the pleasant meadows between the Archery-ground and Islington. But the dwellers
at Hoxton have a long suburb to pass before they reach London. " I am sent for
this morning by a friend in the Old Jewry to come to him ; it is but crossing over
the fields to Moorgate." The Old Jewry presented the attraction of " the Wind-
mill " tavern ; and near it dwelt Cob, the waterman, by the wall at the bottom of
Coleman Street, " at the sign of the Water Tankard, hard by the Green Lattice."
Some thirty years after this we have in " The Tale of a Tub " a more extended
picture of suburban London. The characters move about in the fields near Pan-
cridge (Pancras), to Holloway, Highgate, Islington, Kentish Town, Hampstead,
St. John's Wood, Paddington, and Kilburn : Totten-Court is a mansion in the fields :
a robbery is pretended to be committed in " the ways over the country " between
Kentish Town and Hampstead Heath, and a warrant is granted by a " Marribone "
justice. In London the peculiarities of the streets become as familiar to us as the
names of the taverns. There is " a rare motion (puppet show) to be seen in Fleet
Street,"* and " a new motion of the city of Nineveh with Jonas and the Whale at
Fleet Bridge." t The Strand was the chief road for ladies to pass through in their
coaches ; and there Lafoole in the " Silent Woman " has a lodging, " to watch when
ladies are gone to the china-houses, or the Exchange, that he may meet them by
chance and give them presents." Cole-Harbour, in the Parish of All Hallows the
Less, is not so genteel it is a sanctuary for spendthrifts. Sir Epicure Mammon,
in " The Alchymist," would buy up all the copper in Lothbury ; and we hear of the
rabbit-skins of Budge Row and the stinking tripe of Panyer Alley, t At the bottom
of St. Martin's Lane was a nest of alleys (some remains of which existed within the
last thirty years) the resort of infamy in every shape. Jonson calls them " the
Straits," " where the quarrelling lesson is read," and the " seconds are bottle-ale and
tobacco." The general characteristics of the streets before the fire are not for-
gotten. In " The Devil is an Ass " the Lady and her lover speak closely and gently
from the windows of two contiguous buildings. Such are a few examples of the
local proprieties which constantly turn up in Jonson's dramas.
The personal relations in which this great dramatist stood in regard to his literary
compeers is not an unimportant chapter in the history of the social state. The
influence of men of letters even upon their own age is always great ; it is sometimes
all-powerful. In Jonson's time the pulpit and the stage were the teachers and the
inciters ; and the stage, taken altogether, was an engine of great power, either for
* " The Fox." f " Every Man out of his Humour." f " Bartholomew Fair." Ibid.
256 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV.
good or evil. In the hands of Shakspere and Jonson it is impossible to over-esti-
mate the good which it produced. The one carried men into the highest region of
lofty poetry (and the loftier because it was comprehensible by all), out of the narrow
range of their own petty passions and low gratifications : the other boldly lashed
the follies of individuals and classes, sometimes with imprudence, but always with
honesty. If others ministered to the low tastes and the intolerant prejudices of the
multitude, Jonson was ever ready to launch a bolt at them, fearless of the conse-
quences. No man ever laboured harder to uphold the dignity of letters, and of that
particular branch in which his labour was embarked. He was ardent in all he did ;
and of course he made many enemies. But his friendship was as warm as his
enmity. No man had more friends or more illustrious. He was the father of many
sons, to use the affectionate phrase which indicated the relation between the great
writer and his disciples. Jonson was always poor, often embarrassed ; but his
proper intellectual ascendancy over many minds was never doubted. Something of
this ascendancy may be attributed to his social habits.
In the year 1599, when Henslowe, according to his records, was lending Benjamin
Jonson twenty shillings, and thirty shillings, and other small sums, in earnest of this
play and that sometimes advanced to himself alone, oftener for works in which he
was joined with others he was speaking in his own person to the audiences of the
time with a pride which prosperity could not increase or adversity subdue. In " Every
Man out of his Humour," first acted in 1599, he thus delivers himself in the charac-
ter of " Asper, the Presenter :"
" If any here chance to behold himself,
Let him not dare to challenge me of wrong ;
For if he shame to have his follies known,
First he should shame to act 'em : my strict hand
Was made to seize on vice, and with a gripe
Squeeze out the humour of such spongy souls
As lick up every idle vanity."
The spirit which dictated these lines was not likely to remain free from literary
quarrels. Jonson was attacked in turn, or fancied he was attacked. In 1601 he
produced " The Poetaster ;" and in his " Apologetical Dialogue which was only once
spoken upon the stage," he thus defends his motives for this supposed attack upon
some of his dramatic brethren :
" Sure I am, three years
They did provoke me with their petulant styles
On every stage : and I at last, unwilling,
But weary, I confess, of so much trouble,
Thought I would try if shame could win upon 'em ;
And therefore chose Augustus Caesar's times,
When wit and arts were at their height in Rome,
To show that Virgil, Horace, and the rest
Of those great master-spirits, did not want
Detractors then, or practisers against them :
And by this line, although no parallel,
I hop'd at last they would sit down and blush ;
But nothing I could find more contrary.
And though the impudence of flies be great,
Yet this has so provok'd the angry wasps,
Or, as you said, of the next nest, the hornets,
That they fly buzzing, mad, about my nostrils,
And, like so many screaming grasshoppers
Held by the wings, fill every ear with noise."
In "The Poetaster" Jonson characterises himself as Horace ; and his enemy, Deme-
GLIMPSES OF SOCIETY.
triiis, says, " Horace is a mere sponge nothing but humours and observations. He
goes up and down sucking upon every society, and when he comes home squeezes
himself dry again." This reminds one of Aubrey : " Ben Jonson and he (Shakspere)
did gather humours of men daily wherever they came." They used their observa-
tions, however, very differently ; the one was the Raphael, the other the Teniers, of
the drama. When we look at the noble spirit with which Jonson bore poverty,
it is perhaps to be lamented that he was so impatient of censure. If the love of
" The last infirmity of noble minds,"
the horror of ridicule or contempt is too often its companion. The feelings are
mixed in the fine lines with which Jonson concludes the " Apologetical
" I, that spend half my nights, and all my days,
Here in a cell to get a dark, pale face,
To come forth with the ivy or the bays,
And in this age can hope no other grace
Leave me ! There 's something come into my thoughts
That must and shall be sung high and aloof,
Safe from the wolfs black jaw and the dull ass's hoof."
GifFord has thus described the club at the Mermaid: "About this time 
Jonson probably began to acquire that turn for conviviality for which he was after-
wards noted. Sir Walter Raleigh, previously to his unfortunate engagement with
the wretched Cobham and others, had instituted a meeting of beaux esprits at the
Mermaid, a celebrated tavern in Friday Street. Of this club, which combined more
talent and genius than ever met together before or since, our author was a member ;
and here for many years he regularly repaired with Shakspeare, Beaumont, Fletcher,
Selden, Cotton, Carew, Martin, Donne, and many others, whose names, even at this
distant period, call up a mingled feeling of reverence and respect." Jonson has been
accused of excess in wine ; and certainly temperance was not the virtue of his age.
Drummond, who puts down his conversations in a spirit of detraction says, " Drink
was the element in which he lived." Aubrey tells us " he would many times exceed
in drink ; Canary was his beloved liquor." And so he tells us himself in his grace-
ful poem " Inviting a Friend to Supper : "
" But that which most doth take my muse and me
Is a pure cup of rich Canary wine,
Which is the Mermaid's now, but shall be mino."
But the rich Canary was to be used, and not abused :
" Of this we will sup free, but moderately ;
Nor shall our cups make any guilty men :
But at our parting we will be as when
We innocently met. No simple word,
That shall be utter'd at our mirthful board,
Shall make us sad next morning, or affright
The liberty that we'll enjoy to-night."
This is not the principle of intemperance, at any rate ; nor were the associates of
Jonson at the Mermaid such as mere sensual gratification would have allied in that
band of friendship. They were not such companions as the unhappy Robert Greene,
whose genius was eaten up by his profligacy, describes himself to have lived
amongst : " His company were lightly the lewdest persons in the land, apt for
pilfery, perjury, forgery, or any villainy. Of these he knew the cast to cog at cards,
258 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [B OK Jy -
cozen at dice ; by these he learned the legerdemains of nips, foysts, conycatchers,
crossbyters, lifts, high lawyers, and all the rabble of that unclean generation of
vipers ; and pithily could he point out their whole courses of craft : so cunning was
in all crafts, as nothing rested in him almost but craftiness." This is an unhappy
picture ; and in that age, when the rewards of unprofessional scholars were few and
uncertain, it is scarcely to be wondered that their morals sometimes yielded to their
necessities. Jonson and Shakspere passed through the slough of the theatre without
a stain. Their club meetings were not the feasts of the senses alone. The following
verses by Jonson were inscribed over the door of the Apollo Room in the Devil
" Welcome all who lead or follow
To the oracle of Apollo :
Here he speaks out of his pottle,
Or the tripos, his tower bottle ;
All his answers are divine,
Truth itself doth flow in wine.
Hang up all the poor hop- drinkers,
Cries old Sim, the king of skinkers ;
He the half of life abuses
That sits watering with the Muses.
Those dull girls no good can mean us ;
Wine it is the milk of Venus,
And the poet's horse accounted :
Ply it, and you all are mounted.
'Tis the true Phoebean liquor,
Cheers the brains, makes wit the quicker ;
Pays all debts, cures all diseases,
And at once three senses pleases.
Welcome all who lead or follow
To the oracle of Apollo t "
In the Apollo Room Jonson sat, the founder of the club, perhaps its dictator. One
of his contemporary dramatists, Marmion, describes him in his presidential chair :
" The boon Delphic god
Drinks sack, and keeps his Bacchanalia,
And has his incense, and his altars smoking,
And speaks in sparkling prophecies."
' The boon Delphic god " had his Leges Convivales, written in the purest Latinity,
engraved in black marble over the chimney. These laws have been translated into
very indifferent verse, to quote which would give an imperfect idea of their elegance
and spirit. They were not laws for common boon-companions ; but for the " Eruditi,
urbani, hilares, honesti." The tavern has perished : it has long been absorbed by
the all-devouring appetite of commerce. But its memory will be ever fresh, whilst
the laws of its club record that there were elegance without expense, wit without
malice, high converse without meddling with sacred things, argumentation without
violence. If these were mingled with music and poetry, and sometimes accomplished
women were present, and the dance succeeded to the supper, we must not too readily
conclude that there was licence, allurements for the careless, which the wise ought
not to have presided over. We must not judge of the manners of another age by
those of our own. Jonson was too severe a moralist to have laid himself open to
the charge of being a public example of immorality.
Such, then, was the social life of the illustrious men of letters and the more taste-
ful of the aristocracy in the latter period of Shakspere's London life. But where
did the great painters of manners " pick up humours daily ? " Where did they find
the classes assembled that were to be held up to ridicule and reproof ? We open
CHAP. I.] GLIMPSES OF SOCIETY. 259
Jonson's first great comedy, " Every Man in his Humour," and there in the list of
characters we find Captain Bobadiil, a Paul's man." Adventurers like Bobadill
were daily frequenters of Paul's. The middle aisle of the old cathedral was the
resort of all the idle and profligate in London. The coxcomb here displayed his
finery, and the cutpurse picked his pocket. Serving-men here came to find masters,
and tradesmen to attract purchasers by their notices on the pillars. Jonson has, up
and down, constant allusions to Paul's. It was here that, wrapped up in his old
coachman's coat, he studied the fopperies in dress which were so remarkable a
characteristic of his times. It was here, probably, that Jonson got the hint of Boba-
dill's boots worn over his silk stockings, and the jewel in his ear. Here, too, he
heard the gingle of the silver spurs which the gallants wore in spite of the choris-
ters, who had a vigilant eye to enforce the fine called spur-money. Here, too, he
might have seen the "wrought shirt" of Fastidious Brisk, embroidered all over with
fruits and flowers, which fashion the Puritans imitated by ornamenting their shirts
with texts of Scripture. Here he saw the " gold cable hatband " " the Italian cut
work band " " the embossed girdle " and the " ruffle to the boot " of the same
distinguished fop. The " mirror in the hat," and the " finger that hath the ruby,"
could not fail to be noticed in Paul's by the satirist. The "love-lock" and the " cut
beard " were displayed in every variety that caprice and folly could suggest. Dekker
has noted such minor follies of his age even with more assiduity than Jonson. He
is confident in his powers ; and claims to be a satirist by as indefeasible a title as
that of his greater rival. In Paul's Walk, in the Mediterranean Aisle, he has noted
one who walks there from day to day, even till lamp-light, for he is safe from his
creditors. Another is waited upon by his tailor, who steps behind a pillar with his
table-book to note the last fashion which hath made its appearance there, and to
commend it to his worship's admiration. He has many a joke against the gallants
of the theatre whom he has noted sitting on the stage in all the glory of their cox-
combry on the very rushes where the comedy is to dance, beating down the mews
and hisses of the opposed rascality. The proportionable leg, the white hand, the
love-lock of the essenced fop, have none of them passed unmarked. The red beard
artistically dyed according to the most approved fashion supplies many a laugh ;
especially if the wearer had risen to be gone in the middle of the scene, saluting his
gentle acquaintance to the discomfiture of the mimics. He, above all, is quizzed
who hoards up the play scraps upon which his lean wit most savouredly feeds.
Equally familiar is the satirist with the ordinary. He tells of a most absolute gull
that he has marked riding thither upon his Spanish jennet, with a French lacquey
carrying his cloak, who having entered the public room walks up and down scorn-
fully with a sneer and a sour face to promise quarrelling ; who, when he does speak,
discourses how often this lady has sent her coach for him, and how he has sweat in
the tennis-court with that lord. An unfledged poet, too, he has marked, who drops
a sonnet out of the large fold of his glove, which he at last reads to the company
with a pretty counterfeit lothness. He has a story of the last gull whom he saw
there, skeldered of his money at primero and hazard, who sat as patiently as a dis-
armed gentleman in the hands of the bailiffs. At the tavern he has drawn out a
country gentleman that has brought his wife to town to learn the fashions, and see
the tombs at Westminster, and the lions in the Tower ; and is already glib with the
names of the drawers, Jack and Will and Tom : the tavern is to him so delightful,
with its suppers, its Canary, its tobacco, and its civil hostess at the bar, that it is
odds but he will give up housekeeping. Above all, " the satirical rogue" is familiar
with the habits of those who hear the chimes at midnight. He knows how they
shun the waking watch and play tricks with the sleeping, and he hears the pre-
tenders to gentility call aloud Sir Giles, or Sir Abraham, will you turn this way ?
260 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV.
Every form of pretence is familial' to him. He has watched his gull critical upon
new books in a stationer's shop, and has tracked him through all his vagaries at the
tobacco ordinary, the barber's, the fence-school, and the dancing-school. Thomas
Dekker is certainly one of those who gather humours from all men ; but his wit is
not of the highest or the most delicate character. He knows the town, and he makes
the most of his knowledge.
The two great genera into which society was divided in Jonson's time were, the
gentry and the citizens. During the law-terms London was full of the country
squires and their families ; who sometimes came up to town with the ostensible
purpose of carrying on their law-suits, but more generally to spend some portion of
that superfluous wealth which the country could not so agreeably absorb. The evil
if evil it were grew to be so considerable that James, by proclamation, directed
them to return to their own counties. But this, of course, was mere idle breath.
Jonson, though the theatres might be supposed to gain by this influx of strangers,
boldly satirized the improvidence and profligacy of the squires, whom he has no hesi-
tation in denouncing as " country gulls," " who come up every term to learn to take
tobacco and see new motions." He does this in the spirit of the fine song of the
" Old and Young Courtier :"
" With a new fashion, when Christinas is drawing on,
On a new journey to London straight we must all begone,
And leave none to keep house but our new porter John,
Who relieves the poor with a thump on the back with a stone,
Like a young courtier/' &c.
Jonson's rules for making a town gentleman out of a country clown are drawn
from the life :
" First, to be an accomplished gentleman that is, a gentleman of the time you must give over
housekeeping in the country, and live altogether in the city amongst gallants ; where, at your first
appearance, 't were good you turn'd four or five acres of your best land into two or three trunks of
apparel, you may do it without going to a conjuror ; and be sure you mix yourself still with such
as flourish in the spring of the fashion, and are least popular [vulgar] : study their carriage and be-
haviour in all ; learn to play at primero and passage, and ever (when you lose) have two or three
peculiar oaths to swear by, that no man else swears : but, above all, protest in your play, and affirm,
e Upon your credit,' ' As you are a true gentleman,' at every cast : you may do it with a safe con-
science, I warrant you You must endeavour to feed cleanly at your ordinary, sit
melancholy, and pick your teeth when you cannot speak ; and when you come to plays be humourous,
look with a good starched face, and ruffle your brow like a new boot, laugh at nothing but your own
jests, or else as the noblemen laugh. That 's a special grace, you must observe You
must pretend alliance with courtiers and great persons : and ever, when you are to dine or sup in any
strange presence, hire a fellow with a great chain (though it be copper it's no matter) to bring you
letters, feigned from such a nobleman, or such a knight, or such a lady."
All this is keen satire. It is directed against what has been the bane of English
society up to the hour in which we write pretence the aping to be what we are
not the throwing aside our proper honours and happiness to thrust ourselves into
societies which despise us, and to sacrifice our real good for fancied enjoyments which
we ourselves feel to be worthless.
Turn we from the gentlemen to the citizens. The satire which we have tran-
scribed is followed by a recommendation to get largely in debt amongst the " rich
fellows that have the world, or the better part of it, sleeping in their counting houses."
According to Jonson's picture in another comedy (" The Devil is an Ass ") the citi-
zens were as anxious to get the gentlemen in their books as the gentlemen to be
CHAP. I.] GLIMPSES OF SOCIETY. 261
there. The following dialogue takes place between Gilthead, a goldsmith, and
Piutarchus, his son :
" Plu, but, good father, you trust too much.
Gilt. Boy, boy,
We live by finding fools out to be trusted.
Our shop-books are our pastures, our corn-grounds ;
We lay 'em open, for them to come into ;
And when we have them there we drive them up
Into one of our two pounds, the compters, straight ;
And this is to make you a gentleman !
We citizens never trust, but we do cozen :
For if our debtors pay, we cozen them ;
And if they do not, then we cozen ourselves.
But that 's a hazard every one must run
That hopes to make his son a gentleman !
Plu. I do not wish to be one, truly, father.
In a descent or two we come to be
Just in their state, fit to be cozen'd like them ;
For, since the gentry scorn the city so much,
Methinks we should in time, holding together,
And matching in our own tribes, as they say,
Have got an act of common-council for it,
That we might cozen them out of rerum natura.
Gilt. Ay, if we had an act first to forbid
The marrying of our wealthy heirs unto them,
And daughters with such lavish portions :
That confounds all.
Plu. And makes a mongrel breed, father.
And when they have your money, then they laugh at you,
Or kick you down the stairs. I cannot abide them :
I would fain have them cozen'd, but not trusted,"
The age in which Jonson wrote was remarkable for two things which generally go
together boundless profusion, and the most extravagant desire for sudden wealth.
The poet has left us two of the most vivid personifications of an insane abandonment
to the longing for boundless riches that were ever conceived by a deep philosophical
spirit working upon actual observation. Sir Epicure Mammon in the " Alchymist,"
is a character for " all time." The cheating mysteries by which his imagination
was inflamed have long ceased to have their dupes ; but there are delusions in the
every-day affairs of life quite as exciting, perhaps more dangerous. The delights
which this unfortunate dupe proposes to himself, when he shall have obtained the
philosopher's stone, are strong illustrations indeed of the worthlessness of ill-employed
" We will be brave, Puffe, now we have the med'cine.
My meat shall all come in in Indian shells,
Dishes of agate set in gold, and studded
With emeralds, sapphires, hyacinths, and rubies.
The tongues of carps, dormice, and camels' heels,
Boil'd in the spirit of sol, and dissolv'd pearl,
Apicius' diet 'gainst the epilepsy :
And I will eat these broths with spoons of amber,
Headed with diamond and carbuncle.
M-y footboy shall eat pheasants, calver'd salmons,
Knots, godwits, lampreys : I myself will have
The beards of barbels serv'd instead of salads ;
Oil'd mushrooms ; and the swelling unctious paps
Of a fat pregnant sow, newly cut off,
Dress'd with an exquisite and poignant sauce ;
For which, I '11 say unto my cook, There 's gold ;
Go forth, and be a knight."
WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY.
And then conies the little tobacconist, Abel Drugger, who " this summer will be of
the clothing of his company ;" and he would give a crown to the Alchymist to
receive back a fortune. This satire, it may be objected, is not permanent, because
we have no alchymy now ; but the passion which gave the alchymists their dupes
is permanent : and Jonson has exhibited another mode in which it sought its grati-
fication, which comes somewhat nearer to our own times. The Norfolk Squire of
" The Devil is an Ass " meets with a projector one who pretends to influence
at court to obtain monopolies an "undertaker," who makes men's fortunes