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This volume proposes to do for Jonson what The Shakespeare Allusion-Book does for Shakespeare. While primarily intended to set forth the materials, within the limits specified, relating to Jonson's career as a man of letters, and to disclose the estimates of his genius as expressed by his contemporaries and immediate successors, it will also incidentally supply information on a variety of subjects connected with the literature of the time. For example, it will be of service as a partial allusion-book to many poets of the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages; and it will be of no little value as a body of seventeenth-century dramatic criticism.
The editors are not vain enough to suppose that they have been able to collect all the important references to Jonson; for only by the co-operation of many scholars, with labor extending over a long period of years, could a work of this nature be made even approximately complete. In his Preface to The Shakespeare Allusion-Book, the editor states: "These volumes were not made in a day. Thirty years have passed in their compilation, and the thousands of books from which their contents have been drawn stretch over three hundred years. Many willing hands, too, have lent assistance. Antiquarians, scholars, and friendly readers have all most kindly helped." Yet, in spite of the prolonged and painstaking effort of so many collaborators, several supplements to the volumes have appeared, and numerous allusions to Shakespeare remain still ungathered. The editors of The Jonson Allusion-Book have worked without assistance of any kind, and they can only hope that they have made a fair beginning.
A few biographical documents have been included when these relate to the poet's literary career; doubtful allusions, unless
supported by reasonable evidence, have been excluded; and mere indications of Jonson's influence upon others, in the form of imitation or quotation, have, as a rule, been omitted. Moreover, in the period following the Restoration the editors have had to exercise a certain discretion in condensing allusions and passing over those possessing little or no significance. Most of these, however, have been collected, and, if the opportunity offers, may later be published by way of a supplement. Perhaps it should be added that the numerous jingling rhymes printed by W. R. Chetwood in his Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Ben Jonson, 1756, have been entirely ignored; Chetwood cites no authority for them, and they seem to be crude fabrications of his own Muse.
Mr. Bradley originally undertook the task of gathering these allusions in the preparation of a doctoral dissertation at Cornell University, and to him belongs the major credit of collecting and transcribing the passages. Later Mr. Adams became associated with him in the labor, and assumed specifically the responsibility of editing the material for the reader.
It has not always been easy to fix the dates of the passages quoted, or to identify the authors; and in dealing with such a mass of detail, it has doubtless been impossible to escape errors. For all such defects the editors crave the indulgence of scholars.