1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ben Jonson

Nathan Drake, in Literary Hours (1800) 2:166-67.



There was a period when the productions of Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher were preferred to those of Shakspeare. We are now astonished at the miserable taste of our ancestors, for of Jonson, the celebrated but pedantic Jonson, if we except two or three of his comedies, there is little commendatory to be said. His tragedies are tame and servile copies from the ancients, and though in his comedies of the Fox, the Silent Woman and the Alchemist the characters are strongly cast, and have both wit and humour, they are of a kind by no means generally relished or understood, nor would they now, nor probably will they hereafter, have any popularity on the stage.