In the summer of 1619, two writers evaluated Ben Jonson’s character and career in contrasting terms. Anthony à Wood, in his biographical dictionary of distinguished Oxford alumni, summarized the reasons why Richard Corbett of Christ Church “and other poets of this University did in reverence for his parts” propose him for an MA Degree: “His own proper industry and addiction to books, especially to ancient poets and classical authors, made him a person of curious learning and judgement, and of singular excellence in the art of poetry.” At much the same time, William Drummond, Laird of Hawthornden, near Edinburgh, having had Jonson staying with him after his epic walk from London to Scotland, noted this about his guest: “He is a great lover and praiser of himself, a contemner and scorner of others, given rather to lose a friend than a jest, jealous of every word and action of those about him (especially after drink, which is one of the elements in which he liveth) . . . . He is passionately kind and angry, careless either to gain or keep, vindicative, but if be well answered, at himself.”

more from Brian Vickers at the TLS here.