By Ben Johnson
Ben Jonson's Plays
With An Introduction By Prof. Felix E. Schelling
Edited By Ernest Rhys
POETRY AND THE DRAMA
THE COMPLETE PLAYS OF BEN JONSON
FIRST ISSUE OF THIS EDITION: 1910
THE greatest of English dramatists except Shakespeare, the first literary dictator and poet-laureate, a writer of verse, prose, satire, and criticism who most potently of all the men of his time affected the subsequent course of English letters: such was Ben Jonson, and as such his strong personality assumes an interest to us almost unparalleled, at least in his age.
Ben Jonson came of the stock that was centuries after to give to the world Thomas Carlyle; for Jonson's grandfather was of Annandale, over the Solway, whence he migrated to England. Jonson's father lost his estate under Queen Mary, "having been cast into prison and forfeited." He entered the church, but died a month before his illustrious son was born, leaving his widow and child in poverty. Jonson's birthplace was Westminster, and the time of his birth early in 1573. He was thus nearly ten years Shakespeare's junior, and less well off, if a trifle better born. But Jonson did not profit even by this slight advantage. His mother married beneath her, a wright or bricklayer, and Jonson was for a time apprenticed to the trade. As a youth he attracted the attention of the famous antiquary, William Camden, then usher at Westminster School, and there the poet laid the solid foundations of his classical learning. Jonson always held Camden in veneration, acknowledging that to him he owed,
"All that I am in arts, all that I know;"
and dedicating his first dramatic success, "Every Man in His Humour," to him. It is doubtful whether Jonson ever went to either university, though Fuller says that he was "statutably admitted into St. John's College, Cambridge." He tells us that he took no degree, but was later "Master of Arts in both the universities, by their favour, not his study." When a mere youth Jonson enlisted as a soldier, trailing his pike in Flanders in the protracted wars of William the Silent against the Spanish. Jonson was a large and raw-boned lad; he became by his own account in time exceedingly bulky. In chat with his friend William Drummond of Hawthornden, Jonson told how "in his service in the Low Countries he had, in the face of both the camps, killed an enemy, and taken opima spolia from him;" and how "since his coming to England, being appealed to the fields, he had killed his adversary which had hurt him in the arm and whose sword was ten inches longer than his." Jonson's reach may have made up for the lack of his sword; certainly his prowess lost nothing in the telling. Obviously Jonson was brave, combative, and not averse to talking of himself and his doings.
In 1592, Jonson returned from abroad penniless. Soon after he married, almost as early and quite as imprudently as Shakespeare. He told Drummond curtly that "his wife was a shrew, yet honest"; for some years he lived apart from her in the household of Lord Albany. Yet two touching epitaphs among Jonson's "Epigrams," "On my first daughter," and "On my first son," attest the warmth of the poet's family affections. The daughter died in infancy, the son of the plague; another son grew up to manhood little credit to his father whom he survived. We know nothing beyond this of Jonson's domestic life.
How soon Jonson drifted into what we now call grandly "the theatrical profession" we do not know. In 1593, Marlowe made his tragic exit from life, and Greene, Shakespeare's other rival on the popular stage, had preceded Marlowe in an equally miserable death the year before. Shakespeare already had the running to himself. Jonson appears first in the employment of Philip Henslowe, the exploiter of several troupes of players, manager, and father-in-law of the famous actor, Edward Alleyn. From entries in "Henslowe's Diary," a species of theatrical account book which has been handed down to us, we know that Jonson was connected with the Admiral's men; for he borrowed 4 pounds of Henslowe, July 28, 1597, paying back 3s. 9d. on the same day on account of his "share" (in what is not altogether clear); while later, on December 3, of the same year, Henslowe advanced 20s. to him "upon a book which he showed the plot unto the company which he promised to deliver unto the company at Christmas next." In the next August Jonson was in collaboration with Chettle and Porter in a play called "Hot Anger Soon Cold." All this points to an association with Henslowe of some duration, as no mere tyro would be thus paid in advance upon mere promise. From allusions in Dekker's play, "Satiromastix," it appears that Jonson, like Shakespeare, began life as an actor, and that he "ambled in a leather pitch by a play-wagon" taking at one time the part of Hieronimo in Kyd's famous play, "The Spanish Tragedy." By the beginning of 1598, Jonson, though still in needy circumstances, had begun to receive recognition. Francis Meres— well known for his "Comparative Discourse of our English Poets with the Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets," printed in 1598, and for his mention therein of a dozen plays of Shakespeare by title—accords to Ben Jonson a place as one of "our best in tragedy," a matter of some surprise, as no known tragedy of Jonson from so early a date has come down to us. That Jonson was at work on tragedy, however, is proved by the entries in Henslowe of at least three tragedies, now lost, in which he had a hand. These are "Page of Plymouth," "King Robert II. of Scotland," and "Richard Crookback." But all of these came later, on his return to Henslowe, and range from August 1599 to June 1602.
Returning to the autumn of 1598, an event now happened to sever for a time Jonson's relations with Henslowe. In a letter to Alleyn, dated September 26 of that year, Henslowe writes: "I have lost one of my company that hurteth me greatly; that is Gabriel [Spencer], for he is slain in Hogsden fields by the hands of Benjamin Jonson, bricklayer." The last word is perhaps Henslowe's thrust at Jonson in his displeasure rather than a designation of his actual continuance at his trade up to this time. It is fair to Jonson to remark however, that his adversary appears to have been a notorious fire-eater who had shortly before killed one Feeke in a similar squabble. Duelling was a frequent occurrence of the time among gentlemen and the nobility; it was an impudent breach of the peace on the part of a player. This duel is the one which Jonson described years after to Drummond, and for it Jonson was duly arraigned at Old Bailey, tried, and convicted. He was sent to prison and such goods and chattels as he had "were forfeited." It is a thought to give one pause that, but for the ancient law permitting convicted felons to plead, as it was called, the benefit of clergy, Jonson might have been hanged for this deed. The circumstance that the poet could read and write saved him; and he received only a brand of the letter "T," for Tyburn, on his left thumb. While in jail Jonson became a Roman Catholic; but he returned to the faith of the Church of England a dozen years later.
On his release, in disgrace with Henslowe and his former associates, Jonson offered his services as a playwright to Henslowe's rivals, the Lord Chamberlain's company, in which Shakespeare was a prominent shareholder. A tradition of long standing, though not susceptible of proof in a court of law, narrates that Jonson had submitted the manuscript of "Every Man in His Humour" to the Chamberlain's men and had received from the company a refusal; that Shakespeare called him back, read the play himself, and at once accepted it. Whether this story is true or not, certain it is that "Every Man in His Humour" was accepted by Shakespeare's company and acted for the first time in 1598, with Shakespeare taking a part. The evidence of this is contained in the list of actors prefixed to the comedy in the folio of Jonson's works, 1616. But it is a mistake to infer, because Shakespeare's name stands first in the list of actors and the elder Kno'well first in the dramatis personae, that Shakespeare took that particular part. The order of a list of Elizabethan players was generally that of their importance or priority as shareholders in the company and seldom if ever corresponded to the list of characters.
"Every Man in His Humour" was an immediate success, and with it Jonson's reputation as one of the leading dramatists of his time was established once and for all. This could have been by no means Jonson's earliest comedy, and we have just learned that he was already reputed one of "our best in tragedy." Indeed, one of Jonson's extant comedies, "The Case is Altered," but one never claimed by him or published as his, must certainly have preceded "Every Man in His Humour" on the stage. The former play may be described as a comedy modelled on the Latin plays of Plautus. (It combines, in fact, situations derived from the "Captivi" and the "Aulularia" of that dramatist). But the pretty story of the beggar-maiden, Rachel, and her suitors, Jonson found, not among the classics, but in the ideals of romantic love which Shakespeare had already popularised on the stage. Jonson never again produced so fresh and lovable a feminine personage as Rachel, although in other respects "The Case is Altered" is not a conspicuous play, and, save for the satirising of Antony Munday in the person of Antonio Balladino and Gabriel Harvey as well, is perhaps the least characteristic of the comedies of Jonson.
"Every Man in His Humour," probably first acted late in the summer of 1598 and at the Curtain, is commonly regarded as an epoch-making play; and this view is not unjustified. As to plot, it tells little more than how an intercepted letter enabled a father to follow his supposedly studious son to London, and there observe his life with the gallants of the time. The real quality of this comedy is in its personages and in the theory upon which they are conceived. Ben Jonson had theories about poetry and the drama, and he was neither chary in talking of them nor in experimenting with them in his plays. This makes Jonson, like Dryden in his time, and Wordsworth much later, an author to reckon with; particularly when we remember that many of Jonson's notions came for a time definitely to prevail and to modify the whole trend of English poetry. First of all Jonson was a classicist, that is, he believed in restraint and precedent in art in opposition to the prevalent ungoverned and irresponsible Renaissance spirit. Jonson believed that there was a professional way of doing things which might be reached by a study of the best examples, and he found these examples for the most part among the ancients. To confine our attention to the drama, Jonson objected to the amateurishness and haphazard nature of many contemporary plays, and set himself to do something different; and the first and most striking thing that he evolved was his conception and practice of the comedy of humours.
As Jonson has been much misrepresented in this matter, let us quote his own words as to "humour." A humour, according to Jonson, was a bias of disposition, a warp, so to speak, in character by which
"Some one peculiar quality Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw All his affects, his spirits, and his powers, In their confluctions, all to run one way."
But continuing, Jonson is careful to add:
"But that a rook by wearing a pied feather, The cable hat-band, or the three-piled ruff, A yard of shoe-tie, or the Switzers knot On his French garters, should affect a humour! O, it is more than most ridiculous."
Jonson's comedy of humours, in a word, conceived of stage personages on the basis of a ruling trait or passion (a notable simplification of actual life be it observed in passing); and, placing these typified traits in juxtaposition in their conflict and contrast, struck the spark of comedy. Downright, as his name indicates, is "a plain squire"; Bobadill's humour is that of the braggart who is incidentally, and with delightfully comic effect, a coward; Brainworm's humour is the finding out of things to the end of fooling everybody: of course he is fooled in the end himself. But it was not Jonson's theories alone that made the success of "Every Man in His Humour." The play is admirably written and each character is vividly conceived, and with a firm touch based on observation of the men of the London of the day. Jonson was neither in this, his first great comedy (nor in any other play that he wrote), a supine classicist, urging that English drama return to a slavish adherence to classical conditions. He says as to the laws of the old comedy (meaning by "laws," such matters as the unities of time and place and the use of chorus): "I see not then, but we should enjoy the same licence, or free power to illustrate and heighten our invention as they [the ancients] did; and not be tied to those strict and regular forms which the niceness of a few, who are nothing but form, would thrust upon us." "Every Man in His Humour" is written in prose, a novel practice which Jonson had of his predecessor in comedy, John Lyly. Even the word "humour" seems to have been employed in the Jonsonian sense by Chapman before Jonson's use of it. Indeed, the comedy of humours itself is only a heightened variety of the comedy of manners which represents life, viewed at a satirical angle, and is the oldest and most persistent species of comedy in the language. None the less, Jonson's comedy merited its immediate success and marked out a definite course in which comedy long continued to run. To mention only Shakespeare's Falstaff and his rout, Bardolph, Pistol, Dame Quickly, and the rest, whether in "Henry IV." or in "The Merry Wives of Windsor," all are conceived in the spirit of humours. So are the captains, Welsh, Scotch, and Irish of "Henry V.," and Malvolio especially later; though Shakespeare never employed the method of humours for an important personage. It was not Jonson's fault that many of his successors did precisely the thing that he had reprobated, that is, degrade "the humour" into an oddity of speech, an eccentricity of manner, of dress, or cut of beard. There was an anonymous play called "Every Woman in Her Humour." Chapman wrote "A Humourous Day's Mirth," Day, "Humour Out of Breath," Fletcher later, "The Humourous Lieutenant," and Jonson, besides "Every Man Out of His Humour," returned to the title in closing the cycle of his comedies in "The Magnetic Lady or Humours Reconciled."
With the performance of "Every Man Out of His Humour" in 1599, by Shakespeare's company once more at the Globe, we turn a new page in Jonson's career. Despite his many real virtues, if there is one feature more than any other that distinguishes Jonson, it is his arrogance; and to this may be added his self-righteousness, especially under criticism or satire. "Every Man Out of His Humour" is the first of three "comical satires" which Jonson contributed to what Dekker called the poetomachia or war of the theatres as recent critics have named it. This play as a fabric of plot is a very slight affair; but as a satirical picture of the manners of the time, proceeding by means of vivid caricature, couched in witty and brilliant dialogue and sustained by that righteous indignation which must lie at the heart of all true satire—as a realisation, in short, of the classical ideal of comedy—there had been nothing like Jonson's comedy since the days of Aristophanes. "Every Man in His Humour," like the two plays that follow it, contains two kinds of attack, the critical or generally satiric, levelled at abuses and corruptions in the abstract; and the personal, in which specific application is made of all this in the lampooning of poets and others, Jonson's contemporaries. The method of personal attack by actual caricature of a person on the stage is almost as old as the drama. Aristophanes so lampooned Euripides in "The Acharnians" and Socrates in "The Clouds," to mention no other examples; and in English drama this kind of thing is alluded to again and again. What Jonson really did, was to raise the dramatic lampoon to an art, and make out of a casual burlesque and bit of mimicry a dramatic satire of literary pretensions and permanency. With the arrogant attitude mentioned above and his uncommon eloquence in scorn, vituperation, and invective, it is no wonder that Jonson soon involved himself in literary and even personal quarrels with his fellow-authors. The circumstances of the origin of this 'poetomachia' are far from clear, and those who have written on the topic, except of late, have not helped to make them clearer. The origin of the "war" has been referred to satirical references, apparently to Jonson, contained in "The Scourge of Villainy," a satire in regular form after the manner of the ancients by John Marston, a fellow playwright, subsequent friend and collaborator of Jonson's. On the other hand, epigrams of Jonson have been discovered (49, 68, and 100) variously charging "playwright" (reasonably identified with Marston) with scurrility, cowardice, and plagiarism; though the dates of the epigrams cannot be ascertained with certainty. Jonson's own statement of the matter to Drummond runs: "He had many quarrels with Marston, beat him, and took his pistol from him, wrote his "Poetaster" on him; the beginning[s] of them were that Marston represented him on the stage."*
[*footnote] The best account of this whole subject is to be found in the edition of "Poetaster" and "Satiromastrix" by J. H. Penniman in "Belles Lettres Series" shortly to appear. See also his earlier work, "The War of the Theatres," 1892, and the excellent contributions to the subject by H. C. Hart in "Notes and Queries," and in his edition of Jonson, 1906.
Here at least we are on certain ground; and the principals of the quarrel are known. "Histriomastix," a play revised by Marston in 1598, has been regarded as the one in which Jonson was thus "represented on the stage"; although the personage in question, Chrisogonus, a poet, satirist, and translator, poor but proud, and contemptuous of the common herd, seems rather a complimentary portrait of Jonson than a caricature. As to the personages actually ridiculed in "Every Man Out of His Humour," Carlo Buffone was formerly thought certainly to be Marston, as he was described as "a public, scurrilous, and profane jester," and elsewhere as the "grand scourge or second untruss [that is, satirist], of the time" (Joseph Hall being by his own boast the first, and Marston's work being entitled "The Scourge of Villainy"). Apparently we must now prefer for Carlo a notorious character named Charles Chester, of whom gossipy and inaccurate Aubrey relates that he was "a bold impertinent fellow...a perpetual talker and made a noise like a drum in a room. So one time at a tavern Sir Walter Raleigh beats him and seals up his mouth (that is his upper and nether beard) with hard wax. From him Ben Jonson takes his Carlo Buffone ['i.e.', jester] in "Every Man in His Humour" ['sic']." Is it conceivable that after all Jonson was ridiculing Marston, and that the point of the satire consisted in an intentional confusion of "the grand scourge or second untruss" with "the scurrilous and profane" Chester?
We have digressed into detail in this particular case to exemplify the difficulties of criticism in its attempts to identify the allusions in these forgotten quarrels. We are on sounder ground of fact in recording other manifestations of Jonson's enmity. In "The Case is Altered" there is clear ridicule in the character Antonio Balladino of Anthony Munday, pageant-poet of the city, translator of romances and playwright as well. In "Every Man in His Humour" there is certainly a caricature of Samuel Daniel, accepted poet of the court, sonneteer, and companion of men of fashion. These men held recognised positions to which Jonson felt his talents better entitled him; they were hence to him his natural enemies. It seems almost certain that he pursued both in the personages of his satire through "Every Man Out of His Humour," and "Cynthia's Revels," Daniel under the characters Fastidious Brisk and Hedon, Munday as Puntarvolo and Amorphus; but in these last we venture on quagmire once more. Jonson's literary rivalry of Daniel is traceable again and again, in the entertainments that welcomed King James on his way to London, in the masques at court, and in the pastoral drama. As to Jonson's personal ambitions with respect to these two men, it is notable that he became, not pageant-poet, but chronologer to the City of London; and that, on the accession of the new king, he came soon to triumph over Daniel as the accepted entertainer of royalty.
"Cynthia's Revels," the second "comical satire," was acted in 1600, and, as a play, is even more lengthy, elaborate, and impossible than "Every Man Out of His Humour." Here personal satire seems to have absorbed everything, and while much of the caricature is admirable, especially in the detail of witty and trenchantly satirical dialogue, the central idea of a fountain of self-love is not very well carried out, and the persons revert at times to abstractions, the action to allegory. It adds to our wonder that this difficult drama should have been acted by the Children of Queen Elizabeth's Chapel, among them Nathaniel Field with whom Jonson read Horace and Martial, and whom he taught later how to make plays. Another of these precocious little actors was Salathiel Pavy, who died before he was thirteen, already famed for taking the parts of old men. Him Jonson immortalised in one of the sweetest of his epitaphs. An interesting sidelight is this on the character of this redoubtable and rugged satirist, that he should thus have befriended and tenderly remembered these little theatrical waifs, some of whom (as we know) had been literally kidnapped to be pressed into the service of the theatre and whipped to the conning of their difficult parts. To the caricature of Daniel and Munday in "Cynthia's Revels" must be added Anaides (impudence), here assuredly Marston, and Asotus (the prodigal), interpreted as Lodge or, more perilously, Raleigh. Crites, like Asper-Macilente in "Every Man Out of His Humour," is Jonson's self-complaisant portrait of himself, the just, wholly admirable, and judicious scholar, holding his head high above the pack of the yelping curs of envy and detraction, but careless of their puny attacks on his perfections with only too mindful a neglect.
The third and last of the "comical satires" is "Poetaster," acted, once more, by the Children of the Chapel in 1601, and Jonson's only avowed contribution to the fray. According to the author's own account, this play was written in fifteen weeks on a report that his enemies had entrusted to Dekker the preparation of "Satiromastix, the Untrussing of the Humorous Poet," a dramatic attack upon himself. In this attempt to forestall his enemies Jonson succeeded, and "Poetaster" was an immediate and deserved success. While hardly more closely knit in structure than its earlier companion pieces, "Poetaster" is planned to lead up to the ludicrous final scene in which, after a device borrowed from the "Lexiphanes" of Lucian, the offending poetaster, Marston-Crispinus, is made to throw up the difficult words with which he had overburdened his stomach as well as overlarded his vocabulary. In the end Crispinus with his fellow, Dekker-Demetrius, is bound over to keep the peace and never thenceforward "malign, traduce, or detract the person or writings of Quintus Horatius Flaccus [Jonson] or any other eminent man transcending you in merit." One of the most diverting personages in Jonson's comedy is Captain Tucca. "His peculiarity" has been well described by Ward as "a buoyant blackguardism which recovers itself instantaneously from the most complete exposure, and a picturesqueness of speech like that of a walking dictionary of slang."
It was this character, Captain Tucca, that Dekker hit upon in his reply, "Satiromastix," and he amplified him, turning his abusive vocabulary back upon Jonson and adding "an immodesty to his dialogue that did not enter into Jonson's conception." It has been held, altogether plausibly, that when Dekker was engaged professionally, so to speak, to write a dramatic reply to Jonson, he was at work on a species of chronicle history, dealing with the story of Walter Terill in the reign of William Rufus. This he hurriedly adapted to include the satirical characters suggested by "Poetaster," and fashioned to convey the satire of his reply. The absurdity of placing Horace in the court of a Norman king is the result. But Dekker's play is not without its palpable hits at the arrogance, the literary pride, and self-righteousness of Jonson-Horace, whose "ningle" or pal, the absurd Asinius Bubo, has recently been shown to figure forth, in all likelihood, Jonson's friend, the poet Drayton. Slight and hastily adapted as is "Satiromastix," especially in a comparison with the better wrought and more significant satire of "Poetaster," the town awarded the palm to Dekker, not to Jonson; and Jonson gave over in consequence his practice of "comical satire." Though Jonson was cited to appear before the Lord Chief Justice to answer certain charges to the effect that he had attacked lawyers and soldiers in "Poetaster," nothing came of this complaint. It may be suspected that much of this furious clatter and give-and-take was pure playing to the gallery. The town was agog with the strife, and on no less an authority than Shakespeare ("Hamlet," ii. 2), we learn that the children's company (acting the plays of Jonson) did "so berattle the common stages...that many, wearing rapiers, are afraid of goose-quills, and dare scarce come thither."
Several other plays have been thought to bear a greater or less part in the war of the theatres. Among them the most important is a college play, entitled "The Return from Parnassus," dating 1601-02. In it a much-quoted passage makes Burbage, as a character, declare: "Why here's our fellow Shakespeare puts them all down; aye and Ben Jonson, too. O that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow; he brought up Horace, giving the poets a pill, but our fellow Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him bewray his credit." Was Shakespeare then concerned in this war of the stages? And what could have been the nature of this "purge"? Among several suggestions, "Troilus and Cressida" has been thought by some to be the play in which Shakespeare thus "put down" his friend, Jonson. A wiser interpretation finds the "purge" in "Satiromastix," which, though not written by Shakespeare, was staged by his company, and therefore with his approval and under his direction as one of the leaders of that company.
The last years of the reign of Elizabeth thus saw Jonson recognised as a dramatist second only to Shakespeare, and not second even to him as a dramatic satirist. But Jonson now turned his talents to new fields. Plays on subjects derived from classical story and myth had held the stage from the beginning of the drama, so that Shakespeare was making no new departure when he wrote his "Julius Caesar" about 1600. Therefore when Jonson staged "Sejanus," three years later and with Shakespeare's company once more, he was only following in the elder dramatist's footsteps. But Jonson's idea of a play on classical history, on the one hand, and Shakespeare's and the elder popular dramatists, on the other, were very different. Heywood some years before had put five straggling plays on the stage in quick succession, all derived from stories in Ovid and dramatised with little taste or discrimination. Shakespeare had a finer conception of form, but even he was contented to take all his ancient history from North's translation of Plutarch and dramatise his subject without further inquiry. Jonson was a scholar and a classical antiquarian. He reprobated this slipshod amateurishness, and wrote his "Sejanus" like a scholar, reading Tacitus, Suetonius, and other authorities, to be certain of his facts, his setting, and his atmosphere, and somewhat pedantically noting his authorities in the margin when he came to print. "Sejanus" is a tragedy of genuine dramatic power in which is told with discriminating taste the story of the haughty favourite of Tiberius with his tragical overthrow. Our drama presents no truer nor more painstaking representation of ancient Roman life than may be found in Jonson's "Sejanus" and "Catiline his Conspiracy," which followed in 1611. A passage in the address of the former play to the reader, in which Jonson refers to a collaboration in an earlier version, has led to the surmise that Shakespeare may have been that "worthier pen." There is no evidence to determine the matter.
In 1605, we find Jonson in active collaboration with Chapman and Marston in the admirable comedy of London life entitled "Eastward Hoe." In the previous year, Marston had dedicated his "Malcontent," in terms of fervid admiration, to Jonson; so that the wounds of the war of the theatres must have been long since healed. Between Jonson and Chapman there was the kinship of similar scholarly ideals. The two continued friends throughout life. "Eastward Hoe" achieved the extraordinary popularity represented in a demand for three issues in one year. But this was not due entirely to the merits of the play. In its earliest version a passage which an irritable courtier conceived to be derogatory to his nation, the Scots, sent both Chapman and Jonson to jail; but the matter was soon patched up, for by this time Jonson had influence at court.
With the accession of King James, Jonson began his long and successful career as a writer of masques. He wrote more masques than all his competitors together, and they are of an extraordinary variety and poetic excellence. Jonson did not invent the masque; for such premeditated devices to set and frame, so to speak, a court ball had been known and practised in varying degrees of elaboration long before his time. But Jonson gave dramatic value to the masque, especially in his invention of the antimasque, a comedy or farcical element of relief, entrusted to professional players or dancers. He enhanced, as well, the beauty and dignity of those portions of the masque in which noble lords and ladies took their parts to create, by their gorgeous costumes and artistic grouping and evolutions, a sumptuous show. On the mechanical and scenic side Jonson had an inventive and ingenious partner in Inigo Jones, the royal architect, who more than any one man raised the standard of stage representation in the England of his day. Jonson continued active in the service of the court in the writing of masques and other entertainments far into the reign of King Charles; but, towards the end, a quarrel with Jones embittered his life, and the two testy old men appear to have become not only a constant irritation to each other, but intolerable bores at court. In "Hymenaei," "The Masque of Queens," "Love Freed from Ignorance," "Lovers made Men," "Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue," and many more will be found Jonson's aptitude, his taste, his poetry and inventiveness in these by-forms of the drama; while in "The Masque of Christmas," and "The Gipsies Metamorphosed" especially, is discoverable that power of broad comedy which, at court as well as in the city, was not the least element of Jonson's contemporary popularity.
But Jonson had by no means given up the popular stage when he turned to the amusement of King James. In 1605 "Volpone" was produced, "The Silent Woman" in 1609, "The Alchemist" in the following year. These comedies, with "Bartholomew Fair," 1614, represent Jonson at his height, and for constructive cleverness, character successfully conceived in the manner of caricature, wit and brilliancy of dialogue, they stand alone in English drama. "Volpone, or the Fox," is, in a sense, a transition play from the dramatic satires of the war of the theatres to the purer comedy represented in the plays named above. Its subject is a struggle of wit applied to chicanery; for among its dramatis personae, from the villainous Fox himself, his rascally servant Mosca, Voltore (the vulture), Corbaccio and Corvino (the big and the little raven), to Sir Politic Would-be and the rest, there is scarcely a virtuous character in the play. Question has been raised as to whether a story so forbidding can be considered a comedy, for, although the plot ends in the discomfiture and imprisonment of the most vicious, it involves no mortal catastrophe. But Jonson was on sound historical ground, for "Volpone" is conceived far more logically on the lines of the ancients' theory of comedy than was ever the romantic drama of Shakespeare, however repulsive we may find a philosophy of life that facilely divides the world into the rogues and their dupes, and, identifying brains with roguery and innocence with folly, admires the former while inconsistently punishing them.
"The Silent Woman" is a gigantic farce of the most ingenious construction. The whole comedy hinges on a huge joke, played by a heartless nephew on his misanthropic uncle, who is induced to take to himself a wife, young, fair, and warranted silent, but who, in the end, turns out neither silent nor a woman at all. In "The Alchemist," again, we have the utmost cleverness in construction, the whole fabric building climax on climax, witty, ingenious, and so plausibly presented that we forget its departures from the possibilities of life. In "The Alchemist" Jonson represented, none the less to the life, certain sharpers of the metropolis, revelling in their shrewdness and rascality and in the variety of the stupidity and wickedness of their victims. We may object to the fact that the only person in the play possessed of a scruple of honesty is discomfited, and that the greatest scoundrel of all is approved in the end and rewarded. The comedy is so admirably written and contrived, the personages stand out with such lifelike distinctness in their several kinds, and the whole is animated with such verve and resourcefulness that "The Alchemist" is a new marvel every time it is read. Lastly of this group comes the tremendous comedy, "Bartholomew Fair," less clear cut, less definite, and less structurally worthy of praise than its three predecessors, but full of the keenest and cleverest of satire and inventive to a degree beyond any English comedy save some other of Jonson's own. It is in "Bartholomew Fair" that we are presented to the immortal caricature of the Puritan, Zeal-in-the-Land Busy, and the Littlewits that group about him, and it is in this extraordinary comedy that the humour of Jonson, always open to this danger, loosens into the Rabelaisian mode that so delighted King James in "The Gipsies Metamorphosed." Another comedy of less merit is "The Devil is an Ass," acted in 1616. It was the failure of this play that caused Jonson to give over writing for the public stage for a period of nearly ten years.
"Volpone" was laid as to scene in Venice. Whether because of the success of "Eastward Hoe" or for other reasons, the other three comedies declare in the words of the prologue to "The Alchemist":
"Our scene is London, 'cause we would make known No country's mirth is better than our own."
Indeed Jonson went further when he came to revise his plays for collected publication in his folio of 1616, he transferred the scene of "Every Man in His Humour" from Florence to London also, converting Signior Lorenzo di Pazzi to Old Kno'well, Prospero to Master Welborn, and Hesperida to Dame Kitely "dwelling i' the Old Jewry."
In his comedies of London life, despite his trend towards caricature, Jonson has shown himself a genuine realist, drawing from the life about him with an experience and insight rare in any generation. A happy comparison has been suggested between Ben Jonson and Charles Dickens. Both were men of the people, lowly born and hardly bred. Each knew the London of his time as few men knew it; and each represented it intimately and in elaborate detail. Both men were at heart moralists, seeking the truth by the exaggerated methods of humour and caricature; perverse, even wrong-headed at times, but possessed of a true pathos and largeness of heart, and when all has been said—though the Elizabethan ran to satire, the Victorian to sentimentality—leaving the world better for the art that they practised in it.
In 1616, the year of the death of Shakespeare, Jonson collected his plays, his poetry, and his masques for publication in a collective edition. This was an unusual thing at the time and had been attempted by no dramatist before Jonson. This volume published, in a carefully revised text, all the plays thus far mentioned, excepting "The Case is Altered," which Jonson did not acknowledge, "Bartholomew Fair," and "The Devil is an Ass," which was written too late. It included likewise a book of some hundred and thirty odd "Epigrams," in which form of brief and pungent writing Jonson was an acknowledged master; "The Forest," a smaller collection of lyric and occasional verse and some ten "Masques" and "Entertainments." In this same year Jonson was made poet laureate with a pension of one hundred marks a year. This, with his fees and returns from several noblemen, and the small earnings of his plays must have formed the bulk of his income. The poet appears to have done certain literary hack-work for others, as, for example, parts of the Punic Wars contributed to Raleigh's "History of the World." We know from a story, little to the credit of either, that Jonson accompanied Raleigh's son abroad in the capacity of a tutor. In 1618 Jonson was granted the reversion of the office of Master of the Revels, a post for which he was peculiarly fitted; but he did not live to enjoy its perquisites. Jonson was honoured with degrees by both universities, though when and under what circumstances is not known. It has been said that he narrowly escaped the honour of knighthood, which the satirists of the day averred King James was wont to lavish with an indiscriminate hand. Worse men were made knights in his day than worthy Ben Jonson.
From 1616 to the close of the reign of King James, Jonson produced nothing for the stage. But he "prosecuted" what he calls "his wonted studies" with such assiduity that he became in reality, as by report, one of the most learned men of his time. Jonson's theory of authorship involved a wide acquaintance with books and "an ability," as he put it, "to convert the substance or riches of another poet to his own use." Accordingly Jonson read not only the Greek and Latin classics down to the lesser writers, but he acquainted himself especially with the Latin writings of his learned contemporaries, their prose as well as their poetry, their antiquities and curious lore as well as their more solid learning. Though a poor man, Jonson was an indefatigable collector of books. He told Drummond that "the Earl of Pembroke sent him 20 pounds every first day of the new year to buy new books." Unhappily, in 1623, his library was destroyed by fire, an accident serio-comically described in his witty poem, "An Execration upon Vulcan." Yet even now a book turns up from time to time in which is inscribed, in fair large Italian lettering, the name, Ben Jonson. With respect to Jonson's use of his material, Dryden said memorably of him: "[He] was not only a professed imitator of Horace, but a learned plagiary of all the others; you track him everywhere in their snow....But he has done his robberies so openly that one sees he fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a monarch, and what would be theft in other poets is only victory in him." And yet it is but fair to say that Jonson prided himself, and justly, on his originality. In "Catiline," he not only uses Sallust's account of the conspiracy, but he models some of the speeches of Cicero on the Roman orator's actual words. In "Poetaster," he lifts a whole satire out of Horace and dramatises it effectively for his purposes. The sophist Libanius suggests the situation of "The Silent Woman"; a Latin comedy of Giordano Bruno, "Il Candelaio," the relation of the dupes and the sharpers in "The Alchemist," the "Mostellaria" of Plautus, its admirable opening scene. But Jonson commonly bettered his sources, and putting the stamp of his sovereignty on whatever bullion he borrowed made it thenceforward to all time current and his own.
The lyric and especially the occasional poetry of Jonson has a peculiar merit. His theory demanded design and the perfection of literary finish. He was furthest from the rhapsodist and the careless singer of an idle day; and he believed that Apollo could only be worthily served in singing robes and laurel crowned. And yet many of Jonson's lyrics will live as long as the language. Who does not know "Queen and huntress, chaste and fair." "Drink to me only with thine eyes," or "Still to be neat, still to be dressed"? Beautiful in form, deft and graceful in expression, with not a word too much or one that bears not its part in the total effect, there is yet about the lyrics of Jonson a certain stiffness and formality, a suspicion that they were not quite spontaneous and unbidden, but that they were carved, so to speak, with disproportionate labour by a potent man of letters whose habitual thought is on greater things. It is for these reasons that Jonson is even better in the epigram and in occasional verse where rhetorical finish and pointed wit less interfere with the spontaneity and emotion which we usually associate with lyrical poetry. There are no such epitaphs as Ben Jonson's, witness the charming ones on his own children, on Salathiel Pavy, the child-actor, and many more; and this even though the rigid law of mine and thine must now restore to William Browne of Tavistock the famous lines beginning: "Underneath this sable hearse." Jonson is unsurpassed, too, in the difficult poetry of compliment, seldom falling into fulsome praise and disproportionate similitude, yet showing again and again a generous appreciation of worth in others, a discriminating taste and a generous personal regard. There was no man in England of his rank so well known and universally beloved as Ben Jonson. The list of his friends, of those to whom he had written verses, and those who had written verses to him, includes the name of every man of prominence in the England of King James. And the tone of many of these productions discloses an affectionate familiarity that speaks for the amiable personality and sound worth of the laureate. In 1619, growing unwieldy through inactivity, Jonson hit upon the heroic remedy of a journey afoot to Scotland. On his way thither and back he was hospitably received at the houses of many friends and by those to whom his friends had recommended him. When he arrived in Edinburgh, the burgesses met to grant him the freedom of the city, and Drummond, foremost of Scottish poets, was proud to entertain him for weeks as his guest at Hawthornden. Some of the noblest of Jonson's poems were inspired by friendship. Such is the fine "Ode to the memory of Sir Lucius Cary and Sir Henry Moryson," and that admirable piece of critical insight and filial affection, prefixed to the first Shakespeare folio, "To the memory of my beloved master, William Shakespeare, and what he hath left us," to mention only these. Nor can the earlier "Epode," beginning "Not to know vice at all," be matched in stately gravity and gnomic wisdom in its own wise and stately age.
But if Jonson had deserted the stage after the publication of his folio and up to the end of the reign of King James, he was far from inactive; for year after year his inexhaustible inventiveness continued to contribute to the masquing and entertainment at court. In "The Golden Age Restored," Pallas turns the Iron Age with its attendant evils into statues which sink out of sight; in "Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue," Atlas figures represented as an old man, his shoulders covered with snow, and Comus, "the god of cheer or the belly," is one of the characters, a circumstance which an imaginative boy of ten, named John Milton, was not to forget. "Pan's Anniversary," late in the reign of James, proclaimed that Jonson had not yet forgotten how to write exquisite lyrics, and "The Gipsies Metamorphosed" displayed the old drollery and broad humorous stroke still unimpaired and unmatchable. These, too, and the earlier years of Charles were the days of the Apollo Room of the Devil Tavern where Jonson presided, the absolute monarch of English literary Bohemia. We hear of a room blazoned about with Jonson's own judicious "Leges Convivales" in letters of gold, of a company made up of the choicest spirits of the time, devotedly attached to their veteran dictator, his reminiscences, opinions, affections, and enmities. And we hear, too, of valorous potations; but in the words of Herrick addressed to his master, Jonson, at the Devil Tavern, as at the Dog, the Triple Tun, and at the Mermaid,
"We such clusters had As made us nobly wild, not mad, And yet each verse of thine Outdid the meat, outdid the frolic wine."
But the patronage of the court failed in the days of King Charles, though Jonson was not without royal favours; and the old poet returned to the stage, producing, between 1625 and 1633, "The Staple of News," "The New Inn," "The Magnetic Lady," and "The Tale of a Tub," the last doubtless revised from a much earlier comedy. None of these plays met with any marked success, although the scathing generalisation of Dryden that designated them "Jonson's dotages" is unfair to their genuine merits. Thus the idea of an office for the gathering, proper dressing, and promulgation of news (wild flight of the fancy in its time) was an excellent subject for satire on the existing absurdities among newsmongers; although as much can hardly be said for "The Magnetic Lady," who, in her bounty, draws to her personages of differing humours to reconcile them in the end according to the alternative title, or "Humours Reconciled." These last plays of the old dramatist revert to caricature and the hard lines of allegory; the moralist is more than ever present, the satire degenerates into personal lampoon, especially of his sometime friend, Inigo Jones, who appears unworthily to have used his influence at court against the broken-down old poet. And now disease claimed Jonson, and he was bedridden for months. He had succeeded Middleton in 1628 as Chronologer to the City of London, but lost the post for not fulfilling its duties. King Charles befriended him, and even commissioned him to write still for the entertainment of the court; and he was not without the sustaining hand of noble patrons and devoted friends among the younger poets who were proud to be "sealed of the tribe of Ben."
Jonson died, August 6, 1637, and a second folio of his works, which he had been some time gathering, was printed in 1640, bearing in its various parts dates ranging from 1630 to 1642. It included all the plays mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs, excepting "The Case is Altered;" the masques, some fifteen, that date between 1617 and 1630; another collection of lyrics and occasional poetry called "Underwoods," including some further entertainments; a translation of "Horace's Art of Poetry" (also published in a vicesimo quarto in 1640), and certain fragments and ingatherings which the poet would hardly have included himself. These last comprise the fragment (less than seventy lines) of a tragedy called "Mortimer his Fall," and three acts of a pastoral drama of much beauty and poetic spirit, "The Sad Shepherd." There is also the exceedingly interesting "English Grammar" "made by Ben Jonson for the benefit of all strangers out of his observation of the English language now spoken and in use," in Latin and English; and "Timber, or Discoveries" "made upon men and matter as they have flowed out of his daily reading, or had their reflux to his peculiar notion of the times." The "Discoveries," as it is usually called, is a commonplace book such as many literary men have kept, in which their reading was chronicled, passages that took their fancy translated or transcribed, and their passing opinions noted. Many passages of Jonson's "Discoveries" are literal translations from the authors he chanced to be reading, with the reference, noted or not, as the accident of the moment prescribed. At times he follows the line of Macchiavelli's argument as to the nature and conduct of princes; at others he clarifies his own conception of poetry and poets by recourse to Aristotle. He finds a choice paragraph on eloquence in Seneca the elder and applies it to his own recollection of Bacon's power as an orator; and another on facile and ready genius, and translates it, adapting it to his recollection of his fellow-playwright, Shakespeare. To call such passages—which Jonson never intended for publication— plagiarism, is to obscure the significance of words. To disparage his memory by citing them is a preposterous use of scholarship. Jonson's prose, both in his dramas, in the descriptive comments of his masques, and in the "Discoveries," is characterised by clarity and vigorous directness, nor is it wanting in a fine sense of form or in the subtler graces of diction.
When Jonson died there was a project for a handsome monument to his memory. But the Civil War was at hand, and the project failed. A memorial, not insufficient, was carved on the stone covering his grave in one of the aisles of Westminster Abbey:
"O rare Ben Jonson."
FELIX E. SCHELLING.
THE COLLEGE, PHILADELPHIA, U.S.A.
The following is a complete list of his published works:—
DRAMAS: Every Man in his Humour, 4to, 1601; The Case is Altered, 4to, 1609; Every Man out of his Humour, 4to, 1600; Cynthia's Revels, 4to, 1601; Poetaster, 4to, 1602; Sejanus, 4to, 1605; Eastward Ho (with Chapman and Marston), 4to, 1605; Volpone, 4to, 1607; Epicoene, or the Silent Woman, 4to, 1609 (?), fol., 1616; The Alchemist, 4to, 1612; Catiline, his Conspiracy, 4to, 1611; Bartholomew Fayre, 4to, 1614 (?), fol., 1631; The Divell is an Asse, fol., 1631; The Staple of Newes, fol., 1631; The New Sun, 8vo, 1631, fol., 1692; The Magnetic Lady, or Humours Reconcild, fol., 1640; A Tale of a Tub, fol., 1640; The Sad Shepherd, or a Tale of Robin Hood, fol., 1641; Mortimer his Fall (fragment), fol., 1640.
To Jonson have also been attributed additions to Kyd's Jeronymo, and collaboration in The Widow with Fletcher and Middleton, and in the Bloody Brother with Fletcher.
POEMS: Epigrams, The Forrest, Underwoods, published in fols., 1616, 1640; Selections: Execration against Vulcan, and Epigrams, 1640; G. Hor. Flaccus his art of Poetry, Englished by Ben Jonson, 1640; Leges Convivialis, fol., 1692. Other minor poems first appeared in Gifford's edition of Works.
PROSE: Timber, or Discoveries made upon Men and Matter, fol., 1641; The English Grammar, made by Ben Jonson for the benefit of Strangers, fol., 1640.
Masques and Entertainments were published in the early folios.
WORKS: Fol., 1616, volume. 2, 1640 (1631-41); fol., 1692, 1716-19, 1729; edited by P. Whalley, 7 volumes., 1756; by Gifford (with Memoir), 9 volumes., 1816, 1846; re-edited by F. Cunningham, 3 volumes., 1871; in 9 volumes., 1875; by Barry Cornwall (with Memoir), 1838; by B. Nicholson (Mermaid Series), with Introduction by C. H. Herford, 1893, etc.; Nine Plays, 1904; ed. H. C. Hart (Standard Library), 1906, etc; Plays and Poems, with Introduction by H. Morley (Universal Library), 1885; Plays (7) and Poems (Newnes), 1905; Poems, with Memoir by H. Bennett (Carlton Classics), 1907; Masques and Entertainments, ed. by H. Morley, 1890.
SELECTIONS: J. A. Symonds, with Biographical and Critical Essay, (Canterbury Poets), 1886; Grosart, Brave Translunary Things, 1895; Arber, Jonson Anthology, 1901; Underwoods, Cambridge University Press, 1905; Lyrics (Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher), the Chap Books, No. 4, 1906; Songs (from Plays, Masques, etc.), with earliest known setting, Eragny Press, 1906.
LIFE: See Memoirs affixed to Works; J. A. Symonds (English Worthies), 1886; Notes of Ben Jonson Conversations with Drummond of Hawthornden; Shakespeare Society, 1842; ed. with Introduction and Notes by P. Sidney, 1906; Swinburne, A Study of Ben Jonson, 1889.
OR, THE FOUNTAIN OF SELF-LOVE
TO THE SPECIAL FOUNTAIN OF MANNERS
THOU art a bountiful and brave spring, and waterest all the noble plants of this island. In thee the whole kingdom dresseth itself, and is ambitious to use thee as her glass. Beware then thou render men's figures truly, and teach them no less to hate their deformities, than to love their forms: for, to grace, there should come reverence; and no man can call that lovely, which is not also venerable. It is not powdering, perfuming, and every day smelling of the tailor, that converteth to a beautiful object: but a mind shining through any suit, which needs no false light, either of riches or honours, to help it. Such shalt thou find some here, even in the reign of Cynthia,—a Crites and an Arete. Now, under thy Phoebus, it will be thy province to make more; except thou desirest to have thy source mix with the spring of self-love, and so wilt draw upon thee as welcome a discovery of thy days, as was then made of her nights.
Thy servant, but not slave,
CYNTHIA. ECHO. MERCURY. ARETE. HESPERUS. PHANTASTE. CRITES. ARGURION. AMORPHUS. PHILAUTIA. ASOTUS. MORIA. HEDON. COS. ANAIDES. GELAIA. MORPHIDES. PROSAITES. MORUS. CUPID.
MUTES.—PHRONESIS, THAUMA, TIME
AFTER THE SECOND SOUNDING.
ENTER THREE OF THE CHILDREN, STRUGGLING.
1 CHILD. Pray you away; why, fellows! Gods so, what do you mean?
2 CHILD. Marry, that you shall not speak the prologue sir.
3 CHILD. Why, do you hope to speak it?
2 CHILD. Ay, and I think I have most right to it: I am sure I studied it first.
3 CHILD. That's all one, if the author think I can speak it better.
1 CHILD. I plead possession of the cloak: gentles, your suffrages, I pray you.
[WITHIN.] Why children! are you not ashamed? come in there.
3 CHILD. Slid, I'll play nothing in the play: unless I speak it.
1 CHILD. Why, will you stand to most voices of the gentlemen? let that decide it.
3 CHILD. O, no, sir gallant; you presume to have the start of us there, and that makes you offer so prodigally.
1 CHILD. No, would I were whipped if I had any such thought; try it by lots either.
2 CHILD. Faith, I dare tempt my fortune in a greater venture than this.
3 CHILD. Well said, resolute Jack! I am content too; so we draw first. Make the cuts.
1 CHILD. But will you not snatch my cloak while I am stooping?
3 CHILD. No, we scorn treachery.
2 CHILD. Which cut shall speak it?
3 CHILD. The shortest.
1 CHILD. Agreed: draw. [THEY DRAW CUTS.] The shortest is come to the shortest. Fortune was not altogether blind in this. Now, sir, I hope I shall go forward without your envy.
2 CHILD. A spite of all mischievous luck! I was once plucking at the other.
3 CHILD. Stay Jack: 'slid I'll do somewhat now afore I go in, though it be nothing but to revenge myself on the author; since I speak not his prologue, I'll go tell all the argument of his play afore-hand, and so stale his invention to the auditory, before it come forth.
1 CHILD. O, do not so.
2 CHILD. By no means.
3 CHILD. [ADVANCING TO THE FRONT OF THE STAGE.] First, the title of his play is "Cynthia's Revels," as any man that hath hope to be saved by his book can witness; the scene, Gargaphie, which I do vehemently suspect for some fustian country; but let that vanish. Here is the court of Cynthia whither he brings Cupid travelling on foot, resolved to turn page. By the way Cupid meets with Mercury, (as that's a thing to be noted); take any of our play-books without a Cupid or a Mercury in it, and burn it for an heretic in poetry. —[IN THESE AND THE SUBSEQUENT SPEECHES, AT EVERY BREAK, THE OTHER TWO INTERRUPT, AND ENDEAVOUR TO STOP HIM.] Pray thee, let me alone. Mercury, he in the nature of a conjurer, raises up Echo, who weeps over her love, or daffodil, Narcissus, a little; sings; curses the spring wherein the pretty foolish gentleman melted himself away: and there's an end of her.—Now I am to inform you, that Cupid and Mercury do both become pages. Cupid attends on Philautia, or Self-love, a court lady: Mercury follows Hedon, the Voluptuous, and a courtier; one that ranks himself even with Anaides, or the Impudent, a gallant, and, that's my part; one that keeps Laughter, Gelaia, the daughter of Folly, a wench in boy's attire, to wait on him—These, in the court, meet with Amorphus, or the deformed, a traveller that hath drunk of the fountain, and there tells the wonders of the water. They presently dispatch away their pages with bottles to fetch of it, and themselves go to visit the ladies. But I should have told you—Look, these emmets put me out here—that with this Amorphus, there comes along a citizen's heir, Asotus, or the Prodigal, who, in imitation of the traveller, who hath the Whetstone following him, entertains the Beggar, to be his attendant.—Now, the nymphs who are mistresses to these gallants, are Philautia, Self-love; Phantaste, a light Wittiness; Argurion, Money; and their guardian, mother Moria; or mistress Folly.
1 CHILD. Pray thee, no more.
3 CHILD. There Cupid strikes Money in love with the Prodigal, makes her dote upon him, give him jewels, bracelets, carcanets, etc. All which he most ingeniously departs withal to be made known to the other ladies and gallants; and in the heat of this, increases his train with the Fool to follow him, as well as the Beggar—By this time, your Beggar begins to wait close, who is returned with the rest of his fellow bottlemen.—There they all drink, save Argurion, who is fallen into a sudden apoplexy—
1 CHILD. Stop his mouth.
3 CHILD. And then there's a retired scholar there, you would not wish a thing to be better contemn'd of a society of gallants, than it is; and he applies his service, good gentleman, to the Lady Arete, or Virtue, a poor nymph of Cynthia's train, that's scarce able to buy herself a gown; you shall see her play in a black robe anon: a creature, that, I assure you, is no less scorn'd than himself. Where am I now? at a stand!
2 CHILD. Come, leave at last, yet.
3 CHILD. O, the night is come ('twas somewhat dark, methought), and Cynthia intends to come forth; that helps it a little yet. All the courtiers must provide for revels; they conclude upon a masque, the device of which is—What, will you ravish me?—that each of these Vices, being to appear before Cynthia, would seem other than indeed they are; and therefore assume the most neighbouring Virtues as their masking habit—I'd cry a rape, but that you are children.
2 CHILD. Come, we'll have no more of this anticipation; to give them the inventory of their cates aforehand, were the discipline of a tavern, and not fitting this presence.
1 CHILD. Tut, this was but to shew us the happiness of his memory. I thought at first he would have plaid the ignorant critic with everything along as he had gone; I expected some such device.
3 CHILD. O, you shall see me do that rarely; lend me thy cloak.
1 CHILD. Soft sir, you'll speak my prologue in it.
3 CHILD. No, would I might never stir then.
2 CHILD. Lend it him, lend it him:
1 CHILD. Well, you have sworn. [GIVES HIM THE CLOAK.]
3 CHILD. I have. Now, sir; suppose I am one of your genteel auditors, that am come in, having paid my money at the door, with much ado, and here I take my place and sit down: I have my three sorts of tobacco in my pocket, my light by me, and thus I begin. [AT THE BREAKS HE TAKES HIS TOBACCO.] By this light, I wonder that any man is so mad, to come to see these rascally tits play here— They do act like so many wrens or pismires—not the fifth part of a good face amongst them all.—And then their music is abominable —able to stretch a man's ears worse then ten—pillories and their ditties—most lamentable things, like the pitiful fellows that make them—poets. By this vapour, an 'twere not for tobacco— I think—the very stench of 'em would poison me, I should not dare to come in at their gates—A man were better visit fifteen jails—or a dozen or two of hospitals—than once adventure to come near them. How is't? well?
1 CHILD. Excellent; give me my cloak.
3 CHILD. Stay; you shall see me do another now: but a more sober, or better-gather'd gallant; that is, as it may be thought, some friend, or well-wisher to the house: and here I enter.
1 CHILD. What? upon the stage too?
2 CHILD. Yes; and I step forth like one of the children, and ask you. Would you have a stool sir?
3 CHILD. A stool, boy!
2 CHILD. Ay, sir, if you'll give me sixpence, I'll fetch you one.
3 CHILD. For what, I pray thee? what shall I do with it?
2 CHILD. O lord, sir! will you betray your ignorance so much? why throne yourself in state on the stage, as other gentlemen use, sir.
3 CHILD. Away, wag; what would'st thou make an implement of me? 'Slid, the boy takes me for a piece of perspective, I hold my life, or some silk curtain, come to hang the stage here! Sir crack, I am none of your fresh pictures, that use to beautify the decayed dead arras in a public theatre.
2 CHILD. 'Tis a sign, sir, you put not that confidence in your good clothes, and your better face, that a gentleman should do, sir. But I pray you sir, let me be a suitor to you, that you will quit our stage then, and take a place; the play is instantly to begin.
3 CHILD. Most willingly, my good wag; but I would speak with your author: where is he?
2 CHILD. Not this way, I assure you sir; we are not so officiously befriended by him, as to have his presence in the tiring-house, to prompt us aloud, stamp at the book-holder, swear for our properties, curse the poor tireman, rail the music out of tune, and sweat for every venial trespass we commit, as some author would, if he had such fine enghles as we. Well, 'tis but our hard fortune!
3 CHILD. Nay, crack, be not disheartened.
2 CHILD. Not I sir; but if you please to confer with our author, by attorney, you may, sir; our proper self here, stands for him.
3 CHILD. Troth, I have no such serious affair to negotiate with him; but what may very safely be turn'd upon thy trust. It is in the general behalf of this fair society here that I am to speak; at least the more judicious part of it: which seems much distasted with the immodest and obscene writing of many in their plays. Besides, they could wish your poets would leave to be promoters of other men's jests, and to way-lay all the stale apothegms, or old books they can hear of, in print or otherwise, to farce their scenes withal. That they would not so penuriously glean wit from every laundress or hackney-man; or derive their best grace, with servile imitation, from common stages, or observation of the company they converse with; as if their invention lived wholly upon another man's trencher. Again, that feeding their friends with nothing of their own, but what they have twice or thrice cooked, they should not wantonly give out, how soon they had drest it; nor how many coaches came to carry away the broken meat, besides hobby-horses and foot-cloth nags.
2 CHILD. So, sir, this is all the reformation you seek?
3 CHILD. It is; do not you think it necessary to be practised, my little wag?
2 CHILD. Yes, where any such ill-habited custom is received.
3 CHILD. O (I had almost forgot it too), they say, the umbrae, or ghosts of some three or four plays departed a dozen years since, have been seen walking on your stage here; take heed boy, if your house be haunted with such hobgoblins, 'twill fright away all your spectators quickly.
2 CHILD. Good, sir; but what will you say now, if a poet, untouch'd with any breath of this disease, find the tokens upon you, that are of the auditory? As some one civet-wit among you, that knows no other learning, than the price of satin and velvets: nor other perfection than the wearing of a neat suit; and yet will censure as desperately as the most profess'd critic in the house, presuming his clothes should bear him out in it. Another, whom it hath pleased nature to furnish with more beard than brain, prunes his mustaccio; lisps, and, with some score of affected oaths, swears down all that sit about him; "That the old Hieronimo, as it was first acted, was the only best, and judiciously penn'd play of Europe". A third great-bellied juggler talks of twenty years since, and when Monsieur was here, and would enforce all wits to be of that fashion, because his doublet is still so. A fourth miscalls all by the name of fustian, that his grounded capacity cannot aspire to. A fifth only shakes his bottle head, and out of his corky brain squeezeth out a pitiful learned face, and is silent.
3 CHILD. By my faith, Jack, you have put me down: I would I knew how to get off with any indifferent grace! here take your cloak, and promise some satisfaction in your prologue, or, I'll be sworn we have marr'd all.
2 CHILD. Tut, fear not, child, this will never distaste a true sense: be not out, and good enough. I would thou hadst some sugar candied to sweeten thy mouth.
THE THIRD SOUNDING.
If gracious silence, sweet attention, Quick sight, and quicker apprehension, The lights of judgment's throne, shine any where, Our doubtful author hopes this is their sphere; And therefore opens he himself to those, To other weaker beams his labours close, As loth to prostitute their virgin-strain, To every vulgar and adulterate brain. In this alone, his Muse her sweetness hath, She shuns the print of any beaten path; And proves new ways to come to learned ears: Pied ignorance she neither loves, nor fears. Nor hunts she after popular applause, Or foamy praise, that drops from common jaws The garland that she wears, their hands must twine, Who can both censure, understand, define What merit is: then cast those piercing rays, Round as a crown, instead of honour'd bays, About his poesy; which, he knows, affords Words, above action; matter, above words.
SCENE I.—A GROVE AND FOUNTAIN.
ENTER CUPID, AND MERCURY WITH HIS CADUCEUS, ON DIFFERENT SIDES.
CUP. Who goes there?
MER. 'Tis I, blind archer.
CUP. Who, Mercury?
MER. Stay Cupid.
CUP. Not in your company, Hermes, except your hands were riveted at your back.
MER. Why so, my little rover?
CUP. Because I know you have not a finger, but is as long as my quiver, cousin Mercury, when you please to extend it.
MER. Whence derive you this speech, boy?
CUP. O! 'tis your best polity to be ignorant. You did never steal Mars his sword out of the sheath, you! nor Neptune's trident! nor Apollo's bow! no, not you! Alas, your palms, Jupiter knows, they are as tender as the foot of a foundered nag, or a lady's face new mercuried, they'll touch nothing.
MER. Go to, infant, you'll be daring still.
CUP. Daring! O Janus! what a word is there? why, my light feather-heel'd coz, what are you any more than my uncle Jove's pander? a lacquey that runs on errands for him, and can whisper a light message to a loose wench with some round volubility? wait mannerly at a table with a trencher, warble upon a crowd a little, and fill out nectar when Ganymede's away? one that sweeps the god's drinking-room every morning, and sets the cushions in order again, which they threw one at another's head over night; can brush the carpets, call the stools again to their places, play the crier of the court with an audible voice, and take state of a president upon you at wrestlings, pleadings, negociations, etc. Here's the catalogue of your employments, now! O, no, I err; you have the marshalling of all the ghosts too that pass the Stygian ferry, and I suspect you for a share with the old sculler there, if the truth were known; but let that scape. One other peculiar virtue you possess, in lifting, or leiger-du-main, which few of the house of heaven have else besides, I must confess. But, methinks, that should not make you put that extreme distance 'twixt yourself and others, that we should be said to "over-dare" in speaking to your nimble deity. So Hercules might challenge priority of us both, because he can throw the bar farther, or lift more join'd stools at the arm's end, than we. If this might carry it, then we, who have made the whole body of divinity tremble at the twang of our bow, and enforc'd Saturnius himself to lay by his curled front, thunder, and three-fork'd fires, and put on a masking suit, too light for a reveller of eighteen to be seen in—
MER. How now! my dancing braggart in decimo sexto! charm your skipping tongue, or I'll—
CUP. What! use the virtue of your snaky tip staff there upon us?
MER. No, boy, but the smart vigour of my palm about your ears. You have forgot since I took your heels up into air, on the very hour I was born, in sight of all the bench of deities, when the silver roof of the Olympian palace rung again with applause of the fact.
CUP. O no, I remember it freshly, and by a particular instance; for my mother Venus, at the same time, but stoop'd to embrace you, and, to speak by metaphor, you borrow'd a girdle of her's, as you did Jove's sceptre while he was laughing; and would have done his thunder too, but that 'twas too hot for your itching fingers.
MER. 'Tis well, sir.
CUP. I heard, you but look'd in at Vulcan's forge the other day, and entreated a pair of his new tongs along with you for company: 'tis joy on you, i' faith, that you will keep your hook'd talons in practice with any thing. 'Slight, now you are on earth, we shall have you filch spoons and candlesticks rather than fail: pray Jove the perfum'd courtiers keep their casting-bottles, pick-tooths, and shittle-cocks from you, or our more ordinary gallants their tobacco-boxes; for I am strangely jealous of your nails.
MER. Never trust me, Cupid, but you are turn'd a most acute gallant of late! the edge of my wit is clean taken off with the fine and subtile stroke of your thin-ground tongue; you fight with too poignant a phrase, for me to deal with.
CUP. O Hermes, your craft cannot make me confident. I know my own steel to be almost spent, and therefore entreat my peace with you, in time: you are too cunning for me to encounter at length, and I think it my safest ward to close.
MER. Well, for once, I'll suffer you to win upon me, wag; but use not these strains too often, they'll stretch my patience. Whither might you march, now?
CUP. Faith, to recover thy good thoughts, I'll discover my whole project. The huntress and queen of these groves, Diana, in regard of some black and envious slanders hourly breathed against her, for her divine justice on Acteon, as she pretends, hath here in the vale of Gargaphie, proclaim'd a solemn revels, which (her godhead put off) she will descend to grace, with the full and royal expense of one of her clearest moons: in which time it shall be lawful for all sorts of ingenious persons to visit her palace, to court her nymphs, to exercise all variety of generous and noble pastimes; as well to intimate how far she treads such malicious imputations beneath her, as also to shew how clear her beauties are from the least wrinkle of austerity they may be charged with.
MER. But, what is all this to Cupid?
CUP. Here do I mean to put off the title of a god, and take the habit of a page, in which disguise, during the interim of these revels, I will get to follow some one of Diana's maids, where, if my bow hold, and my shafts fly but with half the willingness and aim they are directed, I doubt not but I shall really redeem the minutes I have lost, by their so long and over nice proscription of my deity from their court.
MER. Pursue it, divine Cupid, it will be rare.
CUP. But will Hermes second me?
MER. I am now to put in act an especial designment from my father Jove; but, that perform'd, I am for any fresh action that offers itself.
CUP. Well, then we part. [EXIT.]
MER. Farewell good wag. Now to my charge.—Echo, fair Echo speak, 'Tis Mercury that calls thee; sorrowful nymph, Salute me with thy repercussive voice, That I may know what cavern of the earth, Contains thy airy spirit, how, or where I may direct my speech, that thou may'st hear.
ECHO. [BELOW] Here.
MER. So nigh!
MER. Know, gentle soul, then, I am sent from Jove, Who, pitying the sad burthen of thy woes, Still growing on thee, in thy want of words To vent thy passion for Narcissus' death, Commands, that now, after three thousand years, Which have been exercised in Juno's spite, Thou take a corporal figure and ascend, Enrich'd with vocal and articulate power. Make haste, sad nymph, thrice shall my winged rod Strike the obsequious earth, to give thee way. Arise, and speak thy sorrows, Echo, rise, Here, by this fountain, where thy love did pine, Whose memory lives fresh to vulgar fame, Shrined in this yellow flower, that bears his name.
ECHO. [ASCENDS.] His name revives, and lifts me up from earth, O, which way shall I first convert myself, Or in what mood shall I essay to speak, That, in a moment, I may be deliver'd Of the prodigious grief I go withal? See, see, the mourning fount, whose springs weep yet Th' untimely fate of that too beauteous boy, That trophy of self-love, and spoil of nature, Who, now transform'd into this drooping flower, Hangs the repentant head, back from the stream, As if it wish'd, "Would I had never look'd In such a flattering mirror!" O Narcissus, Thou that wast once, and yet art, my Narcissus, Had Echo but been private with thy thoughts, She would have dropt away herself in tears, Till she had all turn'd water; that in her, As in a truer glass, thou might'st have gazed And seen thy beauties by more kind reflection, But self-love never yet could look on truth But with blear'd beams; slick flattery and she Are twin-born sisters, and so mix their eyes, As if you sever one, the other dies. Why did the gods give thee a heavenly form, And earthly thoughts to make thee proud of it? Why do I ask? 'Tis now the known disease That beauty hath, to bear too deep a sense Of her own self-conceived excellence. O, hadst thou known the worth of heaven's rich gift, Thou wouldst have turn'd it to a truer use, And not with starv'd and covetous ignorance, Pined in continual eyeing that bright gem, The glance whereof to others had been more, Than to thy famish'd mind the wide world's store: So wretched is it to be merely rich! Witness thy youth's dear sweets here spent untasted, Like a fair taper, with his own flame wasted.
MER. Echo be brief, Saturnia is abroad, And if she hear, she'll storm at Jove's high will.
CUP. I will, kind Mercury, be brief as time. Vouchsafe me, I may do him these last rites, But kiss his flower, and sing some mourning strain Over his wat'ry hearse.
MER. Thou dost obtain; I were no son to Jove, should I deny thee, Begin, and more to grace thy cunning voice, The humorous air shall mix her solemn tunes With thy sad words: strike, music from the spheres, And with your golden raptures swell our ears.
Slow, slow, fresh fount, keep time with my salt tears: Yet, slower, yet; O faintly, gentle springs: List to the heavy part the music bears, Woe weeps out her division, when she sings. Droop herbs and flowers, Fall grief and showers; Our beauties are not ours; O, I could still, Like melting snow upon some craggy hill, Drop, drop, drop, drop, Since nature's pride is now a wither'd daffodil.—
MER. Now have you done?
ECHO. Done presently, good Hermes: bide a little; Suffer my thirsty eye to gaze awhile, But e'en to taste the place, and I am vanish'd.
MER. Forego thy use and liberty of tongue, And thou mayst dwell on earth, and sport thee there.
ECHO. Here young Acteon fell, pursued, and torn By Cynthia's wrath, more eager than his hounds; And here—ah me, the place is fatal!—see The weeping Niobe, translated hither From Phrygian mountains; and by Phoebe rear'd, As the proud trophy of her sharp revenge.
MER. Nay but hear—
ECHO. But here, O here, the fountain of self-love, In which Latona, and her careless nymphs, Regardless of my sorrows, bathe themselves In hourly pleasures.
MER. Stint thy babbling tongue! Fond Echo, thou profan'st the grace is done thee. So idle worldlings merely made of voice, Censure the powers above them. Come away, Jove calls thee hence; and his will brooks no stay.
ECHO. O, stay: I have but one poor thought to clothe In airy garments, and then, faith, I go. Henceforth, thou treacherous and murdering spring, Be ever call'd the FOUNTAIN OF SELF-LOVE: And with thy water let this curse remain, As an inseparate plague, that who but taste A drop thereof, may, with the instant touch, Grow dotingly enamour'd on themselves. Now, Hermes, I have finish'd.
MER. Then thy speech Must here forsake thee, Echo, and thy voice, As it was wont, rebound but the last words. Farewell.
ECHO. [RETIRING.] Well.
MER. Now, Cupid, I am for you, and your mirth, To make me light before I leave the earth.
ENTER AMORPHUS, HASTILY.
AMO. Dear spark of beauty, make not so fast away:
MER. Stay, let me observe this portent yet.
AMO. I am neither your Minotaur, nor your Centaur, nor your satyr, nor your hyaena, nor your babion, but your mere traveller, believe me.
ECHO. Leave me.
MER. I guess'd it should be some travelling motion pursued Echo so.
AMO. Know you from whom you fly? or whence?
ECHO. Hence. [EXIT.]
AMO. This is somewhat above strange: A nymph of her feature and lineament, to be so preposterously rude! well, I will but cool myself at yon spring, and follow her.
MER. Nay, then, I am familiar with the issue: I will leave you too. [EXIT.]
AMOR. I am a rhinoceros, if I had thought a creature of her symmetry would have dared so improportionable and abrupt a digression.—Liberal and divine fount, suffer my profane hand to take of thy bounties. [TAKES UP SOME OF THE WATER.] By the purity of my taste, here is most ambrosiac water; I will sup of it again. By thy favour, sweet fount. See, the water, a more running, subtile, and humorous nymph than she permits me to touch, and handle her. What should I infer? if my behaviours had been of a cheap or customary garb; my accent or phrase vulgar; my garments trite; my countenance illiterate, or unpractised in the encounter of a beautiful and brave attired piece; then I might, with some change of colour, have suspected my faculties: But, knowing myself an essence so sublimated and refined by travel; of so studied and well exercised a gesture; so alone in fashion, able to render the face of any statesman living; and to speak the mere extraction of language, one that hath now made the sixth return upon venture; and was your first that ever enrich'd his country with the true laws of the duello; whose optics have drunk the spirit of beauty in some eight score and eighteen prince's courts, where I have resided, and been there fortunate in the amours of three hundred and forty and five ladies, all nobly, if not princely descended; whose names I have in catalogue: To conclude, in all so happy, as even admiration herself doth seem to fasten her kisses upon me:—certes, I do neither see, nor feel, nor taste, nor savour the least steam or fume of a reason, that should invite this foolish, fastidious nymph, so peevishly to abandon me. Well, let the memory of her fleet into air; my thoughts and I am for this other element, water.
ENTER CRITES AND ASOTUS.
CRI. What, the well dieted Amorphus become a water-drinker! I see he means not to write verses then.
ASO. No, Crites! why?
CRI. Because— Nulla placere diu, nec vivere carmina possunt, Quae scribuntur aquae potoribus.
AMO. What say you to your Helicon?
CRI. O, the Muses' well! that's ever excepted.
AMO. Sir, your Muses have no such water, I assure you; your nectar, or the juice of your nepenthe, is nothing to it; 'tis above your metheglin, believe it.
ASO. Metheglin; what's that, sir? may I be so audacious to demand?
AMO. A kind of Greek wine I have met with, sir, in my travels; it is the same that Demosthenes usually drunk, in the composure of all his exquisite and mellifluous orations.
CRI. That's to be argued, Amorphus, if we may credit Lucian, who, in his "Encomio Demosthenis," affirms, he never drunk but water in any of his compositions.
AMO. Lucian is absurd, he knew nothing: I will believe mine own travels before all the Lucians of Europe. He doth feed you with fittons, figments, and leasings.
CRI. Indeed, I think, next a traveller, he does prettily well.
AMO. I assure you it was wine, I have tasted it, and from the hand of an Italian antiquary, who derives it authentically from the duke of Ferrara's bottles. How name you the gentleman you are in rank there with, sir?
CRI. 'Tis Asotus, son to the late deceased Philargyrus, the citizen.
AMO. Was his father of any eminent place or means?
CRI. He was to have been praetor next year.
AMO. Ha! a pretty formal young gallant, in good sooth; pity he is not more genteelly propagated. Hark you, Crites, you may say to him what I am, if you please; though I affect not popularity, yet I would loth to stand out to any, whom you shall vouchsafe to call friend.
CRI. Sir, I fear I may do wrong to your sufficiencies in the reporting them, by forgetting or misplacing some one: yourself can best inform him of yourself sir; except you had some catalogue or list of your faculties ready drawn, which you would request me to show him for you, and him to take notice of.
AMO. This Crites is sour: [ASIDE.]—I will think, sir.
CRI. Do so, sir.—O heaven! that anything in the likeness of man should suffer these rack'd extremities, for the uttering of his sophisticate good parts. [ASIDE.]
ASO. Crites, I have a suit to you; but you must not deny me; pray you make this gentleman and I friends.
CRI. Friends! why, is there any difference between you?
ASO. No; I mean acquaintance, to know one another.
CRI. O, now I apprehend you; your phrase was without me before.
ASO. In good faith, he's a most excellent rare man, I warrant him.
CRI. 'Slight, they are mutually enamour'd by this time. [ASIDE.]
ASO. Will you, sweet Crites?
CRI. Yes, yes.
ASO. Nay, but when? you'll defer it now, and forget it.
CRI. Why, is it a thing of such present necessity, that it requires so violent a dispatch!
ASO. No, but would I might never stir, he's a most ravishing man! Good Crites, you shall endear me to you, in good faith; la!
CRI. Well, your longing shall be satisfied, sir.
ASO. And withal, you may tell him what my father was, and how well he left me, and that I am his heir.
CRI. Leave it to me, I'll forget none of your dear graces, I warrant you.
ASO. Nay, I know you can better marshal these affairs than I can —O gods! I'd give all the world, if I had it, for abundance of such acquaintance.
CRI. What ridiculous circumstance might I devise now, to bestow this reciprocal brace of butterflies one upon another? [ASIDE.]
AMO. Since I trod on this side the Alps, I was not so frozen in my invention. Let me see: to accost him with some choice remnant of Spanish, or Italian! that would indifferently express my languages now: marry, then, if he shall fall out to be ignorant, it were both hard, and harsh. How else? step into some ragioni del stato, and so make my induction! that were above him too; and out of his element I fear. Feign to have seen him in Venice or Padua! or some face near his in similitude! 'tis too pointed and open. No, it must be a more quaint and collateral device, as—stay: to frame some encomiastic speech upon this our metropolis, or the wise magistrates thereof, in which politic number, 'tis odds but his father fill'd up a room? descend into a particular admiration of their justice, for the due measuring of coals, burning of cans, and such like? as also their religion, in pulling down a superstitious cross, and advancing a Venus; or Priapus, in place of it? ha! 'twill do well. Or to talk of some hospital, whose walls record his father a benefactor? or of so many buckets bestow'd on his parish church in his lifetime, with his name at length, for want of arms, trickt upon them? any of these. Or to praise the cleanness of the street wherein he dwelt? or the provident painting of his posts, against he should have been praetor? or, leaving his parent, come to some special ornament about himself, as his rapier, or some other of his accountrements? I have it: thanks, gracious Minerva!
ASO. Would I had but once spoke to him, and then—He comes to me!
AMO. 'Tis a most curious and neatly wrought band this same, as I have seen, sir.
ASO. O lord, sir.
AMO. You forgive the humour of mine eye, in observing it.
CRI. His eye waters after it, it seems. [ASIDE.]
ASO. O lord, sir! there needs no such apology I assure you.
CRI. I am anticipated; they'll make a solemn deed of gift of themselves, you shall see. [ASIDE.]
AMO. Your riband too does most gracefully in troth.
ASO. 'Tis the most genteel and received wear now, sir.
AMO. Believe me, sir, I speak it not to humour you—I have not seen a young gentleman, generally, put on his clothes with more judgment.