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BEN JONSON was the son of a clergyman in Westminster, where he was born in 1574, about a month after his father's decease. His family was originally from Scotland, whence his grandfather removed to Carlisle in the reign of Henrylations; and neither of them at first successful. VIII.

Ben received his education under the learned Camden, at Westminster School; and had made extraordinary progress in his studies, when his mother, who had married a bricklayer, took him away to work under his step-father. It is said that Ben assisted at the building of Lincoln's Inn, having a trowel in his hand and a book in his pocket. From this humble employment he escaped by enlisting as a soldier in the army, then serving in the Netherlands against the Spaniards, where he gained some renown by killing an enemy in single combat.

On his return, Jonson entered himself at St. John's College, Cambridge, which he was shortly obliged to quit from the scanty state of his finances. He then turned his thoughts to the stage, and applied for employment at the theatres; but his talents as an actor could only procure for him admission at an obscure playhouse in the suburbs. Here he had the misfortune to kill a fellow-actor in a duel, for which he was thrown into prison. A letter from Henslowe, the manager, dated September 26, 1598, thus alludes to the affair: "Since you were with me I have lost one of my company, which hurteth me greatly-that is Gabriel; for he is slain in Hoxton fields by the hands of Benjamin Jonson, bricklayer." During a period of sorrow and depression which followed, Jonson was converted to the Catholic faith, under which religion he continued for twelve years.

After his liberation from prison, he married, and applied in earnest to writing for the stage, in which he appears to have already made several attempts. His comedy of "Every Man in his Humor," the first of his acknowledged pieces, was performed with applause in 1596, Shakespeare being in the original cast; and thenceforth Jonson continued to furnish a play yearly, till his time was occupied by the composition of the masques and other entertainments by which the accession of James was celebrated. Dryden, in his "Essay on Dramatic Poetry," speaks of him as the "most learned and judicious writer which any theatre ever had," and gives a particular examination of his "Silent Woman," as a model of perfection. He afterward seems to make large deductions from this commendation. "You seldom (says Dryden) find him making love in any of his scenes, or endeavoring to move the passions; his genius was too sullen and saturnine to do it gracefully. Humor was his prop

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er sphere; and in that he delighted most to represent mechanics." Jonson also composed two tragedies, "Sejanus" and "Catiline," both formed upon ancient models, and full of transBut when he had thrown out from "Sejanus the portions contributed by some associate now unknown, and remodelled the play, it was reproduced with success. Shakespeare's name as an actor appeared for the last time in the origi. nal cast of this play (1603).

In 1613 he went to France as governor to Sir Walter Raleigh's son. The "knavish youth" was too much for the poet, and on one occasion, Ben says, got him drunk, laid him on a car, and had him drawn by pioneers through the streets. In 1618 he travelled to Scotland afoot, and visited Drummond at Hawthornden.

In 1616 he published a folio volume of his works, which procured for him a grant from his majesty of the salary of poet-laureate for life, though he did not take possession of the post till three years later. As long as King James lived, he produced annually a mask for Twelfth Night. In putting these upon the stage he was assisted by Inigo Jones, the famous architect, and money was spent freely for costumes and properties. The cost of thus producing "Oberon," one of these masks, is recorded in the "Court Revels " as being £1,412 68. 10d. With great intellectual endowments, he had many unamiable traits, having a high degree of pride and self-conceit, with a disposition to abuse and disparage every one who incurred his jealousy or displeasure. Jonson was reduced to necessitous circumstances in the latter part of his life, though he obtained from Charles I. an advance of his salary as laureate. He died in 1637, at the age of 63, being at that time considered the first of English poets. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, where an inscription was placed over his grave, familiarly expressive of the reputation he had acquired among his countrymen : "O rare Ben Jonson." Aubrey says it was done "at the charge of Jack Young (afterward knighted), who, walking there when the grave was covering, gave the fellow eighteen pence to cut it." Six months after his death, a collection of poems to his honor, by a number of the most eminent writers and scholars in the nation, was published, with the title of "Jonsonius Virbius; or the Memory of Ben Jonson, revived by the Friends of the Muses."

Although, as a poet, Jonson for the most part is harsh, frigid, and tedious, there are some strains in which he appears with singular elegance and may be placed in competition with some of the most favored writers of that class.

TO WILLIAM CAMDEN. CAMDEN, most reverend head, to whom I owe All that I am in arts, all that I know(How nothing's that!) to whom my country owes The great renown, and name wherewith she goes. Than thee the age sees not that thing more grave, More high, more holy, that she more would crave. What name, what skill, what faith hast thou in things!

What sight in searching the most antique springs!
What weight, and what authority in thy speech!
Man scarce can make that doubt, but thou canst

Pardon free truth, and let thy modesty,
Which conquers all, be once o'ercome by thee.
Many of thine this better could, than I,
But for their powers, accept my piety.


QUEEN and huntress, chaste and fair, Now the sun is laid to sleep; Seated in thy silver chair,

State in wonted manner keep: Hesperus intreats thy light, Goddess excellently bright.

Earth, let not thy envious shade

Dare itself to interpose; Cynthia's shining orb was made

Heaven to clear, when day did close; Bless us then with wished sight, Goddess excellently bright.

Lay thy bow of pearl apart,

And thy crystal-shining quiver;

Give unto the flying heart

Space to breathe, how short soever: Thou that mak'st a day of night, Goddess excellently bright.


STILL to be neat, s'ill to be drest,
As you were going to a feast;
Still to be powder'd, still perfum'd.
Lady, it is to be presum'd,
Though art's hid causes are not found,
All is not sweet, all is not sound.
Give me a look, give me a face,
That makes simplicity a grace;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free:
Such sweet neglect more taketh me
Than all th' adulteries of art;

They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.


1. I HAVE been, all day, looking after A raven, feeding upon a quarter;

And, soon as she turn'd her beak to the south, I snatch'd this morsel out of her mouth.

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