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SEJANUS.] This " Tragedy” was first acted in 1603 by the company at the Globe ; and Shakspeare, Burbadge, Lowin, Hemings, Condel, Philips, Cooke, and Sly, had parts in it. Though much applauded by the fashionable part of the audi. ence, it proved" caviare to the general,” and experienced considerable opposition. Sejanus was not published till 1605; when it appeared, in quarto, without a dedication, but accompanied by several copies of commendatory verses. Subse- . quently it seems to have acquired some degree of popularity : Jonson says that it had outlived the malice of its enemies, when he republished it in folio, in 1616; and it was one of the first plays revived after the Restoration. Sejanus is not divided into scenes in any of the editions; it has neither exits nor en. trances; and is, upon the whole, the most involved and puzzling drama, in its internal arrangement, that was ever produced. The motto both to the quarto and folio is the same:
Non hic centauros, non gorgonas, harpyiasque
Invenies : hominem pagina nostra sapit. It is taken from Martial, and had already furnished the ground.
Inroo tn Frery Mon in his Humour,
1. for the milli
NO LESS NOBLE BY VIRTUE THAN BLOOD,
ESME LORD AUBIGNY,'
MY LORD, If ever any ruin were so great as to survive, I think this be one I send you, The Fall of Sejanus. It is a poem, that,
, if I well remember, in your lordship's sight, suffered no less violence from our people here, than the subject of it did from the rage of the people of Rome ; but with a different fate, as, 1 hope, merit: for this hath outlived their malice, and begot itself a greater favour than he lost, the love of good men. Amongst whom, if I make your lordship the first it thanks, it is not without a just confession of the bond your benefits have, and ever shall hold upon me,
Your Lordship’s most faithful honourer,
BEN. JONSON. • See Epig. 127.
- suffered no less violence from our people, &c.] The opposition made to Sejanus (of wbich Jonson here puts his patron in mind) is noticed in a poem by Fennor, which appeared about the time of this Dedication, 1616.
.“ Sweet poesie " Is oft convict, condemn’d and judged to die, “ Without just triall by a multitude, “ Whose judgments are illiterate and rude. “ Witnesse Sejanus, whose approved worth “ Sounds from the calme South to the freezing North. “ With more than human art it was bedewd, “ Yet to the multitude it nothing shewd. “ They screwed their scurvy jawes, and lookt awry, “ Like hissing snakes adjudging it to die; " When wits of gentry did applaud,” &c.
THE following and voluntary labours' of my friends, prefired to my book, have relieved me in much whereat, without them, I should necessarily have touched. Now I will only use three or four short and needful notes, and so rest.
First, if it be objected, that what I publish is no true poem, in the strict laws of time, I confess it: as also in the want of a proper chorus; whose habit and moods are such and so difficult, as not any, whom I have seen, since the ancients, no, not they who have most presently affected laws, have yet come in the way of. Nor is it needful, or almost possible in these our times, and to such auditors as commonly things are presented, to observe the old state and splendor of dramatic poems, with preservation of any popular delight. But of this I shall take more seasonable cause to speak, in my observations upon Horace his Art of Poetry, which, with the text translated, I intend shortly to publish. In the mean time, if in truth of argument, dignity of persons, gravity and height of elocution, fulness and frequency of sentence, I have discharged the other offices of a tragic writer, let not the absence of these forms be imputed to me, wherein I shall give you occasion hereafter, and without my boast, to think I could better prescribe, than omit the due use for want of a convenient knowledge.
3 The following and voluntary labours of my friends,] Com. mendatory copies of verses, which the reader will find in the first volume: they amount to eight, of which Whalley reprinted but two. This address is only in the quarto, 1605.
4 The learned world has reason to regret the loss of those observations, to which Jonson frequently alludes. They were burnt in the fire which consumed his study, as appears from the Execration upon Vulcan :
66 All the old Venusine in poetry
The next is, lest in some nice nostril the quotations might savour affected, I do let you know, that I abhor nothing more ; and I have only done it to shew my integrity in the story, and save myself in those common torturers that bring all wit to the rack ; whose noses are ever like swine spoiling and rooting up the Muses' gardens; and their whole bodies like moles, as blindly working under earth, to cast any, the least, hills upon virtue.
Whereas they are in Latin, and the work in English, it was presupposed none but the learned would take the pains to confer them; the authors themselves being all in the learned tongues, save one, with whose English side I have had little to do. To which it may be required, since I have quoted the page, to name what editions I followed : Tacit. Lips. in quarto, Antwerp. edit. 1600. Dio. folio, Hen. Steph. 1592. For the rest, as Sueton. Seneca, &c. the chapter doth sufficiently direct, or the edition is not varied.
Lastly, I would inform you, that this book, in all numbers, is not the same with that which was acted on the public stage; wherein a second pen had good share : in place of which, I have rather chosen to put weaker, and, no doubt, less pleasing, of mine own, than to defraud so happy a genius of his right by my loathed usurpation.
5 Defraud so happy a genius of his right by my loathed usurpation.] The genius here alluded to undoubtedly was Shak.