« ZurückWeiter »
because I would not give you the trouble of transcribing. The other two Journals I have seen.
I hope Master is got perfectly recovered of the small-pox; and that Mrs. Theobald and Mrs. Jackson are well. I am, dearest Sir, your most affectionate,
To Mr. Lewis THEOBALD.
Oct, 14, 1734. I have had the pleasure of two Letters from you since my last. The reason why I did not acknowledge them before was, my waiting for a third, to which they both referred, and which was to finish the subject those I received were upon. But, this not coming, I have concluded you have altered your intention ; and therefore have thought proper to return you my thanks for the trouble I gave you in the two I received.
What follows are three notes to be added to the fifty I sent, in their places, which I desire you would give yourself the trouble to do. I hope they will meet with your approbation. P. 94. Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II. Sc. 2.
The spring, the summer,
By their increase, now knows not which is which. By their increase ? whose increase ? or what increase there is nothing preceding to which increase can be referred so as to make sense. We must read,
By their INCHASE, now knows vot which is which. It comes from the French, enchassure, a term in use amongst the jewellers to signify the setting a stone in gold or silver ; to this the word inchase metaphorically alludes. He had said, the Seasons changed their liveries ; i. e. the weather in which
the Seasons were set; so that the sense of the whole
To hear the Sea-maid's musick. To which these are an introduction. The compliment made to Queen Elizabeth in the following lines was too obvious not to have been often taken notice of. But this made to Mary Queen of Scots in the lines above quoted was so allegorically, it seems, delivered as not to be understood. Yet nothing is more true than that both a compliment and satire were here intended, on that unfortunate lady. On both which accounts, there were sufficient reasons to disguise his meaning under these fabulous images, which yet refer all of them so evidently to the real subject underneath, that it is a wonder it should have escaped any attentive reader. The scene where this representation is laid being near the British Island (for the speaker is made to hear the mermaid at the very time he saw Cupid's attempt on the vestal) shews the subject to concern that quarter. And the mermaid on the dolphin's back obliges us to understand it of Queen Mary, whose first husband was the Dolphin of France. The Poet designs her under the image of a mermaid, to denote her sove
reignty, reignty, and likewise her mischievous allurements: for the mermaid is supposed in fable to have dominion in the seas, and to be very powerful in musick, and to inchant and destroy those she allures.
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath, alludes to her great abilities of genius and learning, which rendered her the most accomplished princess of her time.
The French Writers tell us, that when she was married to the Dolphin, and resided among them, she once pronounced a Latin oration in the Great Hall of the Louvre, before the whole Court, with so much grace and eloquence that the whole assembly were filled with admiration,
The rude sea grew civil at her song: By this is meant Scotland, long in arms against her; and there is the greater justness and beauty in it, because the common opinion was that the mermaid sung
To hear the sea-maid's musick.
And on that account, and on the fatal consequences it had on both, he thus admirably expresses it:
certain stars shot MADLY from their SPHERES. P. 122. Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III. Sc.2:
The eastern gate, all fiery red,
Turns into yellow gold his salt-green streams. Where it is plain that for fair blessed we should read,
FAR-BLESSING beams, a most beautiful compound epithet, and highly expressive of the thing *.
Dear Sir, I read over your Answers to the Grub as carefully as I could, and I think them very decisive. Do you know who it was that wrote the LetAn error of the same kind occurs in Timon; see before, p. 643.
ter concerning the Votive Table? I have a great number of notes, &c. on Shakespeare, for some future Edition. I have given you a specimen in two or three from the Tempest, and Midsummer Night's Dream, in the fifty, and in this addition. How forward are you got towards the Edition of the Poems? I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you in town when Christmas is turned.
I am, dear Sir, your most affectionate friend and humble servant,
To the Rev. Mr.Birch, St.John's Lane, Clerkenwell*. Sir,
Wyan's Court, Aug. 10, 1737. I have been pretty much out of town, or had much sooner furnished you with what I have been able to glean in answer to your Queries with relation to Ben Jonsont. If any thing in the inclosed
* From Dr. Birch's MSS. in British Museum, No. 4319. + Qu. 1. What year was he born?
As we find in the Latin epitaph that he died at the age of 63 in the year 1637, he was consequently born about the year 107 4.
2. Whether he worked at his father-in-law's trade as a Bricklayer, after he had been a short time at Cambridge according to Dr. Fuller; or before he went to that Unirersity, according to other Writers ?
This question, I confess, I cannot solve with all the certainty I could wish ; but I will endeavour to lead as near to it as I can by circumstance. I must first take notice of a point from Langbaine, in which either he, or Wood, have coinınitted, I imagine, a strange blunder, viz. That in the year 1619 he took his Master of Arts degree at Christ's Church College in Oxford; for, by a calculation, it appears that he was then 45 years old. He had attended as Court Poet 16 years; so could not be a resident at the University; and, supposing the Degrees were only Honorary, would be, at that period of life, and in his station, have accepted them? But the College Book, upon application, will easily clear up this point; and then, it occurs to me on the sudden, it may be ascertained as easy whether he worked as a Bricklayer, before he went to, or after he came from, the University, by this single inquiry, at what time Lincoln's-inn was new built, if there be any truth in the tradition of his being concerned therein.
may be of service to your Memoirs, I shall be happy that I could in any degree contribute to a scheme of so much merit, or in any sort shew a disposition of approving myself, Sir,
Your obedient humble servant, Lew. THEOBALD. 3. What anthority there is, besides Wood's, that he was Tuior to, and travelled abrond with Sir Walter Raleigh ?
I confess Wood's authority seems to me very slippery, pracarious, and ill-founded, in this point; and my reasons shall be supported by incontestable chronological facts, which I submit to you. Soon after Sir Walter Raleigh was taken notice of at Queen Elizabeth's Court, he was sent to sea by her, and discovered Virginia in 1584, when our Author was but 10 years old. At his return he continued a Courtier, and debauchedd a Maid of Honour, whom he afterwards married. Now, supposing he married her in 1585, and allowing that their son might begin his travels at 15 years old, a period early enough in all conscience, too early in reason, this brings us to the year 1601, which was the fourth year in which Ben had devoted himself 10 the stage-writing, and every year produced a Play; it appearing (from the Induction to his Magnetick Lady), that in 1598 or 1589 he produced his first fruits in the Dramatic way, Every Man in his Humour, and Every Man out of bis Humour : from which period, for above 40 successive years, we find him engaged at home both for the stage, and in his service as Laureate. And as he obtained the Lawreacy in 1603, when Sir Walter Raleigh's son was but 17 years old, there was no room or possibility of his afterwards becoming a travelling Tutor.
4. When he became a Player? How long he continued so? and in what house?
5. What Plays his name appears before as an Actor?
One solution serves for these two Queries. From what seanch I have been able to make, I do not find his name before any Play as an Actor : yet an Actor he was ; but I believe barely a strolling one. Decker, in his Histrio-Mastix (a Play published in 1602, and designed a Reply to Ben Jonson's Poetaster), reproaches our Poet with having left his occupation of being a Mortar-treader, to turn Player; and with having put up a supplication to be a poor Journeyman Player ; in which he had continued, but that he could not see a good face on it, and so was cashiered.” Nay, if we may adınit that satire to be built on facts, we may glean yet some further intelligence,
« that Ben performed the part of Zuliman (in what Play I cannot at present tell) at the Paris Garden in Southwark; and that he ambled by a Play-waggon, in the highway; and took mad Jeronymno's part to get service among the mimicks." But as to the precise time of these things, we are left a little at large. There seem about six years (viz. from his quitting ibe University to 1598, when his