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demned to a miserable minority. "Good his Scotch entertainer. They seem to Master Damplay, be yourself still without a second; few here are of your opinion to-day, I hope; to-morrow I am sure there will be none, when they have ruminated this." So in The Staple of News we have gossips, Mirth, Tattle, Censure, and Expectation, "four gentlewomen ladylike attired," who appear in the same way, and are made to minister to the author's credit by the folly of their criticisms; and for this purpose they vent such a mass of dull old women's twaddle as must have tried the most patient audience, whatever their opinion of the play itself. At other times criticisms are in terspersed in the body of the play, which, under a certain vail of generality, are in reality special vindications of the author's skill and judgment. He never believed he deserved censure; but his temper would not allow him to bear even undeserved strictures with equanimity. He chafes under any arraignment, however contemptible, and is goaded to fury by the hooting of the despised and ignorant multitude. Neither the universal applause of his great plays, nor the wellmerited condemnation of his bad ones, softened this impatience of spirit, which grew stronger as he grew older, and was strengthened probably by the remembrance of old successes, and the secret conviction that his powers were impaired. It is in his later plays more especially that he uses his prologues to anticipate judgment, and assert a scornful independence of the spectators in the theater or the readers in private. As an angry opponent says,

"Calling us fools and rogues, unlettered men, Poor narrow souls that can not judge of Ben." The arrogance of temper and impatience of control which display themselves in his writings, cast their shadow also over his private relations and personal character. In 1618, about the time of his greatest reputation, he made a journey to Scotland, walking the whole way there and back on foot. During his stay, he passed some days with Mr. William Drummond of Hawthornden, the poet, who made a note of his conversations, which, long known in an abbreviated form, has of late years been discovered and published in extenso. It is certain that he made no very favorable impression on

have parted, indeed, with mutual professions of friendship; and some letters passed between them, full of somewhat overdue protestations on Jonson's side, but cold and guarded enough on Drummond's; and their intimacy seems soon to have died out. Indeed, we can well understand how this huge roistering poet from London, in his way worn shoes and slovenly garments-for Jonson we know was no great student of appearances-must have jarred on the nerves of the retired and musing sonneteer of Hawthornden. Moreover, Drummond's wine seems to have been good, and that was a temptation Jonson never could withstand, and in his cups he spoke the worser part of the veritas which was in him, as men's wont is; and worst of all, he criticised his host's poems in a curt and somewhat contemptuous manner, telling him they were all good, in a manner which showed he valued none of them at sixpence. So we have no doubt Drummond was heartily glad when his boisterous visitor, with his magisterial opinions, his boastings, his broad jests, his unruly temper, and his drunkenness, was fairly off the premises, and on his way back from Leith to Darnton, (wherever that may be,) in the same shoes he had brought with him. And when he was quite gone, the half Italian, half canny Scotchman set down his private impressions of him in a few pithy words which have since come to day, (though it does not appear he ever meant them to do so,) and have stuck like a barbed arrow in the rear of his departing guest ever since:

"He [Jonson] is a great lover and praiser of himself; a contemner and scorner of others; given rather to lose a friend than a jest; jealous of every word and action of those about him, (especially after drink, which is one of the elements in which he liveth ;) a dissembler of ill parts which reign in him; a bragger of some good that he wanteth; thinketh nothing good but what either he himself or some of his friends and countrymen hath said or done: he is passionately kind and angry; careless either to gain or keep; vindicative, but if he be well answered, at himself. For any religion, as being versed in both. Interpreteth best sayings fantasie, which hath ever mastered his reason; and doings oft to the worst. Oppressed with a general disease in many poets. His inventions are smooth and easy; but above all he excelleth in a translation.'

This is a harsh judgment. Still there can be no doubt it represents with a good deal of truth one side of Jonson's character; that, however, was the least estimable side, and Drummond not a very catholic judge. There is always this great fact in Jonson's favor, that he was best esteemed by the greatest men of his day, and that his friends were numerous and warm at least in his best days; for he seems to have died lonely and neglected, his old associates having passed away with past years, and with them his own powers of engaging new ones. Jonson thrust himself and his own opinions into his works, and may more fairly than most men be judged by them; and no one who reads them but must be struck, in spite of the snarling satire which defaces so many of them, with the presence of a uniform manliness and often nobleness of tone, a scorn of false pretensions to merit either in himself or others, a largeness and fullness of nature, and a spirit which did well and thoroughly what it thought fit should be done, and despised the pettiness and


frivolities of life. That he flattered giously, is not a matter of much moment, in times when flattery was a business, and as current a coin in intercourse with the great as our "Dear Sir," and "Yours very sincerely," are in our modern letters; and he often mingles too with his flattery a freer and higher tone of admonition than is common among his contemporaries. Such is to be found in the lines to Lady Digby's sons, and elsewhere; but no where in a juster, nobler strain than in the conclusion of the epistle to his friend Master Colby, to persuade him to the

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So, 'live or dead, thou wilt preserve a fame
Still precious with the odor of thy name.
And last, blaspheme not: we did never hear
Man thought the valianter 'cause he durst

No more than we should think a lord had had More honor in him 'cause we've known him mad.

These take; and now, go seek thy peace in


Who falls for love of God, shall rise a star."

The sentence "For any religion, as being versed in both," which occurs in Drummond's estimate, refers to his having for some years professed the Catholic tenets, taking them "on trust" from a priest, as he himself says, while lying in After prison on a charge of homicide. he was reconciled to the Church," he told Drummond, " and left off to be a recusant, at his first communion, in token of true reconciliation, he drank out all the full cup of wine."

To be considered in connection with this description by Drummond, are the notes preserved of Jonson's actual conversation during his stay at Hawthornden. Brief and desultory as they are, they are full of interest. From them are derived our most authentic accounts of his early career, as furnished by himself. They af ford also a very valuable and curious specimen of his table-talk, and an abstract of his criticisms on the men of his times. His "jests and apothegms" are mostly dull, and, to modern ears at least, pointless. His criticisms are outspoken, and often splenetic enough; but he gives good praise too, and it is not fair to judge him by these hasty censures. By nature it is clear enough he was jealous, and apt to take umbrage at small offenses; proud, and yet more vain than proud; but when he sat down deliberately to record his judgment, his better nature and good sense prevailed. Something too hasty and violent he is both in censure and in praise; yet, in an impartial observation of all he has left behind him, it can not be denied that, on the whole, he is candid and generous in his appreciation of his contemporaries. It was the fashion at one time to represent him as the most

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brutal and malignant of men, and especially to denounce him as an envious caviler against the superior genius_ of Shakspeare. Gifford, who exalts Jonson as preposterously as Malone and others have depreciated him, disproved this calumny very effectively, and made, after his wont, many ferocious assaults on those had set it on foot. Jonson himself always asserted most strongly the absence of all personality in his plays, and accused those who gave a personal direction to his satire of making "that a libel which he meant a play;" but it is clear he was not always so innocent and amiable as he claimed to be, and there are one or two expressions which may possibly have been meant as a gird at Shakspeare; yet these are very slight innuendoes at the worst, and Jonson has left no doubtful record both in verse and prose of the settled estimation in which he held his great cotemporary. His praises of others are in most cases lavish, and not quite sincere. He himself complains of the custom of the day of furnishing men's books with panegyrical verses, characterizing it

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"too often preferred Men past their terms, and praised some men too much."

But it is not difficult to discern when his heart goes with his pen; and if it does so any where, it is in his lines to Selden and in those to Shakspeare, which, though familiar enough to most readers, may be cited as one of the best specimens of these sort of verses, which occupy so large a space in Jonson's minor poems. He told Drummond that Shakspeare wanted art, and so he did in Jonson's narrow sense of the word; but when he came to write of him, the Muse whispered him the truth that Shakspeare needed no art beyond the reflection of his own harmonized mind in his poetry:

"Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time!
And all the Muses still were in their prime
When, like Apollo, he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm!

Nature herself was proud of his designs,
And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines;
Which were so richly spun and woven so fit
As, since, she will vouchsafe no other wit.
The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please;
But antiquated and deserted lie,
As they were not of Nature's family.
Yet must I not give Nature all. Thy art,
My gentle Shakspeare, must enjoy a part:
For though the Poet's matter nature be,
His art must give it fashion, and that he,
Who casts to write a living line, must sweat
(Such as thine are) and strike the second

Upon the Muse's anvil; turn the same,
And himself with it, that he thinks to frame;
Or for the laurel he may gain a scorn;
For a good poet's made as well as born.
And such wert thou. Look how the father's

Lives in his issue; even so the race
Of Shakspeare's mind and manners brightly

In his well-turned and true-filed lines;
In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
As brandished at the eyes of ignorance.
Sweet swan of Avon, what a sight it were
To see thee in our water yet appear,
And make those flights upon the banks of

That so did take Eliza, and our James!
But stay, I see thee in the hemisphere,
Advanced and made a constellation there.
Shine forth, thou star of poets! and with

Or influence, chide or cheer the drooping

Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourned like night

And despairs day, but for thy volume's light."

And in his Discoveries he speaks of him in a style which, if more guarded and critical than his verses, shows clearly that at least he was not disposed willfully to underrate his friend:

"I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakspeare that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, Would he had blotted a thousand! Which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this but for their ignorance, who chose to justby, wherein he most faulted; and to justify ify that circumstance to commend their friend mine own candor: for I loved the man, and do honor his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as any. He was (indeed) honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent phantasy, brave notions, and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed with that facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped: Sufflaminandus erat, as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his own power;

would the rule of it had been so too! Many times he fell into those things could not escape laughter: as when he said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him: Cæsar, thou dost me wrong. He replied: Cæsar did never wrong but with just cause,' and such-like; which were ridiculous. But he redeemed his vices with his virtues. There was ever more in him to be `praised than to be pardoned."

Jonson was sudden and fierce in his resentments, both with hand and pen. In early life he killed an antagonist in a duel with swords, one Gabriel a player, and lay long in prison in consequence; and he told Drummond that he beat Marston, and took his pistols from him. The verses on Inigo Jones, with whom he quarreled after having been long a fellow-laborer in the Court Masques, are as scurrile railing as was ever vented, and his works contain abundant proof that he was neither nice nor sparing in invective. But his quarrels do not seem to have been long-lived. He

was reconciled to both Dekker and Mars

popular distich above has arranged them.
Gifford gave the palm to The Alchymist;
but The Fox has always had a certain
perhaps displays in greater force than any
prescriptive claim to the first place. It
other all the most marked peculiarities of
its author's genius; but if it shine, as it
unquestionably does, with his excellences,
it bears at the same time more deeply than
the other two the stamp of his defects. It
is a vast effort of wit and invention; but
the effort is too overt. It is planned with
consummate art, and conducted with ex-
quisite skill; but the rigorous conditions
of art under which it is written are not
sufficiently disguised. It wants breadth,
fences of conventional criticism and walls
grace, and freedom. We feel shut in by
of learning. Jonson wanted, above all
things, discursiveness and flexibility of
imagination; and The Fox is far more
narrow and rigid than either The Silent
Woman or The Alchymist. The mono-
tony of rhythm and mode of expression,
which gives a labored and strained air to
all his plays written in verse, and makes

us ever sensible of an artificial atmo-
sphere, is here more than usually promi-
nent. The plays of Shakspeare spring like
branching trees from the ground, and the
fresh winds and sparkling light play
through their foliage: but Jonson's are
inner rooms, like the theater in which
they were to be acted; the air is heavy,
and the lights are oil. In Shakspeare,
every character has a separate language,
and every play a
separate cast


ton, his greatest literary foes; and he withdrew his attack on Inigo Jones in the fear of its injuring his own interests at court; a result, however, which he was not successful in warding off. His employment both in the court and in the city was withdrawn; and he seems to have spent some of the last years of his life in penury and misery, confined to his house in Westminster by painful and complicated disease. A brief ray of pity from the Earl of Newcastle and the King gilded his final hours. He died on the 6th of August, 1637, and lies buried in Westmin-meter. In Jonson, the fools, the knaves, ster Abbey, under his terse and well- the scholars, the courtiers, the gentlemen, known epitaph: "O rare Ben Jonson !" the women-those who are most elevated, No question has ever been raised as to of whom there are few, and those who which are Jonson's masterpieces: are most debased, of whom there are many-all speak in the same set form, the same style, to borrow a word usually employed only of composition in writing. It is as if they had all learned to speak from one schoolmaster, with a very distinctive manner of his own. It is not that their language and ideas are indistinguishable, it is not of this we are now speaking; but that there is a certain system of collocating words, a cast of utterance common to them all. It is the same sort of thing that strikes one in reading plays in a foreign language not perfectly familiar to us; the same which all, except the very greatest scholars, and perhaps they too, if they would confess it, feel in reading Aristophanes, or Plautus, or Terence. It

"The Fox, the Alchymist, and Silent Woman, Done by Ben Jonson, and outdone by no man."

These stand quite apart from all his other efforts-from the freer but less matured and less characteristic efforts of his earlier years, such as The Case is Altered, and Every Man in his Humor-from his two great but unwieldy tragedies, and from his later comedies, marked by various degrees of decadence. The infinite superiority of these three as a class is apparent; but there has been some difference of opinion as to their relative excellence. For ourselves, we should feel disposed to reverse the order in which the

arises in these cases mainly, no doubt, | him for writing masques; and in these from a want of susceptibility to niceties the rich and varied scope afforded for of difference which do exist, if we could scenic display, and the ingenuity and ferperceive them; but in Jonson these dif- tility of mind employed in the devices ferences are in a great degree really ab- contrast strongly with the poverty of the sent. His familiarity with the classical poetical part; for it is impossible to deny drama, which, as we have said, must al- that Jonson's harvest of poetry is won ways seem to a modern more homogene- from a land naturally poor in this direcous in expression than it really is, no tion, and enriched by high_cultivation. doubt tended to blind him to his own de- His mind was powerful and energetic, ficiency in this respect. He wants, in- and rich in the resources accumulated by deed, all those minor arts of distinguish- a vast memory and an unflagging indusing his persons which suggest themselves try. He came to poetry as to a great intuitively to many inferior minds, and and worthy task, and bending his faculties make indeed with them, part of the cha- to it with all the force of which they were racter conceived. But Jonson ran every capable, he achieved great things; but thing through the filter of his own pre- his work bears the marks of his toil. conceived ideas of propriety of expres- Every stone in his stately and finished sion. You must read him very attentive- edifices is marked with the hammer. The ly to see how true and marked his dis- special imagination of the poet-as distinctions really are; for though not deep, tinguished from that which either conthey are both marked and true, and in a ceives without creation, or uses other arts hasty first perusal you may sometimes be to interpret its creations-is an imaginaconfused as to who is speaking. But this tion inseparably bound up with language, is a blemish much more prominent in the possessed by the infinite beauty and the closet than on the stage. A certain lim- deepest subtlest meanings of words, skilled itedness lies deep in the whole nature of in their finest sympathies, powerful to Jonson. You can not say absolutely his make them yield a meaning which another mind is a narrow one, in some respects it could never have extracted from them. seems broad and comprehensive; but it It is a faculty that no study can give, is one of those minds with rigid palpable though it may of course strengthen it; it boundaries, within which you are always is to the poet what an eye for colors, and sensible of being confined. This is pecu- a power to combine them, is to the painter liarly true of his imagination; there is what an ear for harmony is to the comalways a certain prisoned air about it. poser. It is of the essence of the poet's art, so that in the highest exercise of that art there is no such thing as the rendering of an idea in appropriate language; but the conception and the words in which it is conveyed are a simultaneous creation, and the idea springs forth full-grown in its panoply of radiant utterance. the highest poetry can not be translated. You may do two things: you may, as precisely as the two languages will admit, furnish the naked idea and the equivalent words; or you may write a new poem, completely mastering the whole meaning and poetry of the original, and reproducing it in its true poetic form in your own language: but in neither case can you convey to one ignorant of the translated language precisely the same emotions and suggestions that would have been roused in him by a perusal of the original. You can not sunder spirit and flesh. But Ben Jonson always wrote on the assumption that you could. It would be too much to say he never struck out at one flash a line

Its highest characteristic is its great constructive power. His best plots are strikingly good; clear, even when complex; well knit, skillfully developed. In many of them-as in The Fox, and still more in The Silent Woman-the dénouement lies absolutely hidden up to the very last scene, and is then made with singular sharpness and clearness; the knot seems cut by a razor rather than disentangled. The unities are observed with great but not slavish strictness; for Jonson, though an ardent admirer of the ancients, had nothing of the spirit of subservience either in his art or in his life. He departs as he sees occasion from the rules sanctioned by authority and ancient practice, and many of his plays are models of careful and ingenious construction. Each scene supports the next, every speech forwards the action; and the folds of the plot are complicated without confusion, and smoothed in the end without force. His constructive skill specially adapted


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