Shakespeare--Who Was He? The Oxford Challenge to the Bard of Avon

By Richard F. Whalen | Go to book overview

Appendix C
Ben Jonson's Notebook, Timber

Timber, or Discoveries, Made Upon Men and Matter, from the notebooks of Ben Jonson, was never published by Jonson. His notebooks were found after his death in 1637, fourteen years after publication of the First Folio and twenty-one years after Will Shakspere died. ( Alden Brooks devoted a 135-page book, This Side of Shakespeare [ New York: Vantage, 1964], to a curious, intense analysis of the five-paragraph passage.)

The challenge for the reader is to decide to what extent Ben Jonson approves of Shakespeare, whoever he was. The excerpt from Timber:

Nothing in our age, I have observed, is more preposterous than the running judgements upon poetry and poets; when we shall hear those things commended and cried up for the best writings, which a man would scarce vouchsafe to wrap any wholesome drug in; he would never light his tobacco with them. And those men almost named for miracles, who yet are so vile, that if a man should go about to examine, and correct them, he must make all they have done, but one blot. Their good is so entangled with their bad, as forcibly one must draw on the other's death with it. A sponge dipped in ink will do all.

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