Abbildungen der Seite

1521y. It contains remarks on the versification of mysteries and farces, and throws many lights on the old French writers.

But the French had even an Art of POETRY SO early as the year 1548. In that year Thomas Sibilet published his Art poetique at Paris, Veuve. François Regnault”. This piece preserves many valuable anecdotes of the old French poetry; and, among other particulars which develope the state of the old French drama, has the following sensible strictures. “ The French farce contains little or nothing of the Latin comedy. It has neither acts nor scenes, which would only serve to introduce a tedious prolixity: for the true subject of the French farce, or Sottie, is every sort of foolery which has a tendency to provoke laughter.—The subject of the Greek and Latin comedy was totally different from every thing on the French stage; for it had more morality than drollery, and often as much truth as fiction. Our MoralITIES hold a place indifferently between tragedy and comedy: but our farces are really what the Romans called mimes, or Priapées, the intended end and effect of which was excessive laughter, and on that account they admitted all kinds of licentiousness, as our farces do at present. In the meantime, their pleasantry does not derive much advantage from rhymes, however flowing, of eight syllablesa.” Sibilet's work is chiefly founded on Horace. His definitions are clear and just, and his precepts well explained. The most curious part of it is the enumeration of the poets who in his time were of most repute. Jacques Pelletier du Mans, a physician, a mathematician, a poet, and a voluminous writer on various subjects both in prose and verse, also published an Art POETIQUE at Lyons in 15556. This critic had sufficient penetration to perceive the false and corrupt taste of his cotemporaries. “ Instead of the regular ode and sonnet, our language is sophisticated by ballads, rondeaux, lays, and triolets. But with these we must rest contented, till the farces which have so long infatuated our nation are converted into comedy, our martyr-plays into tragedy, and our romances into heroic poems." And again, “ We have no pieces in our language written in the genuine comic form, except some affected and unnatural Moralities, and other plays of the same character, which do not deserve the name of comedy. The drama would appear to advantage, did it but resume its proper state and ancient dignity. We have, however, some tragedies in French learnedly translated, among which is the HECUBA of Euripides by Lazare de Baïf,” &c.d Of rhyme the same writer says, “ S'il n'étoit question que de parler ornement, il ne faudroit sinon écrire en prose, ou s'il n'étoit question


y Bibl. Fr. 361. He mentions another edition in 1539. Both at Paris. 12mo.

By Jean de Tournes. 8vo. c Ch. de l'Ode.

2 In 16mo.

a Liv. ii. ch. viii. At the end of Sibilet's work is a critical piece of Quintil against Ch. Fontaine, first printed separately at Paris, 1538. 16mo.

d Ch. de la Comedie et de la Tragedie. See also, to the same purpose, Collettet Sur la poesie morale, and Guillaume des Autels, Repos d'un plus grand travail.

66 As

que de rimer, il ne faudroit, sinon rimer en farceur: mais en poesie, il faut faire tous les deux, et BIEN DIRE, et BIEN RIMER®.” His chapters on IMITATION and TRANSLATION have much more philosophy and reflection than are to be expected for his age, and certain observations which might edify modern critics'. Nor must I forget, that Pelletier also published a French translation of Horace's Art of Poetry at Paris in 15458. I presume, that Joachim du Bellay's Deffense et Illustration de la LANGUE FRANÇOISE was published at no great distance from the year 1550. He has the same just notion of the drama. to tragedies and comedies, if kings and states would restore them in their ancient glory, which has been usurped by farces and MORALITIES, I am of opinion that you would lend your assistance; and if you wish to adorn our language, you know where to find models h.”

The Italian vernacular criticism began chiefly in commentaries and discourses on the language and phraseology of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccace. I believe one of the first of that kind is, “ Le tre fontane di Nicolò Liburnio sopra la grammatica, e l'eloquenza di Dante, del Petrarcha, e del Boccacio. In Venezia, per Gregorio Gregori, 1526'." Numerous expositions, lectures, annotations, and discourses of the same sort, especially on Dante's Inferno, and the Florentine dialect, appeared soon afterwards. Immediately after the publication of their respective poems, Ariosto, whose ORLANDO FURIOso was styled the nuova poesia, and Tasso, were illustrated or expounded by commentators more intricate than their text. One of the earliest of these is, “ Sposizione de Simon Fornari da Reggio sopra l'Orlando Furioso di Ludovico Ariosto. In Firenze per Lorenzo Torrentino 1549k.” Perhaps the first criticism on what the Italians call the Volgar Lingua is by Pietro Bembo,“ Prose di Pietro Bembo della volgar Lingua divise in tre libri. In Firenze per Lorenzo Torrentino, 1549!.” But the first edition seems to have been in 1525. This subject was discussed in an endless succession of Regole grammaticali, Osservazioni, Avvertimenti, and Ragionamenti. Here might also be mentioned, the annotations, although they are altogether explanatory, which often accompanied the early translations of the Greek and Latin classics into Italian. But I resign this labyrinth of research to the superior opportunities and abilities of the French and Italian antiquaries in their native literature. To have said nothing on the subject might have been thought an omission, and to have said more, impertinent. I therefore return to our own poetical annals.

Our three great poets, Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate, seem to have maintained their rank, and to have been in high reputation, during the period of which we are now treating. Splendid impressions of large works were at this time great undertakings. A sumptuous edition of Gower's CONFESSIO AMANTIS was published by Berthelette in 1554. On the same ample plan, in 1555, Robert Braham printed with great accuracy, and a diligent investigation of the ancient copies, the first correct edition of Lydgate's TROYBOKEM. I have before incidentally remarked”, that Nicholas Briggam, a polite scholar, a student at Oxford and at the Inns of Court, and a writer of poetry, in the year 1555, deposited the bones of Chaucer under a new tomb, erected at his own cost, and inscribed with a new epitaph, in the chapel of bishop Blase in Westminster abbey, which still remains'. Wilson, as we have just seen in a citation from his RHETORIC, records an anecdote, that the more accomplished and elegant courtiers were perpetually quoting Chaucer. Yet this must be restricted to the courtiers of Edward the Sixth. And indeed there is a peculiar reason why Chaucer, exclusive of his real excellence, should have been the favourite of a court which laid the foundations of the reformation of religion. It was, that his poems abounded with satirical strokes against the corruptions of the church, and the dissolute manners of the monks. And undoubtedly Chaucer long before, a lively and popular writer, greatly assisted the doctrines of his cotemporary Wickliffe, in opening the eyes of the people to the absurdities of popery,

e Liv. ii. ch. i. De la Rime.
f See liv. i. ch. v. and vi.
6 Par Michel Vascosan. 8vo.
h Liv. ii. ch.iv.

i In quarto. Again, per Marchio Sessa, 1534. 8vo.

k In 8vo. The Seconde Partie appeared ibid. 1550. 8vo.

I In quarto.

and exposing its impostures in a vein of humour and pleasantry. Fox the martyrologist, a weak and a credulous compiler, perhaps goes too far in affirming, that Chaucer has undeniably proved the pope to be the antichrist of the apocalypse P.

Of the reign of queen Mary we are accustomed to conceive every thing that is calamitous and disgusting ; but when we turn our eyes from its political evils to the objects which its literary history presents, a fair and flourishing scene appears. In this prospect, the mind feels a repose from contemplating the fates of those venerable prelates, who suffered the most excruciating death for the purity and inflexibility of their faith ; and whose unburied bodies, dissipated in ashes, and undistinguished in the common mass, have acquired a more glorious monument, than if they had been interred in magnificent shrines, which might have been visited by pilgrims, loaded with superstitious gifts, and venerated with the pomp of mistaken devotion.



Nothing can be more incorrect than the first edition in 1513.

See supr. vol. ii. p. 263. • Undoubtedly Chaucer was originally buried in this place. Leland cites a Latin elegy, or Nenia, of thirty-four lines, which he says was composed by Stephanus Surigonius of Milan, at the request of William Caxton the printer; and which, Leland adds, was written on a white tablet by Surigonius, on a pillar near Chaucer's grave in the south aisle at Westminster. Script. Brit. GALFRID. CHAUCERUS. See Caxton's Epilogue to Chaucer's Booke of

Fame, in Caxton's Chaucer. Wood says, that Briggam “ exercised his muse much in poetry, and took great delight in the works of Jeffrey Chaucer; for whose memory he had so great a respect, that he removed his bones into the south crossile or transept of S. Peter's church,” &c. Ath. Oxon. i. 130. I do not apprehend there was any removal, in this case, from one part of the abbey to another. Chaucer's tomb has appropriated this aisle, or transept, to the sepulture or to the honorary monuments of our poets.

P Tom. ii. p. 42. edit. 1684.


Sackville's Gorboduc. Our first regular tragedy. Its fable, conduct,

characters, and style. Its defects. Dumb-show. Sackville not

assisted by Norton. The first poem which presents itself at the commencement of the reign of queen Elizabeth, is the play of GORBODUC, written by Thomas Sackville lord Buckhurst, the original contriver of the MIRROUR FOR MAGISTRATEsa. Thomas Norton, already mentioned as an associate with Sternhold and Hopkins in the metrical version of David's Psalms, is said to have been his coadjutorb.

It is no part of my plan, accurately to mark the progress of our drama, much less to examine the merit of particular plays. But as this piece is perhaps the first specimen in our language of an heroic tale, written in blank verse, divided into acts and scenes, and clothed in all the formalities of a regular tragedy, it seems justly to deserve a more minute and a distinct discussion in this general view of our poetry.

It was first exhibited in the great Hall of the Inner Temple, by the students of that Society, as part of the entertainment of a grand Christmas*, and afterwards before queen Elizabeth at Whitehall, on the eight


a It is scarcely worth observing, that one Thomas Brice, at the accession of Elizabeth, printed in English .metre a Register of the Martyrs and Confessors under queen Mary, Lond. for R. Adams, 1559, 8vo. I know not how far Fox might profit by this work. I think he has not mentioned it. In the Stationers' Registers, in 1567, were entered to Henry Binneman, Songes and Sonnetts by Thomas Brice. Registr. A. fol. 164 a. I have never seen the book. In 1570, an elegy, called " An epitaph on Mr. Bryce preach

occurs, licensed to John Alde. Ibid. fol. 205 b. Again, we have the Court of Venus, I suppose a ballad, MORALISED, in 1566, by Thomas Bryce, for Hugh Sing'eton. Ibid. fol. 156 a.

[Brice, at the end of his Metrical “ Register," has a poem of the ballad kind, which he calls “ The Wishes of the Wise."

It begins :
When shal this time of travail cease,

Which we with wo sustayne ?
When shal the daies of rest and peace

Returne to us againe ?

Before his Register he expresses an VOL. III.


earnest wish and desire, that “ the au-
thour and endightynge were halfe su
worthye as the matter, that it myght bee
conveyed and delyvered to the Quenes
Majesties owne handes.”—PARK.]
b See p. 149 of this volume. See

Preface to Gorboduc, edit. 1571. Strype says, that Thomas Norton was a clergyman, a puritan, a man of parts and learning, well known to secretary Cecil and archbishop Parker, and that he was suspected, but without foundation, of writing an answer to Whitgift's book against the puritans, published in 1572. Life of Parker, p. 364. Life of Whitgift, p. 28. I forgot to mention before, that Norton has a copy of recommendatory verses prefixed to Turner's Preservative, a tract against the Pelagians, dedicated to Hugh Latimer, printed Lond. 1551. 12mo. In the Conferences in the Tower with Campion the Jesuit, in 1581, one Norton, but not our author, seems to have been employed as a notary. See “ A true Reporte of the Disputation," &c. Lond. 1583. bl, lett. 4to. Signat. A a. iij.

* [See a description of the magnificent celebration of that festival in Dugdale's Origines Juridicales, p. 150.-PARK.]

[ocr errors]

centh day of January in 1561. It was never intended for the press; but being surreptitiously and very carelessly printed in 1565, an exact edition, with the consent and under the inspection of the authors, appeared in 1571, in black letter, thus entitled :—“ The TRAGIDIE OF FERREX AND PORREX, set forth without addition or alteration, but altogether as the same was showed on stage before the queenes Majestie about nine yeare past, viz. The xviij day of Januarie, 1561. By the gentlemen of the Inner Temple. Seen and allowed, &c. Imprinted at London by John Daye dwelling ouer Aldersgate.” It has no date, nor notation of pages, and contains only thirty-one leaves in small octavo. In the edition of 1565, it is called the TRAGEDIE OF GORBODUC. The whole title of that edition runs thus :-“ The Tragedie of GORBODUC, whereof three actes were wrytten by Thomas Nortone and the two laste by Thomas Sackvyle. Sett forthe as the same was shewed before the queenes most excellent maiestie in her highnes court of Whitehall, the 18 Jan. 1561. By the gentlemen of thynner Temple in London. Sept. 22, 1565.” Printed by William Griffith at the sign of the falcon in Fleet-street, in quartod. I have a most incorrect black lettered copy in duodecimo, without title, but with the printer's monogram in the last page, I suspect of 1569, which once belonged to Pope, and from which the late Mr. Spence most faithfully printed a modern edition of the tragedy in the year 1736. I believe it was printed before that of 1571, for it retains all the errors of Griffith's first or spurious edition of 1565. In the Preface prefixed to the edition of 1571, is the following passage:“Where [whereas] this tragedy was for furniture of part of the grand Christmasse in the Inner-temple, first written about nine years ago by the right honourable Thomas now lord Buckhurst, and by T. Norton; and afterwards showed before her maiestie, and neuer intended by the authors thereof to be published: Yet one W.G. getting a copie thereof at some young mans hand, that lacked a little money and much discretion, in the last great plague anno 1565, about fiue yeares past, while the said lord was out of England, and T. Norton far out of London, and neither of them both made priuy, put it forth exceedingly corrupted,"

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

e For the benefit of those who wish to gain a full and exact information about this edition, so as to distinguish it from all the rest, I will here exhibit the arrangement of the lines of the title-page.

“ The Tragidie of Ferrex | and Porrex, / set forth without addition or alteration but altogether as the same was shewed on stage before the queenes maiestie, about nine yeares past, vz. the | xviij daie of Januarie, 1561. by the Gentlemen of the

Inner Temple. Seen and allowed &c.

Imprinted at London by | John Daye, dwelling ouer Aldersgate.” With the Bodleian copy of this edition, are bound up four pamphlets against the papists by Thomas Norton.

d On the books of the Stationers, “ The Tragedie of Gorboduc where iij actes were written by Thomas Norton and the laste by Thomas Sackvyle,” is entered in 15656, with William Griffiths. Registr. A. fol. 132 b.

e In the year 1717, my father, then a fellow of Magdalene college at Oxford, gave this copy to Mr. Pope, as appears by a letter of Pope to R. Digby, dated Jun. 2, 1717. See Pope's Letters, vol. ix. p. 39. edit. 12mo. 1754. “ Mr. Warton forced me to take Gorboduc," &c. Pope gave it to the late bishop Warburton, who gave it to me about ten years ago, 1770.

« ZurückWeiter »