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doctor? This is justum impedimentum, I hope, us to a world ridiculous enough, but error persona ?
neither real nor natural. Ott. Yes, sir, in primo gradu.
There is little of geniality in Jonson's Cut. In primo gradu.”
writings. He is by nature a satirist, and
was possessed by a settled conviction that And with this discovery, which comes in the display and satire of existing manners startling suddenness, not only on the spec- was the most legitimate function of comtators, but on all the actors, even the con- edy; and the mass of all his amusement is federates of Dauphine, the play briefly extracted either from the caricature of winds up. It is perhaps the best unravel some individual monstrosity, or from the ing of a plot that has ever been invented; affected and ridiculous habits of some parit is like the pulling of a single thread ticular class. He adopts Cicero's definiwhich loosens and betrays all the structure tion, “who would have a comedy to be of a complex web. And the play is worthy imitatio vita, speculum consuetudinis, of the plot; it is one of the few of Jon- imago veritatis.” The court especially is son's in which we seem to be associating a favorite subject with him ; and absurd with real living people; and Dryden said and overcharged as some of his descrip. truly of it, that “there is more wit and tions seem, we must be cautious in disacuteness of fancy in it than in any of Ben crediting them. Jonson, though a cari. Jonson's.” It does not carry much of caturist, was a keen and accurate observer; praise to modern ears, to say that the he had little tendency or power to invent, time occupied by the events of the play is and a basis of matter-of-fact no doubt not longer than that in which they are underlies all bis fictions He is one of the played, that the continuity of scenes is al best and completest authorities we have most unbroken, and the change of scene for ascertaining the manners of the court restricted to the narrowest limits; but it and city in the time of James I. is real praise to say that, whatever may His strength lies in his wit. Generally be the advantages of such an arrangement, it has a special character of its own: it is it is here obtained without the least sacri- ponderous built-up mirth, heavy unsparing fice of ease or richness.
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 hinitinction 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 an mere bundles of oddities, and introduce physical manifestations. Bartholomer
Fair is made up of it, in the most de- , sent purpose so well to say, that a man graded forms; The Alchymist, The Staple does not care to inquire too closely whether of News, The New Inn, contain abundant it be correct or not. No doubt the minor specimens of it. His worst works are full poems of Jonson add something to our of instances of his unbounded power of knowledge of him; but the insight deimagining ludicrous situations.
rived from them into either his genius or Jonson wrote two tragedies, Sejanus his character is insignificant compared to and Catiline. The former is incompar- that afforded by his greater works. Even ably the better. His aim was not to re- the lighter and more graceful side of his present man under the influence of deep poetical faculty is to be found exercised in and moving passion, but to find occasion greater perfection in the “Sad Shepherd” for pompous periods and stately diction. though that piece has been preposterous. It was his ambition to “ do it after the ly over-estimated—and in the songs scatbigh Roman fashion.” He laments that tered through his plays and masques, it is not possible in modern times "to ob- than in the “Forest” and “Underserve the old state and splendor of dra- woods." matic poems;" but he adds, “in the mean The minor poems rank higher in comtime, if in truth of argument, dignity of mon estimation than they deserve. Peopersons, gravity and height of elocution, ple are familiar with a few admirable specifullness and frequency of sentence, I have mens, and are apt to think there must be discharged the other offices of a tragic many more like them; whereas the fact poet, let not the absence of these forms is, that our popular anthologies contain be imputed to me.” And if indeed these all Jonson's best songs, which are sepabe the only other offices of the tragic poet, rated by a wide interval from his worse Jonson has succeeded in tragedy; and in ones. The origin of many of the most some respects he has gone beyond these popular among them has been traced back requisitions, especially in the character of by the commentators to classical originTiberius, which displays great insight, als, and it is probable that many others and is remarkable for its power and origin- are indebted to sources not discovered ; ality. The picture is in great measure for Jonson was not only a good scholar, probably true to the original ; and the but, if we may trust Gifford, a most exstage has no figure like it, of deep and cursive reader of all that had been written crafty dissimulation and unbounded self in the languages of Greece and Rome. indulgence pressing into their service an" Drink to me only with thine eyes !” is astute intellect and large mental capacity. from the love-letters of Philostratus, the Catiline is bistory distorted into poetry ; different ideas being scattered through and both history and poetry suffer from the several letters of the original, but each forced transformation. We would rather idea having its exact antecedent, as may read the In Catilinam in the original than be seen in Gifford's edition, where the translated into blank verse, and made a passages are quoted ; and though the speech in a tragedy. To say nothing of combination of such scattered thoughts other objections, it stops the way. The may show, as the present editor urges, description of the battle, with which the and as is undoubtedly true, a high degree play concludes, is a fine specimen of of artistic ingenuity, it is a much more " height of elocution” and “fullness of cold blooded plagiarism than even the sentence.” Compare it with a similar de transference of a whole poem. “Still to scription in Macbeth. It was well said by be neat, still to be drest,” is taken from a Oldys of these classical tragedies, that little Latin poem of Jean Bonnefons ; the author “had pulled down all antiquity though, oddly enough, the point of the on his head."
original, “ Fingere se semper non est 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
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
for want of completeness. Another marked blot is
the absence of any index or detailed table of conhis 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. VOL XLIV.NO. I.
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:
“Queen and huntress, chaste and fair, “ And for his true use of translating men,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
State in wonted manner keep.
Hesperus entreats thy light, No man was ever less of a copyist. He
Goddess, excellently bright. is master of what he uses. In some cases, indeed, he puts in a borrowed plume in “Earth, let not thy envious shade the most odd and extravagantly inappro
Dare itself to interpose; priate place, as when he makes one of his Cynthia's shining orb was made shepherds refer to "the lovers' scriptures,
Heaven to clear, when day did close Heliodores or Statii, Longi, Eustathii,
Bless us, then, with wished sight,
Goddess, excellently bright. Prodromi ;” and in others overwhelms all dramatic propriety from the desire to in
“Lay thy bow of pearl apart, sert a good translation : as where in Cati
And thy crystal shining quiver; line he introduces Cicero speaking some- Give unto the flying hart thing like the whole of the In Catilinam ; Space to breathe, how short soeverin the Silent Woman makes Truewit lec
Thou that mak'st a day of night, ture on love out of Ovid by the pageful ;
Goddess, excellently bright." or concludes an act of the Poetaster with a literal translation of one of Horace's sa- movement of this piece like that of the
There is a calm serenity in the whole tires. In general, however, he shows a moon through the floating clouds, and in remarkable dexterity in transferring his borrowed material into the substance of exquisite harmony with the subject-mathis work; and it is only the retriever-like in a very different style, and more light,
ter. The following, too, is very perfect sagacity of some industrious commentator which informs the reader that a cast easy, and playful than we often find in the serving man is talking Statius, or a Vene- somewhat too heavily in his most trifling
of to tian magnifico quoting Libanius. Jon
productions: son, however, borrows not only from the ancients, but frequently from himself;
“If I freely may discover repeating ideas, and even whole lines,
What would please me in my loverof his own, and thus furnishing the I would have her fair and witty, strongest proof that the absence of what Savoring more of court than city; he calls “copia” in his own resources is
A little proud, but full of pity; what often throws him on those of others.
Light and humorous in her toying,
Soon building hopes, and soon destroying; His songs, however, are very far from
Long, but sweet, in the enjoying; being mere borrowings from the antique.
Neither too easy nor too hard: The originals have often little to recom- All extremes I would have barred. mend them : he supplements the idea ; his strong artistic taste comes into play, and “She should be allowed her passions, he gives to his little poem a completeness
So they were but used as fashions. and justness of form, and a finish which
Sometimes froward, and then frowning;
Sometimes sickish, and then swowning : make it truly his own. Nor can it ever be denied that Jonson had a vein of sweet
Every fit with change still crowning.
Purely jealous I would have her, and fanciful imagination, which, though Then only constant when I crave her; it was narrow, contained a large propor- 'Tis a virtue should not save her.
Thus nor her delicates could cloy me, to hang to advantage ridiculous fashions Nor her peevishness annoy me.'
and contemptible caprices. There is one This too has been traced to an epigram love-scene in his works-Ovid parting of Martial. Of the following song Mr. from Julia. It is on the same model as Gifford says, that “if it be not the most the chamber-scene in Romeo and Juliet, beautiful song in the language, I freely and forms a singular contrast with it. In confess, for my own part, that I know not both cases the lover, condemned to exile,
takes his last farewell. In one case, pure where it is to be found."*
passion breathes itself in accents so simple, " A SONG.
that the reader can not stay to admire,
but is borne along until the completed Oh! do not wanton with those eyes, scene leaves its whole tender impression Lest I be sick with seeing;
on the mind. In the other, the speakers Nor cast them down, but let them rise,
themselves run into disquisitions on love Lest shame destroy their being.
and mortal life ; and though we can not “Oh! be not angry with those fires,
help thinking Jonson has in this place For then their threats will kill me ; warmed his genius at the fire of his great Nor look too kind on my desires,
contemporary, and struck out some fine For then my hopes will spill me. flashes of the poetical expression of highly “Oh! do not steep them in thy tears,
wrought feelings, yet in the main the For so will sorrow slay me;
speeches are adapted rather to show the Nor spread them as distract with fears ;
ingenuity of the author than the passion Mine own enough betray me.”
of the lovers. In The New Inn, the
lover rouses his mistress from cold goodGifford was a most able and industrious will into a sudden and irrestrainable encommentator, but his opinion on poetry thusiasm of devotion to him by a brace is not valuable; and for Jonson he has a of sermons on courage and on love; blind partiality, partly the result of a good which, however ill-adapted they may seem deal of similarity in their natures, and to secure this happy result, are fine labored still more from his forming an excellent pieces of rhetoric, with thought and orifield on which to do battle with other ginality mingled somewhat largely with critics, and furnishing a good opportunity dullness. Indeed, Jonson, though utterly for venting the acrimony of his disposi- incapable of giving a dramatic representation on those who had previously abused, tion to the most universal passion both of and, it is fair to add, traduced bis author. the real and the mimic stage, and ill-conTo us, it seems that the above song is a stituted in his own nature to experience favorable specimen of Jonson when thrown its higher influences, could form a noble entirely on his own resources, and that, intellectual image of it, and express it in like the rest of his love-songs, it is artiti- adequate language. Perhaps the finest cial and thoroughly heartless. No where and most imaginative piece of poetry he has Jonson depicted the passion of love has written is the “Epode to deep Ears," with nature or delicacy. It is scarcely too as he call it, in which he contrasts false much to say, that he has never depicted and true love. We quote the introducit at all, and was himself incapable of feel- tion, as well as the finer lines to which we ing it. The attitude of the ancients to allude, because the former will serve as wards women found something in his na- an example of the cumbrous mechanically ture which answered to it very exactly. translated prose of which the greater part In his life, he seems freely to have in- of Jonson's so-called poetry consists. dulged his appetites, without the sanction of any deep or permanent attachments. He has not in any of his plays drawn a Not to know vice at all, and keep true state, female character with the slightest power
Is virtue and not fate: to inspire us with interest. He uses them Next to that virtue, is to know vice well, in general only as a sort of block on which which to effect (since no breast is so sure,
And her black spite expel.
Or safe, but she'll procure By some slip, Mr. Bell has assigned this dic- Some way of entrance) we must plant a guard tum of Gifford's to another song. As the two come
Of thoughts to watch and ward together, it is probably merely an error of the press At th' eye and ear, the ports unto the mind, in the reference.
That no strange or unkind
Object arrive there, but the heart our spy, weighed down by a sort of inert mass of Give knowledge instantly
mind which the imagination has not suftiTo wakeful reason, our affections' king : Who, in th' examining,
cient power to kindle. It might bave
sufficed a lesser body of intellect, but it Will quickly taste the treason, and commit Close, the close cause of it.
is out of proportion to what it has to 'Tis the securest policy we have,
move. Struggling gleams of fire shine To make our sense our slave.
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.
clear blaze. Now and then, indeed, some For either our affections do rebel,
exquisite poetical idea may be found, half Or else the sentinel, That should ring 'larum to the heart, doth sion, as when he compares the serenity of
hidden by the cumbrousness of its expressleep; Or some great thought doth keep
his mistress's face to the calmness and Back the intelligence, and falsely swears life-renewing influence which pervade the They're base and idle fears
air after tempest ; an idea not easily sug Whereof the loyal conscience so complains. gested by the lines,
Thus, by these subtle trains,
“As alone there triumphs to the life And strike our reason blind :
All the good, all the gain, of the elements' Of which usurping rank, some have thought
There is gold, and pure gold, in his The first; as prone to move Most frequent tumults, horrors, and unrests,
writings; but mixed with large lumps of In our inflamed breasts :
clay. The worst of it is, the clay is as But this doth from the cloud of error grow, solemnly and carefully hammered out as Which thus we over-blow.
the gold; and the author evidently refuses The thing they here call love is blind desire, to acknowledge even to himself that it is Armed with bow, shafts, and fire;
of any inferior value. Labor Jonson Inconstant, like the sea, of whence 'tis born, Rough, swelling, like a storm;
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 fear,
used material in itself incapable of taking And boils as if he were
a polish. He had a keen incisive wit ; In a continual tempest. Now true love but it is an Andrea Ferrara rather than a No such efforts doth prove;
rapier. A sort of native unwieldiness is That is an essence far more gentle, fine, apt to leave its impression in what he Pure, perfect, nay divine ;
writes; and his rhythm is like his matter, It is a golden chain let down from heaven, Whose links are bright and even,
it has a lumbering elephantine motion, full That falls like sleep on lovers, and combines
of stops and sudden charges. His epiThe soft and sweetest minds
grams are often sharp-pointed, and witty; In equal knots: this bears no brands nor darts, but, like all epigrams, they are dull readTo murder different hearts;
ing. They are moulded in the Latin type; But in a calm and god-like unity
and though some of them have point, Preserves community. Oh! who is he that in this peace enjoys
many of them are only brief occasional Th’ elixir of all joys ?
poems on a single subject, mostly euloA form more fresh than are the Eden bowers,
gistic of some particular person. Some of And lasting as her flowers;
the satirical ones are also probably perRicher than Time, and as Time's virtue rare ; sonal; but in general aimed at some viSober as saddest care ;
cious practice or moral deformity, set forth A fixéd thought, an eye untaught to glance. under an appropriate title, in which, as in
Who, blest with such high chance, the body of the poem, he loves to show Would, at suggestion of a steep desire, Cast himself from the spire
his wit. We have epigrams to “Sir AnOf all his happiness ?”
nual Tilter,” to “Don Surly,” to “Sir
Voluptuous Beast,” to “Fine Grand," to This must not be taken as an average Captain Hungry,” etc. That on Chespecimen of the minor poems of Jonson. veril the lawyer may serve as a specimen For the most part they are inexpressibly of the best of them : tedious reading. There is enough thought,
“No cause, nor client fat, will Cheveril leese : barshly expressed, to require an effort to
But as they come, on both sides he takes fees, understand them; and not enough to re- And pleaseth both; for while he melts his ward the effort when read. They are grease