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recognized principle, that we do not remember a single instance of remorse in her writings; no case of vice brought to bay, of the mind forced to a bitter retrospection, even when her sympathies go against the sinner. Thus, when she treats of the concerns of society, which does acknowledge these powers, no wonder that she shocks our feelings-she has lost the clue to them. She refuses to see any fundamental law in the institutions she attacks; she sports with the most sacred social obligations, without a conception that they are part and parcel of humanity. The indissoluble bonds of human fellowship are with her mere arbitrary chance associations-there is no adhesion or cement in them. Philosophy is to hew down the social fabric, like a child's house of cards. Religion and morality have withstood more formidable attacks; we are not afraid for the permanence of our institutions, or that their sanctity shall suffer diminution in the public mind. But any system that sets off temptation in a plausible form, and invests vice with the dignity of a theory, may be dangerous to the individual, and must be so, if, yielding to the enchantment, he lets his judg ment sleep. We cannot, therefore, allow the foreign literature that inculcates these principles to take its place on our bookshelves or haunt our boudoirs without a protest and a warning.
BEN JONSON: HIS LIFE AND WORKS.*
HE union of the names of Benjamin Jonson and William Shakspeare commenced in their lifetime and has not been divided by death. The country gentleman, who in King James's days owned any books at all beyond a Bible, Treatises on Falconry and the Chase, or a summary of Acts pertaining to a Justice of the Peace, ranged the folio of Jonson's plays beside the first or second folio of Shakspeare's. The templar who haunted the taverns and theatres of the capital coupled their names in his discourse. They were the two presiding spirits at the Mermaid Tavern. Fuller and Milton celebrate them as the Dioscuri of the English stage: and when the Restoration reopened the theatres, this par nobile fratrum,' like the inseparable Telamon and Teucer of the Iliad,' still lead the van of that goodly company of stage-poets which begins with Marlowe and ends with Shirley.
Yet the combination is peculiar, and conceals some material discrepancies both in the persons themselves and their writings. It does not indicate literary copartnership, like that of Beaumont and Fletcher, for Jonson and Shakspeare never joined forces in the same play, though Shakspeare and Fletcher occasionally worked in couple, and Jonson, both in his dramas and his masques, had sometimes partners. The bond between them went no further than a common admiration of each other's genius. In all other respects they agreed to differ. Which of their opposite paths was the more felicitously chosen we shall presently inquire: but since their real contrast is less generally recognized than their nominal union, and is, in many respects, curious and instructive, we shall survey it by way of preface to some account of Jonson and his works.
First, then, notwithstanding the blending of their names, our acquaintance with their lives is very dissimilar. Of Shakspeare we know little more than that he was born, married, wrote plays (even this has recently been called in question), saved money, and died. Of Jonson we know much more than of any of his contemporaries, who did not inweave their names on public events, more indeed than of most persons who have not been their own chroniclers, or entered the name of Boswell on their list of friends. Shakspeare, may be said to have outlived envy.
* 1. Poetical Works of Ben Jonson. Edited by Robert Bell.
By universal consent he was called the gentle Shakspeare,' and his supremacy as a dramatic poet was acknowledged before he had written half the plays which bear his name. Jonson as he waxed in years waned in popularity. He was satirized and libelled by his brethren in the craft, and he paid them liberally in their own coin. The spectators who flocked to Julius Cæsar' would not tolerate Catiline' or 'Sejanus;' and the disappointed poet told them, in very rugged verse, that they were beasts and fools. Pens have been dipped in gall over Jonson's as well as over Shakspeare's remains. Gifford espoused with true editorial zeal the quarrels of Benjamin and his tribe, while Steevens and Malone paint him as a breedbate and backbiter. Shakspeare's enemies it is scarcely possible to discover. His shafts are so generally aimed that the names of their original butts are lost or scarcely discoverable. Neither learned nor simple have made up their minds whether Shakspeare, before his connection with the stage, were a lawyer's clerk, a school-usher, a scapegrace who made his native town too hot to hold him, or merely an imprudent youth who aggravated difficulties, inherited from his father by an early marriage. But neither simple nor learned doubt that Jonson passed through nearly as many transmutations as Christopher Sly-that he was by birth a clergyman's son; by education a Westminster scholar; by transmutation a bricklayer, then a soldier, and lastly by profession a stage-poet. The abstract and brief chronicle of his life, as imparted by him to Drummond at Hawthornden, contains all needful details, and is supported by good external evidence and much consistent tradition. The elder and greater of this pair of poets, notwithstanding the unwearied pains of his editors, we must always behold in a glass darkly of the younger we possess a portrait but little damaged -a Holbein or Vandyke somewhat the worse for weather, the housemaid's broom, or ordinary wear and tear.
Nor was there less discrepancy between his and his compeer's theory of dramatic art. It is needless to say that in this respect also Shakspeare surpassed Jonson as much as he excelled him in moving the passions, in delineating female character, in easy humour and genial eloquence. To Shakspeare, indeed, Jonson awarded praise with a liberal hand: but he walked not in his ways: he carped at or browbeat nearly every one who did so; he struck out a path of his own and took credit to himself for this sullenness and singularity. We shall presently attempt to show that his genius was lyrical and not dramatical; that the masque was his proper region; and that in tragedy and comedy, with two or three striking exceptions, he had the use of his left
hand only. In masque and song the current of his fancy flowed. freely, or he profitably invested in their eccentric maze the stores of learning which he had hived up. In serious or humorous dramas, if much reading did not make him mad, it rendered him incurably perverse, and he sinned with the less excuse, because, although 'doctus sermonis utriusque linguæ,' he emulated Seneca, or at best the logomachies of Euripides, instead of Sophocles or schylus. In their respective dealings with life manners and poetry, Shakspeare and Jonson stand to each other in very similar relation to that which is apparent between Chaucer and Gower. Gower conceived that verse could not be too fully fraught with learning; that books were more instructive than the living world; and that he who from his study surveyed mankind was more likely to understand them than he who studied them in the field, the harbour, or the market-place. Chaucer, on the other hand, after serving a long apprenticeship to the Norman trouveurs, discarded them in riper years, and embodied in his Canterbury Pilgrims the experiences of a long and active life. Gower in manibus non est'-hardly in the hands of the curious; Chaucer, when on English ground, is the representative of an age. The one is a select and dull acquaintance, whom we respect for his years and his learning, but whose conversation produces an 'exposition to sleep: the other is an everwelcome friend, whose approach we hail, whose departure we regret. Gower has embedded in his Confessio Amantis' three or four stories that are still readable; Jonson has written about as many plays that can be read with complacency. Beyond these limits each of them is very tolerable and not to be endured. Shakspeare and Chaucer go hand in hand in their everlasting attractions: and if the one command the larger share of applause, it is perhaps as much owing to the form as to the worth of his writings. Of all kinds of fiction the drama is the most interesting: even the most perfect descriptive eloquence falls short of the charm of the acted scene. In the Canterbury Tales' we have a rich dramatic mine: in Shakspeare the ore is drawn forth, smelted and fused in living moulds. But in Jonson's hands we have neither the pure ore nor the perfect statue: his best workmanship is an amalgam of metals: gold, brass, and iron supported on feet of clay.
In the foregoing comparison we have no intention of denying Jonson's real merits. We believe that he thwarted his own genius by a vicious theory, and that although he must always have sat at Shakspeare's feet, he might, with less perversity, have stood on a level with Ford, Fletcher, and Massinger. The
very fact of his constant association with Shakspeare in common parlance and repute, argues the impression which he made at the time, and which he has preserved since. As a man he is in many respects interesting. His learning was remarkable in a learned age: he associated with men whom their own times accounted great in arms and arts, and whose names posterity will not let die. He, like his namesake Samuel, fought his life-battle bravely. Like him, too, though prone to take and give offence, he was ready to forgive and to make atonement. For his personal, as much as for his literary merits, we think his character will repay a brief notice, and if we repeat an ofttold tale-for Benjamin Jonson has more than one excellent biographer-we will endeavour by a new arrangement of circumstances, or by independent comments upon them, to impart to our record of his life and works as much novelty as the subject admits of.
The family of the Jonsons was of Scottish origin. His grandfather was a landowner in Annandale, whence he removed to Carlisle, and was subsequently taken into the service of King Henry the Eighth. Payde to John Johnson [sic], master of the king's barge, for serving the king's highness, and also for the rent of a house at Westminster, where the henxmen (pages) lye' is an entry in the Privy Purse expenses for 1529-32.
The son of the barge-master, and the poet's father, suffered in Mary's reign a long imprisonment, probably on the then usual ground of religion, and finally was mulcted of his estate. Persecution did but strengthen his attachment to his opinions, and after his release he became a 'grave minister of the Gospel,' equivalent, in the phrase of the time, to one who held, with Bishop Hooper and his party, the doctrine and discipline of Geneva. The losses incurred at that period 'religionis ergo were often as fatal to poets as the proscriptions of the triumvirs to Tibullus and Virgil; and Ben Jonson, comparing in after-life his own poverty with the forfeited lands of his ancestors, may justly have applied to himself the complaint of Propertius, in tenues cogeris ipse Lares.
Nam tua quum multi versarent rura juvenci,
Benjamin Jonson came into the world about a month after his father quitted it. He was born in the city of Westminsterseemingly a corner of the barge-master's estate had escaped confiscation in the year 1574. He was accordingly ten years junior to his great contemporary Shakspeare, but his friend Donne, my Dean of St. Pauls,' as King James was wont to call his metaphysical chaplain, was born about the same time. The