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To run in that vile line.3
Pol. And is this all!
Will you not answer then the libels?
Pol. Nor the Untrussers?
Pol. Y'are undone then.
Aut. With whom?
Pol. The world.
Aut. The bawd!
Pol. It will be taken
To be stupidity or tameness in you.
I am sorry for
Some better natures, by the rest so drawn,
To run in that vile line.] It has been thought that Shakspeare was here alluded to, under the expression of better natures. But I see no reason to confine the phrase to so particular a restriction. It makes good sense to take it in the most obvious meaning: nor does it appear there was any difference now subsisting between Shakspeare and our author. WHAL.
Thus far Whalley is right. He might have added, to the confusion of the thinkers, that if their ingenious supposition were true, it would go near to prove-not that Jonson was hostile to Shakspeare, but that Shakspeare was captiously disinclined to Jonson. But, in fact, there is no allusion whatever to Shakspeare, or to the company with which he was connected. The commentators are absolutely mad: they will allow Jonson neither to compliment, nor criticise any one but our great poet; and this merely for the pleasure of taxing him with hypocrisy in the one case, and envy in the other. I have already observed that the actors ridiculed belonged to the Fortune play-house; and the critics must have discovered, if their judgment had been half as active as their enmity, a very frequent recurrence throughout the Poetaster, and the Apology, to the poverty and low-estimation of this unfortunate company.
"if it gave them meat,
"Or got them clothes, 'tis well; that was their end." Could this be said of Allen and Shakspeare, of Burbage, Lowin, and Taylor? Without question, the Fortune possessed more actors than the "lean Poluphagus" and the "politic Esop," and to some of those the poet might allude: "the better na
Aut. But they that have incensed me, can in soul
Should not take off, with all their art and plasters.
Shall, like a figure drawn in water, fleet,
And the poor wretched papers be employ'd
tures" were not confined, I trust, in Jonson's days, any more than in our own, to a single person, or even a single theatre.
4 Rhime them to death, as they do Irish rats, &c.] The fatal effects of poetry on these Opici, these Hibernian vermin, are noticed by many of our old dramatists. Thus Shakspeare," I was never so be-rhimed since Pythagoras' time, that I was an Irish rat." As you like it. And Randolph:
66 my poets
"Shall with a satire, steep'd in vinegar,
"Rhime them to death, as they do rats in Ireland."
5 That the whole company of barber-surgeons
Should not take off, &c.] This sentiment, which Jonson repeats in his dedication of the Fox, is from Martial:
"At si quid nostræ tibi bilis inusserit ardor,
"Vivet, et hærebit, totoque legetur in urbe;
Stigmata nec vafra delebit Cinnamus arte." Lib. vi. 6.
What follows is from Juvenal:
"diri conscia facti
"Mens habet attonitos, et surdo verbere cœdit,
"Occultum quatiente animo tortore flagellum." Sat. 14.
" continuò sic collige, quod vindicta "Nemo magis gaudet quam fœmina." Ibid.
To clothe tobacco, or some cheaper drug :
But, to what end? when their own deeds have mark’d
And that I know, within his guilty breast
Each slanderer bears a whip that shall torment him
Nas. 'Tis true; for to revenge their injuries,
Pol. That all your writing is mere railing.
If all the salt in the old comedy
Should be so censured, or the sharper wit
Persius, or Juvenal, whose names we now
Pol. Yes; they say you are slow,
And scarce bring forth a play a year.
I would they could not say that I did that!
A man should take but colts-foot for one day,
• Than e'er the master of art, &c.] Our industrious bee is ever
Their belly, made. Yet, this is possible,
A theatre unto me;' Once I'll say
on the search after stores: Just above he alighted on Horace; here he visits Persius,
"Magister artis, ingenique largitor
"Venter." Prol. v. 10.
and finally he settles on Juvenal. See his seventh Satire. 7 Where, if I prove the pleasure but of onc,
So he judicious be, he shall be alone
A theatre unto me ;] This passage, says Mr. Malone, Jonson imitated from Shakspeare,-the censure of " which one (judicious) must, in your allowance, o'erweigh a whole theatre of
To strike the ear of time in those fresh strains,
And in this age can hope no other graceLeave me! There's something come into my thought, That must and shall be sung high and aloof,
Safe from the wolf's black jaw, and the dull ass's hoof.
others." Hamlet. The thought is not so deep but that it might have occurred to less inventive faculties than either of those great poets possessed. If, however, one of them must borrow from the other, I should incline to set down Shakspeare as the obliged person; for though we do not know the exact date of the Apologetical Dialogue, yet we are sure that it cannot be later than 1602, since it alludes to the design of composing a tragedy on the fall of Sejanus, which was effected in that year, or in the beginning of the next. After all, Jonson's words are little more than a translation from Cicero, to whom he was much more likely to be indebted than to any contemporary writer whatever: "Hæc ego non multis, sed tibi satis magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus." Cicero himself alludes to a story told of Plato.
Once I'll say.] i. e. try. Once is used here in a sense in which it frequently occurs with our old writers—that is, emphatically, Once for all.
I, that spend, &c.] These are truly noble lines, and cannot be read without exciting feelings of respect and tenderness for the author. Let it never be forgotten that in every condition of life, in poverty and neglect, in competence and ease, in sickness and in sorrow, in youth and in age, Jonson steadily maintained the high character of the poet. If he failed to exemplify it in himself, it must be attributed to natural deficiencies; for he was fully sensible of what was required, and declined no toil which promised to facilitate its attainment. There is a lofty moral tone which constantly accompanies all his definitions and descriptions of true poetry, and which may be sought in vain in any other writer in the English language, except, perhaps, Milton, who sanctified what he borrowed from Jonson, by inspiration from a source not to be named here without irreverence VOL. II.