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Fare you well, and if you read farther of me, 'and like, I shall not be afraid of it, though you praise
Neque enim mihi cornea fibra est.6 But that I should plant my felicity in your general saying, good, or well, &c. were a weakness which
speare, who was also a performer in the play ; but, I believe, posterity wishes that Jonson had rather have let them stood with some note of distinction, than have substituted his own in their room, from a false point of modesty, or to render the whole more uniform and of a piece. WHAL.
In evil hour did Jonson write the manly passage to which Whalley's note refers. It has drawn upon him a world of obloquy from the commentators of Shakspeare, couched in language, which the vocabulary of Billingsgate must have been narrowly ransacked to supply. “ Mean," " haughty,” “ma
6 lignant," " envious," " ungrateful,” “ treacherous,” &c. &c. are among the gentlest epithets which the righteous indignation of these gentlemen can afford. 66 He affirms, with a sneer,” (says one of them,) “ that he would not join his inferior matter to that of the great poet; but wrote over again those scenes which had been wrought into the piece by his pen. Who does not wish that Shakspeare had put as high a value upon his true brilliants, as Ben upon his jewels of paste, and preserved the rejected scenes? I have had some little suspicion that Shakspeare's part might possibly be that alone which escaped public censare; as the play was universally exploded.” And thus Shakspeare is honoured!
Whalley wishes that Jonson had marked the lines furnished by Shakspeare; but this, besides being a most invidious mode of distinction, was directly contrary to the established practice of the times. But why must the poet's assistant be Shakspeare? I know that ah the critics are positive on the subject: but of this I make no great account; having had frequent opportuni. ties of observing that where Jonson is to be condemned, it is not thought at all necessary to establish the validity of whatever tends to criminate him.
Why might not Chapman or Middleton be intended here? they, like Shakspeare, were living in habits of kindness with
6 This is from Persius, as are the allusions in the following line : the conclusion is from Horace.
the better sort of you might worthily contemn, if not absolutely hate me for.
and no such,
Quem Palma negata macrum, donata reducit opimum.
the poet: they wrote in conjunction with him; they were both men of learning; and no great violation seems offered to lan. guage (at least no greater than courtesy would excuse) in terming them happy geniuses. Beaumont was perhaps too young; but Fletcher, who loved Jonson, and was greatly beloved in his turn, was extremely well qualified to assist him; and, not to keep the reader in suspense, was, in my opinion, the person actually meant.-Shakspeare seems to be almost the last emi. nent writer to whom our author would look for assistance on the present occasion: Sejanus is entirely founded on the Greek and Latin historians, who are carefully quoted in the margin of the first copy: and the author values himself on the closeness with which he has followed his originals. Shak. speare, as Jonson well knew, derived all his knowledge of Roman story from translations, and this was scarcely sufficiently accurate or extensive to induce our author to solicit his aid in the production of his meditated Tragedy, which he certainly intended to be “ a palmarian work," as to its fidelity. The author to whom Jonson alludes as being “ in English,” is Ta. citus, whose Annals (the only work from which an unlearned reader could derive any knowledge of the subject of this Tragedy) were translated by one Grenaway, a few years before.
Enough, perhaps, on the subject-yet I am still inclined to ask, What is Jonson's offence? and (even supposing, for the sake of argument, that Shakspeare was really the person meant,) why has he been visited with such severity? He speaks of his coadjutor with respect, and of himself with modesty; he ad. dresses those who were well acquainted with the play as it was acted, and who, if the cause of poetry had sustained any very serious loss by his alterations, were not unlikely to have reproached him with it. That he should be anxious to render a drama which seemed condemned, by its want of popularity, to the closet of the learned, uniform and of a piece, is by no means singular; and it may be fairly questioned, whether it was not altogether as honourable in the author to take on himself the demerits of the whole, thus made his own, as to purloin a portion of fame from the secret appropriation of what the critics are now pleased to assure us, was the only ra. luable part of the piece.
As Jonson is very profuse in his explanatory references, I have contented myself with bringing them back, (for Whalley omitted them altogether,) and again left the play, as the author left it, to the “ judgment of the learned.” I can much easier excuse Whalley for suppressing Jonson's notes, and taking the merit of his quotations, than for introducing the names of Simpson, Seward, and Grey, the opprobrium of criticism, with fulsome compliments to their ingenuity, for discovering allusions which Jonson himself had pointed out more than a century be. fore. The whole of this officious impertinence is now removed.
ÆLIUS Sejanus, son to Seius Strabo, a gentleman of Rome, and born at Vulsinium; after his long service in court, first under Augustus ; afterward, Tiberius ; grew into that favour with the latter, and won him by those arts, as there wanted nothing but the name to make him a co-partner of the empire. Which greatness of his, Drusus, the emperor's son, not brooking; after many smothered dislikes, it one day breaking out, the prince struck him publicly on the face. To revenge which disgrace, Livia, the wife of Drusus (being before corrupted by him to her dishonour, and the discovery of her husband's counsels) Sejanus practiseth with, together with her physician called Eudemus, and one Lygdus an eunuch, to poison Drusus. This their inhuman act having successful and unsuspected passage, it emboldeneth Sejanus to further and more insolent projects, even the ambition of the empire; where finding the lets he must encounter to be many and hard, in respect of the issue of Germanicus, who were next in hope for the succession,' he deviseth to make Tiberius' self his means, and instils into his ears many doubts and suspicions, both against the princes, and their mother Agrippina ; which Cæsar jealously hearkening to, as covetously consenteth to their rüin, and their friends. In this time, the better to mature and strengthen his design, Sejanus labours to marry Liria, and
7 For the succession.] These words, wanting in the quarto of 1605, were added in the folio, 1616, to complete the sense.
worketh with all his ingine, to remove Tiberius from the knowledge of public business, with allurements
a quiet and retired life; the latter of which, Tiberius, out of a proneness to lust, and a desire to hide those unnatural pleasures which he could not so publicly practise, embraceth : the former enkindleth his fears, and there gives him first cause of doubt or suspect towards Sejanus : against whom he raiseth in private a new instrument, one Sertorius Macro, and by him underworketh, discovers the other's counsels, his means, his ends, sounds the affections of the senators, divides, distracts them : at last, when Sejanus least looketh, and is most secure; with pretext of doing him an unwonted honour in the senate, he trains him from his guards, and with a long doubtful letter, in one day hath him suspected, accused, condemned, and torn in pieces by the rage of the people.
* By the rage of the people.] After this, the quarto has the following: 66 This do we advance, as a mark of terror to all 66 traitors, and treasons; to shew how just the heavens are, in “ pouring and thundering down a weighty vengeance on their 6 unnatural intents, even to the worst princes; much more to “ those, for guard of whose piety and virtue the angels are in
continual watch, and God himself miraculously working."
This seems to have been added, in compliment to K. James, on the discovery of the powder-plot. WHAL.