Roman ‘Orders’ II … Ben Jonson and Horace

The previous item on the use of Roman architectural orders during the Renaissance, it turns out, comes from a special section in the Guardian all about Renaissance architecture in the blessed isle. Another item in the series mentions in passing:

Ben Jonson lived most of his life as a non-paying guest in the houses of the gentry. In the poem To Penshurst (c1600), he leaves us a record of Penshurst Place as not “built to envious show” but with walls “of country stone”. It praises not a monument, but a household that serves its community, welcomes guests and, most importantly, provides a good table. The literary model for such an exercise was the Roman poet Horace, but the subject was homegrown English. To Penshurst spawned a genre of estate poems that lasted well into the 18th century.

… which was something I was unaware of. Some quick Googling suggests the genre of estate poetry did have numerous ancient influences besides Horace, but a recent work which caught my eye is Jonson, Horace and the Classical Tradition by Victoria Moul (in preview version at Google Books). The blurb therefrom reads:

The influence of the Roman poet Horace on Ben Jonson has often been acknowledged, but never fully explored. Discussing Jonson’s Horatianism in detail, this study also places Jonson’s densely intertextual relationship with Horace’s Latin text within the broader context of his complex negotiations with a range of other ‘rivals’ to the Horatian model including Pindar, Seneca, Juvenal and Martial. The new reading of Jonson’s classicism that emerges is one founded not upon static imitation, but rather a lively dialogue between competing models – an allusive mode that extends into the seventeenth-century reception of Jonson himself as a latter-day ‘Horace’. In the course of this analysis, the book provides fresh readings of many of Jonson’s best known poems – including ‘Inviting a Friend to Dinner’ and ‘To Penshurst’ – as well as a new perspective on many lesser known pieces, and a range of unpublished manuscript material.

… will have to track that one down, I think  (and refresh my knowledge of Ben Jonson from that Renaissance Poetry course I took lo those many years ago) …

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