Sunday, February 20, 2022

1614 Stratford Fire - A Town in Chaos





James, By the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, & Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c. To all and singuler Archbishops, Bishops, Archdeacons, Deanes, and their Officials: Parsons, Vicars, Curats, and to all spirituall persons: And also to al Iustices of Peace, Maiors, Sheriffes, Bayliffes, Constables, Churchwardens, & Headboroughes: And to all Officers of Citties, Boroughes, and Townes corporate: And to all other our Officers, Ministers, and Subiects whatsoe∣uer they bee, aswell within Liberties, as without, to whom these presents shall come, greeting.

WHEREAS wee are credibly certified by a Certificate vnder the hands of our trusty and welbeloued Subiects Sir Fulke Grevill Knight, Chancellor of our Exchequer, Sir Thomas Leigh, sir Edward Deuereux, and sir Thomas Holt Knights & Baronets, sir Edward Greuill, sir Clement Fisher, sir Clement Throgmorton, sir Richard Verney, sir Thomas Lucy, sir Henry Dymocke, sir William Someruill, sir Thomas Bea••on, and sir Henry Rainsford Knights, Thomas Spencer, Edward Boughton, Bartholomew Hales, Iohn Repington, William Combe, and William Barnes Esquiors, Iustices of the Peace within our Counties of Warwicke & Gloucester: That vpon Saterday the Nynth day of Iuly in the yeare of our Lord God, One Thousand Sixe Hundred and Fourteene, there happened a sodaine and terrible Fire within our Towne of Stratford vpon Avon within our County of Warwicke, which within the space of lesse then two howres consumed & burnt Fifty & Fower dwelling houses, many of them being very faire houses, besides Barnes, Stables, & other howses of Office, together also with great store of Corne, Hay, Straw, Wood, & Timber therin, Amounting in all to the value of Eight Thowsand Pounds & vpwards The force of which Fier was so great (the wind sitting ful vpon the Towne) that it dispersed into so many places thereof, whereby the whole Towne was in very great danger to haue beene vtterly consumed and burnt; by reason whereof, and of two seuerall Fiers happening in the said Towne within these Twenty yeares, to the losse of Twenty Thousand Pounds more, not onely our said poore Subiects who haue now sustained this great losse, are vtterly vndoone and like to perish, but also the rest of the Towne is in great hazard to be ouerthrowne & vndoone, the Inhabitants there beeing no waies able to relieue their distressed neighbors in this their great want & misery. AND wheras the said Towne hath béen a great Market Towne whereunto great recourse of people was made, by reason of the weekely Market, Faires, and other frequent mee∣tings, which were there holden and appointed, and now being thus ruinated & decayed, it is in great hazard to beé vtterly ouerthrowne, if either the resort thither be neglected, or course of trauellers diuerted, which for want of spéedy reparation may bee occasioned. And forasmuch as our sayd distressed Subiects the Inhabitants of the said Towne are very ready & willing to the vttermost of their powers to réedifie & new build the say Towne againe, Yet finding the performance therof far beyond their abilty, they haue made their humble suite vnto vs, that we would be pleased to prouide some conuenient meanes that the said Towne may be againe réedified & repayred aswell for the reliefe of the distressed people within the same, as also for the restoring and continuing of the sayd Market, and haue humbly besought Vs to commend the same good & laudable déed and the charitable furtherance thereof, to the beneuolence of all our louing Subiects, not doubting but that all good and wel-disposed Christians will for common charity and loue to their Country, and the rather for our Commendation heerof, be ready with all willingnes to extend their charitable reliefe towards the comfort of so many distressed people and the speedy performing of so good and charitable a worke.

KNOWE yee therefore, that wee (tendering the lamentable estate and lesses of our sayd distressed Inhabitants, together with the humble suit of all our foresaid Iustices made vnto Vs on their behalfes) Of our especiall Grace and Princely compassion, haue giuen & granted, and by these our letters Patents doe giue and graunt vnto our foresaid trusty & welbeloued Subiects, Sir Richard Verney, sir Henry Rainsford Knights, Bartholomew Hales Esquior, and the Bayliffe & Burgesses of the sayd Towne of Stratford vpon Avon, and to their Deputie & Deputies, the bearer or bearers hereof, full power, licence and authority, to aske, gather receiue, & take the Almes & charitable beneuolence of all our louing Subiects whatsoeuer Inhabiting within our Counties of Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Southampton, Wiltes, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, & Cornwal, with our Cittiie of Canterbury, Rochester, & the Cinque Ports, and in our Citties of Chichester, & Winchester, with the Isle of Wight, and Towne of Southampton, & in our Citties of Salisburie, Exeter, Bristow, Bath, & Wels, with our Towne & County of Poole in our County of Dorset: And in all other Cities, Townes Corporate, priuiledged places, Parishes, Villages, and in all other places whatsoeuer within our said Counties, and not else where, for & towards the new building, reedifying & erecting of the said Towne of Stratford vpon Avon, & the r∣liefe of al such our poore distressed subiects, their Wiues & Children, as haue sustained losse & decay by the misfortune of the said Fire.

WHEREFORE wee wil & command you, and euery of you, that at such time and times as the sayd Sir Richard Verney, sir Henry Rainsford, Bartholomew Hales, the Bayliffe & Burgesses aforesaid or any of them, or their Deputie or Deputies, the bearer or bearers héerof, shall come & repaire to any your Churches, Chappels, or other places to aske, and receiue the gratuities & charitable beneuolence of our said Subiects, quietly to permit & suffer them so to do, without any manner your lets, or contradictions. And you the said Parsons, Vicars, and Curats, for the better stirring by of a charitable deuotion, deliberately to publish and declare the Tenor of these our Letters Patents vnto our said Subiects, Exhorting and perswading them to extend their liberall contribu∣tions in so good & charitable a deede. And you the Churchwardens of euery Parish where such Collection is to bee made (as aforesaid) to collect and gather the Almes and charitable beneuolence of all our louing Subiects, And what shall bée by you so gathered, to endorse on the Backe-side heerof, and deliuer the same to the bearer or bearers heereof, when as therevnto you shall be required. A∣ny Statute, Lawe, Ordinance, or prouision héertofore made to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.

IN witnesse wherof, wée haue caused these our Letters to be made Patents for the space of One whole yeare next after the date héerof to endure. Witnesse our selfe at Westminster the Eleauenth day of May, in the Fourteenth yeere of our R••gne of England, Fraunce, and Ireland• and of Scotland, the Nyne and Fortieth.


God saue the King.

Printed by Thomas Purfoot

Shakespeare Documented

October 28, 1614

William Shakespeare reaches an agreement with William Replingham to safeguard his income as a leaseholder of the tithes in case of enclosure.

Within two months of it becoming common knowledge that plans were afoot to enclose some of the open fields at Welcombe to the north-east of Stratford, Shakespeare took steps to ensure that his income as a leaseholder of half the tithes of Old Stratford, Bishopton and Welcombe would not be adversely affected. Tithe holders stood to lose income if, for instance, land was taken out of arable production, thus reducing the crops that contributed to the tithes. (To learn more about the history of the Stratford tithes, please refer to Ralph Hubaud’s 1605 assignment of a lease of a share in the Stratford Tithes to William Shakespeare.) The enclosure scheme was initiated in the name of two men with no interests in the town, Arthur Mainwaring, and his kinsman, William Replingham of Great Harborough. Therefore Shakespeare opened negotiations with Replingham, although it soon emerged that he and Mainwaring were merely fronting the scheme on behalf of William Combe, the main freeholder at Welcombe.
The agreement between Shakespeare and Replingham has come down to us in the form of an incomplete copy. It bears what was doubtless its original dated heading: “Vicesimo octavo die Octobris, anno Domini 1614. Articles of agreement indented made betweene William Shackespeare of Stretford ... gent. on the one partye & William Replingham of Greete Harborowe .... gent., on the other partie…” However, it is followed by the marginal note “Inter alia” (“amongst other things”) and then by a single paragraph headed “Item” (“also”), instead of beginning “In primis” (“Firstly”), which is how such an agreement would customarily have begun. This indicates that what survives is only a copy of one of several clauses.
It is also clear that this surviving clause had been amended. Although the agreement’s header includes only Replingham’s and Shakespeare’s names, the single clause that was copied out includes wording to protect not just Shakespeare’s interests but “one Thomas Greene”s as well. Greene confirmed that his name was inserted later in a personal note he made on January 9, 1615. Moreover, because this partial copy is endorsed in Thomas Greene’s hand, it is clear that it had been made for his particular benefit, not Shakespeare’s. Greene took this step because he had recently become the lessee of the other half of the Old Stratford, Bishopton and Welcombe tithes and, like Shakespeare, feared his income from this source would suffer if enclosure went ahead. On the crucial issue of Shakespeare’s wider involvement in the agreement, however, we have no direct knowledge, lacking as we do the other clauses. Perhaps Shakespeare had thought it necessary to ensure that his freehold interests would not be affected either, or to safeguard his pasture rights, as defined more closely in a later survey. 
The clause stipulates that any compensation to which Shakespeare might become entitled “for all such losse, detriment and hinderance … by reason of anie Inclosure or decaye of Tyllage” was to be calculated by “foure indifferent persons to be indifferentlie elected by the said William and William” (or, on Replingham’s failure to co-operate, by Shakespeare himself). Oddly this loss was said to be “in respecte of the increasing of the yearelie value of the Tythes” although all editors and commentators assume that “increasinge" was a misreading by the copyist of “decreasinge.”
The names of the signatories to the agreement are also given. It is likely that originally there were only two: John Rogers, presumably the vicar, and Anthony Nash, who witnessed other documents to which Shakespeare was a party. Thomas Lucas, and his clerk, Michael Olney, were probably added when Greene’s name was later inserted.
It is likely that this agreement, and Greene’s involvement in it, would have been kept secret. The Stratford Corporation, from whom Thomas Greene and Shakespeare held their leases of the tithes, was opposed to the enclosure scheme and was in no mood to compromise. Greene, as the Corporation’s steward, was also under instructions to help frustrate the scheme.
Semi-diplomatic transcription
Written by Robert Bearman
Last updated May 19, 2020

Thursday, February 17, 2022

My Shakespeare - Peccant not Perfect

 Peccant Shakespeare:

Peccare (Latin)


    1. be wrong

    2. blunder, stumble

    3. do wrong, commit moral offense

    4. sin


Disproportionate Droeshout Figure – Inequalis Tonsor/Ambisinister – WRONG in both hands/not dexterous


Jonson, Timber

De Poetica. - We have spoken sufficiently of oratory, let us now make a diversion to poetry. Poetry, in the primogeniture, had many PECCANT HUMOURS, and is made to have more now, through the LEVITY AND INCONSTANCY of MENS JUDGEMENTS. Whereas, indeed, it is the most prevailing eloquence, and of the most exalted caract. Now the discredits and disgraces are many it hath received through men' s study of depravation or calumny; their practice being to give it diminution of credit, by lessening the professor' s estimation, and making THE AGE afraid of their liberty; and THE AGE is grown so tender of her fame, as she calls all writings aspersions.

That is the state word, the PHRASE OF COURT (placentia college), which some call Parasites Place, the INN OF IGNORANCE. 


Bacon, Advancement of Learning



THus have we at length gone over the three Distem∣pers or Diseases of Learning; besides the which, there are other, rather PECCANT HUMORS, than confir∣med Diseases, which neverthelesse are not so secret and in∣trinsique, but that they fall under a popular sense and reprehension, and therefore are not to be passed over. 

I  The first of these is an extreme affection of two extremi∣ties, Antiquity and Novelty; wherein the daughters of Time, doe take after the Father; for as Time devoureth his children, so these, one of them seeketh to depresse the other; while Antiquity envieth there should be new Additions; and Novel∣ty can not be content to adde things recent, but it must de∣face and reject the old. Surely the advice of the Prophet is the true direction in this case,*state super vias antiquas & vi∣dete quaenam fit via recta & bona & ambulate in ea: Antiquity deserveth that reverence, that men should make a stay a while, and stand thereupon, and look about to discover which is the best way; but when the discovery is well ta∣ken, than not to rest there, but cheerefully to make progres∣sion. Indeed to speak truly, Antiquitas seculi, Juventus Mun∣di, Certainly our times are the Ancient times, when the world is now Ancient, and not those which we count An∣cient, ordine retrogrado, by a computation backward from our own times.

II   An other error induced by the former is, a suspition and diffidence, that any thing should be now to be found out, which the world should have mist and past over so long time: as if the same objection might be made to Time,* wherewith Lucian reproacheth Iupiter, and other the Heathen Gods, For he wonders that they begot so many children in old time, and begot none in his time? and askes in scoffing manner, whether they were now become Septuagenary, or whether the Law Papia; made against old mens mariages, had restrained them? So it seemes men doubt least time is become past children and generation. *Nay rather the LEVITY and INCONSTANCY of MENS JUDGEMENTS, is hence plainly discovered, which untill a matter be done, wonder it can be done. So Alexander's expedition in∣to Asia was prejudg'd as a vast and impossible enterprize; yet afterwards it pleased Livie, so to slight it as to say of A∣lexander,*Nil aliud quam bene ausus est vana contemnere: The same hapned unto Columbus in the westerne Navigation. But in intellectuall matters it is much more common,(...)


Peccant \Pec"cant\, a. [L. peccans, -antis, p. pr. of peccare to sin: cf. F. peccant.]

1. guilty of an offence; corrupt

2. violating or disregarding a rule; faulty

3. producing disease; morbid


Horace, of the Art of Poetrie

transl. Ben Jonson

If to Quintilius, you recited ought:

Hee'd say, Mend this, good friend, and this; "Tis naught.

If you denied, you had no better straine,

And twice, or thrice had 'ssayd it, still in vaine:

Hee'd bid, BLOT ALL: and to the anvile bring

Those ill-torn'd Verses, to new hammering.

Then: If your fault you rather had defend

Then change. No word, or worke, more would he spend


Alone, without a rivall, by his will.

A wise, and honest man will cry out shame

On artlesse Verse; the hard ones he will blame;

Blot out the careless, with his turned pen;

Cut off superfluous ornaments; and when

They're darke, bid cleare this: all that's doubtfull wrote

Reprove; and, what is to be changed, not:

Become an Aristarchus. And, not say,

Why should I grieve my friend, this TRIFLING WAY?

These trifles into serious mischiefs lead

The man once mock'd, and suffered WRONG TO TREAD.


Bacon, Advancement Learning

III   An other error which hath some affinity with the former is, a conceit That all sects and ancient opinions, after they have bin discussed and ventilated; the best still prevail'd and supprest the rest. Wherefore they think that if a man should begin the labour of a new search and examination, he must needs light upon somewhat formerly rejected, and after re∣jection, lost, and brought into oblivion: as if the multitude, or the wisest, to gratify the multitude, were not more ready to give passage to that which is populare and superficiall; than to that which is substantiall and profound. For Time seemeth to be of the nature of a River, *which carrieth down to us that which is light and blown up, and sinketh and drowneth that which is waighty and solid*. 


Raising a Hollow/Light Praise:

Soul of the age!

The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage!

My Shakespeare, RISE! 


Bacon and Jonson – Levity and Inconstancy of Mens Judgements



Levity originally was thought to be a physical force exactly like gravity but pulling in the opposite direction, like the helium in a balloon. As recently as the 19th century, scientists were still arguing about its existence. Today levity refers only to lightness in manner. To stern believers of some religious faiths, levity is often regarded as almost sinful.


facetiousness, flightiness, flippancy, frivolity, frivolousness, frothiness, light-headedness, light-mindedness, lightness, silliness



Jonson, _Cynthia's Revels_. 

AMORPHUS. And there's her minion, Crites: why his advice more than

Amorphus? Have I not INVENTION afore him? LEARNING to better


 – [PARAPHRASE OF SOUTHERN’S ODE TO Oxford in his _Pandora_.]


Jonson, Cynthia's Revels - censuring Amorphus and his crew of courtly

revellers.( if we once but fancy levity)

Crites: O VANITY [vanus/empty],

How are thy painted beauties doted on,


With open and extended Appetite!

How they do sweat, and run themselves from breath,

Rais'd on their Toes, to catch thy AIRY FORMS,

Still turning GIDDY, till they reel like Drunkards,

That buy the merry madness of one hour,

With the long irksomness of following time!

O how despis'd and base a thing is a Man,

If he not strive t'erect his groveling Thoughts

Above the strain of Flesh! But how more cheap,

When, even his best and understanding Part,

(The crown and strength of all his Faculties)

Floats like a dead drownd Body, on the Stream

Of vulgar humour, mixt with common'st dregs?

I suffer for their Guilt now, and my Soul

(Like one that looks on ill-affected Eyes)

Is hurt with mere intention on their Follies.

Why will I view them then? my sense might ask me:

Or is't a rarity, or some new object,

That strains my strict observance to this Point?

O would it were, therein I could afford

My Spirit should draw a little neer to theirs,

To gaze on novelties: so Vice were one.

Tut, she is stale, rank, foul, and were it not

That those (that woo her) greet her with lockt Eyes,

(In spight of all the impostures, paintings, drugs,

Which her Bawd custom dawbs her Cheeks withal)

She would betray her loath'd and leprous Face,

And fright th' enamour'd dotards from themselves:

But such is the perverseness of our nature,


(How antick and ridiculous so ere

It sute with us) yet will our muffled thought

Choose rather not to see it, than avoid it:

And if we can but banish our own sense,

We act our mimick tricks with that free license,

That lust, that pleasure, that security,

*As if we practis'd in a Paste-board Case*,

And no one saw the motion, but the motion.

Well, check thy passion, lest it grow too lowd:

"While fools are pittied, they wax fat and proud


William Cartwright:

...Shakespeare to thee was DULL, whose best jest lyes

I'th Ladies questions, and the Fooles replyes;

Old fashion'd wit, which walkt from town to town

In turn'd Hose, which our fathers call'd the CLOWN;

Whose wit our nice times would obsceannesse call,

And which made Bawdry passe for Comicall:

Nature was all his Art, thy veine was FREE

As his, but without his SCURILITY;


Sidney, Defense of Poetry

But, besides these gross absurdities, how all their plays be neither right tragedies nor right comedies, mingling kings and clowns, not because the matter so carrieth it, but thrust in the clown by head and shoulders to play a part in majestical matters, with neither decency nor discretion; so as neither the admiration and commiseration, nor the right sportfulness, is by their mongrel tragi-comedy obtained. I know Apuleius did somewhat so, but that is a thing recounted with space of time, not represented in one moment; and I know the ancients have one or two examples of tragi-comedies, as Plautus hath Amphytrio. But, if we mark them well, we shall find that they never, or very daintily, match hornpipes and funerals. So falleth it out that, having indeed no right comedy in that comical part of our tragedy, we have nothing but scurrility, unworthy of any chaste ears, or some extreme show of doltishness, indeed fit to lift up a loud laughter, and nothing else; where the whole tract of a comedy should be full of delight, as the tragedy should be still maintained in a well-raised admiration. 


But our comedians think there is no delight without laughter, which is very wrong; for though laughter may come with delight, yet cometh it not of delight, as though delight should be the cause of laughter; but well may one thing breed both together. Nay, rather in themselves they have, as it were, a kind of contrariety. For delight we scarcely do, but in things that have a conveniency to ourselves, or to the general nature; laughter almost ever cometh of things most disproportioned to ourselves and nature. Delight hath a joy in it either permanent or present; laughter hath only a scornful tickling...But I have lavished out too many words of this playmatter. I do it, because as they are excelling parts of poesy, so is there none so much used in England, and none can be more pitifully abused; which, like an unmannerly daughter, showing a bad education, causeth her mother Poesy`s honesty to be called in question. 


Dull Grinning Ignorance:

John Beaumont , Jonsonus Virbius

...Twas he that found (plac'd) in the seat of wit,

DULL grinning IGNORANCE, and banish'd it;

He on the prostituted stage appears

To make men hear, not by their eyes, but ears;

Who painted virtues, that each one might know,

And point the man, that did such treasure owe :

So that who could in JONSON'S lines be high

Needed not honours, or a riband buy ;

But vice he only shewed us in a glass,

Which by reflection of those rays that pass,

Retains the figure lively, set before,

And that withdrawn, reflects at us no more;

So, he observ'd the like decorum, when

*He whipt the vices, and yet spar'd the men* :

When heretofore, the Vice's only note,

And sign from virtue was his party-coat;

When devils were the last men on the stage,

And pray'd for plenty, and the PRESENT AGE.


Jonson's Epigrams

 To  the  great  Example  of  Honour,  and  Vertue , the  most

Noble William, Earl of Pembroke, Lord Chamberlain, &c.

      M Y   L O R D,

While you cannot change your Merit, I dare not change your Title: It was you that made it, and not I. Under which Name, I here offer to your Lordship the ripest of my Studies, my Epigrams; which, though they carry danger in the sound, do not therefore seek your shelter: For, when I made them, I had nothing in my Conscience, to expressing of which I did need a Cypher. But, if I be fallen into those Times, wherein, for the likeness of Vice, and Facts, every one thinks anothers ill Deeds objected to him; and that in their ignorant and guilty Mouths, the common Voice is (for their security) Beware the Poet, confessing, therein, SO MUCH LOVE TO THEIR DISEASES, as they would rather make a Party for them, than be either rid, or told of them: I must expect, at your Lordship's hand, the protection of Truth, and Liberty, while you are constant to your own Goodness. In thanks whereof, I return you the Honour of leading forth so many good, and great Names (as my Verses mention on the better part) to their remembrance with Posterity. Amongst whom, if I have praised, unfortunately, any one, that doth not deserve; or, if all answer not, in all Numbers, the Pictures I have made of them: I hope it will be forgiven me, that they are no ill Pieces, though they be not like the Persons. But I foresee a nearer Fate to my Book than this, That the Vices therein will be own'd before the Vertues, (though, there, I have avoided all Particulars, as I have done Names) and some will be so ready to discredit me, as they will have the impudence to bely themselves. For, if I meant them not, it is so. Nor, can I hope otherwise. For, why should they remit any thing of their Riot, their Pride, their Self-love, and other inherent Graces, to consider Truth or Vertue; but, with the Trade of the World, lend their long Ears against Men they love not: And hold their dear MOUNTEBANK, or JESTER, in far better Condition than all the Study, or Studiers of Humanity? For such, I would rather know them by their VISARDS, still, than they should publish their FACES, at their peril, in my Theatre, where C A T O, if he liv'd, might enter without scandal. By your Lordship's most faithfull Honourer,            

B E N.  J O H N S O N.  

  Ben Jonson's Epigrams


Peccant Humours/disease/distemper



Sweet Swan of Avon! what a sight it were


And make those FLIGHTS UPON the BANKS of Thames,

That so did TAKE Eliza and our James!


HORACE., Ars Poet. 1.

Suppose a painter wished to couple a horse’s neck with a man’s head,

and to lay feathers of every hue on limbs gathered here and there, so

that a woman, lovely above, foully ended in an ugly fish below; would

you restrain your laughter, my friends, if admitted to a private view?

Believe me…a BOOK will appear uncommonly like that PICTURE, if

impossible figures are wrought into it – *like a sick man’s dreams* –

with the result that neither head nor foot is ascribed to a single

shape, and unity is lost*. 


In his translation of Horace’s _Art of Poetry_ Jonson translates ‘Minerva’ as ‘Nature’

Alexander Pope

...of all English Poets Shakespear must be confessed to be the fairest and fullest subject for Criticism, and to afford the most numerous, as well as the most conspicuous instances, both of beauties and FAULTS of all sorts. (ibid. p. i) 



Pope, Preface to Shakespeare

...the images of Life were to be drawn from those of their [the audience’s] own rank: accordingly we find, that not our Author’s only but almost all the old Comedies have their Scene among Tradesmen and Mechaniks: and even their Historical Plays strictly follow the common Old Stories or Vulgar Traditions of that kind of people. In Tragedy, nothing was so sure to Surprize and cause Admiration, as the most strange, unexpected, and consequently most unnatural, Events and Incidents; the most exaggerated Thoughts; the most verbose and bombast Expression; the most pompous Rhymes, and thundering Versification. In Comedy, nothing was so sure to please, as mean bufoonery, vile ribaldry, and unmannerly jests of fools and clowns. (Preface to edition, p. v) 


mix head with heels? Levity or inversion?

Bartholomew Fair: Jonson


I N D u C T I O N


S T A G E.


It is also agreed, That every Man here exercise his

own Judgment, and not *Censure by Contagion*, or upon

trust, from anothers Voice, or Face, that sits by him,

be he never so first in the *Commission of Wit*: As also,

that he be fixt and settled in his Censure, that what he

approves, or not approves to day, he will do the same

to morrow; and if to morrow, the next day, and so

the next week (if need be:) and not to be brought

about by any that sits on the Bench with him, though

they indite and arraign Plays daily. He that will swear,

Jeronimo, or Andronicus are the best Plays, yet shall pass

unexcepted at here, as a Man whose JUDGEMENT shews it



and hath stood still these five and twenty

or thirty years. Though it be an IGNORANCE, it is a

vertuous and staid Ignorance; and next to truth, a CON-

FIRM’D ERROR [PECCANT HUMOUR] does well; such a one the Author knows

where to find him. 

It is further covenanted, concluded and agreed, That how great soever the expectation be, no Person here is to expect more than he knows, or better Ware than a Fair will afford: neither to look back to the Sword and Buckler-age of Smithfield, but content himself with the present. Instead of a little Davy, to take Toll o' the Bawds, the Author doth promise a strutting Horse-courser, with a leer-Drunkard, two or three to attend him, in as good Equipage as you would wish. And then for Kind- heart, the Tooth-drawer, a fine Oily Pig-woman with her Tapster, to bid you welcome, and a Consort of Roarers for Musick. A wise Justice of Peace meditant, instead of a Jugler, with an Ape. A civil Cutpurse searchant. A sweet Singer of new Ballads allurant: and as fresh an Hypocrite, as ever was broach'd, rampant. If there be ne- ver a Servant-monster i' the Fair, who can help it, he says, nor a Nest of Antiques? He is loth to make Nature afraid in his Plays, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like Drolleries, to mix his head with other Mens Heels; let the CONCUPISCENCE of JIGS AND DANCES, reign as strong as it will amongst you: yet if the Pup-pets will please any body, they shall be entreated to come in.


Jonson, _The Alchemist_


If thou beest more, thou art an understander, and then I trust thee. If thou art one that takest up, and but a pretender, beware of what hands thou receivest thy commodity; for thou wert never more fair in the way to be cozened, than in THIS AGE, in poetry, especially in plays: wherein, now the CONCUPISCENCE of DANCES and of ANTICS so reigneth, as to run away from nature, and be afraid of her, is the only point of art that tickles the spectators. But how out of purpose, and place, do I name art? When the professors are grown so obstinate contemners of it, and presumers on their own naturals, as they are deriders of all diligence that way, and, by simple mocking at the terms, when they understand not the things, think to get off WITTILY with their IGNORANCE. Nay, they are esteemed the more learned, and sufficient for this, by the many, through their excellent vice of judgment. For they commend writers, as they do fencers or wrestlers; who if they come in robustuously, and put for it with a great deal of violence, are received for the braver fellows: when many times their own rudeness is the cause of their disgrace, and a little touch of their adversary gives all that boisterous force the foil. I deny not, but that these men, who always seek to do more than enough, may some time happen on some thing that is good, and great; but very seldom; and when it comes it doth not recompense the rest of their ill. It sticks out, perhaps, and is more eminent, because all is sordid and VILE about it: as lights are more discerned in a thick darkness, than a faint shadow. I speak not this, out of a hope to do good to any man against his will; for I know, if it were put to the question of theirs and mine, *the worse would find more suffrages: because the most favour common errors*. But I give thee this warning, that there is a great difference between those, that, to gain the opinion of copy, utter all they can, however unfitly; and those that use election and a mean. For it is only the DISEASE of the unskilful, to think rude things greater than polished; or scattered more numerous than composed.




IN so thicke, and darke an IGNORANCE, as now almost couers the AGE, I craue leaue to stand neare your light: and, by that, to be read. Posterity may pay your benefit the honor, and thanks; when it shall know, that you dare, in these JIG-GIVEN times, to countenance a legitimate Poëme. I must call it so, against all noise of opinion: from whose crude, and airy reports, I appeale, to that great and singular faculty of Iudgment in your Lordship, able to vindicate truth from ERROR. It is the first (of this RACE) that euer I dedicated to any Person, and had I not thought it the best, it should haue beene taught a lesse ambition. Now, it approacheth your censure chearefully, and with the same assurance, that Innocency would appeare before a Magistrate.

Your Lo. most faithfull Honorer. Ben. Ionson.


Bartholomew Fair, Jonson

The Induction to the Stage


Gentlemen, have a little patience, they are e'en

 upon coming, instantly. He that should be-

 gin the Play, Master Little-wit, the Proctor,

 has a stitch new faln in his black silk Stock-

ing; 'twill be drawn up ere you can tell twenty. He

plays one o' the Arches that dwells about the Hospital,

and he has a very pretty part. But for the whole Play,

will you ha' the truth on't? (I am looking, lest the Poet

hear me, or his Man, Master Broom, behind the Arras)

it is like to be a very conceited scurvy one, in plain En-

glish. When't comes to the Fair once, you were e'en

as good go to Virginia, for any thing there is of Smith-

field. He has not hit the Humours, he do's not know

'em; he has not convers'd with the Bartholmew-birds,

as they say; he has ne'er a Sword and Buckler Man in

his Fair; nor a little Davy, to take Toll o' the Bawds

there, as in my time; nor a Kind-heart, if any bodies

Teeth should chance to ake in his Play; nor a Jugler

with a well-educated Ape, to come over the Chain for

the King of England, and back again for the Prince,

and sit still on his Arse for the Pope, and the King of

Spain! None o' these fine sights! Nor has he the Can-

vas-cut i' the Night, for a Hobby-horse-man to creep in-

to his she-neighbour, and take his leap there! Nothing!

No, and some writer (that I know) had had but the Pen-

ning o' this matter, he would ha' made you such a Jig-

ajog i' the Boothes, you should ha' thought an Earth-

quake had been i' the Fair! But these Master-Poets,

they will ha' their own absurd courses; they will be

inform'd of nothing. He has (sirreverence) kick'd me

three or four times about the Tyring-house, I thank him,

for but offering to put in with my experience. I'll

be judg'd by you, Gentlemen, now, but for one conceit

of mine! Would not a fine Pump upon the Stage ha'

done well, for a property now? and a Punque set under

upon her Head, with her Stern upward, and ha' been

sous'd by my witty young Masters o' the Inns o' Court?

What think you o' this for a shew, now? he will not

hear 'o this! I am an Ass! I! and yet I kept the Stage

in Master Tarleton's time, I thank my Stars. Ho! and

that Man had liv'd to have play'd in Bartholmew Fair,

you should ha' seen him ha' come in, and ha' been co-

zened i' the Cloath-quarter, so finely! And Adams,

the Rogue, ha' leap'd and caper'd upon him, and ha'

dealt his Vermine about, as though they had cost him

nothing. And then a substantial WATCH to ha' stoln in

upon 'em, and taken 'em away, WITH MISTAKING WORDS,

AS THE FASHION IS in the Stage-practice. 


Jonson, To the MEMORY of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare

Yet must I not give Nature all: thy art,

My gentle Shakespeare, must enjoy a part.

For though the poet's matter nature be,

His ART doth give the FASHION; and, that he

Who casts to write a living line, must sweat,

(Such as thine are) and strike the second heat

Upon the Muses' anvil; turn the same

(And himself with it) that he thinks to frame,

Or, for the laurel, he may gain a scorn;

For a good poet's *made*, as well as born;

And such wert thou.



Nature herself was proud of his DESIGNS

And joy'd to wear the DRESSING of his lines, [CLOTHES/PAINTING BIRDLIME OF FOOLS]

Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,

As, since, she will vouchsafe no other wit.


In the verse prologue to _Every Man in his Humour_ , Jonson characterizes Shakespeare's plays as 'Monsters' 



Though need make many poets, and some such

As art and nature have not better'd much;

Yet ours for want hath not so loved the stage,

As he dare serve the *ill customs of the AGE*,

Or purchase your delight at such a rate,

As, for it, he himself must justly hate:

To make a child now swaddled, to proceed

Man, and then shoot up, in one beard and weed,

Past threescore years; or, with three rusty swords,

And help of some few foot and half-foot words,

Fight over York and Lancaster's king jars,

And in the tyring-house bring wounds to scars.

He rather prays you will be pleas'd to see

One such to-day, as other plays should be;

Where neither chorus wafts you o'er the seas,

Nor creaking throne comes down the boys to please;

Nor nimble squib is seen to make afeard

The gentlewomen; nor roll'd bullet heard

To say, it thunders; nor tempestuous drum

Rumbles, to tell you when the storm doth come;

But deeds, and language, such as men do use,

And persons, such as comedy would choose,

When she would shew an image of the times,

And sport with human follies, not with crimes.

Except we make them such, by loving still

Our popular errors, when we know they're ill.

I mean such errors as you'll all confess,

By laughing at them, they deserve no less:

Which when you heartily do, there's hope left then,

*You, that have so grac'd MONSTERS, may like men*.


Saturday, 14 September 1751.

By Samuel Johnson

Nunquam aliud natura, aliud sapientia dicit.

Juvenal, XIV.321.

For wisdom ever echoes nature’s voice.

[1] Every government, say the politicians, is perpetually degenerating towards corruption, from which it must be rescued at certain periods by the resuscitation of its first principles, and the re-establishment of its original constitution. Every animal body, according to the methodick physicians, is, by the predominance of some exuberant quality, continually declining towards disease and death, which must be obviated by a seasonable reduction of the PECCANT HUMOUR to the just equipoise which health requires.

[2] In the same manner the studies of mankind, all at least which, not being subject to rigorous demonstration, admit the influence of fancy and caprice, are perpetually tending to error and confusion. Of the great principles of truth which the first speculatists discovered, the simplicity is embarrassed by ambitious additions, or the evidence obscured by inaccurate argumentation; and as they descend from one succession of writers to another, like light transmitted from room to room, they lose their strength and splendour, and fade at last in total evanescence.

[3] The systems of learning therefore must be sometimes reviewed, complications analised into principles, and knowledge disentangled from opinion. It is not always possible, without a close inspection, to separate the genuine shoots of consequential reasoning, which grow out of some radical postulate, from the branches which art has engrafted on it. The accidental prescriptions of authority, when time has procured them veneration, are often confounded with the laws of nature, and those rules are supposed coeval with reason, of which the first rise cannot be discovered.

[4] Criticism has sometimes permitted fancy to dictate the laws by which fancy ought to be restrained, and fallacy to perplex the principles by which fallacy is to be detected; her super-intendance of others has betrayed her to negligence of herself; and, like the antient Scythians, by extending her conquests over distant regions, she has left her throne vacant to her slaves.


[10] I know not whether he that professes to regard no other laws than those of nature, will not be inclined to receive tragi-comedy to his protection, whom, however generally condemned, her own laurels have hitherto shaded from the fulminations of criticism. For what is there in the mingled drama which impartial reason can condemn? The connexion of important with trivial incidents, since it is not only common but perpetual in the world, may surely be allowed upon the stage, which pretends only to be the mirrour of life. The impropriety of suppressing passions before we have raised them to the intended agitation, and of diverting the expectation from an event which we keep suspended only to raise it, may be speciously urged. But will not experience shew this objection to be rather subtle than just? is it not certain that the tragic and comic affections have been moved alternately with equal force, and that no plays have oftner filled the eye with tears, and the breast with palpitation, than those which are variegated with interludes of mirth?

[11] I do not however think it safe to judge of works of genius merely by the event. These resistless vicissitudes of the heart, this alternate prevalence of merriment and solemnity, may sometimes be more properly ascribed to the vigour of the writer than the justness of the design: and instead of vindicating tragi-comedy by the success of Shakespear, we ought perhaps to pay new honours to *that transcendent and unbounded genius that could preside over the passions in sport*; who, to actuate the affections, needed not the slow gradation of common means, but could fill the heart with instantaneous jollity or sorrow, and vary our disposition as he changed his scenes. Perhaps the effects even of Shakespeare’s poetry might have been yet greater, had he not counter-acted himself; and we might have been more interested in the distresses of his heroes had we not been so frequently diverted by the jokes of his buffoons.


Noble Stranger, Lewis Sharpe (1640) – As it was acted at the Private House in Salisbury Court, by her Maiesties Servants. The author, L.S. 

To his Friend the Author on his Come∣dy, called the Noble Stranger.

FRiend, from me thou canst not expect a praise,

My Muse can give no Cypres nor no Baies:

She cannot though she would be vile, expresse

One syllable to make thy merits lesse:

Nor can she, had she rob'd the fluent store

Of Donns wise Genius, make thy merits more:

No, 'tis thy owne smooth numbers must preferre

*Thy Stranger to the Globe-like Theatre*.


Richard Woolfall


Noble Stranger, Lewis Sharpe (fl.1640)


It shall sir— Doe you heare Tom, goe and prepare Flavia for the project, and bring those properties we agreed on.


Say no more.



Whither doe you send him?


To an Antiquaries study; for strange properties to perform the Ceremonies requisite at INSPIRATION: for we must use Invocations, Incantations, Conjurations, Imprecations, and all for the rare effect of Inspiration.


Blesse me, doe you begin to conjure already?


No, he tells you but what he must doe.


But harke you; pray d'ee deale with honest, faire conditi∣oned Devills?


O blemish to our sacred Magicke—Devills!


O no, pray Sir.


That thought's enough to ruine all the fabricke of our hopes.


Good sir, Ile never thinke while I live agen.


I tell you sir, we must invoake the Celestiall Deities— We may beginne the Act, none but the bright Minerva can con∣firme it


And will she come at your call.


Yes, yes, if you performe quietly what we desire.


Oh most obedient Goddesse.

Enter Plod with a Boxe, in which are little pieces of paper rold up: A Table set forth.


Are you come? 'tis well: Is Flavia ready?


Onely waits her Cue


Look you sir, you see these papers.


I, whence came they; from the Lottery?


No sir, they are certaine Collections out of learned and witty Authors, for all humours in an accomplished wit. Now sir, you must eate every one of hem one by one.


How, eate 'hem?


I ease 'hem, and you shall find they will produce effects as various, as the qualities or conditions out of whom they were collected: now therefore off with your Hat and Cloake, kneele downe with a strong beliefe, imagination, and attention — you two stand to keepe him in that equall posture I shall set him; so, now first with a Scholastique Inspiration: somewhat of a hard digesti∣on, as—

"Dulcia non meruit qui non gustavit amara.


O 'twill never downe, I shall be choakt with it.


My life Sir we'll helpe it downe—here—so—feare not, I warrant you—is it downe?




How is it sir?


O 'twas so sweete at first, and so abhominable bitter at the last—


Why there you relish the conceit sir: for the interpreta∣tion of it is; Hee deserves not sweete, that has not tasted bitter.


I have tasted a bitter one; now pray let the next be a sweet one.


According as we see this work: 'thas a present operation—How doe you feele your selfe inclin'd?


Oh I cou'd quarrell about the Etymologie of words, fight about Syllables, and Orthography, chop Logique with my Father, Write Tragedies and Comedies by the grosse: and my fingers itch at an Hen-roost.


'Thas wrought bravely, the direct symptomes of an University wit: now for the inspiration of a confident Poeticall wit.


Pray pick out the hard words, if there be any.


There's none in this — you shall heare it.

"This from our Author I was bid to say,

"By Iove 'tis good; and if you lik't you may. [my note – from Ben Jonson’s _Cynthia’s Revels_]


Ile tell you how I like it presently.


Come sir, downe with it—


So, this past with ease—


How doe you find your selfe affected now?


Oh that I were in a Play-house—I wou'd tell the whole Audience of their pittifull, Hereticall, Criticall humours—Let a man, striving to enrich his labours, make himselfe as poore as a broken Citizen, that dares not so much as shew the tips on's Hornes: yet will these people crye it downe, they know not why: One loves high language, though he understands it not; another whats obscaene, to move the blood, not spleene: a third, whose wit lyes all in his gall, must have a Satyre: a fourth man all ridiculous: and the fift man not knowing what to have, grounds his opinion on the next man ith' formall Ruffe; and so many heads, so many severall humours; and yet the poor Poet must find waies to please 'hem all.


It workes strangely.


But when they shal come to feed on the Offalls of wit, have nothing for their money but a Drumme, a Fooles Coat, and Gunpowder; see Comedies, more ridiculous than a Morrice dance; and for their Tragedies, about at Cudgells were a brave Battalia to 'hem: Oh Phoebus, Phoebus, what will this world come to?


'Fore Iove, it has wrought most strangely—Tis well here we're none but friends—how doe you sir?


Ah! pretty, pretty, sure I have talked extravagantly, Gentlemen have I not?


I indeed have you; 'tis of a delicate operation: Now sir, you shall have a valiant inspiration to confront your enemy, or rivall in your Mistresses favour—In this paper is the expiring breath of a great warriour, the last words he utter'd.

"—Farewell light,

"Tis fit the world should weare eternall night.


Why this will kill me sure.


No, hold him fast—tis of a strong operation—So, chew it well, feare nothing—Now it is downe: how is't?

He breakes violently from them.


Let me goe, let me goe, the world's too narrow to confine me: Ile mount the skies, snatch Ioves three-fold lightning from his hand, dart it at the World, and reduc't againe to its first desolate Chaos, drye up the Sea with fire of my rage, and puffe mens soules away.


We must change this humour: Ile now beleeve a strong imagination's witch-craft: force downe another; read it first: What is't? hold him fast.


"Enter these Armes, and since thou thoughtst it best,

"Not to dreame all my dreame, lets act the rest.


A fit one, a wanton lovers rapture: give it him, thrust it downe: So, he begins to yield; how is't.


O what have you gi'n me now?


Onely to inspire you with a wanton art to winne your Mistris.


Tis wonderfull provocative, believe me: sure it came out of Ovids-Ars-Amandi: *oh for the book of Venus and Adonis, to Court my Mistris by: I cou'd dye, I cou'd dye in the Eli-zi-um of her Armes: no sweets to those of Love: O Love, love, thy flames will burne me up to dust and ashes*.


We must quench your flames— Pinch him hard.




Harder yet.



What doe you doe? what doe you? Alas all's downe againe;

I am as cold as a Cucumber.


So, I beleeve you are sufficiently prepared:

Now we will invoke the goddesse Minerva— kneele,

Downe with your face to the west: harken with

Attention to what she shall say or request, and be sure to performe it —So, 'tis well.


Does she come yet?


No, no, he must invoak first.


Thou sacred goddesse of Joves brave begot,

walk round about him.

Descend to earth, and here make fast the knot

We humble Mortalls have begunne to tye,

And we'll adore thy glorious Deity.


O me, O.

Soft Musick. Enter Flavia drest like Minerva with a Violl of Water.


Who calls Minerva from the Starry Court?


Oh 'twas he Lady.


We know the full effects of your desire,

It is this noble youth with wit t'inspire:

Then downe his throat this sacred drinke compell,

Tis , SALT and water from the MUSES WELL.




Now let him offer gold to our dispose,

And all's confirm'd with this one pluck by th'nose.



Cynthia’s Revels, Ben Jonson

Amorphus. That's good, but how Pythagorical?

Phi. I, Amorphus. Why Pythagorical Breeches?

Amor. O most kindly of all, 'tis a CONCEIT of that FORTUNE,

I am bold to hug my Brain for.

Pha. How is't, exquisite Amorphus?

Amor. O, I am rapt with it, 'tis so fit, so proper,

so happy. --

Phi. Nay do not rack us thus?

Amor. I never truly relisht my self before. Give me

your Ears. Breeches Pythagorical, by reason of their trans-

migration into several shapes.

Mor. Most rare, in sweet troth.


Oldham, on Jonson


Let meaner spirits stoop to low precarious Fame,

Content on gross and coarse Applause to live,

And what the dull, and sensless Rabble give,

Thou didst it still with noble scorn contemn,

Nor would'st that wretched Alms receive,

The poor subsistence of some BANKRUPT, SORDID NAME:

Thine was no EMPTY VAPOR, RAIS’D beneath,

And form'd of common Breath,

The false, and foolish Fire, that's whisk'd about

By popular Air, and glares a while, and then GOES OUT...


obscenus (Latin)

Origin & history

Uncertain. Usually derived from Proto-Indo-European *ḱʷeyn- ("to soil; mud; filth"). According to Pokorny, cognate with inquinō, caenum, cūniō and whin.

Alternative forms

    • obscaenus


obscēnus (feminine obscēna, neuter obscēnum)

    1. inauspicious, ominous, portentous

    2. repulsive, offensive, abominable, hateful, disgusting, filthy

    3. immodest, impure, indecent, lewd, obscene


E  P  I  G  R  A  M  S .  JONSON


PLAYWRIGHT me reads, and still my verses damns,

He says I want the tongue of epigrams ;

I have no SALT, no bawdry he doth mean ;

For witty, in his language, is OBSCENE.

Playwright, I loath to have thy manners known

In my chaste book ; I profess them in thine own. 


William Cartwright:

...Shakespeare to thee was DULL, whose best jest lyes

I'th Ladies questions, and the Fooles replyes;

Old fashion'd wit, which walkt from town to town

In turn'd Hose, which our fathers call'd the CLOWN;

Whose wit our nice times would obsceannesse call,

And which made Bawdry passe for Comicall:

Nature was all his Art, thy veine was FREE

As his, but without his SCURILITY;


Cartwright, William, Jonsonus Virbius

...Blest life of Authors, unto whom we owe

Those that we have, and those that we want too:

Th'art all so good, that reading makes thee worse,

And to have writ so well's thine onely curse.

Secure then of thy merit, thou didst hate

That servile base dependance upon fate:

Successe thou ne'r thoughtst vertue, nor that fit,

Which chance, and th'ages fashion did make hit;

*Excluding those from life in after-time*,

Who into Po'try first brought luck and rime:

Who thought the peoples breath good ayre: sty'ld name

What was but noise; and getting Briefes for fame

Gathered the many's suffrages, and thence


THY thoughts were their owne Lawrell, and did win

That best applause of being crown'd within..  


Jonson, A Speech according to Horace.

And could (if our great Men would let their Sons

   Come to their Schools,) show 'em the use of Guns.

And there instruct the noble English Heirs

   In Politick, and Militar Affairs;

But he that should perswade, to have this done

   For Education of our Lordings; Soon

Should he hear of Billow, Wind, and Storm,

   From the *Tempestuous Grandlings*, who'll inform

Us, in our bearing, that are thus, and thus,

   Born, bred, allied? what's he dare tutor us?

Are we by Book-worms to be aw'd? must we

   Live by their Scale, that dare do nothing free?

Why are we Rich, or Great, except to show

   All licence in our Lives? What need we know?

More then to praise a Dog? or Horse? or speak

   The Hawking Language? or our Day to break

With Citizens? let Clowns, and Tradesmen breed

   Their Sons to study Arts, the Laws, the Creed:

We will believe like Men of our own Rank,

   In so much Land a year, or such a Bank,

That turns us so much Monies, at which rate

   Our Ancestors impos'd on Prince and State.

Let poor Nobility be vertuous: We,

   Descended in a Rope of Titles, be

From Guy, or Bevis, Arthur, or from whom

   The Herald will. Our Blood is now become,

Past any need of Vertue. Let them care,

   That in the Cradle of their Gentry are;

To serve the State by Councels, and by Arms:

   We neither love the Troubles, nor the harms.

What love you then? your Whore? what study? Gate,

   Carriage, and Dressing. There is up of late

The Academy, where the Gallants meet ——

   What to make Legs? yes, and to smell most sweet,

All that they do at Plays. O, but first here

   They learn and study; and then practise there.

But why are all these Irons i' the Fire

   Of several makings? helps, helps, t' attire

His Lordship. That is for his Band, his Hair

   This, and that Box his Beauty to repair;

This other for his Eye-brows; hence, away,

   I may no longer on these Pictures stay,

These Carkasses of Honour; Taylors blocks,

   Cover'd with Tissue, whose prosperity mocks

The fate of things: whilst totter'd Vertue holds

   Her broken Arms up, to their EMPTY Moulds.


His WIT was in his own Power, would the RULE OF IT had been so, too

De Shakspeare nostrat.—Augustus in Hat.—I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakspeare, that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line.  My answer hath been, “Would he had blotted a thousand,” which they thought a malevolent speech.  I had not told posterity this but for their ignorance who chose that circumstance to commend their friend by wherein he most faulted; and to justify mine own candour, for I loved the man, and do honour his memory on this side idolatry as much as any.  He was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free nature, had an excellent phantasy, brave notions, and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed with that facility that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped.  “Sufflaminandus erat,” [47a] as Augustus said of Haterius.  His wit was in his own power; would the rule of it had been so, too.  Many times he fell into those things, could not escape laughter, as when he said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him, “Cæsar, thou dost me wrong.”  He replied, “Cæsar did never wrong but with just cause;” and such like, which were ridiculous.  But he redeemed his vices with his virtues.  There was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoned.


Edward de Vere – meres? Best for comedy


Mirth Making. The Rhetorical Discourse on Jesting in Early Modern England

Chris Holcomb

...Associations between social status and certain forms of jesting appear as early as the Nicomachean Ethics, where Aristotle classifies different modes of jesting according to three social types: the boor, the buffoon, and the witty man of tact. Aristotle has little to say about boorish men except that they never say "anything funny themselves and take offense at those who do" (4.8.3) Instead, Aristotle dwells on differences between the buffoon and man of wit, and in differentiating these two social types, he associates indecorous jests with those of the lower-class buffoon and decorous ones with those of a gentleman. 'Those who go to excess in ridicule are thought to be buffoons or VULGAR FELLOWS, who itch to have their joke at all costs, and are more concerned to raise a laugh than to keep within the bounds of decorum' (4.8.3). The buffoon often jests in a 'servile' and often obscene fashion (4.8.5-6), he 'cannot resist a joke,' he will 'not keep his tongue off himself or anyone else, if he can raise a laugh,' and he 'will say things which a man of refinement would never say' (4.8.10). Those 'who jest with good taste,' by contrast, will say 'only the sort of things that are suitable to a virtuous man and a gentleman; (4.8.5). They prefer to jest by way of 'innuendo, which marks a great advance in decorum,' and they will never stoop so low in their jesting as to say anything 'unbecoming to a gentleman' (4.8.6-7). The line Aristotle draws here is not simply one between the indecorous and decorous; it is also one between the lower and upper classes. And while Aristotle couches his distinctions in more or less descriptive (although elitist) terms, they do have prescriptive force. If a speaker is to show himself as a 'man of refinement,' he must limit his jesting behaviours and avoid the excesses of the buffoon.

Cicero and Quintilian adopt Aristotle's method of classifying decorous and indecorous jests along class lines, and they both use the buffoon and well-bred man of tact to define forms of jesting befitting an orator (the boor, as often happens in everyday life, is left out of their discussions of jesting). But they add to the ranks of the buffoon (or SCURRA, in Latin) a cast of characters familiar from the Roman stage, street performances, and entertainments provided at a gentleman's dinner party - characters including the mime (mimus), pantomime (ethologus), and clown (sannio). Cicero says that 'an orator must avoid each of two dangers: he must not let his jesting become buffoonery or mere mimicking (scurrilis...aut mimicus)' (2.58.239). Like Aristotle's buffoon, the Latin scurra violates proprieties of time. Cicero says he jests "from morning to night, and without any reason at all" (2.60.245). He also shows no restraint in his selection of objects of ridicule, and his jests, like a scattergun, will often strike 'unintended victims' (2.60.245). He will even turn himself into an object of ridicule if he thinks he can raise a laugh (Quintilian, 6.3.82). Most important, the scurra is a member of the lower classes, a parasite who would often perform at a gentleman's dinner party for table scraps, and his antics almost always bespoke his lowly position. For all of these reasons, especially the last, Cicero and Quintilian repeatedly insist that orators avoid all likeness to buffoons, and toward this end, they offer a set of strictures limiting the jesting practices of orators so that those practices accord with the orator's gentlemanly status. With respect to proprieties of time, Cicero says, "Regard then to occasions, control and restraint of our actual raillery, and economy in bon-mots, will distinguish an orator from a buffoon (oratorem a scurra)" (2.60.247). As we have seen, orators should also be careful in their selection of comic butts and avoid targeting the excessively wretched or wicked and the well-beloved. Moreover, they must never turn themselves into objects of laughter for, as Quintilian says, "To make jokes against oneself is scarcely fit for any save professed buffoons and is strongly to be disapproved in an orator" (6.3.82). Presumable, orators should keep the audience's laughter off themselves and direct it only at their opponents. Above all, the orator should only jest in ways that befit a gentleman or liberalis. He should avoid obscenities in his jesting, which are 'not only degrading to a pubic speaker, but also hardly sufferable at a gentleman's dinner party (convivio liberorum)' (De oratore, 2.61.252), and 'scurrilous or brutal jests, although they may raise a laugh, are quite unworthy of a gentlman (liberali)' (Quintilian, 6.3.83). In an allusion to his famous formulation or the orator as a GOOD MAN, or vir bonus, skilled in speaking, Quintilian sums up his attitudes toward buffoonery, a summation that will serve for Cicero's views on the subject as well: 'A good man (vir bonus) will see that everything he says is consistent with his dignity and the respectability of his character (dignitate ac verecundia); for we pay too dear for the laugh we raise if it is at the cost of our own integrity (probitatis)' (6.3.35). (Holcomb,pp.39-40)



Latin probitas HONESTY, probity, uprightness. 


"To My Book" by Ben Jonson

It will be looked for, book, when some but see

Thy title, Epigrams, and named of me,

Thou should'st be bold, licentious, full of gall,

Wormwood, and sulphur, sharp, and toothed withal;

Become a petulant thing, hurl ink, and wit,

As madmen stones: not caring whom they hit.

Deceive their malice, who could wish it so.

And by thy wiser temper, let men know

Thou are not covetous of least self-fame.

Made from the hazard of another's shame:

Much less with lewd, profane, and beastly phrase,

To catch the world's loose laughter, or VAIN gaze.

*He that DEPARTS with his own HONESTY

For VULGAR PRAISE, doth it too dearly buy.* 


Rhodri Lewis:

...the visionary quality of the furor poeticus was by definition irrational, and easily contaminated by the threat of ‘enthusiasm’; as there was Restoration consensus that the civil wars had been the product of enthusiastic speech and writing, this contamination was fatal. Consequently, the imitative model of poetics – and with it, translation – came to have a new prestige and cultural importance as an antidote to such anxieties: in CONSTRAINING the poet’s FREEDOM to ERR, it was seen as doing important meta-literary work, and conferred an intrinsic mutuality on the literary enterprise:


Constraining/Holding/Ruling Shakespeare's Sublime Quill:

From To the Deceased Author of these Poems (William Cartwright)

by Jasper Mayne

For thou to Nature had'st joyn'd Art, and skill.

In Thee Ben Johnson still HELD SHAKESPEARE'S QUILL:

A QUILL, RUL'D by sharp Judgement, and such Laws,

As a well studied Mind, and Reason draws.

Thy Lamp was cherish'd with suppolied of Oyle,

Fetch'd from the Romane and the Graecian soyle. (snip) 


His WIT was in his own Power, would the RULE OF IT had been so, too – Jonson on Shakespeare's



(In the difference of wits, note 10)

Not. 10.--It cannot but come to pass that these men who commonly

seek to do more than enough may sometimes happen on something that

is good and great; but very seldom: and when it comes it doth not

recompense the rest of their ill. For their jests, and their

sentences (which they only and ambitiously seek for) stick out, and

are more eminent, because all is sordid and vile about them; as

lights are more discerned in a thick darkness than a faint shadow.

Now, because they speak all they can (however unfitly), they are

thought to have the greater copy; where the learned use ever

election and a mean, they look back to what they intended at first,

and <>

The true artificer will

not run away from NATURE as he were AFRAID of her, or depart from

life and the likeness of truth, but speak to the capacity of his

hearers. And though his language differ from the vulgar somewhat,

it shall not fly from all humanity, with the Tamerlanes and Tamer-

chains of the late age, which had nothing in them but the scenical

strutting and furious vociferation to warrant them to the ignorant

gapers. He knows it is his only art so to carry it, as none but

artificers perceive it. In the meantime, perhaps, he is called

barren, dull, lean, a poor writer, or by what contumelious word can

come in their cheeks, by these men who, without labour, judgment,

knowledge, or almost sense, are received or preferred before him.

He gratulates them and their fortune. Another age, or juster men,

will acknowledge the virtues of his studies, his wisdom in dividing,

his subtlety in arguing, with what strength he doth inspire his

readers, with what sweetness he strokes them; in inveighing, what

sharpness; in jest, what urbanity he uses; how he doth reign in

men's affections; how invade and break in upon them, and makes their

minds like the thing he writes. Then in his elocution to behold

what word is proper, which hath ornaments, which height, what is

beautifully translated, where figures are fit, which gentle, which

strong, to show the composition manly; and how he hath avoided

faint, obscure, obscene, sordid, humble, improper, or effeminate

phrase; which is not only praised of the most, but commended (which

is worse), especially for that it is naught.


Shakespeare, Show and Seeming:

(seems to shake a lance)

Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to SHOW

To whom all SCENES of Europe homage owe. (scene - painted cloth)

He was not of an age, but for all Time !



Trophaeum Peccati - On Recorder of Stratford Greville's monument in Warwick


SERVANT to Queene Elizabeth

Conceller to King James

Frend to Sir Philip Sidney.



Greville, _Dedication_:

...Neither am I (for my part) so much in love with this life, nor believe so little in a better to come, as to complain of God for taking him [Sidney], and such like exorbitant worthyness from us: fit (as it were by an Ostracisme) to be divided, and not incorporated with our corruptions: yet for the sincere affection I bear to my Prince, and Country, my prayer to God is, that this *Worth*, and Way may not fatally be buried with him; in respect, that both before his time, and since, experience hath published the usuall discipline of greatnes to have been tender of it self onely; making HONOUR a triumph, or rather TROPHY OF DESIRE, set up in the eyes of Mankind, either to be worshiped as IDOLS, or else as Rebels to perish under her glorious oppressions. *Notwithstanding, when the pride of flesh, and power of favour shall cease in these by death, or disgrace; what then hath time to register, or fame to publish in these great mens names, that will not be offensive, or infectious to others? What Pen without blotting can write the story of their deeds? Or what Herald blaze their Arms without a blemish? And as for their counsels and projects, when they come once to light, shall they not live as noysome, and loathsomely above ground, as their Authors carkasses lie in the grave? So as the return of such greatnes to the world, and themselves, can be but private reproach, publique ill example, and a fatall scorn to the Government they live in. Sir Philip Sidney is none of this number; for the greatness which he affected was built upon true *Worth*; esteeming Fame more than Riches, and Noble actions far above Nobility it self.


SONNET 72 - Shakespeare

O, lest the world should task you to recite

What merit lived in me, that you should love

After my death, -- dear love, forget me quite,

For you in me can NOTHING WORTHY prove;

Unless you would devise some virtuous lie,

To do more for me than mine own desert,

And hang more praise upon deceased I

Than niggard truth would willingly impart:

O, lest your true love may seem false in this,

That you for love speak well of me untrue,

My name be buried where my body is,

And live no more to shame nor me nor you.

   For I am sham'd by that which I bring forth,

   And so should you, to love things NOTHING WORTH. 


Greville, __A Dedication to Sir Philip Sidney_

“I conceived an Historian was bound to tell nothing but the truth, but to tell all truths were both justly to wrong, and offend not only princes and States, but to blemish, and stir up himself, the frailty and tenderness, not only of particular men, but of many Families, with the spirit of an Athenian Timon.” 


Tyrants allow of no scope, stamp, or standard, but their own WILL (Greville):

Infected Will:

Sidney - Neither let it be deemed too bold a comparison to balance the highest point of man's WIT with the efficacy of nature; but rather give right honor to the heavenly maker of that maker, who having made man to his own likeness, set him beyond and over all the work of that second nature, which in nothing he shows so much as in poetry, when with the force of a divine breath he brings things forth far surpassing her doings, with no small argument to the incredulous of that first accursed fall of Adam, since our erected WIT makes us know what perfection is, but our infected will keeps us from reaching unto it. 

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Authorship, Shake-speare and the Essex Rebellion

 I have had the good fortune to find an essay that collects in one place many of the words and concepts I have been exploring – ideas that may explain why the Earl of Oxford chose to divorce his name from that of his intellectual heir Shake-speare. The ‘culture wars’ of the Elizabethan court and city of London appear to have been fought just as vigorously in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries as in later periods although the conflict appears to have been mostly covert. Ben Jonson, who established many of the terms that figure in this more general and sustained Poets’ War, aggressively positioned himself a court critic and an arbiter of literary manners and mores – and as a figure who could mediate between city and court with a neoclassical program of rules and literary laws derived from his studies. In Cynthia’s Revels and the figure of Amorphus, the Deformed [Oxford], Jonson makes his most sustained attack on courtly foibles and trifles in an attempt to reform the manners of the court and to lower the tension between court and city following the Essex Rebellion. The rising of Essex and in particular his effort to solicit the aid of the City of London in his attempt to overturn the corruptions of the court would have put courtly makers such as the Earl of Oxford in the position of being an intolerable political liability. Poetic styles and courtly manners were often regarded as reliable indicators of ethics and temperaments; and the mysterious beauties of wit and fancy – the ineffable je- ne-sais-quois of aristocratic identity – became indefensible in the harsh realities of a destabilized reign. 

As the loyal turtle dove forever immolates himself on the nest of the Phoenix in Chester’s ‘Love’s Martyr’ – in my mind’s eye - Oxford withdraws himself from the factional fray and any suggestion that his manners and forms may have brought shame or instability to his Queen and her court. 

O lest the world should task you to recite

What merit lived in me that you should love

After my death, dear love, forget me quite,

For you in me can nothing worthy prove;

Unless you would devise some virtuous lie,

To do more for me than mine own desert,

And hang more praise upon deceasèd I

Than niggard truth would willingly impart.

O lest your true love may seem false in this,

That you for love speak well of me untrue,

My name be buried where my body is,

And live no more to shame nor me nor you.

  For I am shamed by that which I bring forth,

  And so should you, to love things nothing worth.


Melville – Captain Edward Fairfax Vere and the Sacrifice of Billy Budd/Beauty during a period of political crisis


The Making of the Subject of the Leviathan By Miloš Petrović 

(...)Only that [English Literature] which is capable of registering even the slightest social wobble could make sense of—and communicate—changes in something so elusive as one’s conception and experience of oneself. That is why literature, with its deep layers of significance, is particularly suited to our analysis. More than the works of Hobbes or Locke, it is the plays and poetry of England that could grasp the subtlety of the important changes that were by the turn of the eighteenth century [seventeenth for Oxford/Court/Wit and Jonson/City/Sense] becoming as much proper to man’s inner life as they were to his dealings with others. What literature seemed to have registered this time around was, in fact, so dramatic that it would transform English literature itself, its codes and canons, as well as the social map of the land. This refers, most immediately, to those great disputes in England—the early eighteenth century culture wars—which were fought, among other things, at least on the surface of it, over the question of the essential element in a successful literary creation. Already in full sway by the end of the seventeenth century, these disputes involved the rebellious city of London on the one hand, which sought to define the essence of poetry in terms of “sense” (judgment, intellect, mind), and those grouped around the royal court on the other, who defended the older definition of poetry as essentially an expression of “wit” (fancy, imagination, or taste). The latter praised wit as “a capacity for wide-ranging speculation that soars above man’s necessities and desires… a flame and agitation of soul that little minds and men of action cannot comprehend.” They deemed it “the purest element, and swiftest motion of the brain,” “the essence of thoughts” that “encircles all things.” They saw in it genius—transcendent, inscrutable, unattainable by reason—as opposed to mere learning, a “grace beyond the reach of art,” a “radiant spark of heavenly fire,” the furor poeticus pure and simple. Like a “power divine,” which could be defined only negatively, wit was deemed the mysterious core of poetry. The critics of poetry founded on wit, on the other hand, condemned it as unwarrantably elitist. They read in it nothing but verbal ingenuity, emptiness wrapped in extravagant language, in ingenious metaphors, puns and paradoxes, in virtuosic turns of phrase, in epigrams, and replete with alliterations, anagrams, and acrostics: “nothing but the froth and ferment of the soul, beclouding reason and sinking rational pursuits into the miasma of fantasy,” an art “which pleased by confounding truth and deceiving men.” Florid, whimsical, and flamboyant, facetious and frivolous, smacking of airy sophistication and the desire to surprise and startle, in constant search of mystical resemblance, all “wit-writing” became suspect and was subjected to criticism as a likely enemy to all goodness and decency, let alone to true poetry. Such writing was said to disperse rather than comprehend. It profaned, it vulgarized, it thrived on obscenity. It produced false pleasure. It was excessive and lame, its only purpose being to amuse. It condescended, and those who practiced it wrote, as Samuel Johnson would later put it, “rather as beholders than partakers of human nature; as beings looking upon good and evil, impassive and at leisure; as Epicurean deities, making remarks on the actions of men, and the vicissitudes of life, without interest and without emotion.” This was clearly then, in the eyes of the rebellious city, not merely a war between two aesthetic conceptions, debating, say, the relationship between style and subject-matter, or art and morality, but more generally a war between ideas and mere words, between argument and elocution, reason and mystification, sense and nonsense, learning and mere posturing. Involving most of the leading literary figures of the time, and narrated famously by Daniel Defoe as a mockheroic account of a battle between Britannia’s warlike sons (“The Men of Sense against the Men of Wit, eternal Fighting must determine it…”), the rebellion of City against wit was seen by its protagonists as a necessary part of a wider moral reform and a defense of traditional English virtue undermined by aristocratic immodesty and dissoluteness. The divide between the poetic sense and wit was so deeply felt to be a symptom of a wider social divide and part of a profound change in the sensibilities of English society itself, that Defoe could, in the end, reduce its meaning quite simply to two alternative ways of ruling Britain (“Wit is a king without a Parliament, and sense a democratic government”), with one commentator calling it an outright war “between Cheapside and Covent Garden, between City and Court, between bourgeoisie and aristocracy.” This was the culmination of a long literary controversy, which at its core was fought over the sort of individual that was to stand at the center of English literature, not only as its subject, but as its generative principle, a principle of taste, an ideal, and a measure of right tone. More importantly, it was the ground upon which a much larger battle was being fought between different conceptions of what it meant to be an individual in the course of the seventeenth century. The struggle was over the sort of individual that ought to be the generative principle of not only the English society, but of any human society in general. 

This struggle is the object of our present concern. 

This struggle is the object of our present concern
Men of Wit/Fancy - Men of Sense/Judgement:

In a copy of the First Folio now at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the following poem is written in a hybrid secretary-italic hand from the 1620s:

Heere Shakespeare lyes whome none but Death could Shake

and heere shall ly till JUDGEMENT all awake;

when the last trumpet doth unclose his eyes

the WITTIEST poet in the world shall rise. 


The Inclinations of Men, in this their degenerate State, carry them with great Force to those voluptuous Objects, that please their Appetites and gratify their Senses; and which not only by their early Acquaintance and Familiarity, but as they are adapted to the prevailing Instincts of Nature, are more esteem'd and pursu'd than all other Satisfactions. As those inferior Enjoyments, that only affect the Organs of the Body are chiefly coveted, so next to these, that light and facetious Qualification of the Mind, that diverts the Hearers and is proper to produce Mirth and Alacrity, has, in all Ages, by the greatest Part of Mankind, been admir'd and applauded. No Productions of Human Understanding are receiv'd with such a general Pleasure and Approbation, as those that abound with Wit and Humour, on which the People set a greater Value, than on the wisest and most instructive Discourses. Hence a pleasant Man is always caress'd above a wise one, and Ridicule and Satyr, that entertain the Laughers, often put solid Reason and useful Science out of Countenance. The wanton Temper of the Nation has been gratify'd so long with the high Seasonings of Wit and Raillery in Writing and Conversation, that now almost all Things that are not accommodated to their Relish by a strong Infusion of those Ingredients, are rejected as the heavy and insipid Performances of Men of a plain Understanding and meer Masters of Sense.
Since the Power of Wit is so prevalent, and has obtained such Esteem and Popularity, that a Man endow'd with this agreeable Quality, is by many look'd on as a Heavenly Being, if compar'd with others, who have nothing but Learning and a clear arguing Head; it will be worth the while to search into its Nature, and examine its Usefulness, and take a View of those fatal Effects which it produces, when it happens to be misapply'd.
Tho perhaps the Talent which we call Wit, like that of Humour, is as clearly understood by its simple Term, as by the most labour'd Description; an Argument or which is this, That many ingenious Persons, by their unsuccessful Essays to explain it, have rather obscur'd than illustrated its Idea; I will notwithstanding adventure to give the Definition of it, which tho it may fall short of Perfection, yet I imagine, will come nearer to it, than any that has yet appear'd. Wit is a Qualification of the Mind, that raises and enlivens cold Sentiments and plain Propositions, by giving them an elegant and surprizing Turn.
It is evident, that Wit cannot essentially consist in the Justness and Propriety of the Thoughts, that is, the Conformity of our Conceptions to the Objects we conceive; for this is the Definition of Truth, when taken in a Physical Sense; nor in the Purity of Words and Expression, for this may be eminent in the Cold, Didactick Stile, and in the correct Writers of History and Philosophy: But Wit is that which imparts Spirit to our Conceptions and Diction, by giving them a lively and novel, and therefore an agreeable Form: And thus its Nature is limited and diversify'd from all other intellectual Endowments. Wit therefore is the Accomplishment of a warm, sprightly, and fertile Imagination, enrich'd with great Variety of proper Ideas; which active Principle is however under the Direction of a regular Judgment, that takes care of the Choice of just and suitable Materials, prescribes to the tighter Faculties the due Bounds of their Sport and Activity, and assists and guides them, while they imprint on the Conceptions of the Mind their peculiar and delightful Figures. The Addition of Wit to proper Subjects, is like the artful Improvement of the Cook, who by his exquisite Sauce gives to a plain Dish, a pleasant and unusual Relish. A Man of this Character works on simple Proportions a rich Embroidery of Flowers and Figures, and imitates the curious Artist, who studs and inlays his prepar'd Steel with Devices of Gold and Silver. But Wit is not only the Improvement of a plain Piece by intellectual Enameling; besides this, it animates and warms a cold Sentiment, and makes it glow with Life and Vigor; and this it effects, as is express'd in the last Part of the Definition, by giving it as elegant and surprizing Turn. It always conveys the Thought of the Speaker or Writer cloath'd in a pleasing, but foreign Dress, in which it never appear'd to the Hearer before, who however had been long acquainted with it; and this Appearance in the Habit of a Stranger must be admirable, since Surprize naturally arises from Novelty, as Delight and Wonder result from Surprize; which I have more fully explain'd in the former Essay.
As to its efficient Cause; Wit owes its Production to an extraordinary and peculiar Temperament in the Constitution of the Possessors of it, in which is found a Concurrence of regular and exalted Ferments, and an Affluence of Animal Spirits refin'd and rectify'd to a great degree of Purity; whence being endow'd with Vivacity, Brightness and Celerity, as well in their Reflexions as direct Motions, they become proper Instruments for the sprightly Operations of the Mind; by which means the Imagination can with great Facility range, the wide Field of Nature, contemplate an infinite Variety of Objects, and by observing the Similitude and Disagreement of their several Qualities, single out and abstract, and then suit and unite those Ideas, which will best serve its purpose. Hence beautiful Allusions, surprizing Metaphors and admirable Sentiments are always ready at hand: And while the Fancy is full of Images collected from innumerable Objects and their different Qualities, Relations and Habitudes, it can at pleasure dress a common Notion in a strange, but becoming Garb; by which, as before observ'd, the same Thought will appear a new one, to the great Delight and Wonder of the Hearer. What we call Genius results from this particular happy Complexion in the first Formation of the Person that enjoys it, and is Nature's Gift, but diversify'd by various specifick Characters and Limitations, as its active Fire is blended and allay'd by different Proportions of Phlegm, or reduc'd and regulated by the Contrast of opposite Ferments. Therefore as there happens in the Composition of a facetious Genius a greater or less, tho still an inferior degree of Judgment and Prudence, and different Kinds of Instincts and Passions, one Man of Wit will be vary'd and distinguish'd from another. That Distinction that seems common to Persons of this Denomination, is an inferior Degree of Wisdom and Discretion; and tho these two Qualities, Wit and Discretion, are almost incapable of a friendly Agreement, and will not, but with great Difficulty, be work'd together and incorporated in the Constitution of any Individual; yet this Observation is not so conspicuous in any, as in those, whose native Complexion comes the nearest to a Subversion and Absence of Mind, tho it should never degenerate into that distemper'd Elevation of the Spirits: Nothing is more common, than to see Persons of this Class always Think Right, and always Act Wrong; admirable for the richness, delicacy, and brightness of their Imaginations, and at the same Time to be pity'd for their want of Prudence and common Sense; abounding with excellent Maxims and instructive Sentiments, which however are not of the least Use to themselves in the Conduct of their Lives. And hence it is certain, that tho the Gentlemen of a pleasant and witty Turn of Mind often make the industrious Merchant, and grave Persons of all Professions, the Subjects of their Raillery, and expose them as stupid Creatures, not supportable in good Company; yet these in their Turn believe they have as great a right, as indeed they have, to reproach the others for want of Industry, good Sense, and regular Oeconomy, much more valuable Talents than those, which any mere Wit can boast of; and therefore wise Parents, who from a tender Concern for the Honour and Happiness of their Children, earnestly desire they may excel in intellectual Endowments, should, instead of refin'd Parts and a Genius turn'd for pleasant Conversation, wish them a solid Understanding and a Faculty of close and clear Reasoning, these Qualifications being likely to make them good Men, and the other only good Companions.
And this leads to another Observation, namely, That Persons of facetious Talents and agreeable Humour, in whose Temperament, Judgment, and Discretion, as before observ'd, are usually found in a disproportionate Measure, are more inclin'd than others to Levity and dissolute Manners: The same swiftness of Thought and sprightliness of Imagination, that qualifies them for ingenious Conversation, Sports of Fancy and Comick Writing, do likewise give them an exquisite Taste of sensual Pleasures, and expose them to the prevailing Power of Tempting, tho forbidden Enjoyments. The Passions and Appetites of these Men, from the same Spring from whence they derive their extraordinary Parts, that is, a Redundancy of warm and lively Spirits, are more violent and impatient of Restraint, than those in a cooler and less active Complexion, who however may be more eminent in the superior Faculties of the Mind: Hence it will be no wonder, that while their Propensions to Pleasure are much stronger, and their Reason much weaker than those of other Men, they should be less able than others, to resist the Allurements of criminal Delights; and this Remark is confirm'd by daily Experience. How few of this facetious and comick Species of Men, caress'd and applauded for their shining Parts and witty Discourses, escape the Snares that encompass them, and preserve their Vertue and Sobriety of Manners? It too often happens, that a Man elevated above the rest by his uncommon Genius, is as much distinguish'd by his extraordinary Immorality: And it would be well if it stop'd here; but by degrees he often grows much worse, by adding Impiety and Profaneness to Looseness of Manners: For being unable, that is, having a moral Impotence of Will to restrain his evil Propensions and govern his vicious Appetites, and finding his guilty Enjoyments, attended with inward Uneasiness and unavoidable Remorse, and being conscious that his irregular Life is inconsistent with Safety and Happiness in a Future State; to remove the troublesome Misgivings of his Mind from the Apprehensions of Guilt here, and rid himself of the Fears of Suffering hereafter, he at length disclaims the Belief of a Supream Being and a Future Existence, and with much ado brings over his Judgment to the side of his Passions: This ingenious Libertine, having too little strength of Reason to subdue his Appetites, and too much Wit to think, that if that be not done, he shall escape at last Divine Punishment, abolishes his Creed for the Quiet of his Mind, and renounces his God to preserve his Vices.


The Pacificator a poem.
Defoe, Daniel,

To whom shall we Apply, what Powers Invoke,
To deprecate the near impending stroke?
Ye Gods of Wit and Arts, their Minds inspire
With Thoughts of Peace, from your Pacifick Fire;
Engage some Neighbouring Powers to undertake
To Mediate Peace, for Dear Britannia's sake;
Pity the Mother rifl'd of her Charms,
And make her Sons lay down Intestine Arms.
Preliminary Treaties first begin,
And may short Truce a lasting Peace let in,
Limits to Wits Unbounded Ocean place,
To which it may, and may no farther pass;
Fathom the unknown Depths of sullen Sense,
And Purge it from its Pride, and Insolence,
Your secret Influences interpose,
And make them all dispatch their Plenipo's;
Appoint Parnassus for a Place to meet,
Where all the Potentates of Wit may Treat,
Around the Hill let Troops of Muses stand,
To keep the Peace, and Guard the Sacred Land;
There let the high Pretensions be discuss'd,
And Heaven the fatal Differences adjust.
Let either side abate of their Demands,
And both submit to Reason's high Commands,
For which way ere the Conquest shall encline,
The loss Britannia will at last be thine.
Wit, like a hasty Flood, may over-run us,
And too much Sense has oftentimes undone us:
Wit is a Flux, a Looseness of the Brain,
And Sense-abstract has too much Pride to Reign:
Wit-unconcoct is the Extreme of Sloth,
And too much Sense is the Extreme of both▪
Abstracted-wit 'tis own'd is a Disease,
But Sense-abstracted has no Power to please:
For Sense like Water is but Wit condense,
And Wit like Air is rarify'd from Sense:
Meer Sense is sullen, stiff, and unpolite,
Meer Wit is apoplectick, thin, and light:
*Wit is a King without a Parliament,
And Sense a Democratick Government:*
Wit, like the French, where e'r it reigns Destroys,
And Sense advanc'd is apt to Tyrannize:
Wit without Sense is like the Laughing-Evil,
And Sense unmix'd with Fancy is the D—l.
Wit is a Standing Army Government,
And Sense a sullen stubborn P—t:
Wit by its haste anticipates its Fate,
And so does Sense by being obstinate:
Wit without Sense in Verse is all but Farce,
Sense without Wit in Verse is all mine A—.
Wit, like the French, Performs before it Thinks,
And Thoughtful Sense without Performance sinks:
Sense without Wit is flegmatick and pale,
And is all Head, forsooth, without a Tail:
Wit without Sense is cholerick and red,
Has Tail enough indeed, but has no Head.
Wit, like the Jangling Chimes, Rings all in One,
Till Sense, the Artist, sets them into Tune:
Wit, like the Belly, if it be not Fed,
Will starve the Members, and distract the Head

Wit is the Fruitful Womb where Thoughts Conceive,
Sense is the Vital Heat which Life and Form must give:
Wit is the Teeming Mother brings them forth,
Sense is the Active Father gives them worth.
Vnited: Wit and Sense, makes Science thrive,
Divided: neither Wit nor Sense can live;
For while the Parties eagerly contend,
The Mortal Strife must in their Mutual Ruin end.
Listen, ye Powers, to Lost Britannia's Prayer,
And either side to yielding Terms Prepare;
And if their Cases long Debates admit,
As how much Condescention shall be fit,
How far Wits Jurisdiction shall extend,
And where the stated Bounds of Sense shall end,
Let them to some known Head that strife submit,
Some Judge Infallible, some Pope in Wit,
His Triple Seat place on Parnassus Hill,
And from his Sentence suffer no Appeal:
Let the Great Balance in his Censure be,
And of the Treaty make him Guarantee,
Let him be the Director of the State,
And what he says, let both sides take for Fate:
Apollo's Pastoral Charge to him commit,
And make him Grand Inquisitor of Wit,
Let him to each his proper Talent show,
And tell them what they can, or cannot do,
That each may chuse the Part he can do well,
And let the Strife be only to Excel: