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THIS "Comical Satire" was first acted in the year 1599, "by the Lord Chamberlain's servants," that is, by the Company who played at the Globe, on the Bank Side, and who, a few years afterwards, (in 1603,) obtained a licence from James, and in consequence of it, took the appellation of his Majesty's servants. It was printed in quarto for Nicholas Linge, 1600, "as it was first composed," for several retrenchments had been made in it by the players; and from this edition the folio, 1616, was copied with very little variation. This Comedy, like the former, appears to have been acted by the whole strength of the house, with the exception of Shakspeare, who found perhaps no part in it suited to his " gentle conditions." Its merits are unquestionable; but I know not its success; nor whether it ever appeared on the modern stage. It was often played after the Restoration.
Jonson patched up a motto to it out of Horace, most of which is true, and all perhaps might have remained undisputed, had it been advanced by any one but the author.
Non aliena meo pressi pede-si propius stes,
THE NOBLEST NURSERIES OF HUMANITY
AND LIBERTY IN THE KINGDOM,
THE INNS OF COURT.1
UNDERSTAND you, Gentlemen, not your houses: and a worthy succession of you, to all time, as being born the judges of these studies. When I wrote this poem I had friendship with divers in your societies; who, as they were great names in learning, so they were no less examples of living. Of them, and then, that I say no more, it was not despised. Now that the printer, by a doubled charge, thinks it worthy a longer life than commonly the air of such things doth promise, I am careful to put it a servant to their pleasures, who are the inheritors of the first favour born it. Yet, I command it lie not in the way of your more noble and useful studies to the public: for so I shall suffer for it. But when the gown and cap is off, and the lord of liberty reigns,2 then, to take it in your hands, perhaps may make some bencher, tincted with humanity, read and not repent him. By your true honourer,
'This elegant dedication was first published in the folio, 1616. The quarto
And the lord of liberty reigns.] He alludes to the custom of creating at Christmas, (the Saturnalia of the ancients,) in the palace, the inns of court, and houses of the nobility, a lord of misrule, whose office it was to lead and regulate the revels presented at this season of festivity. His stately, but transient sway, is well described by Shirley:
I have seen a counterfeit
And give his hand out to great lords to kiss
Had muster'd in his veins.
Luc. Some monarch
Of Inns o' Court in England, sure: but when
That walk like ghosts, and glide to several tables,
And the new cloaths in lavender, what then!
THE CHARACTER OF THE PERSONS.
He is of an ingenious and free spirit, eager and constant in reproof, without fear controlling the world's abuses. One whom no servile hope of gain, or frosty apprehension of danger, can make to be a parasite, either to time, place, or opinion.
A man well parted, a sufficient scholar, and travelled; who, wanting that place in the world's account which he thinks his merit capable of, falls into such an envious apoplexy, with which his judgment is so dazzled and distasted, that he grows violently impatient of any opposite happiness in another.
A vain-glorious knight, over-englishing his travels, and wholly consecrated to singularity; the very Jacob's staff of compliment; a sir that hath lived to see the revolution of time in most of his apparel. Of presence good enough, but so palpably affected to his own praise, that for want of flatterers he commends himself, to the floutage of his own family. He deals upon returns, and strange performances, resolving, in despite of public derision, to stick to his own particular fashion, phrase, and gesture.
1 A man well parted.] A man endowed with good natural abilities. Jonson has the same expression in A. iii.
Let him be poor and meanly clad,
2 The very Jacob's staff of compliment.] The Jacob's staff here meant, is a mathematical instrument used by our ancestors for taking heights and distances. It is now superseded by more accurate and efficient implements. Jonson's application of the term is sufficiently obvious.
3 He deals upon returns.] Ventures sent abroad, for the safe return of which he agrees by articles to receive so much money.