London, Volume 1

Knight, Charles


Ben Jonson's London. (Concluded from XXI.)

Ben Jonson's London. (Concluded from XXI.)




The dupe thus recounts his great fortunes to his wife:--

Wife, such a man, wife!

He has such plots! he will make me a duke!

No less, by heaven! six mares to your coach, wife

That's your proportion! and your coachman bald,

Because he shall be bare enough. Do not you laugh;

We are looking for a place, and all, in the map,

What to be of. Have faith-be not an infidel.

You know I am not easy to be gull'd.

I swear, when I have my millions, else, I'll make

Another duchess, if you have not faith.

Mrs. Fitz.You'll have too much, I fear, in these false spirits.

Fitz.Spirits! 0, no such thing, wife; wit, mere wit. This man defies the devil and all his works; He does 't by engine, and devices, he! He has his winged ploughs, that go with sails, Will plough you forty acres at once! and mills Will spout you water ten miles off! All Crowland Is ours, wife: and the fens, from us, in Norfolk, To the utmost bounds in Lincolnshire! we have view'd it, And measur'd it within all, by the scale: The richest tract of land, love, in the kingdom: There will be made seventeen or eighteen millions, Or more, as 't may be handled! so therefore think, Sweet-heart, if thou hast a fancy to one place More than another, to be duchess of, Now name it; I will have't, whate'er it cost, (If 't will be had for money,) either here, Or in France, or Italy.

Mrs. Fitz.You have strange phantasies!

Is this satire obsolete?



But there is another form of the passion whose permanency and universality cannot be denied. What the victims of gaming propose to themselves Jonson has delineated with inimitable humour:--

There's a young gentleman

Is born to nothing-forty marks a year,

Which I count nothing:--he is to be initiated,

And have a fly of the doctor. He will win you,

By unresistible luck, within this fortnight,

Enough to buy a barony. They will set him

Upmost, at the groom-porters, all the Christmas:

And for the whole year through, at every place

Where there is play, present him with the chair;

The best attendance, the best drink; sometimes

Two glasses of Canary, and pay nothing;

The purest linen, and the sharpest knife;

The partridge next his trencher.

You shall have your ordinaries bid for him,

As playhouses for a poet; and the master

Pray him aloud what dish he affects,

Which must be butter'd shrimps: and those that drink

To no mouth else will drink to his as being

The goodly president mouth of all the board.

The line

You shall have your ordinaries bid for him

will at once suggest to the reader the admirable scene in the

Fortunes of Nigel,

where we breathe the very air of the ordinary of

Monsieur le Chevalier de Beaujeu, pink of Paris, and flower of Gascony.

The cookery, the wine, the gaming, and the quarrelling, which Scott has so inimitably painted, are to be traced in every page of the comedies of this period. There is, however, amongst the

Anecdotes and Traditions,

published by the Camden Society from the manuscript of Sir Nicholas L'Estrange, preserved in the Harleian collection, a story which shows us the manners of an ordinary with great truth and spirit:--

Old Jack Pinchback, a gamester and ruffler in London, came into an ordinary very brave and daubed with gold-lace, and, spying a country gentleman there, resolved to whet his wit upon him for that meal, and so seated himself by him; meat was no sooner upon the table but the gentleman boards the best dish before him:

Soft, friend,

says Pinchback;

in such places as these, give gentlemen of quality and your betters leave to be before you.

Say you so?

says he;

why, they tell me in the country, that, when a man comes into an ordinary at London, every man is his own carver, and eats what Lhehas a mind to.

0 no,

says Pinchback,

take it from me, 'tis false doctrine.

The gentleman, being both wise and daring, and well enough acquainted with the fashions of London, dissembled himself; and observing that Pinchback loved his palate, as soon as the


course was set down, he had the


hand upon a pheasant.


says Pinchback;

these country clowns neither know nor will learn good manners.

He held his pheasant for all that, and fed as fast upon it as Pinchback scoffed and played upon him; still answering that in the country he never heard of any such fashions. Well, dinner was no sooner done, and the company risen, but this country gentleman, well fleshed with the best meat, comes boldly up to Pinchback:

I prithee,

says he,

whose fool art thou?

Says Pinchback,



What's thy meaning, friend, by that?


says he,

by the loose liberty of thy tongue, and

(shaking on him by the shoulder)

by this guarded coat, I take thee for some great man's fool; but if thou beest not somebody's fool, I must beat thee. Therefore, if thou wantest that protection, meet me in St. George's Fields an hour hence, and I'll teach you new ethics, how to eat your own sword or mine.

Pinchback, seeing him so daring and resolute, wound himself off by a handsome acknowledgment and the interposing of the company, and very glad he got so rid of him.

Here we have the gamester and bully in his fine clothes, contending for the pheasant

next his trencher

with a stout country gentleman, who at length teaches the ruffler manners by the terrors of the cudgel. Every description of an ordinary has reference to the general appetite for luxurious fare, which appears to have been of the prevailing vices both in the Court and the City in these days. The Court, in , had a most singular contest with the City; and it is difficult to understand how the Court obtained a triumph without something like an insurrection of all the Liveries. Stow tells us that the Queen and the nobility put down the eating of venison in the City:--

There was excessive spending of venison, as well as other victuals, in the halls. Nay, and a great consumption of venison there was frequently at taverns and cooks'-shops, insomuch that the Court was much offended with it. Whereupon, anno


, that the City might not continue to give the Queen and nobility offence, the Lord Mayor, Sir Lionel Ducket, and Aldermen, had by act of Common Council forbidden such feasts hereafter to be made; and restrained the same only to necessary meetings, in which also no venison was permitted. And because they found great expense of venison to have been in taverns and cooks' houses, and withal very many and great enormities, by reason of drunkenness, seditious rumours, unthrifty assemblies, incontinence, and other evil, to grow of inordinate resorting to taverns and tippling-houses, especially for the meaner sort, they restrained drinking and eating in such houses.

The vigour of prevention was directed, it will be seen, in quarters against the gluttony of the halls, and that of taverns and cooks' houses

for the meaner sort.

Who can doubt that the justice of the Common Council was impartial; and that the term

necessary meetings

had a very strict construction? Yet such is the inadequacy of laws that are

made for every degree,

that we find in the beginning of the reign of James I. that London was universal academy for and . The cooks, according to Jonson, were infected with principles that in an earlier age of the Reformation would have consigned them to the stake:--

Where have you greater atheists than your cooks?

But in the more tolerant age of James, the master-cooks, whose atheism (if this quality be not a mere scandal of the poet) was derived with their professional knowledge from

the world abroad

--for travel was then necessary to make an accomplished cook-cooks were then personages that the great delighted to honour:

A master-cook! why, he's the man of men,

For a professor! he designs, he draws,

He paints, he carves, he builds, he fortifies,

Makes citadels of curious fowl and fish:

Some he dry-ditches, some moats round with broths;

Mounts marrow-bones; cuts fifty-angled custards;

Rears bulwark pies; and, for his outer works,

He raiseth ramparts of immortal crust;

And teacheth all the tactics at one dinner.

He is an architect, an engineer,

A soldier, a physician, a philosopher,

A general mathematician!


We have already given the passage in the


in which Jonson pours out his learning in describing the rare but somewhat nasty dishes of ancient cookery. We doubt whether



camels' heels,

and the

beards of barbels,


oiled mushrooms,

would really be so successful as the performances of the maitre de cuisine to the Marechal Strozzi, who, at the siege of Leith, according to Monsieur Beaujeu,

made out of the hind quarter of


salted horse



, that the English and Scottish officers and nobility, who had the honour to dine with Monseigneur upon the rendition, could not tell what the devil any


of them were made upon at all.

The real professors of that day, according to the recommendation which Howell gives of of them in , could

marinate fish,

make jellies,


excellent for piquant sauce and the haugou,


passing good for an olla,


larding of meat after the mode of France,

and decorated their victims with

chains of sausages.

With these refinements prevailing amongst us centuries ago, it is lamentable to think how we retrograded to the Saxon barbarism of sirloins and suet-dumplings.

Gifford has remarked that

Shakspere is the only


of the dramatic writers of the age of James who does not condescend t


notice tobacco; all the others

abound in allusions to it.

In Jonson we find tobacco in every place--in Cob the waterman's house, and in the Apollo Club-room--on the stage, and at the ordinary. The world of London was then divided into classes--the tobacco-lovers and the tobacco-haters. Jonson has made Bobadill speak the exaggerated praise of the class:

I have been in the Indies, where this herb grows, where neither myself nor a dozen gentlemen more of my knowledge have received the taste of any other nutriment in the world for the space of




weeks, but the fume of this simple only: therefore, it cannot be but 'tis most divine.

Cob the waterman, on the other hand, represents the denouncers of the weed:

Ods me, I marle what pleasure or felicity they have in taking this roguish tobacco! It's good for nothing but to choke a man, and fill him full of smoke and embers: there were


died out of


house last week with taking of it, and


more the bell went for yesternight.

King James I., in his celebrated

Counterblast to Tobacco,

is an imitator of Master Cob, for he raises a bugbear of

an unctuous and oily kind of soot found in some great tobacco-takers that after their death were opened.

The King could not write down tobacco, even with Joshua Sylvester for an ally; who, in his poem entitled

Tobacco Battered, and the Pipes Shattered,

informs us that-

Of all the plants that Tellus' bosom yields,

In groves, glades, gardens, marshes, mountains, fields,

None so pernicious to man's life is known

As is tobacco, saving hemp alone.

Such denunciations (of the poets at least) against tobacco were probably written under as many heart-throes of real love as Charles Lamb's


Stinking'st of the stinking kind,

Filth of the mouth, and fog of the mind;

Africa, that brags her foison,

Breeds no such prodigious poison:

Henbane, nightshade, both together,

Hemlock, aconite---

Nay, rather,

Plant divine, of rarest virtue;

Blisters on the tongue would hurt you!

'Twas but in a sort I blam'd thee;

None e'er prosper'd who defam'd thee;

Irony all, and feign'd abuse,

Such as perplexed lovers use.

Old Aubrey tells us very circumstantially how

the great plant

gradually made its way amongst us; and here we leave it:--

He (Raleigh) was the


that brought tobacco into England, and into fashion. In


part of North Wilts (Malmesbury


) it came


into fashion by Sir Walter Long. They had


silver pipes. The ordinary sort made use of a walnut-shell and a straw. I have heard my grandfather Lyte say that


pipe was handed from man to man round the table. Sir W. Raleigh, standing in a stand at Sir Robert Poyntz's park, at Acton, took a pipe of tobacco, which made the ladies quit it till he had done. Within these


years 't was scandalous for a divine to take tobacco. It was sold for its weight in silver. I have heard some of our old yeomen neighbours say that, when they went to Malmesbury or Chippenham market, they culled out their biggest shillings to lay

in the scales against the tobacco; now, the customs of it are the greatest his Majesty hath.

Amongst the promiscuous associates of the ordinaries and the taverns-men of quality and poets upon the town, rich citizens and swaggering adventurers-there must unquestionably have been a constant collision of manners, which was sure to end in blows and

tilting at each other's breasts.

This, then, was the age for

rules to give and take the lie by.

Shakspere, as well as Jonson, has ridiculed this quarrelsome spirit, whose. insolence was safe up to a certain point-anything short of

the lie direct.

But it was not always safe.

The retort courteous

might be often mistaken for the lie

without an if,

in the heat of wine and high feeding; and then out flew the rapiers. Winstanley, in his

Lives of the Poets,

tells us a story of Thomas Randolph, the author of

The Muse's Looking-glass,

which offers a very pretty tragi-comic illustration of this state of manners :

His extraordinary indulgence to the too liberal converse with the multitude of his applauders drew him to such an immoderate way of living that he was seldom out of gentlemen's company; and as it often happens that in drinking high quarrels arise, so there chanced some words to pass betwixt Mr. Randolph and another gentleman, which grew to be so high, that the gentleman, drawing his sword, and striking at Mr. Randolph, cut off his little finger, whereupon, in an extemporary humour, he instantly made these verses:--

Arithmetic nine digits, and no more,

Admits of; then I have all my store:

But what mischance hath ta'en from my left hand,

It seems, did only for a cipher stand;

Hence, when I scan my verse, if I do miss,

I will impute the fault only to this,--

A finger's loss, I speak it not in sport,

Will make a verse a foot too short.

The law of the strong-hand was in those days ever ready to go before the slower penalties and

the rusty curb of old Father Antic

--the law of the serjeant's mace and the judge's robe. We have another characteristic story of the times in L'Estrange's papers:--

A gentleman at a play sate by a fellow that he strongly suspected for a cutpurse, and, for the probation of him, took occasion to draw out his purse, and put it up so carelessly as it dangled down (but his eye watched it strictly with a glance), and he bent his discourse another way; which his suspected neighbour observing, upon his


fair opportunity exercised his craft, and, having got his booty, began to remove away, which the gentleman noting, instantly draws his knife, and whips off


of his ears, and vowed he would have something for his money. The cutpurse began to swear, and stamp, and threaten.

Nay, go to, sirrah,

says the other;

be quiet; I'll offer you fair: give me my purse again; here's your ear, take it, and be gone.

The finger of Thomas Randolph and the ear of the cutpurse would be curious relics of those extra-judicial days. But the earth has hidden them, as it has hidden

the rack


the boot

of the sovereign justice of the same age. Jonson has a capital scene in

Bartholomew Fair,

where a roguish ballad-singer roars out

a gentle admonition both to the purse-cutter and the purse-bearer,

whilst his confederate picks the booby's pocket who is listening to him. The


moral with which this song concludes, to whose chorus the purse is taken and conveyed from hand to hand, is very solemn:--

But O, you vile nation of cutpurses all,

Relent and repent, and amend and be sound,

And know that you ought not, by honest men's fall,

Advance your own fortunes, to die above ground;

And though you go gay

In silks, as you may,

It is not the highway to heaven (as they say).

Repent then, repent you, for better for worse,

And kiss not the gallows for cutting a purse.

Youth, youth, thou hadst better been starv'd by thy nurse,

Than live to be hanged for cutting a purse!

The pickpockets of modern times appear to be a degenerate race in comparison with the illustrious masters of the art of the days of Elizabeth and James. The song we have quoted records the feats of robbing a knight of good worship in Worcester gaol, a judge on the seat of judgment, and a nobleman,

At Court, and in Christmas, before the King's face.

Such excellence was the result of long and painful study; and Fleetwood, the Recorder, in a letter to Lord Burghley, of , describes an academy for thieves, where professional instruction was carried forward with that ambition for perfection which ought to be kept in view in every school of liberal arts:--

Amongst our travels this


matter tumbled out by the way, that


Wotton, a gentleman born, and sometime a merchant-man of good credit, who, falling by time into decay, kept an alehouse at Smart's Key, near


, and after, for some misdemeanor being put down, he reared up a new trade of life, and in the same house he procured all the cutpurses about this city to repair to his said house. There was a school-house set up to learn young boys to cut purses. There were hung up




was a pocket, the other was a purse. The pocket had in it certain counters, and was hung about with hawks' bells, and over the top did hang a little scaring-bell; and he that could take out a counter without any noise was allowed to be a

public foyster

; and he that could take a piece of silver out of the purse without the noise of any of the bells, he was adjudged a


nipper. Note--that a foyster is a pickpocket, and a nipper is termed a pickpurse, or a cutpurse.

We have read the description of a similar school in a book of the reign of George III.,

The Devil upon


Sticks in England.

Impertinent pretenders to originality! the foundations of your science were laid in a far higher age.

If anything could exceed the glee with which the vagabonds pursued their vocation, whether they rejoiced in the name of rufflers, hookers, priggers, abrams, or any other of the -and- names recorded by Harrison, it was the hilarity with which the officers of the law hunted them out. It is not sufficient for Fleetwood, the Recorder, to sit at the justice-hall at Newgate on a Friday, and condemn

certain horse-dealers, cutpurses, and such-like, to the number of


, whereof


were executed upon Saturday in the morning;

but on the following Monday he must

spend the day about the searching out of sundry that were receptors of felons.

On another day he says,

Abroad myself, and I took that day



Fleetwood appears to have been the very


Petit Andre of recorders. Nothing annoys him so much as a reprieve; and in truth the mode in which reprieves were obtained was not such as exactly to please a conscientious recorder who should bring to his vocation only half the of Fleetwood. i~ He writes to Burghley,

It is grown for a trade now in the court to-make means for reprieves;

twenty pound

for a reprieve is nothing, although it be but for bare



The court, however, had a politic regard to the personal safety of some of its members in thus holding the halter in check. The Recorder has a very characteristic passage upon this matter:--

Mr. Nowell, of the court, hath lately been here in London: he caused his man to give a blow unto a carman; his man hath stricken the carman with the pummel of his sword, and therewith hath broken his skull and killed him. Mr. Nowell and his man are like to be indicted; whereof I am sure to be much troubled, what with letters and his friends, and what by other means, as in the very like case heretofore I have been even with the same man.

But there was money to be made in court in more ways than .

Twenty pound

for a reprieve

was really nothing compared with the large prices which the greater courtiers obtained by begging lands. In the old play called

Jack Drum's Entertainment

of the characters says,

I have followed ordinaries this twelvemonths, only to find a fool that had lands, or a fellow that would talk treason, that I might beg him.

Garrard, in his letters to Lord Strafford, communicates a bit of news to his patron, which not only illustrates the unprincipled avarice of the courtiers-down almost to the time when a national convulsion swept this and other abominations away with much that was good and graceful-but which story is full of a deep tragic interest. An old usurer dies in ; his will is opened, and all the property--the coin, the plate, the jewels, and the bonds-all is left to his man-servant. The unhappy creature goes mad amidst his riches; and there is but thing thought of at court for a week--who is to be successful in begging him. Elizabeth had the merit of abolishing the more hateful practice of begging concealed lands, that is such lands as at the dissolution of the monasteries had privily got into the possession of private persons. There was not a title in the kingdom that was thus safe from the rapacity of the begging courtiers. But, having lost this prey, they displayed a new ability for the discovery of treason and treasonable talk. In the


written in , Jonson does not hesitate to speak out boldly against this abominable practice. The characters in the following dialogue are Lupus, Caesar, Tucca, and Horace; and, as we have already mentioned, Jonson himself was designated under the name of Horace:--

Lup.A libel, Caesar; a dangerous, seditious libel; a libel in picture.

Caesar.A libel!

Lup.Ay; I found it in this Horace his study, in Meaemnas his house here; I challenge the penalty of the laws against them.

Tuc.Ay, and remember to beg their land betimes; before some of these hungry courthounds scent it out.

Caesar.Show it to Horace: ask him if he know it.

Lup.Know it! his hand is at it, Caesar.

Caesar.Then 't is no libel.

Hor.It is the imperfect body of an emblem, Caesar, I began for Mecaenas.

Lup.An emblem! right: that's Greek for a libel. Do but mark how confident he is.

Hor.A just man cannot fear, thou foolish tribune ; Not, though the malice of traducing tongues, The open vastness of a tyrant's ear, The senseless rigour of the wrested laws, Or the red eyes of strain'd authority, Should, in a point, meet all to take his life: His innocence is armour 'gainst all these.

Soon after the accession of James, Jonson himself went to prison for a supposed libel against the Scots, in

Eastward Ho;

in the composition of which comedy he assisted Chapman and Marston. They were soon pardoned: but it was previously reported that their ears and noses were to be slit. Jonson's mother, at an entertainment which he made on his liberation,

drank to him, and showed him a paper which she designed, if the sentence had taken effect, to have mixed with his drink,--and it was strong and hasty poison.

Jonson, who tells this story himself, says,

to show that she was no churl, she designed to have


drank of it herself.

This is a terrible illustration of the ways of despotism. Jonson was pardoned, probably through some favouritism. Had it been otherwise, the future laureat of James would have died by poison in a wretched prison, and that poison given by his mother. Did the bricklayer's wife learn this terrible stoicism from her classical son? Fortunately there was in the world at that day, as there is now, a higher spirit to make calamity endurable than that of mere philosophy; and Jonson learnt this in sickness and old age. After he had become a favourite at court he still lost no proper occasion of lashing the rapacious courtiers. If a riot took place in a house, and manslaughter was committed, the house became a deodand to the Crown, and was begged as usual. In

The Silent Woman,

acted in , of the characters says,


, sir, here hath like to have been murder since you went; a couple of knights fallen out about the bride's favours: we were fain to take away their weapons; your house had been begged by this time else.

To the question,

For what?

comes the sarcastic answer,

For manslaughter, sir,

as being accessary.

The universal example of his age made Jonson what we should now call a court flatterer. Elizabeth-old, wrinkled, capricious, revengeful--was

the divine Cynthia.

But Jonson compounded with his conscience for flattering the Queen, by satirizing her court with sufficient earnestness; and this, we dare say, was not in the least disagreeable to the Queen herself. In we have a very exhibition of the fantastic gallantry, the absurd coxcombities, the pretences to wit, which belonged to lords in waiting and maids of honour. Affectation here wears her insolent as well as her

sickly mien.

was not yet extinct; and so the gallant calls his mistress

my Honour,

and she calls him

her Ambition.

But this is small work for a satirist, of Jonson's turn; and he boldly denounces

pride and ignorance




essential parts of the courtier.

The ladies and gallants lie languishing upon the rushes;

and this is a picture of the scenes in the antechambers:--

There stands a neophyte glazing of his face,

Preening his clothes, perfuming of his hair,

Against his idol enters; and repeats,

Like an imperfect prologue, at third music,

His parts of speeches, and confederate jests,

In passion to himself. Another swears

His scene of courtship over; bids, believe him,

Twenty times ere they will; anon, doth seem

As he would kiss away his hand in kindness;

Then walks off melancholic, and stands wreath'd

As he were pinn'd up to the arras, thus.

Then fall they in discourse

Of tires and fashions; how they must take place;

Where they may kiss, and whom; when to sit down,

And with what grace to rise: if they salute,

What court'sy they must use: such cobweb stuff

As would enforce the common'st sense abhor

Th' Arachnean workers.

The dramatist has bolder delineations of profligacy and ambition-portraits in which the family likeness of centuries and a half ago may yet be traced, if we make due allowances for the differences between the antique ruff and the costume of our unpicturesque days :

Here stalks me by a proud and spangled sir,

That looks three handfuls higher than his foretop;

Savours himself alone, is only kind

And loving to himself; one that will speak

More dark and doubtful than six oracles;

Salutes a friend as if he had a stitch;

Is his own chronicle, and scarce can eat

For-registering himself; is waited on

By ninnies, jesters, panders, parasites,

And other such-like prodigies of men.

He pass'd, appears some mincing marmoset

Made all of clothes and face; his limbs so set

As if they had some voluntary act

Without man's motion, and must move just so

In spite of their creation: one that weighs

His breath between his teeth, and dares not smile

Beyond a point, for fear t' unstarch his look;

Hath travell'd to make legs, and seen the cringe

Of several courts and courtiers; knows the time

Of giving titles, and of taking walls;

Hath read court commonplaces; made them his:

Studied the grammar of state, and all the rules

Each formal usher in that politic school

Can teach a man. A third comes, giving nods

To his repenting creditors, protests

To weeping suitors, takes the coming gold

Of insolent and base ambition,

That hourly rubs his dry and itchy palms;

Which grip'd, like burning coals, he hurls away

Into the laps of bawds and buffoons' mouths.

With him there meets some subtle Proteus, one

Can change and vary with all forms he sees;

Be anything but honest; serves the time;

Hovers betwixt two factions, and explores

The drifts of both, which, with cross face, he bears

To the divided heads, and is receiv'd

With mutual grace of either.

There was, however, in that age, amidst these follies and vices, something much higher, even within the precincts of the court itself. Its luxuries and affectations had in truth something gorgeous and refined in their conception. The very pretences to wit and poetry grew out of a reverence for intellectual


things. If there was much mere gallantry, there was some earnest and real affection. In the courts of Elizabeth and James the love of high literature was in some degree the salt which preserved the heart and the understanding untainted. The ladies, for the most part, were thoroughly accomplished, in the best sense of the word. Sydney's sister, according to Jonson's epitaph, was

Learn'd, and fair, and good.

The epithet


does not here imply anything extraordinary. Sydney's dedication of his


to this beloved sister is an address to whose taste and judgment are absolute:--

You desired me to do it, and your desire, to my heart, is an absolute commandment. Now, it is done only for you, only to you; if you keep it to yourself, or commend it to such friends who will weigh errors in the balance of goodwill, I hope, for the father's sake, it will be pardoned, perchance made much of, though in itself it have deformities. For indeed for severer eyes it is not, being but a trifle, and that triflingly handled. Your dear self can best witness the manner, being done in loose sheets of paper, most of it in your presence, the rest by sheets sent unto you as fast as they were done.

Many an immortal poem has thus been read

in loose sheets of paper,

with a tearful eye and a swelling heart, by some young votaress who has felt that there is something better in the world than the splendours with which riches and power have surrounded her.



It was in the spirit of a high literature that the of the courts of Elizabeth and James were conceived. The dramatic entertainments-Shakspere's especially-

those flights upon the banks of Thames

That so did take Eliza and our James,

were open to all the world; and the great showed their good sense in cherishing those wonderful productions, which could not have been what they are if they had been conceived in.a spirit of exclusiveness. But the Masque was essentially courtly and regal. It was produced at great expense. It was, like the Italian Opera, conceived in that artistical spirit which makes its own laws and boundaries. It did not profess to be an imitation of common life. To be understood, it assumed that a certain portion of classical knowledge and taste existed in the spectator. Hurd, in his



I should desire to know what courtly amusements even of our time are comparable to the shows and masques which were the delight and improvement of the court of Elizabeth.

The masques of the time of Elizabeth were, however, not in the slightest degree comparable with those produced in the reign of James; in which such men as Jonson, and Daniel, and Fletcher, were the artificers-


is the expression which Jonson applies to himself in connexion with these performances. The masques of Elizabeth were little more than the old pageants, in which heathen deities walked in procession amidst loud music; and the cloth of gold and the silver tinsel constituted a far higher attraction than the occasional speeches of the performers.


Bacon, whose own mind was essentially poetical, has an essay

Of Masques and Triumphs.

His notions are full of taste :--

It is better they should be graced with elegancy than daubed with cost. Dancing to song is a thing of great state and pleasure.

Choirs placed over against another,--scenes abounding with light,--colours of white carnation, and a kind of sea-water green,--graceful suits, not after examples of known attires,--sweet odours suddenly coming forth;--these are Bacon's notions of the chief requisites of a masque. His ideas were realized in the masques of Jonson.

A volume, not only interesting to the antiquary, but full of romantic and


historical associations, might be written on the subject of Jonson's masques. Let us hastily run through them in the order of their dates. Upon the death of Elizabeth, James, with his Queen and Prince Henry, set out from Edinburgh to London; but the Queen and Prince remained a few days at Althorp, the seat of Sir Robert Spencer. They were here welcomed with Jonson's masque,

The Satyr.

The masques of Kenilworth had then probably been nearly forgotten; but this mode of entertaining the soon passed into a fashion; and Sir William Cornwallis at Highgate, and Lord Salisbury at Theobald's, gave similar entertainments, which Jonson superintended. The City was ambitious to take a part in these elegant welcomes; and Jonson's fame had found its way into the hall of the Merchant Tailors' Company, whose records tell us that

Sir John Swynnerton is entreated to confer with Master Benjamin Jonson, the poet, about a speech to be made to welcome his Majesty, and about music and other inventions which may give liking and delight; by reason that the Company doubt that their schoolmaster and scholars be not acquainted with such kind of entertainments.

From to Jonson continued to produce masques at Court. His prose descriptions of the pageantry and machinery, introducing his verses, are written with great pomp and elegance. The very titles of some of them are gorgeous; such as,

The Characters of


Royal Masques, the


of Blackness, the other of Beauty, personated by the most magnificent of Queens, Anne, Queen of Great Britain, &c., with her honourable Ladies,




, at



There is a poetical and prosaic side to most things. Jonson himself thus describes part of his pageantry:--

The masquers were placed in a great concave shell, like mother-of-pearl, curiously made to move on those waters and rise with the billow.

On sides of the shell did swim


huge sea-monsters.

Sir Dudley Carleton gave an account to Winwood of this exhibition, which presents us with the other side of the shield:--

At night we had the Queen's Masque in the Banqueting House: there was a great engine at the lower end of the room, which had motion, and in it were the images of seahorses, with other terrible fishes, which were ridden by Moors: the indecorum was, that there was all fish and no water.

In Jonson wrote the masque of


to celebrate the politic marriage of children, the Earl of Essex, and Frances, the daughter of the Earl of Suffolk.+ In years more saw another masque, when Lady Essex had been divorced, and she was again married to the minion Somerset. Jonson, fortunately for his fame, did not write the masque on occasion. The marriage of Lord Haddington in called for another masque of Jonson's; which, according to a contemporary authority, cost noblemen each. When Lord Hay, whom Clarendon describes as

a man of the greatest expense in his own person of any in the age he lived,

had returned from his French embassy, he provided, in , a great entertainment for the ambassador of France. The man whose ostentation was such that, when he gave a supper, he had course for show only, which was removed untouched, and another course for consumption; and whose horse was shod with silver shoes when he entered Paris in procession,such a person was not likely to have spared any cost in producing Jonson's

Masque of Lethe.

The Court and the nobility went on masquing wherever the King abode.

The Gipsies Metamorphosed

was presented to James at Burleigh, at Belvoir, and at Windsor.

Pan's Anniversary

was the last


entertainment which Jonson offered to his old master. James, in , would have forced the honour of knighthood upon his poet; but Jonson's good sense contrived to avoid it.

The wisest fool in Christendom

died in , and bequeathed a distracted kingdom to his successor. almost of the latest masques of-Jonson which was presented before James I.,

Time Vindicated,

whispers an echo of that turmoil whose hoarse sounds were still distant. This, which: was also called

The Prince's Masque,

was performed at on Sunday, the .

The antemasques were of tumblers and jugglers. The Prince did lead the measures with the French ambassador's wife. The measures, brawls, corantos, and galliards being ended, the masquers with the ladies did dance


contrey dances, where the French ambassador's wife and Mademoiselle St. Luke did dance.

ragged rascals

are thus described in the antemasque :

One is his printer in disguise, and keeps

His press in a hollow tree, where, to conceal him,

He works by glow-worm light, the moon's too open.

The other zealous rag is the compositor,

Who, in an angle where the ants inhabit,

(The emblems of his labours,) will sit curl'd

Whole days and nights, and work his eyes out for him.

This was the age of libels--


as Selden has it,

thrown up to show which way the wind blows.


press in a hollow tree

was no mere poetical exaggeration. That terrible machine did its work in silence and darkness. It laboured like a mole. If it was sought for in the garret, it was in the cellar; if it was hunted to the hovel, it found a hiding-place in the palace. The minds of men were in a state of preternatural activity. Prerogative had tampered with opinion, and opinion was too strong for it. The public mind, for the time in England, began to want --coarse provender for opinion to chew and ruminate. Jonson wrote his

Staple of News,

in which we have an office with a principal and clerks busily employed in collecting and recording news, to be circulated by letter. The countrywoman at the office would have

A groatworth of any news, I care not what,

To carry down this Saturday to our vicar.

There was then, in reality, a weekly pamphlet of news published under the high-sounding editorial name of Mercurius Britannicus. Jonson had a right notion of what gave authority to such a publication:--

See divers men's opinions! unto some

The very printing of 'em makes them news,

That have not the heart to believe anything

But what they see in print.

Jonson called the newspaper

a weekly cheat to draw money ;

and he sets about ridiculing the desire for news, as if it were an ephemeral taste easily put down, and people had a diseased appetite for news,

made all at home, and no syllable of truth in them.

The people were thirsting for pamphlets of news because therein they found glimpses of truth. Gifford, in his criticism on this play, says,

Credulity, which was then at its height, was irritated rather than fed by impositions of every kind; and the country kept in a feverish state of deceitful expectation by stories of wonderful events, gross and palpable, to use the words of Shakspere, as the father of lies who, begat them.

Of news for the credulous the dramatist has given some amusing specimens, almost as, good


as the American sea-serpent, and some inventions nearer home. The age was indeed credulous; but credulity and curiosity are nearly allied; and curiosity goes before comparison, and comparison goes before discontent, and discontent goes before revolt; and so in less than years after Jonson's

Staple of News

the country was plunged in civil war. We may trace in :Jonson many of the evidences of a turbid state of public opinion. Amidst the luxuries and gaieties of those times there were some awful things which are quite unknown to us. The plague, for example, would break out in London: the Court would hurry to the country; every man of substance would follow the Court; all the places of public amusement would be shut; the voice of lamentation would be heard in the streets; with preachers denouncing God's judgments against the devoted city, in company with astrologers foretelling bad harvests, or recovering lost spoons. These things, upon the whole, made the people serious. The Puritans arose-James reasoned with, and then persecuted them. The dramatists laughed at them. All Jonson's later comedies, as well as those of almost every other writer for the stage in the days of James, have a gird at Puritans. Subtle, in the


accuses the pastors and deacons who come to him in search of the philosopher's stone of endeavouring to win widows to give legacies, or make wives to rob their husbands. Jonson points boldly at their supposed ambition:--

You cannot

But raise you friends. Withal, to be of power

To pay an army in the field, to buy

The King of France out of his realms, or Spain

Out of his Indies. What can you not do

Against lords spiritual or temporal

That shall oppose you?

Fri.Verily, 't is true. We may be temporal lords ourselves, I take it.

Sub.You may be anything, and leave off to make Long-winded exercises; or suck up Your ha! and hum! in a tune. I not deny But such as are not graced in a state May, for their ends, be adverse in religion.

In his

Bartholomew Fair,

written in , the

Rabbi Busy

is the butt of the audience from the act to the last. The satire is not so bitter as that of the , but the Puritans must have felt it deeply, for it rendered them objects of contempt rather than of hatred. They had their revenge; which a dramatic writer after the Restoration has well described:--

Many have been the vain attempts of wit

Against the still prevailing hypocrite.

Once, and but once, a poet got the day,

And vanquish'd Busy in a puppet-play!

But Busy, rallying, fill'd with holy rage,

Possess'd the pulpit and pull'd down the stage.

The literary life of Ben Jonson extended over nearly years: upon the whole, it was a successful literary life. He did not, like Shakspere, realize a competency by adding the business of a theatrical manager to the pleasanter labours of a poet. His plays, no doubt, produced him money; but his occasional productions for the Court and the City made him wealthier than most of his brethren. Aubrey tells us of his habitations:.--

Long since, in King James's time, I have

heard my uncle Danvers say (who knew him) that he lived without

Temple Bar

, at a comb-maker's shop, about the Elephant and Castle. In his later time he lived in


, in the house under which you pass as you go out of the churchyard into the old palace, where he died.

He had a library so stored with rare and curious books that Selden could find there volumes which he vainly sought in other places. He appears at this time to have lived a life of learned ease, enjoying stipends from the Crown and from the City. From to he wrote no plays. After the death of James want probably drove him again to the stage. His later dramas are not to be compared with

The Alchymist


The Fox.

Disease and penury had come upon him.: In the epilogue to

The New Inn,

produced in , he says,--

If you expect more than you had to-night,

The maker is sick and sad.

In the same epilogue he has a touching allusion to the King and Queen; and Charles instantly sent him an . The play itself was hooted from the boards; and Jonson took his revenge upon the town in his well-known ode:--

Come, leave the loathed stage, And the more loathsome age! Where pride and impudence, in faction knit, Usurp the chair of wit! Indicting and arraigning every day Something they call a play. Let their fastidious, vain Commission of the brain Burn on and rage, sweat, censure, and condemn; They were not made for thee, less thou for them.

Leave things so prostitute, And take the Alcaic lute; Or thine own Horace, or Anacreon's lyre; Warm thee by Pindar's fire: And though thy nerves be shrunk and blood be cold, Ere years have made thee old, Strike that disdainful heat Throughout, to their defeat, As curious fools, and envious of thy strain, May, blushing, swear no palsy's in thy brain.

Supported by an increased pension, to which Charles added the

tierce of Canary,

which the poets-laureat have ever since enjoyed, Jonson continued to write masques and other little poems for the Court. His [quarrel with Inigo Jones, from whatever cause proceeding, is a painful circumstance; and it is well that the satire which he wrote upon the illustrious architect is suppressed. He died in , and was buried in . Aubrey says,

He lies buried in the north aisle, in the path of square stone (the rest is lozenge), opposite to the scutcheon of Robertus de Bos, with this inscription only on him, in a pavement square, blue marble, about


inches square--

O Rare Ben Jonson!

--which was done at the charge of Jack Young (afterwards knighted), who, walking there when the grave was covering, gave the fellow eighteen-pence to cut it.