictum of Gifford's to another song. As the two come together, it is probably merely an error of the press

in the reference.

to hang to advantage ridiculous fashions and contemptible caprices. There is one love-scene in his works-Ovid parting from Julia. It is on the same model as the chamber-scene in Romeo and Juliet, and forms a singular contrast with it. In both cases the lover, condemned to exile, takes his last farewell. In one case, pure passion breathes itself in accents so simple, that the reader can not stay to admire, but is borne along until the completed scene leaves its whole tender impression on the mind. In the other, the speakers themselves run into disquisitions on love. and mortal life; and though we can not help thinking Jonson has in this place warmed his genius at the fire of his great contemporary, and struck out some fine flashes of the poetical expression of highly wrought feelings, yet in the main the speeches are adapted rather to show the ingenuity of the author than the passion of the lovers. In The New Inn, the lover rouses his mistress from cold goodwill into a sudden and irrestrainable enthusiasm of devotion to him by a brace of sermons on courage and on love; which, however ill-adapted they may seem to secure this happy result, are fine labored pieces of rhetoric, with thought and originality mingled somewhat largely with dullness. Indeed, Jonson, though utterly incapable of giving a dramatic representation to the most universal passion both of the real and the mimic stage, and ill-constituted in his own nature to experience its higher influences, could form a noble intellectual image of it, and express it in adequate language. Perhaps the finest and most imaginative piece of poetry he has written is the "Epode to deep Ears," as he call it, in which he contrasts false and true love. We quote the introduction, as well as the finer lines to which we allude, because the former will serve as an example of the cumbrous mechanically translated prose of which the greater part of Jonson's so-called poetry consists.


Not to know vice at all, and keep true state,
Is virtue and not fate:

Next to that virtue, is to know vice well,
Which to effect (since no breast is so sure,
And her black spite expel.

Or safe, but she'll procure
Some way of entrance) we must plant a guard
Of thoughts to watch and ward
At th' eye and ear, the ports unto the mind,
That no strange or unkind

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Object arrive there, but the heart our spy,

Give knowledge instantly

To wakeful reason, our affections' king:
Who, in th' examining,

Will quickly taste the treason, and commit
Close, the close cause of it.

'Tis the securest policy we have,

To make our sense our slave.

weighed down by a sort of inert mass of mind which the imagination has not sufficient power to kindle. It might have sufficed a lesser body of intellect, but it is out of proportion to what it has to move. Struggling gleams of fire shine through a well-heaped mass of materials;

But this true course is not embraced by many: but rarely does the whole burst into a

By many! scarce by any.

For either our affections do rebel,

Or else the sentinel,

That should ring 'larum to the heart, doth sleep;

Or some great thought doth keep Back the intelligence, and falsely swears

They're base and idle fears

Whereof the loyal conscience so complains.
Thus, by these subtle trains,

Do several passions invade the mind,

And strike our reason blind:

Of which usurping rank, some have thought love

The first; as prone to move
Most frequent tumults, horrors, and unrests,
In our inflaméd breasts:

But this doth from the cloud of error grow,
Which thus we over-blow.

The thing they here call love is blind desire,
Armed with bow, shafts, and fire;
Inconstant, like the sea, of whence 'tis born,
Rough, swelling, like a storm;

clear blaze. Now and then, indeed, some exquisite poetical idea may be found, half hidden by the cumbrousness of its expression, as when he compares the serenity of his mistress's face to the calmness and life-renewing influence which pervade the air after tempest; an idea not easily sug gested by the lines,

"As alone there triumphs to the life

All the good, all the gain, of the elements' strife."

There is gold, and pure gold, in his writings; but mixed with large lumps of clay. The worst of it is, the clay is as solemnly and carefully hammered out as the gold; and the author evidently refuses to acknowledge even to himself that it is of any inferior value. Labor Jonson never spared; he gave all his works the

With whom who sails rides on the surge of finish his best pains could afford, but he


And boils as if he were

In a continual tempest. Now true love
No such efforts doth prove;
That is an essence far more gentle, fine,
Pure, perfect, nay divine;

It is a golden chain let down from heaven,
Whose links are bright and even,
That falls like sleep on lovers, and combines
The soft and sweetest minds

In equal knots: this bears no brands nor darts,
To murder different hearts;

But in a calm and god-like unity

Preserves community.

Oh! who is he that in this peace enjoys
Th' elixir of all joys?

A form more fresh than are the Eden bowers,
And lasting as her flowers;

Richer than Time, and as Time's virtue rare;
Sober as saddest care;

A fixéd thought, an eye untaught to glance.
Who, blest with such high chance,
Would, at suggestion of a steep desire,

Cast himself from the spire

Of all his happiness ?"

This must not be taken as an average specimen of the minor poems of Jonson. For the most part they are inexpressibly tedious reading. There is enough thought, harshly expressed, to require an effort to understand them; and not enough to reward the effort when read. They are

used material in itself incapable of taking a polish. He had a keen incisive wit; but it is an Andrea Ferrara rather than a rapier. A sort of native unwieldiness is apt to leave its impression in what he writes; and his rhythm is like his matter, it has a lumbering elephantine motion, full of stops and sudden charges. His epigrams are often sharp-pointed, and witty; but, like all epigrams, they are dull reading. They are moulded in the Latin type; and though some of them have point, many of them are only brief occasional poems on a single subject, mostly eulogistic of some particular person. Some of the satirical ones are also probably personal; but in general aimed at some vicious practice or moral deformity, set forth under an appropriate title, in which, as in the body of the poem, he loves to show his wit. We have epigrams to "Sir Annual Tilter," to "Don Surly," to "Sir Voluptuous Beast," to "Fine Grand," to Captain Hungry," etc. That on Cheveril the lawyer may serve as a specimen of the best of them:


"No cause, nor client fat, will Cheveril leese: But as they come, on both sides he takes fees, And pleaseth both; for while he melts his grease

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