Fault in Friendship, A

"Young Johnson" and "Broome" (1623)

Historical Records

Dramatic Records of Henry Herbert

Herbert, Office-Book, quoted by George Chalmers.

A New Comedy, A Fault in Friendship, by Young Johnson and Broome alld 2 Oct. 1623, for Princes Company, 1 li.

Chalmers's comment on the above record.

These were The Son, and Servant of Ben Jonson.

(Both cited from Bawcutt, Control and Censorship, 145).

Theatrical Provenance

Prince Charles's (I)

Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

None known

References to the Play

None known

Critical Commentary

Chalmers's comment about the identity of "young Johnson" - almost certainly, it is now thought, a guess rather than a reporting of extra information - set the agenda for most early discussions of this enigmatic record. In early discussion, this reference was conflated with a mistaken interpretation of later uses of "Ben Jonson, Junior" as a pseudonym, and the putative son was therefore christened "Ben". Chalmers's comment also proposes that "Broome" was Richard Brome, Jonson's former manservant whose career as a writer of comedies is well documented in the 1630s, and this too is uncritically accepted by many earlier accounts.

Ronald Bayne, writing about A Fault in Friendship, assumed that both of these identifications were true:

Unfortunately, the play has not survived; but we may allow ourselves to suppose that the servant and the son pursued their dramatic studies together, under the father’s august and austere supervision.

Regrettably, there is no evidence that Ben Jonson ever had a son named Ben, or indeed any son who became a writer. Bentley comments: "It is conceivable, of course, that 'Young Johnson' was an unknown son of Ben, but it is rather more likely that he was one of the scores of other London Johnsons" (3.69).

Matthew Steggle cautions that the identification of "Broome" as Richard Brome is not quite certain either, especially since this record is five years earlier than the first certain reference to Brome in connection with the theatre (Richard Brome, 15).

Bentley adds: "The Prince's Company was one of the weaker troupes in London at this time and seems to have been performing at the Red Bull theatre" (3.69). David Nicol's article "The Repertory of Prince Charles’s (I) Company, 1608-1625" puts this record into the context of what else is known about the company's plays at this date.

For What It's Worth

In 2007, Tom Cain presented evidence of the existence of one Bedford Jonson, quite possibly a hitherto unknown son of Ben Jonson. It is perhaps fortunate that Bedford was only seven at the time of the writing of A Fault in Friendship, and can therefore safely be discounted as the missing author.

Works Cited

Bayne, Ronald. "Lesser Jacobean and Caroline Dramatists" in A. W. Ward, W. P. Trent, et al., eds., The Cambridge History of English and American Literature (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907–21), cited from the online edition, [1].
Cain, Tom. "Mary and Bedford Jonson: A Note", Ben Jonson Journal 14 (2007): 78-87.
Nicol, David. "The Repertory of Prince Charles’s (I) Company, 1608-1625". Early Theatre 9.2 (2006).
Steggle, Matthew. Richard Brome: Place and Politics on the Caroline Stage (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004).

Site created and maintained by Matthew Steggle 30 November 2009 (UTC).