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as a ' Son of Ben' by any of his contemporaries, but of course very few of the circle of young men about Jonson are actually so called.
The Sons of Ben' probably never existed as a definitely organized club, but were merely a number of men
common interest in Jonson, whose powerful personality easily attracted and dominated. I think it doubtful whether all of them even knew one another. The term 'son' in the seventeenth century was a somewhat vague evidence of friendship and approval exhibited towards a young man by one considerably older. Many instances of this can be found. For example, the prologue at a revival of Beaumont and Fletcher's Custom of the Countryl (between 1635 and 1642) was spoken by 'my son Clark,' an actor ; Nathaniel Field addresses an urgent appeal for 40 £ to ‘Father Henchlowe' (Henslowe) 2 ; Massinger wrote lines to his 'son,' Sam Smith, upon his Minerva 8 ; and Dekker wrote verses 'to my Sonne Broom.'4 The explanation of this custom offered by Sir Harris Nicolas, that it was a practice which originated among the alchemists, I think, rather far fetched, for it is a quite natural way of showing affection or respect, and one that might arise without any precedent.6
It has become customary to allude to the dozen or so of young men who modeled their work in the lyric or the drama on Jonson's, as his ‘sons.' Though we have evidence that there was a personal friendship between most of them and Jonson, and, in some cases, friendships among themselves, there are but seven of these admirers whom I find definitely alluded to as 'sons.' Howell,1 Lovelace,2 and Marmion 3 call Jonson · father, or speak of themselves as 'son.' Randolph has a poem called, A Gratulatory to Mr. Ben Johnson, for adopting him to be his sonne, 4 and the story of his being received by Jonson as such is told in an apocryphal jest-book a century later. Jonson calls Joseph Rutter my Dear Son, and Right Learned Friend.'* Aubrey? relates an anecdote of a certain wit, named John Hoskyns, who desired to be adopted by the elder poet. And, finally, Humphrey Mosely, the publisher, quotes Jonson as saying ' my son Cartwright writes all like a man.'8 These are all the definite references I have found. There are, besides, two poems in Underwoodsman Epigram to a Friend and Son,' and An Epistle Answering to one that asked to be sealed of the tribe of Ben10--and Falkland's reference to Jonson's 'adopted children.'11 There is nothing here indicative even of a literary club, and the Verses placed over the Door at the Entrance into the Apollo, 12 Jonson's favorite room
i Works (1844) 4. 390, note c. 2 Dict. Nat. Biog. 18. 409. 3 Wit Restored (1658), ed. J. C. Hotten, London, n. d., p. 262. 4 Before Northern Lass : Brome's Works 3. xi. 5 Complete Angler, ed. Sir H. Nicolas, 2. 323, n.
6 In Covent Garden Weeded (3. 1. p. 39), Capt. Driblow calls his band of 'roarers'
at the Devil Tavern, as well as the Leges Conviviales, 13 lead * one to think that the ‘Sons of Ben' who met there with him
did it more for the joy in life, and the pleasure of repartee, than for serious literary criticism and mutual improvement.
1 Epistolæ Ho-Elianæ, ed. Jacobs, l. 267, 276, 322 ; 2. 376.
6 Prefatory verses to the Shepherd's Holiday : Ben Jonson, Works 9. 336.
? Brief Lives, ed. Clark, 1. 417.
The allusions to the Apollo in the Staple of News, in Herrick's poem, and in Marmion's Fine Companion, bear out the idea that it was a place for glorious bacchanalian revels.
As none of the men definitely called the Sons of Ben,' with the exception of Shakerley Marmion, are known to have had any relations with Brome, it is quite possible that he did not find himself wholly welcome to the Oracle of Apollo' among the rather aristocratic circle. Perhaps, however, the mere existence or non-existence of complimentary verses is too slight a ground for such a conjecture.
Whatever his relations with his contemporary poets and playwrights may have been, he was undoubtedly becoming a most successful rival. We have already seen that one of his plays was produced at court by the King's Company in 1629. He seems to have continued his relations with them until 1635, and had his plays put on at the Globe and Blackfriars during the period between those dates, at the same time that that company was playing many of the masterpieces of Fletcher, Massinger, and Ford. The latter part of Brome's work for the King's Men seems to have consisted in rewriting at least three old plays of Heywood.2
In 1635 he was evidently considered such a success as a dramatist that the King's Revels Company ventured to make a three-year contract with him. This has been unearthed by Professor Wallace, of the University of Nebraska, in his search for Shakespearean documents. I quote from one of his articles 3 : Richard Brome in 1635 made a contract with the Salisbury Court Theatre to write three plays a year for three years at a salary
1 For a probable list of extant plays written during this period see Chronology, below.
2 Fleay, Biog. Chron. 1. 301.
8.Shakspere and the Blackfriars,' Century, Vol. 80 (September 1910).
of 15 shillings a week, plus the first day's profits from each new play as a benefit. In 1638 it was agreed that the contract should be continued seven years longer, at 20 shillings a week for Brome's exclusive services. But the rival theatre, the Cockpit, lured him away with a better offer, and the new contract was not signed. The most interesting items here are the limit of three plays a year, and special provision that Brome should not be allowed to publish any of his own plays without the consent of the company. The discovery of this document is not only an extremely important addition to our knowledge of Brome, but a most significant contribution to stage-history. It shows us much as to the relation of a popular playwright to the company for which he was writing.
Professor Wallace has been so generous as to send me some further facts regarding this contract, from his hitherto unpublished notes. He states that Brome, previous to the contract, was with the Red Bull Company.1 The contract is dated July 20, 1635. The amount of the benefit of the first night on one occasion was estimated at 5 £ or upwards. Brome was to give his exclusive services to the company. One play he wrote for them, the Sparagus Garden, was so popular that the estimated profits to the company were 1000 £. In the three years during which Brome was writing for the Salisbury Court Theatre, he had written, besides numerous songs, epilogues, and revisions of scenes in revived plays, but six of the nine plays agreed on in the contract. He had also written a play or two for the Cockpit, contrary to contract.
1 This indicates that Brome must have been connected with two companies at the same time, for in 1634 he was writing for the King's Men, who were playing at the Globe and Blackfriars (see Chronology). There is no other evidence that he was connected with the Red Bull Company after 1623.
Though Professor Wallace states in the article quoted above that the second contract was not signed, he writes me that Brome, on this new contract, which is dated August, 1638, delivered one play the following winter after Christmas, and another before Easter, 1639, which the company refused to accept. "Then he went to the Cockpit with Beeston, where he met with better favor, about which details are not given.'
Further light is thrown on these facts by the curious note appended to the Antipodes in the quarto of 1640. It reads : 'Courteous Reader, You shal find in this Book more than was presented upon the Stage, and left out of the Presentation, for Superfluous length (as some of the Players pretended) I thought it good al should be inserted according to the allowed Original; and as it was, at first, intended for the Cockpit Stage, in the right of my most deserving Friend Mr. William Beeston, unto whom it properly appertained ; and so I leave it to thy perusal, as it was generallly applauded, and well acted at Salisbury Court. Farewell, Ri. Brome.'
What evidently happened was that Brome, late in 1637,1 before the expiration of his contract with the Salisbury Court Theatre, wrote the Antipodes for the newly formed King and Queen's Young Company, or Beeston's Boys. The Salisbury Court Company forced Brome to give the play to them, because he had delivered but six of the nine plays promised, and had guaranteed his exclusive services. The following passage in the Court Begger (1640) (2.1, p. 215) seems to indicate that the company brought suit against him: 'Here's a trim business towards, and as idle as the players going to Law with their Poets.'
1 See Chronology, below, p. 36.
2 J. T. Murray (English Dramatic Companies 1. 367) says the company was formed shortly before Feb. 7, 1637, and played at the Cockpit.