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took himself to business, which he believed ought never to be preferred before his company."
Dr. Johnson, in his celebrated Prologue, has strongly marked his character, as contrasted with the boundless and commanding genius of Shakspeare:
'Then Jonson came, instructed from the school
With respect to his talents for the theatre, Dryden, in his Essay on Dramatic Poetry,' pronounces him "the most learned and judicious writer which any theatre ever had;" and gives a particular examina tion of his Silent Woman,' as a model of perfection. His excellence, however, was chiefly confined to the preservation of the Unities, and the skilful management of the plot. In almost every thing, which makes comedy pleasant, he was de fective. "You seldom," observes the great critic last mentioned, “find him making love in any of his scenes, or endeavouring to move the passions: his genius was too sullen and saturnine, to do it gracefully." And even his peculiar humour he drew rather from conceptions of ridiculous charac ter formed in his own fancy, than from the ob servation of nature. Neither the names nor the language of real life, especially as they exist in the upper ranks of society, are ordinarily to be found in his representations; and the incidents are, in ge neral, vulgar. It is, therefore, no just cause of wonder, that his plays have gradually been superseded. Of fifty which he wrote, not more than three
preserve his name: but those are excellent. Courtmasques and pageantry, unfortunately, dissipated the talents which had produced Volpone,' The Alchemist,' and 'The Silent Woman.' His two tragedies, Sejanus' and 'Catiline' (both formed on the wretched model of Seneca, and both unsuccessful) are full of long declamatory speeches, in many instances closely translated from the ancient historians and orators. To this may be added Pope's remark, that, When Jonson got possession of the stage, he brought critical learning into vogue; and that this was not done without difficulty, which appears from those frequent lessons (and, indeed, almost declamations) which he was forced to prefix to his first plays, and put into the mouths of his actors, the Grex, Chorus, &c. to remove the prejudices and reform the judgement of his hearers. Till then, the English authors had no thoughts of writing upon the model of the ancients: their tragedies were only histories in dialogue, and their comedies followed the thread of any novel as they found it, no less implicitly than if it had been true history."
Jonson seems, indeed, to have had no nice ear for poetry; though Drummond declares, that his inventions were smooth and easy.' He does not appear to have had much conception of those breaks and rests, or of adapting the sound of his verse to the sense, which constitute eminent beauties in our best modern poets. It is universally agreed, that translation or imitation* was his most distin
* He appears, says D'Israeli, to have been the inventor of what his critical namesake, in his Life of Pope,' calls " kind of middle composition between translation and original design;" the adaptation of ancient satire to modern facts and
guished talent, wherein he excelled all his contemporaries; and that, beside new-forming our drama after the ancient models, he gave us the first English Pindaric which has any just claim to that title. But, as a general poet, he is often harsh, frigid, and tedious: perpetually in pursuit of some uncommon thought, which he wants taste and genius to render striking or agreeable; though his strains are not without many occasional flashes of imagination, and felicities of expression. His learning pervades, and to a certain degree stiffens, almost every thing he wrote. What he borrows from the ancients, however, he generally improves. He borrows, indeed, with the air of a conqueror, and wears his adscititious garb as a trophy rather than as a loan. His translation of the Art of Poetry' is so close, as to be comprehended in the same number of lines with the original. His occasional poems, chiefly encomiastic or satirical, abound in masculine sense and poignant wit, with an unfortunate intermixture at the same time of puerile conceit and coarse raillery. "His nature," says Dr. Hurd, "was severe and rigid; and this, in giving strength and manliness, gave at times too an intemperance to his satire. His taste for ridicule was strong, but indelicate, which made him not over-curious in the choice of his topics; and lastly, his stile in picturing characters, though masterly, was without that elegance of hand, which is required to correct and allay the force of so bold a colouring. Thus, the bias of his nature leading him to Plautus rather than Terence for his
characters; though Dr. Johnson himself recollected no instance prior to Oldham and Rochester.
model, it is not to be wondered at, that his wit is too frequently caustic, his raillery coarse, and his humour excessive." He has been regarded as the first, who has done much for the Grammar of the English Language.' This and his Discoveries, both written in his advanced years, discover an attachment to the interests of literature, and a habit of reflexion, which place his character as a scholar in a very favourable point of view.
His Hymn to Diana, in Cynthia's Revels,' is remarkably elegant and melodious.
'Queen and huntress chaste and fair,
State in wonted manner keep.
Earth, let not thy envious shade
Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
Space to breathe, how short soever:
The following pieces deserve, also, to be here trans
Song, in his Silent Woman.'
+6 Still to be neat, still to be drest,
As you were going to a feast;
Still to be powder'd, still perfumed-
Give me a look, give me a face,
Such sweet neglect more taketh me,
Than all th' adulteries of art:
They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.'
His Epitaph on the Countess of Pembroke, sister to Sir Philip Sidney, has been justly celebrated for it's spirit, conciseness, and ingenuity:
• Underneath this marble hearse
It is perhaps surpassed, however, by four lines from his Epitaph on Elizabeth L. H.:
· Underneath this stone doth lie
In 1640, the volume of his plays and poems, which had been published in his life-time, was reprinted; with the addition of a second folio, containing the rest of his Plays, Masques, Underwoods, a Translation of Horace's Art of Poetry,' English Grammar, and Discoveries. They re-appeared in 1716, in six volumes, octavo: and another edition in seven was published in 1756, with notes and addi