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the same time I believe it must be allowed, that what nature gave the latter, was more than a balance
" That the king's yearly butt wrote, and his wine
“ Hath more right than thou to thy Catiline.» The writer does not deny the charge, but vindicates his friend by saying that, however slow, is He that writes well, writes quick.
Verses on B. Jonson, by Jasper Mayne. So also another of his Panegyrilts :
Admit his muse was low, 'tis judgment's fate
To move like greatest princes, still in state.» In The Return from Parnassus, 1606, Jonson is said to be sofo Now an enditer, that he were better betake himself to his old trade of bricklaying. 99 The fame piece furnishes us with the earliest intimation of the quarrel between him and Shakspeare. " Why here's our fellow Shakspeare put them (the university poets) alldown, ay, and Ben Jonson too. O, that Ben Jonson is a peftilent fellow ; he brought up Horace giving the poets a pill, but our fellow Shakspeare hath given him a purge that made him bewray his credit. » Fuller, who was a diligent inquirer, and lived near enough the time to be well informed, confirms this account, asserting in his Worthies, 1662, that 66 many were the wit-combats 99 between Jonson and our poet.
It is a singular circumstance that old Ben should for near two centuries have stalked on the stilts of an artificial reputation ; and that even at this day, of the very few who read his works, scarcely one in ten yet ventures to confess how little entertainment they afford. Such was the impression made on the publick by the extravagant praises of those who knew more of books than of the drama, that Dryden in his Esay on Dramatick Poesie, written about 1667, does not venture to go further in his elogium on Shakspeare, than by saying, 6 he was at least Jonson's equal, if not his superior; », and in the preface to his Mock Astrologer, 1671, he hardly dares to assert, what, in my opinion, cannot be denied, that it all Jonson's pieces, except three or four, are but crambe bis coeta ; the same humours a little varied and written worse.99
Ben however did not trust to the praises of others. One of his admirers honestly confeffes,
« No other pen need any trophy raisc.» In vain, however, did he endeavour to bully the town into
for what books had given the former; and the judgment of a great man upon this occasion was, approbation by telling his auditors, “By G -- 'tis good, and if you like't, you may ; " and by pouring out against those who preferred our poet to him, a torrent of illiberal abufe; which, as Mr. Walpole justly observes, some of his contemporaries were willing to think wit, because they were afraid of it : for, notwithstanding all his arrogant boasts, notwithstanding all the clamor of his partizans both in his own life-time and for fixty years after his death, the truth is, that his pieces, when first performed, were so far from being applauded by the people, that they were scarcely endured ; and many of them were actually damned.
the fine plush and velvets of the age « Did oft for fixpence damn thee from the stage, » says one of his eulogifts in Fonfonius Virbius, 4to. 1638. Jonson himself owns that Sejanus was damned. 6. It is a poem,” says he, in his dedication to lord Aubigny, - that, if I well remem
66 ber, in your lordship's sight fuffered no less violence from our people here, than the subject of it did from the rage of the people of Rome... His friend E.B. (probably Edmund Bolton,) speaking of the same performance, says,
« But when I view'd the people's beastly rage,
6 Bent to confound thy grave and learned toil,
6. That cost ihee so much sweat and so much oil,
« My indignation I could hardly assuage. » Again, in his dedication of Catiline to the earl of Pembroke, the author says, 66 Posterity may pay your benefit the honor and thanks, when it shall know that you dare in these jig-given times to countenance a legitimate poem. I must call it so, against all noise of opinion, from whose crude and ayrie reports I appeal to that great and fingular facultie of judgment in your lordship."
See also the Epilogue to Every man in his humor, by lord Buckhurft, quoted below in the Account of our old English Theatres, ad finem. To his testimony and that of Mr. Drummond of Hawthornden, (there also mentioned,) may be added that of Leonard Digges in his Verses on Shakspeare, and of Sir Robert Howard, who says in the preface to his plays, folio, 1665, (not thirty years after Ben's death,) - When I conlider how fevere the former
has been to some of the best of Mr. Jonson's neverto-be-equall'd comedies, I cannot but wonder, why any poet should speak of former times.' The truth is, that however extravagant the elogiums were that a few scholars gave him in
I think, very just and proper. In a conversation between Sir John Suckling, Sir William D'Avenant, Endymion Porter, Mr. Hales of Eton, and Ben Jonfon, Sir John Suckling, who was a professed admirer of Shakspeare, had undertaken his defence against Ben Jonson with some warmth ; Mr. Hales, who had sat still for some time, told them,” That if Mr. Shakspeare had not read the ancients, he had likewise not stolen any thing from them; and that if he would produce any one topick finely treated by any one of them, he would undertake to Mew something upon the same subject at least as well written by Shakspeare." their closets, he was not only not admired in his own time by the generality, but not even understood. His friend Beaumont assures him in a copy ofverses, that o his sense is so deep that he will not be understood for three ages to come.” MALONE.
9 Mr. Hales, who had fat still for some time, told them,) In Mr. Rowe's first edition this paffage runs thus :
66 Mr. Hales, who had fat still for some time, hearing Ben frequently reproach him with the want of learning and ignorance of the antients, told him at last, That if Mr. Shakspeare, ,, &c. By the alteration, the subsequent part of the sentence if he would produce, » &c. is rendered ungrammatical. Malone.
: - he would undertake to Shew fomething upon the same subject at least as well written by Shakspeare.) I had long endeavoured in vain to find out on what authority this relation was founded; and have very lately discovered that Mr. Rowe probably derived his information from Dryden: forin Gildon's Letters and Elays, published in 1694, fifteen years before this Life appeared, the same story is told ; and Dryden, to whom an Essay in vindication of Shakspeare is addreffed, is appealed to by the writer as his authority. As Gildon tells the story with some flight variations from the accountgiven by Mr, Rowe, and the book in which it is found is now extremely scarce, I shall subjoin the passage in his own words :
« But to give the world fome satisfaction that Shakspeare has had as great veneration paid his excellence by men of unquestioned parts, as this I now exprefs for him, I shall give fome account of what I have heard from your mouth, fir, about the noble triumph he gained over all the ancients, by the judgement of the ableft criticks of that time.
The latter part of his life was spent, as all men
6. The matter of fact, if my memory fail me not, was this. Mr. Hales of Eton affirmed, that he would shew all the poets of antiquity out-done by Shakspeare, in all the topicks and common-places made use of in poetry. The enemies of Shakspeare would by no means yield him so much excellence ; so that it came to a refolution of a trial of skill upon that subject. The place agreed on for the dispute was Mr. Hales's chamber at Eton. A great many books were sent down by the enemies of this poet; and on the appointed day my lord Falkland, Sir John Suckling, and all the perfons of quality that had wit and learning, and interested themselves in the quarrel, met there; and upon a thorough difquisition of the point, the judges chosen by agreement out of this learned and ingenious assembly, unanimously gave the preference to Shakspeare, and the Greek and Roman poets were adjudged to vail at least their glory in that, to the English Hero. 9,
This elogium on our author is likewise recorded at an earlier period by Tate, probably from the fame authority, in the preface to the Loyal General, quarto, 1680: 66 Our learned Hales was wont to assert, that, since the time of Orpheus, and the oldest poets, no common-place has been touched upon, where our author has not performed as well. »
Dryden himselfalfo certainly alludes to this story, which he appears to have related both to Gildon and Rowe, in the following passage of his Essay of Dramatick Poe'y, 1667 ; and he as well as Gildon goes somewhat further than Rowe in his panegyrick. After giving that fine character of our poet which Dr. Johnfon has quoted in his preface, he adds, i The confi
66 deration of this made Mr. Hales of Eton say, that there was no subject of which any poet ever writ, but he would produce it MUCH BETTER done by Shakspeare; and however others are now generally preferred before him, yet the age wherein he lived, which had contemporaries with him, Fletcher and Jonson, never equalled them to him in their esteem : And in the laft king's court (that of Charles I.) when Ben's reputation was at highet, Sir John Suckling, and with him the greater part of the courtiers set our Shakspeare far above him..,
Let ever-memorable Hales, if all his other merits be forgotten, be ever mentioned with honor, for his good taste and admiration of our poet. -. He was, , says Lord Clarendon, 66 one of the least men in the kingdom; and one of the greatest scholars in Europe." See a long character of him in Clarendon's Life, vol. I. p. 52.
of good sense will wish theirs may be, in case, retireinent, and the conversation of his friends. He had the good fortune to gather an estate equal to his occasion,' and, in that, to his wish ; and is said to have spent some years before his death at his, native Stratford.* His pleasureabie wit and good
3 He had the good fortune to gather an eftcte equal to his occasion,) Gildon, without authority, I believe, fays, that our author left behind him an estate of 3ool. per ann. This was equal to at least ioooi. per ann. at this day; the relative value of
money, the mode of living in that age, the luxury and taxes of the present time, and various other circumstances, being considered. But I doubt whether all his property amounted to much more than 2001. per ann. which yet was a considerable fortune in thofe times. He appears from his grand-daughter's will to have pofseffed in Bishopton, and Stratford Welcombe, four yard land and a half. A zard land is a denomination well known in Warwickshire, and contains from 30 to 60 acres. The average
there fore being 45, four yard land and a half may be estimated at about two hundred acres. As fixteen years purchase was the common rate at which land was fold at that time, that is, one half less than at this day, 'we may suppose that these lands were let at seven shillings per acre, and produced 70l. per annum. If we rate the New-Place with the appurtenances, and our poet's other houses in Stratford, at bol. a year, and his house &c. in the Blackfriars, (for which he pay'd 1401.) at 20l. a year, we have a rent-roll of 1501. per annum. Of his personal property it is not now possible to form any accurate estimate : but if we rate it at five hundred pounds, money then bearing an interest of ten per cent, Shakspeare's total income was 2001. per ann. In The Merry Wives of Windsor, which was written foon after the year 1600, Three hundred pounds a year is described as an estate of such magnitude as to cover all the defects of its pofseisor :
• O, what a world of vile ill-favour'd faults
MALONE. to have spent some years before his death at his native Stratford.) In 1614 the greater part of the town of Stratford was con
* To Shakspeare's income from his real and personal property must be added L. 200 per Ann. which he probably derived from the theatre, while he continued on the stage. See Vol. III. p. 179; VOL. I.