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Loose and humorous Songs.
JOHN W, HALES, M.A.
FREDERICK J. FURNIVALL, M.A.
OF TRINITY HALL, CAMBRIDGE.
(ASSISTED BY W. CHAPPELL, Esq., &c. &c.)
N. TRÜBNER & CO., 60 PATERNOSTER ROW.
Qui 8 excuse s'accuse; but we make no excuse for putting forth these Loose and Humorous Songs. They are part of the Manuscript which we have undertaken to print entire, and as our Prospectus says, “ to the student, these songs and the like are part of the evidence as to the character of a past age, and they should not be kept back from him.” Honi soit qui mal y pense. They serve to show how some of the wonderful intellectual energy of Elizabeth's and James I.'s time ran riot somewhat, and how in the noblest period of England's literature a freedom of speech was allowed which Victorian ears would hardly tolerate. That this freedom dulled men's wits or tarnished their minds more than our restraint does ours, we do not believe. We cannot give in to Mr. Procter's opinion that because ladies of the Court liked Jonson's jokes, coarse to us, therefore they could not appreciate his fancy and the higher qualities of his mind. Manners refine slowly, and speech as
1. “On referring, after an interval of many years, to these old Masques, we find ourselves somewhat staggered at the character of the jests, and the homely (not to say vulgar) allusions in which they abound. The taste of the times was, indeed, rude enough; and we can easily understand that jests of this nature were tolerated or even relished by common audiences. But when we hear that the pieces which contain them were exhibited repeatedly, with applause, before the nobles and court İadies of the time (some of them young unmarried women), we are driven to
the conclusion that civilisation must have failed in some respects, and to fear that the refined and graceful compliments which our author so frequently lavished upon the high damas' of King James's court was a pure waste of his poetical bounty. It is scarcely possible that the ladies who could sit and hear jokes far coarser than Smollett's, uttered night after night, could ever have fully relished the delicate and sparkling verses which flowed from Jonson's pen." -Introduction to Ben Jonson's Works, ed. 1838, p. xxii-iv.