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bear by san

December 2021

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bear by san

I guess that I miss you. I guess I forgive you. I'm glad that you stood in my way.

Now, if only Park Honan would write a Ben Jonson biography, my world would be complete. Really, somebody needs to. (there's a 1989 Riggs biography, but it's seriously OOP. If anybody stumbles across a copy for under twenty bucks, though, grab it and I'll reimburse.) (Interestingly, cheshyre, if I'm reading Honan's snark right (he doesn't name names, but he mentions other recent bios; draw your own conclusions), Honan has some uncomplimentary things to say about the scholarship in the Riggs Marlowe bio, especially the King's School and Cambridge chapters. In any case, he refutes a couple of things I know I read in Riggs.)

Yes, I know, Jonson bio probably = terribly uncommercial. But really, you'd think there would be enough blood and guts in Ben's life to make up for his lesser fame. Nevermind his rather horrible, lingering death....

Ben, y'see, really was the brawler and unholy terror that Kit is often (without too much evidence) made out to be. Not only is there the unfortunate demise of Gabriel Spencer, but there are other reports that have Ben pistol-whipping a man with the flintlock he brought to defend himself from Jonson(!) (who was already at that time under deferred sentence of death for the Spencer duel, BTW), and another story that I've read somewhere but have no provenance on that involves Ben putting another man's eye out while brawling.

Really, if you want a bad boy of the Elizabethan stage, the towering Master Jonson's broad shoulders can bear that weight rather handily.

Honan's book is full of lovely tidbits. According to him, that second fight Kit was in? The one in Canterbury that's often cited as evidence of his mental decline, and which resulted in him being bound over to keep the peace?

Kit used a stick and a dagger rather than a rapier and main gauche in that fight. (His opponent was apparently more traditionally armed.) Whether this means that Kit didn't bother drawing to prove a point, or whether he stopped carrying a sword after the Hog's Lane duel in which Tom Watson killed William Bradley, I don't know--but that's such a fantastic bit of information. I get all ashiver over some of this stuff--like the pistol-whipping story above--because it's the kind of real, telling detail that makes the people and the era leap to life for me.

Telling detail! Fabulous reality! Dashing poets caning armed men in a public thoroughfare!

Yeah, this is what history is about.





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Hee. It's a *fun* book. I loff it.

Also, that disdainful caning story makes me so damned happy, because it tells me I got Kit right. My Marlowe would do that. Just to piss the other guy off.
Interestingly, cheshyre, if I'm reading his snark right (he doesn't name names), Honan has some uncomplimentary things to say about the scholarship in the Riggs Marlowe bio, especially the King's School and Cambridge chapters. In any case, he refutes a couple of things I know I read in Riggs
I don't know if this is true with other subjects, but it seems de rigueur among Marlowe biographies to snark the previous biographer. Riggs snarked Kuriyama who snarked Nicholls...

Yeah, this is what history is about
Absofragginlutely. The more history I learn, the more astonished I am that public schools made the subject boring.


Of course, now I'm ticked because I could've picked up an autographed copy of the Honan book in London. But after an email exchange with the publisher's publicity department (over my inability to attend any of his London talks) she said that I'd be getting a reviewer's copy, so I saved my money and now have neither. :(
It does seem de rigeur. However, it stands out in this case because he doesn't, in general, do the I refute thee! thing elsewhere in the text. So I suspect he may, indeed, have some valid issues.

I wonder if the concentration on facts and dates is what makes it boring, when the personalities are so damned fascinating. I mean, Abigail Adams. What a woman. And yet--

:-( And the failure to deliver the review copy is _very_ sad.
I just love the fact that Jonson's partner in theatrical crime was named Inigo Jones...
But of course!
So with you. That's what I read history for, and your excitement is contagious.
best part of it? Kit was the one issued the restraining order afterwards. So we may assume it was a somewhat *successful* caning of an armed man on a public thoroughfare.

Which says something about his fencing skills, I imagine.

plus Jonson's bawdy poetry

surely could spark some sort of revival, somebody out there's got the talent to set it to modern music or something. Interest all round - the original bad boy gangsta rapper of the so-nice Elizabethan era...

Perhaps you should consider doing a historical novel, fictional bio kind of thing, instead of a straight fantasy next. Or maybe a fantasy featuring Jonson, with plenty of extracts of his poetry for chapter headings, might get someone excited enough to write your biography...
*g* Well, there have been something like 8 Marlowe bios and 5 on Shakespeare in the past ten years. I would say the Time Is Ripe....
I think someday when I am a Famous Scholar I may have to write the temporarily-definitive Jonson bio. I've made it something of a mission to keep Ben from obscurity, because he just does not get enough love, these days.

Have you read Honan's Shakespeare bio, btw? It's good too.
He does need rescuing! And you should! He's a terrific poet, and a very colorful character.

He's got a major secondary part in The Stratford Man (he's as instrumental to the plot as any of the characters other than Will and Kit, and gets a fair amount of screen time post- oh, about 1597 or so) and one of these days, if the Promethean Era series pans out with readers, there will be a post-1616 Jonson book, in which he gets to protag, even.

Honan's Shakespeare bio is the next one on my pile. ;-) I was saving the good one for last.
The University of Maryland library system has four copies of the Riggs bio. Should I steal one for you? (One, incidentally, has already been stolen. There used to be five!)
Oooo. Theft from libraries is a little much time in Hell even for me. *g* I think I'll stick to trawling ABE....

I'll get you your sporkery somehow!
Oh, no, you see, it's perfectly acceptable. I'm a graduate. *g* That makes it all right.
They owe you at least one $75.00 OOP paperback? *g*
At the very least. It's cheaper than therapy!
I'll point out that Hollinshed names the standard dagger of the Englishman as running to some 18" in legnth.

And a piece of wood (though moreso against more brittle steels, and ones that did more cutting than rapiers) could be used, in good hands, to break the opponents blade.

But, I'd not be likely to refrain from steel if I had it to hand.

TK
*g*

Well, the sumptuary statute ~1560 (doh) reads-- her Majesty's pleasure is that no man shall, after ten days next following this proclamation, wear any sword, rapier, or any weapon in their stead passing the length of one yard and half a quarter of blade at the uttermost, neither any dagger above the length of twelve inches in blade, neither any buckler with a sharp point or with any point above two inches in length, upon pain of forfeiting the sword or dagger passing the said length, and the buckler made otherwise than is prescribed, to whomsoever will seize upon it, and the imprisonment of his body that shall be found to wear any of them, and to make fine at her Majesty's will and pleasure. And if any cutler or other artificer shall, after the day of the publication hereof, sell, or have within his shop or house to be sold, or shall make or cause to be made any rapier, sword, dagger, or buckler contrary to this order, to forfeit the same, his body to be imprisoned, and to make fine at the Queen's Highness's pleasure, and to remain in prison till the said fine be fully satisfied; and being taken with the fault the second time, never to be permitted after to use that occupation; which in the Court is to be executed by the officers aforesaid, in the city and within the liberties, by the mayor and Court of aldermen, and such as by them shall be appointed in that sort, as well sergeants as others beforesaid; in Westminster, the suburbs, and other privileged places, by the officers, of the same; in towns corporate by the mayor and other head officers, and in all other places by the justices of peace.

And recreation daggers I've seen generally run between eight and fourteen inches. (OTOH, a main gauche for fencing often runs a good bit longer.) So the question is, was he using his belt knife, or a fencing blade?

Since he could legally carry a sword (the Cambridge MA gets you the "Gent." appended to your last name, which allows some sartorial privileges) and he had in the past (the Hog's Lane fight) but yet didn't appear to be using one in this particular altercation, my speculation wanders over to why not?

I'm kind of drawn to the idea that it's more humiliating to cane somebody you don't particularly care for than to fence with him. *g* But that's rankest speculation on my part. (If he'd had a rubber chicken in the othr hand, though, then we could be sure!)

Really excellent post on General Pace today, Terry, by the way. I didn't comment because I had nothing to add but blandishments.
I've always sort of doubted the stat, but Hollinshed used it (and he's contemporary, if you've not read him you should; a wealth of data), and so it seems to be reasonable, if not the most accurate.

Having a dagger of about 16" I can say the damned thing is unwieldy, and the maker needed a couple more clues. But with the proper blade, and weight, it could be a fearsome thing.

Oh, and the caning, much more embarrasing. If I thought I could get away with it, I would be so willing to use such a trick to embarrass, shame and humiliate an enemy.

Thank you for the blandishments, praise is always nice.

That's the most risky post I've made, in the vein of walking the line between acceptable commentary and borderline violation of regulations on what I can say about my civilian superiors.

TK
*g* I have an incomplete Holinshed (the Expurgated Version!) that I read large chunks of in 2003, though I did not get through the entirety of it. (It was more a browsing process.)

Eighteen inches seems like a reasonably length for a fencing dagger, in any case, one constructed along the lines of a main gauche or parrying weapon. A bit unwieldy for cutting your cheese.

I can see how that post would be risky, but I think it's true, and thank you for saying it. I think it's a useful reminder that working for an idiot does not make one an idiot. Though it can make for uncomfortable staff meetings.
I don't know if it's insuffient training, weak arms, or juset stylistic, but I prefer a shorter second weapon (maybe 12" of blade). Somehing that size is large enough, if you ask me, to be a primary.

Then again I prefer sword and cloak, or blade and buckler (I can use that to take on a single sword, and do him in) to gauche and rapier.

TK
I was looking for something else (the piece on Gen. Pace) and this came up.

So I re-read it, as is my wont, and I think I see how the dagger could be that long, and still be legal, per the statute of 1560.

which in the Court is to be executed by the officers aforesaid, in the city and within the liberties, by the mayor and Court of aldermen, and such as by them shall be appointed in that sort, as well sergeants as others beforesaid; in Westminster, the suburbs, and other privileged places, by the officers, of the same; in towns corporate by the mayor and other head officers, and in all other places by the justices of peace.

That's limited to the city and boroughs of London.

Elsewhere the rules are not the same.

TK
clever TK.
Yeah, but wrong.

Looking at it in plain type, it seems to be broader than that, "in all other places, by justices of the peace", and the comment on the "mayors of towns corporate" would be redundant (and odd, being plural) if it were only London, and environs.

One has to assume it was, for knives, honored more in the breach.

TK