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EXAMINATION

OF

THE CHARGES

MAINTAINED BY

MESSRS. MALONE, CHALMERS,

AND OTHERS,

or

BEN JONSON'S ENMITY, &c.

TOWARDS

SHAKSPEARE.

BY

OCTAVIUS GILCHRIST.

If it be an ignorance, it is a virtuous and staid ignorance;
and, next to truth, a confirmed error does well; such a one
the author knows where to find.

BEN JONSON.

LONDON:

PRINTED FOR TAYLOR AND HESSEY, 93, FLEET STREET,

By J. Moyes, 34, Shoe Lane,

1808.

The edition of Shakspeare, referred to in the following pages, is

uniformly the last of Johnson and STEEVENS, in twenty-one volumes octavo, 1803.

AN

EXAMINATION, &c.

By the desire of rendering an occasional service to a literary friend, to whom the modern stage is under considerable obligations, I was led a few weeks since to a consideration of the circumstances of Ben Jonson's life, and the inquiry naturally connected itself with Shakspeare. The superiority of their abilities, and the similarity of their studies, were natural attractions; and they were probably associated at an earlier period than has yet been discovered. In the year 1598, we learn that Shakspeare performed in Jonson's “ Every Man in his Humour;" he appears also among the actors of his tragedy of Sejanus, in 1603; and tradition has given to the former the merit of having introduced his companion to the stage. For the honour of literature, for the respect and veneration which I bear towards these great poets, I trust this tradition, so honourable to both, is founded in truth; and I am justified, by finding nothing in the writings of either, to contradict the belief, or invalidate the presumption. A passage, moreover, in the preface to Sejanus, would lead us to suppose that Shakspeare assisted his friend in the composition of that tragedy; but when the play went to the press, Jonson forbore to print the additions, being “ loath to defraud so happy a genius, by usurping his right.” Further literary community has not been discovered. The spring of 1616 saw the stage deprived of its great boast and orna-, ment; and Jonson testified his respect for the memory of his friend by writing the following eulogium on his literary remains :*—

* It should not be forgotten, that the first engraved portrait of Shakspeare, which is that printed in the title page of his plays in folio, 1623, has the following lines addressed to the reader, by Ben Jonson :

This figure that thou here seest put,
It was for gentle Shakspeare cut;
Wherein the graver had a strife
With nature, to out-do the life.
O, could he but have drawn his wit
As well in brass, as he hath hit
His face, the print would then surpass
All that was ever writ in brass;
But since he cannot, reader, look,
Not on his picture, but his book.

To the memory of
MY BELOVED, THE AUTHOR,
MR. WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE,

AND WHAT HE HATH LEFT vs.

To draw no envy, Shakspeare, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book, and fame;
While I confess thy writings to be such,
As neither man, nor muse, can praise too much ;
"Tis true, and all men's suffrage; but these ways
Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise :
For seeliest ignorance on these may light,
Which, when it sounds at best, but echoes right;
Or blind affection, which doth ne'er advance
The truth, but gropes, and urgeth all by chance;
Or crafty malice might pretend this praise,
And think to ruin, where it seem'd to raise :
These are, as some infámous bawd, or whore,
Should praise a matron; what could hurt her more ?
But thou art proof against them; and, indeed,
Above the ill fortune of them, or the need :
I, therefore, will begin :-Soul of the age,
The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage,
My Shakspeare, rise! I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer, or Spenser; or bid Beaumont lie
A little further, to make thee a room :*
Thou art a monument without a tomb;

* This is an allusion to the following lines in a commendatory poem on Shakspeare by William Basse :

Renowned Spenser, lie a thought more nigh
To learned Chaucer; and rare Beaumont lie

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