it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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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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