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Colonel Cunningham's edition and Professor Morley's, will be found under the notes, together with emendations of Mr. Swinburne and others.
While as many references as possible have been verified, the notes of the present edition do not pretend to have exhausted the allusions with which the text is literally bristling. If any apology be deemed necessary, I can but urge the words of so capable and scholarly a critic as William Gifford (Works of Jonson, ed. Cunningham, ii. p. 51): “The variety and extent of Jonson's reading are altogether surprising ; nothing seems to have been too poor and trifling, too recondite and profound, for his insatiable curiosity and thirst for knowledge. It is but seldom, and even then accidentally, that I can fall in with him : the general range of his wide and desultory track is to me nearly imperceptible."
It gives me much pleasure to record my obligations to the courtesy and the scholarship of Dr. Horace Howard Furness of Philadelphia, Professor Albert S. Cook of Yale University, Mr. Charlton T. Lewis of New York, Dr. Paul Shorey of Bryn Mawr College, Mr. William R. Thayer of Concord, Mass., and Mr. Joseph Jacobs, of London, England. Nor is my indebtedness less to my colleagues, Dr. Oswald Seidensticker, Professor William A. Lamberton, Dr. Morton W. Easton, Dr. Hermann V. Hilprecht, Dr. Morris Jastrow, Jr., and Dr. William Romaine Newbold.
F. E. S. PHILADELPHIA, December, 1891.
1. SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF BEN JONSON.
(Compiled chiefly from his Conversations with Drummond, Symond's Life,
and Ward's English Dramatic Literature.)
BEN JONSON was born in the year 1573. He came of a border family of Anandale, and was the posthumous son of a minister who had “losed all his estate under Queen Marie, having been cast into prison and forfeited.” (Conversations with Drummond.) His widow marrying again, Jonson was “ brought up poorly,” but “put to school” at Westminster, and there befriended by the learned antiquary Camden. Fuller states that from Westminster Jonson went to [St. John's College] Cambridge. If so, he remained but a short time; for he afterwards told Drummond that “he was Master of Arts in both Universities by their favor, not his study.” The trade of his step-father, that of
, a bricklayer, proving distasteful, Jonson enlisted as a soldier, and relates that, “ in his service in the Low Countries,” he had, “ in the face of both the camps, killed an enemy and taken opima spolia from him.” It seems likely that Jonson was again in England in 1592, and married while yet under age. He told Drummond that “ his wife was a shrew, yet honest.” He had several children by her, none of whom survived him.
The beginning of Jonson's career as a dramatist cannot be fixed with certainty ; but the advances of money made to him by Philip Henslow, the manager and stage-broker, in 1597, prove that he was a recognized playwright by that
time, doing 'prentice-work, according to the custom of his age, in the reconstruction and adaptation of earlier plays. The pleasing tradition that Jonson owed his introduction to a dramatic career to the good offices of Shakespeare is not susceptible of proof; although his first dramatic success, Every Man in his Humor, was acted in 1598 by the Lord Chamberlain's Servants, Shakespeare's company, and Shakespeare was himself an actor in it. The notion that Jonson and Shakespeare lived in a state of rivalry and enmity is based upon no evidence worthy of a moment's consideration. (See the notes, especially 23 9 and 23 28.)
In this year Jonson had the misfortune to kill a fellowactor, in a duel, for which he was tried at Old Bailey, convicted on his own confession, and, pleading his clergy, escaped capital punishment with a brand upon the thumb of his left hand and forfeit of goods and chattels. While in prison he became converted to the Roman Church, and remained of that faith for twelve years. The duel severed his connection with Henslow and drew him into writing for Shakespeare's rival company.
In 1599 Queen Elizabeth witnessed Jonson’s next play, Every Man out of his Humor, the first of the series of dramatic satires, which were soon to involve their author in internecine warfare with his fellow-craftsmen. During the next three years Jonson was a leading combatant in what is known as “The War of the Theatres," Cynthia's Revels giving the affront, the Poetaster, Marston and Dekker's Satiromastix, and many other plays continuing the battle. Notwithstanding Jonson’s “ aggressive and egotistic personality,” and the gall and venom of both parties, it may be doubted if the terrors of these literary frays were such as the historians of literature would have us believe. At all events the collaboration of Dekker and Jonson in the pageants attending the accession of James, and the fervent dedication of Marston's Malcontent to Jonson in 1604, preclude the possibility of