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retained in this employ, on all occasions, during his whole life afterward.

But these flighter efforts of his muse did not wholly occupy his genius. Both inclination and ambition concurred in prompting him to the graver and weightier works of the drama. Accordingly, in 1605, came out his comedy of Volpone, or the Fox; which being wholly finished in the space of five weeks, did not hinder him from indulging the fournefs of his temper, in a satirical comedy, called, Eastward. Hoe, written about this time against the Scotch nation. In this piece of intemperance, Chapman and Marlon were his coadjutors; and they were all three committed to prison, and brought in danger of losing their ears and noses in the pillory; but, however, had the good fortune to obtain a pardon.

To repair this fault, Johnson sacrificed both his time and his muse, almost intirely, to gra. tify the taste of the court in-masques, for some years ; so that his next play did not make its appearance till 1609. But he made some amends for the length of this interval, by the perfection of the piece, which he intitled, Epicene, or the Silent Woman; this being generally esteemed the most exact and finished, comedy that our nation hath produced. And the next year he brought forth The Alche-, mist, one of the best of his comedies; but that was followed the ensuing year, 1611, by. the worst of his tragedies, intitled Cataline, VOL. V. E


In 1613 our author took à tour to Paris, where he was admitted to an interview and conversation with cardinal Person, whom he created with all that frankness and bluntness which was so much his nature. It was about this time that he commenced a quarrel with Inigo Jones, whom he therefore made the subject of his ridicule, in his next comedy, called Bartholomew-Fair, acted in 1614. That was succeeded by The Devil's an Ass, in 1616. This year he published his works in one folio volume ; and the poet-laureat’s. falary, of an hundred marks per annum, was fettled upon him for life, by king James I. the same year.

Crowned with these honours by his prince, he saw the most diftinguished wits of his time crowding his train and courting his acquaintance. And, in that spirit, he was invited to Chrift-Church in Oxford, by Dr. Corbet, then senior-student of that college. gladly accepted the invitation; and, having passed some time in cultivating his muse in that delightful feat, he received an additional atteftation of his merit from the university, who presented him with the honorary degree of master of arts, at the act in 1619. On the death of the laureat, Samuel Daniel, in October following, Johnson succeeded to that post, the duty of which had been chiefly performed by him a long time before.

The year had not yet expired, when our How crowned laureat took a touränto Scotland,

Our poet

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on purpose to visit a favourite brother-poet, Mr. Drummond of Hawthornden in that com. try. He passed some months with this ingenious friend, to whom he opened his heart with a moft unreserved freedom and confidence, the sweetest gift of friendship. Our author was much pleased with the adventures of this journey, and celebrated them in a particular poem; which, with several more of his productions, being accidentally burnt, about two or three years afterwards, that loss drew from him a poem, which he called, An Execration upon Vulcan. He seems to have let nd year pass without the amusement of writing some of these smaller pieces. And those, with the masques, which the office of poet-laureat then particularly called for every Christmas, filled up the interval to the year 1625; when his comedy, intitled, The Staple of News, appeared upon the stage. Not long afterwards he fell into an ill state of health, which, however, did not hinder the discharge of his duty at court. And he found time also to gratify the more agreeable exercise of play-writing; for, in 1629, he brought another coinedy, called, The New Inn, or the light Heart, to the theatre. But here his adversaries prevailed over him ; the play. was hissed out of the house on its first appearance there ; and our laureat had recourse to his pride for a revenge, which dictated an ode to himself, threatning to leave the stage. This ceconomy having reduced his finances to a low ebb, the


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king graciously sent him a purse of an hundred pounds. That goodness was properly and in character repaid by an epigram, addresied to his royal benefactor, which, for some special reasons, is inserted here.

Great Charles, among the holy gifts of grace,
Annexed to thy person and thy place,
'Tis not enough (thy piety is such)
To cure the called king's-evil with a touch,
But thou wilt yet a kingly mast'ry try,
To cure the poet's evil, poverty :
And in these cures doft to thyself enlarge,
As thou doft cure our evil at thy charge.
Nay, and in this thou thew'st to value more,
One poet, than of other folks ten score.
O piety ! fo to weigh the poor's estates,
O bounty! fo to difference the rates.
What can the poet wilh his king may do,
But that he cure the people's eyil too?
But his majesty's munificence did not stop
here ; he augmented the laureat's salary of
an hundred marks, to an hundred pounds a
year, together with the addition of a tierce of
canary wine; which pension has been conti-.
nued to his successors in that office ever fince.
Our poet drew up a petition for this favour, in
the following form:

The humble petition of poor Ben,
To th'belt of monarchs, masters, men,
King Charles.


Doth moft humbly shew it,
To your majesty, your poet:
That whereas your royal father
James the blessed, pleased the rather,
Of his special grace to letters,
To make all the muses. debtors
To his bou sty : by. extension
Of a free poetic penfion,
A large hundred marks annuity,
To be given me in gratuity,
For done service, and to come :
And that this fo accepted sum ;
Or dispensed in books or bread,
(For on both the mufe was fes)
Hath drawn on me from the times,
All the envy of the rhimes,
And the rai'ling pit-pat noise
Of the less poetic boys,
When their pot-guns aim to hit,
With their pellets of small wit,
Parts of one (they judg'd) decay'd,
But we last.out still unlay'd.
Please your majesty to make,
Of your grace, for goodness' fake,
Those your father's marks your pounds:
Let their spite (which now abounds)
Then go on, and do its worst,
This would all their


burst: And so warm the poet's tongue, You'll read a snake in his next fong.

King Charles the first's personal character makes it no improbable fuppofition, that these


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