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Lady F. Indefinite Prue!
Lord L. But I must do the crowning act of bounty. Host. What's that, my lord?
Lord L. Give her myself, which here
By all the holy vows of love I do.
Spare all your promised portions; she's a dowry
That fortune cannot add to her.
Pru. My lord,
Your praises are instructions to mine ears,
But hear my vision sung, my dream of beauty,
Host. 'Twill be an incense to our sacrifice
Plays in themselves have neither hopes nor fears;
6 And like Mæcenas, having but one wife,
I'll marry her every hour of life hereafter.] Terentia, the wife of Mæcenas, is reported to have been not of the most gentle and complying manners, which necessarily produced many quarrels and reconcilements between her and her husband: this gave occasion to those words of Seneca, to which our poet alludes: Hunc esse, qui uxorem millies duxit, cum unam habuerit. Epist. 114. WHAL.
He meant to please you: for he sent things fit,
That's yet unhurt, although, set round with pain,
Another EPILOGUE there was, made for the Play, in the Poet's defence, but the play lived not, in opinion, to have it spoken.
A jovial host, and lord of the New Inn,
" And had he lived the care of king and queen, &c.] This pathetic appeal (of which more elsewhere) though it never probably reached the ears of the audience, did not escape those of the king and queen. Charles hastened to atone for his neglect of the "sick and sorrowing bard," and sent him a hundred pounds, a noble present in those days; for which Jonson returned him thanks in an "Epigram" full of gratitude, and dutiful affection. But the king's kindness did not stop here: he increased the poet's salary from a hundred marks to a hundred pounds, to take place from this very period, (the beginning of the year,) and to cheer his "old servant's" heart still more, added an annual butt of canary to his other favours.
Hath been the subject of our play to-night,
Would it be believed, (unless in Jonson's case) that in defiance of his own words, (still existing) his enemies should have the confidence to reduce this sum to ten pounds, and to fabricate an insolent answer for the poet, patched up from a broken sentence in the Staple of News!
8 If, as it is, at first we had call'd her Prue.] In the first draught of the play, the chambermaid's name was Cicely, which, it seems, was not approved of by the audience, and therefore altered by the poet to Prudence. In the 8vo. of 1631, she is called Cis, through the first and second act. WHAL.
9 The author has entered so fully into the characters and conduct of this unfortunate comedy, that little remains to be said on either. The first act is very well written, and many passages in it might be pointed out, not only marked with spirit, but elegance, and poetic feeling: even the disquisitions of Lovel, though intolerable in a drama of action, are yet, as scholastic theses, possessed of no inconsiderable degree of merit. The characters are, as usual, correctly maintained; but the inferior ones are so ill conceived, that more disgust than pleasure is generated by the poet's rigid attention to the suum cuique.
With respect to the conduct of the piece, it seems very extraordinary that Jonson, during his elaborate detail of it should not have been once struck with its palpable absurdities. To pass over the episode of Nick Stuff and his Pinnacia, which is merely ridiculous, what must we think of a lord who abandons his family, turns travelling tinker, show-man, and finally inn-keeper, because his wife had brought him two daughters! of a lady, who runs away from her
home, leaves her title and estate to her eldest daughter, steals her youngest, and sells her, in the disguise of a boy, to her own husband, whom she does not recognize, and continues to live with him, under the appearance of a drunken Irish nurse, with a patch over one eye (as an effectual screen) and a bottle of usquebaugh at her girdle-But it is needless to proceed-the fact seems to be, that poor Jonson, though his faint and faltering tongue could scarcely shake out a few lines by way of apology, yet clung, with a pertinacity, which those who cannot pity and forgive, have no touch of human kindness, no knowledge of human feeling, to the fond hope that judgment was still "in the field," and that the palsy, which had long chilled his blood, and beset his enfeebled limbs with pain, had not seized the nobler parts, nor injured the pristine sanity and vigour of his mind:
Hæc cura et cineri vixit inusta suo!
OME leave the loathed stage,
Usurp the chair of wit!
Indicting and arraigning every day,
Let their fastidious, vain
Run on and rage, sweat, censure and condemn; They were not made for thee, less thou for them.
Say that thou pour'st them wheat,
'Twere simple fury still thyself to waste On such as have no taste!
To offer them a surfeit of pure bread,
No, give them grains their fill,
If they love lees, and leave the lusty wine,
No doubt some mouldy tale,
1 This Ode is prefaced with the following explanatory notice :
"The just indignation the author took at the vulgar censure of his play, by some malicious spectators, begat this following Ode to himself."