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BEN JONSON. 1574–1637.
BENJAMIN Jonson, or Ben Jonson, as he signed his own name, was the son of a clergyman in Westminster, and born in 1574, about a month after his father's death. He was educated at Westminster, but his mother, having taken a bricklayer for her second husband, removed him from school, where he had made extraordinary progress, to work under his step-father. Disgusted with this occupation, he escaped, enlisted in the army, and went to the Netherlands. On his return to England, he entered Cambridge; but the failure of pecuniary resources obliging him to quit the university, he applied to the theatre for employment. Though at first his station was a low one, he soon, by his own industry and talent, rose to distinction, and gained great celebrity as a dramatic writer. His works altogether consist of about fifty-four dramatic pieces,' but by far the greater part of them are masques and interludes, for which his genius seemed better fitted, being too destitute of passion and sentiment for the regular drama. «His tragedies," says a critic, “ seem to bear about the same resemblance to Shakspeare's, that sculpture does to actual life."? There are, however, interspersed throughout his works, many lyrical pieces that have peculiar neatness and beauty of diction, and will bear a comparison with any in our language. Or these, the Lollowing may be taken as specimens :
Beauties, have ye seen this toy,
He doth bear a golden bow,
1 The four best comedies of Jonson are, "Every Man in his Humor," "The Silent Woman," "Volpone or The Fox," and the “Alchemist." Two of his best tragedies are entitled, "Catiline," and "The Fall of Sejanus."
9 "Many were the wit-combats betwixt Shakspeare and Ben Jonson, which two I beheld like a Spanish great galleon and an English man-of-war. Master Jonson, like the former, was buit far higher in learning; solid, but slow in his performances. Shakspeare, with the English man-of-war, lesser in bulk, but lighter In sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about, and take advantage of all winds, by the quickness of his wit and Invention."-Fuller's Worthies.
Trust him not: luis words, though sweet,
HYMN TO CYNTHIA.
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
State in wonted manner keep:
Dare itself to interpose;
Heaven to clear, when day did close:
And thy crystal shining quiver;
Space to breathe, how short soever:
Goddess, excellently bright. thu panerias prose composition of Ben Jonson is a small tract entitled • Discorchras, o Observations on Poetry and Eloquence.” It displays his indgment as crassical learning to great advantage, and the style is unusually close, precise, and pure.
DIRECTIONS FOR WRITING WELL." For a man to write well, there are required three necessaries:to read the best authors; observe the best speakers; and much exercise of his own style. In style, to consider what ought to be written, and after what manner; he must first think, and excogitate his matter; then choose his words, and examine the weight of either. Then take care in placing and ranking both matter and words, that the composition be comely; and to do this with diligence and often. No matter how slow the style be at first, so it be labored and accurate ; seek the best, and be not glad of the forward conceits, or first words that offer themselves to us, but judge of what we invent, and order what we approve. Repeat often what we have formerly written ; which, besides that it helps the consequence, and makes the juncture better, quickens the heat of imagination, that often cools in the time of sitting down, and gives it new strength, as if it grew lustier by the going back. As we see in the contention of leaping, they jump farthest that fetch their race largest; or, as in throwing a dart or javelin, we force back our arms, to make our loose the stronger. Yet if we have a fair gale of wind, I forbid not the steering out of our sail, so the favor of the gale deceive us not. For all that we invent doth please us in the conception or birth; else we would never set it down. But the safest is to return to our judgment, and handle over again those things, the easiness of which might make them justly suspected. So did the best writers in their beginnings. They imposed upon themselves care and industry. They did nothing rashly. They obtained first to write well, and then custom made it easy and a habit. By little and little, their matter showed itself to them more plentifully; their words answered, their composition followed ; and all, as in a well-ordered family, presented itself in the place. So that the sum of all is, ready writing makes not good writing; but good writing brings on ready writing.
1 "Ben Jonson's directions for writing well should be indelibly impressed upon the mind of every student."- Drake's Eurys,
CHARACTER OF LORD Bacon. One, though he be excellent, and the chief, is not to be imitated alone ; for no imitator ever grew up to his author; likeness is always on this side truth. Yet there happened in my time one noble speaker, who was full of gravity in his speaking. His language (where he could spare or pass by a jest) was nobly censorious. No man ever spake more neatly, more pressly, more weightily, or suffered less emptiness, less idleness, in what he uttered. No member of his speech but consisted of his own graces. His hearers could not cough, or look aside from him, without loss. He commanded where he spoke ; and had his judges angry and pleased at his devotion. No man had their afsections more in his power. The fear of every man that heard him was, lest he should make an end.
My conceit of his person was never increased toward him by his place or honors, but I have and do reverence him for the greatness that was only proper to himself, in that he seemed to me ever, by his work, one of the greatest men, and most worthy of admiration, that had been in many ages. In his adversity I ever prayed that God would give him strength; for greatness he could not want. Neither could I condole in a word or syllable for him, ds knowing no accident could do harm to virtue, but rather help to make it manifest.
GEORGE HERBERT. 1593–1633. GEORGE HERBERT, a most pious and learned divine of the Church of England, is the author of the Country Parson, his Character and Rule of Holy Life,” and also of “ Sacred Poems, and Private Ejaculations.” We cannot give the object of the former better than in his own words : I have resolved to set down the form and character of a true pastor, that I may have a mark to aim at, which also I will set as high as I can, since he shoots higher that threatens the moon, than he that aims at a tree. Not that I think, if a man do not all which is here expressed, he presently sins, and displeases Gol; but that it is a good strife to go as far as we can in pleasing Him, who hath done so much for us." The work consists of thirty-seven chapters, treating of so many different duties of the “ Pastor.” The last chapter is
The Country Parson-perceiving that most, when they are at leisure, make others' faults their entertainment and discourse; and that even some good men think, so they speak truth, they may disclose another's fault-finds it somewhat difficult how to proceed in this point. For if he absolutely shut up men's mouths, and forbid all disclosing of faults, many an evil may not only be, but also spread in his parish, without any remedy, (which cannot be applied without notice,) to the dishonor of God, and the infection of his flock, and the discomfort, discredit, and hinderance of the pastor. On the other side, if it be unlawful to open faults, no benefit or advantage can make it lawful; for we must not do evil that good may come of it.
Now the Parson, taking this point to task, (which is so exceeding useful, and hath taken so deep root that it seems the very life and substance of conversation,) hath proceeded thus far in the discussing of it. Faults are either notorious or private. Again, notorious faults are either such as are made known by common fame; and of these those that know them may talk, so they do it not with sport, but commiseration :or else, such as have passed judgment, and been corrected either by whipping, imprisoning, or the like. Of these also men may talk; and more, they may discover them to those that knew them not: because infamy is a part of the sentence against malefactors, which the law intends, as is evident by those which are branded for rogues that they may be known, or put into the stocks that they may be looked upon. But some may say, though the law allow this, the gospel doth not: which hath so much advanced charity, and ranked backbiters among the generation of the wicked. But this is easily answered. As the executioner is not uncharitable that takes away the life of the con demped, except, besides his office, he adds a tincture of private malice in the joy and haste of acting his part ; so neither is he
that defames hin whom the law would hare defamed, except he also do it out of rancor. For, in infamy, all are executioners; and the law gives a malefactor to all to be defamed. And, as malefactors may lose and forfeit their goods or life; so may they their good name, and the possession thereof, which, before their offence and judgment, they had in all men's breasts. For all are honest, till the contrary be proved.-Besides, it concerns the commonwealth that rogues should be known; and charity to the public hath the precedence of private charity. So that it is so far from being a fault to discover such offenders, that it is a duty rather; which may do much good, and save much harm.-Nevertheless, if the punished delinquent shall be much troubled for his sins, and turn quite another man, doubtless then also men's affections and words must turn, and forbear to speak of that which even God himself hath forgotten.
As a poet, Herbert ranks among the metaphysical class, belonging to the same school with John Donne. His poems are generally of a serious charac. ter, relating either to the grave realities of this life, or the momentous concerns of another. Most of them, however, are so quaint, so filled with farfetched images and illustrations, and are so recondite in their meaning, that they cannot be read with much pleasure. The following are two of his best pieces:
Thy torch doth show the way.
I'he other days and thou
Till thy release appear.
The which he doth not fill.
1 Head-Willmott's “Lives of the English Sacred Poets," which contains well-written notices of Davies, Sanays, Wither, Giles Fletcher, Quarles, Crashaw, Milton, Watts, Young, Blair, Cowper, and otbera