ably from one of the families of the turbulent Johnstones of that countryside.1 The kinship may help to explain, if blood counts for anything, that vigour of self-assertion which he shows in all his actions, even from earliest youth. His grandfather, a "gentleman," had gone, so Jonson thought, from the Scottish border to Carlisle, and had been in the service of Henry VIII. His father had been forfeited in the reign of Mary, and after his enlargement had "turned minister," and so remained till his death in 1572 or 1573. Benjamin was a posthumous child, born, probably in Westminster, "a month after his father's decease." The exact date cannot be determined, and his mother's name is unknown. She, it appears, soon thereafter chose a bricklayer for her second husband, and young Ben removed with her to Hartshorne Lane, Charing Cross, where he began an apprenticeship to the hod. There is no evidence that he fared badly in his new home. Examination of the story of his unhappiness, at best a confused borrowing from Aubrey, Fuller, Walton, and Jonson himself, discloses no step- fatherly tyranny, and we know from a later episode recorded by the dramatist that he had not lost his mother's affection. He was educated at a school within the church of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, and at Westminster. We may believe the anecdote that as he helped

____________________
1
Jonson bore "the three spindles or rhombi" of the Johnstone blazon ( Conversations, xvii.). There is ample evidence, from title- pages, official documents, and the works of contemporaries, that his surname was written in the usual English way, Johnson, though he deliberately dropped the "h" at times, perhaps under the influence of the Latin form. The shorter spelling is now universally accepted, partly, it may be, to avoid confusion with his namesake the Doctor.

-2-

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Ben Jonson
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Chapter I- Early Life 1
  • Chapter II- Middle Life and Close 23
  • Chapter III- Literary Conscience 56
  • Chapter IV- The Comedies 66
  • Chapter V- The Masques 128
  • Chapter VI- The Tragedies- The Sad Shepherd 185
  • Chapter VII- The Poems 213
  • Chapter VIII- Spolia Opima 249
  • Chapter IX- Influence 272
  • Index 303
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