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In March, 1625, James, his liberal patron, died, and ere the close of that year Jonson was stricken down by paralysis, and lay helpless as a child.* If his brain was at the first affected, this, the severest of visitations, certainly was soon removed, for he wrote an anti-masque for the court the following year, and several of the pieces contained in the Underwoods seem to have been written soon after. But that his bodily infirmities continued, we have the testimony of his petition to Lord Weston, early in 1631, where, in a strain of mournful pleasantry, more touching than clamorous lamentation, he says:
'Disease, the enemy, and his engineers,
Want, with the rest of his concealed compeers,
'My muse lies blocked up, straitened, narrowed in,
Health, or scarce breath, as she had never been ;'—
and he therefore prays the King's charitable aid, since it would be
'To relieve, no less renown,
A bedrid wit, than a besiegèd town.'
To this petition we find the King responding by a liberal gift; and also by raising the laureate's salary from a hundred marks to a hundred pounds. But Charles, although he was afterwards taunted with 'studying Ben Jonson's plays more than the Bible,' certainly never displayed the partiality toward him shown by his father. The rough bonhomie of the laureate, which James could appreciate, though he could not his sweet poetry, and which he liked in all about him, must have been most distasteful to the cold and stately Charles; while the Queen, true to the mission for which, as we now learn from her lately-published letters, she had been so expressly prepared, was not likely to look favourably upon one who had given up the Romish faith for the Protestant, even if she had possessed knowledge enough of the language, or taste enough, to have duly estimated Jonson's merits. Thus, one
About the same time, but the exact date cannot be ascertained, Jonson seems to have met with that sad calamity, the loss of a great portion of his library by fire, together with many of his unfinished works. It seems likely that this was the cause of his removal to Westminster, to 'the house under which you pass to go out of the churchyard into the old palace,' as Aubrey says, and where he died. He appears to have survived all his children; but it is probable that he married a second time, for in the register of Cripplegate church there is an entry of the marriage of Ben Jonson and Hester Hopkins,' in 1623. The female attendant to whom Aubrey also alludes, was therefore most probably his unacknowledged wife.