EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOR
(The Anglicized Edition)
By Ben Jonson
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 imprudent 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."*
*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'scompany 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 moral 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 Humou r" 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 similtude, 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 matchedin 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 from 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 the 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 passage 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:—
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.
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.
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.
Fol., 1616, vol. 2, 1640 (1631-41); fol., 1692, 1716-19, 1729; edited by P. Whalley, 7 vols., 1756; by Gifford (with Memoir), 9 vols., 1816, 1846; re-edited by F. Cunningham, 3 vols., 1871; in 9 vols., 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.
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.
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.
EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOUR
TO THE MOST LEARNED, AND MY HONOURED FRIEND
SIR,—There are, no doubt, a supercilious race in the world, who will esteem all office, done you in this kind, an injury; so solemn a vice it is with them to use the authority of their ignorance, to the crying down of Poetry, or the professors: but my gratitude must not leave to correct their error; since I am none of those that can suffer the benefits conferred upon my youth to perish with my age. It is a frail memory that remember s but present things: and, had the favour of the times so conspired with my disposition, as it could have brought forth other, or better, you had had the same proportion, and number of the fruits, the first. Now I pray you to accept this; such wherein neither the confession of my manners shall make you blush; nor of my studies, repent you to have been the instructor: and for the profession of my thankfulness, I am sure it will, with good men, find either praise or excuse. Your true lover,
DRAMATIS PERSONAE KNOWELL, an old Gentleman: OLIVER COB, a Water-bearer. EDWARD KNOWELL, his Son. JUSTICE CLEMENT, an old merry BRAINWORM, the Father's Man Magistrate. GEORGE DOWNRIGHT, a plain Squire. ROGER FORMAL, his Clerk. WELLBRED, his Half-Brother. Wellbred's Servant KITELY, a merchant. DAME KITELY, KITELY'S Wife. CAPTAIN BOBADILL, a Paul's Man. MRS. BRIDGET his Sister. MASTER STEPHEN, a Country Gull. TIB Cob's Wife MASTER MATHEW, the Town Gull. THOMAS CASH, KITELY'S Cashier. Servants, etc.
Though need make many poets, and some such As art and nature have not better'd much; Yet ours for want hath not so loved the stage, As he dare serve the ill customs of the age, Or purchase your delight at such a rate, As, for it, he himself must justly hate: To make a child now swaddled, to proceed Man, and then shoot up, in one beard and weed, Past threescore years; or, with three rusty swords, And help of some few foot and half-foot words, Fight over York and Lancaster's king jars, And in the tyring-house bring wounds to scars. He rather prays you will be pleas'd to see One such to-day, as other plays should be; Where neither chorus wafts you o'er the seas, Nor creaking throne comes down the boys to please; Nor nimble squib is seen to make afeard The gentlewomen; nor roll'd bullet heard To say, it thunders; nor tempestuous drum Rumbles, to tell you when the storm doth come; But deeds, and language, such as men do use, And persons, such as comedy would choose, When she would shew an image of the times, And sport with human follies, not with crimes. Except we make them such, by loving still Our popular errors, when we know they're ill. I mean such errors as you'll all confess, By laughing at them, they deserve no less: Which when you heartily do, there's hope left then, You, that have so grac'd monsters, may like men.
SCENE I.—-A Street.
Enter KNOWELL, at the door of his house.
Know. A goodly day toward, and a fresh morning.—Brainworm! Enter Brainworm. Call up your young master: bid him rise, sir. Tell him, I have some business to employ him.
Brai. I will, sir, presently.
Know. But hear you, sirrah, If he be at his book, disturb him not.
Brai. Very good, sir.
Know. How happy yet should I esteem myself, Could I, by any practice, wean the boy From one vain course of study he affects. He is a scholar, if a man may trust The liberal voice of fame in her report, Of good account in both our Universities, Either of which hath favoured him with graces: But their indulgence must not spring in me A fond opinion that he cannot err. Myself was once a student, and indeed, Fed with the self-same humour he is now, Dreaming on nought but idle poetry, That fruitless and unprofitable art, Good unto none, but least to the professors; Which then I thought the mistress of all knowledge: But since, time and the truth have waked my judgment. And reason taught me better to distinguish T he vain from the useful learnings. Enter Master STEPHEN. Cousin Stephen, What news with you, that you are here so early?
Step. Nothing, but e'en come to see how you do, unclo.
Know. That's kindly done; you are welcome, coz.
Step. Ay, I know that, sir; I would not have come else. How does my cousin Edward, uncle?
Know. O, well, coz; go in and see; I doubt he be scarce stirring yet.
Step. Uncle, afore I go in, can you tell me, an he have e'er a book of the science of hawking and hunting; I would fain borrow it.
Know. Why, I hope you will not a hawking now, will you?
Step. No, wusse; but I'll practise against next year, uncle. I have bought me a hawk, and a hood, and bells and all; I lack nothing but a book to keep it by.
Know. Oh, most ridiculous!
Step. Nay, look you now, you are angry, uncle:—Why, you know an a man have not skill in the hawking and hunting languages now-a-days, I'll not give a rush for him: they are more studied than the Greek, or the Latin. He is for no gallant's company without them; and by gadslid I scorn it, I, so I do, to be a consort for every humdrum: hang them, scroyles! there's nothing in them i' the world. What do you talk on it? Because I dwell at Hogsden, I shall keep company with none but the archers of Finsbury, or the citizens that come a ducking to Islington ponds! A fine jest, i' faith! 'Slid, a gentleman mun shew himself like a gentleman. Uncle, I pray you be not angry; I know what I have to do, I trow. I am no novice.
Know. You are a prodigal, absurd coxcomb, go to! Nay, never look at me, 'tis I that speak; Take't as you will, sir, I'll not flatter you. Have you not yet found means enow to waste That which your friends have left you, but you must Go cast away your money on a buzzard, And know not how to keep it, when you have done? O, it is comely! this will make you a gentleman! Well, cousin, well, I see you are e'en past hope Of all reclaim:—-ay, so; now you are told on't, You look another way.
Step. What would you ha' me do?
Know. What would I have you do? I'll tell you, kinsman; Learn to be wise, and practise how to thrive; That would I have you do: and not to spend Your coin on every bauble that you fancy, Or every foolish brain that humours you. I would not have you to invade each place, Nor thrust yourself on all societies, Till men's affections, or your own desert, Should worthily invite you to your rank. He that is so respectless in his courses, Oft sells his reputation at cheap market. Nor would I, you should melt away yourself In flashing bravery, lest, while you affect To make a blaze of gentry to the world, A little puff of scorn extinguish it; And you be left like an unsavoury snuff, Whose property is only to offend. I'd have you sober, and contain yourself, Not that your sail be bigger than your boat; But moderate your expenses now, at first, As you may keep the same proportion still: Nor stand so much on your gentility, Which is an airy and mere borrow'd thing, From dead men's dust and bones; and none of yours, Except you make, or hold it. Enter a Servant. Who comes here?
Serv. Save you, gentlemen!
Step. Nay, we do not stand much on our gentility, friend; yet you are welcome: and I assure you mine uncle here is a man of a thousand a year, Middlesex land. He has but one son in all the world, I am his next heir, at the common law, master Stephen, as simple as I stand here, if my cousin die, as there's hope he will: I have a pretty living O' mine own too, beside, hard by here.
Serv. In good time, sir.
Step. In good time, sir! why, and in very good time, sir! You do not flout, friend, do you?
Servo Not I, sir.
Step. Not you, sir! you were best not, sir; an you should; here be them can perceive it, and that quickly too; go to: and they can give it again soundly too, an need be.
Servo Why, sir, let this satisfy you; good faith, I had no such intent.
Step. Sir, an I thought you had, I would talk with you, and that presently.
Serv. Good master Stephen, so you may, sir, at your pleasure.
Step. And so I would, sir, good my saucy companion! an you were out O' mine uncle's ground, I can tell you; though I do not stand upon my gentility neither, in't.
Know. Cousin, cousin, will this ne'er be left?
Step. Whoreson, basefellow! a mechanical serving-man! By this cudgel, an 'twere not for shame, I would—
Know. What would you do, you peremptory gull? If you cannot be quiet, get you hence. You see the honest man demeans himself Modestly tow'rds you, giving no reply To your unseason'd, quarrelling, rude fashion; And still you huff it, with a kind of carriage As void of wit, as of humanity. Go, get you in; 'fore heaven, I am ashamed Thou hast a kinsman's interest in me. [Exit Master Stephen.
Serv. I pray, sir, is this master Knowell's house?
Know. Yes, marry is it, sir.
Serv. I should inquire for a gentleman here, one master Edward Knowell; do you know any such, sir, I pray you?
Know. I should forget myself else, sir.
Serv. Are you the gentleman? cry you mercy, sir: I was required by a gentleman in the city, as I rode out at this end O' the town, to deliver you this letter, sir.
Know. To me, sir! What do you mean? pray you remember your court'sy. [Reads.] To his most selected friend, master Edward Knowell. What might the gentleman's name be, sir, that sent it? Nay, pray you be covered.
Serv. One master Wellbred, sir.
Know. Master Wellbred! a young gentleman, is he not?
Serv. The same, sir; master Kitely married his sister; the rich merchant in the Old Jewry.
Know. You say very true.—-Brainworm! [Enter Brainworm.
Know. Make this honest friend drink here: pray you, go in. [Exeunt Brainworm and Servant. This letter is directed to my son; Yet I am Edward Knowell too, and may, With the safe conscience of good manners, use The fellow's error to my satisfaction. Well, I will break it ope (old men are curious), Be it but for the style's sake and the phrase; To see if both do answer my son's praises, Who is almost grown the idolater Of this young Wellbred. What have we here? What's this? [Reads]
Why, Ned, I beseech thee, hast thou forsworn all thy friends in the Old Jewry? or dost thou think us all Jews that inhabit there? yet, if thou dost, come over, and but see our frippery; change an old shirt for a whole smock with us: do not conceive that antipathy between us and Hogsden, as was between Jews and hogs-flesh. Leave thy vigilant father alone, to number over his green apricots, evening and morning, on the north-west wall: an I had been his son, I had saved him the labour long since, if taking in all the young wenches that pass by at the back-door, and codling every kernel of the fruit for them, would have served, But, pr'ythee, come over to me quickly this morning; I have such a present for thee!—our Turkey company never sent the like to the Grand Signior. One is a rhymer, sir, of your own batch, your own leaven; but doth think himself poet-major of the town, willing to be shewn, and worthy to be seen. The other—I will not venture his description with you, till you come, because I would have you make hither with an appetite. If the worst of 'em be not worth your journey draw your bill of charges, as unconscionable as any Guildhall verdict will give it you, and you shall be allowed your viaticum. From the Windmill.
From the Bordello it might come as well, The Spittle, or Pict-hatch. Is this the man My son hath sung so, for the happiest wit, The choicest brain, the times have sent us forth! I know not what he may be in the arts, Nor what in schools; but, surely, for his manners, I judge him a profane and dissolute wretch; Worse by possession of such great good gifts, Being the master of so loose a spirit. Why, what unhallowed ruffian would have writ In such a scurrilous manner to a friend! Why should he think I tell my apricots, Or play the Hesperian dragon with my fruit, To watch it? Well, my son, I had thought you Had had more judgment to have made election Of your companions, than t' have ta'en on trust Such petulant, jeering gamesters, that can spare No argument or subject from their jest. But I perceive affection makes a fool Of any man too much the father.—-Brainworm! Enter BRAINWORM. Brai. Sir.
Know. Is the fellow gone that brought this letter?
Brai. Yea, sir, a pretty while since.
Know. And where is your young master?
Brai. In his chamber, sir.
Know. He spake not with the fellow, did he?
Brai. No, sir, he saw him not.
Know. Take you this letter, and deliver it my son; but with no notice that I have opened it, on your life.
Brai. O Lord, sir! that were a jest indeed. [Exit.
Know. I am resolved I will not stop his journey, Nor practise any violent means to stay The unbridled course of youth in him; for that Restrain'd, grows more impatient; and in kind Like to the eager, but the generous greyhound, Who ne'er so little from his game withheld, Turns head, and leaps up at his holder's throat. There is a way of winning more by love, And urging of tho modesty, than fear: Force works on servile natures, not the free. He that's compell'd to goodness may be good, But 'tis but for that fit; where others, drawn By softness and example, get a habit. Then, if they stray, but warn them, and the same They should for virtue have done, they'll do for shame. [Exit.
SCENE II.-A Room in KNOWELL.'S House. Enter E. KNOWELL, with a letter in his hand, followed by BRAINWORM.
E. Know. Did he open it, say'st thou?
Brai. Yes, O' my word, sir, and read the contents.
E. Know. That scarce contents me. What countenance, prithee, made he in the reading of it? was he angry, or pleased?
Brai. Nay, sir, I saw him not read it, nor open it, I assure your worship.
E. Know. No! how know'st thou then that he did either?
Brai. Marry, sir, because he charged me, on my life, to tell nobody that he open'd it; which, unless he had done, he would never fear to have it revealed.
E. Know. That's true: well, I thank thee, Brainworm. Enter STEPHEN.
Step. O, Brainworm, didst thou not see a fellow here in what-sha-call-him doublet? he brought mine uncle a letter e'en now.
Brai. Yes, master Stephen; what of him?
Step. O, I have such a mind to beat him—where is he, canst thou tell?
Brai. Faith, he is not of that mind: he is gone, master Stephen.
Step. Gone! which way? when went he? how long since?
Brai. He is rid hence; he took horse at the street-door.
Step. And I staid in the fields! Whoreson scanderbag rogue! O that I had but a horse to fetch him back again!
Brai. Why, you may have my master's gelding, to save your longing, sir.
Step. But I have no boots, that's the spite on't.
Brai. Why, a fine wisp of hay, roll'd hard, master Stephen.
Step. No, faith, it's no boot to follow him now: let him e'en go and hang. Prithee, help to truss me a little: he does so vex me—
Brai. You'll be worse vexed when you are trussed, master Stephen. Best keep unbraced, and walk yourself till you be cold; your choler may founder you else.
Step. By my faith, and so I will, now thou tell'st me on't: how dost thou like my leg, Brainworm?
Brai. A very good leg, master Stephen; but the woollen stocking does not commend it so well.
Step. Foh! the stockings be good enough, now summer is coming on, for the dust: I'll have a pair of silk against winter, that I go to dwell in the town. I think my leg would shew in a silk hose—
Brai. Believe me, master Stephen, rarely well.
Step. In sadness, I think it would: I have a reasonable good leg.
Brai. You have an excellent good leg, master Stephen; but I can not stay to praise it longer now, and I am very sorry for it. [Exit. Step. Another time will serve, Brainworm. Gramercy for this.
E. Know. Ha, ha, ha.
Step. 'Slid, I hope he laughs not at me; an he do—
E. Know. Here was a letter indeed, to be intercepted by a man's father, and do him good with him! He cannot but think most virtuously, both of me, and the sender, sure, that make the careful costermonger of him in our familiar epistles. Well, if he read this with patience I'll be gelt, and troll ballads for master John Trundle yonder, the rest of my mortality. It is true, and likely, my father may have as much patience as another man, for he takes much physic; and oft taking physic makes a man very patient. But would your packet, master Wellbred, had arrived at him in such a minute of his patience! then we had known the end of it, which now is doubtful, and threatens—[Sees Master Stephen.] What, my wise cousin! nay, then I'll furnish our feast with one gull more toward the mess. He writes to me of a brace, and here's one, that's three: oh, for a fourth, Fortune, if ever thou' It use thine eyes, I entreat thee—
Step. Oh, now I see who he laughed at: he laughed at somebody in that letter. By this good light, an he had laughed at me—
E. Know. How now, cousin Stephen, melancholy?
Step. Yes, a little: I thought you had laughed at me, cousin.
E. Know. Why, what an I had, coz? what would you have done?
Step. By this light, I would have told mine uncle.
E. Know. Nay, if you would have told your uncle, I did laugh at you, coz.
Step. Did you, indeed?
E. Know. Yes, indeed.
Step. Why then
E. Know. What then?
Step. I am satisfied; it is sufficient.
E. Know. Why, be so, gentle coz: and, I pray you, let me entreat a courtesy of you. I am sent for this morning by a friend in the Old Jewry, to come to him; it is but crossing over the fields to Moorgate: Will you bear me company? I protest it is not to draw you into bond or any plot against the state, coz.
Step. Sir, that's all one an it were; you shall command me twice so far as Moorgate, to do you good in such a matter. Do you think I would leave you? I protest—
E. Know. No, no, you shall not protest, coz.
Step. By my fackings, but I will, by your leave:—I'll protest more to my friend, than I'll speak of at this time.
E. Know. You speak very well, coz.
Step. Nay, not so neither, you shall pardon me: but I speak to serve my turn.
E. Know. Your turn, coz! do you know what you say? A gentleman of your sorts, parts, carriage, and estimation, to talk of your turn in this company, and to me alone, like a tankard-bearer at a conduit! fie! A wight that, hitherto, his every step hath left the stamp of a great foot behind him, as every word the savour of a strong spirit, and he! this man! so graced, gilded, or, to use a more fit metaphor, so tenfold by nature, as not ten housewives' pewter, again a good time, shews more bright to the world than he! and he! (as I said last, so I say again, and still shall say it) this man! to conceal such real ornaments as these, and shadow their glory, as a milliner's wife does her wrought stomacher, with a smoaky lawn, or a black cyprus! O, coz! it cannot be answered; go not about it: Drake's old ship at Deptford may sooner circle the world again. Come, wrong not the quality of your desert, with looking downward, coz; but hold up your head, so: and let the idea of what you are be portrayed in your face, that men may read in your physnomy, here within this place is to be seen the true, rare, and accomplished monster, or miracle of nature, which is all one. What think you of this, coz?
Step. Why, I do think of it: and I will be more proud, and melancholy, and gentlemanlike, than I have been, I'll insure you.
E. Know. Why, that's resolute, master Stephen!—Now, if I can but hold him up to his height, as it is happily begun, it will do well for a suburb humour: we may hap have a match with the city, and play him for forty pound.—Come, coz.
Step. I'll follow you.
E. Know. Follow me! you must go before.
Step. Nay, an I must, I will. Pray you shew me, good cousin. [Exeunt.
SCENE III.-The Lane before Cob's House. Enter Master MATHEW:
Mat. I think this be the house: what ho! Enter COB. Cob. Who's there? O, master Mathew! give your worship good morrow.
Mat. What, Cob! how dost thou, good Cob? dost thou inhabit here, Cob?
Cob. Ay, sir, I and my lineage have kept a poor house here, in Our days.
Mat. Thy lineage, monsieur Cob! what lineage, what lineage?
Cob. Why, sir, an ancient lineage, and a princely. Mine ance'try came from a king's belly, no worse man; and yet no man either, by your worship's leave, I did lie in that, but herring, the king of fish (from his belly I proceed), one of the monarchs of the world, I assure you. The first red herring that was broiled in Adam and Eve's kitchen, do I fetch my pedigree from, by the harrot's book. His cob was my great, great, mighty great grandfather.
Mat. Why mighty, why mighty, I pray thee?
Cob. O, it was a mighty while ago, sir, and a mighty great cob.
Mat. How know'st thou that?
Cob. How know I! why, I smell his ghost ever and anon.
Mat. Smell a ghost! O unsavoury jest! and the ghost of a herring cob?
Cob. Ay, sir: With favour of your worship's nose, master Mathew, why not the ghost of a herring cob, as well as the ghost of Rasher Bacon?
Mat. Roger Bacon, thou would'st say.
Cob. I say Rasher Bacon. They were both broiled on the coals; and a man may smell broiled meat, I hope! you are a scholar, upsolve me that now.
Mat. O raw ignorance!—Cob, canst thou shew me of a gentleman, one captain Bobadill, where his lodging is?
Cob. O, my guest, sir, you mean.
Mat. Thy guest! alas, ha, ha, ha!
Cob. Why do you laugh, sir? do you not mean captain Bobadill?
Mat. Cob, pray thee advise thyself well; do not wrong the gentleman, and thyself too. I dare be sworn, he scorns thy house; he! he lodge in such a base obscure place as thy house! Tut, I know his disposition so well, he would not lie in thy bed if thou'dst give it him.
Cob. I will not give it him though, sir. Mass, I thought somewhat was in it, we could not get him to bed all night: Well, sir, though he lie not on my bed, he lies on my bench: an't please you to go up, sir, you shall find him with two cushions under his head, and his cloak wrapped about him, as though he had neither won nor lost, and yet, I warrant, he ne'er cast better in his life, than he has done to-night.
Mat. Why, was he drunk?
Cob. Drunk, sir! you hear not me say so: perhaps he swallowed a tavern-token, or some such device, sir, I have nothing to do withal. I deal with water and not with wine—Give me my tankard there, ho!—God be wi' you, sir. It's six o'clock: I should have carried two turns by this. What ho! my stopple! come. Enter Tib with a water-tankard. Mat. Lie in a water-bearer's house! a gentleman of his havings! Well, I'll tell him my mind.
Cob. What, Tib; shew this gentleman up to the captain.[Exit Tib with Master Mathew.] Oh, an my house were the Brazen-head now! faith it would e'en speak Moe fools yet. You should have some now would take this master Mathew to be a gentleman, at the least. His father's an honest man, a worshipful fishmonger, and so forth; and now does he creep and wriggle into acquaintance with all the brave gallants about the town, such as my guest is (O, my guest is a fine man!), and they flout him invincibly. He useth every day to a merchant's house where I serve water, one master Kitely's, in the Old Jewry; and here's the jest, he is in love with my master's sister, Mrs. Bridget, and calls her mistress; and there he will sit you a whole afternoon sometimes, reading of these same abominable, vile (a pox on 'em! I cannot abide them), rascally verses, poetrie, poetrie, and speaking of interludes; 'twill make a man burst to hear him. And the wenches, they do so jeer, and ti-he at him—Well, should they do so much to me, I'd forswear them all, by the foot of Pharaoh! There's an oath! How many water-bearers shall you hear swear such an oath? O, I have a guest—he teaches me-he does swear the legiblest of any man christened: By St. George! the foot of Pharaoh! the body of me! as I am a gentleman and a soldier! such dainty oaths! and withal he does take this same filthy roguish tobacco, the finest and cleanliest! it would do a man good to see the fumes come forth at's tonnels.—Well, he owes me forty shillings, my wife lent him out of her purse, by sixpence at a time, besides his lodging: I would I had it! I shall have it, he says, the next action. Helterskelter, hang sorrow, care'll kill a cat, up-tails all, and a louse for the hangman. [Exit.
SCENE IV.-A Room in COB'S House. BOBADILL discoved lying on a bench.
Bob. Hostess, hostess! Enter TIB. Tib. What say you, sir?
Bob. A cup of thy small beer, sweet hostess.
Tib. Sir, there's a gentleman below would speak with you.
Bob. A gentleman! 'odso, I am not within.
Tib. My husband told him you were, sir.
Bob. What a plague-what meant he?
Mat. [below.] Captain Bobadill!
Bob. Who's there!-Take away the bason, good hostess;—Come up, sir.
Tib. He would desire you to come up, cleanly house, here! Enter MATHEW. Mat. Save you, sir; save you, captain!
Bob. Gentle master Mathew! Is it you, sir? down.
Mat. Thank you, good captain; you may see I am somewhat audacious.
Bob. Not so, sir. I was requested to supper last night by a sort of gallants, where you were wished for, and drunk to, I assure you.
Mat. Vouchsafe me, by whom, good captain?
Bob. Marry, by young Wellbred, and others.—Why, hostess, stool here for this gentleman.
Mat. No haste, sir, 'tis very well.
Bob. Body O' me! it was so late ere we parted last night, I can scarce open my eyes yet; I was but new risen, as you came; how passes the day abroad, sir? you can tell.
Mat. Faith, some half hour to seven; Now, trust me, you have an exceeding fine lodging here, very neat, and private.
Bob. Ay, sir: sit down, I pray you. Master Mathew, in any case possess no gentlemen of our acquaintance with notice of my lodging.
Mat. Who? I, sir; no.
Bob. Not that I need to care who know it, for the cabin is convenient; but in regard I would not be too popular, and generally visited, as some are.
Mat. True, captain, I conceive you.
Bob. For, do you see, sir, by the heart of valour in me, except it be to some peculiar and choice spirits, to whom I am extraordinarily engaged, as yourself, or so, I could not extend thus far.
Mat. O Lord, sir! I resolve so.
Bob. I confess I love a cleanly and quiet privacy, above all the tumult and roar of fortune. What new book have you there? What! Go by, Hieronymo?
Mat. Ay: did you ever see it acted? Is't not well penned? [While Master Mathew reads, Bobadill makes himself ready.
Bob. Well penned! I would fain see all the poets of these times pen such another play as that was: they'll prate and swagger, and keep a stir of art and devices, when, as I am a gentleman, read 'em, they are the most shallow, pitiful, barren fellows, that live upon the: face of the earth again.
Mat. Indeed here are a number of fine speeches in this book. O eyes, no eyes, but fountains fraught with tears! there's a conceit! fountains fraught with tears! O life, no life, but lively form of death! another. O world, no world, but mass of public wrongs! a third. Confused and fill'd with murder and misdeeds! a fourth. O, the muses! Is't not excellent? Is't not simply the best that ever you heard, captain? Ha! how do you like it?
Bob. 'Tis good.
Mat. To thee, the purest object to my sense, The most refined essence heaven covers, Send I these lines, wherein I do commence The happy state of turtle-billing lovers. If they prove rough, unpolish'd, harsh, and rude, Haste made the waste: thus mildly I conclude.
Bob. Nay, proceed, proceed. Where's this?
Mat. This, sir! a toy of mine own, in my non-age; the infancy of my muses. But when will you come and see my study? good faith, I can shew you some very good things I have done of late.—That boot becomes your leg passing well, captain, methinks.
Bob. So, so; it's the fashion gentlemen now use.
Mat. Troth, captain, and now you speak of the fashion, master Wellbred's elder brother and I are fallen out exceedingly: This other day, I happened to enter into some discourse of a hanger, which, I assure you, both for fashion and workmanship, was most peremptory beautiful and gentlemanlike: yet he condemned, and cried it down for the most pied and ridiculous that ever he saw.
Bob. Squire Downright, the half brother, was't not?
Mat. Ay, sir, he.
Bob. Hang him, rook! he! why he-has no more judgment than a malt horse: By St. George, I wonder you'd lose a thought upon such an animal; the most peremptory absurd clown of Christendom, this day, he is holden. I protest to you, as I am a gentleman and a soldier, I ne'er changed with his like. By his discourse, he should eat nothing but hay; he was born for the manger, pannier, or pack-saddle. He has not so much as a good phrase in his belly, but all old iron and rusty proverbs: a good commodity for some smith to make hob-nails of.
Mat. Ay, and he thinks to carry it away with his manhood still, where he comes: he brags he will give me the bastinado, as I hear.
Bob. How! he the bastinado! how came he by that word, trow?
Mat. Nay, indeed, he said cudgel me; I termed it so, for my more grace.
Bob. That may be: for I was sure it was none of his word; but when, when said he so?
Mat. Faith, yesterday, they say; a young gallant, a friend of mine, told me so.
Bob. By the foot of Pharaoh, an 'twere my case now, I should send him a chartel presently. The bastinado! a most proper and sufficient dependence, warranted by the great Caranza. Come hither, you shall chartel him; I'll shew you a trick or two you shall kill him with at pleasure; the first stoccata, if you will, by this air.
Mat. Indeed, you have absolute knowledge in the mystery, I have heard, sir.
Bob. Of whom, of whom, have you heard it, I beseech you?
Mat. Troth, I have heard it spoken of divers, that you have very rare, and un-in-one-breath-utterable skill, sir.
Bob. By heaven, no, not I; no skill in the earth; some small rudiments in the science, as to know my time, distance, or so. I have professed it more for noblemen and gentlemen's use, than mine own practice, I assure you.—Hostess, accommodate us with another bed-staff here quickly. Lend us another bed-staff—the woman does not understand the words of action.—Look you, sir: exalt not your point above this state, at any hand, and let your poniard maintain your defence, thus:—give it the gentleman, and leave us. [Exit Tib.] So, sir. Come on: O, twine your body more about, that you may fall to a more sweet, comely, gentlemanlike guard; so! indifferent: hollow your body more, sir, thus: now, stand fast O' your left leg, note your distance, keep your due proportion of time—oh, you disorder your point most i rregularly.
Mat. How is the bearing of it now, sir?
Bob. O, out of measure ill: a well-experienced hand would pass upon you at pleasure.
Mat. How mean you, sir, pass upon me?
Bob. Why, thus, sir,—make a thrust at me—[Master Mathew pushes at Bobadill] come in upon the answer, control your point, and make a full career at the body: The best-practised gallants of the time name it the passado; a most desperate thrust, believe it.
Mat. Well, come, sir.
Bob. Why, you do not manage your weapon with any facility or grace to invite me. I have no spirit to play with you; your dearth of judgment renders you tedious.
Mat. But one venue, sir.
Bob. Venue! fie; the most gross denomination as ever I heard: O, the stoccata, while you live, sir; note that.—Come, put on your cloke, and we'll go to some private place where you are acquainted; some tavern, or so—and have a bit. I'll send for one of these fencers, and he shall breathe you, by my direction; and then I will teach you your trick: you shall kill him with it at the first, if you please. Why, I will learn you, by the true judgment of the eye, hand, and foot, to control any enemy's point in the world. Should your adversary confront you with a pistol, 'twere nothing, by this hand! you should, by the same rule, control his bullet, in a line, except it were hail shot, and spread. What money have you about you, master Mathew?
Mat. Faith, I have not past a two shilling or so.
Bob. 'Tis somewhat with the least; but come; we will have a bunch of radish and salt to taste our wine, and a pipe of tobacco to close the orifice of the stomach: and then we'll call upon young Wellbred: perhaps we shall meet the Corydon his brother there, and put him to the question.
SCENE I.-The Old Jewry. A Hall in KITELY'S House. Enter KITELY, CASH, and DOWNRIGHT.
Kit. Thomas, come hither. There lies a note within upon my desk; Here take my key: it is no matter neither.—- Where is the boy?
Cash. Within, sir, in the warehouse.
Kit. Let him tell over straight that Spanish gold, And weigh it, with the pieces of eight. Do you See the delivery of those silver stuffs To Master Lucar: tell him, if he will, He shall have the grograns, at the rate I told him, And I. will meet him on the Exchange anon.
Cash. Good, sir. [Exit.
Kit. Do you see that fellow, brother Downright?
Dow. Ay, what of him?
Kit. He is a jewel, brother. I took him of a child up at my door, And christen'd him, gave him mine own name, Thomas: Since bred him at the Hospital; where proving A toward imp, I call'd him home, and taught him So much, as I have made him my cashier, And giv'n him, who had none, a surname, Cash: And find him in his place so full of faith, That I durst trust my life into his hands.
Dow. So would not I in any bastard's, brother, As it is like he is, although I knew Myself his father. But you said you had somewhat To tell me, gentle brother: what is't, what is't?
Kit. Faith, I am very loath to utter it, As fearing it may hurt your patience: But that I know your judgment is of strength, Against the nearness of affection—-
Dow. What need this circumstance? pray you, be direct.
Kit. I will not say how much I do ascribe Unto your friendship, nor in what regard I hold your love; but let my past behaviour, And usage of your sister, [both] confirm How well I have been affected to your—-
Dow. You are too tedious; come to the matter, the matter.
Kit. Then, without further ceremony, thus. My brother Wellbred, sir, I know not how, Of late is much declined in what he was, And greatly alter'd in his disposition. When he came first to lodge here in my house, Ne'er trust me if I were not proud of him: Methought he bare himself in such a fashion, So full of man, and sweetness in his carriage, And what was chief, it shew'd not borrow'd in him, But all he did became him as his own, And seem'd as perfect, proper, and possest, As breath with life, or colour with the blood. But now, his course is so irregular, So loose, affected, and deprived of grace, And he himself withal so far fallen off From that first place, as scarce no note remains, To tell men's judgments where he lately stood. He's grown a stranger to all due respect, Forgetful of his friends; and not content To stale himself in all societies, He makes my house here common as a mart, A theatre, a public receptacle For giddy humour, and deceased riot; And here, as in a tavern or a stews, He and his wild associates spend their hours, In repetition of lascivious jests, Swear, leap, drink, dance, and revel night by night, Control my servants; and, indeed, what not?
Dow. 'Sdeins, I know not what I should say to him, in the whole world! He values me at a crack'd three-farthings, for aught I see. It will never out of the flesh that's bred in the bone. I have told him enough, one would think, if that would serve; but counsel to him is as good as a shoulder of mutton to a sick horse. Well! he knows what to trust to, for George: let him spend, and spend, and domineer, till his heart ake; an he think to be relieved by me, when he is got into one O' your city pounds, the counters, he has the wrong sow by the ear, i'faith; and claps his dish at the wrong man's door: I'll lay my hand on my halfpenny, ere I part with it to fetch him out, I'll assure him.'
Kit. Nay, good brother, let it not trouble you thus.
Dow. 'Sdeath! he mads me; I could eat my very spur leathers for anger! But, why are you so tame? why do you not speak to him, and tell him how he disquiets your house?
Kit. O, there are divers reasons to dissuade me. But, would yourself vouchsafe to travail in it (Though but with plain and easy circumstance), It would both come much better to his sense, And savour less of stomach, or of passion. You are his elder brother, and that title Both gives and warrants your authority, Which, by your presence seconded, must breed A kind of duty in him, and regard: Whereas, if I should intimate the least, It would but add contempt to his neglect, Heap worse on ill, make up a pile of hatred, That in the rearing would come tottering down, And in the ruin bury all our love. Nay, more than this, brother; if I should speak, He would be ready, from his heat of humour, And overflowing of the vapour in him, To blow the ears of his familiars With the false breath of telling what disgraces, And low disparagement's, I had put upon him. Whilst they, sir, to relieve him in the fable, Make their loose comments upon every word, Gesture, or look, I use; mock me all over, From my flat cap unto my shining shoes; And, out of their impetuous rioting phant'sies, Beget some slander that shall dwell with me. And what would that be, think you? marry, this: They would give out, because my wife is fair, Myself but lately married; and my sister '. Here sojourning a virgin in my house, That I were jealous I—-nay, as sure as death, That they would say: and, how that I had quarrell'd, My brother purposely, thereby to find An apt pretext to banish them my house.
Dow. Mass, perhaps so; they're like enough to do it.
Kit. Brother, they would, believe it; so should I, Like one of these penurious quack-salvers, But set the bills up to mine own disgrace, And try experiments upon myself; Lend scorn and envy opportunity To stab my reputation and good name— Enter Master MATHEW struggling with BOBADILL.
Mat. I will speak to him.
Bob. Speak to him! away! By the foot of Pharaoh, you shall not! you shall not do him that grace.—The time of day to you, gentleman O' the house. Is master Wellbred stirring?
Dow. How then? what should he do?
Bob. Gentleman of the house, it is to you: is he within, sir?
Kit. He came not to his lodging to-night, sir, I assure you.
Dow. Why, do you hear? you!
Bob. The gentleman citizen hath satisfied me; I'll talk to no scavenger. [Exeunt Bob. and Mat.
Dow. How! scavenger! stay, sir, stay!
Kit. Nay, brother Downright.
Dow. 'Heart! stand you away, an you love me.
Kit. You shall not follow him now, I pray you, brother, good faith you shall not; I will overrule you.
Dow. Ha! scavenger! well, go to, I say little: but, by this good day (God forgive me I should swear), if I put it up so, say I am the rankest cow that ever pist. 'Sdeins, an I swallow this, I'll ne'er draw my sword in the sight of Fleet-street again while I live; I'll sit in a barn with madge-howlet, and catch mice first. Scavenger! heart!—and I'll go near to fill that huge tumbrel-slop of yours with somewhat, an I have good luck: your Garagantua breech cannot carry it away so.
Kit. Oh, do not fret yourself thus: never think on't.
Dow. These are my brother's consorts, these! these are his camerades, his walking mates! he's a gallant, cavaliero too, right hangman cut! Let me not live, an I could not find in my heart to swinge the whole gang of 'em, one after another, and begin with him first. I am grieved it should be said he is my brother, and take these courses: Well, as he brews, so shall he drink, for George, again. Yet he shall hear on't, and that tightly too, an I live, i'faith.
Kit. But, brother, let your reprehension, then, Run in an easy current, not o'er high Carried with rashness, or devouring choler; But rather use the soft persuading way, Whose powers will work more gently, and compose The imperfect thoughts you labour to reclaim; More winning, than enforcing the consent.
Dow. Ay, ay, let me alone for that, I warrant you.
Kit. How now! [Bell rings.] Oh, the bell rings to breakfast. Brother, I pray you go in, and bear my wife company till I come; I'll but give order for some despatch of business to my servants. [Exit Downright. Enter COB, with his tankard.
Kit. What, Cob! our maids will have you by the back, i'faith, for coming so late this morning.
Cob. Perhaps so, sir; take heed somebody have not them by the belly, for walking so late in the evening. [Exit.
Kit. Well; yet my troubled spirit's somewhat eased, Though not reposed in that security As I could wish: but I must be content, Howe'er I set a face on't to the world. Would I had lost this finger at a venture, So Wellbred had ne'er lodged within my house. Why't cannot be, where there is such resort Of wanton gallants, and young revellers, That any woman should be honest long. Is't like, that factious beauty will preserve The public weal of chastity unshaken, When such strong motives muster, and make head Against her single peace? No, no: beware. When mutual appetite doth meet to treat, And spirits of one kind and quality Come once to parley in the pride of blood, It is no slow conspiracy that follows. Well, to be plain, if I but thought the time Had answer'd their affections, all the world Should not persuade me but I were a cuckold. Marry, I hope they have not got that start; For opportunity hath balk'd them yet, And shall do still, while I have eyes and ears To attend the impositions of my heart. My presence shall be as an iron bar, 'Twixt the conspiring motions of desire: Yea, every look or glance mine eye ejects Shall check occasion, as one doth his slave, When he forgets the limits of prescription. Enter Dame KITELY and BRIDGET.
Dame K. Sister Bridget, pray you fetch down the rose-water, above in the closet.—- [Exit Bridget. Sweet-heart, will you come in to breakfast?
Kit. An she have overheard me now!—-
Dame K. I pray thee, good muss, we stay for you.
Kit. By heaven, I would not for a thousand angels.
Dame K. What ail you, sweet-heart? are you not well? speak, good muss.
Kit. Troth my head akes extremely on a sudden.
Dame K. [putting her hand to his forehead.] O, the Lord!
Kit. How now! What?
Dame K. Alas, how it burns! Muss, keep you warm; good truth it is this new disease. There's a number are troubled withal. For love's sake, sweetheart, come in, out of the air.
Kit. How simple, and how subtle are her answers! A new disease, and many troubled with it? Why true; she heard me, all the world to nothing.
Dame K. I pray thee, good sweet-heart, come in; the air will do you harm, in troth.
Kit. The air! she has me in the wind.—Sweet-heart, I'll come to you presently; 'twill away, I hope.
Dame K. Pray Heaven it do. [Exit.
Kit. A new disease! I. know not, new or old, But it may well be call'd poor mortals' plague; For, like a pestilence, it doth infect The houses of the brain. First it begins Solely to work upon the phantasy, Filling her seat with such pestiferous air, As soon corrupts the judgment; and from thence, Sends like contagion to the memory: Still each to other giving the infection. Which as a subtle vapour spreads itself Confusedly through every sensive part, Till not a thought or motion in the mind Be free from the black poison of suspect. Ah! but what misery is it to know this? Or, knowing it, to want the mind's erection In such extremes? Well, I will once more strive, In spite of this black cloud, myself to be, And shake the fever off that thus shakes me. [Exit.
SCENE II.—-Moorfields. Enter BRAINWORM disguised like a maimed Soldier.
Brai. 'Slid, I cannot choose but laugh to see myself translated thus, from a poor creature to a creator; for now must I create an intolerable sort of lies, or my present profession loses the grace: and yet the lie, to a man of my coat, is as ominous a fruit as the fico. O, sir, it holds for good polity ever, to have that outwardly in vilest estimation, that inwardly is most dear to us: so much for my borrowed shape. Well, the troth is, my old master intends to follow my young master, dry-foot, over Moorfields to London, this morning; now, I knowing of this hunting-match, or rather conspiracy, and to insinuate with my young master (for so must we that are blue waiters, and men of hope and service do, or perhaps we may wear motley at the year's end, and who wears motley, you know), have got me afore in this disguise, determining here to lie in ambuscado, and intercept him in the mid-way. If I can but get his cloke, his purse, and his hat, nay, any thing to cut him off, that is, to stay his journey, Veni, vidi, vici, I may say with captain Caesar, I am made for ever, i'faith. Well, now I must practise to get the true garb of one of these lance-knights, my arm here, and my—Odso! my young master, and his cousin, master Stephen, as I am true counterfeit man of war, and no soldier!
Enter E. KNOWELL and STEPHEN.
E. Know. So, sir! and how then, coz?
Step. 'Sfoot! I have lost my purse, I think.
E. Know. How! lost your purse? where? when had you it?
Step. I cannot tell; stay.
Brai. 'Slid, I am afraid they will know me: would I could get by them!
E. Know. What, have you it?
Step. No; I think I was bewitched, I— [Cries.
E. Know. Nay, do not weep the loss: hang it, let it go.
Step. Oh, it's here: No, an it had been lost, I had not cared, but for a jet ring mistress Mary sent me.
E. Know. A jet ring! O the poesie, the poesie?
Step. Fine, i'faith.
Though Fancy sleep, My love is deep.
Meaning, that though I did not fancy her, yet she loved me dearly.
E. Know. Most excellent!
Step. And then I sent her another, and my poesie was,
The deeper the sweeter, I'll be judg'd by St. Peter.
E. Know. How, by St. Peter? I do not conceive that.
Step. Marry, St. Peter, to make up the metre.
E. Know. Well, there the saint was your good patron, he help'd you at your need; thank him, thank him.