We Admire Ben Jonson . Alchemy, interesting in Ben Jonson’s day and in 500 or so years not much has changed. How would Ben Jonson have described derivative products? Tell me Sir Epicure Mammon, Captain Face and Dol Common are not alive and well and working/have been working in Mayfair and Canary Wharf and all points in between to this day. Canary Wharf’s part in things is particularly apt given Jonson’s long association with the Isle of Dogs.
It is hard not to like Ben Jonson, he strikes me as extravagantly un-restrained as well as a marvellous observer of human nature. William Drummond Had this to say of Jonson having entertained him as a guest for a week or three some time in 1618:
He is a great lover and praiser of himself, a contemner and Scorner of others, given rather to losse 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), a dissembler of ill parts which raigne in him, a bragger of some of his friends and Countrymen hath said or done. He is passionately kynde and angry, carelesse either to gaine or keep, Vindictive, but if he be well answered, at himself… Some people take that as criticism. I don’t agree.
If you could resurrect Ben Jonson from his vertical burial site in Westminster Abbey – at his close of play there wasn’t enough for the more conventional horizontal position – and give him a few weeks to get his bearings and then ask him what of alchemy now? I think global warming and climate change would be his reply. Celebrate a great British iconoclast and talented man of letters, wear our Ben Jonson The Alchemist t-shirt.
The Image used in the design of this t-shirt, comes from the sixth woodcut from the series in Basil Valentine’s Azoth. Valentine was a 15th century Alchemist. Alchemy, of course, is the idea that a particular element, in this case the Philosopher’s Stone, can be used to transmute anything into gold. The design highlights that this is all about money, wrapped up in pseudo mystiscm. So instead of earth, air, fire and water. We have Pounds, Euros, Yen and Dollars.