« PreviousContinue »
Prologue to Mr. Addison's Tragedy of Cato 352 Canto 1.
The Fable of Dryope. Froin Ovid's Meta- the First Part of “Liberty," a Poem..... 469
359 Greece : being the Second Part of " Liberty,” 472
An Essay on Man. In Four Epistles.
The Prospect : being the Fifth Part of
with respect to the Universe 361 Ode ..
with respect to Society..... 366 Hymn on Solitude
III. On the Use of Riches. 376 A Hymn to Venus, from the Greek of Sappho 501
Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady 386 Ode, written in the year 1746...
Ode to a Lady, on the Death of Col. Charles
On the Death of Dr. Swift.
A Description of the Morning...
Night the Sixth : the Infidel Reclaimed. In
The Traveller : or, a Prospect of Society... 675
Night the Seventh : the Infidel Reclaimed.
Night the Ninth and Last: the Consola.
623 Prologue, spoken by Mr, Garrick, at the open.
The Task. In Six Books.
Tirocinium: or, a Review of Schools...... 772
BENJAMIN JONSON, (or Johnson,) a poet, who, gives a particular examination of his "Silent Wo during life, attained a distinguished character, was man," as a model of perfection. He afterwards the posthumous son of a clergyman in Westminster, however, seems to make large deductions from this where he was born in 1574, about a month after his commendation. "You seldom (says Dryden) find father's decease. His family was originally from him making love in any of his scenes, or endeavorScotland, whence his grandfather removed to Car- ing to move the passions; his genius was too sullen lisle, in the reign of Henry VIII. and saturnine to do it gracefully. Humor was his Benjamin received his education under the learned proper sphere; and in that he delighted most to Camden, at Westminster school; and had made represent mechanics." Besides his comedies, Jonson extraordinary progress in his studies, when his mo- composed two tragedies, Sejanus and Catiline, both ther, who had married a bricklayer for her second formed upon ancient models, and full of transhusband, took him away to work under his step-lations; and neither of them successful. His drafather. From this humble employment he escaped, matic compositions, however, do not come within by enlisting as a soldier in the army, then serving in the scope of the present publication. the Netherlands against the Spaniards. An exploit which he here performed, of killing an enemy in single combat, gave him room to boast ever after of a degree of courage which has not often been found in alliance with poetical distinction.
In 1616, he published a folio volume of his works, which procured for him a grant from his majesty of the salary of poet-laureate for life, though he did not take possession of the post till three years after. With high intellectual endowments, he had many unamiable traits in his character, having a high degree of pride and self-conceit, with a disposition to abuse and disparage every one who incurred his jealousy or displeasure. Jonson was reduced to necessitous circumstances in the latter part of his life, though he obtained from Charles I. an advance of his salary as laureate. He died in 1637, at the age of 63, being at that time considered as at the head of English poetry. He was interred in Westminster Abbey, where an inscription was placed over his grave, familiarly expressive of the reputation he had acquired among his countrymen: it was, "O rare Ben Jonson." Six months after his death, a collection of poems to his honor, by a number of the most eminent writers and scholars in the na tion, was published, with the title of "Jonsonius Virbius; or the memory of Ben Jonson, revived by the Friends of the Muses."
On his return, Jonson entered himself at St. John's College, Cambridge, which he was shortly obliged to quit from the scanty state of his finances. He then turned his thoughts to the stage, and applied for employment at the theatres; but his talents, as an actor, could only procure for him admission at an obscure playhouse in the suburbs. Here he had the misfortune to kill a fellow-actor in a duel, for which he was thrown into prison. The state of mind to which he was here brought, gave the advantage to a Popish priest in converting him to the Catholic faith, under which religion he continued for twelve years.
After his liberation from prison, he married, and applied in earnest to writing for the stage, in which he appears to have already made several attempts. His comedy of "Every Man in his Humor," the first of his acknowledged pieces, was performed with applause in 1596; and henceforth he continued to Although, as a general poet, Jonson for the most furnish a play yearly, till his time was occupied by part merits the character of harsh, frigid, and tedious; the composition of the masques and other enter- there are, however, some strains in which he appears tainments, by which the accession of James was with singular elegance, and may be placed in comcelebrated. Dryden, in his Essay on Dramatic petition with some of the most favored writers of Poetry, speaks of him as the "most learned and that class. judicious writer which any theatre ever had," and