Recently I bought this book because of my growing interest in the authorship of Shakespeare.
Born in 1572, his father, a bricklayer died before he was born. He is the one poet that we can state with absolute certainty knew Shakespeare. We know because, among things Shakespeare is listed as an actor in several of his plays, and there is an interview he gives where he takls about Shakespeare in this book. He wrote a Eulogy to him in Shakespeare's First Folio.
Jonson is a rather paradoxical character who could give and take away a completement in the same breath, or in a different breath. In 1616 he wrote a peoem called On Poet Ape, sometimes known as Epigram 56, published in 16216 the year of Shakespeare's death.
"Poor Poet-Ape that would be thought our chief,
Whose works are e'en the frippery of wit,
From brocage is become so bold a thief,
As we the robbed, leave rage, and pity it.
At first he would make low shifts, would pick and glean,
Buy the reversion of old plays; now grown
To a little wealth and credit in the scene
He takes up all, makes each man's wit his own...
..He marks not whose 'twas first: and after-times
May judge it to be his..
Contrast that with his eulogy in 1623 where he
calls Shakespeare the Soul of the Age, and starre of Poets, and the famous line
"Though little had he Latin and Less Greek,", and Starre of Poets, seems sarcastic when one considers that he wrote a play.
Other than that I am astounded by the amount of poet that he wrote. He include a very touching poem to his osn who diesd at the age of seven. He refers to someone called the great writer, who does not wish to be revealed. People have speculated who this great writer is. Some people speculated Chapman, but Chapman is mentioned by name in another poem. Jonson was paid to make alterations to Richard Crookback, yet in one of his poems he commends the writer of the Richard play.
He also alludes to Marlowe as Kit Cobbler. At least four wirters of the era have referred to Marlowe in this way. In 1616 the year of Shaklespeare's death he received a pension from King James.
Jonson at one time was sentenced to death for murder and managed to escape by a loophole called benefit of clergy, because he was able to speak latin, colloquially referred to as neck-verse.
If you are interested in this era and Jonson in particular, this is a great resource, and Jonson is clearly one the top poets of the era. Many of the poets of the era unfortunately died very young. The average life expectancy at the time was 35 on account of the plague, the pox and many other perils.
I think you will love it, and I hope this was helpful.