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N the reign of Henry VIII. a
member of the Border family of Johnston emigrated from Annandale to Carlisle. He became a servant of the English king, and was, according to the language of
that time, a gentleman ; that is to say, one who could prove his right to bear coat
His son suffered religious persecution in the reign of Queen Mary, lost his estates, and adopted the profession of Protestant minister. He had married in England ; and one month after his decease his widow bore a son, whom she christened Benjamin. This boy, who subsequently spelled his family name Jonson, is the subject of the present volume.
We know him as Rare Ben Jonson, one of the brightest ornaments of English literature in the age of Elizabeth, James, and Charles I. The widow Jonson, not long after her
son's birth, made a second marriage, this time with a master mason or bricklayer. We do not know his name.
But he seems to have been a worthy man ; for he put his little step-son, Benjamin, to school, providing for the first stage of a training which was destined to produce one of the wisest scholars and most learned poets whom English annals can boast.
William Camden, the great antiquary, was at this time second master of Westminster School. It seems that he had been a friend of Ben Jonson's deceased father, or at all events that he was interested in the boy's family. Owing to this illustrious man's kindness, the little Ben was admitted to that noble nursery of English youth ; and the future of his life was fixed on the day when he entered Westminster. In after years he addressed the patron of his boyhood in verses which bear all the marks of sincere gratitude
“ Camden ! most reverend head, to whom I owe
All that I am in arts, all that I know."
an apt pupil, and well repaid the generosity of his protector. He was gifted with a prodigious memory, and with a peculiar aptitude for appropriating all the stores of knowledge opened to him, and for vivifying these in his own brain by the mental force of one to whom the past was equally real with the present of human nature.
In person he was an ungainly lad ; big-boned, of large stature, but clumsy in his gait, not quite