- Ben Jonson. To the Editor of The Nation and the Athenaeum
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[ 445 Ben Jonson1 To the Editor of The Nation and the Athenaeum The Nation and the Athenaeum, 33 (30 June 1923) 426 Sir – In some interesting remarks on Ben Jonson in The Nation and Athenaeum of June 23rd – with which I am otherwise in accord – I observe that you refer to me as seeming to have praised Jonson “apologetically.”2 My article was intended as a “defence” only in so far as I believed Jonson’s reputation – as evidenced by manuals of literates, such as you yourself quote3 – was a misrepresentation; and in this belief, I should imagine, you concur. And theoretically I agree that the only “defence” necessary for Jonson is to “tell people to read him.” But this is equally the only defence necessary for a number of other writers; and a great deal depends on the persuasiveness of the way in which one tells people to read them. But if any defence, further than an oracular invitation to the public to read an author, implies that the author defended is weak or vulnerable, then my paper on Jonson was by no means intended as a defence or an apology. On the contrary , Jonson seems to me to have a particularly strong position. Yours, etc., 9 Clarence Gate Gardens, N. W. 1 T. S. Eliot Notes 1. Dated 23 June 1923; the title was supplied by the editors of N&A. 2. TSE praised Jonson in two 1919 essays that were combined in SW as “Ben Jonson” (150). Leonard Woolf, writing in “The World of Books” (23 June 1923) about a new edition of Ben Jonson’s Conversations with William Drummond of Hawthornden (1923), claimed: “Most critics since Hazlitt seem to consider some apology necessary for praising the author of ‘Volpone’; . . . even Mr. T. S. Eliot, and after him Aldous Huxley, seem to praise Jonson apologetically. The tone seems to me incongruous and unnecessary. . . . The only defence of Jonson which is necessary is to tell people to read him” (396). 3. Woolf quotes John Buchan’s claim, from the newly published A History of English Literature (London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1923), that Jonson lacked “true genius” (396). ...