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the Fifth, by a compliment very handsomely turned to the earl of Effex, fhows the play to have been written when that lord was general for the queen in Ireland; and his elogy upon queen Elizabeth, and her fucceffor king James, in the latter end of his Henry the Eighth, is a proof of that play's being written after the acceffion of the latter of thofe two princes to the crown of England. Whatever the particular times of his writing were, the people of his age, who began to grow wonderfully fond of diverfions of this kind, could not but be highly pleased to see a genius arise amongst them of so pleasurable, fo rich a vein, and fo plentifully capable of furnishing their favorite entertainments. Befides the advantages of his wit, he was in himself a good-natured man, of great fweetnefs in his manners, and a moft agreeable companion; fo that it is no wonder, if, with fo many good qualities, he made himself acquainted with the best converfations of thofe times. Queen Elizabeth had feveral of his plays acted before her, and without doubt gave him many gracious marks of her favor: it is that maiden princefs plainly, whom he intends by — a fair veftal, throned by the west.
A Midfummer-Night's Dream. and that whole paffage is a compliment very properly brought in, and very handfomely applied to her. She was fo well pleafed with that admirable character of Falstaff, in The Two Parts of Henry the Fourth, that fhe commanded him to continue it for one play more, and to fhow him in love. This is faid to be the occafion of his writing The Merry
4 - She commanded him to continue it for one play more,) This anecdote was firft given to the publick by Dennis, in the Epiftle Dedicatory to his comedy entitled The Comical Gallant, 4to. 1702, altered from The Merry Wives of Windfor. MALONE.
Wives of Windfor. How well fhe was obeyed, the play itself is an admirable proof. Upon this occafion it may not be improper to observe, that this part of Falstaff is faid to have been written originally under the name of Oldcastle: fome of that family being then remaining, the queen was pleafed to command him to alter it; upon which he made use of Falstaff. The present offence was indeed avoided; but I do not know whether the author may not have been fomewhat to blame in his fecond choice, since it is certain that Sir John Falftaff, who was a knight of the garter, and a lieutenant-general, was a name of distinguished merit in the wars in France in Henry the Fifth's and Henry the Sixth's times. What grace foever the queen conferred upon him, it was not to her only he owed the fortune which the reputation of his wit made. He had the honor to meet with many great and uncommon marks of favor and friendship from the earl of Southampton, famous in the hiftories of that time for his friendfhip to the unfortunate earl of Effex. It was to that noble lord that he dedicated his poem of Venus and Adonis.”
this part of Falftaff is faid to have been written originally under the name of Oldcastle;) See the Epilogue to Henry the Fourth. POPE.
In a note fubjoined to that epilogue, and more fully in Vol. XIII. p. 184, n. 4, the reader will find this notion overturned, and the origin of this vulgar error pointed out. Mr. Rowe was evidently deceived by a paffage in Fuller's Worthies mifunderftood. MALONE.
6 from the earl of Southampton,) Of this amiable noble-. man fuch memoirs as I have been able to collect, may be found in the twenty-fourth volume, prefixed to the poem of Venus and Adonis. MALONE.
7 he dedicated his paem of Venus and Adonis.) To this nobleman alfo he dedicated his Rape of Lucrece, printed in quarto in 1594. MALONE.
There is one inftance fo fingular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakspeare's, that if I had not been affured that the ftory was handed down by Sir William D'Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I fhould not have ventured to have inferted; that my lord Southampton at one time gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchafe which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great, and very rare at any time, and almoft equal to that profuse generofity the present age has shown to French dancers and Italian fingers.
What particular habitude or friendships he contracted with private men, I have not been able to learn, more than that every one, who had a true tafte of merit, and could diftinguish men, had generally a juft value and efteem for him. His exceeding candour and good-nature muft certainly have inclined all the gentler part of the world to love him, as the power of his wit obliged the men of the moft delicate knowledge and polite learning to admire him.
His acquaintance with Ben Jonfon began with a remarkable piece of humanity and good-nature; Mr. Jonfon, who was at that time altogether unknown to the world, had offered one of his plays to the players, in order to have it acted; and the perfons into whofe hands it was put, after having turned it carelessly and fuperciliously over, were juft upon returning it to him with an ill-natured anfwer, that it would be of no fervice to their company; when Shakspeare luckily caft his eye upon it, and found fomething fo well in it, as to engage him. first to read it through, and afterwards to recommend Mr. Jonfon and his writings to the publick.
8 to recommend Mr. Jonfon and his writings to the publick.)
Jonfon was certainly a very good fcholar, and in that had the advantage of Shakspeare; though at
In Mr. Rowe's firft edition, after these words was inferted the following paffage:
After this, they were profeffed friends; though I do not know whether the other ever made him an equal return of gentleness and fincerity. Ben was naturally proud and infolent, and in the days of his reputation did fo far take upon him the fupremacy in wit, that he could not but look with an evil eye upon any one that feemed to ftand in competition with him. And if at times he has affected to commend him, it has always been with fome referve; infinuating his uncorrectnefs, a carelefs manner of writing, and want of judgment. The praise of feldom altering or blotting out what he writ, which was given him by the players, who were the firft publishers of his works after his death, was what Jonfon could not bear he thought it impoffible, perhaps, for another man to ftrike out the greatest thoughts in the fineft expreffion, and to reach those excellencies of poetry with the eafe of a first imagination, which himfelf with infinite labor and ftudy could but hardly attain to. "
I have preferved this paffage because I believe it strictly true, except that in the laft line, inftead of but hardly, I would read never.
Dryden, we are told by Pope, concurred with Mr. Rowe in thinking Jonfon's pofthumous verfes on our author fparing and invidious. See alfo Mr. Steevens's note on thofe verses.
Before Shakspeare's death Ben's envious difpofition is mentioned by one of his own friends; it must therefore have been even then notorious, though the writer denies the truth of the charge:
To my well accomplish'd friend, Mr. Ben Jonson.
"Such cenfurers must have."
Scourge of Folly, by J. Davies, printed about 1611. The following lines by one of Jonfon's admirers will fufficiently fupport Mr. Rowe in what he has faid relative to the flowness of that writer in his compofitions:
"Scorn then their cenfures who gave out, thy wit
As elephants bring forth, and that thy blots
"And mendings took more time than FORTUNE-PLOTS;
the fame 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 faying that, however flow,
"He that writes well, writes quick.
Verfes on B. Jonfon, by Jasper Mayne.
So alfo another of his Panegyrifts:
"Admit his mufe was flow, 'tis judgment's fate
«To move like greateft princes, ftill in state.»,
In The Return from Parnaffus, 1606, Jonfon is faid to be fo flow an enditer, that he were better betake himself to his old trade of bricklaying. The fame piece furnishes us with the earlieft intimation of the quarrel between him and Shakspeare. "Why here's our fellow Shakspeare put them (the university poets) all down, ay, and Ben Jonfon too. O, that Ben Jonfon 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, afferting in his Worthies, 1662, ⚫hat "many were the wit-combats,, between Jonfon and our poet.
It is a fingular circumstance that old Ben should for near two centuries have stalked on the ftilts of an artificial reputation; and that even at this day, of the very few who read his works, fcarcely one in ten yet ventures to confefs how little entertainment they afford. Such was the impreffion made on the publick by the extravagant praises of those who knew more of books than of the drama, that Dryden in his Effay on Dramatick Poefie, written about 1667, does not venture to go further in his clogium on Shakspeare, than by saying, he was at least Jonson's equal, if not his fuperior; and in the preface to his Mock Aftrologer, 1671, he hardly dares to affert, what, in my opinion, cannot be denied, that all Jonfon's pieces, except three or four, are but crambe bis cocta; the fame humours a little varied and written worse.",
Ben however did not truft to the praifes of others. One of his admirers honeftly confeffes,
"Of whom I write this, has prevented me,
"No other pen need any trophy raise."
In vain, however, did he endeavour to bully the town into