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And such wert thou : Look, how the father's face
Ben JONSON *.
Upon - extin&tus amabitur idem. .. This observation of Horace was never more completely verified than by the posthumous applause which Ben Jonson has bestowed on Shakespeare :
the gracious Duncan Was pitied of Macbeth :-- marry, he was dead. Let us now compare the present elogium of old Ben with such of his other sentiments as have reached posterity.
In April 1748, when the Lover's Melancholy by Ford, (a friend and contemporary of Shakespeare) was revived for a benefit, the following letter appeared in the General, now the Public, Advertifer.
" It is hoped that the following gleaning of theatrical bistory will readily obtain a place in your paper. It is taken from a pamphlet written in the reign of Charles 1. with this quaint title, “old Ben's Light Heart made heavy by Young John's Melancholy Lover;" and as it contains some historical anecdotes and altercations concerning Ben Jonson, Ford, Shakespeare, and the Lover's Melancholy, it is imagined that a few extracts from it at this juncture, will not be unentertaining to the public.'
Those who have any knowledge of the theatre in the reigns of fames and Charles the First, must know, that Ben Jonson, from great critical language, which was then the portion but of very fea, his merit as a poet, and his constant association with men of letters, did, for a considerable time, give laws to the siage.'
Ben was by nature Splenetic and four; with a share of envy, (for every anxious genius has some) more than was warrantable in fociety. By education rather critically than politely learned; which
Upon the Lines, and Life, of the famous Scenick Poet, Master WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
Those hands, which you so clapt, go now and wring,
swell'd his mind into an ostentatious pride of his own works, and an overbearing incxorable judgment of his contemporaries.'
This railed him many enemies, who towards the close of his life endeavoured to dethrone this tyrant, as the pamphlet ftiles him, out of the dominion of the theatre. And what greatly contributed to their delign, was the Nights and malignances which the rigid Ben.too frequently threw out against the lowly Shakespeare, whole fame fince his death, as appears by the pamphlet, was grown too great for Ben's enzy either to bear with or wounde'
" It would greatly exceed the linits of your paper to let down all the contempts and inortives which were uttered and written by Den, and are collected and produced in this pamphlet, as unanfwe able and flaming evidences to prove his ill-nature and ingratitude to Shakespeare, who firi introduced hiin to the theatre and fame.
But though the whole of these invectives cannot be set dorn at prelent, foine few of the heads may not be disagreeable, which are as follow.'
“ That the man had imagination and wit none could deny, but that they were ever guided by true judgment in the rules and conduct or a pirce, none could with justice aftert, both being ever servile to raise the laughier of fools and the wonder of the ignorant. That he was a goud poet only in part - being ignorant of all dramatic laws, - had little Latin-lefs Greek - and speaking of plays, &c. . “To inake a child new swaddled, to proceed
• Man, and then 1:oot up, in one beard and weed,
He rather prays you will be pleas'd to see
" Where neither chorus wafis you o'er the seas, &c." ? This, and such like behaviour, brought Ben at lait from being the larıgiver of the theatre to be the ridicule of it, being perfonaliy introduced there in several pieces, to the fatisfaction of the public,
Dry'd is that vein, dry’d is the Thespian spring, Turn'd all to tears, and Phoebus clouds his rays; That corpse, that coifin, now bestick those bays, Which crown'd him poet first, then poets' king.
If who are ever fond of encouraging personal ridicule, when the follies and vices of the object are suppoled to deserve it.'
• But what wounded his pride and fame most sensibly, was the preference which the public and most of his contemporary wits, gave to Ford's Lover's MELANCHOLY, before his New INN OR LIGHT HEART. They were both brought on in the same week and on the same stage; where Ben's was damn'd, and Ford's received with uncommon applause: and what made this circumstance still more galling, was, that Ford was at the head of the partisans who supported Shakespeare's fame against Ben Jonson's invectiveso',
· This to incensed old Ben, that as an everlasting stigma upon his audience, he prefixed this title to his play " The New Inn or Light Heart. A comedy, as it was never acted, but most negligently play'd by some, the King's idle servants; and more squeamithly beheld and censur'd by others, the King's foolish subjects.” This title is followed by an abusive preface upon the au. dience and reader.'
• Immediately upon this, he wrote his memorable ode against the public, beginning
" Come leave the loathed stage,
66 And the more loathsome age, &c." The revenge he took against Ford, was to write an epigram on him as a plagiary,
" Playwright, by chance, hearing toys I had curit,
“ Five of my jefts, then stoln, pass’d him a play." Alluding to a character in the Ladies Trial, which Ben fay's Ford stole from him.'
· The next charge against Ford was, that the Lover's Melancholy was not his own, but purloined from Shakespeare's papers, by the connivance of Heming's and Condel, who in conjunction with Ford, had the revisal of them.' ." The malice of this charge is gravely refured, and afterwards laughed at in many verits and epigrams, the best of which are those that follow, with which I thall close this theatrical extract.'
• To my worthy friend, John Ford. " 'Tis said, from Shakespeare's mine, your play you drew, “ What need ? ---when Shakespeare itill survives in you: • But grant it were from his vait treasury rert, “ That plund'rer Ben ue'er made fo rich a theft."
Upon If tragedies might any prologue have,
Alĩ those he made would scarce make one to this; Where fame, now that he gone is to the grave,
(Death's publick tyring-house) the Nuntius is: For, though his line of life went soon about, The life yet of his lines shall never out.
HUGH HOLLAND *.
To the Memory of the deceased Author, Master W. SHAKESPEAR E.
Shakespeare, at length thy pious fellows give
Upon Ben Fonfon, and his Zany, Tom Randolph.
"1 'Tis Shakespeare's every word;
“ 'Tis much too good for Ford.
" The living to decry;
66 Till Ben and Tom both die.
“ These letter-tyrant elves;
“ To raise their pedant selves.
« This truth will all acknowledge, -
“ But Ben and Tom from college. Endymion Porter."
Mr. Macklin the comedian was the author of this letter; but the pamphlet which furnished his materials, was lost in its passage from Ireland.
The following stanza, from a copy of verses by Shirley, prefixed to Ford's Love's Sacrifice, 1633, alludes to the fame dispute, and is apparently addressed to Ben Jonson.
“ Look here thou that haft malice to the stage,
• See Wood's Athenä Oxon, edit. 1721, vol. I. p. 583.
vol. I. p. 9og
Shall loatbot Shakespedeem theras Nalo face invade:
ring a book thablee dead,red
Thy tomb, thy name must: when that stone is rent,
To the Memory of Master W. SHAKESPEARE. ,
We wonder'd, Shakespeare, that thou went'st so soon
That's but an exit of mortality,
On worthy Master SHAKESPEARE,
and his Poems.
A mind reflecting ages past, whose clear And equal surface can make things appear,
• See Wood's Athene Oxonienfes, vol. I. p. 599, and 600, edit. 1721. † Perhaps John Marston.