1719 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Randolph

Giles Jacob, in Historical Account of the Lives and Writings of our most considerable English Poets (1720) 169-70.



The minutest particulars of this ingenious Gentleman's Life cannot be otherwise than entertaining, as he was a Favourite of the great Ben Johnson; for which reason, I shall add to what I have mention'd of him in the Poetical Register, that his extraordinary Indulgence to the too liberal Converse with the Multitude of his Applauders, drawing him into an immoderate way of Living, by the Influence of Bacchus, there happened on a time some Words to pass between him and another Gentleman; which at length grew so high, that the Gentleman drew his Sword, and cut off Mr. Randolph's little Finger, whereupon he Extempore, and with his usual good Humour, made this Couplet.

A Finger's Loss, I speak it not in Sport,

Will make a Verse a Foot at least too short.

After this, during his Stay in London, when his Circumstances were very low, he resolved a Visit to Ben. Johnson, and the rest of the famous Wits of his time, which he was informed used to associate, and keep a Club together at the Devil Tavern near Temple-Bar. Accordingly he repaired thither, but being dejected through his want of Money, he had not assurance to venture into the Room where Ben. and his Companions were assembled, but peeped in at them, whereupon Ben. Johnson's quick Eye soon discovered him, and he immediately said John Bopeep come in, and by the Encouragement he presumed to approach the Company, where he was well received; tho' they began to make Verses on the Meanness of his Habit, and asked him if he could not Rhime, at the same time requiring him to call for his Bottle; to which, there being four of them, he answered,

I John Bo-peep, to you four Sheep,
With each on his good Fleece,
If that you are willing, to give me five Shilling,
'Tis Fifteen-pence a piece.

By Jesus, quoth Ben. Johnson (his usual Oath) I believe this is my Son Randolph, which being made known to them, he met with a very friendly Entertainment, and Ben. ever after called him his Son.

His Poems published after his Death, and ushered into the World by the greatest Wits of those times, passed the Test with general Applause, and have bore several Impressions; amongst which were most esteemed, the two following Pieces, viz.

I. The Cambridge Duns, a very facetious entertaining Performance.

II. His Parley with his empty Purse; a Piece admir'd for its Humour.