· topic

Jonson's Conversations with Drummond

The following are excerpts from an 1842 edition of "Notes of Ben Jonson's Conversations with William Drummond of Hawthornden" (January, M.DC.XIX). Jonson had travelled around Scotland and came to stay with Drummond, whereafter Drummond thought it a good idea to record their chit chat. All of the quotes that follow are from a section called "Of his jeasts and apothegms"; the parts mentioning Shakespeare are not quoted here since they're readily available elsewhere.


A Cook who was of ane evill lyfe, when a minister told him He would to hell; askt, What torment was there? Being ansuere Fyre. Fire (said he), that is my play-fellow. // He said to Prince Charles of Inigo Jones, that when he wanted words to express the greatest villaine in the world, he would call him ane Inigo.


Jones having accused him for naming him, behind his back, A foole: he denied it; but, says he, I said, He was ane arrant knave, and I avouch it. // One who fired a Tobacco pipe with a ballet [ballad] the next day having a sore-head, swoare he had a great singing in his head, and he thought it was the ballet: A Poet should detest a Ballet maker. // In a profound contemplation a student of Oxeford ran over a man in the fields, and walked 12 miles ere he knew what he was doun. // One who wore side hair being asked of ane other who was bald, why he suffered his haire to grow so long, answered, It was to sie if his haire would grow to seed, that he might sow of it on a bald pates.


Sir Henry Wotton, befor his Majesties going to England, being disguised at Leith on Sunday, when all the rest were at church, being interrupted of his occupation by ane other wenche who came in at the door, cryed out, “Pox on thee, for thou hast hindered the procreation of a chyld,” and betrayed himself. // A Justice of Peace would have commanded a Captaine to sit first at a table, because, sayes he, I am a Justice of Peace; the other drawing his sword comanded him, for sayeth he, I am a Justice of War. // What is what, the more yow out of it, groweth still the longer?—A Ditch.


A Gentlewoman fell in such a phantasie or phrensie with one Mr. Dod, a puritan preacher, that she requeested her Husband that, for the procreation of ane Angel or Saint, he might lye with her; which having obtained, it was but ane ordinarie birth. // A packet of letters which had fallen over board was devored of a fish that was tane at Flushing, and the letters were safely delivered to him to whom they were written at London.


Sr Geslaine Piercy asked the Maior of Plimmouth, Whether it was his own beard or the Town's beard that he came to welcome my Lord with? for, he thought, it was so long that he thought every one of the Town had eked some part to it. That he stroke at Sr Hierosme Bowes' breast, and asked him If he was within.


Heywood the Epigrammatist being apparelled in velvet by Queen Mary, with his cap on in the presence, in spight of all the Gentlemen, till the Queen herself asked him what he meaned? and then he asked her, If he was Heywood? for she had made him so brave that he almost had misknowen himself. // His armes were three spindles or rhombi; his own word about them, Percunctabor or Perscrutator.

Sean B. Palmer, 2006-12-18