You know, Riggs is doing fine when he sticks to the facts. The actual biography here is great. But I think his attempts at interpretations fail because he fails, as well, to realize that Jonson, Marston, and Dekker were funny
. And that they won their battles with one another by making people laugh at the other guy, not just spitting vitriol. (Well, okay, Jonson apparently did take Marston out behind the woodshed that one time. But that's Ben for you. Marston, who seems to have been a generally good-natured guy when Ben wasn't getting the hell up his nose, eventually forgave the thrashing. I'm inclined to like Marston anyway; he said nice things about Kit.)
Anyway, there's this whole passage here about Ben Jonson (in The Poetaster
, which is also the one where his Dekker parody is forced to vomit up all the seven-dollar words at the end, and then put on a strict diet of Ovid until the illness resolves) comparing himself to Homer (whatever, Ben, shut up and write some more vomit jokes) and Dekker caricaturing Homer in Satiromastix
as a jobbing hack scrabbling to make ends meet, after which (we may guess: the publication dates and the period habit of circulating things in manuscript for years mean that one can't be too sure) Jonson commented with the following bill of sale in verse:
To Fine Grand.
What is't, fine Grand, makes thee my Friendship fly,
Or take an Epigram so fearfully:
As't were a Challenge, or a Borrower's Letter?
The World must know your greatness is my Debter.
In-primis, Grand, you owe me for a Jest;
I lent you, on meer acquaintance, at a Feast.
Item, a Tale or two, some Fortnight after;
That yet maintains you, and your House in Laughter.
Item, the Babylonian Song you Sing;
Item, a fair Greek Posy for a Ring:
With which a Learned Madam you bely.
Item, a Charm surrounding fearfully,
Your partie-per-pale Picture, one half drawn
In solemn Cyphers, the other cob-web Lawn.
Item, a gulling Imprese for you, at Tilt.
Item, your Mistress Anagram, i'your Hilt.
Item, your own, sew'd in your Mistress Smock.
Item, an Epitaph on my Lord's Cock,
In most vile Verses, and cost me more pain,
Than had I made 'em good, to fit your vain.
Forty Things more, dear Grand, which you know true,
For which, or pay me quickly, or I'll pay you.
Upon which Riggs comments: "Jonson's epigram (1)
"To Fine Grand" suggests that Dekker's caricature contained some measure of truth."
...dude. It's funny
. It's also a b it of an indictment both of the patronage system (and how Benlike to pick it apart even while making use of it), and lords who take advantage of poor poets (apparently, prompt payment for writers has never been a priority of the system...)
Boy, if Mr. Riggs is ego-googling, am I in for one nasty letter....
(1) Ben's poems to his dead children are incredibly touching