John Lyly
by John Dover Wilson
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[Transcriber's Note:

This e-text contains one Greek word that has been transliterated and placed inside slashes: /Euphues/.]




B.A., Late Scholar of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Members' Prizeman, 1902. Harness Prizeman, 1904. Honours in Historical Tripos.

Macmillan and Bowes Cambridge 1905



The following treatise was awarded the Harness Prize at Cambridge in 1904. I have, however, revised it since then, and in some matters considerably enlarged it.

A list of the chief authorities to whom I am indebted will be found at the end of the book, but it is fitting that I should here make particular mention of my obligations to the exhaustive work of Mr Bond[1]. Not only have his labours of research and collation lightened the task for me, and for any future student of Lyly, to an incalculable extent, but the various introductory essays scattered up and down his volumes are full of invaluable suggestions.

[1] The Complete Works of John Lyly. R. W. Bond, 3 Vols. Clarendon Press.

This book was unfortunately nearing its completion before I was able to avail myself of Mr Martin Hume's Spanish Influence on English Literature. But, though I might have added more had his book been accessible earlier, I was glad to find that his conclusions left the main theory of my chapter on Euphuism untouched.

Much as has been written upon John Lyly, no previous critic has attempted to cover the whole ground, and to sum up in a brief and convenient form the three main literary problems which centre round his name. My solution of these problems may be faulty in detail, but it will I hope be of service to Elizabethan students to have them presented in a single volume and from a single point of view. Furthermore, when I undertook this study, I found several points which seemed to demand closer attention than they had hitherto received. It appeared to me that the last word had not been said even upon the subject of Euphuism, although that topic has usurped the lion's share of critical treatment. And again, while Lyly's claims as a novelist are acknowledged on all hands, I felt that a clear statement of his exact position in the history of our novel was still needed. Finally, inasmuch as the personality of an author is always more fascinating to me than his writings, I determined to attempt to throw some light, however fitful and uncertain, upon the man Lyly himself. The attempt was not entirely fruitless, for it led to the interesting discovery that the fully-developed euphuism was not the creation of Lyly, or Pettie, or indeed of any one individual, but of a circle of young Oxford men which included Gosson, Watson, Hakluyt, and possibly many others.

I have to thank Mr J. R. Collins and Mr J. N. Frazer, the one for help in revision, and the other for assistance in Spanish. But my chief debt of gratitude is due to Dr Ward, the Master of Peterhouse, who has twice read through this book at different stages of its construction. The readiness with which he has put his great learning at my disposal, his kindly interest, and frequent encouragement have been of the very greatest help in a task which was undertaken and completed under pressure of other work.

As the full titles of authorities used are to be found in the list at the end, I have referred to works in the footnotes simply by the name of their author, while in quoting from Euphues I have throughout employed Prof. Arber's reprint. Should errors be discovered in the text I must plead in excuse that, owing to circumstances, the book had to be passed very quickly through the press.





The problem stated—Sketch of Lyly's life 1



Section I. The Anatomy of Euphuism 13

Section II. The Origin of Euphuism 21

Section III. Lyly's legatees and the relation between Euphuism and the Renaissance 43

Section IV. The position of Euphuism in the history of English Prose 52



The rise of the Novel—the characteristics of The Anatomy of Wit and Euphues and his England—the Elizabethan Novel.



Section I. English Comedy before 1580 89

Section II. The Eight Plays 98

Section III. Lyly's advance and subsequent influence 119



Lyly's Character—Summary.



Since the day when Taine established a scientific basis for the historical study of Art, criticism has tended gradually but naturally to fall into two divisions, as distinct from each other as the functions they respectively perform are distinct. The one, which we may call aesthetic criticism, deals with the artist and his works solely for the purpose of interpretation and appreciation, judging them according to some artistic standard, which, as often as not, derives its only sanction from the prejudices of the critic himself. It is of course obvious that, until all critics are agreed upon some common principles of artistic valuation, aesthetic criticism can lay no claim to scientific precision, but must be classed as a department of Art itself. The other, an application of the Darwinian hypothesis to literature, which owes its existence almost entirely to the great French critic before mentioned, but which has since rejected as unscientific many of the laws he formulated, may be called historical or sociological criticism. It judges a work of art, an artist, or an artistic period, on its dynamic and not its intrinsic merits. Its standard is influence, not power or beauty. It is concerned with the artistic qualities of a given artist only in so far as he exerts influence over his successors by those qualities. It is essentially scientific, for it treats the artist as science treats any other natural phenomenon, that is, as the effect of previous causes and the cause of subsequent effects. Its function is one of classification, and with interpretation or appreciation it has nothing to do.

Before undertaking the study of an artist, the critic should carefully distinguish between these two critical methods. A complete study must of course comprehend both; and in the case of Shakespeare, shall we say, each should be exhaustive. On the other hand, there are artists whose dynamical value is far greater than their intrinsic value, and vice versa; and in such instances the critic must be guided in his action by the relative importance of these values in any particular example. This is so in the case of John Lyly. In the course of the following treatise we shall have occasion to pass many aesthetic judgments upon his work; but it will be from the historical side that we shall view him in the main, because his importance for the readers of the twentieth century is almost entirely dynamical. His work is by no means devoid of aesthetic merit. He was, like so many of the Elizabethans, a writer of beautiful lyrics which are well known to this day; but, though the rest of his work is undoubtedly that of an artist of no mean ability, the beauty it possesses is the beauty of a fossil in which few but students would profess any interest. Moreover, even could we claim more for John Lyly than this, any aesthetic criticism would of necessity become a secondary matter in comparison with his importance in other directions, for to the scientific critic he is or should be one of the most significant figures in English literature. This claim I hope to justify in the following pages; but it will be well, by way of obtaining a broad general view of our subject, to call attention to a few points upon which our justification must ultimately rest.

In the first place John Lyly, inasmuch as he was one of the earliest writers who considered prose as an artistic end in itself, and not simply as a medium of expression, may be justly described as a founder, if not the founder, of English prose style.

In the second place he was the author of the first novel of manners in the language.

And in the third place, and from the point of view of Elizabethan literature most important of all, he was one of our very earliest dramatists, and without doubt merits the title of Father of English Comedy.

It is almost impossible to over-estimate his historical importance in these three departments, and this not because he was a great genius or possessed of any magnificent artistic gifts, but for the simple reason that he happened to stand upon the threshold of modern English literature and at the very entrance to its splendid Elizabethan ante-room, and therefore all who came after felt something of his influence. These are the three chief points of interest about Lyly, but they do not exhaust the problems he presents. We shall have to notice also that as a pamphleteer he becomes entangled in the famous Marprelate controversy, and that he was one of the first, being perhaps even earlier than Marlowe, to perceive the value of blank verse for dramatic purposes. Finally, as we have seen, he was the reputed author of some delightful lyrics.

The man of whom one can say such things, the man who showed such versatility and range of expression, the man who took the world by storm and made euphuism the fashion at court before he was well out of his nonage, who for years provided the great Queen with food for laughter, and who was connected with the first ominous outburst of the Puritan spirit, surely possesses personal attractions apart from any literary considerations. We shall presently see reason to believe that his personality was a brilliant and fascinating one. But such a reconstruction of the artist[2] is only possible after a thorough analysis of his works. It would be as well here, however, by way of obtaining an historical framework for our study, to give a brief account of his life as it is known to us.

[2] Cf. Hennequin.

"Eloquent and witty" John Lyly first saw light in the year 1553 or 1554[3]. Anthony a Wood, the 17th century author of Athenae Oxonienses, tells us that he was, like his contemporary Stephen Gosson, a Kentish man born[4]; and with this clue to help them both Mr Bond and Mr Baker are inclined to accept much of the story of Fidus as autobiographical[5]. If their inference be correct, our author would seem to have been the son of middle-class, but well-to-do, parents. But it is with his residence at Oxford that any authentic account of his life must begin, and even then our information is very meagre. Wood tells us that he "became a student in Magdalen College in the beginning of 1569, aged 16 or thereabouts." "And since," adds Mr Bond, "in 1574 he describes himself as Burleigh's alumnus, and owns obligations to him, it is possible that he owed his university career to Burleigh's assistance[6]." And yet, limited as our knowledge is, it is possible, I think, to form a fairly accurate conception of Lyly's manner of life at Oxford, if we are bold enough to read between the lines of the scraps of contemporary evidence that have come down to us. Lyly himself tells us that he left Oxford for three years not long after his arrival. "Oxford," he says, "seemed to weane me before she brought me forth, and to give me boanes to gnawe, before I could get the teate to suck. Wherein she played the nice mother in sending me into the countrie to nurse, where I tyred at a drie breast for three years and was at last inforced to weane myself." Mr Bond, influenced by the high moral tone of Euphues, which, as we shall see, was merely a traditional literary prose borrowed from the moral court treatise, is anxious to vindicate Lyly from all charges of lawlessness, and refuses to admit that the foregoing words refer to rustication[7]. Lyly's enforced absence he holds was due to the plague which broke out at Oxford at this time. Such an interpretation seems to me to be sufficiently disposed of by the fact that the plague in question did not break out until 1571[8], while Lyly's words must refer to a departure (at the very latest) in 1570. Everything, in fact, goes to show that he was out of favour with the University authorities. In the first place he seems to have paid small attention to his regular studies. To quote Wood again, he was "always averse to the crabbed studies of Logic and Philosophy. For so it was that his genie, being naturally bent to the pleasant paths of poetry (as if Apollo had given to him a wreath of his own Bays without snatching or struggling), did in a manner neglect academical studies, yet not so much but that he took the Degree in Arts, that of Master being completed in 1575[9]."

[3] Bond, I. p. 2; Baker, p. v.

[4] Ath. Ox. (ed. Bliss), I. p. 676.

[5] Euphues, p. 268.

[6] Bond, I. p. 6. But Baker, pp. vii, viii, would seem to disagree with this.

[7] Bond, I. p. 11.

[8] Baker, p. xii.

[9] Athenae Oxonienses (ed. Bliss), I. p. 676.

Neglect of the recognised studies, however, was not the only blot upon Lyly's Oxford life. From the hints thrown out by his contemporaries, and from some allusions, doubtless personal, in the Euphues, we learn that, as an undergraduate, he was an irresponsible madcap. "Esteemed in the University a noted wit," he would very naturally become the centre of a pleasure-seeking circle of friends, despising the persons and ideas of their elders, eager to adopt the latest fashion whether in dress or in thought, and intolerant alike of regulations and of duty. Gabriel Harvey, who nursed a grudge against Lyly, even speaks of "horning, gaming, fooling and knaving," words which convey a distinct sense of something discreditable, whatever may be their exact significance. It is necessary to lay stress upon this period of Lyly's life, because, as I hope to show, his residence at Oxford, and the friends he made there, had a profound influence upon his later development, and in particular determined his literary bent. For our present purpose, however, which is merely to give a brief sketch of his life, it is sufficient to notice that our author's conduct during his residence was not so exemplary as it might have been. It must, therefore, have called forth a sigh of relief from the authorities of Magdalen, when they saw the last of John Lyly, M.A., in 1575. He however, quite naturally, saw matters otherwise. It would seem to him that the College was suffering wrong in losing so excellent a wit, and accordingly he heroically took steps to prevent such a catastrophe, for in 1576 we find him writing to his patron Burleigh, requesting him to procure mandatory letters from the Queen "that so under your auspices I may be quietly admitted a Fellow there." The petition was refused, Burleigh's sense of propriety overcoming his sense of humour, and the petitioner quitted Oxford, leaving his College the legacy of an unpaid bill for battels, and probably already preparing in his brain the revenge, which subsequently took the form of an attack upon his University in Euphues, which he published in 1578.

It is interesting to learn that in 1579, according to the common practice of that day, he proceeded to his degree of M.A. at Cambridge, though there is no evidence of any residence there[10]. Indeed we know from other sources that in 1578, or perhaps earlier, Lyly had taken up his position at the Savoy Hospital. It seems probable that he became again indebted to Burleigh's generosity for the rooms he occupied here—unless they were hired for him by Burleigh's son-in-law Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. This person, though few of his writings are now extant, is nevertheless an interesting figure in Elizabethan literature. The second part of Euphues published in 1580, and the Hekatompathia of Thomas Watson, are both dedicated to him, and he seems to have acted as patron to most of Lyly's literary associates when they left Oxford for London. Lyly became his private secretary; and as the Earl was himself a dramatist, though his comedies are now lost, his influence must have confirmed in our author those dramatic aspirations, which were probably acquired at Oxford; and we have every reason for believing that Lyly was still his secretary when he was publishing his two first plays, Campaspe and Sapho, in 1584. But this point will require a fuller treatment at a later stage of our study.

[10] Mr Baker however seems to think that his reference to Cambridge (Euphues, p. 436) implies a term of residence there. Baker, p. xxii.

Somewhere about 1585 Fate settled once and for all the lines on which Lyly's genius was to develop, for at that time he became an assistant master at the St Paul's Choir School. Schools, and especially those for choristers, at this time offered excellent opportunities for dramatic production. Lyly in his new position made good use of his chance, and wrote plays for his young scholars to act, drilling them himself, and perhaps frequently appearing personally on the stage. These chorister-actors were connected in a very special way with royal entertainments; and therefore they and their instructor would be constantly brought into touch with the Revels' Office. As we know from his letters to Elizabeth and to Cecil, the mastership of the Revels was the post Lyly coveted, and coveted without success, as far as we can tell, until the end of his life. But these letters also show us that he was already connected with this office by his position in the subordinate office of Tents and Toils. The latter, originally instituted for the purpose of furnishing the necessaries of royal hunting and campaigning[11], had apparently become amalgamated under a female sovereign with the Revels' Office, possibly owing to the fact that its costumes and weapons provided useful material for entertainments and interludes. Another position which, as Mr Bond shows, was held at one time by Lyly, was that of reader of new books to the Bishop of London. This connexion with the censorship of the day is interesting, as showing how Lyly was drawn into the whirlpool of the Marprelate controversy. Finally we know that he was elected a member of Parliament on four separate occasions[12].

[11] Bond, I. p. 38.

[12] I have to thank Dr Ward for pointing out to me the interesting fact that a large proportion of Elizabeth's M.P.'s were royal officials.

These varied occupations are proof of the energy and versatility of our author, but not one of them can be described as lucrative. Nor can his publications have brought him much profit; for, though both Euphues and its sequel passed through ten editions before his death, an author in those days received very little of the proceeds of his work. Moreover the publication of his plays is rather an indication of financial distress than a sign of prosperity. The two dramas already mentioned were printed before Lyly's connexion with the Choir School; and, when in 1585 he became "vice-master of Poules and Foolmaster of the Theater," he would be careful to keep his plays out of the publisher's hands, in order to preserve the acting monopoly. It is probable that the tenure of this Actor-manager-schoolmastership marks the height of Lyly's prosperity, and the inhibition of the boys' acting rights in 1591 must have meant a severe financial loss to him. Thus it is only after this date that he is forced to make what he can by the publication of his other plays. The fear of poverty was the more urgent, because he had a wife and family on his hands. And though Mr Bond believes that he found an occupation after 1591 in writing royal entertainments, and though the inhibition on the choristers' acting was removed as early as 1599, yet the last years of Lyly's life were probably full of disappointment. This indeed is confirmed by the bitter tone of his letter to Elizabeth in 1598 in reference to the mastership of the Revels' Office, which he had at last despaired of. The letter in question is sad reading. Beginning with a euphuism and ending in a jest, it tells of a man who still retains, despite all adversity, a courtly mask and a merry tongue, but beneath this brave surface there is visible a despair—almost amounting to anguish—which the forced merriment only renders more pitiable. And the gloom which surrounded his last years was not only due to the distress of poverty. Before his death in 1606 he had seen his novel eclipsed by the new Arcadian fashion, and had watched the rise of a host of rival dramatists, thrusting him aside while they took advantage of his methods. Greatest of them all, as he must have realised, was Shakespeare, the sun of our drama before whom the silver light of his little moon, which had first illumined our darkness, waned and faded away and was to be for centuries forgotten.



It was as a novelist that Lyly first came before the world of English letters. In 1578 he published a volume, bearing the inscription, Euphues: the anatomy of wyt, to which was subjoined the attractive advertisement, very pleasant for all gentlemen to reade, and most necessary to remember. This book, which was to work a revolution in our literature, was completed in 1580 by a sequel, entitled Euphues and his England. Euphues, to combine the two parts under one name, the fruit of Lyly's nonage, seems to have determined the form of his reputation for the Elizabethans; and even to-day it attracts more attention than any other of his works. This probably implies a false estimate of Lyly's comparative merits as a novelist and as a dramatist. But it is not surprising that critics, living in the century of the novel, and with their eyes towards the country pre-eminent in its production, should think and write of Lyly chiefly as the first of English novelists. The bias of the age is as natural and as dangerous an element in criticism as the bias of the individual. But it is not with the modern appraisement of Euphues that we are here concerned. Nor need we proceed immediately to a consideration of its position in the history of the English novel. We have first to deal with its Elizabethan reputation. Had Euphues been a still-born child of Lyly's genius, had it produced no effect upon the literature of the age, it would possess nothing but a purely archaeological interest for us to-day. It would still be the first of English novels: but this claim would lose half its significance, did it not carry with it the implication that the book was also the origin of English novel writing. The importance, therefore, of Euphues is not so much that it was primary, as that it was primordial; and, to be such, it must have laid its spell in some way or other upon succeeding writers. Our first task is therefore to enquire what this spell was, and to discover whether the attraction of Euphues must be ascribed to Lyly's own invention or to artifices which he borrows from others.

While, as I have said, Lyly's name is associated with the novel by most modern critics, it has earned a more widespread reputation among the laity for affectation and mannerisms of style. Indeed, until fifty years ago, Lyly spelt nothing but euphuism, and euphuism meant simply nonsense, clothed in bombast. It was a blind acceptance of these loose ideas which led Sir Walter Scott to create (as a caricature of Lyly) his Sir Piercie Shafton in The Monastery—an historical faux pas for which he has been since sufficiently called to account. Nevertheless Lyly's reputation had a certain basis of fact, and we may trace the tradition back to Elizabethan days. It is perhaps worth pointing out that, had we no other evidence upon the subject, the survival of this tradition would lead us to suppose that it was Lyly's style more than anything else which appealed to the men of his day. A contemporary confirmation of this may be found in the words of William Webbe. Writing in 1586 of the "great good grace and sweet vogue which Eloquence hath attained in our Speeche," he declares that the English language has thus progressed, "because it hath had the helpe of such rare and singular wits, as from time to time myght still adde some amendment to the same. Among whom I think there is none that will gainsay, but Master John Lyly hath deservedly moste high commendations, as he hath stept one steppe further therein than any either before or since he first began the wyttie discourse of his Euphues, whose works, surely in respect of his singular eloquence and brave composition of apt words and sentences, let the learned examine and make tryall thereof, through all the parts of Rethoricke, in fitte phrases, in pithy sentences, in galant tropes, in flowing speeche, in plaine sense, and surely in my judgment, I think he wyll yeelde him that verdict which Quintillian giveth of both the best orators Demosthenes and Tully, that from the one, nothing may be taken away, to the other nothing may be added[13]." After such eulogy, the description of Lyly by another writer as "alter Tullius anglorum" will not seem strange. These praises were not the extravagances of a few uncritical admirers; they echo the verdict of the age. Lyly's enthronement was of short duration—a matter of some ten years—but, while it lasted, he reigned supreme. Such literary idolatries are by no means uncommon, and often hold their ground for a considerable period. Beside the vogue of Waller, for example, the duration of Lyly's reputation was comparatively brief. More than a century after the publication of his poems, Waller was hailed by the Sidney Lee of the day in the Biographia Britannica of 1766, as "the most celebrated Lyric Poet that England ever produced." Whence comes this striking contrast between past glory and present neglect? How is it that a writer once known as the greatest master of English prose, and a poet once named the most conspicuous of English lyrists, are now but names? They have not faded from memory owing to a mere caprice of fashion. Great artists are subject to an ebb and flow of popularity, for which as yet no tidal theory has been offered as an explanation; but like the sea they are ever permanent. The case of our two writers is different. The wheel of time will never bring Euphues and Sacharissa "to their own again." They are as dead as the Jacobite cause. And for that very reason they are all the more interesting for the literary historian. All writers are conditioned by their environment, but some concern themselves with the essentials, others with the accidents, of that internally constant, but externally unstable, phenomenon, known as humanity. Waller and Lyly were of the latter class. Like jewels suitable to one costume only, they remained in favour just as long as the fashion that created them lasted. Waller was probably inferior to Lyly as an artist, but he happened to strike a vein which was not exhausted until the end of the 18th century; while the vogue of Euphues, though at first far-reaching, was soon crossed by new artificialities such as arcadianism. The secret of Waller's influence was that he stereotyped a new poetic form, a form which, in its restraint and precision, was exactly suited to the intellect of the ancien regime with its craving for form and its contempt for ideas. The mainspring of Lyly's popularity was that he did in prose what Waller did in poetry.

[13] A discourse of English Poetrie, Arber's reprint.

SECTION I. The Anatomy of Euphuism.

The books which have been written upon the characteristics of Lyly's prose are numberless, and far outweigh the attention given to his power as a novelist, to say nothing of his dramas[14]. Indeed the absorption of the critics in the analysis of euphuism seems to have been, up to a few years ago, definitely injurious to a true appreciation of our author's position, by blocking the path to a recognition of his importance in other directions. And yet, in spite of all this, it cannot be said that any adequate examination of the structure of Lyly's style appeared until Mr Child took the matter in hand in 1894[15]. And Mr Child has performed his task so scientifically and so exhaustively that he has killed the topic by making any further treatment of it superfluous. This being the case, a description of the euphuistic style need not detain us for long. I shall content myself with the briefest summary of its characteristics, drawing upon Mr Child for my matter, and referring those who are desirous of further details to Mr Child's work itself. We shall then be in a position to proceed to the more interesting, and as yet unsettled problem, of the origins of euphuism. The great value of Mr Child's work lies in the fact that he has at once simplified and amplified the conclusions of previous investigators. Dr Weymouth[16] was the first to discover that, beneath the "curtizan-like painted affectation" of euphuism, there lay a definite theory of style and a consistent method of procedure. Dr Landmann carried the analysis still further in his now famous paper published in the New Shakespeare Society's Transactions (1880-82). But these two, and those who have followed them, have erred, on the one hand in implying that euphuism was much more complex than it is in reality, and on the other by confining their attention to single sentences, and so failing to perceive that the euphuistic method was applicable to the paragraph, as a whole, no less than to the sentence. And it is upon these two points that Mr Child's essay is so specially illuminating. We shall obtain a correct notion of the "essential character" of the "euphuistic rhetoric," he writes, "if we observe that it employs but one simple principle in practice, and that it applies this, not only to the ordering of the single sentence, but in every structural relation[17]": and this simple principle is "the inducement of artificial emphasis through Antithesis and Repetition—Antithesis to give pointed expression to the thought, Repetition to enforce it[18]." When Lyly set out to write his novel, it seemed that his intention was to produce a most elaborate essay in antithesis. The book as a whole, "very pleasant for all gentlemen to read and most necessary to remember," was itself an antithesis; the discourses it contains were framed upon the same plan; the sentences are grouped antithetically; while the antithesis is pointed by an equally elaborate repetition of ideas, of vowel sounds and of consonant sounds. Letters, syllables, words, sentences, sentence groups, paragraphs, all are employed for the purpose of producing the antithetical style now known as euphuism. An example will serve to make the matter clearer. Philautus, upbraiding his treacherous friend Euphues for robbing him of his lady's love, delivers himself of the following speech: "Although hitherto Euphues I have shrined thee in my heart for a trusty friend, I will shunne thee hereafter as a trothless foe, and although I cannot see in thee less wit than I was wont, yet do I find less honesty. I perceive at the last (although being deceived it be too late) that musk though it be sweet in the smell is sour in the smack, that the leaf of the cedar tree though it be fair to be seen, yet the syrup depriveth sight—that friendship though it be plighted by the shaking of the hand, yet it is shaken by the fraud of the heart. But thou hast not much to boast of, for as thou hast won a fickle lady, so hast thou lost a faithful friend[19]." It is impossible to give an adequate idea of the euphuistic style save in a lengthy quotation, such as the discourse of Eubulus selected by Mr Child for that purpose[20]; but, within the narrow limits of the passage I have chosen, the main characteristics of euphuism are sufficiently obvious. It should be noticed how one part of a sentence is balanced by another part, and how this balance or "parallelism" is made more pointed by means of alliteration, e.g. "shrined thee for a trusty friend," "shun thee as a trothless foe"; musk "sweet in the smell," "sour in the smack," and so on. The former of these antitheses is an example of transverse alliteration, of which so much is made by Dr Landmann, but which, as Mr Child shows, plays a subordinate, and an entirely mechanical, part in Lyly's style[21]. Lyly's most natural and most usual method of emphasizing is by means of simple alliteration. On the other hand it must be noticed that he employs alliteration for the sake of euphony alone much more frequently than he uses it for the purpose of emphasis. So that we may conclude by saying that simple alliteration forms the basis of the euphuistic diction, just as we have seen antithesis forms the basis of the euphuistic construction. This brief survey of the framework of euphuism is far from being an exhaustive analysis. All that is here attempted is an enumeration of the most obvious marks of euphuism, as a necessary step to an investigation of its origin, and to a determination of its place in the history of our literature.

[14] Child, pp. 6-20, for an account of chief writers who have dealt with euphuism.

[15] John Lyly and Euphuism. C. G. Child.

[16] On Euphuism, Phil. Soc. Trans., 1870-2.

[17] Child, p. 43.

[18] id., p. 44.

[19] Euphues, p. 90.

[20] Child, p. 39.

[21] id., p. 46.

Before, however, leaving the subject entirely, we must mention two more characteristics of Lyly's prose which are very noticeable, but which come under the head of ornamental, rather than constructional, devices. The first of these is a peculiar use of the rhetorical interrogation. Lyly makes use of it when he wishes to portray his characters in distress or excitement, and it most frequently occurs in soliloquies. Sometimes we find a string of these interrogations, at others they are answered by sentences beginning "ay but," and occasionally we have the "ay but" sentence with the preceding interrogation missing. I make a special mention of this point, as we shall find it has a certain connexion with the subject of the origins of euphuism.

The other ornamental device is one which has attracted a considerable quantity of attention from critics, and has frequently been taken by itself as the distinguishing mark of euphuism. In point of fact, however, the euphuists shared it with many other writers of their age, though it is doubtful whether anyone carried it to such extravagant lengths as Lyly. It took the form of illustrations and analogies, so excessive and overwhelming that it is difficult to see how even the idlest lady of Elizabeth's court found time or patience to wade through them. They consist first of anecdotes and allusions relating to historical or mythological persons of the ancient world; some being drawn from Plutarch, Pliny, Ovid, Virgil, and other sources, but many springing simply from Lyly's exuberant fancy. In the second place Euphues is a collection of similes borrowed from "a fantastical natural history, a sort of mythology of plants and stones, to which the most extraordinary virtues are attributed[22]." "I have heard," says Camilla, bashfully excusing herself for taking up the cudgels of argument with the learned Surius, "that the Tortoise in India when the sunne shineth, swimmeth above the water wyth hyr back, and being delighted with the fine weather, forgetteth her selfe until the heate of the sunne so harden her shell, that she cannot sink when she woulde, whereby she is caught. And so it may fare with me that in this good companye displaying my minde, having more regard to my delight in talking, than to the ears of the hearers, I forget what I speake, and so be taken in something I would not utter, which happilye the itchyng ears of young gentlemen would so canvas that when I would call it in, I cannot, and so be caught with the Tortoise, when I would not[23]." And, when she had finished her discourse, Surius again employs the simile for the purpose of turning a neat compliment, saying, "Lady, if the Tortoise you spoke of in India were as cunning in swimming, as you are in speaking, she would neither fear the heate of the sunne nor the ginne of the Fisher." This is but a mild example of the "unnatural natural philosophy" which Euphues has made famous. An unending procession of such similes, often of the most extravagant nature, runs throughout the book, and sometimes the development of the plot is made dependent on them. Thus Lucilla hesitates to forsake Philautus for Euphues, because she feels that her new lover will remember "that the glasse once chased will with the least clappe be cracked, that the cloth which stayneth with milke will soon loose his coulour with Vinegar; that the eagle's wing will waste the feather as well as of the Phoenix as of the Pheasant: and that she that hath become faithlesse to one, will never be faithfull to any[24]." What proof could be more exact, what better example could be given of the methods of concomitant variations? It is precisely the same logical process which induces the savage to wreak his vengeance by melting a waxen image of his enemy, and the farmer to predict a change of weather at the new moon.

[22] Jusserand, p. 107.

[23] Euphues, p. 402.

[24] id., p. 58.

Lyly, however, was not concerned with making philosophical generalizations, or scientific laws, about the world in general. His natural, or unnatural, phenomena were simply saturated with moral significance: not that he saw any connexion between the ethical process and the cosmic process, but, like every one of his contemporaries, he employed the facts of animal and vegetable life to point a moral or to help out a sermon. The arguments he used appear to us puerile in their old-world dress, and yet similar ones are to be heard to-day in every pulpit where a smattering of science is used to eke out a poverty of theology. And, to be fair, such reasoning is not confined to pulpits. Even so eminent a writer as Mr Edward Carpenter has been known to moralize on the habits of the wild mustard, irresistibly reminding us of the "Camomill which the more it is trodden and pressed down the more it speedeth[25]." Moreover the soi-disant founder of the inductive method, the great Bacon himself, is, as Liebig[26] shows in his amusing and interesting study of the renowned "scientist's" scientific methods, tarred with the same mediaeval brush, and should be ranked with Lyly and the other Elizabethan "scholastics" rather than with men like Harvey and Newton.

[25] Euphues, p. 46.

[26] Lord Bacon et les sciences d'observation en moyen age, par Liebig, traduit par de Tchihatchef.

Lyly's natural history was at any rate the result of learning; many of his "facts" were drawn from Pliny, while others were to be found in the plentiful crop of mediaeval bestiaries, which, as Professor Raleigh remarks, "preceded the biological hand-books." Perhaps also we must again allow something for Lyly's invention; for lists of authorities, and footnotes indicative of sources, were not demanded of the scientist of those days, and one can thoroughly sympathise with an author who found an added zest in inventing the facts upon which his theories rested. Have not ethical philosophers of all ages been guilty of it? Certainly Gabriel Harvey seems to be hinting at Lyly when he slyly remarks: "I could name a party, that in comparison of his own inventions, termed Pliny a barren wombe[27]."

[27] Bond, I. p. 131 note.

The affectations we have just enumerated are much less conspicuous in the second part of Euphues than in the first, and, though they find a place in his earlier plays, Lyly gradually frees himself from their influence, owing perhaps to the decline of the euphuistic fashion, but more probably to the growth of his dramatic instinct, which saw that such forms were a drag upon the action of a play. And yet at times Lyly could use his clumsy weapon with great precision and effect. How admirably, for example, does he express in his antithetical fashion the essence of coquetry. Iffida, speaking to Fidus of one she loved but wished to test, is made to say, "I seem straight-laced as one neither accustomed to such suites, nor willing to entertain such a servant, yet so warily, as putting him from me with my little finger, I drewe him to me with my whole hand[28]." Other little delicate turns of phrase may be found in the mine of Euphues—for the digging. Our author was no genius, but he had a full measure of that indefinable quality known as wit; and, though the stylist's mask he wears is uncouth and rigid, it cannot always conceal the twinkle of his eyes. Moreover a certain weariness of this sermonizing on the stilts of antithesis is often visible; and we may suspect that he half sympathises with the petulant exclamation of the sea-sick Philautus to his interminable friend:

"In fayth, Euphues, thou hast told a long tale, the beginning I have forgotten, ye middle I understand not, and the end hangeth not well together[29]"; and with this piece of self-criticism we may leave Lyly for the present and turn to his predecessors.

[28] Euphues, p. 299.

[29] Euphues, p. 248.

SECTION II. The Origins of Euphuism.

When we pass from an analytical to an historical consideration of the style which Lyly made his own and stamped for ever with the name of his hero, we come upon a problem which is at once the most difficult and the most fascinating with which we have to deal. The search for a solution will lead us far afield; but, inasmuch as the publication and success of Euphues have given euphuism its importance in the history of our literature, the digression, which an attempt to trace the origin of euphuism will necessitate, can hardly be considered outside the scope of this book. Critics have long since decided that the peculiar style, which we have just dissolved into its elements, was not the invention of Lyly's genius; but on the other hand, no critic, in my opinion, has as yet solved the problem of origins with any claim to finality. Perhaps a tentative solution is all that is possible in the present stage of our knowledge. It is, of course, easy to point to the book or books from which Lyly borrowed, and to dismiss the question thus. But this simply evades the whole issue; for, though it explains Euphues, it by no means explains euphuism. Equally unsatisfactory is the theory that euphuism was of purely Spanish origin. Such a solution has all the fascination, and all the dangers, which usually attend a simple answer to a complex question. The idea that euphuism was originally an article of foreign production was first set on foot by Dr Landmann. The real father of Lyly's style, he tells us, was Antonio de Guevara, bishop of Guadix, who published in 1529 a book, the title of which was as follows: The book of the emperor Marcus Aurelius with a Diall for princes. This book was translated into English in 1534 by Lord Berners, and again in 1557 by Sir Thomas North; in both cases from a French version. The two translations are conveniently distinguished by their titles, that of Berners being The Golden Boke, that of North being The Diall of Princes. Dr Landmann is very positive with regard to his theory, but the fact that both translations come from the French and not from the Castilian, seems to me to constitute a serious drawback to its acceptance. And moreover this theory does not explain the really important crux of the whole matter, namely the reason why a style of this kind, whatever its origin, found a ready acceptance in England: for fourteen editions of The Golden Boke are known between 1534 and 1588, a number for those days quite exceptional and showing the existence of an eager public. Two answers are possible to the last question; that there existed a large body of men in the England of the Tudors who were interested in Spanish literature of all kinds and in Guevara among others; and that the euphuistic style was already forming in England, and that this was the reason of Guevara's popularity. In both answers I think there is truth; and I hope to show that they give us, when combined, a fairly adequate explanation of the vogue of euphuism in our country. Let us deal with external influences first.

The upholders of the Spanish theory have contented themselves with stating that Lyly borrowed from Guevara, and pointing out the parallels between the two writers. But it is possible to give their case a greater plausibility, by showing that Guevara was no isolated instance of such Spanish influence, and by proving that during the Tudor period there was a consistent and far-reaching interest in Spanish literature among a certain class of Englishmen. Intimacy with Spain dates from Henry VIII.'s marriage with Katherine of Aragon, though no Spanish book had actually been translated into English before her divorce. But the period from then onwards until the accession of James I., a period when Spain looms as largely in English politics as does France later, saw the publication in London of "some hundred and seventy volumes written either by peninsular authors, or in the peninsular tongues[30]." At such a time this number represents a very considerable influence; and it is, therefore, no wonder that critics have fallen victims to the allurements of a theory which would ascribe Spanish origins for all the various prose epidemics of Elizabethan literature. To pair Lyly with Guevara, Sidney with Montemayor[31], and Nash with Mendoza, and thus to point at Spain as the parent, not only of the euphuistic, but also of the pastoral and picaresque romance, is to furnish an explanation almost irresistible in its symmetry. It must have been with the joy of a mathematician, solving an intricate problem, that Dr Landmann formulated this theory of literary equations. But without going to such lengths, without pressing the connexion between particular writers, one may admit that in general Spanish literature must have exercised an influence upon the Elizabethans. Mr Underhill, our latest authority on the subject, allows this, while at the same time cautioning us against the dangers of over-estimating it. Any contact on the side of the lyric and the drama was, he declares, very slight[32], and the peninsular writings actually circulated in our country at this time, in translations, he divides into three classes; occasional literature, that is topical tracts and pamphlets on contemporary Spanish affairs; didactic literature, comprising scientific treatises, accounts of voyages such as inspired Hakluyt, works on military science, and, more important still, the religious writings of mystics like Granada; and lastly artistic prose. The last item, which alone concerns us, is by far the smallest of the three, and by itself amounts to less than half the translations from Italian literature; moreover most of the Spanish translations under this head came into England after 1580, and could not therefore have influenced Lyly's novel. But of course the Libro Aureo had been englished long before this, while the Lazarillo de Tormes, Mendoza's[33] picaresque romance, was given an English garb by Rowland in 1576, and, though Montemayor's Diana was not translated until 1596, Spanish and French editions of it had existed in England long previous to that date. Perhaps most important of all was the famous realistic novel Celestina, which was well known, in a French translation, to Englishmen at the beginning of the 16th century, and was denounced by Vives at Oxford. It was actually translated into English as early as 1530[34]. There was on the whole, therefore, quite an appreciable quantity of Spanish artistic literature circulating in England before Euphues saw the light.

[30] Underhill, p. 339.

[31] id., p. 268 note. Mr Underhill writes: "The attempt to connect the style of Sidney with that of Montemayor has failed."

[32] Underhill, p. 48, but see Martin Hume, ch. IX.

[33] Some doubt has been thrown upon Mendoza's authorship. See Fitzmaurice-Kelly, p. 158, and Martin Hume, p. 133.

[34] Martin Hume, p. 126.

This literary invasion will seem perfectly natural if we bear in mind the political conditions of the day. Under Mary, England had been all but a Spanish dependency, and, though in the next reign, she threw off the yoke, the antagonism which existed probably acted as an even greater literary stimulus than the former alliance. Throughout the whole of Elizabeth's rule, the English were continually coming into contact with the Spaniards, either in trade, in ecclesiastical matters, in politics, or in actual warfare; and again the magnificence of the great Spanish empire, and the glamour which surrounded its connexion with the new world, were very attractive to the Englishmen of Elizabeth's day, especially as they were desirous of emulating the achievements of Spain. And lastly it may be noticed that English and Spanish conditions of intellectual life, if we shut our eyes to the religious differences, were very similar at this time. Both countries had replaced a shattered feudal system by an absolute and united monarchy. Both countries owed an immense debt to Italy, and, in both, the Italian influence took a similar form, modified on the one hand by humanism, and on the other by feelings of patriotism, if not of imperialism. Spain and England took the Renaissance fever more coldly, and at the same time more seriously, than did Italy. And in both the new movement eventually assumed the character of intellectual asceticism moulded by the sombre hand of religious fanaticism; for Spain was the cradle of the Counter-Reformation, England of Puritanism.

Leaving the general issue, let us now try to establish a partial connexion between our author, or at least his surroundings, and Spanish influences. And here I think a suggestive, if not a strong case, can be made out. Ever since the beginning of the 16th century a Spanish tradition had existed at Oxford. Vives, the Spanish humanist, and the friend of Erasmus, was in 1517 admitted Fellow of Corpus Christi College, and in 1523 became reader in rhetoric; and, though he was banished in 1528, at the time of the divorce, it seems that he was continually lecturing before the University during the five years of his residence there. The circle of his friends, though quite distinct from the contemporary Berners-Guevara group, included many interesting men, and among others the famous Sir John Cheke. Under Mary we naturally find two Spanish professors at Oxford, Pedro de Soto and Juan de Villa Garcia. But Elizabeth maintained the tradition; and in 1559 she offered a chair at Oxford to a Spanish Protestant, Guerrero. The important name, however, in our connexion is Antonio de Corro, who resided as a student at Christ Church from 1575 to 1585, thus being a contemporary of Lyly, though it is impossible to say whether they were acquainted or not. Lyly had, however, another Oxford contemporary who certainly took a keen interest in Spanish literature, possessing a knowledge of Castilian, though himself an Englishman. This was Hakluyt, who must have been known to Lyly; and for the following reason. In 1597 Henry Lok[35] published a volume of religious poems to which Lyly contributed commendatory verses. On the other hand Hakluyt's first book was supplemented by a woodcut map executed by his friend Michael Lok[36], brother of Thomas Lok the Spanish merchant, and uncle to the aforesaid Henry. It seems highly improbable, therefore, that Lyly and Hakluyt possessing these common friends could have remained unknown to each other at Oxford. Indeed we may feel justified in supposing that Hakluyt, Sidney, Carew, Lyly, Thomas Lodge, and Thomas Rogers (the translator of Estella) were all personally acquainted, if not intimate, at the University. Another and very important name may be added to this list, that of Stephen Gosson, who, "a Kentish man born" like our hero, and entering Oxford a year after him (in 1572), must, I feel sure, have been one of his friends. The fact that he was at first interested in acting, and is said to have written comedies, goes a long way to confirm this. We are also led to suppose that he had devoted some attention to Spanish literature, and that he was probably acquainted with Hakluyt and the Loks, from certain verses of his, printed at the end of Thomas Nicholas' Pleasant History of the Conquest of West India, a translation of Cortes' book published in 1578[37]. Taking all this into consideration, it is extremely interesting to find Gosson publishing in 1579 his famous Schoole of Abuse, which bears most of the distinguishing marks of euphuism already noted, but which can scarcely have been modelled upon Lyly's work; for as Professor Saintsbury writes: "the very short interval between the appearance of Euphues and the Schoole of Abuse, shows that he must rather have mastered the Lylian style in the same circumstances and situations as Lyly than have directly borrowed it from his fellow at Oxford[38]." And moreover Gosson's style does not read like an imitation of Lyly. The same tricks and affectations are employed, but they are employed differently and perhaps more effectively.

[35] Bond, I. p. 67.

[36] Underhill, p. 178, to whom I am indebted for nearly all the preceding remarks in connexion with the Spanish atmosphere at Oxford.

[37] Arber's reprint, School of Abuse, p. 97.

[38] Craik, vol. I.

Lyly is again found in contact with the Spanish atmosphere, as one of the dependents of the Earl of Oxford, who patronized Robert Baker, George Baker, and Anthony Munday, who were all under the "spell of the peninsula[39]." But we cannot be certain when his relations with de Vere commenced, and unless we can feel sure that they had begun before the writing of Euphues, the point is not of importance for our present argument.

[39] Underhill, ch. VIII. Sec. 2.

These facts are of course little more than hints, but I think they are sufficient to establish a fairly strong probability that Lyly was one of a literary set at Oxford (as I have already suggested in dealing with his life) the members of which were especially interested in Spanish literature, perhaps through the influence of Corro. It seems extremely improbable that Lyly himself possessed any knowledge of Castilian, and it is by no means necessary to show that he did, for it is quite sufficient to point out that he must have been continually in the presence of those who were discussing peninsular writings, and that in this way he would have come to a knowledge of the most famous Spanish book which had yet received translation, the Libro Aureo of Guevara.

But we are still left with the question on our hands; why was this book the most famous peninsular production of Lyly's day? It is a question which no critic, as far as I am aware, has ever formulated, and yet it seems endowed with the greatest importance. We have seen how and why Spanish literature in general found a reception in England. But the special question as to the ascendancy of Guevara obviously requires a special answer. Guevara was of course well known all over the continent, and it might seem that this was a sufficient explanation of his popularity in England. In reality, however, such an explanation is no solution at all, it merely widens the issue; for we are still left asking for a reason of his continental fame. The problem requires a closer investigation than it has at present received. It was undoubtedly Guevara's alto estilo which gave his writings their chief attraction; and a style so elaborate would only find a reception in a favourable atmosphere, that is among those who had already gone some way towards the creation of a similar style themselves. A priori therefore the answer to our question would be that Guevara was no isolated stylist, but only the most famous example of a literary phase, which had its independent representatives all over Europe. A consideration of English prose under the Tudors will, I think, fully confirm this conclusion as far as our own country is concerned, and it will also offer us an explanation, in terms of internal development, of the origin and sources of euphuism.

We have noticed with suspicion that our two translators took their Guevara from the French. And it is therefore quite legitimate to suppose that Berners and North, separated as they were from the original, were as much creators as translators of the euphuistic style. But there are other circumstances connected with Berners, which are much more fatal to Dr Landmann's theory than this. In the first place it appears that the part played by Berners in the history of euphuism has been considerably under-estimated. Mr Sidney Lee was the first to combat the generally accepted view in a criticism of Mrs Humphry Ward's article on Euphuism in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, in which she follows Dr Landmann. His criticism, which appeared in the Athenaeum, was afterwards enlarged in an appendix to his edition of Berners' translation of Huon of Bordeaux. "Lord Berners' sentences," Mr Lee writes, "are euphuistic beyond all question; they are characterized by the forced antitheses, alliteration, and the far-fetched illustrations from natural phenomena, peculiar to Lyly and his successors[40]." He denies, moreover, that Berners was any less euphuistic than North, and gives parallel extracts from their translations to prove this. A comparison of the two passages in question can leave no doubt that Mr Lee's deduction is correct. Mr Bond therefore is in grave error when he writes, "North endeavoured what Berners had not aimed at, to reproduce in his Diall the characteristics of Guevara's style, with the notable addition of an alliteration natural to English but not to Spanish; and it is he who must be regarded as the real founder of our euphuistic literary fashion[41]." Lyly may indeed have borrowed from North rather than from Berners; but, if Berners' English was as euphuistic as North's, and if Berners could show fourteen editions to North's two before 1580, it is Berners and not North who must be described as "the real founder of our euphuistic literary fashion." And as Mr Lee shows, his nephew Sir Francis Bryan must share the title with him, for the colophon of the Golden Boke states that the translation was undertaken "at the instaunt desire of his nevewe Sir Francis Bryan Knyghte." It was Bryan also who wrote the passage at the conclusion of the Boke applauding the "swete style[42]." This Sir Francis Bryan was a favourite of Henry VIII., a friend of Surrey and Wyatt, possibly of Ascham and of his master Cheke, in fact a very well-known figure at court and in the literary circles of his day[43]. Euphuism must, therefore, have had a considerable vogue even in the days of Henry VIII. If it could be shown that Bryan could read Castilian, the Guevara theory might still possess some plausibility, for it would be argued that Berners learnt his style from his nephew. But, though we know Bryan to have entertained a peculiar affection for Guevara's writings, there is no evidence to prove that he could read them in the original. Indeed when he set himself to translate Guevara's Dispraise of the life of a courtier, he, like his uncle, had to go to a French translation[44]. Wherever we turn, in fact, we are met by this French barrier between Guevara and his English translators, which seems to preclude the possibility of his style having exercised the influence ascribed to it by Dr Landmann and those who follow him.

[40] Huon of Bordeaux, appendix I., Lord Berners and Euphuism, p. 786.

[41] Bond, I. p. 158.

[42] See Athenaeum, July 14, 1883.

[43] Dict. of Nat. Biog., Bryan.

[44] The 2nd edition of this book, which was published under another title, is thus described in the B. M. Cat.: "A looking-glass for the court ... out of Castilian drawne into French by A. Alaygre; and out of the French into English by Sir F. Briant."

But there is more behind: and we cannot help feeling convinced that the facts we are now about to bring forward ought to dispose of the Landmann-Guevara theory once and for all. In the article before mentioned Mr Lee goes on to say: "The translator's prologue to Lord Berners' Froissart written in 1524 and that to be found in other of his works show him to have come under Guevara's or a similar influence before he translated the Golden Boke[45]." Here is an extract from the prologue in question. "The most profitable thing in this world for the institution of the human life is history. Once the continual reading thereof maketh young men equal in prudence to old men, and to old fathers striken in age it ministereth experience of things. More it yieldeth private persons worthy of dignity, rule and governance: it compelleth the emperors, high rulers, and governors to do noble deeds to the end they may obtain immortal glory: it exciteth, moveth and stirreth the strong, hardy warriors, for the great laud that they have after they lie dead, promptly to go in hand with great and hard perils in defence of their country: and it prohibiteth reproveable persons to do mischievous deeds for fear of infamy and shame. So thus through the monuments of writing which is the testimony unto virtue many men have been moved, some to build cities, some to devise and establish laws right, profitable, necessary and behoveful for the human life, some other to find new arts, crafts and sciences, very requisite to the use of mankind. But above all things, whereby man's wealth riseth, special laud and praise ought to be given to history: it is the keeper of such things as have been virtuously done, and the witness of evil deeds, and by the benefit of history all noble, high and virtuous acts be immortal. What moved the strong and fierce Hercules to enterprise in his life so many great incomparable labours and perils? Certainly nought else but that for his great merit immortality might be given him of all folk.... Why moved and stirred Phalerius the King Ptolemy oft and diligently to read books? Forsooth for no other cause but that those things are found written in books that the friends dare not show to the prince[46]." This is of course far from being the full-blown euphuism of Lyly or Pettie, yet we cannot but agree with Mr Lee, when he declares that "the parallelism of the sentences, the repetition of the same thought differently expressed, the rhetorical question, the accumulation of synonyms, the classical references, are irrefutable witnesses to the presence of euphuism[47]." But Mr Lee appeared to be quite unconscious of the full significance of his discovery. It means that Berners was writing euphuism in 1524, five years before Guevara published his book in Spain. No critic, as far as I have been able to discover, has shown any consciousness of this significant fact[48], which is of course of the utmost importance in this connexion; as, if it is to carry all the weight that is at first sight due to it, the theory that euphuism was a mere borrowing from the Spanish must be pronounced entirely exploded. But it is as well not to be over-confident. Guevara's Libro Aureo, his earliest work, was undoubtedly first published by his authority in 1529, but there seems to be a general feeling that the book had previously appeared in pirated form. This feeling is based upon the title of the 1529 edition[49], which describes the book as "nueuamente reuisto por su senoria," and upon certain remarks of Hallam in his Literature of Europe. Though I can find no confirmation for the statements he makes upon the authority of a certain Dr West of Dublin, yet the words of so well known a writer cannot be ignored. He quotes Dr West in a footnote as follows: "There are some circumstances connected with the Relox (i.e. the sub-title of the Libro Aureo) not generally known, which satisfactorily account for various erroneous statements that have been made on the subject by writers of high authority. The fact is that Guevara, about the year 1518, commenced a life and letters of M. Aurelius which purported to be a translation of a Greek work found in Florence. Having sometime afterwards lent this MS. to the emperor it was surreptitiously copied and printed, as he informs us himself, first in Seville and afterwards in Portugal.... Guevara himself subsequently published it (1529) with considerable additions[50]." From this it appears that previous unauthorised editions of Guevara's book had been published before 1529. Might not Berners therefore have come under Guevara's influence as early as 1524? We must concede that it is possible, but, on the other hand, the difficulties in the way of such a contingency seem almost insuperable. In the first place, if we are to believe Dr West, Guevara did not begin to write his work before 1518, and it was not until "some time afterwards" (whatever this may mean) that it was "surreptitiously copied and printed." It would require a bold man to assert that a book thus published could be influencing the style of an English writer as early as 1524. But further it must be remembered that Berners almost certainly could not read Castilian[51]. Now the earliest known French translation of Guevara is one by Rene Bertaut in 1531, which Berners himself is known to have used[52]. Therefore, if Berners was already under Guevara's influence in 1524, he must have known of an earlier French pirated translation of an earlier pirated edition of the Libro Aureo. To sum up; if the euphuistic tendency in English prose is to be ascribed entirely, or even mainly, to the influence of Guevara's Libro Aureo, we must digest four improbabilities: (i) that there existed a pirated edition of the book in Spain earlier than 1524: (ii) that this had been translated into French, also before 1524, although the version of Bertaut in 1531 is the earliest French translation we have any trace of: (iii) that Berners himself had come across this hypothetical French edition, again before 1524: and (iv) that the French translation had so faithfully reproduced the style of the original, that Berners was able to translate it from French into English, for the purpose of his prologue to Froissart.

[45] Huon, p. 787.

[46] Froissart, Globe edition, p. xxviii.

[47] Huon, p. 788.

[48] After writing the above I have noticed that Mr G. C. Macaulay, in the Introduction to the Globe Froissart, writes as follows (p. xvi): "If nothing else could be adduced to show that the tendency (i.e. euphuism) existed already in English literature, the prefaces to Lord Berners' Froissart written before he could possibly have read Guevara, would be enough to prove it."

[49] There are two extant editions of 1529, (i) published at Valladolid, from which the words above are quoted, (ii) published at Enueres, which appears to be an earlier edition. Copies of both in the British Museum.

[50] Hallam, Lit. of Europe, ed. 1855, vol. I. p. 403 n. Brunet in his Manuel de Libraire gives Hallam's view without comment, tome II. "Guevara."

[51] Underhill, p. 69.

[52] Bond, vol. I. p. 137.

In face of these facts, the Guevara theory is no longer tenable; and in consequence the whole situation is reversed, and we approach the problem from the natural side, the side from which it should have been approached from the first—that is from the English and not the Spanish side. I say the natural side, because it seems to me obvious that the popularity of a foreign author in any country implies the existence in that country, previous to the introduction of the author, of an atmosphere (or more concretely a public) favourable to the distinguishing characteristics of the author introduced. And so it now appears that Guevara found favour in England because his style, or something very like it, was already known there; and it was the most natural thing in the world that Berners, who shows that style most prominently, should have been the channel by which Guevara became known to English readers. The whole problem of this 16th century prose is analogous to that of 18th century verse. The solution of both was for a long time found in foreign influence. It was natural to assume that France, the pivot of our foreign policy at the end of the 17th century, gave us the classical movement, and that Spain, equally important politically in the 16th century, gave us euphuism. Closer investigation has disproved both these theories[53], showing that, while foreign influence was undoubtedly an immense factor in the development of these literary fashions, their real origin was English.

[53] For 18th century v. Gosse, From Shakespeare to Pope.

The proof of this does not rest entirely on the case of Berners. We might even concede that he was acquainted with an earlier edition of Guevara, and that his style was actually derived from Spanish sources, without surrendering our thesis that euphuism was a natural growth. Berners' euphuism, whatever its origin, was premature; and, though the Golden Boke passed through twelve editions between 1534 and 1560, we cannot say that its style influenced English writing until the time of Lyly, for its vogue was confined to a small class of readers, designated by Mr Underhill as the "Guevara-group." On the other hand, it is possible to trace a feeling towards euphuism among writers who were quite outside this group.

Latimer, for example, delighted in alliterative turns of speech, though the antithetical mannerisms are absent in him. His famous denunciation of the unpreaching prelates is an excellent instance:

"But now for the faults of unpreaching prelates, methink I could guess what might be said for the excusing of them. They are so troubled with lordly living, they be so placed in palaces, couched in courts, ruffling in their rents, dancing in their dominions, burdened with ambassages, pampering of their paunches like a monk that maketh his jubilee, munching in their mangers, and moiling in their gay manors and mansions, and so troubled with loitering in their lordships, that they cannot attend it."

Here is no transverse alliteration, such as we find so frequently in Lyly, but a simple alliteration—"a rudimentary euphuism of balanced and alliterative phrases, probably like the alliteration of Anglo-Saxon homilies, borrowed from popular poetry[54]." Latimer also employs the responsive method so frequently used by Lyly. "But ye say it is new learning. Now I tell you it is old learning. Yea, ye say, it is old heresy new scoured. Nay, I tell you it is old truth long rusted with your canker, and now made new bright and scoured." It is no long step from this to the rhetorical question and its formal answer "ay but——." Alliteration is not found in Guevara; it was an addition, and a very important one, made by his translators. This was at any rate a purely native product, and cannot be assigned to Spain. The antithesis and parallelism were the fruits of humanism, and they appear, combined with Latimer's alliteration, in the writings of Sir John Cheke and his pupil Roger Ascham. Cheke's famous criticism of Sallust's style, as being "more art than nature and more labour than art," introduces us at once to euphuism, and gives us by the way a very excellent comment upon it. Again he speaks of "magistrates more ready to tender all justice and pitifull in hearing the poor man's causes which ought to amend matters more than you can devise and were ready to redress them better than you can imagine[55]"; which is a good example of the euphuistic combination of alliteration and balance.

[54] Craik, vol. I. p. 224.

[55] Craik, p. 258.

In Ascham the style is still more marked. There are, indeed, so many examples of euphuism in the Schoolmaster and in the Toxophilus, that one can only select. As an illustration of transverse alliteration quite as complex as any in Euphues, we may notice the following: "Hard wittes be hard to receive, but sure to keep; painfull without weariness, hedefull without wavering, constant without any new fanglednesse; bearing heavie things, though not lightlie, yet willinglie; entering hard things though not easily, yet depelie[56]." Classical allusions abound throughout Ascham's work, and he occasionally indulges in the ethics of natural history as follows:

"Young Graftes grow not onlie sonest, but also fairest and bring always forth the best and sweetest fruite; young whelps learne easilie to carrie; young Popingeis learne quickly to speak; and so, to be short, if in all other things though they lacke reason, sense, and life, the similitude of youth is fittest to all goodnesse, surelie nature in mankinde is more beneficial and effectual in this behalfe[57]."

[56] Arber, Schoolmaster, p. 35.

[57] id., p. 46.

We know that Lyly had read the Schoolmaster, as he took the very title of his book from its description of /Euphues/ as "he that is apte by goodnesse of witte and applicable by readiness of will to learning"—a description which is in itself a euphuism; and it is probable that he knew his Ascham as thoroughly as he did his Guevara.

Sir Henry Craik has some very pertinent remarks on the peculiarities of Ascham's style. "One of these," he writes, "is his proneness to alliteration, due perhaps to his desire to reproduce the most striking features of the Early English.... A tendency of an almost directly opposite kind is the balance of sentences which he imitates from Classical models.... These two are perhaps the most striking characteristics of Ascham's prose; and it is interesting to observe how much the structure of the sentence in the more elaborated stages of English prose is due to their combination[58]." Here we have the two elements of our native-grown euphuism, and their origins, carefully distinguished. Of course with euphuism we do not commence English prose; that is already centuries old; but we are dealing with the beginnings of English prose style, by which we mean a conscious and artistic striving after literary effect. That the first stylists should look to the rhetoricians for their models was inevitable, and of these there were two kinds available; the classical orators and the alliterative homilies of the Early English. But, deferring this point for a later treatment, let us conclude our study of the evolution of euphuism in England.

[58] Craik, I. p. 269.

So far we have been dealing with euphuistic tendencies only, since in the style of Ascham and his predecessors, alliteration and antithesis are not employed consistently, but merely on occasion for the sake of emphasis. Other marks of euphuism, such as the fantastic embroidery of mythical beasts and flowers, are absent. Even in North's Diall alliteration is not profuse, and similes from natural history are comparatively rare. In George Pettie, however, we find a complete euphuist before Euphues. This writer again brings us in touch with that Oxford atmosphere, which, I maintain, surrounded the birth of the full-blown euphuism. A student of Christ Church, he took his B.A. degree in 1560[59], and so probably just escaped being a contemporary of Lyly. But, as he was a "dear friend" of William Gager, who was a considerably younger man than himself, it seems probable that he continued his Oxford connexion after his degree. However this may be, he published his Petite Pallace of Pettie his Pleasure, which so exactly anticipates the style of Euphues, in 1576, only two years before the later book. The Petite Pallace was an imitation of the famous Palace of Pleasure published in 1566 by William Painter, who, though he had known Guevara's writings, drew his material almost entirely from Italian sources. That Pettie also possessed a knowledge of Spanish literature, as we should expect from the period of his residence at Oxford, is shown by his translation of Guazzo's Civile Conversation in 1581, to which he affixes a euphuistic preface. This again was only a left-handed transcript from the French. Therefore the Spanish elements, though undoubtedly present, cannot be insisted upon. We may concede that Pettie had read North, or even go so far as to assert with Mr Underhill that he was acquainted with "parts of the Gallicized Guevara," without lending countenance to Dr Landmann's radical theories. No one, reading the Petite Pleasure, can doubt that Pettie was the real creator of euphuism in its fullest development, and that Lyly was only an imitator. Though I have already somewhat overburdened this chapter. I cannot refrain from quoting a passage from Pettie, not only as an example of his style, but also because the passage is in itself so delightful, that it is one's duty to rescue it from oblivion:

"As amongst all the bonds of benevolence and good will, there is none more honourable, ancient, or honest than marriage, so in my fancy there is none that doth more firmly fasten and inseparably unite us together than the same estate doth, or wherein the fruits of true friendship do more plenteously appear: in the father is a certain severe love and careful goodwill towards the child, the child beareth a fearful affection and awful obedience towards the father: the master hath an imperious regard of the servant, the servant a servile care of the master. The friendship amongst men is grounded upon no love and dissolved upon every light occasion: the goodwill of kinsfolk is constantly cold, as much of custom as of devotion: but in this stately estate of matrimony there is nothing fearful, all things are done faithfully without doubting, truly without doubling, willingly without constraint, joyfully without complaint: yea there is such a general consent and mutual agreement between the man and wife, that they both wish and will covet and crave one thing. And as a scion grafted in a strange stalk, their natures being united by growth, they become one and together bear one fruit: so the love of the wife planted in the breast of her husband, their hearts by continuance of love become one, one sense and one soul serveth them both. And as the scion severed from the stock withereth away, if it be not grafted in some other: so a loving wife separated from the society of her husband withereth away in woe and leadeth a life no less pleasant than death[60]." Lyly never wrote anything to equal this. Indeed it is not unworthy of the lips of one of Shakespeare's heroines.

[59] Dict. of Nat. Biog., Pettie.

[60] I have taken the liberty of modernising the spelling.

The euphuism of the foregoing quotation will be readily detected. The sole difference between the styles of Lyly and Pettie is that, while Pettie's similes from nature are simple and natural, Lyly, with his knowledge of Pliny and of the bestiaries, added his fabulous "unnatural natural history." Pettie's book was popular for the time, three editions of it being called for in the first year of its publication, but it was soon to be thrust aside by the fame of the much more pretentious, and, apart from the style, better constructed Euphues of Lyly. In truth, as Gabriel Harvey justly but unkindly remarks, "Young Euphues but hatched the eggs his elder freendes laid." But the parental responsibility and merit must be attributed to him who hatches. It was Lyly who made euphuism famous and therefore a power; and, despite the fact that he marks the culmination of the movement, he is the most dynamical of all the euphuists.

It remains to sum up our conclusions respecting the origin and development of this literary phase. Difficult as it is to unravel the tangled network of obscure influences which surrounded its birth, I venture to think that a sufficiently complete disproof of that extreme theory, which would ascribe it entirely to Guevara's influence, has been offered. Guevara, in the translation of Berners, undoubtedly took the field early, but, as we have seen, Berners was probably feeling towards the style before he knew Guevara; and moreover the bishop's alto estilo must have suffered considerably while passing through the French. Even allowing everything, as we have done, for the close connexion between Spain and England, for the Spanish tradition at Oxford, and for the interest in peninsular writings shown by Lyly's immediate circle of friends, we cannot accord to Dr Landmann's explanation anything more than a very modified acceptance. Nor would a complete rejection of this solution of the Lyly problem render English euphuism inexplicable; for something very like it would naturally have resulted from the close application of classical methods to prose writing; and in the case of Cheke and Ascham we actually see the process at work. And yet Lyly owed a great debt to Guevara. A true solution, therefore, must find a place for foreign as well as native influences. And to say that the Spanish intervention confirmed and hastened a development already at work, of which the original impulse was English, is, I think, to give a due allowance to both.

SECTION III. Lyly's Legatees and the relation between Euphuism and the Renaissance.

The publication of Euphues was the culmination, rather than the origin, of that literary phase to which it gave its name. And the vogue of euphuism after 1579 was short, lasting indeed only until about 1590; yet during these ten years its influence was far-reaching, and left a definite mark upon later English prose. It would be idle, if not impossible, to trace its effects upon every individual writer who fell under its immediate fascination. Moreover the task has already been performed in a great measure by M. Jusserand[61] and Mr Bond[62]. They have shown once and for all that Greene, Lodge, Welbanke, Munday, Warner, Wilkinson, and above all Shakespeare, were indebted to our author for certain mannerisms of style. I shall therefore content myself with noticing two or three writers, tainted with euphuism, who have been generally overlooked, and who seem to me important enough, either in themselves, or as throwing light upon the subject of the essay, to receive attention.

[61] Jusserand, ch. IV.

[62] Bond, vol. I. pp. 164-175.

The first of these is the dramatist Kyd, who completed his well-known Spanish Tragedy between 1584 and 1589, that is at the height of the euphuistic fashion. This play was apparently an inexhaustible joke to the Elizabethans; for the references to it in later dramatists are innumerable. One passage must have been particularly famous, for we find it parodied most elaborately by Field, as late as 1606, in his A Woman is a Weathercock[63]. The passage in question, which was obviously inspired by Lyly, runs as follows:

"Yet might she love me for my valiance: I, but that's slandered by captivity. Yet might she love me to content her sire: I, but her reason masters her desire. Yet might she love me as her brother's friend: I, but her hopes aim at some other end. Yet might she love me to uprear her state: I, but perhaps she loves some nobler mate. Yet might she love me as her beautie's thrall: I, but I feare she cannot love at all."

[63] Act I. Sc. II.

Nathaniel Field's parody of this melodramatic nonsense is so amusing that I cannot forbear quoting it. This time the despairing lover is Sir Abraham Ninny, who quotes Kyd to his companions, and they with the cry of "Ha God-a-mercy, old Hieromino!" begin the game of parody, which must have been keenly enjoyed by the audience. Field improves on the original by putting the alternate lines of despair into the mouths of Ninny's jesting friends. It runs, therefore:

"—Yet might she love me for my lovely eyes. —Ay but, perhaps your nose she does despise. —Yet might she love me for my dimpled chin. —Ay but, she sees your beard is very thin. —Yet might she love me for my proper body. —Ay but, she thinks you are an arrant noddy. —Yet might she love me 'cause I am an heir. —Ay but, perhaps she does not like your ware. —Yet might she love me in despite of all. (the lady herself)—Ay but indeed I cannot love at all."

This parody, apart from any interest it possesses for the student of Lyly, is an excellent illustration of the ways of Elizabethan playwrights, and of the thorough knowledge of previous plays they assumed their audience to have possessed. There are several other examples of Kyd's acquaintance with the Euphues in the Spanish Tragedy[64], in the other dramas[65], and in his prose works[66], which it is not necessary to quote. But there is one more passage, again from his most famous play, which is so full of interest that it cannot be passed over in silence. It is a counsel of hope to the despairing lover, and assumes this inspiring form:

"My Lord, though Belimperia seem thus coy Let reason hold you in your wonted joy; In time the savage Bull sustains the yoke, In time all Haggard Hawkes will stoop to lure, In time small wedges cleave the hardest Oake, In time the flint is pearst with softest shower, And she in time will fall from her disdain, And rue the sufferance of your deadly paine[67]."

[64] Sp. Trag., Act IV. 190 (cp. Euphues, p. 146).

[65] Soliman and Perseda, Act III. 130 (cp. Euphues, p. 100), and Act II. 199.

[66] Kyd's Works (Boas), p. 288, and ch. IX.

[67] Sp. Trag., Act II. 1-8.

Now these lines are practically a transcript of the opening words of the 47th sonnet in Watson's Hekatompathia published in 1582. Remembering Lyly's penetrating observation that "the soft droppes of rain pearce the hard marble, many strokes overthrow the tallest oake[68]," and bearing in mind that the high priest of euphuism himself contributed a commendatory epistle to the Hekatompathia, we should expect that these Bulls and Hawkes and Oakes were choice flowers of speech, culled from that botanico-zoological "garden of prose"—the Euphues. But as a matter of fact Watson himself informs us in a note that his sonnet is an imitation of the Italian Serafino, from whom he also borrows other sonnet-conceits in the same volume, some of which are full of similar references to the properties of animals and plants. The conclusion is forced upon us therefore that Watson and Lyly went to the same source, or, if a knowledge of Italian cannot be granted to our author, that he borrowed from Watson. At any rate Watson cannot be placed amongst the imitators of Euphues. Like Pettie and Gosson he must share with Lyly the credit of creation. He was a friend of Lyly's at Oxford; they dedicated their books to the same patron, and they employed the same publisher. Moreover, the little we have of Watson's prose is highly euphuistic, and it is apparent from the epistle above mentioned that he was on terms of closest intimacy with the author of Euphues. In him we have another member of that interesting circle of Oxford euphuists, who continued their connexion in London under de Vere's patronage.

[68] Euphues, p. 337.

Watson again was a friend of the well-known poet Richard Barnefield, who though too young in 1578 to have been of the University coterie of euphuists, shows definite traces of their affectation in his works. The conventional illustrations from an "unnatural natural history" abound in his Affectionate Shepherd[69] (1594), and he repeats the jargon about marble and showers[70] which we have seen in Lyly, Watson and Kyd. Again in his Cynthia (1594) there is a distinct reference to the opening words of Euphues in the lines,

"Wit without wealth is bad, yet counted good; Wealth wanting wisdom's worse, yet deemed as well[71]."

His prose introduction betrays the same influence.

[69] Poems, Arber, pp. 18 and 19.

[70] id., p. 24.

[71] id., p. 51.

These then are a few among the countless scribblers of those prolific times who fell under the spell of the euphuistic fashion. They are mentioned, either because their connexion with the movement has been overlooked, or because they throw a new and important light upon Lyly himself. Of other legatees it is impossible to treat here; and it is enough, without tracing it in any detail, to indicate "the slender euphuistic thread that runs in iron through Marlowe, in silver through Shakespeare, in bronze through Bacon, in more or less inferior metal through every writer of that age[72]."

[72] Symonds, p. 407.

There is nothing strange in this infatuation, if we remember that euphuism was "the English type of an all but universal disease[73]," as Symonds puts it. Dr Landmann, we have decided, was wrong in his insistence upon foreign influence; but his error was a natural one, and points to a fact which no student of Renaissance literature can afford to neglect. Matthew Arnold long ago laid down the clarifying principle that "the criticism which alone can much help us for the future, is a criticism which regards Europe as being, for intellectual and spiritual purposes, one great confederation, bound to a joint action and working to a common result[74]." And the truth of this becomes more and more indisputable, the longer we study European history, whether it be from the side of Politics, of Religion, or of Art. Landmann ascribes euphuism to Spain, Symonds ascribes it to Italy, and an equally good case might be made out in favour of France. There is truth in all these hypotheses, but each misses the true significance of the matter, which is that euphuism must have come, and would have come, without any question of borrowing.

[73] id., p. 404.

[74] Essays in Criticism, I. p. 39.

The date 1453 is usually taken as a convenient starting point for the Renaissance, though the movement was already at work in Italy, for that was the year of Byzantium's fall and of the diffusion of the classics over Europe. But, for the countries outside Italy, I think that the date 1493 is almost as important. Hitherto the new learning had been in a great measure confined to Italy, but with the invasion of Charles VIII., which commences a long period of French and Spanish occupation of Italian soil, the Renaissance, especially on its artistic side, began to find its way into the neighbouring states, and through them into England. It is the old story, so familiar to sociologists, of a lower civilization falling under the spell of the culture exhibited by a more advanced subject population, of a conqueror worshipping the gods of the conquered. It is the story of the conquest of Greece by Rome, of the conquest of Rome by the Germans. But the interesting point to notice is that, when the "barbarian" Frenchman descended from the Alps upon the fair plains of Lombardy, the Italian Renaissance was already showing signs of decadence. It was in the age of the Petrarchisti, of Aretino, of Doni, and of Marini that Europe awoke to the full consciousness of the wonders of Italian literature. Thus it was that those beyond the Alps drank of water already tainted. That France, Spain, and England should be attracted by the affectations of Italy, rather than by what was best in her literature, was only to be expected. "It was easier to catch the trick of an Aretino, and a Marini, than to emulate the style of a Tasso or a Castiglione": and besides they were themselves inventing similar extravagances independently of Italy. The purely formal ideal of Art had in Spain already found expression among the courtiers of Juan II. of Castile. One of them, Baena, writes as follows of poetry: "that it cannot be learned or well and properly known, save by the man of very deep and subtle invention, and of a very lofty and fine discretion, and of a very healthy and unerring judgment, and such a one must have seen and heard and read many and diverse books and writings, and know all languages and have frequented kings' Courts and associated with great men and beheld and taken part in worldly affairs; and finally he must be of gentle birth, courteous and sedate, polished, humorous, polite, witty, and have in his composition honey, and sugar, and salt, and a good presence and a witty manner of reasoning; moreover he must be also a lover and ever make a show and pretence of it[75]." Such a catalogue of the poet's requisites might have been written by any one of our Oxford euphuists; and Watson, at least, among them fulfilled all its conditions.

[75] Butler Clarke, Spanish Literature, p. 71.

The Italian influence, therefore, did but hasten a process already at work. The reasons for this universal movement are very difficult to determine. But among many suggestions of more or less value, a few causes of the change may here be hazarded. In the first place, then, the Renaissance happened to be contemporaneous with the death of feudalism. The ideal of chivalry is dying out all over Europe; and the romances of chivalry are everywhere despised. The horizontal class divisions become obscured by the newly found perpendicular divisions of nationality; and in Italy and England at least the old feudal nobility have almost entirely disappeared. A new centre of national life and culture is therefore in the process of formation, that of the Court; and thanks to this, the ideal of chivalry gives place to the new ideal of the courtier or the gentleman. This ideal found literary expression in the moral Court treatises, which were so universally popular during the Renaissance, and of which Guevara, Castiglione, and Lyly are the most famous instances. The ambition of those who frequent Courts has always been to appear distinguished—distinguished that is from the vulgar and the ordinary, or, as we should now say, from the Philistine. In the Courts of the Renaissance period, where learning was considered so admirable, this necessary distinction would naturally take the form of a cultured, if not pedantic, diction; and for this it was natural that men should go to the classics, and more especially to classical orators, as models of good speech. It must not be imagined that this process was a conscious one. In many countries the rhetorical style was already formed by scholars before it became the speech of the Court. In fact the beginnings of modern prose style are to be found in humanism. Ascham with his hatred of the "Italianated gentleman," was probably quite unconscious of his own affinity to that objectionable type, when imitating the style of his favourite Tully in the Schoolmaster. The classics it must be remembered were not discovered by the humanists, they were only rediscovered. The middle ages had used them, as they had used the Old Testament, as prophetic books. Virgil's mediaeval reputation for example rests for the most part upon the fourth Eclogue. The humanists, on the other hand, looked upon the classics as literature and valued them for their style. But here again they drank from tainted sources; for, with the exception of a few writers such as Cicero and Terence, the classics they knew and loved best were the product of the silver age of Rome, the characteristics of which are beautifully described by the author of Marius the Epicurean in his chapter significantly called Euphuism. Few of the Renaissance students had the critical acumen of Cheke, and they fell therefore an easy prey to the stylism of the later Latin writers, with its antithesis and extravagance. But, with all this, men could not quite shake off the middle ages. There is much of the Scholastic in Lyly, and the exuberance of ornament, the fantastic similes from natural history, and the moral lessons deduced from them, are quite mediaeval in feeling. We learnt the lessons of the classics backward; and it was not until centuries after, that men realised that the essence of Hellenism is restraint and harmony.

I have spoken of the movement generally, but it passed through many phases, such as arcadianism, gongorism, dubartism; and yet of all these phases euphuism was, I think, the most important: certainly if we confine our attention to English literature this must be admitted. But, even if we keep our eyes upon the Continent alone, euphuism would seem to be more significant than the movements which succeeded it; for it was a definite attempt, seriously undertaken, to force modern languages into a classical mould, while the other and later affectations were merely passing extravagances, possessing little dynamical importance. In this way, short-lived and abortive as it seemed, euphuism anticipated the literature of the ancien regime.

The movement, moreover, was only one aspect of the Renaissance; it was the under-current which in the 18th century became the main stream. Paradoxical as it may seem, the Renaissance in its most modern aspect was a development of the middle ages, and not of the classics. This we call romanticism. As an artistic product it was developed on strictly national and traditional lines, born of the fields as it were, free as a bird and as sweet, giving birth in England to the drama, in Italy to the plastic arts. It is essentially opposed to the classical movement, for it represents the idea as distinct from the form. Lyly belongs to both movements, for, while he is the protagonist of the romantic drama, in his Euphues we may discover the source of the artificial stream which, concealed for a while beneath the wild exuberance of the romantic growth, appears later in the 18th century embracing the whole current of English literature. Before, however, proceeding to fix the position of euphuism in the development of English prose, let us sum up the results we have obtained from our examination of its relation to the general European Renaissance. Originating in that study of classical style we find so forcibly advocated by Ascham in his Schoolmaster, it was essentially a product of humanism. In every country scholars were interested as much in the style as in the matter of the newly discovered classics. This was due, partly to the lateness of the Latin writers chiefly known to them, partly to the mediaeval preference for words rather than ideas, and partly to the fact that the times were not yet ripe for an appreciation of the spirit as distinct from the letter of the classics. In Italy, in France, and in Spain, therefore, we may find parallels to euphuism without supposing any international borrowings. Euphues, in fact, is not so much a reflection of, as a Glasse for Europe.

SECTION IV. The position of Euphuism in the history of English prose.

A few words remain to be said about this literary curiosity, by way of assigning a place to it in the history of our prose. To do so with any scientific precision is impossible, but there are many points of no small significance in this connexion, which should not be passed over.

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse