Ben Jonson's Volpone, or the Fox

Ben Jonson's Volpone, or the Fox

Ben Jonson's Volpone, or the Fox

Ben Jonson's Volpone, or the Fox

Excerpt

In his conversations with (or harangues at) the Spenserian poet Drummond of Hawthornden in 1619, Ben Jonson repeated a joke of Sir Francis Bacon’s:

At his hither coming, Sir Francis Bacon said to him, He loved
not to see poesy go on other feet than poetical dactyls and
spondees.

Jonson, burly Laureate, portly Master Poet, rather grandly had marched into Scotland on foot, and greatly appreciated the Baconian compliment that poesy and Ben were identical. If Bacon presumably preferred Jonson, The Ancient, over Shakespeare, the Modern, this extraordinary evaluation was as remarkably reciprocated when Jonson gave Bacon the accolade as essayist and wisdom writer over Montaigne:

One, though he be excellent and the chief, is not to be imitated
alone; for never no imitator ever grew up to his author; likeness
is always on this side truth. Yet there happened in my time one
noble speaker who was full of gravity in his speaking; his lan
guage, where he could spare or pass by a jest, was nobly cen
sorious. No man ever spake more neatly, more presly, more
weightily, or suffered less emptiness, less idleness, in what he
uttered. No member of his speech but consisted of his own
graces. His hearers could not cough, or look aside from him,
without loss. He commanded where he spoke, and had his judges
angry and pleased at his devotion. No man had their affections
more in his power. The fear of every man that heard him was
lest he should make an end.

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