Page images


II. SUBSEQUENT EDITIONS The inaccuracies of the 1640 folio were gradually eliminated in the subsequent editions. The edition of 1692 corrected some of the most obvious errors. It also attempted, not very consistently, to modernize punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. The edition of 1716 made several emendations of value, but introduced new

It made a further attempt to modernize spelling and punctuation. The designation of the act, which in earlier editions appears at the beginning of each scene, is omitted except at the beginning of the act. Whalley's edition of 1756 is the first attempt at a critical text. It made several valuable emendations, re-arranged or made insertions in verses for better metrical effect, and indicated a change of speaker which was unnoticed in earlier editions. It still further modernized capitalization and spelling, and replaced elided vowels. Gifford's edition is the nearest approach to a critical text. His chief contribution was the addition of stage-directions and side-notes. He reduced the number of scenes, making each one represent an actual change of place rather than a single situation. He also re-arianged verses for metrical effect. A number of the changes, however, are of questionable value; and his habit of spelling out elisions does violence, in some cases, to the metre. For a detailed discussion of these various editions of Jonson's works, see W. S. Johnson's edition of The Devil is an Ass, Introduction, pp. xiv-xvii.


The Magnetic Lady was acted by the King's Majesty's Servants at the Blackfriars Theatre. The license for performing it, which was quoted by Malone from the Register of Sir H. Herbert, bears the date of 12th October, 1632. The following item is copied from Fleay (p. 336):

1632. Oct. 12.—(For the King's men) £2 ' received of Knight (the Blackfriars bookkeeper) for allowing of Ben Jonson's play called Humours Reconciled or The Magnetic Lady to be acted.'


It would seem, from a passage in a letter to Jonson by James Howell, dated 27th Jan., 1629, that the play had already been written and acted; but the discrepancy is accounted for by Oldys. 'He tells us, in his manuscript notes to Langbaine, that Howell first published his letters without any dates, and that when he attempted to subjoin them in his subsequent editions, he confounded the time: “hence,” says he, “ so many errors in their dates." "The time of the completion of the Magnetic Lady is fixed by the following sentence in a letter from John Pory to Sir Thomas Puckering, dated Sept. 20, 1632—” Ben Jonson (who I thought had been dead) hath written a play against next term called the Magnetick Lady."

As to the reception of the play, Langbaine wrote (before 1691) : ‘This play is generally esteemed an excellent play: tho' in those days it found some enemies.'8 Alexander Gill's satire, Uppon Ben Johnson's Magnetick Ladye, 4 shows who some of these enemies were : Nathaniel Butter, Inigo Jones, Richard Allestree, and the writer, Gill. Jonson's quarrel with Inigo Jones began (1630--31) a short time before the composition of this play. He satirized Jones as Vitruvius Hoop, as In-and-in Medlay in a Tale of a Tub, and as Coronal Vitruvius in the Entertainment to the King and Queen at Bolsover on July 30, 1634. In The Magnetic Lady, although asserting that 'a play, though it apparell and present vices in general, flies from all particularities in persons,” Jonson made satiric allusions to Allestree and Butter, and probably also to Gill (4. 2. 34; 3. 5. 139, and note). Fleay conjectures 1 that Damplay, who in the Induction derives Magnetic from Magnus, and who cites Vitruvius pedantically, is Inigo Jones. It would be interesting to know whether the king or queen ever saw The Magnetic Lady acted. The absence of any reference to it in The Account of the Revels ? argues against a presentation at court. However, the king was a liberal patron of the drama, and might have seen this play at the Blackfriars.3 At any rate, Jonson's expression of deference and gratitude (1. Ch. 48), and the Epilogue to the King, make it probable that he expected a royal auditor.

1 Gifford, Works of Ben Jonson 6. 2. 2 Collier, Annals of the Stage 2. 43–4. 3 Langbaine, Account of the English Dramatick Poets. 4 Gifford, Works 6. 113–6.


The element of allegory in The Magnetic Lady is slight. The play, as a whole, is a humor-comedy, satirizing under typical figures pronounced follies of the time. But Jonson does not keep consistently to his main satiric purpose, occasionally introducing a thrust at a personal enemy, or deviating into the obscure regions of allegory. This element, however, has no organic function in the play: it is sporadic and trivial; and what in some cases seems a touch of allegory is nothing more than a pun on the name of a character. The three personages in the play who may be considered allegorical are Lady Loadstone, Captain Ironside, and Compass. In Woodbridge's Studies in Jonson's Comedy (p. 37), there is the following observation : ' In The Magnetic Lady ... Lady Loadstone's powers of attraction are continually alluded to, though with no apparent reason unless it be perhaps the sound of her name, and at the end she is married to Captain Ironside, presumably because magnet attracts iron. But this statement, I think, reverses the process which Jonson would more naturally have followed—that of adapting the name to the character and the plot, rather than the reverse. And reflection upon the nature of allegory inclines me to the opinion that these personages should not be classified under that type. Allegorical characters are personifications of a single, abstract quality ; but these are typical characters, each with a predominant trait. Lady Loadstone is the rich and gracious hostess to whose hospitality is added the attraction of a wealthy and marriageable niece; Compass is the astute observer and critic, the scholar with a satiric bent; and the typical soldier swaggers in the person of Captain Ironside. In one passage, however, Lady Loadstone and Compass are mentioned as if they were merely symbolic personifications :

1 B. Chron. I. 386. 2 Fleay, History of the Stage, p. 318. 3 H. B. Baker, The London Stage, p. 28.

As Doctor Ridley writ, and Doctor Barlow ?
They both have wrote of you and Mr. Compasse.

(1. 4. 5; see note) Again, in Act 5, scene 5, Alderman Parrot's widow is described in such terms that one is doubtful as to whether the subject of conversation is a gentlewoman or a parrot. With the exception of these passages, the seemingly allegorical touches in the play may rather be explained as puns on the names which suggest the predominant traits of typical characters than as genuine personifications. The marriage of Lady Loadstone and Ironside is a natural result of the situation; rather hastily executed, to be sure, but not more so than the union of Oliver and Celia in As You Like It; and as justifiable, at least, as the marriage of Vincentio and Isabella in Measure for Measure. The allegory in The Magnetic Lady is much less extensive and important than that in The Staple of News. The quasi-allegorical passages are the product of Jonson's ingenuity, and belong to the same species of mental dexterity as his habit of punning, and his use of words with an ambiguous meaning or humorous connotation.


[ocr errors]

I. SPECIFIC OBJECTS OF SATIRE In The Magnetic Lady, Jonson, as he explains in the Induction lines 86-97), is making a summary of his satiric humor-studies : he brings together ' a diversity of guests, all persons of different humors to make up his perimeter.' The result is not emphasis upon the satire of one or a few specific types or customs, but a more scattering and cursory treatment of many. Since the play lacks the unifying force of a central satiric motive, such as is exhibited in Volpone and The Alchemist, we cannot expect it to possess their dramatic power; but to one who has made a study of Jonson's earlier works, the play is rich in literary allusion. .

In addition to his satire of representative types of folly or affectation, Jonson attacks various customs and superstitions. He makes thrusts at astrology (2. 2. 50; 5. 10. 14), the predictions of almanacs (4. 2. 25), and monopolies (1. 7. 74; 5. 3. 12). In this byplay he merely echoes work done more thoroughly in The Alchemist and The Devil is an Ass. The conflict of the humors of the captain and the courtier gives opportunity for an elaborate satire upon the duello, and in the last act he attacks the popular belief in demoniac possession, a phase of the

« PreviousContinue »