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“Shakespeare was the Homer, or father of our dramatic poets; Jonson was the Virgil, the pattern of elaborate writing. ... To conclude of him: as he has given us the most correct plays, so in the precepts which he has laid down in his Discoveries, we have as many and profitable rules for perfecting the stage, as any wherewith the French can furnish us.”
JOHN DRYDEN, An Essay of Dramatic Poesy.
“The quaintly named Explorata or Discoveries and Timber [form] a collection of notes, varying from a mere aphorism to respectable essay. In these latter a singular power of writing prose appears. There can be no greater contrast than exists between the prose style usual at that time - a style tourmenté, choked with quotation, twisted in every direction by allusion and conceit, and marred by perpetual confusions of English with classical grammar — and the straightforward, vigorous English of these Discoveries. . Here is found the prose character of Shakespeare, which, if less magniloquent than that in verse, has a greater touch of sheer sincerity.”
SAINTSBURY, History of Elizabethan Literature, pp. 218–219.
“Jonson’s notes or observations on men and morals, on principles and on facts, are superior to Bacon's in truth of insight, in breadth of view, in vigor of reflection, and in concision of eloquence. The dry, curt style of the statesman, docked and trimmed into sentences that are regularly snapped off or snipped down at the close of each deliverance, is as alien and as far from the fresh and vigorous spontaneity of the poet's as is the trimming and hedging morality of the essay on simulation and dissimulation' from the spirit and instinct of the man who 'of all things loved to be called honest.'
“At the very opening of these Explorata or Discoveries, we find ourselves in so high and so pure an atmosphere of feeling and of thought that we cannot but recognize and rejoice in the presence and the influence of one of the noblest, manliest, most honest and most helpful natures that ever dignified and glorified a powerful intelligence and an admirable genius.”
SWINBURNE, A Study of Ben Jonson, pp. 129-130.