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The consideration of this made Mr. Hales of Eton say, that there was no subject of which any poet ever writ, but he would produce it much better done in Shakespeare; and however others are now generally preferred before him, yet the age wherein he lived, which had contemporaries with him, Fletcher and Jonson, never equalled them to him in their esteem: and in the last king's court, when Ben's reputation was at highest, Sir John Suckling, and with him the greater part of the courtiers, set our Shakespeare far above him.
Beaumont and Fletcher, of whom I am next to speak, had, with the advantage of Shakespeare's wit, which was their precedent, great natural gifts, improved by study; Beaumont especially being so accurate a judge of plays, that Ben Jonson, while he lived, submitted all his writings to his censure, and 'tis thought, used his judgment in correcting, if not contriving, all his plots. What value he had for him, appears by the verses he writ to him; and therefore I need speak no farther of it. The first play that brought Fletcher and him in esteem, was their "Philaster"; for before that, they had written two or three very unsuccessfully as the like is reported of Ben Jonson, before he writ "Every Man in his Humour." Their plots were generally more regular than Shakespeare's, especially those which were made before Beaumont's death; and they understood and imitated the conversation of gentlemen much better; whose wild debaucheries, and quickness of wit in repartees, no poet before them could paint as they have done. Humour,' which Ben Jonson derived from particular persons, they made it not their business to describe: they represented all the passions very lively, but above all, love. I am apt to believe the English language in them arrived to its highest perfection; what words have since been taken in, are rather superfluous than ornamental. Their plays are now the most pleasant and frequent entertainments of the stage; two of theirs being acted through the year for one of Shakespeare's or Jonson's: the reason is, because there is a certain gaiety in their comedies, and pathos in their more serious plays, which suits generally with all men's humours. Shakespeare's language is likewise a little
obsolete, and Ben Jonson's wit comes short of theirs.
1 a natural or affected peculiarity of thought or action
As for Jonson, to whose character I am now arrived, if we look upon him while he was himself, (for his last plays were but his dotages,) I think him the most learned and judicious writer which any theater ever had. He was a most severe judge of himself, as well as others. One cannot say he wanted wit, but rather that he was frugal of it. In his works you find little to retrench or alter. Wit and language, and humour also in some measure, we had before him; but something of art was wanting to the drama, till he came. He managed his strength to more advantage than any who preceded him. You seldom 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, especially when he knew he came after those who had performed both to such an height. Humour was his proper sphere; and in that he delighted most to represent mechanic people.1 He was deeply conversant in the ancients, both Greek and Latin, and he borrowed boldly from them: there is scarce a poet or historian among the Roman authors of those times, whom he has not translated in "Sejanus" and "Catiline." But he has done his robberies so openly, that one may see he fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a monarch; and what would be theft in other poets, is only victory in him. With the spoils of these writers he so represents old Rome to us, in its rites, ceremonies, and customs, that if one of their poets had written either of his tragedies, we had seen less of it than in him. If there was any fault in his language, it was, that he weaved it too closely and laboriously, in his comedies especially perhaps too, he did a little too much Romanize our tongue, leaving the words which he translated almost as much Latin as he found them: wherein, though he learnedly followed their language, he did not enough comply with the idiom of ours. If I would compare him with Shakespeare, I must acknowledge him the more correct poet, but Shakespeare the greater wit.2 Shakespeare was the Homer, or father of our dramatic poets; Jonson was the Virgil, the pattern of elaborate writing; I admire him, but I love Shakespeare. To conclude of him;
1 tradespeople 2 genius
as he has given us the most correct plays, so in the precepts which he has laid down in his "Discoveries," we have as many and profitable rules for perfecting the stage, as any wherewith the French can furnish us.
SAMUEL PEPYS (1633-1703)
FROM HIS DIARY
September 1st. (Lord's day.) Last night being very rainy, [the water] broke into my house, the gutter being stopped, and spoiled all my ceilings almost. At church in the morning. After dinner we were very merry with Sir W. Pen1 about the loss of his tankard, though all be but a cheate, and he do not yet understand it; but the tankard was stole by Sir W. Batten, and the letter, as from the thief, wrote by me, which makes very good sport. Captain Holmes and I by coach to White Hall; in our way, I found him by discourse to be a great friend of my Lord's,2 and he told me there was a many did seek to remove him; but they were old seamen, such as Sir J. Minnes, but he would name no more, though he do believe Sir W. Batten is one of them that do envy him, but he says he knows that the King do so love him, and the Duke of York too, that there is no fear of him. He seems to be very well acquainted with the king's mind, and with all the several factions at Court, and spoke all with so much frankness, that I do take him to be my Lord's good friend, and one able to do him great service, being a cunning fellow, and one, by his own confession to me, that can put on two several faces, and look his enemies in the face with as much love as his friends. But, good God! what an age is this, and what a world is this! that a man cannot live without playing the knave and dissimulation.
2d. Mr. Pickering and I to Westminster Hall again, and there walked an houre or two talking, and, though he be a fool, yet he keeps much company, and will tell all he sees or hears, and so a man may understand what the common talk of the town is. And I find that
1an English admiral and commissioner of the Admiralty, father of the founder of Pennsylvania 2 Edward Montagu, carl of Sandwich, general of the English fleet 3 the parliament building
there are endeavours to get my Lord out of play at sea, which I believe Mr. Coventry 1 and the Duke 2 do think will make them more absolute; but I hope for all this, they will not be able to do it. My wife tells me that she met at Change with my young ladies of the Wardrobe, and there helped them to buy things, and also with Mr. Somerset, who did give her a bracelet of rings, which did a little trouble me, though I know there is no hurt yet in it, but only for fear of further acquaintance.
3d. Dined at home, and then with my wife to the Wardrobe, where my Lady's child was christened, my Lord Crewe and his lady, and my Lady Montagu, my Lord's mother-inlaw, were the witnesses, and named Catherine, the Queen elect's name; but to my and all our trouble, the Parson of the parish christened her, and did not sign the child with the sign of the cross. After that was done, we had a very fine banquet.
4th. My wife come to me to Whitehall,5 and we went and walked a good while in St. James's Parke to see the brave alterations.
5th. Put my mother and Pall into the wagon, and saw them going presently - Pall crying exceedingly. To my uncle Fenner's to dinner, in the way meeting a French footman with feathers, who was in quest of my wife, and spoke with her privately, but I could not tell what it was, only my wife promised to go to some place to-morrow morning, which do trouble my mind how to know whither it was. My wife and I to the fair, and I showed her the Italians dancing the ropes, and the women that do strange tumbling tricks.
6th. I went to the Theatre, and saw "Elder Brother" acted; meeting here with Sir J. Askew, Sir Theophilus Jones, and another knight, with Sir W. Pen, we to the Ship taverne, and there staid, and were merry till late at night.
7th. Having appointed the young ladies at the Wardrobe to go with them to the play today, my wife and I took them to the Theatre, where we seated ourselves close by the King,
1 Sir William Coventry, M.P., later a commissioner of the Admiralty 2 the Duke of York, Lord High Admiral 3 the Royal Exchange, where there were many fine shops The Earl of Sandwich had been assigned official residence at the King's Wardrobe; the young ladies belonged to his family. the royal palace his sister Paulina 7 a play by Fletcher
and Duke of York, and Madame Palmer,1 which was great content; and, indeed, I can never enough admire her beauty. And here was "Bartholomew Fayre," 2 with the puppetshowe, acted to-day, which had not been these forty years, it being so satyrical against Puritanism, they durst not till now, which is strange they should already dare to do it, and the King to countenance it, but I do never a whit like it the better for the puppets, but rather the worse. Thence home with the ladies, it being by reason of our staying a great while for the King's coming, and the length of the play, near nine o'clock before it was done.
8th. (Lord's day.) To church, and coming home again, found our new mayd Doll asleep, that she could not hear to let us in, so that we were fain to send a boy in at a window to open the door to us. Begun to look over my accounts, and, upon the whole, I do find myself, by what I can yet see, worth near 6ool, for which God be blessed.
9th. To Salisbury Court play-house, where was acted the first time, ""Tis pity she's a W-e," a simple play, and ill acted, only it was my fortune to sit by a most pretty and ingenious lady, which pleased me much. To the Dolphin, to drink the 30s. that we got the other day of Sir W. Pen about his tankard. Here was Sir R. Slingsby, Holmes, Captain Allen, Mr. Turner, his wife and daughter, my Lady Batten, and Mrs. Martha, &c., and an excellent company of fiddlers; so we exceeding merry till late; and then we begun to tell Sir W. Pen the business, but he had been drinking to-day, and so is almost gone, that we could not make him understand it, which caused us more sport.
11th. To Dr. Williams, who did carry me into his garden, where he hath abundance of grapes and he did show me how a dog that he hath do kill all the cats that come thither to kill his pigeons, and do afterwards bury them; and do it with so much care that they shall be quite covered; that if the tip of the tail hangs out, he will take up the cat again, and dig the hole deeper, which is very strange; and he tells me, that he do believe he hath killed above 100 cats. Home to my house to dinner, where I found my wife's brother Balty
as fine as hands could make him, and his servant, a Frenchman, to wait on him, and come to have my wife visit a young lady which he is a servant to, and have hope to trepan, and get for his wife. I did give way for my wife to go with him. Walking through Lincoln's Inn Fields, observed at the Opera a new play, "Twelfth Night," was acted there, and the King there: so I, against my own mind and resolution, could not forbear to go in, which did make the play seem a burthen to me; and I took no pleasure at all in it: and so, after it was done, went home with my mind troubled for my going thither, after my swearing to my wife that I would never go to a play without her. My wife was with her brother to see his mistress to-day, and says she is young, rich, and handsome, but not likely for him to get.
12th. To my Lady's to dinner at the Wardrobe; and in my way upon the Thames, I saw the King's new pleasure-boat that is come now for the King to take pleasure in above bridge, and also two Gundaloes, that are lately brought, which are very rich and fine. Called at Sir W. Batten's, and there hear that Sir W. Pen do take our jest of the tankard very ill, which I am sorry for.
13th. I was sent for by my uncle Fenner to come and advise about the burial of my aunt, the butcher, who died yesterday. Thence to the Wardrobe, where I found my wife, and thence she and I to the water to spend the afternoon in pleasure, and so we went to old George's, and there eat as much as we would of a hot shoulder of mutton, and so to boat again and home.
14th. Before we had dined comes Sir R. Slingsby, and his lady, and a great deal of company, to take my wife and I out by barge, to show them the King's and Duke's yachts. We had great pleasure, seeing all four yachts, viz., these two, and the two Dutch ones.
15th. (Lord's day.) To my aunt Kite's in the morning, to help my uncle Fenner to put things in order against anon for the burial. After sermon, with my wife to the burial of my aunt Kite, where, besides us and my uncle Fenner's family, there was none of any quality, but poor and rascally people. So we went to church with the corps, and there had ser
1 suitor 2 ensnare sweetheart two gondolas,. presented to the King by the Duke of Venice 5 the butcher's wife a tavern
vice read at the grave, and back again with Pegg Kite, who will be, I doubt, a troublesome carrion to us executors, but if she will not be ruled, I shall fling up my executorship.
16th. Word is brought me from my brother's, that there is a fellow come from my father out of the country, on purpose to speak with me, and he made a story how he had lost his letter, but he was sure it was for me to come into the country, which I believed, but I afterwards found that it was a rogue that did use to play such tricks to get money of people, but he got none of me. Letters from my father informing me of the court,1 and that I must come down and meet him at Impington, which I presently resolved to do.
17th. Got up, telling my wife of my journey, and she got me to hire her a horse to go along with me. So I went to my Lady's, and of Mr. Townsend did borrow a very fine side-saddle for my wife, and so, after all things were ready, she and I took coach to the end of the towne towards Kingsland, and there got upon my horse, and she upon her pretty mare that I hired for her, and she rides very well. By the mare at one time falling, she got a fall, but no harm; so we got to Ware, and there supped, and went to bed.
18th. Up early, and begun our march: the way about Puckridge very bad, and my wife, in the very last dirty place of all, got a fall, but no hurt, though some dirt. At last, she begun, poor wretch, to be tired, and I to be angry at it, but I was to blame; for she is a very good companion as long as she is well. In the afternoon, we got to Cambridge, where I left my wife at my cozen Angier's, while I went to Christ's College, and there found my brother in his chamber, and talked with him, and so to the barber's, and then to my wife again, and remounted for Impington, where my uncle received me and my wife very kindly.
22d. (Lord's day.) To church, where we had common prayer, and a dull sermon by one Mr. Case, who yet I heard sing very well.
23d. We took horse, and got early to Baldwick, where there was a fair, and we put in, and eat a mouthful of porke, which they made us pay 14d. for, which vexed me much. And
1 the manorial court under which Pepys held some of his copyhold estates
so away to Stevenage, and staid till a shower was over, and so rode easily to Welling. We supped well, and had two beds in the room, and so lay single.
24th. We rose, and set forth, but found a most sad alteration in the roade, by reason of last night's rains, they being now all dirty and washy, though not deep. So we rode easily through, and only drinking at Holloway, at the sign of a woman with cakes in one hand, and a pot of ale in the other,' which did give good occasion of mirth, resembling her to the maid that served us, we got home very timely and well, and finding there all well, and letters from sea, that speak of my Lord's being well; and his Action, though not considerable of any side, at Algiers.
25th. Sir W. Pen told me that I need not fear any reflection upon my Lord for their ill success at Argier, for more could not be done. Meeting Sir R. Slingsby in St. Martin's Lane, he and I in his coach through the Mewes, which is the way that now all coaches are forced to go, because of a stop at Charing Crosse, by reason of digging of a drayne there to clear the streets. To my Lord Crewe's, and dined with him, where I was used with all imaginable kindness both from him and her. And I see that he is afraid my Lord's reputacon will a little suffer in common talk by this late successe; but there is no help for it now. The Queen of England, as she is now owned and called, I hear, doth keep open court, and distinct at Lisbone. To the Theatre, and saw "The Merry Wives of Windsor" ill done.
along with him. And told us, that we need not trouble ourselves how to buy them, for the King would pay for all, and that he would take care to get them: which put my Lady and me into a great deal of ease of mind. Here we stayed and supped too; and, after my wife had put up some of the grapes in a basket for to be sent to the King, we took coach and home, where we found a hamper of millons sent to me also.
28th. Sir W. Pen and his daughter, and I and my wife, to the Theatre, and there saw "Father's own Son,' "1 a very good play, and the first time I ever saw it.
29th. (Lord's day.) What at dinner and supper I drink, I know not how, of my own accord, so much wine, that I was even almost foxed, and my head ached all night; so home and to bed, without prayers, which I never did yet, since I come to the house, of a Sunday night I being now so out of order that I durst not read prayers, for fear of being perceived by my servants in what case I was.
SAMUEL BUTLER (1612-1680)
PART I. FROM CANTO I
As men their best apparel do.
He was in logic a great critic,
1 an old play, by an unknown author
He could distinguish, and divide
In mood and figure, he would do.
Teach nothing but to name his tools.
Which learned pedants much affect;
Beside, he was a shrewd philosopher, And had read every text and gloss over; Whate'er the crabbed'st author hath, He understood b' implicit faith; Whatever sceptic could inquire for, For every why he had a wherefore; Knew more than forty of them do, As far as words and terms could go; All which he understood by rote, And, as occasion served, would quote; No matter whether right or wrong, They might be either said or sung, His notions fitted things so well, That which was which he could not tell, 140 But oftentimes mistook the one