936c Jonson, Benjamin. (ca. 1572-1637) The Workes of Benjamin Jonson.
London: by Richard Bishop, and are to be sold by
Andrew Crooke in St. Paules, Church-yard, 1640
Folio, 7 x 11 in. Second edition. A-Z6, Aa-Zz6,
Aaa-Kkk6, Lll4, A-T6. The frontispiece portrait of Jonson copied
from Robert Vaughn’s
plate, and the engraved title page are present in this copy. The binding
is full contemporary calfskin, worn. The front board is slightly loose,
and the top margin of the title page has been trimmed closely. The
edges of the first few leaves have a small tear in the margin and with
some staining near the back. Otherwise, this copy has some typical
browning but is in good condition overall.
The second edition of the collected Workes was published three years
after Jonson’s death. It contains fifteen works by Jonson, two of which were
performed at the Globe theater in London by Shakespeare’s company. Shakespeare
himself performed in Jonson’s ‘Every Man in His Humor’ in
1598 and ‘Sejanus’ was performed there five years later in 1603.
“Jonson’s life was tough and turbulent. After his father’s
early death, Ben was adopted in infancy by a bricklayer and educated by the great
classical scholar and antiquarian William Camden, before necessity drove him
to enter the army. In Flanders, where the Dutch, with English help, were warring
against the Spaniards, he fought singlehanded with one of the enemy before the
massed armies, and killed his man. Returning to England about 1595, he began
to work as an actor and playwright but was drawn from one storm center to another.
He killed a fellow actor in a duel, and escaped the gallows only by pleading ‘benefit
of the clergy’ (i.e., by proving he could read and write, which entitled
him to plead before a more lenient court). He was jailed for insulting the Scottish
nation at a time when King James was newly arrived from Scotland. He took furious
part in an intricate set of literary wars with his fellow playwrights. Having
converted to Catholicism, he was the object of deep suspicion after the Gunpowder
Plot of Guy Fawkes (1605), when the phobia against his religion reached its height.
Yet he rode out all these troubles, growing mellower as he grew older, and in
his latter years became the unofficial literary dictator of London, the king’s
pensioned poet, a favorite around the court, and the good friend of men like
Shakespeare, Donne, Francis Beaumont, John Selden, Francis Bacon, dukes, diplomats,
and distinguished folk generally. In addition, he engaged the affection of younger
men (poets like Robert Herrick, Thomas Carew, and Sir John Suckling, speculative
thinkers like Lord Falkland and Sir Kenelm Digby), who delighted to christen
themselves ‘sons of Ben.’ The Sons of Ben provided the nucleus of
the entire Cavalier school of English poets.” (Norton)
STC 14753; See Pforzheimer 560.