1738 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ben Jonson

Anonymous, in "The Apotheosis of Milton" Gentleman's Magazine 8 (May 1738) 234.



The next who appeared was a fresh-coloured Old Man, whom at first I took for an English Country Gentleman, but upon considering his Dress, I found it such as is described in Pictures about 160 Years ago: it seemed to be of coarse Cloth, but was extreamly well fitted for his Body, and gave him, notwithstanding his Homeliness, a very agreeable Look, which grew more so, the longer I ey'd him. I observed, that as he went up to his Seat, he was attacked by every one he passed with some Jest, but he always answered them in a manner that got him the Laugh on his side. When he sat down, the President gave him a Nod, which let me understand that the greatest Familiarity subsisted betwixt 'em. After he was seated I viewed his Face more narrowly and found, that tho' his Features were very strong, yet they appeared regular, and his Look not so churlish as I at first took it to be. I own, had it not been for my Companion, I should never have known him to be Ben Johnson. Upon perceiving his Pockets stuffed with Books, I asked my Conductor what the Meaning of that was. These Books, answered he, are the Works of Cicero, Horace, and Salust; his Genius being too mechanical to catch the fine Sentiments of these Authors, to render them natural to himself by a long familiarity with them, he always carries their Works about him; and has the Art, upon every Occasion, to quote them so justly, and so much a propos, that they receive new Beauties by his Applications.