The English Novel in the Time of Shakespeare
by J. J. Jusserand
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More striking even than these tributes to Sidney's merits as a novelist is the treatment awarded him in France. The famous Du Bartas in his second "Week" names Sidney as one of the "three firm pillars of the English Speech." This speech, according to the French poet, is mainly supported by Thomas More and Bacon,

"Et le milor Cydne qui cygne doux-chantant Va les flots orgueilleux de Tamise flatant; Ce fleuve gros d'honneur emporte sa faconde Dans le sein de Thetis et Thetis par le monde."[237]

Besides this, Sidney's romance received in France an homage very rare at that epoch: it was translated. A Frenchman possessing a knowledge of the English language was then an extraordinary phenomenon. As late as the year 1665, no less a paper than the "Journal des Scavans" printed a statement to the following effect: "The Royal Society of London publishes constantly a number of excellent works But whereas most of them are written in the English language, we have been unable till now to review them in our pages. But we have at last found an English interpreter through whose offices it will be henceforth possible for us to enrich our publication with the best things appearing in England." As for Sidney, not only was he translated, but what is not less strange, the fact provoked in France one of the most violent literary quarrels of the time. Two translations of the "Arcadia," now entirely forgotten, were published simultaneously, both in three volumes, both adorned with engravings.[238] As soon as a volume appeared, each of the translators profited by the occasion to write a new preface, and to repeat that his rival was a mere plagiarist and did not know a word of English. The other replied offering to prove such a rare knowledge; had it been a question of Chinese or of Hindustani they could not have boasted more noisily of their unique acquaintance with so mysterious an idiom. Each appealed to his patroness, who was, in either case, no ordinary woman: the one had dedicated his work to Diane de Chateaumorand (D'Urfe's Diane), who had indeed the right to judge of Arcadias; the other invoked the authority of the Queen-mother, Marie de Medicis, by whose express command he had carried on his work.

Baudoin, who had been the first to turn the "Arcadia" into French, published it in 1624, prefixing to it this remark, flattering to Sidney's memory, but which shows how very little his language was known in France: "Merely the desire of understanding so rare a book caused me to go to England, where I remained for two years in order to gain a knowledge of it."

Two years! immediately retorts the publisher of the other translation; we can do better than that: the author of the work that we publish is Mademoiselle Genevieve Chappelain, and what guarantees does she not offer! "She has the honour to have lived more than seven years at the court of the King of Great Britain, in the suite of the Countess of Salisbury, who esteemed her as no ordinary young girl, but as a very well-bred demoiselle who had been presented to her with good credentials, and who was descended from a race that has given us great men: verily, and women, too, that the muses have deigned to favour." This is a little like the argument of Scudery, boasting, ten years later, of his noble birth in order to prove to poor Pierre Corneille that he is the better poet of the two, and that the "Cid" is worth nothing.

But something better still follows, and here the worthy publisher somewhat betrays himself: "If she has not been able to learn the language of the country in which she has lived for more than seven years, and nearly always with great ladies: how, I beg of you, could those who have only lived there two years, and among the common people, know the language? I do not wish to offend any one by this notice, which I thought it necessary to make only to defend a young lady who is my near relation."

Baudoin maintains his statement, and defies his rivals to translate Sidney's verse, and he enumerates the precautions he himself has taken, precautions which certainly ought to satisfy the reader as regards his accuracy. Not only did he live for two years in England, but, he says, "I secured the assistance of a French gentleman of merit and learning, who has been good enough to explain to me the whole of the first book. I have acted in such a way as to procure two different versions of it in order to produce one good one." And he has done even something more: "I have always had near me one of my friends to whom this tongue was as familiar as our own; he has taken the trouble to elucidate for me any doubts I may have had." In truth, he could hardly have surrounded himself with more light, but then, what an arduous task to translate from English!

Baudoin's adversaries were in no way intimidated by this display; firstly, they had had the assistance of exactly the same gentleman; it appears that a second equally learned was not to be found; secondly, Mdlle. Chappelain also showed her translation to persons who knew both languages, and they found her work perfect; lastly, and what more can be required? she sends a challenge to Baudoin and his accomplices, and invites them to a decisive combat: "She is ready to show that she knows the English language better than they, and they would not dare to appear in order to speak it with her in the presence of persons capable of judging." Baudoin does not appear, indeed, to have accepted this challenge, but neither does it seem to have discouraged him. He closes the preface of his last volume with this poetical apostrophe to those who are envious of his reputation: "By the mouth of good wits—Apollo holds you in contempt,—Troop so ignorant and bold:—For you profane his beauteous gifts,—And cause thistles to spring up—In the midst of your Arcady."[239]

What astonishes us now, when we follow the vicissitudes of the long-forgotten dispute of these two writers is that so much passion should have been expended over Sidney's romance, however great might be its merit; while the attention of no one in France was attracted by Shakespeare and the inimitable group of dramatists of his time. No Baudoin, no Genevieve Chappelain disputed the honour of translating "Hamlet," and a century was still to elapse before so much as Shakespeare's name should figure in a book printed in France.[240]

This double translation of the "Arcadia" did not, however, pass unnoticed, far from it; and from time to time we find the name of Sidney reappearing in French books, while the giants of English literature continued entirely unknown on the continent. When Charles Sorel satirized the long-winded romances of his time in his "Berger Extravagant," he did not forget Sidney, who figures among the authors alternately praised and criticized in the disputation between Clarimond and Philiris. The criticism is not very severe, and compared with the treatment inflicted on other authors, it would seem that Sorel wished to show courtesy to a foreigner who had been invited, so to say, as a visitor to France by his translators.[241] Copies of Sidney's original "Arcadia" crept into France, and are to be found in rather unexpected places. Thus a copy of the edition of 1605 is to be seen in the National Library in Paris, with the [Greek: Ph Ph] of surintendant Fouquet on the cover. The way in which the letters are interlaced shows that the book did not come from Fouquet's own library, but from the library of the Jesuits,[242] to whom he had given a yearly income of 6,000 livres, and who, in memory of their benefactor, stamped thus books purchased from this fund.

In France, too, as well as in England, the "Arcadia" was turned into a play. Antoine Mareschal, a contemporary of Corneille and the author of such dramas as "La genereuse Allemande ou le triomphe de l'amour," 1631, the "Railleur ou la satyre du temps," 1638, the "Mauzolee," 1642, derived a tragi-comedy, in five acts, and in verse from the "Arcadia." The piece, which, if the author is to be believed, made a great sensation in Paris, was called the "Cour Bergere," and was dedicated to Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, ambassador of England to France, and brother to Sir Philip. It appeared in 1640; it was thus later than the "Cid." None the less, it exhibits the phenomenon of several deaths on the stage; but the ridiculous manner in which these deaths are introduced could only strengthen Corneille in his scruples. The wicked Cecropia, standing on a terrace at the back of the stage, moves without seeing the edge, and falls head foremost on the boards, exclaiming:

"Ah! je tombe, et l'enfer a mon corps entraine ... Je deteste le ciel! Ah! je meurs enragee!"

In the following century Sidney was still remembered in France. In his "Memoires pour servir a l'histoire de la Republique des lettres," Niceron mentions the "Arcadia" as "a romance full of intelligence and very well written in the author's language."[243] Florian knew him and held him in great honour; he names him with D'Urfe, Montemayor, and Cervantes, as being, as it were, one of his literary ancestors,[244] and the fact is not without importance; for Florian, continuing, as he did, Sidney's tradition, and trying in his turn to write poems in prose, stands as a link between the pastoral writers of the sixteenth century and the author who was the last to compose prose epics in our time: the author of "Les Martyrs" and of that American Arcadia called "Atala"—Chateaubriand.


[167] And which has been faithfully and touchingly described in Dr. Jessopp's book: "Arcady: For better, for worse," recently published in London.

[168] Besides its fine collection of family portraits, one of which is reproduced in this volume, by the kind permission of Lord de l'Isle and Dudley, Penshurst is remarkable because it offers to this day a perfect example of a fourteenth-century hall with the fireplace in the middle.

[169] "Life of the renowned S^r Philip Sidney," London, 1652, 12mo.

[170] "The Correspondence of Sir Ph. Sidney and Hubert Languet," ed. Pears London, 1845, 8vo, Appendix; A.D. 1579(?).

[171] "Vindictae contra tyrannos," Edinburgh, 1579, part iii.

[172] Padua, February 4, 1574, "Correspondence," p. 29.

[173] A.D. 1575, "Correspondence," p. 94.

[174] "Arcadia," bk. iii.

[175] "Captain Cox his ballads ... or Robert Laneham's Letter, 1575," ed. Furnivall, London, Ballad Society, 1871, 8vo, p. 53.

[176] "Correspondence," ut supra, March 1, 1578.

[177] "Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella ... edited from the folio of 1598," by Alfred Pollard, London, 1888, 8vo, sonnet 33. Penelope's marriage with Lord Rich seems to have taken place in April, 1581.

[178] "Astrophel and Stella," ut supra, pp. 170 and 72 (sonnet 69).


"Goe little booke! thy selfe present As childe whose father is unkent To him that is the President Of noblenesse and chevalree...."

Dedication of the "Shepheardes Calender." Sidney seems to have had a right and not over-enthusiastic appreciation of Spenser's eclogues; in his "Apologie for Poetrie" he is content to say that "the Sheapheardes Kalender hath much poetrie in his eglogues: indeede worthy the reading if I be not deceived" (Arber's reprint, p. 62).

[180] The elegies written on this occasion are counted by the hundred. A splendid series of engravings were published by T. Laut to perpetuate the memory of Sidney's funeral, London, 1587

[181] London, 1598, fol.

[182] Sidney left only one daughter who became Countess of Rutland. His wife remarried twice, first with the Earl of Essex, brother of Penelope, then with Lord Clanricarde.

[183] "Essayes," London, 1603, fol. Dedication of Book II. This "Epistle" is followed by two sonnets, one to each lady, again praising them for their connection with Sidney. The sonnet to Penelope begins thus:

"Madame, to write of you, and doe you right, What meane we, or what meanes to ayde meane might? Since HE who admirably did endite, Entiteling you perfections heire, joies light, Loves life, lifes gemme, vertues court, Heav'ns delight, Natures chiefe worke, fair'st booke, his muses spright, Heav'n on earth, peerlesse Phoenix, Phoebe bright, Yet said he was to seeke, of you to write" (p. 191).

This last line alludes to Astrophel's first sonnet to Stella (quoted below, p. 233).

[184] "What changes here," &c. "translated out of the 'Diana' of Montemayor in Spanish. Where Sireno a shepheard pulling out a little of his mistresse Diana's haire, wrapt about in greene silke, who now had utterly forsaken him, to the haire hee thus bewayled himselfe."—"The same Sireon ... holding his mistresse glasse ... thus sung." "Certaine sonnets written by Sir Philip Sidney, never before printed."

[185] This masque was written in 1578; and was performed before the Queen when staying with the Earl of Leicester at Wanstead. Sidney wrote also for festivities of the same kind a "Dialogue betweene two shepheards, uttered in a pastorall shew at Wilton" (the seat of his sister the Countess of Pembroke). Both works are to be found in divers old editions of the "Arcadia" (e.g., the eighth, 1633, fol.), which in fact contain, very nearly, Sidney's complete works.

[186] The "Apologie" written about 1581, which circulated in MS. during Sidney's life-time, was published only after his death: "An Apologie for Poetrie, written by the right noble, vertuous and learned Sir Philip Sidney, Knight," London, 1595, reprinted by Arber, London, 1869.

[187] Arber's reprint, pp. 46, 55, 41, and 40.

[188] "The Complete Poems of Sir Philip Sidney," ed. Grosart, London, 1877, 3 vol. 8vo; "Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella ... edited from the folio of 1598," by Alfred Pollard, London, 1888, 8vo.

[189] The "Arcadia" begun in 1580, appeared after Sidney's death: "The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia, written by Sir Philippe Sidnei," London, 1590, 4to. Several of the numerous poems inserted in the "Arcadia" are written in classical metres; for Sidney took part with several of his contemporaries in the futile effort made in England as in France to apply to modern languages the rules of ancient prosody. The pages referred to in the following notes are those of the edition of 1633, "now the eighth time published with some new additions."

[190] And compared as such to Octavia, sister of Augustus, by Meres in his "Paladis Tamia," 1598. She helped her brother in translating the Psalms of David and published various works, one of them being a translation of one of Garnier's neo-classical tragedies: "The tragedie of Antonie," written in 1590, printed in 1595, which contains, conformably to Sidney's taste, messengers, monologues and choruses. It begins thus in the regular classical style of that time:

"Since cruel Heav'ns against me obstinate, Since all mishappes of the round engin doo Conspire my harme: since men, since powers divine, Aire, earth, and sea are all injurious: And that my queene her selfe, in whom I liv'd The idoll of my harte, doth me pursue, It's meete I dye."

[191] The "Diana" was turned into English by B. Yong, London, 1598, fol. Shakespeare derived from one of the stories in Montemayor's romance (the story of the shepherdess Felismena) a part of the plot of his "Two Gentlemen of Verona." See above p. 150.

[192] Now in the Louvre.

[193] The taste for these fancies had been handed down from the Middle Ages; ladies following as pages their own lovers, unknown to them, abound in the French mediaeval literature; one, e.g., is to be found in the "Tres chevaleureux Comte d'Artois," a very old tale, of which we have only a version of the fifteenth century, but which existed long before, and supplied Boccaccio with the groundwork of his story of Giletta of Narbonne. From Boccaccio, this tale was transferred by Paynter to his "Palace of Pleasure," and from this work, by Shakespeare, to the stage, under the name of "All's well." Sidney's model Montemayor gives the same part to play, as we have seen, to his pretended shepherdess Felismena, who follows as his page her lover Don Felix.

[194] See "Les projets de mariage de Jacques V.," by Edmond Bapst, Secretaire d'Ambassade, Paris, 1889, 8vo, ch. xxiv. p. 289.

[195] "Memoires of Sir James Melvil," London, 1683, fol., p. 51.

[196] Sonnet 41. See also Sonnet 53.

[197] "Captain Cox his ballads ... or Robert Laneham's Letter, 1575," ed. Furnivall, London, 1871, 8vo, p. 49.

[198] Book i. p. 8 (edition of 1633).

[199] Book ii. p. 99.

[200] Book iii. p. 382.

[201] "Life of Sidney," London, 1652, 12mo, p. 18.

[202] Book ii. p. 117.

[203] "Zelmane would have put to her helping hand, but she was taken with such a quivering, that she thought it was more wisdome to lean her selfe to a tree and look on" (book ii. p. 138).

[204] Book i. p. 65.

[205] Book ii. p. 95. The daughter's speeches though she believes Zelmane to be a woman and cannot understand her own feelings are scarcely less intemperate (book ii. p. 112).

[206] And in order that no doubt may exist, Milton refers his reader to the page in Sidney and in Dr. Juxon's book of "[Greek: Eikonoklastes]," "Prose Works," London, 1806, 6 vols., 8vo, vol. ii. p. 407.

[207] "Arcadia," book iii. p. 248. In the "[Greek: Eikon Basilike], the portraiture of his sacred majesty in his solitude and sufferings," 1648, 8vo, towards the end of the book, where are to be found "praiers used by his majestie in the time of his sufferings, delivered to Dr. Juxon, bishop of London, immediately before his death," the end of the prayer of course is altered: "... so that at the last, I may com to thy eternal kingdom through the merits of thy son our alone Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen."

[208] His contemporaries agreed in his belief: "Sir Philip Sidney writ his immortal poem 'The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia' in prose; and yet our rarest poet" (F. Meres "Paladis Tamia," 1598).

[209] Pp. 138 and 51.

[210] On this and other occasions Sidney combines alliteration with the repetition of words. Here is another example: "Is it to be imagined that Gynecia, a woman, though wicked, yet witty, would have attempted and atchieved an enterprise no lesse hazzardous than horrible without having some counsellor in the beginning and some comforter in the performing?" (book v. p. 466).

[211] Pp. 10, 17, 129, 267, &c. The same curious repetition of words is sometimes to be noticed in Sidney's poetry:

"Nor faile my faith in my fayling fate; Nor change in change, though change change my state."

("The Smokes of melancholie.")

[212] Pp. 2, 137, 51.

[213] "La, possible au sortir du combat, un oeillet tout sanglant tombe de lassitude; la un bouton de rose, eufle du mauvais succes de son antagoniste, s'epanouit de joie; la le lys, ce colosse entre les fleurs, ce geant de lait caille, glorieux de voir ses images triompher au Louvre, s'eleve sur ses compagnes et les regarde de haut en bas." Ice is for Cyrano: "une lumiere endurcie, un jour petrifie, un solide neant" ("Lettre pour le printemps"; "Lettre a M. le Bret").

[214] Book i. p. 4.

[215] Here is an example among many others. Sidney's portrait, now belonging to Earl Darnley, bears the following inscription painted on its canvas: "S^r Phillip Sidney, who writ the Arcadia" (Tudor Exhibition, 1890).

[216] "The Guls Horne-booke," "Works," ed. Grosart, vol. ii. p. 254.

[217] Act ii. sc. 1, performed 1599, printed 1600. See also in "Bartholomew fair," performed in 1614, act iv. sc. 2, how Quarlous chooses the word "Argalus" to try his luck in a love affair.

[218] The British Museum, which does not possess a complete collection, has editions of 1590, 1598, 1599, 1605, 1613, 1621, 1623, 1627, 1629, 1633, 1638, 1655, 1662, 1674.

[219] From book ii. of the "Arcadia." It resembles the episode of Gloucester and his sons, and shows the old King of Paphlagonia dispossessed, become blind and led by his son Leonatus. See "Shakespeare's Library," ed. Collier and Hazlitt, London, 1875, 6 vol. 8vo, "King Lear."

[220] A philosophical and scientific poem by N. Baxter, dedicated to the Countess of Pembroke, Lady Mary Wroth, &c., and published in 1606, 4to.

[221] "Theophania or severall modern histories, represented by way of Romance ... by an English person of quality," London, 1655, 4to.

[222] "The Ile of Guls, as it hath been often played in the blacke fryars by the children of the revels" (reprinted by Bullen, "Works of John Day," 1881, 4to.)

[223] "Works," ed. Dyce, vol. vi. All the main incidents of Sidney's novel are reproduced by Shirley except the quarrel with Cecropia, and as the romance might very well have ended where Sidney left it, the dramatist did not go further and did not use any of the continuations. See also "Zelmane," by W. Mountfort, 1705, "Parthenia, an Arcadian Drama," 1764, &c.

[224] It was published in 1622. The British Museum possesses editions of the years 1629, 1632, 1647, 1651, 1656, 1677, 1684, 1687, 1700, 1708, 1726. Grosart (Quarles' "Complete Works," 1876) mentions one more of the year 1630.

[225] London, 1621, fol. (a very curious engraved title).

[226] Pp. 39 and 519.

[227] Pp. 295, 298.

[228] In Jonson's "Masque of Blackness," 1605, Lady Mary Wroth played the part of Baryte, and Lady Rich, Sidney's Stella of many years before, personated Ocyte.

[229] "Spectator," April 12, 1711.

[230] "The Works of the honourable S^r Philip Sidney," London, 1725, 3 vols. 8vo.

[231] "Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia," modernized by Mrs. Ḍ Stanley, London, 1725, fol. It is a very fine volume with wide margins. One of the "improvements" due to Mrs. Stanley, is the suppression of all the verses. She did so, she says, at the invitation of her subscribers. The list of them which prefaces the book contains many Leonoras, who even at this late period desired to have a copy of the "Arcadia" for "their own use." In our century an abbreviated edition of the same work was published by Mr. Hain Friswell, London, 1867, 8vo.

[232] "The Task," bk. iii. l. 514.

[233] Night iii. "Narcissa."

[234] "[Greek: Eikonoklastes]," "Prose Works," 1806, vol. ii. p. 408.

[235] Ed. of 1806, 5 vols., 8vo, "Life of Fulke Greville," vol. ii. p. 231.

[236] "The unfortunate lovers: the history of Argalus and Parthenia," London, 12mo. The date, 1700 (?), given for this edition in the British Museum catalogue, is obviously too early, as the publisher advertises at the beginning of this volume "Robinson Crusoe," "Jonathan Wild," &c. There were (not to mention earlier versions of "Argalus," e.g., one of 1691) other editions of (about) 1710, 1715, 1750, 1770, 1780, 1788, &c. These little books had sometimes very long descriptive titles, such as those Defoe has made us familiar with: "The famous history of heroick acts of the honour of chivalry, being an abstract of Pembrokes' 'Arcadia,' with many strange and wonderful adventures, the whole being a compleat series interwoven with the heroick actions of many valiant men, as kings, princes, and knights, of undoubted fame, whose matchless deeds, ..." &c., &c. London, 1701, 12mo, "Bound, 1s."

[237] Second day of the second Week, "Oeuvres," Paris, 1611, fol., p. 211. After Sidney, Du Bartas thus addresses the Queen:

"Claire perle du nort, guerriere domte-Mars, Continue a cherir les muses et les arts, Et si jamais ces vers peuvent, d'une aile agile, Franchissant l'ocean voler jusqu'a ton isle, Et tomber, fortunez, entre ces blanches mains Qui sous un juste frein regissent tant d'humains, Voy les d'un oeil benin et, favorable, pense Qu'il faut, pour te louer, avoir ton eloquence."

[238] "L'Arcadie de la Comtesse de Pembrok, mise en nostre langue," by J. Baudoin; Paris, 1624, three vol. 8vo. It contains fancy portraits of Sidney and of his sister. The second translation appeared at the bookseller's, Robert Fouet, in 1625, in the same size; it is ornamented with pretty engravings. Of its three parts the first was the work of "un brave gentilhomme," and the two others of Mdlle. Genevieve Chappelain. It is needless to observe that the great success of D'Urfe's "Astree" had much to do with this zeal for translating Sidney's pastoral novel.

Baudoin, who died in 1650, was the translator of various other foreign works, among which part of the works of Bacon. Sir Kenelm Digby, whose fondness for romances was great, had in his library a copy of the "Arcadia" in French; this was Baudoin's translation, and it is one of the items of the catalogue drawn in view of the sale of his library ("Bibliotheca Digbeiana," London, 1680, 4to). There was, a little later, a translation in German: "Arcadia ... in unser Hochteutsche Sprach ... ubersetzt," by Theocritus von Hirschberg [i.e., Martin Opitz], Francfort, 1629, 4to.


"Par la bouche des bons esprits Apollon vous tient a mespris Troupe ignorance et trop hardie, Car vous prophanez ses beaux dons Et faites naistre des chardons Au milieu de vostre Arcadie."

[240] And then it was spelt Chaksper, "La critique du theatre anglois," translated from the English of Collier, Paris, 1715, 8vo. In the "Journal des Scavans" for the year 1710 it appears under the shape "Shakees Pear," p. 110.

[241] Thus speaks Clarimond in his harangue against romances: "L'Angleterre n'a pas manque d'avoir aussi son Arcadie, laquelle ne nous a este montree que depuis peu par la traduction qui en a este faite. Je ne trouve point d'ordre la dedans et il y a beaucoup de choses qui ne me peuvent satisfaire.... Il est vrai que Sidney, etant mort jeune, a pu laisser son ouvrage imparfait." In his defence of romances, Philiris answers: "Quant a l'Arcadie de Sidney, apres avoir passe la mer pour nous venir voir, je suis marry que Clarimond la recoive avec un si mauvais compliment. S'il n'entend rien aux amours de Strephon et de Clajus, il faut qu'il s'en prenne a luy, non pas a l'autheur qui a rendu son livre l'un des plus beaux du monde. Il y a des discours d'amour et des discours d'estat si excellens et si delectables que je ne me lasserois jamais de les lire" ("Le Berger extravagant, ou, parmy des fantaisies amoureuses, l'on void les impertinences des romans et de la poesie," vol. iii., Paris, 1628, pp. 70 and 134). Sorel's work was translated into English: "The extravagant shepherd. The anti-romance, or the history of the shepherd Lysis," by John Davies, of Kidwelly; London, 1653, fol. The book has very curious plates; Davies in his preface is extremely hard upon Sidney, and heaps ridicule especially on the head of King Basilius. See infra, chap. vii.

[242] Fouquet, however, was very fond of foreign books; the catalogue (dated 1665) of his library, drawn up after his committal, shows that he had a fairly large number of English books. He was the earliest known French possessor of a Shakespeare. The catalogue, it is true, reveals the fact that he preserved it "in his garret":

"Livres in folio qui se trouvent dans le grenier: Comedies de Jazon [i.e., Ben Jonson] en anglois, 2 vol., London, 1640 3l. Idem, comedies angloises 10s. Shakespeares comedies angloises 1l. Fletcher commedies angloises 1l."

(MS. 9,438 francais, in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.)

The second in date of the French possessors of copies of Shakespeare was, strange to say, no less a person than the patron of Racine and Boileau, the Roi-Soleil himself. Looking over, some time ago, at the Bibliotheque Nationale, the original manuscript slips made in 1684 by the royal librarian, Nicolas Clement, for his catalogue of the books confided to his care, I found one inscribed: "Will. Shakspeare, poeta Anglicus. Opera poetica, continentia tragoedias, comoedias et historiolas, Anglice, Londres, Th. Cotes, 1632, fol." And to this, considering that he had to deal with a thoroughly unknown person, Clement was careful to add a note that people might be informed what was to be thought of the poet. This is (so far as now known) the earliest French allusion to Shakespeare: "Ce poete anglois a l'imagination asses belle, il pense naturellement; mais ces belles qualitez sont obscurcies par les ordures qu'il mele dans ses comedies."

[243] Vol. xv. published in 1731.

[244] "Essai sur la pastorale," prefacing "Estelle."




"There is nothing beside the goodnesse of God, that preserves health so much as honest mirth, especially mirth used at dinner and supper, and mirth toward bed.... Therefore, considering this matter, that mirth is so necessary a thing for man, I published this booke ... to make men merrie.... Wherefore I doe advertise every man in avoiding pensivenesse, or too much study or melancholic, to be merrie with honesty in God and for God, whom I humbly beseech to send us the mirth of heaven. Amen."[245] Such was the advice attributed to a man whose opinion should carry weight, for he had been a "doctor of physicke" and had published with great success a "Breviary of helth" which was a household book in his time.

The pensive Sir Philip Sidney was, as we have seen, of a very different turn of mind. He did not live to read the above wise counsels, but he had had the opinion of his friend Languet on this subject, and that had been of no avail. His propensity to overthinking is apparent in many places in his writings, especially in his "Arcadia," where he made so little use of the comical elements he had himself introduced into it. The main incident in his book, the assignation given by Zelmane to both Basilius and Gynecia and the "mistakes of a night" which follow, would have been from any other pen, only too comical. It is, in fact, the character it bears in Shirley's drama, and it has the same in the many modern plays founded on similar mistakes, plays which serve to improve, according to Andrew Borde's prescription, if not the morals, at least the health of the "Palais Royal" audiences of to-day. With Sidney, the comic is a vulgar style; he very rarely risks any jests, a portrait of a cowardly peasant, or of an injured husband.[246] One of his best attempts in this style is a character in his masque of the "Lady of May," the pedant Rombus, who gives quotations which are always wrong and like Rabelais' scholar, who belongs to "the alme, inclyte and celebrate academy, which is vocitated Lutetia," is careful to make use of nothing but quasi-Latin words. In order to relate how he has been unmercifully whipped by shepherds he declares: "Yet hath not the pulchritude of my vertues protected me from the contaminating hands of these Plebeians; for comming, solummodo to have parted their sanguinolent fray, they yeelded me no more reverence, than if I had beene some pecorius asinus."[247] But that is an easy way to amuse, and, even at that epoch, not very new. Rabelais had made a better use of it before Sidney, and after him, without mentioning Shakespeare, Cyrano de Bergerac furnished more laughable specimens. No phrase of Rombus equals the order given by the Pedant to his son when sending him to Venice to engage in commerce: "Since thou hast never desired to drink of the pool engendered by the hoof of the feathered horse,[248] and as the lyric harmony of the learned murderer of Python has never inflated thy speech, try if in merchandise Mercury will lend thee his Caduceus. So may the turbulent AEolus be as affable to thee as to the peaceful nests of halcyons. In short, Charlot, thou must go." Sidney kept entirely to these ineffectual attempts, and had no desire to go further in his examination of the ridiculous side of ordinary men.

This study was undertaken by several of his contemporaries. One of the peculiarities of this first awakening of the novel in England, is that it was nearly complete and produced, if not standard masterpieces, at least curious examples of nearly all the different kinds of novel with which later writers have made us familiar. We have seen already how Lyly depicted courtly life, and tried to use the novel as a vehicle for wise and philosophical advice; how Greene, Lodge and Sidney busied themselves with romantic tales; how Greene tried to describe the realities of life in some of his autobiographical stories. There was something more to do in this line, and the Elizabethan drama offers innumerable examples of it; but it is not so well known that in the time of Shakespeare, there were in circulation, besides romantic and chivalrous tales, regular realistic novels, the main object of which was to paint to the life ordinary men and characters. These are the least known, but not the least remarkable of the attempts made by Shakespeare's contemporaries in the direction of the novel as we understand it.

Works of this kind took for the most part the shape to which has been applied the name of picaresque. This was, like the pastoral, imported into England from abroad: in the sixteenth century it shone with particular brilliance in Spain. The incessant wars of that vast empire on whose frontiers the sun never set, had favoured the multiplication of adventurers, to-day great lords, to-morrow beggars; one day dangerous, another day contemptible or ridiculous. "Such people there are living and flourishing in the world, Faithless, Hopeless, Charityless: let us have at them, dear friends, with might and main. Some there are, and very successful too, mere quacks and fools: and it was to combat and expose such as those, no doubt that Laughter was made." So wrote in our time William Thackeray,[249] who seems to have considered that the age of the picaro had not yet passed away, and that the novelist might still with advantage turn his attention to him. However that may be the great time for the rascal, the rogue, the knave, for all those persons of no particular class whom adventures had left poor and by no means peaceable, for the picaro in all his varieties, was the sixteenth century. A whole literature was devoted to describing the fortunes of these strange persons; Spain gave it its name of picaresque and spread it abroad but did not altogether invent it. The rogue, who plays tricks which deserve a hanging, had already filled and enlivened tales in several languages. Master Reynard, in that romance of the Middle Ages of which he is the hero, is something like a picaro. Another of them is Til Eulenspiegel, whose adventures related in German furnished, in 1515, the subject of a very popular book;[250] even Panurge could at need be placed in this great family. Only, with Master Reynard we live in the world of animals and the romance is allegorical; with Til Eulenspiegel we find no truth, no probability, merely tricks for tricks' sake, and how coarse they are! With Panurge, we are distracted from the picaro by all the philosophic and fantastic digressions of an extensive tale in which he is not the principal hero. But with the Spaniards, with Lazarillo de Tormes, Guzman d'Alfarache[251] and the rest, the picaro holds a place in literature which is peculiarly his own. Faithless, shameless, if not joyless, the plaything of fortune, by turn valet, gentleman, beggar, courtier, thief, we follow him into all societies. From hovel to palace he goes first, opens the doors and shows us the characters. There is no plot more simple or flexible, none that lends itself better to the study of manners, of abuses, of social eccentricities. The only defect is that, in order to abandon himself with necessary good will to the caprices of Fate, and in order to be able to penetrate everywhere, the hero has necessarily little conscience and still less heart; hence the barrenness of the greater part of the picaresque romances and the weak role, entirely incidental, reserved in these works for sentiment.

The success of these Spanish romances was immediate and lasting throughout Europe. "Lazarillo" and "Guzman" were translated into several languages, and were greatly appreciated here and abroad. "What! sir," says the Burgundian lord in "Francion,"[252] "is it thus that you cruelly deprive me of the narration of your more amusing adventures? Do you not know that these commonplace actions are infinitely entertaining, and that we take delight in listening even to those of scoundrels and rascals like Guzman d'Alfarache and Lazarillo de Tormes?" "Guzman" had in France several illustrious translators; the ponderous author of "La Pucelle" and famous academician, Chapelain, was one of them; another was Le Sage who, before penning this translation, had revived and doubled the popularity of the picaresque novel in publishing his "Gil Blas."[253] In Germany, Grimmelshausen, following the same models, wrote in the seventeenth century his "Simplicissimus." In England "Guzman" was several times translated; "Lazarillo" was continually reprinted during two centuries, and original romances of this kind were published here, among others, by Thomas Nash, in the sixteenth, by Richard Head in the seventeenth, by Defoe and Smollett, in the eighteenth century. The initiative of Nash and his group was all the more important and meritorious because before them the comic element was greatly wanting in the English prose romance; amusing stories in the manner of the French had found translators sometimes, but not imitators; the authors of Arcadias were especially concerned in depicting noble sentiments, and the gift of observation possessed by the English people ran the risk of being for a long time exercised nowhere but on the stage, or in metrical tales, or in moral essays.


Thomas Nash made one of that group of young men, full of spirit, fire and imagination, who shone during the first part of Shakespeare's career, who fancied they could live by their pen, and who died prematurely and miserably. Nash was about thirty-three years old when he died in 1600; Marlowe was twenty-nine, Peele thirty, Greene thirty-two.

Nash was born at Lowestoft in 1567:[254] "The head towne in that iland is Leystofe, in which, bee it knowne to all men, I was borne; though my father sprung from the Nashes of Herefordshire;" a family that could "vaunt longer petigrees than patrimonies." He studied at Cambridge, in St. John's College, "in which house once I tooke up my inne for seven yere together lacking a quarter, and yet love it still, for it is and ever was, the sweetest nurse of knowledge in all that university."[255] "Saint Johns in Cambridge," says he at another place, "at that time was an universitie within it selfe ... having, as I have hearde grave men of credite report, more candles light in it everie winter morning before foure of the clocke than the foure of clocke bell gave stroakes."[256] Like Greene and Sidney, he imbibed early a passionate taste for literature; he learnt the classical languages and foreign ones too, at least French and Italian, and enjoyed much miscellaneous reading; old English literature, Mandeville, Chaucer, Gower, Skelton, were not forgotten. Following then the usual course, he seems to have travelled on the continent, to have visited Italy and Germany,[257] and to have come home, also according to custom, to rush into literature: by which word was then habitually understood fame, poverty, quarrels, imprisonment, and an early death. Not one of these items was wanting in Nash's career. A prolific and easy writer, he tried his hand at all kinds of work, composing them rapidly and with visible pleasure, always ready to laugh at the follies of others, sometimes at his own, not melancholy like Sidney, nor downcast like Greene. He very rarely alludes to his miseries without a smile, though he could not help regretting the better things he might have done if Fortune had not been so adverse, "had I a ful-sayld gale of prosperity." But "my state is so tost and weather-beaten, that it hath nowe no anchor-holde left to cleave unto."[258] Having said thus much, he immediately resumes his cheerful countenance and in the best of spirits and in perfect good humour goes on describing the great city of Yarmouth, the metropolis of the Red Herring.

With this turn of mind and an inexhaustible fund of wit, satire, and gaiety, he published numerous pamphlets, threw himself impetuously into the Martin Marprelate controversy (in which another novelist, Lyly, was also taking part); sustained a rude warfare against Gabriel Harvey;[259] wrote a dissertation on social manners: the "Anatomie of absurditie," 1589; a disquisition with an autobiographical turn, which may be compared with those Greene has left; "Pierce Penilesse his supplication to the Divell," 1592 (it had great success, and was even translated into French, "maimedly translated," says Nash,[260] probably with great truth); a novel "The unfortunate traveller or the life of Jack Wilton," 1594, which has most undeservedly remained until now the least known of his works; a drama, "The Isle of dogs," 1597, which is lost, and for which the author was sent to prison; a curious and amusing discourse "in praise of the red herring," 1599; and many other books, pamphlets, and works of all kinds.[261]

Constantly entangled in quarrels, in such a way sometimes that the authorities had to interfere—for example, in his war with Gabriel Harvey, when the destruction of the books of both was ordered—he preserved to the last his good humour and his taste for people and authors who knew what it was to laugh. Curiously enough, he combined this taste with an intense fondness for pure literature and for lyrical poetry. Rabelais is among his masters, and so is Aretino, "one of the wittiest knaves that ever God made." Tarleton the jester is among his friends, and so is Kemp, the Dogberry of Shakespeare's "Much Ado," the Peter of "Romeo and Juliet," the famous dancer who performed a morris dance from London to Norwich. And at the same time he bestows with unbounded enthusiasm heartfelt praises upon Spenser, "heavenly Spenser"; upon "immortal" Sidney, whose "Astrophel and Stella" he himself published in 1591; and upon Marlowe, as the author of the exquisite Hero and Leander poem, "Leander and Hero of whome divine Musaeus sung and a diviner muse then him, Kit Marlow."[262]

With all his fondness for merry authors, Nash can discern true poetry, and he adores it. If by chance, in the midst of an angry satirical disquisition, the word poetry comes to his pen, he is suddenly transformed, he smiles, he melts; nothing is left in him but human sympathies. "Nor is poetry an art where of there is no use in a man's whole life but to describe discontented thoughts and youthfull desires, for there is no study but it dooth illustrate and beautifie.... To them that demaund what fruites the poets of our time bring forth, or wherein they are able to approve themselves necessarie to the state, thus I answere: first and formost, they have cleansed our language from barbarisme, and made the vulgar sort, here in London, which is the fountaine whose rivers flowe round about England, to aspire to a richer puritie of speach than is communicated with the comminalty of any nation under heaven."[263] When a man like Nash could write in such a strain, with a passion for vernacular literature scarcely equalled at any time, there was obviously growing among that "vulgar sort, here in London," a public for any great man that might appear, a public for William Shakespeare himself, who was just then beginning to reach celebrity. Nash does not doubt that it is possible for English to become a classical language, however rude the garb it first bore. According to Nash, Surrey was "a prince in content because a poet without peere. Destinie never defames her selfe but when she lets an excellent poet die: if there bee any sparke of Adams paradized perfection yet emberd vp in the breasts of mortall men, certainely God hath bestowed that his perfectest image on poets." Differing from Francis Bacon and a few of the grave dignitaries of literature, he has faith in that group of artists in the first rank of whom he placed heavenly Spenser, who can well bear comparison with any author of France, Italy, or Spain. "Neither is he the only swallow of our summer."[264]

This fondness for pure literature, for musical verse and lyrical poetry, explains how, satirist as he was, Nash had numerous friends whose feelings towards him were nothing short of tenderness. "Sweet boy," "Sweet Tom," are not usual expressions towards a satirist; they are, however, applied to Nash both by Greene and by Francis Meres, because there was in Nash's mind something besides the customary rancour of born satirists, "The man," said Shakespeare,

"The man that has no music in himself Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils; The motions of his spirit are as dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus; Let no such man be trusted."[265]

A very different sort of a man was Nash; his friends found that he could be "mov'd with concord of sweet sounds," and that he could be trusted. As he survived Sidney at a time when a few years meant much for English literature, he could form a far more favourable judgment of the drama than the well-known one in the "Apologie." The ridiculous performances noticed by Sidney had not disappeared, but they were not the only ones to be seen on the stage; dramas of the highest order were being played; actors rendered them with becoming dignity, and, curiously enough to our ideas, Nash adds as a special praise that women were excluded from among their number: "Our players are not as the players beyond sea, a sort of squirting baudie comedians, that have whores and common curtezans to play womens parts, and forbeare no immodest speech or unchast action that may procure laughter; but our sceane is more stately furnisht than ever it was in the time of Roscius, our representations honorable and full of gallant resolution, not consisting like theirs of a Pantaloun, a whore and a Zanie, but of emperours, kings and princes whose true tragedies, Sophocleo cothurno they do vaunt."[266] In the next century, women were allowed to replace on the English stage the newly-shaven young fellows who used to play Juliet and Titania; we are happy to say that so indecent a practice was due to foreign influence. We have Prynne's authority for believing that the first women who had the audacity to appear before a London audience were French. This happened in 1629 at the Blackfriars theatre. It is true that not long after, to make up, as it were, for lost time, plays were performed in England in which all the parts were taken by women; it is not known whether on that occasion they were French.[267]

Another very important characteristic in Nash is the high ideal he has shaped for himself of the art of writing, not only in verse, but in plain prose. At a time when English prose was scarcely acknowledged to be capable of artistic treatment, and when rules, regulations and theories had, as is generally believed, very little hold upon writers, it is interesting to notice that such an author as Nash, with his stirring style and unbridled pen, with his prison and tavern life, understood that words had a literary value of their own. They were not to be taken at random, but chosen with care. His theory may on some points be disputed, but it is certainly interesting to note that he had a theory at all. First, he desires that a man shall write in his own vein and not copy others, especially those who by their vogue and peculiarities, such as Lyly or Greene, were easiest of reach and the most tempting to imitate. He strongly defends himself from having ever done anything of this sort; on the contrary, more than once appeals were made to him to give judgment in literary matters:

"Is my style like Greenes, or my jeasts like Tarletons?

"Do I talke of any counterfeit birds, or hearbes or stones?... This I will proudly boast ... that the vaine which I have ... is of my own begetting and cals no man father in England but myselfe, neither Euphues, nor Tarlton, nor Greene.

"Not Tarlton nor Greene but have beene contented to let my simple judgment overrule them in some matters of wit. Euphues I read when I was a little ape in Cambridge, and I then thought it was ipse ille: it may be excellent still for ought I know, but I lookt not on it this ten yeare: but to imitate it I abhorre."[268]

His vocabulary is very rich; he has always a variety of words at his disposal and uses often two or three the better to impress our minds with the idea in his own. He coins at need new words or fetches them from classical or foreign languages. He does not do this in an off-hand way, but on purpose and wilfully; he possessed much of that curious care for and delight in words which is one of the characteristics of the men of the Renaissance. To deal with words was in itself a pleasure for them; they liked to mould, to adopt, to combine, to invent them. Word painting delighted them; Nash has an extreme fondness for it, and satirical and comical as he is, he often astonishes us by the poetic gracefulness of his combinations of words. In this as in many other particulars he imitates, longe sequens, the master he seems to have admired above others, Rabelais, who, in the tempestuous roll of his diverse waters, sometimes washes up on to the sand pearls fit to adorn the crown of any lyrical poet. Fishes appear in Nash's otherwise unpoetical prose as "the sea's finny freeholders;" the inhabitants of a port town do not sow corn, "their whole harvest is by sea;" they plough "the glassy fieldes of Thetis." He has an instinctive hatred for abstract terms; he wants expressive words, words that shine, that breathe, that live. Instead of saying that Henry III. granted a charter and certain privileges in a particular year of his reign, he will write that "he cheard up their blouds with two charters more, and in Anno 1262 and forty-five of his courte keeping, he permitted them to wall in their towne."[269] The pleasure of replacing stale, commonplace expressions by rare, picturesque, live ones, and in lieu of a plain sentence to give an allegorical substitute, has so much attraction for Nash, that clear-sighted as he is, he cannot always avoid the ordinary defects of this particular style, defects which he has in common with many of his contemporaries, not excluding Shakespeare himself, namely, obscurity and sometimes bad taste.

Another of Nash's tendencies, which he has most decidedly in common with Rabelais, consists in the use of a number of expressions in the same sentence for the same idea. Of course one carefully chosen word would be enough; such a man as Merimee, to take an example at the other extremity of the line, picks out the one term he wants, puts it in its place; word and place fit exactly; there is nothing to add or desire. Not so Rabelais; not so either his admirer Nash; the newly-awakened curiosities of the Renaissance were too young as yet, too fresh and strong upon them, to be easily kept down by rule and reflection. Literature too was young then, and young things are endowed with eyes that stare and admire more easily than old ones. When entering their word-shop, writers of the sixteenth century were fain to take this word, and this other too, and yet that one more; and when on the threshold, about to go, they would turn and take two or three again. There are pages in Rabelais and pages in Nash where most of the important words are supplemented and fortified with a number of others placed there at our disposal as alternatives or substitutes, for the pleasure of our ears and eyes, in case we might like them better. Nash has to express this very simple idea: Look at Yarmouth, what a fine town it is! Well, it owes all it is to the red herring. This he formulates in the following manner with quite a Rabelaisian mixture of native and half Latin words and iterations for most terms of importance: "Doe but convert, said hee, the slenderest twinckling reflexe of your eye-sight to this flinty ringe that engirtes it, these towred walles, port-cullizd gates, and gorgeous architectures that condecorate and adorne it, and then perponder of the red herringes priority and prevalence, who is the onely inexhaustible mine that hath raised and begot all this, and, minutely, to riper maturity, fosters and cherisheth it."[270]

Some critics of his time abused Nash for the liberties he took with the vocabulary, especially for his foreign and compound words. He was ready with this half-serious, half-jocose answer: "To the second rancke of reprehenders, that complain of my boystrous compound wordes, and ending my Italionate coyned verbes all in ize," such as "tympanize; tirannize," says he elsewhere; "thus I replie: That no winde that blowes strong but is boystrous; no speech or wordes of any power or force to confute or perswade, but must be swelling and boystrous. For the compounding of my wordes, therein I imitate rich men, who having gathered store of white single money together, convert a number of those small little scutes into great peeces of gold, such as double Pistoles and Portugues. Our English tongue of all languages, most swarmeth with the single money of monosillables, which are the onely scandall of it. Bookes written in them and no other seeme like shopkeepers' bookes, that containe nothing else save halfe-pence, three-farthings, and two-pences. Therefore what did me I, but having a huge heape of those worth lesse shreds of small English in my pia maters purse, to make the royaller shew with them to men's eye, had them to the compounders immediately, and exchanged them foure into one, and others into more, according to the Greek, French, Spanish, and Italian."[271]

Nash had a particular literary hatred for mere empty bombast. His love for high-sounding words with a meaning was not greater than his aversion for big sounds without one. Even his friend Marlowe does not escape his censure for having trespassed in this particular beyond the limits of good taste. Nash wonders "how eloquent our gowned age is growen of late," and he has nothing but contempt for those "vainglorious tragoedians who contend not so seriously to excel in action, as to embowell the clowdes in a speach of comparison; thinking themselves more than initiated in poets immortalitie, if they but once get Boreas by the beard and the heavenlie bull by the deaw-lap."[272]

His ideas regarding the art of novel writing are very liberal, and he accepts as belonging to literature many specimens we should sternly reject. The one point to remember, however, is that he does not accept them all; he draws the line somewhere, and in that age when the novel was in its infancy, there was merit in doing even no more than this. He is very hard upon the old mediaeval romances, which it is true he seems to have known only through the abridged and degenerate texts circulated in his time, for the amusement of idle readers. He readily endorses the moral views of Ascham about them, adding however, what is more interesting for us, some literary criticism: "What els I pray you, doe these bable booke-mungers endevor but to repaire the ruinous wals of Venus court, to restore to the worlde that forgotten legendary licence of lying, to imitate a fresh the fantasticall dreames of those exiled Abbie-lubbers [i.e., the monks] from whose idle pens proceeded those worne out impressions of the feigned no where acts of Arthur of the rounde table, Arthur of litle Brittaine, Sir Tristram, Hewon of Burdeaux, the Squire of low degree, the four sons of Amon, with infinite others.... Who is it that reding Bevis of Hampton, can forbeare laughing, if he marke what scambling shyft he makes to end his verses a like? I will propound three or foure payre by the way for the readers recreation:

The porter said: By my snout, It was Sir Bevis that I let out."[273]

Every reader will agree with Nash, I suppose, in condemning this as balderdash.

Endowed thus with artistic theories of his own, with an intense love of literature, with an inborn gaiety and faculty of observation, Nash added to the collection of novels of the Shakespearean era, not another Bevis of Hampton, but his "Jack Wilton,"[274] the best specimen of the picaresque tale in English literature anterior to Defoe. His romance, written in the form of memoirs, according to the usual rule of the picaresque, is dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, under whose patronage Shakespeare had already placed his "Venus and Adonis." It has the defect of all the romances of the time, in England as elsewhere: it is incoherent and badly put together. But it contains excellent fragments, two or three capital portraits of individuals which show careful observation, and a few solidly constructed scenes like the vengeance of Cutwolfe which allow us to foresee that one day the dramatic power of the English genius, worn out doubtless by a too long career on the stage, instead of dying altogether, will be revived in the novel.

Nash, after the manner employed by More in his "Utopia," by Greene in his "Ciceronis amor," and in our age, with a splendour of fame to which several generations have already borne testimony, by Sir Walter Scott, introduces historical personages in his fiction. The page Jack Wilton, the hero of the tale, a little superior by his rank to the ordinary picaro has, like Gil Blas, little money in his pocket and a few odds and ends of Latin in his head; he distributes in his conversation the trite quotations that have remained by him, skilfully enough to persuade the vulgar that he does not belong to their tribe. "Tendit ad sidera virtus—Paulo majora canamus—Secundum formam statuti," &c., and from time to time, when he is greatly elated and wishes to show himself in all his magnificence, he adopts the elegances and similes proper to the euphuistic style: "The sparrow for his lecherie liveth but a yeere," &c.[275]

Wilton is present first with the royal court of England at the siege of Tournay, under Henry VIII. What my credit was at this court "a number of my creditors that I coosned can testifie." He lives on the resources of his wits, playing tricks worthy a whipping if not a hanging on respectable persons of limited capacity. His most notable victim is the purveyor of drink or victualler to the camp, a tun-bellied coward, proud of his pretended noble descent, a Falstaff grown old, whose wit has been blunted, who has ended by marrying Mistress Quickly, and has himself become tavern keeper in partnership with her. In old days he drank on credit: now the good fellows tipple at his expense. Such is the end of all the Falstaffs and all the Scapins. "This great Lorde, this worthie Lord," relates the wicked page, "thought no scorne, Lord have mercy upon us, to have his great velvet breeches larded with the droppings of this dainty liquor," that is, the cider that he sold; "and yet he was an olde servitor, a cavelier of an ancient house, as it might appeare by the armes of his ancestrie, drawen very amiably in chalk, on the in side of his tent doore."[276]

The scene between the fat, ruddy host, open-mouthed, blear-eyed, and the frolicking slender page, who delights in his tricks and covers his victim with jesting compliments, is extremely well described. Wilton finds his man "counting his barrels, and setting the price in chalke on the head of everie one of them." He addresses him his "duty verie devoutly," and tells him he has matters of some secrecy to impart to him for which a private audience is necessary:

"With me, young Wilton? quoth he, marie and shalt. Bring us a pint of syder of a fresh tap into the 'Three Cups'[277] here; wash the pot!

"So into a backe roome he lead mee, where after hee had spit on his finger, and picked off two or three moats of his olde moth eaten velvet cap, ... he badde me declare my minde, and there upon he dranke to me on the same."

Jack is careful not to touch at once on the matter in his head: he knows his man and attacks him first by that vanity of a noble descent which he possesses in common with Falstaff. Jack has always borne him affection, "partly for the high discent and linage from whence he sprung, and partly for the tender care and provident respect he had of poore soldiers ... he vouchsafed in his own person to be a victualer to the campe: a rare example of magnificence and courtesie; and diligently provided, that without farre travel, every man might have for his money syder and cheese his bellyfull. Nor did he sell his cheese by the way onely, or his syder by the great, but abast himselfe with his owne hands to take a shoomakers knife: a homely instrument for such a high personage to touch, and cut it out equally like a true justiciarie in little penny-worthes that it would doo a man good for to looke upon. So likewise of his syder, the pore man might have his moderate draught of it (as there is moderation in all things) as well for his doit or his dandiprat as the rich man for his halfe souse or his denier ..."

Jack goes on irrepressible, overflowing; it is his best moment; he does not want the sport to end too quickly: "Why, you are everie childs felow: any man that comes under the name of a souldier and a good fellowe, you will sitte and beare companie to the last pot, yea, and you take in as good part the homely phrase of: 'Mine host heeres to you,' as if one saluted you by all the titles of your baronie. These considerations, I saie, which the world suffers to slip by in the channell of carelesnes, have moved me in ardent zeale of your welfare, to forewarne you of some dangers that have beset you and your barrels.

"At the name of dangers hee start up, and bounst with his fist on the boord so hard, that his tapster overhearing him cried: 'Anon! anon! sir,' and entering with a bow askt him what he wanted.

"Hee was readie to have stricken his tapster for interrupting him in attention of this his so much desired relation, but for feare of displeasing me he moderated his furie, and onely sending him for the other fresh pint, wild him looke to the barre, and come when he is cald with a devilles name.

"Well, at his earnest importunitie, after I had moistned my lips, to make my lie run glib to his journies end, forward I went as followeth ..." And the good apostle stops again; the cider and his own words have moved him; he is a little fuddled, so is mine host; they both fall to weeping. The innkeeper is ready to believe anything, and at this moment, which is the right one the page at length determines to inform him that in an assembly where he was present, he heard mine host, the purveyor of the camp, accused of connivance with the enemy, by giving information to the besieged through letters hidden in his empty barrels. High treason is suspected! How are these dangerous rumours to be dissipated? There is only one way of doing it, that is in becoming popular in the army, very popular; he must make himself beloved by all; he must distribute cider freely and for a time suppress in his shop the unbecoming custom of paying.

The victualler follows this advice, but soon the trick is discovered; the page is roundly whipped, but being to the core a true picaroon, Wilton does not for all that feel his spirit in any way lessened: "Here let me triumph a while, and ruminate a line or two on the excellence of my wit!" This is all the sorrow and repentance the whip extracts from him.

Shakespeare, two years later, fused the two characters into one, caused the wit of the page to enter the brain of the fat man, and the blending, animated by his genius, produced the inimitable customer of the "Boar's Head" tavern.

After various adventures, Wilton returns to London, and struts about in fine clothes, whose originality he describes with an amusing rush of language: "I had my feather in my cap as big as a flag in the fore-top; ... my cape cloake of blacke cloth, over-spreading my backe like a thornbacke or an elephantes eares, ... and in consummation of my curiositie my hands without gloves, all a mode French." The sense of the picturesque, the careful observation of the effect of a pose, of a fold of a garment, were, before Nash, entirely unknown to English novel writers, and it was not until the eighteenth century, until the time of Defoe, Fielding, and, above all, Sterne, that the author of "Jack Wilton" was excelled in this special talent.

Soon the page takes up the course of his adventures again, and travels anew on the continent. He visits Venice, Florence, Rome, refraining with a care for which he is to be thanked from trite descriptions. What's the good of describing the monuments of Rome? he says; everybody knows them: "he that hath but once drunke with a traveller, talkes of them." Sir Thomas More contemplating his "Utopia," John of Leyden dragged to the scaffold, the Earl of Surrey jousting for the fair Geraldine "against all commers," Francis I., conqueror at Marignan, Erasmus, Aretino, "one of the wittiest knaves that ever God made," and other personages of the Renaissance, figure in the narrative. Faithful to the picaresque plot, Nash conducts his reader into all societies, from the tavern to the palace, from the haunt of robbers to the papal court, and makes his hero no better than he should be. At Marignan, Wilton occupies himself especially in discovering quickly who is likely to be the strongest, in order to attach himself ardently to the winner. At Venice he runs away with an Italian lady, deserts his master, the Earl of Surrey, and passes himself off as the Earl.

All this is too much at length for honest Nash, and feeling not less displeased than ourselves with the wicked actions of his hero, he himself interposes at times, not without disadvantage to his plot, and, in spite of the improbability of placing such remarks in Wilton's mouth, introduces his own opinions on the persons and incidents of the romance. This is an effect of the impetuosity of his temperament, blameable undoubtedly from an artistic point of view. We shall be indulgent to him if we remember that no author of the time was entirely master of himself and faithful to his plot. Even Shakespeare rarely resists like temptation, and when a poetic image comes into his mind, little matters it to him what character is on the stage; he makes of him a dreamer, a poet, and lends to him the exquisite language of his own emotion. Let us remember how the murderers hired to assassinate Edward's children describe the scene of the murder. They saw "the gentle babes ... girdling one another

Within their alabaster innocent arms: Their lips were four red roses on a stalk, And, in their summer beauty, kiss'd each other."

A very improbable remark, it will be admitted, on the part of the murderers. But, then, it is Shakespeare who talks aloud, forgetting that he is supposed not to be there.

Nash, with like heedlessness, often interposes in his own person, and takes the words out of his page's mouth; and his bold, characteristic and concise opinions are very curious in the history of manners and literature. For example, when he describes the war of the Anabaptists and the execution of John of Leyden, he sums up thus in a short pithy sentence the current opinion of his day among literary people and men of the world, on the already formidable sect of the Puritans: "Heare what it is to be Anabaptists, to bee puritans, to be villaines: you may be counted illuminate botchers for a while, but your end wil be: Good people pray for me."

His open admiration of the charity of the Catholics at Rome reveals in him great independence of mind and much courage: "Yet this I must say to the shame of us Protestants, if good workes may merit heaven they doo them, we talke of them. Whether superstition or no makes them unprofitable servants, that let pulpets decide: but there, you shall have the bravest Ladies in gownes of beaten gold, washing pilgrimes and poore souldiours feete, and dooing nothing they and their wayting mayds all the yeare long, but making shirts and bandes for them against they come by in distresse."

At Wittenberg, Wilton sees "Acolastus" performed, an old play that was as popular in England as on the continent,[278] and Nash's severe criticism on the actors shows how well the difference between good comedians and common players was understood in London. Nash shared Shakespeare's opinion of the actors who "out-heroded Herod," and he would have been of Moliere's way of thinking about the performances at the Hotel de Bourgogne: "One as if he had beene playning a clay floore, stampingly troade the stage so harde with his feete, that I thought verily he had resolved to doe the carpenter that sette it uppe some utter shame. Another floung his armes lyke cudgelles at a peare tree, insomuch as it was mightily dreaded that hee woulde strike the candles that hung above theyr heades out of their sockets, and leave them all darke." This severe criticism may serve to reassure us about the way in which the great English dramas were interpreted at that period.[279] And indeed they deserved that some trouble should be taken with them, for in London it was the time of "Romeo and Juliet," of "Midsummer Night's Dream," of "Richard III."

In fact, Nash does not only possess the merit of knowing how to observe the ridiculous side of human nature, and of portraying in a full light picturesque figures now worthy of Teniers and now of Callot; some fat and greasy, others lean and lank; he possesses a thing very rare with the picaresque school, the faculty of being moved. He seems to have foreseen the immense field of study which was to be opened later to the novelist. A distant ancestor of Fielding, as Lyly and Sidney appear to us to be distant ancestors of Richardson, he understands that a picture of active life, reproducing only, in the Spanish fashion, scenes of comedy, is incomplete and departs from reality. The greatest jesters, the most arrogant, the most venturesome have their days of anguish; no brow has ever remained unfurrowed from the cradle to the grave, and no one has been able to live an impassive spectator and not feel his heart sometimes beat the quicker, nor bow his head in sorrow. Nash caught a glimpse of this, and therefore mingled serious scenes with his pictures of comedy, in order that his romance might the more closely resemble life. Sometimes they are love scenes as when the Earl of Surrey describes to us his awakening passion for Geraldine, and how he met her at Hampton Court: "Oh thrice emperiall Hampton Court, Cupids inchaunted castle, the place where I first sawe the perfect omnipotence of the Almightie expressed in mortalitie!" Sometimes they are tragic scenes full of blood and tortures. It is true that Nash then falls into melodrama and conducts his Wilton to a sort of Tour de Nesles where the Countess Juliana, the Pope's mistress, gives herself up to excesses, by the side of which those of Margaret of Burgundy are but child's play. Murders, rapes, and scenes of robbery multiply under cover of the plague that rages at Rome, and the horrors resulting from the pestilence are described with a vigour that reminds us of Defoe, without however equalling him. Carts containing the dead go up and down the streets, and lugubrious cries resound: "Have you anie dead to burie? Have you anie dead to burie?" The carts "had manie times of one house their whole loading."

Wilton is accused of murders committed in his house; the rope almost about his neck, he is saved by an English earl, in exile, who seems to have been imbued with Ascham's teaching, and who reproaches him for travelling, especially in Italy, where morals are so corrupt and where immorality is so dangerous. "Take care," said the earl, "if thou doest but lend halfe a looke to a Romans or Italians wife, thy porredge shall bee prepared for thee, and cost thee nothing but thy life." The earl, who proves to be a rather pedantic nobleman, passes in review all nations, and proves that they are not worth the trouble of going to see. Wilton, whose personal experience does not justify such unfavourable prognostications, especially now that he is out of danger, is wearied by this talk, and, pretending important business, gives his chattering benefactor the slip. He is soon punished; he is captured by the Jews of Rome; his adventures become more and more mysterious and alarming, and more and more does melodrama invade the story.

Sometimes, however, in the midst of these abominations, Nash's tone rises; his language becomes eloquent and his emotion infectious; he shudders himself, horror penetrates him and seizes us; the jests of the picaroon are very far from our mind, the drama is then as terrible as with the most passionate romanticists of our century in their best moments.

Few stories of our day are better contrived to give the sense of the horrible than the story of the vengeance of Cutwolfe related by himself just as he is going to be tortured. After a prolonged search, Cutwolfe at last finds his enemy, Esdras of Granada, alone, in his shirt, and far from all help. The unfortunate man implores Cutwolfe, whose brother he had killed, to make it impossible for him to do any more harm, to mutilate him, but to spare his life. His enemy replies: "Though I knewe God would never have mercie on mee except I had mercie on thee, yet of thee no mercie would I have.... I tell thee, I would not have undertooke so much toyle to gaine heaven, as I have done in pursuing thee for revenge. Divine revenge, of which, as one of the joies above, there is no fulnes or satietie. Looke how my feete are blistered with following thee from place to place. I have riven my throat with overstraining it to curse thee. I have ground my teeth to powder with grating and grinding them together for anger, when anie hath nam'd thee. My tongue with vaine threates is bolne, and waxen too big for my mouth.... Entreate not, a miracle maye not reprive thee."

The scene is prolonged. Esdras continues to beg for his life; he will become the slave, the chattel of his enemy. An idea comes into the mind of the latter: Sell thy soul to the devil, and I will pardon thee. Esdras immediately utters horrible blasphemies.

"My joints trembled and quakt," continues Cutwolfe, "with attending them, my haire stood upright, and my hart was turned wholly to fire.... The veyne in his left hand that is derived from his heart with no faint blow he pierst, and with the bloud that flowd from it, writ a ful obligation of his soule to the divell: yea more earnestly he praied unto God never to forgive his soule than manie Christians doo to save theyr soules. These fearfull ceremonies brought to an end, I bad him ope his mouth and gape wide. He did so: as what wil not slaves doo for feare? Therwith made I no more adoo, but shot him ful into the throat with my pistol: no more spake he after; so did I shoote him that hee might never speak after, or repent him. His body being dead lookd as black as a toad."[280]

This conversation and the sight of Cutwolfe's horrible punishment, recall Jack Wilton to himself. He regrets his irregular life, but not to the point of refunding the money stolen from the Countess Juliana; rich as Gil Bias, he can now, like him, take rank among peaceable and settled folk; he marries his Venetian lady, and returns to the king of England's army, occupied in giving a grand reception to Francis I. at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. There ends the most complete career furnished in England, before Defoe, by a character of fiction.

The primary if not only result of the publication of "Jack Wilton" was, so far as the author himself was concerned, to place him in new difficulties. His well-known satirical vein, his constant use and abuse of allusions, which often render him obscure, were so well known that it was considered improbable that he had been writing this time with a merely artistic aim. He had been careful to state in his dedication that readers would merely find in his book "some reasonable conveyance of historie and varietie of mirth," and that he was attempting a kind of writing new to him; it was to no purpose. Readers were on the look-out for allusions; they took his historical heroes for living people but thinly disguised, and lined Nash's story with another of their own invention. The author, who well knew the dangers of such interpretations, never ceased to protest that, in this work at least, there was no place for them. When once the public is started upon such a track, it is no easy matter to make them turn round. Nash had recourse to his usual revenge, that is, to laugh at his interpreters. "I am informed," he wrote, shortly after his "Wilton" was printed, "there be certaine busie wits abrode that seeke to anagrammatize the name of Wittenberge to one of the Universities of England; that scorn to be counted honest, plaine meaning men, like their neighbours, for not so much as out of mutton and potage, but they will construe a meaning of kings and princes. Let one but name bread, but they will interpret it to be the town of Bredan in the Low countreyes; if of beere he talkes, then straight he mockes the countie Beroune in France; if of foule weather or a shower of raine, he hath relation to some that shall raigne next."[281]

His remonstrances seem to have had very indifferent success, and Nash, to our great loss, did not again attempt novel writing. But the vein was in him, and it constantly reappears in the variety of pamphlets he has left behind him. Fine scenes of comedy, good portraits of ridiculous characters to be met in every-day life, amusing anecdotes, nearly all the elements of a sound comic novel are scattered through his writings. The familiar portraits of the upstart, of the false politician, of the inventor of new sects, portraits at which many observers of human nature in the time of Shakespeare tried their hand, are to be seen in the gallery Nash painted in his "Pierce Penilesse."[282] Conformably to the fitness of things, Nash described himself under the name of Pierce,[283] as Sidney had given his high moral tone, his melancholy and loving soul to the shepherd Philisides, as Greene had told his own miseries under the name of poor Roberto. Here is Nash's portrait of the upstart who has travelled abroad and has brought back from his journey nothing more valuable than scorn for his own country: "Hee will bee humorous forsooth and have a broode of fashions by himselfe. Somtimes, because Love commonly wears the liverie of wit, hee will be an Inamorato poeta, and sonnet a whole quire of paper in praise of Ladie Manibetter, his yeolowfac'd mistres.... All Italionato is his talke, and his spade peake [i.e., his beard] is as sharpe as if he had been a pioner before the walls of Roan. Hee will dispise the barbarisme of his owne countrey, and tell a whole legend of lyes of his travayles unto Constantinople. If he be challenged to fight ... hee objects that it is not the custome of the Spaniard or the Germaine to looke backe to everie dog that barks. You shall see a dapper Jacke that hath beene but once at Deepe, wring his face round about, as a man would stirre up a mustard pot and talke English through the teeth, like Jaques Scabdhams, or Monsieur Mingo de Moustrapo; when, poore slave, he hath but dipt his bread in wylde boares greace and come home againe, or been bitten by the shinnes by a wolfe; and saith he hath adventured uppon barricadoes of Gurney or Guingan, and fought with the yong Guise hand to hand."

Like Ben Jonson, Nash met on his way some Politick Would-Bes that "thinke to be counted rare politicians and statesmen, by beeing solitarie: as who should say, I am a wise man,"[284]—"and when I ope my lips," would have added Shakespeare, "let no dog bark!" He has met inventors of sects, and has heard of pre-Darwinian "mathematicians" who doubt the fact that there were no men before Adam and are inclined to think there are no devils at all. Nash strongly condemns these inventors and mathematicians, drawing at the same time a curious picture of the state of confusion in religious matters which was then so conspicuous in England: "They will set their self love to study to invent new sects of singularitie, thinking to live when they are dead, by having their sect called after their names: as Donatists of Donatus, Arrian[s] of Arrius, and a number more of new faith founders, that have made England the exchange of innovations and almost as much confusion of religion in everie quarter, as there was of tongues at the building of the Tower of Babel ...

"Hence atheists triumph and rejoyce and talke as prophanely of the Bible as of Bevis of Hampton. I heare say there are mathematicians abroad that will proove men before Adam; and they are harboured in high places, who will maintayne to the death that there are no divells."[285]

Scenes of light comedy abound in Nash; they are especially numerous in his "Lenten Stuff,"[286] a queer little book, his last work, and one which he seems to have written con amore. Never was he in better humour than when, the year before his death, he betook himself to singing "the praise of the red herring," Monsieur Herring, Solyman Herring, Sacrapant Herring, Red Herring of Red Herring hall, Pater Patriae, as he is fond of calling him, inventing on each page a new title for his hero. There is no event in ancient or modern history where he does not discover that "Caesarean Charlemaine Herring" has had a part to play; no person of however mean or exalted rank who has not had to deal with "Gentleman Jacke Herring." The fishes made him their king, and the Pope made him a saint. The first time he appeared at the Pope's court was a great event in Christendom. An English sailor had sold him for three hundred ducats to the purveyor of the papal kitchen, and "delivered him the king of fishes, teaching hym to geremumble it, sauce it, and dresse it, and so sent him away a glad man. All the Pope's cookes in their white sleeves and linnen aprons met him middle way to entertaine and receyve the king of fishes, and together by the eares they went, who shoulde first handle him or touch him. But the clarke of the kitchin appeased that strife, and would admit none but him selfe to have the scorching and carbonadoing of it, and he kissed his hands thrice, and made as many humblessos before he woulde finger it; and, such obeysances performed, he drest it as he was enjoyned, kneeling on his knes, and mumbling twenty Ave Maryes to hymselfe, in the sacrifizing of it on the coales, that his diligent service in the broyling and combustion of it, both to his kingship and to his fatherhood might not seeme unmeritorious."[287]

However careful Thomas Nash had been to act according to the views attributed to Dr. Andrew Borde concerning the cultivation of mirth as a preservative of health, he reached what this authority calls "the mirth of heaven," with much more rapidity than might have been expected. His mirth diet was obviously adulterated and mingled with wrath and sorrow. He had been born in 1567, and we read about him in a comedy performed at Cambridge in 1601, these verses which are friendly if not very poetical:

"Let all his faultes sleepe with his mournfull chest, And there for ever with his ashes rest, His style was wittie, though it had some gall, Some things he might have mended, so may all, Yet this I say, that for a mother witt, Few men have ever seen the like of it."[288]

The manner in which his friend Dekker represents him, shortly after, reaching the Elysian fields, leaves little doubt that his life was shortened not only by his angry passions, but by sheer want: "Marlow, Greene and Peele had got under the shades of a large vyne, laughing to see Nash, that was but newly come to their colledge, still haunted with the sharpe and satyricall spirit that followed him heere upon earthe: for Nash inveyed bitterly, as he had wont to do against dryfisted patrons, accusing them of his untimely death, because if they had given his Muse that cherishment which she most worthily deserved, hee had fed to his dying day on fat capons, burnt sack and sugar, and not so desperately have venturde his life and shortned his dayes by keeping company with pickle herrings."[289]


Some of Shakespeare's contemporaries attempted to give their readers "the like" of Nash's wit, and tried their hand either at the picaresque novel or at the reproduction of scenes taken from ordinary life, of which Greene also had left some examples. The comic school was far from equalling the fecundity of its romantic rival; it existed however, and though absolutely forgotten now, it helped to keep up and improve the natural gift of observation which belonged to the English race.

One of the most extraordinary ventures ever attempted in the picaresque style was made by Henry Chettle, another member of the group to which Greene, Nash, and the others belonged. He was, like Nash himself, a personal friend of Greene, and published after his death his "Groats-worth of wit," 1592, for which, as we have seen, he had to offer in his next pamphlet explanations and apologies, among others, to Shakespeare. Chettle seems to have followed the literary career usual in his time; he composed many dramas alone[290] or in collaboration; he was perpetually borrowing money from the notorious Henslowe, and he was occasionally lodged in Her Majesty's prisons. In 1595 he published his "Piers Plainnes seaven yeres prentiship,"[291] in which we find, mingled together, Sidney's Arcady, Greene's romantic heroes, and the customary incidents of picaresque novels. The scene is laid in Tempe; there are Menalcas and Corydons; there are sheep who are poetically invited by their keeper to eat their grass:

"Sport on faire flocke at pleasure Nip Vestaes flouring treasure."

There is too Piers Plain, now a shepherd but formerly nothing short of a picaro, who has seen much and has followed many trades, and served many masters. His companions asked for his story, and he very willingly agreed to tell them what he had been, "and what the world is," no mean subject to be sure, and no wonder that he "cravde pardon to sit because the taske was long, which they willingly graunted." Piers, according to the picaresque traditions, had been the servant of many masters; he tells his experience of them in the first person, following also in this the rules of the picaresque tale. He first introduces us to a swaggering and cowardly courtier, and plays his part in intrigues and conspiracies. Then he describes the "vertuous and famous virgin AEliana," Queen of Crete, who delighted in hunting, and went to the woods "Diana-like." To be "Diana-like," she dressed as follows:

"On her head she wore a coronet of orientall pearle; on it a chaplet of variable flowers perfuming the ayre with their divers odors, thence carelessly descended her amber coloured hair ... Her buskins were richly wrought like the Delphins spangled cabazines; her quiver was of unicornes horne, her darts of yvorie; in one hand she helde a boare speare, the other guided her Barbary jennet, proud by nature, but nowe more proude in that he carried natures fairest worke, the Easterne worlds chiefe wonder." In a somewhat similar style Zucchero painted the Queen, not of Crete, but of England, and when dressed in this fashion, Her Majesty too, was supposed to be represented "Diana-like."

Of the misrule in Crete, and of the dangers AEliana runs from the incestuous passions of her uncle, and of her escape through the providential intervention of Prince AEmilius, we shall say nothing; nor of the "frolicke common-wealth" established in Thrace, feeling as we do some sympathy with Corydon, who interrupts the speaker, saying: "Reach hither thy bottle that we may drinke round; I am sure thou must needes be dry with talking when I am so a thirst with hearing." Piers passes from the court to the shop of a dealer in old clothes and an usurer. He leads a very miserable life, and we have sordid descriptions of scenes in low life with which Chettle was better acquainted than with the loves of AEmilius and AEliana. Princes and princesses come in again; there are revolutions, awful dangers and marvellous deliverances. All ends happily, and Piers and his hearers agree to meet "at theyr ploughman's holidaye. Where what happened, if Piers Plainnes please, shall per adventure be published." This "adventure" never took place. The incoherent mixture of the picaresque, romantic, and Arcadian tale resulted in such an unpalatable compound that even novel-readers of Shakespeare's time objected to a narration of this kind, and did not trouble Chettle with a demand for its continuation.

His reputation therefore rests mainly on his dramas. One of his most frequent associates in writing them, and one of the most prolific and gifted, Thomas Dekker, was also something of a novelist. He has left, besides a great quantity of plays, a number of pamphlets written very much in Nash's vein,[292] in which there is some excellent realism, together with the most amusing and whimsical fancies.[293] His biography is a mere repetition of his friend's life, and the words: Henslowe, drama, penury, pamphlets, prison, quarrels, put together, will give a sufficient idea of the sort of existence led by him as well as by so many of his associates.[294] He wrote some of his plays alone, many others with numberless collaborators, such as Chettle, Drayton, Wilson, Ben Jonson (with whom he afterwards had a violent quarrel), Haughton, Day, Munday, Hathaway, Middleton, Webster, Heywood, Wentworth Smith, Massinger, Ford, Rowley, and even others, for the dramatic faculty was then so very common that any one, so to say, was good enough to act as a collaborator in writing plays.

He had many traits in common with Nash: the same excellent faculty of observation, the same gaiety and entrain, with powers of his own to associate it with the most exquisite tenderness and pathos; the same love for literature and for the poets, for Chaucer, for Spenser, whose arrival in the Elysian fields he describes in a way to tempt the pencil of a painter: "Grave Spenser was no sooner entred into this chappell of Apollo, but these elder fathers of the divine furie gave him a lawrer and sung his welcome; Chaucer call'd him his sonne and plac'd him at his right hand. All of them, at a signe given by the whole quire of the Muses that brought him thither, closing up their lippes in silence, and turning all their eares for attention to heare him sing out the rest of Fayrie Queenes prayses."[295]

But a marked difference between Dekker and Nash resulted from the fact that Dekker had not only a love of poetry, but a poetical faculty of a high order. He went far beyond the picturesqueness of Nash's word-painting, and reached in his prose as well as in his verse true lyrical emotion and pathos; he had, said Lamb, "poetry enough for anything;"[296] and while Nash's gaiety, true and hearty as it is, takes often and naturally a bitter satirical turn, Dekker's gaiety though sometimes bitter, more usually takes a pretty, graceful, and fanciful turn. "Come, strew apace, strew, strew: in good troth tis a pitty that these flowers must be trodden under feete as they are like to be anon ...

"Pitty? come foole, fling them about lustily; flowers never dye a sweeter death than when they are smoother'd to death in a Lovers bosome, or else pave the high wayes over which these pretty, simpering, setting things call'd brides must trippe."[297]

Intimate literary ties, however, existed between Nash and Dekker; many passages in the one remind us of similar things in the other, the result sometimes of actual imitation, sometimes of involuntary reminiscences. Dekker was well aware of the family likeness between the two, so much so that we see him once calling Nash's ghost to his assistance, as one from whom he might most naturally gain help: "And thou into whose soule ... the raptures of that fierie and inconfinable Italian spirit were bounteously and boundlesly infused; thou sometimes secretary to Pierce Pennylesse and master of his requests, ingenious, ingenuous, fluent, facetious T. Nash, from whose aboundant pen hony flow'd to thy friends, and mortall aconite to thy enemies; thou that madest the doctor a flat dunce[298] ... sharpest satyre, luculent poet, elegant orator, get leave for thy ghost to come from her abiding and to dwell with me awhile."[299]

Nash's ghost was most certainly hovering about Dekker when he was writing the pamphlet from which this apostrophe is taken; it taught him how to disrobe for our amusement the heroes of antique legends of their dignified looks and dresses, and place their haloed selves in the open daylight of the street below our window. With all his admiration for Marlowe's performance Nash had told, in very ludicrous fashion indeed, the story of Hero and Leander, associating in a manner unwarranted by ancient historians their fate with the vicissitudes of Great Yarmouth and the red herring. In the same way Dekker makes choice of that exquisite tale of Orpheus which reads so pathetically in the prose of King Alfred, and he tells it thus:

"Assist mee therefore, thou genius of that ventrous but zealous musicion of Thrace, Euridice's husband, who being besotted on his wife, of whiche sin none but ... should be guiltie, went alive with his fiddle at's backe, to see if he could bail her out of that adamantine prison. The fees he was to pay for her were jigs and countrey-daunces: he paid them; the forfeits if he put on yellow stockings and lookt back upon her, was her everlasting lying there, without bayle or mayne-prize. The loving coxcomb could not choose but look backe, and so lost her: perhaps hee did it because he would be rid of her. The morall of which is, that if a man leave his owne busines and have an eie to his wives dooings, sheele give him the slip though she runne to the divell for her labour."[300]

Dekker did not write novels properly so called, but his prose works abound with scenes that seem detached from novels, and that were so well fitted for that kind of writing that we find them again in the works of professional novelists of his or of a later time. His "Wonderfull yeare 1603," from which Defoe seems to have taken several hints, abounds in scenes of this sort.[301] It is a book "wherein is shewed the picture of London lying sicke of the plague. At the ende of all, like a mery epilogue to a dull play sundry tales are cut out in sundry fashions of purpose to shorten the lives of long winters nights that lye watching in the darke for us." Some of these tales are extremely well told, for Dekker is more successful in describing the humours than the terrors of the plague. In one of them we find another copy of the fat hostler so well described already by Nash and, as it seems, inspired by a reminiscence of the picture in "Jack Wilton." Dekker's man is not thinner, cleaner, nor braver than Nash's victualler. He is a country innkeeper: "a goodly fat burger he was, with a belly arching out like a beere-barrell, which made his legges, that were thicke and short like two piles driven under London bridge.... In some corners of [his nose] there were blewish holes that shone like shelles of mother of pearle ... other were richly garnisht with rubies, chrisolites, and carbunckles, which glistered so oriently, that the Hamburgers offered I know not how many dollars for his companie in an East-Indian voyage, to have stoode a nightes in the poope of their Admirall, onely to save the charge of candles.

"In conclusion he was an host to be ledde before an Emperour, and though he were one of the greatest men in all the shire, his bignes made him not proude, but he humbled himself to speake the base language of a tapster, and uppon the Londoners first arrival, cried: 'Welcome! a cloth for this gentleman!' The linnen was spread and furnisht presently with a new cake and a can, the roome voided, and the guest left, like a French Lord, attended by no bodie."[302]

This new-comer, freshly arrived from London was flying on account of the plague; but it so happened that he had himself already contracted the disease; he was scarcely seated before it grew upon him and he fell dead. Great was the terror in the inn. The host, the maids, all the inmates ran from the corpse and left the house; the terror spread in the borough; no one would even walk near the place.

"At last a tinker came sounding through the towne, mine hosts being the auncient watring place where he did use to cast anchor. You must understand he was none of those base rascally tinkers that with a bandog and a drab at their tayles and a picke staffe at their necks will take a purse sooner then stop a kettle. No this was a devout tinker, he did honor God Pan; a musicall tinker, that upon his kettle-drum could play any countrey-dance you cald for, and upon Holly-dayes had earned money by it, when no fidler could be heard of. Hee was onely feared when he stalkt through some towns where bees were, for he strucke so sweetely on the bottome of his copper instrument that he would emptie whole hives and leade the swarmes after him, only by the sound."

These two beings, the host and tinker, depicted as vividly by Dekker as Callot would have drawn them, meet in the open air, and the former offers the tinker a crown if he undertakes to bury the dead man. The tinker haggles for better payment and they agree for ten shillings. "The whole parish had warning of this presently ... therefore ten shillings were leveyed out of hand, put into a rag, which was tyed to the ende of a long pole and delivered, in sight of all the parish, who stood aloofe stopping their noses, by the head boroughs owne selfe in proper person." Nothing dismayed by this awful array, the tinker sits at table, drinks deep, takes the corpse on his back and carries it to a field. Before committing it to the earth he carefully searches its pockets and empties them; he then makes a parcel of the clothes "and carrying that at the end of his staffe on his shoulder, with the purse of seven pounds in his hand, backe againe comes he through the towne, crying aloud: 'Have you any more Londoners to bury; Hey downe a downe dery; Have you any more Londoners to bury?' The Hobbinolls running away from him as if he had beene the dead citizens ghost, and he marching away from them in all the hast he could, with that song still in his mouth."

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