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Jud. What, Monsieur Kinsayder, put up man, put up for
Ing. Christopher Marlowe
Jud. Marlowe was happy in his buskin’d Muse;
Ing. Our theatre bath lost, Pluto hath got
Jud. The wittiest fellow of a bricklayer in England,
Ing. A mere empirick, one that gets what he hath by ohservation, and makes only nature privy to what he endites : so slow an inventor, that he were better betake himself to his old trade of bricklaying, a blood whoreson, as confident now in making of a book, as he was in times past in laying of a brick. William Shakespear.
Jud. Who loves Adonis' love, or Lucrece' rape,
This passage might seem to ascertain the date
of the piece, as it must be supposed to have been written before Shakespear had become known as a dramatic poet. Yet he afterwards introduces Kempe the actor talking with Burbage, and saying, “ Few (of the University) pen plays well: they smell too much of that writer Ovid, and of that writer Metamorphosis, and talk too much of Proserpina and Jupiter. Why here's our fellow Shakespear puts them all down; aye, and Ben Jonson too.”—There is a good deal of discontent in all this, but the author complains of want of success in a former attempt, and appears not to have been on good terms with fortune. The miseries of a poet's life form one of the favourite topics of The Return from Parnassus, and are treated, as if by some one who had “ felt them knowingly.”
Thus Philomusus and Studioso chaunt their griefs in concert.
“ Phil. Banu'd be those hours, when ʼmongst the learned
throng, By Granta's muddy bank we whilom sung.
Stud. Bann'd be that hill which learned wits adore, Where erst we spent our stock and little store.
Phil. Bann'd be those musty mews, where we have spent Our youthful days in paled languishment.
Stud. Bann'd be those cozening arts that wrought our woe, Making us wandering pilgrims to and fro.
Phil. Curst be our thoughts whene'er they dream of hope; Bann'd be those haps that henceforth flatter us, When mischief dogs us still, and still for aye,
From our first birth until our burying day.
“ Out of our proof we speak.”—This sorry matter-of-fact retrospect of the evils of a college-life is very different from the hypothetical aspirations after its incommunicable blessings expressed by a living writer of true genius and a lover of true learning, who does not seem to have been cured of the old-fashioned prejudice in favour of classic lore, two hundred
after its vanity and vexation of spirit had been denounced in the Return from Parnassus:
“ I was not train'd in Academic bowers;
And to those learned streams I nothing owe,
skull teems with notions infinite:
Thus it is that our treasure always lies, where our knowledge does not ; and fortunately enough perhaps; for the empire of imagination is wider and more prolific than that of experience.
The author of the old play, whoever he was, appears to have belonged to that class of mortals, who, as Fielding has it, feed upon their own hearts; who are egotists the wrong way, “ made desperate by too quick a sense of constant infelicity;" and have the same intense uneasy consciousness of their own defects that most men have self-complacency in their supposed advantages. Thus venting the dribblets of his spleen still upon himself, he prompts the Page to say,
66 A mere scholar is a creature that can strike fire in the morning at his tinder-box, put on a pair of lined slippers, sit reuming till dinner, and then
to his meat when the bell rings; one that hath a peculiar gift in a cough, and a licence to spit : or if you will have him defined by negatives, he is one that cannot make a good leg, one that cannot eat a mess of broth cleanly,
• Somnet to Cambridge, by Charles Lamb.
one that cannot ride a horse without spur-galling, one that cannot salute a woman, and look on her directly, one that cannot—"
If I was not afraid of being tedious, I might here give the examination of Signor Immerito, a raw ignorant clown (whose father has purchased him a living) by Sir Roderick and the Recorder, which throws considerable light on the state of wit and humour, as well as of ecclesiastical patronage in the reign of Elizabeth. It is to be recollected, that one of the titles of this play is A Scourge for Simony.
“ Rec. For as much as nature has done her part in making you a handsome likely man-in the next place some art is requisite for the perfection of nature : for the trial whereof, at the request of my worshipful friend, I will in some sort propound questions fit to be resolved by one of your profession. Say what is a person, that was never at the university ?
Im. A person that was never in the university, is a living creature that can eat a tythe pig.
Rec. Very well answered: but you should have addedand must be officious to his patron. Write down that answer, to shew his learning in logic.
Sir Rad. Yea, boy, write that down: very learnedly, in good faith. I pray now let me ask you one question that I remember, whether is the masculine gender or the feminine more worthy?
Im. The feminine, Sir.