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in his writings, which there is reasonable ground for presuming did not do honour to his life-Yet, esteemed and learned Gentlemen, Envy is a passion too apt to invade either the literate or the illiterate ; and though Jonson might write under its influence, I cannot expect you to pity what you never felt. None of you have ever vindictively laboured to smother up a commenting rival-None of you are skilled in the art of plunging a name into oblivion, that your plagiarisms may never rise in judgment against you.Ye comment and criticise as though the precise accuracy of CAPELL had never preceded your toil. And may he continue to moulder in obscurity! for, alas ! should a fair estimate of his researches be made, the high plumed sagacity of one Commentator, and the unpresuming modesty of another, might be expunged from the burthened pages of the Poet,
" And like the baseless Fabric of your Visions,
Let me be pardoned if any thing acrimonious should be inferred from aught above written. The Writer is just fresh from the perusal of the following play, and excellence, come from whom it may, is apt to win so warm an interest in his
bosom, that the very Gentlemen alluded to might enkindle within his breast a similar enthusiasm, were it possible to discover any congeniality of merits in their elaborate compositions.
The above I owe to the fame of Jonson, what I am indebted to his life shall be punctually paid to his inimitable VOLPONE,
The characters of Jonson cannot be defined like those of SHAKSPERE;
“ Which are not of an age, but of all times.”
They are such as only existed for the most part in his own-They speak in consequence a language deformed by affectation, and obscured by local allusion. Yet, so wonderful is the strength of this Hercules, that he may be stiled the great Historian of the Drama, and from his page is reflected the most perfect image of the domestic manners of our Ancestors in the Sixteenth Century.
Our romantic Sires, as a worthy companion to their belief in the doctrine of Demons and Witches, believed in the transmutation of Metals, the Philosopher's Stone, and other conundrums of a similar nature ; to ridicule the latter folly, this admirable play was written.
If the Writer did not dread the undefined terrors of LIBEL, he might venture to say, Jonson was too wise to attack the belief in Witchcraft, sanctioned by the learned ignorance of his Sovereign's sublime treatise entitled, Dæmonologia.
T be sickness hot, a master quit for fear,
FORTUNE, that favours fools, these two short hours
Or spleen of comic writers. Though this per
that will sit so nigh Unto the stream, to look what it doth run, They shall find things, they'd think, or wish, were done; They are so natural follies, but so shown, As even the doers may see, and yet not own.