English Essays: Sidney to Macaulay. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
BEN JONSON, after Shakespeare the most eminent writer for the Elizabethan stage, was born in 1573, and died in 1635. He was the founder of the so-called Comedy of Humours, and throughout the reign of James I was the dominating personality in English letters. A large number of the younger writers were proud to confess themselves his sons. Besides dramas of a variety of kinds, Jonson wrote much lyrical poetry, some of it of the most exquisite quality. His chief prose work appears in his posthumously published Explorata, Timber or Discoveries, made upon men and matter, a kind of commonplace book, in which he seems to have entered quotations and translations from his reading, as well as original observations of a miscellaneous character on men and books. The volume has little or no structure or arrangement, but is impressed everywhere with the stamp of his vigorous personality. The following passage on Bacon is notable as a personal estimate of this giant by the man who, perhaps, approached him in the field of intellect more closely than any other contemporary.