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pen were panegyrics on the writings of his contemporaries. In truth, the failings of this poet lay on the side of proneness to commendation, and he was very sensible of it. As early as 1614 he tells the learned Selden that he had hitherto been too liberal of his applause; but that he would turn a sharper eye upon himself in future, and consider what he wrote:
"And vex it many days, Before men got a verse; much less a praise." Such, however, was the kindly warmth of his disposition that this resolution was broken as soon as made, and he continued to the close of his life to speak with favour of almost every literary work that appeared. His reward for this is a universal outcry on the peculiar malevo
lence of his nature!
1 To Edward Filmer, on his musical work, &c.] This epigram first appeared in the folio of 1640, after the death of our poet. Possibly it might have been prefixed to the work it celebrates, and from thence transcribed into the edition above mentioned. Though no date is set to any of the epigrams, this excepted, yet circumstances will assist us to guess at the time of those addressed to the greatest persons then living. In general they were written before 1616, as most of them are contained in the edition of Jonson's works, which was published in that year.-WHAL.
Here is much ado about nothing. What
To make the language sweet, &c.] From Chaucer. It is a pretty compliment to Henrietta, who had probably encouraged the work, from an attachment to her native tunes. dressed "To my faithful servant, and (by his The Northern Lass.] These lines are adcontinued virtue) my loving friend, the author of this work, Master Richard Brome. 1632." have already noticed the attempts of Randolph and others to create a feeling of hostility in our poet towards Brome. That they met with no warmly attached to his old and meritorious ser success is evident; for Jonson always remained vant, and Brome continued no less grateful and affectionate towards his generous master. Even after Jonson's death the kindness of the latter breaks out in a little poem to the memory of
"I knew him (Fletcher)
I knew him in his strength; even then, when
That was the master of his art, and me,
Promittunt medici: tractant fabrilia fabri.
2 This SPEECH, which was copied from Ashmole's MSS. and kindly transmitted to me by Mr. Bliss, is said to have been " presented to King James at a tilting, in the behalf of the two noble brothers, Sir Robert and Sir Henry Rich." The lines have no date, but were probably produced on one of those festive occasions to which the attachment of Prince Henry to martial exercises gave birth. It was the first appearance, perhaps, of the brothers in arms; and this address of the knight, who presented them to the sovereign, formed a part of the entertainment: for these little tournaments were usually prefaced with some kind of poetical fable.
The elder of these two.] These youths were the sons of Robert Rich, first Earl of Warwick, by the too celebrated sister of the Earl of Essex. Robert, the elder, succeeded his father as Earl of Warwick in 1618. He protests much (like Hamlet's player-queen) in his speech, and he kept his word somewhat in the same manner. James was scarcely dead when he deserted his successor, threw himself into the arms of the Parliament, took the command of the fleet, and
Fresh honours were conferred upon him by Charles, in return for which he deserted and betrayed him. He was not long in receiving his reward from his new masters, who, less scrupulous than his indulgent sovereign, deprived him of his head for some alleged tergiversation, in 1649.
An Epistle to Sir Edward Sackvile.] At that time lord chamberlain; he succeeded his father, Thomas Sackvile, in the title of Earl of Dorset, who died suddenly at the council-table in 1608.-WHAL.
We have here a cluster of mistakes. father of Sir Edward Sackvile was not Thomas, but Robert, second Earl of Dorset, his son; nor did Edward succeed his father, but his elder brother Richard, third Earl of Dorset, who died in 1624. What Whalley means by at that time lord chamberlain, it is difficult to say. There is no allusion to any such office in the poem, nor could there be, for the Earl of Dorset was not made chamberlain till 1642, five years after the poet's death.
This Sir Edward Sackvile is the person who engaged in that ferocious and fatal duel with the Lord Bruce, of which the interesting account given by himself was copied into the Guardian, from the MS. in the library of Queen's College, Oxford.
This affair took place in 1613, when he was
As they are done, and such returns they find:
You then, whose will not only, but desire
The way to meet what others would upbraid,
And in the act did so my blush prevent,
To have such do me good I durst not
They are the noblest benefits, and sink Deepest in man, of which when he doth think,
The memory delights him more, from whom Than what, he hath received. Gifts stink from some,
They are so long a coming, and so hard; Where any deed is forced, the grace is marred.
Can I owe thanks for courtesies received Against his will that does them? that hath weaved
Excuses or delays? or done them scant, That they have more oppressed me than my want?
Or if he did it not to succour me,
Himself of farther trouble, or the weight
That puts it in his debt-book ere't be done; Or that doth sound a trumpet, and doth call
His grooms to witness: or else lets it fall In that proud manner, as a good so gained, Must make me sad for what I have obtained.
only three-and-twenty. Afterwards, however, he nobly redeemed his extravagancies, and became one of the brightest characters of his day. Lord Clarendon says that "his person was beautiful, graceful, and vigorous; his wit pleasant, sparkling, and sublime, and his other parts of learning and language of that lustre that he could not miscarry in the world."
No! gifts and thanks should have one cheerful face,
So each that's done, and ta'en, becomes a brace.
He neither gives or does, that doth delay
Nought but in corners, and is loth to leave Least air or print, but flies it: such men would
Run from the conscience of it if they could.
As I have seen some infants of the sword Well known, and practised borrowers on their word,
Give thanks by stealth, and whispering in the ear,
For what they straight would to the world forswear;
And speaking worst of those from whom they went
But then fist-filled, to put me off the scent. Now, dam'mee, sir, if you shall not command
My sword, ('tis but a poor sword, understand,)
As far as any poor sword in the land; Then turning unto him is next at hand, Damns whom he damned too, is the veriest gull,
Has feathers, and will serve a man to pull. Are they not worthy to be answered so, That to such natures let their full hands flow,
And seek not wants to succour; but enquire, Like money-brokers, after names, and hire Their bounties forth, to him that last was
Or stands to be 'n commission o' the blade? Still, still the hunters of false fame apply Their thoughts and means to making loud the cry,
But one is bitten by the dog he fed, And hurt, seeks cure; the surgeon bids take bread,
And sponge-like with it dry up the blood quite,
sion "now Earl of Dorset," which seems to imply that Sir Edward had not long enjoyed the title. He returned to England from Italy on hearing of the death of his brother, which took place the 28th of March, 1624: and the poet probably addressed him soon after 1625, when sickness and want first assailed him.
There is great vigour of thought and strength This "Epistle" was the favourite poem of of expression in this rough epistle. The prediHorne Tooke. He had it by heart, and de-lection of Horne Tooke for it throws no discredit lighted to quote it on all occasions. Its date on his judgment. may be pretty nearly ascertained by the expres
Then give it to the hound that did him bite:
O, is it so? knows he so much, and will
Many a pound, and piece, will place one well.
But these men ever want: their very trade Is borrowing; that but stopt, they do invade All as their prize, turn pirates here at land, | Have their Bermudas, and their Streights i' the Strand:
Man out their boats to the Temple, and not shift
Now, but command; make tribute what was gift;
And it is paid them with a trembling zeal,
Such a religious horror in the breasts
Or feats of darkness acted in mid-sun,
Sure there is mystery in it, I not know, That men such reverence to such actions show,
And almost deify the authors! make Loud sacrifice of drink for their health's sake:
Rear suppers in their names, and spend whole nights
Unto their praise in certain swearing rites! Cannot a man be reckoned in the state Of valour, but at this idolatrous rate? I thought that fortitude had been a mean,? "Twixt fear and rashness; not a lust obscene,
1 Pardon, says he, that were a way to see All the town-curs take each their snatch at me.] The allusion is to a fable of Phædrus, who makes Æsop the author of it.-WHAL.
Or appetite of offending, but a skill
Her ends are honesty and public good: And where they want, she is not understood.
No more are these of us; let them then go, I have the list of mine own faults to know, Look to, and cure: he's not a man hath
But like to be, that every day mends one, And feels it; else he tarries by the beast. Can I discern how shadows are decreast, Or grown, by height or lowness of the sun, And can I less of substance? when I run, Ride, sail, am coached, know I how far I have gone;
And my mind's motion not? or have I none?
No! he must feel and know, that will ad
Men have been great, but never good by chance
Or on the sudden. It were strange that he Who was this morning such a one, should be
Sidney ere night! or that did go to bed Coryat, should rise the most sufficient head Of Christendom; and neither of these know,
Were the rack offered them, how they came so !
'Tis by degrees that men arrive at glad
Are nothing till that comes to bind and shut.
Then stands it a triumphal mark! then men Observe the strength, the height, the why and when
It was erected: and still walking under, Meet some new matter to look up and wonder !
fortunate piece is never mentioned now without a scornful sneer at the dotage which produced it. As a whole, indeed, much cannot be said in its favour, but it may safely be pronounced that the observations of Lovel on true valour (vol. ii. P. 373-74), to which the line just quoted has been referred, will not be easily paralleled for justness of thought, vigour of sentiment, and beauty of un-expression, in this or any other language.
For the Bermudas, &c., see vol. ii. p. 169, and vol. ii. p. 245 a.
I thought that fortitude had been a mean, &c.] This subject the poet subsequently dilated upon in The New Inn. The name of this
Such notes are virtuous men ! they live as fast
As they are high; are rooted, and will last. They need no stilts, nor rise upon their toes,
As if they would belie their stature; those Are dwarfs of honour, and have neither weight
Nor fashion; if they chance aspire to height,
'Tis like light canes, that first rise big and brave,
Shoot forth in smooth and comely spaces; have
But few and fair divisions: but being got Aloft, grow less and straightened; full of knot,
And last, go out in nothing! you that see Their difference, cannot choose which you will be.
You know (without my flattering you) too much
For me to be your indice. Keep you such, That I may love your person, as I do, Without your gift, though I can rate that too,
This Epistle, as the folio calls it, is prefixed to the first edition of Selden's Titles of Honour, 1614, with this address: "Ben Jonson to his honord friend, Mr. John Selden, Health."
There was an extraordinary degree of kindness between these two most learned men, which continued to the end of Jonson's life. They communicated their works and mutually assisted each other. Selden, who was above flattery, affectionately addresses our author in the work here mentioned, as one that was
Omnia carmina doctus,
Was trusted, that you thought my judgment such
To ask it: though in most of works, it be
Unto the censure. Yours all need doth fly
Themselves, through favouring what is there not found;
But I to yours far otherwise shall do,'
And mine not least) I have too oft preferred Men past their terms, and praised some names too much;
But 'twas with purpose to have made them such.
Since, being deceived, I turn a sharper eye Upon myself, and ask to whom? and why? And what I write? and vex it many days Before men get a verse, much less a praise; So that my reader is assured, I now
Mean what I speak, and still will keep that
Et callet mythov plasmata, et historiam. And he, who was superior to envy, speaks with conscious pride of the aid which he derived from |
But I to yours, farre from this fault, shall 1614.-F. C.]