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*' to be his chief," before the former was introduced to the stage: and the MS. to which Mr. Chalmers refers begins in 1597. Among the aiterersand repairers of decayed dramas, we find the names of Dekker, Drayton, Chettle, Antliony Munday, Heywood, and a long et esetera of poets, the memorials of whose lives have, perhaps, undeservedly perished ; * but among these entries not once does the name of our beloved Shakspeare," occur. That Shakspeare wrote on the subjects already dramatized by inferior authors, is not to be denied; but that he lived "by the brokage of others' wit," or that he altered plays for his theatre, is not proved in a solitary instance; that he ever did, is barely possible: but that he did not, after ion son became a retainer to the stage, seems proved by the absence of his name in the MS. of Henslowe. It cannot be too much to require ©f Mr. Chalmers, who has given us two sisterly octavos crying proof! proof! "f something approaching to evidence of the truth of his assertions.
That the works of Shakspeare are "e'en the frippery of wit," Mr. Chalmers proves in his "Apology." by citing Marston's description of a fop % in his duy; who
.* Vixere fortes ante Aganiemnona
Urgentur ignotique longa ,
Hor. Oi. 9. lib. ir.
The horse-leech hath two daughters crying give, give.
Proverbs, xxx. 15.
J Lnscus, what's play'd to-day? fayth now I know
I set wy lips abroach, from whence doth flow - 1
Nought but poor Juliet and Romeo.
H'ath made a common place-book out of plays,
Marston's Stat. 10. 1599.
(lijte many fops of our own) being play-mad, spoke of nothing but plays and players, whose conversation was of the newest and most popular tragedy, from which he courted his Lesbia most pathetically, and from which he borrowed all his jests and raillery. In this coxcomb of antiquity Mr. Chalmers recognises the features of Shakspeare, and boasts of his discovery in the following terms: " We now perceive, that Shakspeare's table-talk turned chiefly Ob his profession; that he ne'er of ought did speak but when of play or players he did treate. We at length perceive, that Shakspeare had discernment enough to know the value of a common-place-book to a professed writer: he made a common-place-book out of plays: he writes, he rails, he jests, he courts, what not; and all from out his huge long-scraped stock of wellpenn'd plays. Thi*is such a delineation of our dramatist as his admirers have never seen before."—No; I'll be sworn! and as Costard says, " an I had but a penny in the world, thou shouldst have it to buy gingerbread," for the discovery. No one before Mr. Chalmers, I am well persuaded, ever contemplated the great poet, "of imagination all compact," as the Lazarus of literature; like his own moth living on the alms-basket of words, and at a great feast of plays, as stealing the scraps: but since this discovery has been made, I am confident that the author of The Rambler has satirized Shakspeare under the wit Papilius, subsisting a week upon an expression, of which he who dropped it, did not know the value.—" Go by, Jeronimo." If this be the consequence
In the 34th of Elizabeth's reign, John Marston was chosen reader of the Inner Temple; and among the Oxford verses on the death of that princess, there is a copy signed John Marston ex aeda Christi.
"It is a fact, which cannot be disputed, that Marston was, in 1599, very intimately connected with Ben Jonson, who was then at variance with Shakspeare: Marston and Jonson afterwards quarrelled; as inch poets could not long be friends: Marston again parodied Shakspeare in his "What you Wish," lo'97, wherein he iayi; "Look ye, I speak play scrapes." Supplemental Apology, 851,note i.
Here are five positions in the course of as many lines, some of which are utterly erroneous, and not one of which can Mr. Chalmer» prove; unless he has some secret evidence, not yet before the public. I am aware of the notice of Mutton in Di *mmood's conver•atien with Jonson.'
«f seeking the ancient mother; if the study of those, who wrote " i' the olden time" thus brighten the wit, inform the mind, and improve the judgment, let us even join chorus with Timotheus Milesius—
For this degradation of Shakspeare, Mr. Chalmers received the merited chastisement of the" British Critic ;"• but in the " Supplemental Apology" he returns to the charge, and thinks he proves the fact of Shakspeare'* common-place collections in the following quotation:
"I will repeat what I have already said, and prove what is plainly demonstrable; viz. that Shakspeare was a diligent reader, and copious collector. The contemporary of Shakspeare, Webster, t who knew him perfectly, says, in the preface to the" White Devil," what the commentators, and critics, would do well to profit by: Tietraction is the sworn friend to ignorance.% For mine own part, I have ever truly cherished my good opinion of other men's worthy labours, especially of that free and heightened style of Master Chapman: the laboured and understanding works of Master Jonson: the no less worthy composures of the both worthily excellent Master Beaumont and Master Fletcher: and, lastly, (without wrong last to be named,) the right happie and copious industrie of M. Shakspeare, M. Dekker, and M.Heywood; wishing what I write may be read by their light."
Such is Webster's declaration ,. and if Mr. Chalmers mfers Shakspeare's use of a common-place book from this passage, he deceives nobody but himself: the meaning of Webster's copious industries sufficiently explained by the company in which he has placed Shakspeare; namely, with Dekker and Ileywood. The former had before 1612, according to the apologist's own arrangement, produced thirty-one dramas; Dekker, a still great
* Vol. ix. page 519. 1797.
t To the reader of his " Vittoria Corombona," 4to. 1612, Webster obtained bis freedom of the Merchant Taylors' Company, by servitude to Henvy Clinkard, the 17th Nov. 1617, as I am informed by G. V. Kcunburg, Esq. the present master of that company. O. G.
I We may say to Mr Chalmers---Medice, cura teipsum!
er number, jointly and separately, including those en* tered in Henslowe's MS8. Heywood, or as Mr. Chalmers emphatically calls him, " much writing Hpywood," perhaps, even more :* can Mr. Chalmers produce an example of contemporaneous industry equally copious? It is pleasant to hear Mr. Chalmers talk of "such scribblers as Dekker and Heywood!" Assuming the fact of Shakspeare's being a" copious collector of common-place scraps," the apologist confidently demands," Now, what dramatic poet, in that age, grew to a little wealth an4 credit in the scene, except Shakspeare?" Not construing wealth and credit in thescene to mean literallymawey, I think it hard y necessary to point out to Mr. Chalmers, amidst the great constellation of wits that adorned the age in which Shakspeare flourished, and among which he shone the brightest, an instance of a poet gaining credit in the scone. If Mr. Chalmers's memory will not serve him on this occasion, why," God comfort his capacity, I say," with goodman Dull. The open and avowed quarrel of Jonsou with Dekker might have suggested the probability of its being levelled at him, and have incited inquiry in» to the resemblance from internal evidence; but the truth is, Mr. Chalmers had not read " The Poetaster" of Ben, or he would have found in the prologue to the satire, that Dekker was the poet-ape of Jonson ; t and a perusal of the drama would have confirmed the fact past question. The epigram in question seems to have irritated Crispin mis not a little: numberless allusions to epigrams, made by Jonson occur in the Satriomastix of the latter, and he appears to have smarted severely under the lath. To put that on " poet-ape" completely out of doubt, as far a» concerns Shakspeare, it is only necessary, once for aH, to observe, that Dekker stung by this epigram, that he could not conceal the pain which it inflicted; and the last speech ot'Crispinusin Satiromastix thus manifests the poet's throes from these unfortunate line.*:
* Thomas Heywood was a writer for the stage as ea.rly as 1596; and, in an address to the reader, prefixed to "The English Traveller," 4to. 1633, he snys he had written in (mi t, or in the whole, no less than two hundred and twenty dramatic pieces.
f Are there no players here? nopoetapet,
Thai come with basilisk's eyes, whose forked tongues
frtlogfte to J onions Put /at.'rr
That fearful Wreath, this honour \a your due,
As in all his other charges against Ben, Mr. Chalmers is .merely an echo of precedmg commentators, and as he .evidently made a strenuous effort at originality on the present occasion, it is not without emotions of pity that I rescue the old bard from the well-intended blow of " the ieaden mace."
When Dekker published his " Satiromastix," Jonson was new to the stage, and had few claims to the applause of the theatre: when he had produced his" Volpone." "The Silent Woman," andaboveull, " The Alchemist," perhaps Dekker would not ha ethought him an object for scorn to point his finger at. These, with his beautiful masques, some of his smaller poems, and even the scintillations sparkling through " Cynthia's Revels," "Every Man in his Humour," and ** Every Man out of his Humour," might have demanded a smile of favour, or at least conciliated the repulsive disposition of the apologist: bqt Mr. Chalmers has no sympathy with " humorous poets"—T* iiro ri^ati, bSit Otjoj i/i*;.
My task draws to a close; and the casue is before a competent tribunal. Jonson has been accused of heavy crimes upon fictitious and imaginary foundations. How hard-it is to prove a negative need not be shown: but the testimony in his favour does not rest here: we have incontrovertible evidences of their friendly attachment; to which should be added the uncommon Seal, with which Jonson cherished the literary reliques of 'his friend. We have seen that he composed an elegy on his death; thatvhe inscribed his resemblance with his praise; and Mr. Malone thinks that he wrote the preface to the first collection of his work». Nor did time diminish Jonson's regard, or etface the remembrance of his .companion fiom his mind. Many years after Shakspeare's death, Ben with warmth exclaimed," I loved the man, and do honour his memory on this side idolatry as -much as any. He was indeed honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent phantasie, brave notions, arid gentle expressions; wherein he flowed with that facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped; snffiaminandus erat, as Augustus said of -Harteiius."