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When she would shew an image of the times;
And sport with human follies, not with crimes :” the legal and genuine purpose of dramatic representation, and such appears to have been Jonson's general object. For “ the chorus," thus acutely converted into “ a clumsy sarcasm” on the great bard, one might be tempted to suppose that Mr. Malone would have us conclude, that the introduction of it in Henry the Fifth is the only example of its adoption on the English stage; or why must Jonson's reprobation of the practice be construed into a sneer at Shakspeare? Why, but for the purpose of encouraging an opinion, founded on falsehood, and fostered by misrepresentation. The fact is, that Jonson, with all his fondness for the ancients, thought the chorus, borrowed froin the Greek tragedies, an incumbrance, and openly reprobated it; as Shakspeare had before ridiculed the “ dombe shewe” of his predecessors. But the chorus on the English stage is coeval with the first tragedy, Gorbodue; was the cominon appendage of the drama during his life, as may be seen in many instances among the old plays edited by the late Isaac Reed; and, though declining, continued in use long after Shakspeare had made his eait froin the scene of life. That it was displeasing, Shakspeare was conscious, by his apologies for its introduction in the case of Henry the Fifth, and his omission of it on all other occasions. Heywood, also, who has adopted it in his “ Fair Maid of the West," quarto, 1651, seems to have been sensible of the absurdity, when he introduces a chorus saying,
* Our stage so lamely can express a sea,
What should have been in action.' What, then is there in the line quoted by Mr. Malone, that is not applicable to fifty others as well as Shakspeare ! and what is there to justify his charges of “ clumsy sarcasm, and malevolent reflection?”
• Discite justitiam moniti, et non spernere verum.' “ The samne eagerness of research for finding attacks on Shakspeare, exhibited in preceding examples, has been employed to discover a sneer at him in this passage of foregoing extract:
«To make a child now swaddled to proceed
“ This is considered 'a
palpable hit at the beautiful drama, " The Winter's Tale :' than which iuference nothing can be more unnecessary. Certainly in none of Shakspeare's plays are the unities of time and placé more disregarded than in the present; but this neglector con, tempt was not peculiar to the bard of Avon ; similar and even greater licences are found in Lilly's Endimion, in 1591, and Patient Grissel, performed as early as 1599. Nor was the practice confined to these ; George Whetstones, in an epistle prefixed to his Promos and Cassandra, 1578, speaking of the absurdities and offences conmitted against the laws of the drama by various nations, says, “the Englishman in this qualitie is most vain, indiscreet, and out of order. He first grounds his work on impossibilities: then in three hours runnes he over the worlde: marryis, gets children, makes children men, men to conquer kingdomes, murder monsters, and bringeth goddes from heaven, and fetcheth devills from hell, &c.' And Sir Philip Sidney, in his • Defense of Poesie,' 1589; when complaining of Gorbodue* as faulty both in place and time, the two necessary companions of all corporal actions;' adds, but if it be so in Gorbodue, how much more in all the rest? where you shall have Asia of the one side, and Africa of the other, and so many other under kingdoms, that the player, when he com 3 in, must ever begin with telling where he is, or else the tale will not be conceived. Now you shall have three ladies walk to gather flowers, and then we must believe the stage to be a garden. By-and-by, we hear news of a shipwreck in the same place; then we are to blame if we accept it not for a rock. Upon the back of that comes out a hideous monster with fire and smoke, and then the miserable beholders are bound to take it for a cave; while, in the mean time, two armies fly in, represented with four swords and bucklers, and then, what hard heart will not conceive it for a pitched field ?
“ Now, of time they are much more liberal: for ordinary it is, that two young princes fall in love; after many traverses she is got with child; delivered of a faire boy, he is lost, groweth a man, falleth in love, and is ready to get another child; and all this in two hours space; which, how absurd it is in sense, even sense may imagine.'
* “ How comes it that Warton, in bis “ History of English Poetry," iwariably writes this Gordobue ?
« These extracts, while they are irresistible proofs of the generality of Jonson's satire in the present case, may suggest to the calumniators of Ben the probability of other passages being equally so; and his taxing may like a wildgoose fly, unclaimed of any man.'
With similar force and success Mr. Gilchrist combats and defeats the position, that in the Induction to Bartholomew Fair, Ben Jonson intended by the following passage to ridicule the Tempest and Winter's Tale of Shako speare:
.“ If there be never a servant-monster in the fair, who can help it, he says, nor a nest of antiques ? He is loth to make nature afraid in his plays, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like drolleries.” The satire was general, and levelled, not at Shakspeare, but at the extravagant masks and other stage exhibitions which prevailed in those days.
But, adınitting that all these passages do apply to Shakspeare, is the proof complete that Jonson was guilty of envy, malignity, and ingratitude towards the great poet? It can only amount to this: that Jonson disapproved of these instances of false taste in the writings of Shakspeare, which the authority of his great example would tend to multiply, to the exclusion or injury of the higher qualities of the drama.
Mr. Gilchrist further maintains and proves, that Jonson's fifty-sixth epigram on “Poet-Ape," was not intended, as Mr. Chalmers will have it, as a lampoon on Shakspeare, but a satire on Dekker, who acknowledged the allusion in the following lines in the Satiromastix, evidently addressed to Ben Jonson :
« That fearful wreath, this honour is your due,
All poets shall be Poet-Apes but you." Such are the principal arguments in support of the heavy accusation, that Ben Jonson was at enmity with Shakspeare, and envious of his reputation ; and thus ably and satisfactorily has Mr. Gilchrist refuted them.
We have only adverted to the leading points; but Mr: G. has entered fully into the whole question, and stripped the accusers of old Ben quite bare. He has also, incidentally, detected some false criticisms of the commentators on the works of Shakspeare.
He thus sums up the whole, “ Jonson has been ace cused of heavy crimes upon tictitious 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 at: tachment; to which should be added the uncommon zeal, with which Jonson cherished the literary reliques of his friend.-We have seen that he composed an elegy on his death; that he inscribed his resemblance with his praise; and Mr. Malone thinks that he wrote the preface to the first collection of his works. Nor did time diminish Jon. son's regard, or efface the remembrance of his companion from his mind. Many years after Shakspeare's death, Ben with warmth exclained, • 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, and gentle expressions; wherein he flowed with that facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped: sufflaminandus erat, as Augustus said of Harterius.'
“ I have now little to add. If the memory of men, honourable in their generation, deserve our respect and reverence; if the writings of poets, who'have bequeathed their works as legacies to posterity, have any claim upon our regar; if truth, whoever and whatever the subject; be worth attaining; the present pages may be endured. For these purposes they are written; and it is hoped, with diffidence, that by them truth will be elicited, No example can be instanced in literary history of a poet of Jonson's extraordinary merit so unworthily and una gratefully treated.
An invidious position is asserted, without the slightest proof from historical testimony, and his writings are tortured and perverted to support the fallacious theory. Years have passed in this disgraceful warfare, and no lover of literature has hitherto stepped in, to refute the charges, and check the progress licious dulness. If I have undertaken the cause of the poet, it has not been without a perfect conviction of my inability to do full justice to the task; nor should I have engaged in it, but from the most decided confidence in the justice of the cause. My motive has been, to rescue a venerable bard, who has many substantial claims upon our gratitude, from charges founded on errer, and fostered by misrepresentation. If Jonson is unfortunate in his advocate, I shall have my reward if this imperfect essay shall excite some abler pen to undertake the office. That there are ample means of defence, I am fully persuaded from the examples adduced, the result of a few days casual and interrupted study. It is not necessary for
Jonson to perish, that Shakspeare may flourish; his fame is fixed on a foundation as broad and general as the casing air;' and the commentator or critic, injures the fame of the gentle Shakspeare,' who would raise him a phænix from the ashes of another.”
A Father's Advice to his Son at School. 12mo. 18.
Mathews and Leigh. The most salutary advice conveyed in simple but correct language, and in a very persuasive and affectionate
The original was sent to the author's son at school, and we learn from the preface, that the admonitions have proved beneficial. Indeed he must be a boy of little sensibility, on whom the concluding address would make no impression.
" These hints which I have thus thrown together, as they arise in my mind, without any orderly or methodical arrangement, you will consider as dictated by the purest affection and most unfeigned regard; for which reason, I doubt not, you will read, learn and inwardly digest them, always bearing in mind that your improveinent is the sole object your father had in view, whose happiness and comfort in this life will depend very much upon the part which you perform in it: if you grow in wisdom, as you grow in stature, and walk in the paths of religion and yirtue, you will pour upon my mind a sunshine of satisfaction which this world can neither give nor take away: You will make what remains of
pass on in serenity and comfort: You will pluck up many a thorn which would otherwise grow in my way, and smooth and enlighten my passage to the gates of the grave. " But if, unmindful of my
admonitions and your own duty, you unhappily become a vicious and immoral character, following the multitude to do evil, and treading the high road to ruin and disgrace; you know not the agony with which you will pierce my soul, you will shorten and embitter my days, and send me to the tomb, before my time, miserable and disapopinted."
The Siller Gun. A Poem, in four cantos : with notes,
and a glossary. By John Mayne, author of the Poem of “ Glasgow," c. 12.no. pp. 154. Richardson, 1808.
This Poem is founded on an ancient custom in Dumfries, called Shooting for the Siller Gun.