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- With much self-complacency, Mr. Chålmers observes on these verses, “ the eye must be blind indeed, if it do not see, that Shakspeare was the Poet-Ape of Ben Jonson.'
If Mr. Chalmers really does perceive the resemblance, he must, I think,
Have eyes where other folks are blind,
As pigs are said to see the wind. I have marked the passayes according to the distinction used by the apologist, and we shall see how he makes the application. Where the modest Shakspeare expressed a wish to " be thought our chief," he has not cared to show. But, “ * in order to decide what we ought to believe, in these matters, as things certain, we must look back upon the early management of our theatres. The papers of Henslowe, the well known mana. ger of so many companies, throw many flashes of light on this obscure subject. It is apparent, from these manuscripts, that the poets of the days of Elizabeth, and James, supplied the stage with dramas, more for profit than reputation. If we except Ben Jonson, perhaps, there were none of the dramatists, including Shakspeare, specially, who cared for literary reputation. The managers of the theatres who paid their money for plays, considered these plays as so inuch their own, that they could either curtail them, or make addycions to them : in fact, they often paid onë set of poets, to alter the dramas of another set, without considering the literary reputation of the original author.”+
That none of the dramatists, excepting Jonson, cared for literary reputation, is an error abundantly proved by the multitude of plays with dedications by their authors: and the fact, stated by Mr. Chalmers, of their selling their works to the players, is a reason why all but the names of many are lost, more convincing than the alleged oscitancy of the poets. But this is not the object of my present inquiry.
To the practice of curtailing and making additions to plays I accede, and from this very circumstance I infer, that the poet-ape of Jonson was any body but Shakspeare, Jonson could not attack Shakspeare as wishing 64 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 alterers and repairers of decayed dramas, we find the names of Dekker, Drayton, Chettle, Anthony Munday, Heywood, and a long et cætera of poets, the memorials of whose lives have, perhaps, undeservedly perished ;* but among these entries not once does the name of our beloved Shaka speare," occur. That Shakspeare wrote on the subjects already dramatized by inferior authors, is not to be denied; but that he lived 6 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 Jonson 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 of Mr. Chalmers, who has given us two sisterly octavos crying proof! proof! + something approaching to evidence of the truth of his assertions.
* Supplemental Apology, page 237, 8vo. 1799. + Stevens's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 444_489.
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 day; who
* Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona ·
Urgentur ignotique longa
Hor. Od. g. lib. iv.
Proverbs, xxx. 15. | Luscus, what's play'd to-day? fayth now I know
I set my lips abroach, from whence doth flow
Marston's Stut. 10. 1599.
(like 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 Leshia inost 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 on 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. This 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 va. lue.—“ 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 æda Christi.
0. G. 6It 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 quara relled; as such poets could not long be friends : Marston again parodied Shakspeare in his “What you wish,” 1697, wherein be says; “ Look ye, I speak play scrapes.” Supplemental Apology, 251, 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. Chalmers prove; unless he has some secret evidence, not yet before the public. I am aware of the notice of Maraton in Drummond's conver. sation with Jonson.
of seeking the ancient mother; if the study of those, who wrote “ į the olden time,” thus brighten the wit, inform the mind, and improve the judgment, let :us even join chorus with Timotheus Milesius
Ουκ αειδω τα παλαια,
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's 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, † who knew him perfectly, says, in the preface to the “ White Devil,” what the commentators, and critics, would do well to profit by: Dee traction is the sworn friend to ignorance. For mine own part, I have ever truly cherished iny 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 Beauinont 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 infers Shakspeare's use of a common-place book froin this passage, he deceives nobody but himself: the meaning of Webster's copious industrie is sufficiently explained by the company in which he has placed Shakspeare; namely, with Dekker and Heywood. The former had before 1612, according to the apologist's own arrangement, produced thirty-one dramas; Dėkker, a still great
* Vol. ix. page 519. 1797.
Tittoria Corombona.” 4to. 1612, Webster obtained bis freedom of the Merchant Taylors' Company, by servitude to Henry Clinkard, the 17th Nov. 1617, as I am informed by G: V. Neunburg, Esq. the present master of that company. O.G.
| We may say to Mr. Chalmers ---Medice, cura teipsum!
er number, jointly and separately, including those ena tered in Henslowe's MSS. Heywood, or as Mr. Chalo mers emphatically calls him, “ much writing Heywood," perhaps, even more : * ean Mr. Chahiners 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 and credit in the scene, except Shakspeare ?" Not construing wealth and credit in thescene to mean literallymoney, 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 scene. 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 Jonson 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, thạt Dekker was the poet-ape of Jonson ; † and a perusal of the drama would have confirmed the fact past question, The epigram in question seenis to hare irritated Crispi, nus 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 lash. To put that on “poet-ape' completely out of doubt, as far aş concerns Shakspeare, it is only necessary, once for all, to observe, that Dekker stung by this epigram, that he could not conceal the pain which it inflicted ; and the last speech of Crispinus in Satiromastix thus inanifests the poet's throes from these unfortunate lipes:
* Thomas Heywood was a writer for the stage as early as 1596 ; and, in an address to the reader, prefixed to “ The English Traveller,” 4to. 1633, he says he had written in part, 'or in the whole, no less than two hundred and twenty dramatie pieces.
+ Are there no players here? no poetapes,
That come with basilisk's eyes, whose forked tongues
Prologue to Jonson's Poetaster.