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81. The Shaksperian Miscellany. By F. G. Waldron. 4to. 1802.
82. Illustrations of Shakspeare and of Ancient Manners, with Dissertations on the Clowns and Fools of Shakspeare: or the Collection of popular Tales, entitled Gesta Romanorum : and on the English Morris Dance. By Francis Douce. 2 vols. 8vo. 1807.
83. Shakspeare and his Times, &c. By Nathan Drake, M. D. 2 vols. 4to. 1817.
The foregoing list might have been easily enlarged, but the truth is, that publications on this subject have of late become so very numerous, that inopem me copia fecit. To enumerate them all would have required a volume, and a selection might appear invidious. BosweLL.
from his immortal Work in Five Hundred and Sixty-nine Pages, just published (and with his accustomed felicity) entitled, “ Some Account of the Life and Writings of John Dryden!!" 8vo. 1800. All the three pieces are said to be the acknowledged productions of George Hardinge, Esq. Reed.
I HAVE already apprized the reader that it was my intention to prefix the following statement by Mr. Steevens to Mr. Malone's Essay, which was written with a view to shew that it was totally unfounded. It originally was appended to Ben Jonson's commendatory poem on Shakpeare, which will be found without this ungracious comment in the second volume. BOSWELL.
extinctus amabitur idem. This observation of Horace was never more completely verified than by the posthumous applause which Ben Jonson has bestowed on Shakspeare:
the gracious Duncan “ Was pitied of Macbeth : marry, he was dead.” Let us now compare the present eulogium 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 Shakspeare,) was revived for a benefit, the following letter appeared in the General, now the Public Advertiser:
“It is hoped that the following gleaning of theatrical history will readily obtain a place in your paper. It is taken from a pamphlet written in the reign of Charles I, 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, Shakspeare, and The Lover's Melancholy, it is imagined that a few extracts from it at this juncture, will not be unentertaining to the publick.
• Those who have any knowledge of the theatre in the reigns of James and Charles the First, must know, that Ben Jonson, from great critical language, which was then the portion but of very few, his merit as a poet, and his constant association with men of letters, did, for a considerable time, give laws to the stage.
• Ben was by nature splenetic and sour; with a share of envy, (for every anxious genius has some) more than was warrantable in society. By education rather critically than politely learned; which swell’d his mind into an ostentatious pride of his own works, and an overbearing inerorable judgment of his contemporaries,
• This raised him many enemies, who towards the close of his life endeavoured to dethrone this tyrant, as the pamphlet stiles him, out of the dominion of the theatre. And what greatly contributed to their design, was the slights and malignances which the rigid Ben too frequently threw out against the lowly Shakspeare, whose fame since his death, as appears by the pamphlet, was grown too great for Ben's envy either to bear with or wound.
• It would greatly exceed the limits of your paper to set down all the contempts and invectives which were uttered and written by Ben, and are collected and produced in this pamphlet, as unanswerable and shaming evidences to prove his ill-nature and ingratitude to Shakspeare, who first introduced him to the theatre and fame.'
• But though the whole of these invectives cannot be set down at present, some 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 of a piece, none could with justice assert, both being ever servile to raise the laughter of fools and the wonder of the ignorant. That he was a good poet only in part,-being ignorant of all dramatick laws,-had little Latin-less Greek-and speaking of plays, &c.
« To make a child new swaddled, to proceed
“ Where neither chorus wafts you o'er the seas,” &c. • This and such like behaviour, brought Ben at last from being the lawgiver of the theatre to be the ridicule of it, being personally introduced there in several pieces, to the satisfaction of the publick, who are ever fond of encouraging personal ridicule, when the follies and vices of the object are supposed to deserve it.
But what wounded his pride and fame most sensibly, was the preference which the publick 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 Shakspeare's fame against Ben Jonson's Invectives.
• This so 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 squeamishly beheld and censur’d by others, the King's foolish subjects.” This title is followed by an abusive preface upon the audience and reader.
• Immediately upon this, he wrote his memorable ode against the publick, beginning
“ Come, leave the loathed stage,
The revenge he took against Ford, was to write an epigram on him as a plagiary.
“ Playwright, by chance, hearing toys I had writ,
Cry'd to my face-they were thelixir of' wit. " And I must now believe him, for to-day
“ Five of my jests, then stoln, pass’d him a play." alluding to a character in The Ladies Trial, which Ben says Ford stole from him.
The nert charge against Ford was, that The Lover's Melancholy was not his own, but purloined from Shakspeare's papers
, by the connivance of Heminge and Condel, who, in conjunction with Ford, had the revisal of them.
• The malice of this charge is gravely refuted, and afterwards laughed at in many verses and epigrams, the best of which are those that follow, with which I shall close this theatrical extract:
“ To my worthy friend, John Ford. “ 'Tis said, from Shakspeare's mine your play you drew: “ What need ?—when Shakspeare still survives in you ; “ But grant it were from his vast treasury reft, “ That plund'rer Ben ne'er made so rich a theft.
“ Thomas May."
“ 'Tis Shakspeare's every word;
“ 'Tis much too good for Ford.
“ The living to decry;
« Till Ben and Tom both die.
“ These letter-tyrant elves;
“ To raise their pedant selves.
“ This truth will all acknowledge,-
and Ford from heaven were sent,
"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 same dispute, and is apparently addressed to Ben Jonson:
“ Look here thou that hast malice to the stage,
ubi nulla fugam reperit fallacia, victus, In sese redit. Virg. I HAVE long had great doubts concerning the authenticity of the facts mentioned in the above letter, giving a pretended extract from a pamphlet of the last age, entitled