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Jonson And Decker Post by :w3junkie Category :Essays Author :Isaac Disraeli Date :September 2011 Read :4432

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Jonson And Decker

BEN JONSON appears to have carried his military spirit into the literary republic--his gross convivialities, with anecdotes of the prevalent taste in that age for drinking-bouts--his "Poetaster" a sort of Dunciad, besides a personal attack on the frequenters of the theatres, with anecdotes--his Apologetical Dialogue, which was not allowed to be repeated--characters of DECKER and of MARSTON--DECKER'S Satiromastix, a parody on JONSON'S "Poetaster"--BEN exhibited under the character of "Horace Junior"--specimens of that literary satire; its dignified remonstrance, and the honourable applause bestowed on the great bard--some foibles in the literary habits of BEN, alluded to by DECKER--JONSON'S noble reply to his detractors and rivals.


This quarrel is a splendid instance how genius of the first order, lavishing its satirical powers on a number of contemporaries, may discover, among the crowd, some individual who may return with a right aim the weapon he has himself used, and who will not want for encouragement to attack the common assailant: the greater genius is thus mortified by a victory conceded to the inferior, which he himself had taught the meaner one to obtain over him.

JONSON, in his earliest productions, "Every Man in his Humour," and "Every Man out of his Humour," usurped that dictatorship, in the Literary Republic, which he so sturdily and invariably maintained, though long and hardily disputed. No bard has more courageously foretold that posterity would be interested in his labours; and often with very dignified feelings he casts this declaration into the teeth of his adversaries: but a bitter contempt for his brothers and his contemporaries was not less vehement than his affections for those who crowded under his wing. To his "sons" and his admirers he was warmly attached, and no poet has left behind him, in MS., so many testimonies of personal fondness, in the inscriptions and addresses, in the copies of his works which he presented to friends: of these I have seen more than one fervent and impressive.

DRUMMOND of Hawthornden, who perhaps carelessly and imperfectly minuted down the heads of their literary conference on the chief authors of the age, exposes the severity of criticism which Ben exercised on some spirits as noble as his own. The genius of Jonson was rough, hardy, and invincible, of which the frequent excess degenerated into ferocity; and by some traditional tales, this ferocity was still inflamed by large potations: for Drummond informs us, "Drink was the element in which he lived."(1) Old Ben had given, on two occasions, some remarkable proofs of his personal intrepidity. When a soldier, in the face of both armies, he had fought single-handed with his antagonist, had slain him, and carried off his arms as trophies. Another time he killed his man in a duel. Jonson appears to have carried the same military spirit into the Literary Republic.

Such a genius would become more tyrannical by success, and naturally provoked opposition, from the proneness of mankind to mortify usurped greatness, when they can securely do it. The man who hissed the poet's play had no idea that he might himself become one of the dramatic personages. Ben then produced his "Poetaster," which has been called the Dunciad of those times; but it is a Dunciad without notes. The personages themselves are now only known by their general resemblance to nature, with the exception of two characters, those of Crispinus and Demetrius.(2)

In "The Poetaster," Ben, with flames too long smothered, burst over the heads of all rivals and detractors. His enemies seem to have been among all classes; personages recognised on the scene as soon as viewed; poetical, military, legal, and histrionic. It raised a host in arms. Jonson wrote an apologetical epilogue, breathing a firm spirit, worthy of himself; but its dignity was too haughty to be endured by contemporaries, whom genius must soothe by equality. This apologetical dialogue was never allowed to be repeated; now we may do it with pleasure. Writings, like pictures, require a particular light and distance to be correctly judged and inspected, without any personal inconvenience.

One of the dramatic personages in this epilogue inquires


I never saw the play breed all this tumult.
What was there in it could so deeply offend,
And stir so many hornets?

The author replies:

------------I never writ that piece
More innocent, or empty of offence;
Some salt it had, but neither tooth nor gall.
------------Why, they say you tax'd
The law and lawyers, captains, and the players,
By their particular names.
------------It is not so:
I used no names. My books have still been taught
To spare the persons, and to speak the vices.


And he proceeds to tell us, that to obviate this accusation he had placed his scenes in the age of Augustus.


To show that Virgil, Horace, and the rest
Of those great master-spirits, did not want
Detractors then, or practisers against them:
And by this line, although no parallel,
I hoped at last they would sit down and blush.

But instead of their "sitting down and blushing," we find--

That they fly buzzing round about my nostrils;
And, like so many screaming grasshoppers
Held by the wings, fill every ear with noise.


Names were certainly not necessary to portraits, where every day the originals were standing by their side. This is the studied pleading of a poet, who knows he is concealing the truth.

There is a passage in the play itself where Jonson gives the true cause of "the tumult" raised against him. Picturing himself under the character of his favourite Horace, he makes the enemies of Horace thus describe him, still, however, preserving the high tone of poetical superiority.

"Alas, sir, Horace is a mere sponge. Nothing but humours and observations he goes up and down sucking from every society, and when he comes home squeezes himself dry again. He will pen all he knows. He will sooner lose his best friend than his least jest. What he once drops upon paper against a man, lives eternally to upbraid him."

Such is the true picture of a town-wit's life! The age of Augustus was much less present to Jonson than his own; and Ovid, Tibullus, and Horace were not the personages he cared so much about, as "that society in which," it was said, "he went up and down sucking in and squeezing himself dry:" the formal lawyers, who were cold to his genius; the sharking captains, who would not draw to save their own swords, and would cheat "their friend, or their friend's friend," while they would bully down Ben's genius; and the little sycophant histrionic, "the twopenny(3) tear-mouth, copper-laced scoundrel, stiff-toe, who used to travel with pumps full of gravel after a blind jade and a hamper, and stalk upon boards and barrel-heads to an old crackt trumpet;" and who all now made a party with some rival of Jonson.

All these personages will account for "the tumult" which excites the innocent astonishment of our author. These only resisted him by "filling every ear with noise." But one of the "screaming grasshoppers held by the wings," boldly turned on the holder with a scorpion's bite; and Decker, who had been lashed in "The Poetaster," produced his "Satiromastix, or the untrussing of the humorous Poet." Decker was a subordinate author, indeed; but, what must have been very galling to Jonson, who was the aggressor, indignation proved such an inspirer, that Decker seemed to have caught some portion of Jonson's own genius, who had the art of making even Decker popular; while he discovered that his own laurel-wreath had been dexterously changed by the "Satiromastix" into a garland of "stinging nettles."

In "The Poetaster," Crispinus is the picture of one of those impertinent fellows who resolve to become poets, having an equal aptitude to become anything that is in fashionable request. When Hermogenes, the finest singer in Rome, refused to sing, Crispinus gladly seizes the occasion, and whispers the lady near him--"Entreat the ladies to entreat me to sing, I beseech you." This character is marked by a ludicrous peculiarity which, turning on an individual characteristic, must have assisted the audience in the true application. Probably Decker had some remarkable head of hair,(4) and that his locks hung not like "the curls of Hyperion;" for the jeweller's wife admiring among the company the persons of Ovid, Tibullus, &c., Crispinus acquaints her that they were poets, and, since she admires them, promises to become a poet himself. The simple lady further inquires, "if, when he is a poet, his looks will change? and particularly if his hair will change, and be like those gentlemen's?" "A man," observes Crispinus, "may be a poet, and yet not change his hair." "Well!" exclaims the simple jeweller's wife, "we shall see your cunning; yet if you can change your hair, I pray do it."

In two elaborate scenes, poor Decker stands for a full-length. Resolved to be a poet, he haunts the company of Horace: he meets him in the street, and discovers all the variety of his nothingness: he is a student, a stoic, an architect: everything by turns, "and nothing long." Horace impatiently attempts to escape from him, but Crispinus foils him at all points. This affectionate admirer is even willing to go over the world with him. He proposes an ingenious project, if Horace will introduce him to Mæcenas. Crispinus offers to become "his assistant," assuring him that "he would be content with the next place, not envying thy reputation with thy patron;" and he thinks that Horace and himself "would soon lift out of favour Virgil, Varius, and the best of them, and enjoy them wholly to ourselves." The restlessness of Horace to extricate himself from this "Hydra of Discourse," the passing friends whom he calls on to assist him, and the glue-like pertinacity of Crispinus, are richly coloured.

A ludicrous and exquisitely satirical scene occurs at the trial of Crispinus and his colleagues. Jonson has here introduced an invention, which a more recent satirist so happily applied to our modern Lexiphanes, Dr. Johnson, for his immeasurable polysyllables. Horace is allowed by Augustus to make Crispinus swallow a certain pill; the light vomit discharges a great quantity of hard matter, to clear


His brain and stomach of their tumorous heats.


These consist of certain affectations in style, and adulteration of words, which offended the Horatian taste: "the basin" is called quickly for and Crispinus gets rid easily of some, but others were of more difficult passage:--

'Magnificate!' that came up somewhat hard!

Crispinus. 'O barmy froth----'

Augustus. What's that?

Crispinus. 'Inflate!--Turgidous!--and Ventositous'--

Horace. 'Barmy froth, inflate, turgidous, and ventosity are come up.'

Tibullus. O terrible windy words!

Gallus. A sign of a windy brain.

But all was not yet over: "Prorumpt" made a terrible rumbling, as if his spirit was to have gone with it; and there were others which required all the kind assistance of the Horatian "light vomit." This satirical scene closes with some literary admonitions from the grave Virgil, who details to Crispinus the wholesome diet to be observed after his surfeits, which have filled


His blood and brain thus full of crudities.


Virgil's counsels to the vicious neologist, who debases the purity of English diction by affecting new words or phrases, may too frequently be applied.


You must not hunt for wild outlandish terms
To stuff out a peculiar dialect;
But let your matter run before your words.
And if at any time you chance to meet
Some Gallo-Belgick phrase, you shall not straight
Rack your poor verse to give it entertainment,
But let it pass; and do not think yourself
Much damnified, if you do leave it out
When not the sense could well receive it.


Virgil adds something which breathes all the haughty spirit of Ben: he commands Crispinus:


------------Henceforth, learn
To bear yourself more humbly, nor to swell
Or breathe your insolent and idle spite
On him whose laughter can your worst affright:

and dismisses him

To some dark place, removed from company;
He will talk idly else after his physic.


"The Satiromastix" may be considered as a parody on "The Poetaster." Jonson, with classical taste, had raised his scene in the court of Augustus: Decker, with great unhappiness, places it in that of William Rufus. The interest of the piece arises from the dexterity with which Decker has accommodated those very characters which Jonson has satirised in his "Poetaster." This gratified those who came every day to the theatre, delighted to take this mimetic revenge on the arch bard.

In Decker's prefatory address "To the World," he observes, "Horace haled his Poetasters to the bar;(5) the Poetasters untrussed Horace: Horace made himself believe that his Burgonian wit(6) might desperately challenge all comers, and that none durst take up the foils against him." But Decker is the Earl Rivers! He had been blamed for the personal attacks on Jonson; for "whipping his fortunes and condition of life; where the more noble reprehension had been of his mind's deformity:" but for this he retorts on Ben. Some censured Decker for barrenness of invention, in bringing on those characters in his own play whom Jonson had stigmatised; but "it was not improper," he says, "to set the same dog upon Horace, whom Horace had set to worry others." Decker warmly concludes with defying the Jonsonians.

"Let that mad dog Detraction bite till his teeth be worn to the stumps; Envy, feed thy snakes so fat with poison till they burst; World, let all thy adders shoot out their Hydra-headed forked stings! I thank thee, thou true Venusian Horace, for these good words thou givest me. Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo."

The whole address is spirited. Decker was a very popular writer, whose numerous tracts exhibit to posterity a more detailed narrative of the manners of the town in the Elizabethan age than is elsewhere to be found.

In Decker's Satiromastix, Horace junior is first exhibited in his study, rehearsing to himself an ode: suddenly the Pindaric rapture is interrupted by the want of a rhyme; this is satirically applied to an unlucky line of Ben's own. One of his "sons," Asinius Bubo, who is blindly worshipping his great idol, or "his Ningle," as he calls him, amid his admiration of Horace, perpetually breaks out into digressive accounts of what sort of a man his friends take him to be. For one, Horace in wrath prepares an epigram: and for Crispinus and Fannius, brother bards, who threaten "they'll bring your life and death on the stage, as a bricklayer in a play," he says, "I can bring a prepared troop of gallants, who, for my sake, shall distaste every unsalted line in their fly-blown comedies." "Ay," replies Asinius, "and all men of my rank!" Crispinus, Horace calls "a light voluptuous reveller," and Fannius "the slightest cobweb-lawn piece of a poet." Both enter, and Horace receives them with all friendship.

The scene is here conducted not without skill. Horace complains that


----------------When I dip my pen
In distill'd roses, and do strive to drain
Out of mine ink all gall--
Mine enemies, with sharp and searching eyes,
Look through and through me.
And when my lines are measured out as straight
As even parallels, 'tis strange, that still,
Still some imagine that they're drawn awry.
The error is not mine, but in their eye,
That cannot take proportions.


To the querulous satirist, Crispinus replies with dignified gravity--


Horace! to stand within the shot of galling tongues
Proves not your guilt; for, could we write on paper
Made of these turning leaves of heaven, the clouds,
Or speak with angels' tongues, yet wise men know
That some would shake the head, though saints should sing;
Some snakes must hiss, because they're born with stings.
------------Be not you grieved
If that which you mould fair, upright, and smooth,
Be screw'd awry, made crooked, lame, and vile,
By racking comments.--
So to be bit it rankles not, for Innocence
May with a feather brush off the foul wrong.
But when your dastard wit will strike at men
In corners, and in riddles fold the vices
Of your best friends
, you must not take to heart
If they take off all gilding from their pills,
And only offer you the bitter core.--


At this the galled Horace winces. Crispinus continues, that it is in vain Horace swears, that


--------------He puts on
The office of an executioner,
Only to strike off the swoln head of sin,
Where'er you find it standing. Say you swear,
And make damnation, parcel of your oath,
That when your lashing jests make all men bleed,
Yet you whip none--court, city, country, friends,
Foes, all must smart alike.--


Fannius, too, joins, and shows Ben the absurd oaths he takes, when he swears to all parties, that he does not mean them. How, then, of five hundred and four, five hundred


Should all point with their fingers in one instant,
At one and the same man?


Horace is awkwardly placed between these two friendly remonstrants, to whom he promises perpetual love.

Captain Tucca, a dramatic personage in Jonson's Poetaster, and a copy of his own Bobadil, whose original the poet had found at "Powles," the fashionable lounge of that day, is here continued with the same spirit; and as that character permitted from the extravagance of its ribaldry, it is now made the vehicle for those more personal retorts, exhibiting the secret history of Ben, which perhaps twitted the great bard more than the keenest wit, or the most solemn admonition which Decker could ever attain. Jonson had cruelly touched on Decker being out at elbows, and made himself too merry with the histrionic tribe: he, who was himself a poet, and had been a Thespian! The blustering captain thus attacks the great wit:--"Do'st stare, my Saracen's head at Newgate? I'll march through thy Dunkirk guts, for shooting jests at me." He insists that as Horace, "that sly knave, whose shoulders were once seen lapp'd in a player's old cast cloak," and who had reflected on Crispinus's satin doublet being ravelled out; that he should wear one of Crispinus's "old cast sattin suits," and that Fannius should write a couple of scenes for his own "strong garlic comedies," and Horace should swear that they were his own--he would easily bear "the guilt of conscience." "Thy Muse is but a hagler, and wears clothes upon best be trust (a humorous Deckerian phrase)--thou'rt great in somebody's books for this!" Did it become Jonson to gibe at the histrionic tribe, who is himself accused of "treading the stage, as if he were treading mortar."(7) He once put up--"a supplication to be a poor journeyman player, and hadst been still so, but that thou couldst not set a good face upon't. Thou hast forget how thou ambled'st in leather-pilch, by a play-waggon in the highway; and took'st mad Jeronimo's part, to get service among the mimics," &c.

Ben's person was, indeed, not gracious in the playfulness of love or fancy. A female, here, thus delineates Ben:--

"That same Horace has the most ungodly face, by my fan; it looks for all the world like a rotten russet-apple, when 'tis bruised. It's better than a spoonful of cinnamon-water next my heart, for me to hear him speak; he sounds it so i' th' nose, and talks and rants like the poor fellows under Ludgate--to see his face make faces, when he reads his songs and sonnets."

Again, we have Ben's face compared with that of his favourite, Horace's--"You staring Leviathan! look on the sweet visage of Horace; look, parboil'd face, look--he has not his face punchtfull of eyelet-holes, like the cover of a warming-pan."

Joseph Warton has oddly remarked that most of our poets were handsome men. Jonson, however, was not poetical on that score; though his bust is said to resemble Menander's.

Such are some of the personalities with which Decker recriminated.

Horace is thrown into many ludicrous situations. He is told that "admonition is good meat." Various persons bring forward their accusations; and Horace replies that they envy him,


Because I hold more worthy company.


The greatness of Ben's genius is by no means denied by his rivals; and Decker makes Fannius reply, with noble feelings, and in an elevated strain of poetry:--


Good Horace, no! my cheeks do blush for thine,
As often as thou speakst so; where one true
And nobly virtuous spirit, for thy best part
Loves thee, I wish one, ten; even from my heart!
I make account, I put up as deep share
In any good man's love, which thy worth earns,
As thou thyself; we envy not to see
Thy friends with bays to crown thy poesy.
No, here the gall lies;--We, that know what stuff
Thy very heart is made of, know the stalk
On which thy learning grows, and can give life
To thy, once dying, baseness; yet must we
Dance anticke on your paper--.
But were thy warp'd soul put in a new mould,
I'd wear thee as a jewel set in gold.


To which one adds, that "jewels, master Horace, must be hanged, you know." This "Whip of Men," with Asinius his admirer, are brought to court, transformed into satyrs, and bound together: "not lawrefied, but nettle-fied;" crowned with a wreath of nettles.


With stinging-nettles crown his stinging wit.


Horace is called on to swear, after Asinius had sworn to give up his "Ningle."

"Now, master Horace, you must be a more horrible swearer; for your oath must be, like your wits, of many colours; and like a broker's book, of many parcels."

Horace offers to swear till his hairs stand up on end, to be rid of this sting. "Oh, this sting!" alluding to the nettles. "'Tis not your sting of conscience, is it?" asks one. In the inventory of his oaths, there is poignant satire, with strong humour; and it probably exhibits some foibles in the literary habits of our bard.

He swears "Not to hang himself, even if he thought any man could write plays as well as himself; not to bombast out a new play with the old linings of jests stolen from the Temple's Revels; not to sit in a gallery, when your comedies have entered their actions, and there make vile and bad faces at every line, to make men have an eye to you, and to make players afraid; not to venture on the stage, when your play is ended, and exchange courtesies and compliments with gallants to make all the house rise and cry--'That's Horace that's he that pens and purges humours.' When you bid all your friends to the marriage of a poor couple, that is to say, your Wits and Necessities--alias, a poet's Whitsun-ale--you shall swear that, within three days after, you shall not abroad, in bookbinders' shops, brag that your viceroys, or tributary-kings, have done homage to you, or paid quarterage. Moreover, when a knight gives you his passport to travel in and out to his company, and gives you money for God's sake--you will swear not to make scald and wry-mouthed jests upon his knighthood. When your plays are misliked at court, you shall not cry Mew! like a puss-cat, and say, you are glad you write out of the courtier's element; and in brief, when you sup in taverns, amongst your betters, you shall swear not to dip your manners in too much sauce; nor, at table, to fling epigrams or play-speeches about you."

The king observes, that


--------------------He whose pen
Draws both corrupt and clear blood from all men
Careless what vein he pricks; let him not rave
When his own sides are struck; blows, blows do crave.


Such were the bitter apples which Jonson, still in his youth, plucked from the tree of his broad satire, that branched over all ranks in society. That even his intrepidity and hardiness felt the incessant attacks he had raised about him, appears from the close of the Apologetical Epilogueto "The Poetaster;" where, though he replies with all the consciousness of genius, and all its haughtiness, he closes with a determination to give over the composition of comedies! This, however, like all the vows of a poet, was soon broken; and his masterpieces were subsequently produced.


Friend. Will you not answer then the libels?

Author. No.

Friend. Nor the Untrussers.

Author. Neither.

Friend. You are undone, then.

Author. With whom?

Friend. The world.

Author. The bawd!

Friend. It will be taken to be stupidity or tameness in you.

Author. But they that have incensed me, can in soul
Acquit me of that guilt. They know I dare
To spurn or baffle them; or squirt their eyes
With ink or urine: or I could do worse,
Arm'd with Archilochus' fury, write iambicks,
Would make the desperate lashers hang themselves.--


His Friend tells him that he is accused that "all his writing is mere railing;" which Jonson nobly compares to "the salt in the old comedy;" that they say, that he is slow, and "scarce brings forth a play a year."


Author. ------------'Tis true,
I would they could not say that I did that.

He is angry that their

------------Base and beggarly conceits
Should carry it, by the multitude of voices,
Against the most abstracted work, opposed
To the stufft nostrils of the drunken rout.--

And then exclaims with admirable enthusiasm--

O this would make a learn'd and liberal soul
To rive his stained quill up to the back,
And damn his long-watch'd labours to the fire;
Things, that were born, when none but the still night,
And the dumb candle, saw his pinching throes.

And again, alluding to these mimics--

This 'tis that strikes me silent, seals my lips,
And apts me rather to sleep out my time,
Than I would waste it in contemned strifes
With these vile Ibides, these unclean birds,
That make their mouths their clysters, and still purge
From their hot entrails.(8) But I leave the monsters
To their own fate. And since the Comic Muse
Hath proved so ominous to me, I will try
If Tragedy have a more kind aspect.
Leave 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.

Friend. I reverence these raptures, and obey them.


Such was the noble strain in which Jonson replied to his detractors in the town and to his rivals about him. Yet this poem, composed with all the dignity and force of the bard, was not suffered to be repeated. It was stopped by authority. But Jonson, in preserving it in his works, sends it "TO POSTERITY, that it may make a difference between their manners that provoked me then, and mine that neglected them ever."


FOOTNOTES:

(1) The gross convivialities of the times, from the age of Elizabeth, were remarkable for several circumstances. Hard-drinking was a foreign vice, imported by our military men on their return from the Netherlands: and the practice, of whose prevalence Camden complains, was even brought to a kind of science. They had a dialect peculiar to their orgies. See "Curiosities of Literature," vol. ii. p. 294 (last edition).

Jonson's inclinations were too well suited to the prevalent taste, and he gave as largely into it as any of his contemporaries. Tavern-habits were then those of our poets and actors. Ben's Humours, at "the Mermaid," and at a later period, his Leges Convivales at "the Apollo," the club-room of "the Devil," were doubtless one great cause of a small personal unhappiness, of which he complains, and which had a very unlucky effect in rendering a mistress so obdurate, who "through her eyes had stopt her ears." This was, as his own verse tells us,


"His mountain-belly and his rocky face."


He weighed near twenty stone, according to his own avowal--an Elephant-Cupid! One of his "Sons," at the "Devil," seems to think that his Catiline could not fail to be a miracle, by a certain sort of inspiration which Ben used on the occasion.


"With strenuous sinewy words that Catiline swells,
I reckon it not among men-miracles.
How could that poem heat and vigour lack,
When each line oft cost BEN a cup of sack?"
R. BARON'S Pocula Castalia, p. 113, 1650.


Jonson, in the Bacchic phraseology of the day, was "a Canary-bird." "He would (says Aubrey) many times exceed in drink; canary was his beloved liquor; then he would tumble home to bed; and when he had thoroughly perspired, then to study."

Tradition, too, has sent down to us several tavern-tales of "Rare Ben." A good-humoured one has been preserved of the first interview between Bishop Corbet, when a young man, and our great bard. It occurred at a tavern, where Corbet was sitting alone. Ben, who had probably just drank up to the pitch of good fellowship, desired the waiter to take to the gentleman "a quart of raw wine; and tell him," he added, "I sacrifice my service to him."--"Friend," replied Corbet, "I thank him for his love; but tell him, from me, that he is mistaken; for sacrifices are always burned." This pleasant allusion to the mulled wine of the time by the young wit could not fail to win the affection of the master-wit himself. Harl. MSS. 6395.

Ben is not viewed so advantageously, in an unlucky fit of ebriety recorded by Oldys, in his MS. notes on Langbaine; but his authority is not to me of a suspicious nature: he had drawn it from a MS. collection of Oldisworth's, who appears to have been a curious collector of the history of his times. He was secretary to that strange character, Philip, Earl of Pembroke. It was the custom of those times to form collections of little traditional stories and other good things; we have had lately given to us by the Camden Society an amusing one, from the L'Estrange family, and the MS. already quoted is one of them. There could be no bad motive in recording a tale, quite innocent in itself, and which is further confirmed by Isaac Walton, who, without alluding to the tale, notices that Jonson parted from Sir Walter Raleigh and his son "not in cold blood." Mr. Gifford, in a MS. note on this work, does not credit this story, it not being accordant with dates. Such stories may not accord with dates or persons, and yet may be founded on some substantial fact. I know of no injury to Ben's poetical character, in showing that he was, like other men, quite incapable of taking care of himself, when he was sunk in the heavy sleep of drunkenness. It was an age when kings, as our James I. and his majesty of Denmark, were as often laid under the table as their subjects. My motive for preserving the story is the incident respecting carrying men in baskets: it was evidently a custom, which perhaps may have suggested the memorable adventure of Falstaff. It was a convenient mode of conveyance for those who were incapable of taking care of themselves before the invention of hackney coaches, which was of later date, in Charles the First's reign.

Camden recommended Jonson to Sir Walter Raleigh as a tutor to his son, whose gay humours not brooking the severe studies of Jonson, took advantage of his foible, to degrade him in the eyes of his father, who, it seems, was remarkable for his abstinence from wine: though, if another tale be true, he was no common sinner in "the true Virginia." Young Raleigh contrived to give Ben a surfeit, which threw the poet into a deep slumber; and then the pupil maliciously procured a buck-basket, and a couple of men, who carried our Ben to Sir Walter, with a message that "their young master had sent home his tutor." There is nothing improbable in the story; for the circumstance of carrying drunken men in baskets was a usual practice. In the Harleian MS. quoted above, I find more than one instance; I will give one. An alderman, carried in a porter's basket, at his own door, is thrown out of it in a qualmish state. The man, to frighten away the passengers, and enable the grave citizen to creep in unobserved, exclaims, that the man had the falling sickness!

(2) These were Marston and Decker, but as is usual with these sort of caricatures, the originals sometimes mistook their likenesses. They were both town-wits, and cronies, of much the same stamp; by a careful perusal of their works, the editor of Jonson has decided that Marston was Crispinus. With him Jonson had once lived on the most friendly terms: afterwards the great poet quarrelled with both, or they with him.

Dryden, in the preface to his "Notes and Observations on the Empress of Morocco," in his quarrel with Settle, which has been sufficiently narrated by Dr. Johnson, felt, when poised against this miserable rival, who had been merely set up by a party to mortify the superior genius, as Jonson had felt when pitched against Crispinus. It is thus that literary history is so interesting to authors. How often, in recording the fates of others, it reflects their own! "I knew indeed (says Dryden) that to write against him was to do him too great an honour; but I considered Ben Jonson had done it before to Decker, our author's predecessor, whom he chastised in his Poetaster, under the character of Crispinus." Langbaine tells us the subject of the "Satiromastix" of Decker, which I am to notice, was "the witty Ben Jonson;" and with this agree all the notices I have hitherto met with respecting "the Horace Junior" of Decker's Satiromastix. Mr. Gilchrist has published two curious pamphlets on Jonson; and in the last, p. 56, he has shown that Decker was "the poet-ape of Jonson," and that he avenged himself under the character of Crispinus in his "Satiromastix;" to which may be added, that the Fannius, in the same satirical comedy, is probably his friend Marston.

Jonson allowed himself great liberty in personal satire, by which, doubtless, he rung an alarum to a waspish host; he lampooned Inigo Jones, the great machinist and architect. The lampoons are printed in Jonson's works (but not in their entirety. The great architect had sufficient court influence to procure them to be cancelled; and the character of In-and-in Medley, in "The Tale of a Tub," has come down to us with no other satirical personal traits than a few fantastical expressions); and I have in MS. an answer by Inigo Jones, in verse, so pitiful that I have not printed it. That he condescended to bring obscure individuals on the stage, appears by his character of Carlo Buffoon, in Every Man out of his Humour. He calls this "a second untruss," and was censured for having drawn it from personal revenge. The Aubrey Papers, recently published have given us the character of this Carlo Buffoon, "one Charles Chester, a bold impertinent fellow; and they could never be at quiet for him; a perpetual talker, and made a noise like a drum in a room. So one time at a tavern Sir Walter Raleigh beats him, and seals up his mouth; i.e., his upper and nether beard, with hard wax."--p. 514. Such a character was no unfitting object for dramatic satire. Mr. Gilchrist's pamphlets defended Jonson from the frequent accusations raised against him for the freedom of his muse, in such portraits after the life. Yet even our poet himself does not deny their truth, while he excuses himself. In the dedication of "The Fox," to the two Universities, he boldly asks, "Where have I been particular? Where personal?--Except to a mimic, cheater, bawd, buffoon, creatures (for their insolencies) worthy to be taxed." The mere list he here furnishes us with would serve to crowd one of the "twopenny audiences" in the small theatres of that day.

(3) Alluding, no doubt, to the price of seats at some of the minor theatres.

(4) It was the fashion with the poets connected with the theatre to wear long hair. Nashe censures Greene "for his fond (foolish) disguising of a Master of Arts (which was Greene's degree) with ruffianly hair."--ED.

(5) Alluding to the trial of the Poetasters, which takes place before Augustus and his poetical jury of Virgil, Ovid, Tibullus, &c., in Ben's play.

(6) Decker alludes here to the bastard of Burgundy, who considered himself unmatchable, till he was overthrown in Smithfield by Woodville, Earl Rivers.

(7) Horace acknowledges he played Zulziman at Paris-garden. "Sir Vaughan: Then, master Horace, you played the part of an honest man--"

Tucca exclaims: "Death of Hercules! he could never play that part well in 's life!"

(8) Among those arts of imitation which man has derived from the practice of animals, naturalists assure us that he owes the use of clysters to the Egyptian Ibis. There are some who pretend this medicinal invention comes from the stork. The French are more like Ibises than we are: ils se donnent des lavements eux-mêmes. But as it is rather uncertain what the Egyptian Ibis is; whether, as translated in Leviticus xi. 17, the cormorant, or a species of stork, or only "a great owl," as we find in Calmet; it would be safest to attribute the invention to the unknown bird. I recollect, in Wickliffe's version of the Pentateuch, which I once saw in MS. in the possession of my valued friend Mr. Douce, that that venerable translator interpolates a little, to tell us that the Ibis "giveth to herself a purge."


(The end)
Isaac Disraeli's essay: Jonson And Decker

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