Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Jacobean and Caroline Criticism > Jonson’s literary “portraits”
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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XI. Jacobean and Caroline Criticism.

§ 11. Jonson’s literary “portraits”.


It is at this point that Jonson enters the field. It is not merely that he makes Quintilian and Scaliger native to English criticism, by translating or paraphrasing their ideas in a language both sane and robust; but, under their guidance, he attempts the literary “portrait.” Yet, note how cautiously he works this new vein. The brief note on Shakespeare in Discoveries is made up of classical echoes; and the masterly portrait of Bacon as an orator follows, almost word for word, the elder Seneca’s description of Serverus Cassius. Such a portrait was as yet impossible in English, and, not unwisely, Jonson leans heavily on Roman crutches. But it is in the famous lines to Shakespeare that he is at his best, for the uplift of verse has helped him to sureness and swiftness of speech. This is the first adequate tribute to a great English poet; this, and the portrait of Bacon, are the first of their kind in English.   22

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  The Elizabethan “roll-call” The commendatory verses  
 
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