Jordan, Thomas (1612?-1685) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

JORDAN, THOMAS (1612?–1685), poet, born in London about 1612, was bred a player at the Red Bull Theatre, Clerkenwell, where, when still a boy, he played in his majesty's revels company, and in 1640 performed the part of Lepida in Richards's play, ‘Messalina.’ In 1637 he published his earliest known work, ‘Poeticall Varieties, or Variety of Fancies,’ 4to, dedicated to Mr. John Ford of Gray's Inn, cousin to Ford the dramatist, and prefaced with commendatory verses by Thomas Heywood, Richard Brome, Thomas Nabbes, Edward May, and one J. B. In 1639 ‘he had the honour of reciting before Charles I a poem of his own at the Dedication of Mr. Thos. Bushel's Rock at Enston in Oxon’ (Nichols, Select Collection of Poems, vii. 61, 62). After the suppression of stage-plays in 1642 Jordan probably supported himself for some time by penning dedications, commendatory verses, and panegyrics, which are remarkable for their unblushing plagiarisms. His plan seems to have been to print a book with the dedication in blank, and to fill in the name afterwards by means of a small press worked by himself. Following the example of the ‘felowes’ described in Dekker's ‘Lanthorne and Candlelight,’ 1640, he constantly reissued both his own and other persons' already published works with nothing new except the title-page. Between 1643 and 1659—the period to which many of Jordan's undated verse-books are assigned—he tried varied means of getting a living. At the Restoration he wrote broadsides in support of General Monck and several pamphlets. Between 1660 and 1670 he was mainly occupied with the drama. He also tried his fortune as an actor, playing the part of Captain Penniless in his own play ‘Money is an Ass,’ produced in 1668. Among numerous prologues and epilogues by him was ‘A Prologue to introduce the first Woman that came to Act on the Stage in the Tragedy called the “Moor of Venice”’ (Malone, Hist. Account, p. 128), which was probably first spoken by Mrs. Saunderson [see Betterton, Thomas], at the Red Bull Theatre in 1660, and was printed in ‘The Royal Arbour of Loyall Poesie’ (1662). Mrs. Saunderson, however, cannot be accepted as the first ‘woman-actor’ upon the English stage (see Beljame, Le Public et les Hommes de Lettres en Angleterre, p. 32 n., and Prynne, Histrio-Mastix, p. 215).

Full scope was given to Jordan's talents for the first time in 1671, when, after an interregnum of five years consequent on the plague and the great fire, he was chosen successor to John Tatham [q. v.] as poet of the corporation of London. The chief duties of the city laureates were to invent pageants for the successive lord mayor's shows, and to compose a yearly panegyric upon the lord mayor elect (see Knight, London, vi. 155). Jordan conducted the civic ceremonies for fourteen years annually, and maintained their splendour with conspicuous success. He was succeeded by Matthew Taubman in the early part of 1685, and this has been generally assumed to be the date of his death.

Several of his contemporaries wrote disdainfully of Jordan. Winstanley ranks him with Tatham as ‘indulging his Muse more to vulgar fancies than the high-flying wits of those times’ (Lives of Famous Poets, p. 191). Oldham throws a passing sneer at him, and Wesley in his ‘Maggots’ (1685) invokes the muse of Jordan as the inspirer of dulness. Modern critics, however, have been more lenient. Knight describes him as the ‘most facetious of city poets;’ Hazlitt says he really seems to have possessed a greater share of poetical merit than usually fell to the lot of his profession; while both Collier and Corser attribute his plagiarisms rather to reckless idleness than to lack of fertility.

Jordan's chief works are: 1. ‘Poeticall Varieties or Variety of Fancies,’ 4to, 1637; reissued in 1646 under the new title of ‘Love's Dialect, or Poeticall Varieties digested into a Miscellanie of various Fancies,’ 4to. 2. ‘A Pill to Purge Melancholy, or a Discourse between Tell-Tale and Heare-All, by T. Jourdan,’ 1637. 3. ‘A Medicine for the Times, or an Antidote against Faction,’ 1641, 4to. This is a royalist pamphlet containing, among other things, ‘A Cure for him that is troubled with an Ovall-pate.’ 4. ‘A Diurnal of Danger, wherein are manifested and brought to light many great and unheard-of Diseases,’ 1642. 5. ‘Rules to know a Royall King from a Disloyall Subject,’ 4to, 1642. Another edition, with an account of the jewels of the crown of England and a ‘Sonet to a tune by W. L. [William Lawes],’ 1647. 6. ‘London's Joyful Gratulation and Thankful Remembrance for their Safeties,’ 1644 (verse). 7. ‘Divine Raptures, or Pietie in Poesie digested into a queint Diversity of Sacred Fancies,’ 4to, 1646. 8. ‘The Walks of Islington and Hogsden with the Humours of Wood Street Compter,’ 4to, 1657. This had been licensed as early as 1641, when it had been played, probably at the Red Bull, ‘for nineteen days with great applause’ (Whincop, Dramatic List, p. 111). It was subsequently printed under the new title of ‘The Tricks of Youth,’ 1663, 4to. 9. ‘Fancy's Festivals,’ a masque, ‘Privately presented by persons of quality,’ 4to, 1657. 10. ‘Bacchus Festival, or a new Medley; being a Musical Representation at the Entertainment of his Excellency the Lord General Monk at Vintners' Hall, 12 April,’ 1660. 11. ‘A Box of Spikenard newly Broken, or the Celebration of Christmas Day proved to be Pious and Lawful, by Thomas Jordan, Student in Physick,’ 1661, 8vo; doubtfully assigned to Jordan by Lowndes. 12. ‘A New Droll, or the Counter-Scuffle; acted in the middle of High Lent, between the Gaolers and the Prisoners,’ 4to, 1663. 13. ‘Money is an Ass,’ a comedy, 1663, 4to. Another edition 1668. 14. ‘A Royal Arbour of Loyall Poesie, consisting of Poems and Songs digested in Triumphs and Elegy, Satire, Love, and Drollery,’ 8vo, 1664. A new edition with a different title of the very rare ‘Rosary of Rarities planted in a Garden of Poetry,’ printed in 1659, 8vo, which was in its turn a variant of Jordan's ‘Nursery of Novelties in Variety of Poetry,’ n. d., 8vo. Two extracts from the ‘Royal Arbour,’ containing references to Falstaff and Desdemona respectively, are given in ‘Shakespeare's Centurie of Prayse,’ 1879, p. 331. 15. ‘Wit in a Wildernesse of Promiscuous Poetrie,’ n. d., 8vo (described both by Corser and by Nichols who says it has ‘much humourous merit,’ and containing an ‘Acrostical Elegy to my Cousin, Mr. Francis Jordan of Eynsham, near Oxford’). 16. ‘Pictures of Passions, Fancies, and Affections; Poetically deciphered in a Variety of Characters,’ n. d., 8vo (Bodleian); another edition, 1665, 8vo (Brit. Mus.). This work is described with several others by Jordan in Brydges's ‘Restituta,’ ii. 177, and compares favourably with several of the minor character writings so popular in the seventeenth century. 17. ‘Death Dissected, or a Fort against Misfortune,’ n. d., 8vo. This is an exact transcript with a different title of Benlowes' ‘Buckler against the Feare of Death,’ 1640. 18. ‘Claraphil and Clarinda, in a Forest of Fancies,’ n. d., 12mo. This is for the most part a collection of popular and somewhat licentious drolleries (cf. A Cabinet of Mirth in Two Parts), but it also contains an epithalamium on Thomas Stanley and Mrs. Dorothy Enyon (see Wood, Fasti, i. 284). 19. ‘Divinity and Morality in Robes of Poetry,’ n.d., 8vo. 20. ‘The Muse's Melody in a Consort of Poetrie with Diverse, Occasionall, and Compendious Epistles,’ n.d., 8vo. 21. ‘Jewells of Ingenuity, set in a Coronet of Poetrie,’ n. d., 8vo. 22. ‘Piety and Poetry contrasted in a Poetick Miscellanie of Sacred Poems,’ 8vo, Bodl. (cf. Divine Raptures, 1646). 23. ‘A Nursery of Novelties in Variety of Poetry,’ 8vo. 24. ‘On the Death of the Lord General Monk,’ London, 1669. 25. ‘London's Resurrection to Joy and Triumph,’ &c., 1671, 4to; celebrating the mayoralty of ‘the much meriting’ Sir G. Waterman (see London Gazette, 2 Nov. 1671). 26. ‘London Triumphant, or the City in Jollity and Splendour,’ 1672, in honour of ‘the well-deserving’ Sir Robert Hanson. 27. ‘London in its Splendour,’ 1673 (Sir William Hooker). 28. ‘The Goldsmiths' Jubile, or London's Triumphs’ (Sir Robert Vyner). 29. ‘A Cabinet of Mirth in Two Parts,’ 1674, 8vo. 30. ‘The Triumphs of London,’ 1675 (Sir Joseph Sheldon). 31. ‘London's Triumphs, express'd in sundry Representations, Pageants, and Shows,’ 1676, 4to (Sir Thomas Davies). 32. ‘London's Triumphs,’ 1677, 4to (Sir Francis Chaplin). 33. ‘The Triumph of London, for the Entertainment of Sir James Edwards,’ 1678, 4to. 34. ‘London in Luster; projecting many bright beams of Triumph,’ &c., 1679, 4to (Sir Robert Clayton [q. v.]). 35. ‘London's Glory, or the Lord Mayor's Show,’ 1680, 4to (Sir Patience Warde). 36. ‘London's Joy, or the Lord Mayor's Show,’ 1681, 4to (Sir John Moore). 37. ‘The Lord Mayor's Show, being a description of the Solemnity at the Inauguration of Sir William Pritchard, Kt.,’ 1682, 4to (a perfect copy, unknown to Nichols, is in the Guildhall Library; the Bodleian copy, the only other known, is imperfect). 38. ‘The Triumphs of London performed … for the entertainment of Sir Henry Tulse,’ 1683, 4to. 39. ‘London's Royal Triumph for the City's Loyal Magistrate … at the Instalment of Sir James Smith, Kt.,’ 1684, 4to. Most of the verse-books mentioned above are preserved in the British Museum Library. All Jordan's pageants are there with the exception of No. 37.

The following pieces by Jordan, which are not known to have been printed, are extant in manuscript: 1. ‘Cupid his Coronation in a Mask, as it was presented with good approbation at the Spittle, diverse times,’ 1654 (Bodl. Libr., Rawl. MS. 165). 2. ‘An Elegie of his Mistriss Fidelia’ (Ashmole MS. 38; cf. Wither, Poems). 3. ‘Divine Poesie, or a Poetick Miscelanie of Sacred Fancies, writ by T. J., Gent.’ (formerly Heber MS. 604, 4to, n.d.). ‘This,’ says Hazlitt, ‘is supposed to be the autograph of the author; but most, if not all, the poems it contains were printed by Jordan in his lifetime in various books. He was not remarkable for allowing the fruits of his pen to lie fallow.’ ‘Love hath found out his Eyes,’ a comedy or farce, licensed 29 June 1660, but never printed, was destroyed in manuscript by C. Warburton's servant. ‘A Prologue to a Play of mine, call'd “Love hath found out his Eyes, or Distractions,”’ is printed in the ‘Nursery of Novelties.’

[Two of Jordan's Pageants, together with a short Memoir of the author, are given in Fairholt's Lord Mayors' Pageants (Percy Soc.), pp. 74, 109–76; Nichols's London Pageants, 1831, pp. 110–15; see also Brydges's Censura, passim, and Restituta, ii. 172, iv. 268; Ritson's Ancient Songs and Ballads, 1877, p. 388; Hazlitt's Handbook, p. 312, and Bill Collections, 322; Corser's Collectanea, pt. viii. pp. 306 seq.; Langbaine and Jacob's Dramatic Poets; Fleay's Chronicle of the English Drama, ii. 18; Add. MS. 24488, f. 35 (Hunter's Chorus Vatum); Harl. MS. 5961, f. 119; Cole's Athenæ Cantabr. pt. iii. fol. 66; Gent. Mag. January to February 1825; Lowndes's Bibl. Man.; Collier's Bibliographical Account; Baker's Biog. Dramatica; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Guildhall Libr. Cat.; authorities mentioned in text.]

T. S.