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WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY HENRY MORLEY
LI..D., PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE AT
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON
BROADWAY, LUDGATE HILL
MANCHESTER AND NEW YORK
BEN JONSON'S "Alchemist” has been paired with Fielding's “ Tom Jones ” as one of the best examples of a well-constructed plot; and Coleridge, who justly gave Ben Jonson the place next to Shakespeare in dramatic literature, was inclined to think "The Fox" the greatest of his works. These plays, and “The Silent Woman," which stood in the first rank among Ben Jonson's plays, are here joined to some of the best of his minor poems.
Ben Jonson was the son of a gentleman who ruined himself by zeal for religion, and died a month before his son was born. The poet's mother came south, was poor, took. a master bricklayer for her second husband, lived in Hartshorn Lane, near Charing Cross, and sent her boy to the parish school of St. Martin's. Through William Camden, the historian, who was then one of its masters, Ben Jonson obtained an admission to Westminster school. There he laid the foundations of the learning which became afterwards closely associated with the free and individual expression of his genius. His gratitude to William Camden was expressed in a poem, which will be found on page 314 of this volume. Ben Jonson, like Shakespeare, had not the benefit of university education, but by his own study he made himself one of the most scholarly of English poets. In his youth he followed for a little while the trade of his stepfather, then went to fight in the Low Countries, and then followed the bent of his genius by joining the players.
In 1596 Ben Jonson's first comedy, “Every Man in his Humour," was produced, with Italian characters. He had recast it, and changed the scene from Florence to London, when it was acted, in 1598, by the company to which Shakespeare belonged. This was a true comedy, with carefully constructed plot, and the action within limit of a single day. The three