« AnteriorContinuar »
and unapproachable Falstaff. The table talk of a day on others : concluding with a fervent wish, most ferat the Mermaid, with Jonson and Shakespeare, and vently expressed, for his better health-that though Raleigh and Selden, had required a better Boswell, in his his life had been of sufficient duration for his fame, , best Boswellian mood, to give the drama of the whole; it could never be too long for his many
friends and a Gurney in short hand, to take the words; and another numberless well-wishers. Hogarth to limn the characters as they rose, descended, "My Lord," said Jonson, the tear lighting rather rose, and again declined.
than overcasting his large and lustrous eyes"My The supper may, however, be described, for Ben Lord, my noble Lucius, I may say, and you, my has left an invitation to a friend that tells the dishes friends, I thank you, one and all. My life has now at the table with all the zest of a cook, and the power been extended, if not somewhat beyond the average of a poet. “Ah! ah !" uttered Jonson, as he saw run of man, at least beyond what many are allowed to Wadloe ushering in the drawers, and entering with the reach, and I am grateful. I have outlived many first dish—a good custom, and then in full practice. friends, and laden as I am with sin, have been granted “ But, Simon, are we all here ? Oh! yes, it is all right.” years, not of life, but disease The table for the occasion was a round one, and eight
It is not growing like a tree sat down to a supper of the reign of Charles I.
In bulk,- doth make man better be, A beautiful and exquisitely sententious grace was
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year, delivered by Jonson, who, when he had reverently
To fall a log at last, dry, bald and sear:
A lily of a day, finished, said aloud to Sir Henry Morison on his left,
Is fairer far, in May, " This is not to be Acolastus' wish :
Although it fall and die that night;
It was the plant and flower of light,
In small proportions we just beauties see ;
And in short measures, life may perfect be. However, I will answer for the Duke that the cates
And I would appeal for the truth of this to myself, are good.”
and to my noble Lucius near me, one grown old to “To set your youthful palates in order," he went on
little good—the other young in years, but ripe, learned, with saying, “or I may say our palates--for I feel
and virtuous. But let me not breathe a breath of disamong so many friends quite young again—Simon
content against Heaven : I have seen two generations, has brought some olives and capers, and a salad to
and still desire to live to see more.” usher the haunch of mutton, a very necessary piece of precaution for advancing the appetites of his gayer subdued melancholy of Jonson's acknowledgment,
The tone and tenor of Falkland's speech, with the
seemed for a time to dull and deaden the gaiety of the But not to tire the reader with too much description, we shall only enumerate a few of the dishes that evening, Jonson saw this, and turned the discourse were served up. A couple of hens, short-legged ones,
on Suckling “ We've been talking, I think, my
dear Suckling, a little out of our usual way; it was with lemon and wine sauce; a coney, a brace of phea
once out of mine, but you've to thank Lord Falkland sants, woodcocks, landrails, godwits, and a dish of
for it. I am grateful for all he said." larks. A large pigeon pie was in the centre of the table. The cheese came last of all, with
“Nor are we less so, Father Ben," replied Suckfruit every
ling; nor do I see, though the tone of that an English autumn could then produce. The wines were of the choicest favour and rarity. through your Leges Convivales, or Code Ben Jonson.
was a little out of place, that either of you
broke Canary first, the favourite drink of the fine old poet, I think, my Lord, addressing Lord Falkland,) we should with a variety of the French and Rhenish
fine our father, Ben, in a bowl of canary, for not from glasses made in the Whitefriars Glass-house, in no humble imitation of the Venetian manner.
having framed a rule prohibiting the Dr. Donne-like
melancholy of his tavern-rejoinder." The conversation, timorous and restrained at first in
“Oh! well," said Jonson," I consent, I consentits flight, grew, as the evening advanced, and the wines here, drawer, a bowl of the Duke's best canary, in his mounted, to a more lofty and less guarded nature.
best parcel-gilt bowl,—though if the rule was added, Then it was that Suckling's gaiety attained its height,
it would stand no chance of being broken in upon, that Falkland shone forth, that Brome joined in forcibly
were the world made up of men like our gay, clever, and well, that Randolph spoke like his father Jonson,
and light-hearted Suckling, who lives for pleasure and and Jonson, like himself in his best time and in all his
the Piccadilly Bowling-green." moods.
The drawer entering with the bowl, Jonson was The cares, as they were called, removed, and the
heard reciting above breath a favourite little poem of wines in the ascendant, Lord Falkland, in a clear, dis
his own compositiontinct, and fervent voice, proposed the health of Ben
Swell me a bowl with lusty wine, Jonson, in a cup, he sai of his own very elixir of
That I may see the plump Lyæus swim, wine, canary. He characterised the genius of the man,
Above the brim : enforced the obligations he had laid English literature
I'd drink as I would write, under, the delight he had afforded the stage, the good
In flowing measure filled with flame and sprite. example that his works had in inciting others, and of “ That,” added Jonson, for he rose at the last to be the rank he would hold with posterity. Then, changing perfectly audible —" that I made one night at the to the subject of the man himself, he touched Mermaid, when Will Shakespeare was there, and, let shortly and tenderly upon the varied scenes of his life, me see, Michael and a few others—" the friendships he had formed, the men of genius he “ I love it the best of all your small poems," said had brought around him, the reverence in which his Randolph,"even better than your request for eye and name was held, and the immortality he had bestowed lip service from your lady-love." "I love it, too, as
Randolph does," said Suckling. “But what a night was by far the best play before Kit Marlowe and Will that at the Mermaid. I would have taken twenty years Shakespeare came among us. When · Every Man in upon my life, and a disease or two into the bargain, to his Humour' was written, I did not want friends, nor have been but a listener there : I love Shakespeare, for if did I lose those I had before. I was always envious, ever a man wrote from a full soul, and when his own but mine was the envy of emulation.” fine thoughts impelled him, it was he. His very embroi “O! master, I mustask of you,” said Dick deries would turn to silver in the melting-pot.”
Brome, 'to tell Sir John Suckling the cause of “ He was a great man,” said Jonson," with all his Shakespeare's death !"-"Why, my dear friend Dick, faults. There was ever more in him to praise than his was a simple end, though a hasty one. In the pardon. I loved the man, and do honour to his me year 1612, or thereabouts, he had retired to his native mory on this side idolatry as much as any. For the town, and the banks of his own sweet Avon, with a time in which he appeared, and with his education, decent competency, the produce of his labours for the which was mean in the beginning, and little attended stage, and of his shares in the Globe and Blackfriars to in after life, I consider Shakespeare to have been Theatres. He had come to town after a two years' the greatest genius the world ever saw. He wrote ence, to settle something about the lease of a tenewith such readiness that it became a fault with him. ment in London. He looked well, and was fuller in The stream of invention he had in abundance, a fine the face than when he had left. His wit was as free, as fancy, great perception of character, infinite humour, natural, and entertaining as ever,--if any thing, it had a command of language, and with wit at will. The gained. A few of us had a social night with him at commonest stage story that scarce chirped, so callow Greenwich, talking over other days—the past, the prewas it when it cried, touched by his all-reviving genius, sent, and the future. There were of the party, Mike started into life, and what was at first worthless as a Drayton, Dick Burbage, and his fellows, Hemings whole, became, at his call, stuff of another make. He and Condell. We sat late, drank freely, and foolishiy is to be tried by no rules, for if so, you condemn him, enough came poetically home in the water-poet's boat. and render him an injustice. He is to be judged by The day had been very fine, summer-heat almost what he attempted to perform,--to produce a plot for throughout, but it turned chilly in the evening, and stage representation probable in its origin and in its we had not taken our long cloaks with us. consequences, strong and picturesque in its characters well enough home, and dear Will Shakespeare reand situations, pert and lively in its dialogues;-all this turned to Stratford the next day, complaining of a he did, and he gained his end."
cold. A ride through a heavy rain upset him altoge“ Nay,” added Suckling, encouraged by the warmth ther; the cold gained upon him, and in spite of the of Jonson's commendations, “ I would add, that in two skill of his son-in-law, Hall, and the considerate of his Roman plays, 'Coriolanus' and 'Julius Cæsar,' care of his own Anne Hathaway, brave, open-hearted he had outstripped all his better-educated contempo Will Shakespeare ceased to exist among us. The raries, and brought old Rome before us, in her rites and whole looks like a dream to me and we are to be ceremonies, in her men and in her manners, perfectly, pitied who survive him.” plainly, and unmistakingly." —“Stay! stay!" said “ I have his epitaph here, by a young fellow at Randolph,“ you forget, Sir John, our father's . Cati. Cambridge,” said Suckling;
Cambridge,” said Suckling; "as it smacks of the line' and Sejanus.'_“I had not overlooked them," right vintage I shall read it.' continued Suckling,—" they are great productions, “ Hold ! hold !” said Ben; “ remember, Sir John, and justify the designation he bears of O rare Ben the Code Ben Jonson, No. 18—what does it say?Jonson;' but”
Insipida Poemata nulla recitantor." They are cold and dead-coloured, our friend Suck
“I remember,” said Suckling, “and in this inling would say,” Jonson joined in with ; " and I admit
stance am not afraid. But Father Ben must read it; they are too classically correct, too servilely accurate to the times they touch upon, and want interest
them to his sons, for no one reads so well as Ben sufficient to link them to our own.
Shakespeare, with all his want of art, with little more than North's
Suckling then handed over a paper of verses begintranslation of Plutarch before him, did wonders. The ningstock and bulk of his classical acquirements could not
What needs my Shakespeare for his honoured bonescolour or even tinge the labours of his pen. Great as he “O! these,” said Jonson, are from a fine soulis, he had been greater still with education and with care.” these are young Milton's. He will be heard of yet.
“ But,” said Morison, “ tell us, Father Ben, do we His father, a scrivener in Bread Street, was a great see Shakespeare properly in his printed plays.”—"Very frequenter of the Mermaid Tavern. Shakespeare was imperfectly indeed - there is much in his book that fond of the father, and often had this young Milton, Will never left us-much was foisted in by the when a child, upon his knee.” The verses were then players. 'Andronicus ’and • Pericles' are not his, but read aloud-Lord Falkland affirming that the writer Greene's.”_" The King,” said Falkland,“ has found was evidently of Shakespeare's nursing. the text so very corrupt, that he has called on Lowin At“ a wee short hour ayont the twal,” the servants and Taylor for perfect copies to be submitted to our fa of Falkland, Suckling and Morison, entered the room ther's supervision, with a view to a more correct pub- of the Apollo, with their masters' smoking-pipes. lication of his plays."
Old Wadloe carried Jonson's, and the drawers those “ I shall be glad,” said Jonson,“ to render this for Randolph and Dick Brome. service to literature for Shakespeare's sake, for his Ma “ Bring us the pure weed here, Simon," said Lord jesty's, and my own. He it was that recommended me Falkland. to the players to make additions to the old • Jeronymo,' My Lord,” said Jonson, “Sim never drugs his
tobacco; there is no coltsfoot in what he supplies his allusion, have not been allowed to reach our time. Of friends with. Old Dick Rundletson, at the Mermaid, that night there is nothing left but the memory.
memory. . We never could get Sir Walter better than what Simon take the excellence of the jests and jokes upon hearsells.”
say, as we do the fame of the Grecian painters. “ My Lord,” said Simon, evidently nettled at the It is said that Jonson, towards that witching hour of idea that there was a bad article of any description in time, his house;"My Lord, I served my time with old
When day and night Rundletson, and I speak it fearlessly out, there was
Are standing in each other's light, not a better judge of tobacco from the Tower to Ty seemed rapt in his own meditations. Snatches of burn than Richard Rundletson."
verses were heard indistinctly from his lips; some, " And you may add,” said Randolph, “ that Sim however, clearer than others. This was heard fully is his true and well-deserving successor.
and fairly :“ I like," said Lord Falkland,“ to throw a doubt
O I if my temples were distained with wine, on the genuineness of Simon's stock; he gets quite
And girt in girlonds of wild yvie twine, warm in his own defence, and speaks with all the con
How I could rear the Muse on stately stage, fidence of injured purity.'
And teach her tread aloft in buskin fine, The clouds of tobacco that filled the Apollo did not
With quaint Bellona in her equipage. check or conceal the course of the bowl and bottle. “ That might have been,” he added ; " but I am old Stories, lewd in their nature, and in their manner of now, and my sons have succeeded me, and well and telling, were told in thick succession. Jonson had an worthily too. There's Randolph, who writes all like inexhaustible stock, which he told with a glee and a a man, making his Acolastus 'speak better than my quiet humour never surpassed. Randolph told a few Sir Epicure Mammon. My noble Lucius has the and of the best about his fellow-collegians. Lord divine god within his veins; and Sir John there has Falkland, of the Irish nation, his father's stories before the muse to himself in her gayest moods,—while Dick, him; and Suckling, entertaining anecdotes of the ladies professing my old arts, has gained no more than hé at court, seasoned with scandal of the most amusing most richly merits. But I see my noble Lucius is for kind. Laugh succeeded laugh, peal upon peal, off, - that Suckling is asleep, and the real Apollo is merriment upon merriment. The wine-cup rose and once more within his own oracle." rose again, yet no one present was more than dashed Daylight was the linkboy home to the whole party: or sprinkled with what they had taken—for hard Ben Jonson excepted, who slept till twelve next day drinking was a vice then in its full vigour of per in the Dolphin, when he rose refreshed, with his fafection,
vourite dish before him of a cold turkey-pie and a The pointed wit, the lively anecdote, and the naked draught of malmsey.
O U But the inn! didst ever see a crazier pile ?-an edimight fice so nodding, tottering, curious and uncouth? Story travel overtopping story, and a row of heavy gables, som
brous and uniform, ornate with cunning carving, wormleague, eaten and somewhat defaced withal, lifting their peaked
and ne- summits above the sunken windows, the redundant ver meet with village inn so cornices, quaint corbels, vacant niches, brackets and picturesque or so antique as bas-reliefs, which diversify and decorate the motley ours. You might traverse aspect of the “Royal Oak.” many a broad acre of dingle, It hath had its mutations—that way-side alehouse; wood, and park, and yet not and the rude effigies which rustic art hath traced upon see so brave, so fair an oak, its sign-board, have changed as often as the blazon of
as that which covers with its the royal shield. When its walls first rose, the hermighty arms the time-worn sign that mit's stirring call to arms was ringing through the swings before our humble hostelry. realms of Christendom, and noble blood was shed like It stands in solitary majesty, leaf- rain upon the thirsty soil of Palestine. Then, the
less and bare, a grim, gaunt ske “Red Cross” became the rendezvous for village gosleton, the huge anatomy of a strong-limbed giant, sips; and if, perchance, some humble palmer sought its summer bravery put off, its leafy gloriousness the shelter of its roof, daylight would dawn before the departed, its many-hued autumnal robe stript from it, throng dispersed whom curiosity had convened to hear and trodden down to mingle with the sodden soil be the wonder-teeming tales with which the wanderer neath. Centuries have rolled over it, and generations regaled the greedy ears of that attentive company. passed it by, and still it towers in altitude, in beauty, Anon, when many an eventful year had run its and in bulk, the same. Lichens cling firmly to its course, and the Crusades were numbered with the byrugged bark, and mosses drapery its hardy roots; but gone things of an imperfectly remembered past, the they become it, as hoary hairs become the veteran ; Harry Tudor” swung from before the village inn ; they are gnomonic of a rare old age-old age without and crippled veterans, who had been eye-witnesses of, its concomitant decay. They must have been coeval and actors in, the sanguinary and merciless wars of -oak and house; and he who reared the one must the Roses, met in the summer evenings beneath the surely have committed to the earth the tiny acorn verdurous roof spread out by that all-sheltering oak, from whose grave sprung up the Titan vastness of the and spun interminable recitals (that varied with the other.
occasion and the audience) of Hexham's total rout-of
Stamford's fierce, disastrous tray-of Barnet's Sabbathgured but ominously of the future from the experience fight, and Bosworth's bloody field.
of a costly, and (in so far as emolument was concerned) Once more the sign was changed, and Harry Tu- an unproductive past. dor's sharp and thoughtful face was hidden beneath Meantime, the thoughts of both the brothers were a patch of sober, russet-coloured paint. True to the simultaneously directed into one and the same chanspirit of the age, the shuffling close-cropped tapster nel—a channel easily surmised. Both fell suddenly in (of the period of the Commonwealth) scrawled on his love! A childish play-mate, a relative by some reboard the hackneyed watchword, which certain of the mote affinity, who, years before, had parted from the Republicans had adopted—“God encompasseth us !” village as a merry, hoyden girl, chiefly remembered by That, we may be sure, was never destined to survive reason of the exceeding and never-failing mirthfulness the Restoration; and in its stead, there was accord- of a most sunshiny disposition, returned to it a matured ingly displayed as reasonable a resemblance of the oak and really dazzling beauty; a girl still in years, but of Boscobel as the limner's fancy could devise. And in height, in figure, and in mind, a woman. often renewed as it has been, still does the sign revive, became the “cynosure of neighb'ring eyes," and was while under it we read the well-known name of its as much an object of admiration among the rising hearty honest host, “ John Summers.'
bachelors of as (truth must be told) of envy, Pondering upon the name, something of his past and occasionally) of detraction, among the comparahistory occurs to mind, -scattered reminiscences that tively slighted maidens of the village. With both the were silently fading out of memory. Five and twenty Summers's, the intercourse of childhood was presently years ago John Summers was a handsome stripling, renewed ; and with the younger, in all its early warmth. light of heart and blithe of limb, and somewhat of a Perhaps the pride which woman naturally feels at wag to boot ; indeed, the very life and soul, main- seeing a proud man kneeling at her feet, valuing a conspring, projector, promoter, and part-perpetrator, of quest rather in proportion to the difficulty of its acevery freak and frolic that from time to time enlivened quirement than its actual worth, or perhaps (so contraand excited the less inventive, less mercurial, less en- dictory is the human heart) a sentiment of admiration thusiastic minds of our good friends and old fami- for peculiarities of character so diametrically opposed liars, the villagers of - - Supreme in steeple, to those which marked her own, influenced Lucy lord paramount of bells and bell-ringers, marshal of Frazer in her choice. But be it as it may, Edward Christmas minstrels, comptroller of festivities at Summers was the accepted lover. Easter and at Whitsuntide, grand caterer at harvest- Well might the unsuccessful suitor, who had seen homes, chief of the commissariat at the banquets of his junior brother's claims preferred to his, feel with the club, joker in ordinary and extraordinary at wed- some bitterness the slight thus put upon him ; for if dings, umpire at cricket-matches, director of bonfires ever there was human being whose peculiar privilege and fireworks on each recurring Guy Fawkes day,– it seemed to be to communicate to those within her what a perfect Proteus was honest John!
sphere a happiness that was perfectly contagious, He had a brother, too, (“ alas! that had, how sad that being was Lucy Frazer. You could not tell from a passage 'tis !") of a temperament so opposite, and what precise source it sprung, nor how communicated. disposition so dissimilar, that at times one almost felt She looked a volume of unutterable kindness. The disposed to doubt their consanguinity. Abstracted, comprehensive benevolence of her soul appeared litereserved, contemplative, and naturally of a proud, un- rally to find an utterance in every glance that emanated bending mind, the contrast which the character of from her large and lustrous eyes; and when her lips Edward Summers presented to his elder brother's, broke into smiles, it came like some most welcome was obvious to the most superficial, the most careless gush of sunshine, a pleasant prelude to the music of of observers. As they grew to manhood, this diversity her voice. of character, and the differing tendencies of their pur- John Summers, however, was a philosopher, and his suits, went far to dissociate and divide them. The philosophy was of an eminently practical order. Had elder, as we have intimated, was somewhat of a free- it been otherwise, the placidity and equanimity of mind hearted, jovial, roystering fellow, could troll a catch, with which he bore his disappointment, after the first and frame a reasonable after-dinner speech, pithy and transient ebullition of chagrin had passed away,
would pertinent withal ; was unrivalled as a rifle shooter, have been infinitely less than that which he displayed famous at fly-fishing, expert at quoits, and, as a crick- upon the occasion. Other cares and other consideraeter, was justly noted for his scientific batting. Ed- tions shortly afterwards occupied his mind. The old ward, on the other hand, almost effeminately delicate man, his father, fell suddenly a victim
to an attack of apoin person, found no enjoyment in the rough but manly plexy, and the “Royal Oak” devolved in consequence pastimes of his brother, viewed his celebrity in those upon the elder, while a legacy of some three or four respects with something like contempt, acknowledged hundred pounds fell to the heritage of the younger no community with his companions, and concentrated Summers! This, to the latter, was a godsend he had all his energies in the cultivation of his talents as a scarcely ventured to anticipate; it seemed to offer him self-taught painter. Such profitless expenditure of a footing from which he might in time attempt to scale time, it must not be concealed, was viewed with grave the very topmost round of Fortune's ladder. concern by one whose knowledge of cartoons was Full of high hopes and sanguine expectations, limited to certain scores chalked with scholastic regu- coloured with the glowing promise of a brilliant future, larity upon a cupboard door within the bar; and whose -a promise that was destined never to be realized, picture gallery was limited to a series of brightly-co- he married, received his patrimony, and flung himself loured representations of a fox-chace, which, together adventurously on the metropolis-launched, with a with a pair of dingy caricatures, graced the club-room flowing sail, upon the eddying sea in which so many of the “ Royal Oak.” In fact, paternal prudence au- a noble heart has been engulfed. But the skill which