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Epigrams and The Forest stand now as Jonson printed them, Gifford's frequent emendations being disregarded, except in the notes. The first edition of the Underwoods also has been followed so far as regards the order of poems; the text here has been scrupulously collated with the folio, and deviations, except in a few palpable instances of printers' blunders, indicated in the notes. Then following Underwoods we have brought together the miscellaneous poems which Whalley, Gifford, and Cunningham had collected, in addition to those included in the two folios, but which the two earlier editors, followed by Bell, had scattered about in Underwoods at discretion, and have added a number of poems which could be detached from the masques and entertainments without suffering from dislocation ; finally, for the convenience of the reader, we have placed in one section the charming lyrics which lie imbedded in the dramas. This volume, then, is the first attempt to bring together all of Jonson's short poems into a single collection, under a classification which permits one to come closest to the poet's own arrangement.
For the notes the editor is indebted chiefly to previous editors, and their work has been indicated by initials. He has sought to bring the body of notes into more compact form, and regrets that he has therefore been compelled to cut ruthlessly into the entertaining truculence of Gifford. The punctuation of the book has been carefully revised, since the editor has no reverence for the antiquities of English punctuation. One characteristic of the punctuation of the folio has been in several instances retained, the use of an apostrophe to mark an elision in reading, where there is no positive dropping of a syllable, as in the line,
MEMOIR OF JONSON.
“ Firm-footed Ben.”
By some chance, helped probably by the epitaph on his tombstone, Jonson is known universally as Ben Jonson, while Shakespeare, who was called Will Shakespeare by his contemporaries, receives his Christian name in full whenever it is given him at all. Possibly the familiarity with which Jonson was regarded by the various ranks of people who knew him in his own day confirmed the form under which his name has come down to us, and Jonson himself would have had little affection for the full form of a name which was most probably given him out of the Bible by his Puritan parents. We say Puritan parents upon strong conjectural grounds. The patronymic in the careless typography of the time occasionally appears as Johnson, but the poet's own custom determines the form to be as now written. Little is known of his family. Two generations before, had been settled at Annandale in Scotland, still the headquarters of the Johnstone family, from which place Jonson's grandfather removed to Carlisle and entered the service of Henry VIII. Jonson's father fared less well, for in Queen Mary's time he was imprisoned and lost his estate. That the imprisonment sprang from religious persecution is rendered Jikely by the fact that he took holy orders afterward, and became a grave minister of the gospel,” in Antony Wood's words.
Jonson was born at Westminster a month after his father's death, in 1573, but the exact date is not now known. Fuller, in his Worthies, says that Jonson's mother married a bricklayer for a second husband. But little is known of her, one incident only, to be related hereafter, disclosing something of a character which her son shared with her. Jonson was first sent to a private school in the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and after that to Westminster. Here he formed a friendship with Camden, who was second master, and maintained a lifelong sense of obligation to the celebrated scholar. It is fair to suppose that Jonson's aptitude for learning attracted Camden, and that Camden's scholarship was the source and increment of Jonson’s classical knowledge. In Epigram xiv., addressed to Camden, he says :
Camden! most reverend head to whom I owe
All that I am in arts, all that I know." He dedicates Every Man in his Humor to Camden, and in it affectionately acknowledges his indebtedness to him: “I am none of those that can suffer the benefits conferred upon my youth
to perish with my age. It is a frail memory that remembers but present things ; and had the favor of the times so conspired with my disposition as it could have brought forth other, or better, you had had the same proportion and number of the fruits, the first. Now I pray you to accept this: such wherein neither the confession of my manners shall make you blush ; nor of my studies, repent you to have been the instructor."
From Westminster he went to Cambridge, where he remained an uncertain period ; at least so Fuller and Aubrey both affirm, but Jonson's own silence and the absence of
documentary evidence at Cambridge render it doubtful if he erer resided there: certainly his residence must have been short, since various testimonies point to his having been placed at his stepfather's craft of bricklaying ; how long he worked at it we are not told; long enough, however, to make his work utterly distasteful to himself, and an unending source of malicious mirth to his envious contemporaries. Jonson seems to have suffered from bricklaying much as Dickens from his connection with the blacking-pot establishment; he escaped from it by enlisting in the army which was theu serving in Flanders. He was not long in service, but he always looked back upon that part of his career with pride, and bis own fearless, highspirited nature made him both a good soldier and the hater of all “Captain Hungrys." In the