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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

IX. Lesser Jacobean and Caroline Dramatists

§ 14. Thomas Randolph’s University training; His Aristippus and The Conceited Pedler

Among Jonson’s most eager admirers was Thomas Randolph; but he was not, like Field and Brome, a pupil of the old poet. He was a king’s scholar of Westminster school, who became a fellow of Trinity college, Cambridge. At the end of 1629, a year of plague broke up the schools at Cambridge, and Randolph made Jonson’s acquaintance during his stay in London; he was probably adopted as a “son” before he returned to Cambridge. He had written by this time his two earliest “shews” —Aristippus and The Conceited Pedler, which were printed in 1630. These lively sketches recall that early type of dramatic performance, the clown’s jig, in which a famous comedian, such as Tarlton, poured forth an improvisation of his own, which was a mixture of prose, verse and antics. But it is Randolph’s command of racy English, his high spirits and his exuberant wit that suggest this comparison. His pieces belong to that large body of “college drama” which is described in another chapter. Aristippus, or, The Joviall Philosopher is a dispute on the rival merits of ale and sack. All the technical terms of Aristotle’s logic are crowded into a hilarious laudation of sack and a decrying of malt liquor, which never flags. Randolph’s classical and scholastical learning supplies matter for a cataract of ingenious puns and word play, and, therefore, his transference of Aristotelian metaphysic into English farce is to be contrasted with, rather than compared to, Robert Browning’s profuse employment of the details of Attic drama in his Aristophanes’ Apology. Both poets, while crammed with learning, have no pedantry in their nature. The marvellous agility of some of the riming in Aristippus is another point of contact with Browning’s poetry.