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Gossip in a Library by Edmund Gosse

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_Northern Studies_. 1879.

_Life of Gray_. 1882.

_Seventeenth-Century Studies_. 1883.

_Life of Congreve_. 1888.

_A History of Eighteenth-Century Literature_. 1889

_Life of Philip Henry Gosse, F.R.S_. 1890.

_The Secret of Narcisse: a Romance_. 1892.

_Questions at Issue_. 1893.

_Critical Kit-Kats_. 1896.

_A Short History of Modern English Literature_. 1897.

_Life and Letters of John Donne_. 1899.

_Hypolympia_. 1901.

_French Profiles_. 1904.

_Life of Jeremy Taylor_. 1904.

_Life of Sir Thomas Browne_. 1905.

_Father and Son_. 1907.

_Life of Ibsen_. 1908.

_Two Visits to Denmark_. 1911.

_Collected Poems_. 1911.

_Portraits and Sketches_. 1912.






























_O blessed Letters, that combine in one
All ages past, and make one live with all:
By you we doe conferre with who are gone,
And the dead-living unto councell call:
By you th' unborne shall have communion
Of what we feele, and what doth us befall_.

_SAM. DANIEL Musophilus. 1602_.


It is curious to reflect that the library, in our customary sense,
is quite a modern institution. Three hundred years ago there were no
public libraries in Europe. The Ambrosian, at Milan, dates from 1608;
the Bodleian, at Oxford, from 1612. To these Angelo Rocca added his in
Rome, in 1620. But private collections of books always existed, and
these were the haunts of learning, the little glimmering hearths over
which knowledge spread her cold fingers, in the darkest ages of the
world. To-day, although national and private munificence has increased
the number of public libraries so widely that almost every reader is
within reach of books, the private library still flourishes. There
are men all through the civilised world to whom a book is a jewel--an
individual possession of great price. I have been asked to gossip
about my books, for I also am a bibliophile. But when I think of the
great collections of fine books, of the libraries of the magnificent,
I do not know whether I dare admit any stranger to glance at mine.
The Mayor of Queenborough feels as though he were a very important
personage till Royalty drives through his borough without noticing his
scarf and his cocked hat; and then, for the first time, he observes
how small the Queenborough town-hall is. But if one is to gossip about
books, it is, perhaps, as well that one should have some limits. I
will leave the masters of bibliography to sing of greater matters, and
will launch upon no more daring voyage than one _autour de ma pauvre

I have heard that the late Mr. Edward Solly, a very pious and
worshipful lover of books, under several examples of whose book-plate
I have lately reverently placed my own, was so anxious to fly all
outward noise that he built himself a library in his garden. I have
been told that the books stood there in perfect order, with the
rose-spray flapping at the window, and great Japanese vases exhaling
such odours as most annoy an insect-nostril. The very bees would come
to the window, and sniff, and boom indignantly away again. The silence
there was perfect. It must have been in such a secluded library that
Christian Mentzelius was at work when he heard the male book-worm flap
his wings, and crow like a cock in calling to his mate. I feel sure
that even Mentzelius, a very courageous writer, would hardly pretend
that he could hear such a "shadow of all sound" elsewhere. That is
the library I should like to have. In my sleep, "where dreams are
multitude," I sometimes fancy that one day I shall have a library in
a garden. The phrase seems to contain the whole felicity of man--"a
library in a garden!" It sounds like having a castle in Spain, or a
sheep-walk in Arcadia, and I suppose that merely to wish for it is to
be what indignant journalists call "a faddling hedonist."

In the meanwhile, my books are scattered about in cases in different
parts of a double sitting-room, where the cats carouse on one side,
and the hurdy-gurdy man girds up his loins on the other. A friend
of Boethius had a library lined with slabs of ivory and pale green
marble. I like to think of that when I am jealous of Mr. Frederick
Locker-Lampson, as the peasant thinks of the White Czar when his
master's banqueting hall dazzles him. If I cannot have cabinets of
ebony and cedar, I may just as well have plain deal, with common glass
doors to keep the dust out. I detest your Persian apparatus.

It is a curious reflection, that the ordinary private person who
collects objects of a modest luxury, has nothing about him so old as
his books. If a wave of the rod made everything around him disappear
that did not exist a century ago, he would suddenly find himself with
one or two sticks of furniture, perhaps, but otherwise alone with his
books. Let the work of another century pass, and certainly nothing
but these little brown volumes would be left, so many caskets full
of passion and tenderness, disappointed ambition, fruitless hope,
self-torturing envy, conceit aware, in maddening lucid moments, of its
own folly. I think if Mentzelius had been worth his salt, those ears
of his, which heard the book-worm crow, might have caught the echo of
a sigh from beneath many a pathetic vellum cover. There is something
awful to me, of nights, and when I am alone, in thinking of all the
souls imprisoned in the ancient books around me. Not one, I suppose,
but was ushered into the world with pride and glee, with a flushed
cheek and heightened pulse; not one enjoyed a career that in all
points justified those ample hopes and flattering promises.

The outward and visible mark of the citizenship of the book-lover is
his book-plate. There are many good bibliophiles who abide in the
trenches, and never proclaim their loyalty by a book-plate. They are
with us, but not of us; they lack the courage of their opinions; they
collect with timidity or carelessness; they have no need for the
morrow. Such a man is liable to great temptations. He is brought face
to face with that enemy of his species, the borrower, and dares not
speak with him in the gate. If he had a book-plate he would say, "Oh!
certainly I will lend you this volume, if it has not my book-plate in
it; of course, one makes a rule never to lend a book that has." He
would say this, and feign to look inside the volume, knowing right
well that this safeguard against the borrower is there already.
To have a book-plate gives a collector great serenity and
self-confidence. We have laboured in a far more conscientious spirit
since we had ours than we did before. A learned poet, Lord De Tabley,
wrote a fascinating volume on book-plates, some years ago, with
copious illustrations. There is not, however, one specimen in his book
which I would exchange for mine, the work and the gift of one of the
most imaginative of American artists, the late Edwin A. Abbey. It
represents a very fine gentleman of about 1610, walking in broad
sunlight in a garden, reading a little book of verses. The name is
coiled around him, with the motto, _Gravis cantantibus umbra_. I will
not presume to translate this tag of an eclogue, and I only venture to
mention such an uninteresting matter, that my indulgent readers may
have a more vivid notion of what I call my library. Mr. Abbey's fine
art is there, always before me, to keep my ideal high.

To possess few books, and those not too rich and rare for daily use,
has this advantage, that the possessor can make himself master of them
all, can recollect their peculiarities, and often remind himself of
their contents. The man that has two or three thousand books can be
familiar with them all; he that has thirty thousand can hardly have a
speaking acquaintance with more than a few. The more conscientious
he is, the more he becomes like Lucian's amateur, who was so much
occupied in rubbing the bindings of his books with sandal-wood and
saffron, that he had no time left to study the contents. After all,
with every due respect paid to "states" and editions and bindings and
tall copies, the inside of the volume is really the essential part of

The excuses for collecting, however, are more than satire is ready to
admit. The first edition represents the author's first thought; in it
we read his words as he sent them out to the world in his first heat,
with the type he chose, and with such peculiarities of form as he
selected to do most justice to his creation. We often discover little
individual points in a first edition, which never occur again. And if
it be conceded that there is an advantage in reading a book in the
form which the author originally designed for it, then all the other
refinements of the collector become so many acts of respect paid
to this first virgin apparition, touching and suitable homage of
cleanness and fit adornment. It is only when this homage becomes mere
eye-service, when a book radically unworthy of such dignity is too
delicately cultivated, too richly bound, that a poor dilettantism
comes in between the reader and what he reads. Indeed, the best of
volumes may, in my estimation, be destroyed as a possession by a
binding so sumptuous that no fingers dare to open it for perusal. To
the feudal splendours of Mr. Cobden-Sanderson, a tenpenny book in a
ten-pound binding, I say fie. Perhaps the ideal library, after all, is
a small one, where the books are carefully selected and thoughtfully
arranged in accordance with one central code of taste, and intended
to be respectfully consulted at any moment by the master of their
destinies. If fortune made me possessor of one book of excessive
value, I should hasten to part with it. In a little working library,
to hold a first quarto of _Hamlet_, would be like entertaining a
reigning monarch in a small farmhouse at harvesting.

Much has of late been written, however, and pleasantly written, about
the collecting and preserving of books. It is not my intention here to
add to this department of modern literature. But I shall select from
among my volumes some which seem less known in detail to modern
readers than they should be, and I shall give brief "retrospective
reviews" of these as though they were new discoveries. In other cases,
where the personal history of a well-known book seems worth detaching
from our critical estimate of it, that shall be the subject of my
lucubration. Perhaps it may not be an unwelcome novelty to apply to
old books the test we so familiarly apply to new ones. They will bear
it well, for in their case there is no temptation to introduce any
element of prejudice. Mr. Bludyer himself does not fly into a passion
over a squat volume published two centuries ago, even when, as in the
case of the first edition of Harrington's _Oceana_, there is such a
monstrous list of errata that the writer has to tell us, by way of
excuse, that a spaniel has been "questing" among his papers.

These scarce and neglected books are full of interesting things.
Voltaire never made a more unfortunate observation than when he
said that rare books were worth nothing, since, if they were worth
anything, they would not be rare. We know better nowadays; we know how
much there is in them which may appeal to only one man here and there,
and yet to him with a voice like a clarion. There are books that have
lain silent for a century, and then have spoken with the trumpet of a
prophecy. We shall disdain nothing; we shall have a little criticism,
a little anecdote, a little bibliography; and our old book shall
go back to the shelves before it has had time to be tedious in its


BRITAIN: _or a chorographical description of the most flourishing
Kingdomes, England, Scotland and Ireland, and the Ilands adioyning;
out of the depth of Antiquitie: beautified with Mappes of the severall
Shires of England; Written first in Latine by William Camden,
Clarenceux K. of A. Translated newly into English by Philemon Holland.
Londini, Impensis Georgii Bishop & Joannis Norton, M.DC.X_.

There is no more remarkable example of the difference between the
readers of our light and hurrying age and those who obeyed "Eliza and
our James," than the fact that the book we have before us at this
moment, a folio of some eleven hundred pages, adorned, like a fighting
elephant, with all the weightiest panoply of learning, was one of the
most popular works of its time. It went through six editions, this
vast antiquarian itinerary, before the natural demand of the vulgar
released it from its Latin austerity; and the title-page we have
quoted is that of the earliest English edition, specially translated,
under the author's eye, by Dr. Philemon Holland, a laborious
schoolmaster of Coventry. Once open to the general public, although
then at the close of its first quarter of a century, the _Britannia_
flourished with a new lease of life, and continued to bloom, like a
literary magnolia, all down the seventeenth century. It Is now
as little read as other famous books of uncompromising size. The
bookshelves of to-day are not fitted for the reception of these heroic
folios, and if we want British antiquities now, we find them in terser
form and more accurately, or at least more plausibly, annotated in the
writings of later antiquaries. Giant Camden moulders at his cave's
mouth, a huge and reverend form seldom disturbed by puny passers-by.
But his once popular folio was the life work of a particularly
interesting and human person; and without affecting to penetrate to
the darkest corners of the cavern, it may be instructive to stand a
little while on the threshold.

When this first English edition of the _Britannia_ was published,
Camden was one of the most famous of living English writers. For one
man of position who had heard of Shakespeare, there would be twenty,
at least, who were quite familiar with the claims of the Head-master
of Westminster and Clarenceux King-of-Arms. Camden was in his sixtieth
year, in 1610; he had enjoyed slow success, violent detraction, and
final triumph. His health was poor, but he continued to write history,
eager, as he says, to show that "though I have been a studious admirer
of venerable antiquity, yet have I not been altogether an incurious
spectator of modern occurrences." He stood easily first among the
historians of his time; he was respected and adored by the Court and
by the Universities, and that his fame might be completed by the
chrism of detraction, his popularity was assured from year to year by
the dropping fire of obloquy which the Papists scattered from their
secret presses. It had not been without a struggle that Camden had
attained this pinnacle; and the _Britannia_ had been his alpenstock.

This first English edition has the special interest of representing
Camden's last thoughts. It is nominally a translation of the sixth
Latin edition, but it has a good deal of additional matter supplied
to Philemon Holland by the author, whereas later English issues
containing fresh material are believed to be so far spurious. The
_Britannia_ grew with the life of Camden. He tells us that it was
when he was a young man of six-and-twenty, lately started on his
professional career as second master in Westminster School, that the
famous Dutch geographer, Abraham Ortelius, "dealt earnestly with me
that I would illustrate this isle of Britain." This was no light task
to undertake in 1577. The authorities were few, and these in the
highest degree occasional or fragmentary. It was not a question of
compiling a collection of topographical antiquities. The whole process
had to be gone through "from the egg."

As a youth at Oxford, Camden had turned all his best attention to this
branch of study, and what the ancients had written about England was
intimately known to him. Any one who looks at his book will see that
the first 180 pages of the _Britannia_ could be written by a scholar
without stirring from his chair at Westminster. But when it came to
the minute description of the counties there was nothing for it but
personal travel; and accordingly Camden spent what holidays he could
snatch from his labours as a schoolmaster in making a deliberate
survey of the divisions of England. We possess some particulars of one
of these journeys, that which occupied 1582, in which he started by
Suffolk, through Yorkshire, and returned through Lancashire. He was a
very rapid worker, he spared no pains, and in 1586, nine years after
Ortelius set him going, his first draft was issued from the press. In
later times, and when his accuracy had been cruelly impeached, he set
forth his claims to attention with dignity. He said: "I have in no
wise neglected such things as are most material to search and sift out
the truth. I have attained to some skill of the most ancient British
and Anglo-Saxon tongues; I have travelled over all England for the
most part, I have conferred with most skilful observers in each
county.... I have been diligent in the records of this realm. I have
looked into most libraries, registers and memorials of churches,
cities and corporations, I have pored upon many an old roll and
evidence ... that the honour of verity might in no wise be impeached."

It was no slight task to undertake such a work on such a scale. And
when the first Latin edition appeared, it was hailed as a first glory
in the diadem of Elizabeth. Specialists in particular counties found
that Camden knew more about their little circle than they themselves
had taken all their lives to learn. Lombard, the great Kentish
antiquary, said that he never knew Kent properly, till he read of it
in the _Britannia_. But Camden was not content to rest on his laurels.
Still, year by year, he made his painful journeys through the length
and breadth of the land, and still, as new editions were called forth,
the book grew from octavo into folio. Suddenly, about twelve years
after its first unchallenged appearance, there was issued, like a bolt
out of the blue, a very nasty pamphlet, called _Discovery of certain
Errors Published in the much-commended Britannia_, which created a
fine storm in the antiquarian teapot. This attack was the work of a
man who would otherwise be forgotten, Ralph Brooke, the York Herald.
He had formerly been an admirer of Camden's, his "humble friend,"
he called himself; but when Camden was promoted over his head to be
Clarenceux King-of-Arms, it seemed to Ralph Brooke that it became
his duty to denounce the too successful antiquary as a charlatan. He
accordingly fired off the unpleasant little gun already mentioned,
and, for the moment, he hit Camden rather hard.

The author of the _Britannia_, to justify his new advancement, had
introduced into a fresh edition of his book a good deal of information
regarding the descent of barons and other noble families. This was
York Herald's own subject, and he was able to convict Camden of
a startling number of negligences, and what he calls "many gross
mistakings." The worst part of it was that York Herald had privately
pointed out these blunders to Camden, and that the latter had said it
was too much trouble to alter them. This, at least, is what the enemy
states in his attack, and if this be true, it can hardly be doubled
that Camden had sailed too long in fair weather, or that he needed a
squall to recall him to the duties of the helm. He answered Brooke,
who replied with increased contemptuous tartness. It is admitted that
Camden was indiscreet in his manner of reply, and that some genuine
holes had been pricked in his heraldry. But the _Britannia_ lay high
out of the reach of fatal pedantic attack, and this little cloud over
the reputation of the book passed entirely away, and is remembered now
only as a curiosity of literature.

In the preface the author quaintly admits that "many have found a
defect in this work that maps were not adjoined, which do allure the
eyes by pleasant portraitures, ... yet my ability could not compass
it." They must, then, have been added at the last by a generous
afterthought, for this book is full of maps. The maritime ones are
adorned with ships in full sail, and bold sea-monsters with curly
tails; the inland ones are speckled with trees and spires and
hillocks. In spite of these old-fashioned oddities, the maps are
remarkably accurate. They are signed by John Norden and William Kip,
the master map-makers of that reign. The book opens with an account of
the first inhabitants of Britain, and their manners and customs; how
the Romans fared, and what antiquities they left behind, with copious
plates of Roman coins. By degrees we come down, through Saxons and
Normans, to that work which was peculiarly Camden's, the topographical
antiquarianism. He begins with Cornwall, "that region which, according
to the geographers, is the first of all Britain," and then proceeds to
what he calls "Denshire" and we Devonshire, a county, as he remarks,
"barbarous on either side."

With page 822 he finds himself at the end of his last English county,
Northumberland, looking across the Tweed to Berwick, "the strongest
hold in all Britain," where it is "no marvel that soldiers without
other light do play here all night long at dice, considering the side
light that the sunbeams cast all night long." This rather exaggerated
statement is evidently that of a man accustomed to look upon Berwick
as the northernmost point of his country, as we shall all do, no
doubt, when Scotland has secured Home Rule. We are, therefore, not
surprised to find Scotland added, in a kind of hurried appendix, in
special honour to James I and VI. The introduction to the Scottish
section is in a queer tone of banter; Camden knows little and cares
less about the "commonwealth of the Scots," and "withall will lightly
pass over it." In point of fact, he gets to Duncansby Head in
fifty-two pages, and not without some considerable slips of
information. Ireland interests him more, and he finally closes with a
sheet of learned gossip about the outlying islands.

The scope of Camden's work did not give Philemon Holland much
opportunity for spreading the wings of his style. Anxious to present
Camden fairly, the translator is curiously uneven in manner, now
stately, now slipshod, weaving melodious sentences, but forgetting to
tie them up with a verb. He is commonly too busy with hard facts to
be a Euphuist. But here is a pretty and ingenious passage about
Cambridge, unusually popular in manner, and exceedingly handsome in
the mouth of an Oxford man:

"On this side the bridge, where standeth the greater part by far of
the City, you have a pleasant sight everywhere to the eye, what of
fair streets orderly ranged, what of a number of churches, and of
sixteen colleges, sacred mansions of the Muses, wherein a number of
great learned men are maintained, and wherein the knowledge of the
best arts, and the skill in tongues, so flourish, that they may
rightly be counted the fountains of literature, religion and all
knowledge whatsoever, who right sweetly bedew and sprinkle, with most
wholesome waters, the gardens of the Church and Commonwealth through
England. Nor is there wanting anything here, that a man may require in
a most flourishing University, were it not that the air is somewhat
unhealthful, arising as it doth out of a fenny ground hard by. And
yet, peradventure, they that first founded a University in that place,
allowed of Plato's judgment. For he, being of a very excellent and
strong constitution of body, chose out the Academia, an unwholesome
place of Attica, for to study in, and so the superfluous rankness
of body which might overlay the mind, might be kept under by the
dis-temperature of the place."

The poor scholars in the mouldering garrets of Clare, looking over
waste land to the oozy Cam, no doubt wished that their foundress had
been less Spartan. Very little of the domestic architecture that
Camden admired in Cambridge is now left; and yet probably it and
Oxford are the two places of all which he describes that it would give
him least trouble to identify if he came to life again three hundred
years after the first appearance of his famous _Britannia_.


A MIRROR FOR MAGISTRATES: _being a true Chronicle Historie of the
untimely falles of such unfortunate Princes and men of note, as have
happened since the first entrance of Brute into this Iland, untill
this our latter Age. Newly enlarged with a last part, called_ A WINTER
NIGHTS VISION, _being an addition of such Tragedies, especially
famous, as are exempted in the former Historie, with a Poem annexed,
called_ ENGLAND'S ELIZA. _At London. Imprinted by Felix Kyngston_,

This huge quarto of 875 pages, all in verse, is the final form, though
far from the latest impression, of a poetical miscellany which had
been swelling and spreading for nearly sixty years without ever losing
its original character. We may obtain some imperfect notion of the
_Mirror for Magistrates_ if we imagine a composite poem planned by
Sir Walter Scott, and contributed to by Wordsworth and Southey, being
still issued, generation after generation, with additions by the
youngest versifiers of to-day. The _Mirror for Magistrates_ was
conceived when Mary's protomartyrs were burning at Smithfield, and it
was not finished until James I. had been on the throne seven years.
From first to last, at least sixteen writers had a finger in this pie,
and the youngest of them was not born when the eldest of them died.

It is commonly said, even by such exact critics as the late Dean
Church, that the _Mirror for Magistrates_ was planned by the most
famous of the poets who took part in its execution, Thomas Sackville,
Lord Buckhurst. If a very clever man is combined in any enterprise
with people of less prominence, it is ten to one that he gets all the
credit of the adventure. But the evidence on this point goes to prove
that it was not until the work was well advanced that Sackville
contributed to it at all. The inventor of the _Mirror for Magistrates_
seems, rather, to have been George Ferrers, a prominent lawyer and
politician, who was master of the King's Pastimes at the very close
of Henry VIII.'s reign. Ferrers was ambitious to create a drama in
England, and lacked only genius to be the British Aeschylus. The time
was not ripe, but he was evidently very anxious to set the world
tripping to his goatherd's pipe. He advertised for help in these
designs, and the list of persons he wanted is an amusing one; he was
willing to engage "a divine, a philosopher, an astronomer, a poet, a
physician, an apothecary, a master of requests, a civilian, a clown,
two gentlemen ushers, besides jugglers, tumblers, fools, friars, and
such others," Fortune sent him, from Oxford, one William Baldwin, who
was most of these things, especially divine and poet, and who became
Ferrers' confidential factotum. The master and assistant-master of
Pastimes were humming merrily on at their masques and triumphs, when,
the King expired. Under Queen Mary, revels might not flourish, but the
friendship between Ferrers and Baldwin did not cease. They planned a
more doleful but more durable form of entertainment, and the _Mirror
for Magistrates_ was started. Those who claim for Sackville the
main part of this invention, forget that he is not mentioned as a
contributor till what was really the third edition, and that, when the
first went to press, he was only eighteen years of age.

Ferrers well comprehended the taste of his age when he conceived the
notion of a series of poems, in which famous kings and nobles should
describe in their own persons the frailty and instability of worldly
prosperity, even in those whom Fortune seems most highly to favour.
One of the most popular books of the preceding century had been
Lydgate's version of Boccaccio's poems on the calamities of
illustrious men, a vast monody in nine books, all harping on that
single chord of the universal mutability of fortune. Lydgate's _Fall
of Princes_ had, by the time that Mary ascended the throne, existed
in popular esteem for a hundred years. Its language and versification
were now so antiquated as to be obsolete; it was time that princes
should fall to a more modern measure.

The first edition of Baldwin and Ferrers' book went to press early
in 1555, but of this edition only one or two fragments exist. It was
"hindered by the Lord Chancellor that then was," Stephen Gardiner, and
was entirely suppressed. The leaf in the British Museum is closely
printed in double columns, and suggests that Baldwin and Ferrers meant
to make a huge volume of it. The death of Mary removed the embargo,
and before Elizabeth had been Queen for many months, the second (or
genuine first) edition of the _Myrroure for Magistrates_ made its
appearance, a thin quarto, charmingly printed in two kinds of type.
This contained twenty lives--Haslewood, the only critic who has
described this edition, says _nineteen_, but he overlooked Ferrers'
tale of "Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester"--and was the work, so Baldwin
tells us, of seven persons besides himself.

The first story in the book, a story which finally appears at p. 276
of the edition before us, recounts the "Fall of Robert Tresilian,
Chief Justice of England, and other of his fellows, for misconstruing
the laws and expounding them to serve the Prince's affections, Anno
1388." The manner in which this story is presented is a good example
of the mode adopted throughout the miscellany. The corrupt judge and
his fellow-lawyers appear, as in a mirror, or like personages behind
the illuminated sheet at the "Chat Noir," and lamentably recount their
woes in chorus. The story of Tresilian was written by Ferrers, but the
persons who speak it address his companion:

_Baldwin, we beseech thee with our names to begin_

--which support Baldwin's claim to be looked upon as the editor of the
whole book. It is very dreary doggerel, it must be confessed, but no
worse than most of the poetry indited in England at that uninspired
moment in the national history. A short example--a flower culled from
any of these promiscuous thickets--will suffice to give a general
notion of the garden. Here is part of the lament of "The Lord

_Because my father Lord John Clifford died,
Slain at St. Alban's, in his prince's aid,
Against the Duke my heart for malice fired,
So that I could from wreck no way be stayed,
But, to avenge my father's death, assayed
All means I might the Duke of York to annoy,
And all his kin and friends for to destroy.

This made me with my bloody dagger wound
His guiltless son, that never 'gainst me stored;
His father's body lying dead on ground
To pierce with spear, eke with my cruel sword
To part his neck, and with his head to board,
Invested with a royal paper crown,
From place to place to bear it up and down.

But cruelty can never 'scape the scourge
Of shame, of horror, or of sudden death;
Repentance self that other sins may purge
Doth fly from this, so sore the soul it slayeth;
Despair dissolves the tyrant's bitter breath,
For sudden vengeance suddenly alights
On cruel deeds to quit their bloody spites_.

The only contribution to this earliest form of the _Mirror_ which is
attributed to an eminent writer, is the "Edward IV" of Skelton, and
this is one of the most tuneless of all. It reminds the ear of a
whining ballad snuffled out in the street at night by some unhappy
minstrel that has got no work to do. As Baldwin professes to quote
it from memory, Skelton being then dead, perhaps its versification
suffered in his hands.

This is not the place to enter minutely into the history of the
building up of this curious book. The next edition, that of 1563,
was enriched by Sackville's splendid "Induction" and the tale of
"Buckingham," both of which are comparatively known so well, and have
been so often reprinted separately, that I need not dwell upon them
here. They occupy pp. 255-271 and 433-455 of the volume before us. In
1574 a very voluminous contributor to the constantly swelling tide of
verse appears. Thomas Blener Hasset, a soldier on service in Guernsey
Castle, thought that the magisterial ladies had been neglected, and
proceeded in 1578 to sing the fall of princesses. It is needless to
continue the roll of poets, but it is worth while to point out the
remarkable fact that each new candidate held up the mirror to the
magistrates so precisely in the manner of his predecessors, that it
is difficult to distinguish Newton from Baldwin, or Churchyard from

Richard Niccols, who is responsible for the collection in its final
state, was a person of adventure, who had fought against Cadiz in the
_Ark_, and understood the noble practice of the science of artillery.
By the time it came down to him, in 1610, the _Mirror for Magistrates_
had attained such a size that he was obliged to omit what had formed
a pleasing portion of it, the prose dialogues which knit the tales in
verse together, such pleasant familiar chatter between the poets as
"Ferrers, said Baldwin, take you the chronicles and mark them as they
come," and the like. It was a pity to lose all this, but Niccols had
additions of his own verse to make; ten new legends entitled "A Winter
Night's Vision," and a long eulogy upon Queen Elizabeth, "England's
Eliza." He would have been more than human, if he had not considered
all this far more valuable than the old prose babbling in black
letter. This copy of mine is of the greatest rarity, for it contains
two dedicatory sonnets by Richard Niccols, one addressed to Lady
Elizabeth Clere and the other to the Earl of Nottingham, which seem to
have been instantly suppressed, and are only known to exist in this
and, I believe, one or two other examples of the book. These are,
perhaps, worth reprinting for their curiosity. The first runs as

_My Muse, that whilom wail'd those Briton kings,
Who unto her in vision did appear,
Craves leave to strengthen her night-weathered wings
In the warm sunshine of your golden Clere [clear];
Where she, fair Lady, tuning her chaste lays
Of England's Empress to her hymnic string
For your affect, to hear that virgins praise,
Makes choice of your chaste self to hear her sing,
Whose royal worth, (true virtue's paragon,)
Here made me dare to engrave your worthy name.
In hope that unto you the same alone
Will so excuse me of presumptuous blame,
That graceful entertain my Muse may find
And even bear such grace in thankful mind_.

The sonnet to the Earl of Nottingham, the famous admiral and quondam
rival of Sir Walter Raleigh, is more interesting:--

_As once that dove (true honour's aged Lord),
Hovering with wearied wings about your ark,
When Cadiz towers did fall beneath your sword,
To rest herself did single out that bark,
So my meek Muse,--from all that conquering rout,
Conducted through the sea's wild wilderness
By your great self, to grave their names about
The Iberian pillars of Jove's Hercules,--
Most humbly craves your lordly lion's aid
'Gainst monster envy, while she tells her story
Of Britain's princes, and that royall maid
In whose chaste hymn her Clio sings your glory,
Which if, great Lord, you grant, my Muse shall frame
Mirrors most worthy your renowned name_.

But apparently the "great Lord" would not grant permission, and so the
sonnet had to be rigorously suppressed.

The _Mirror for Magistrates_ has ceased to be more than a curiosity
and a collector's rarity, but it once assumed a very ambitious
function. It was a serious attempt to build up, as a cathedral is
built by successive architects, a great national epic, the work of
many hands. In a gloomy season of English history, in a violent age
of tyranny, fanaticism, and legalised lawlessness, it endeavoured
to present, to all whom it might concern, a solemn succession of
discrowned tyrants and law-makers smitten by the cruel laws they had
made. Sometimes, in its bold and not very delicate way, the _Mirror
for Magistrates_ is impressive still from its lofty moral tone, its
gloomy fatalism, and its contempt for temporary renown. As we read its
sombre pages we see the wheel of fortune revolving; the same motion
which makes the tiara glitter one moment at the summit, plunges it at
the next into the pit of pain and oblivion. Steadily, uniformly, the
unflinching poetasters grind out in their monotonous rime royal
how "Thomas Wolsey fell into great disgrace," and how "Sir Anthony
Woodville, Lord Rivers, was causeless imprisoned and cruelly wounded";
how "King Kimarus was devoured by wild beasts," and how "Sigeburt, for
his wicked life, was thrust from his throne and miserably slain by a
herdsman." It gives us a strange feeling of sympathy to realise that
the immense popularity of this book must have been mainly due to the
fact that it comforted the multitudes who groaned under a harsh and
violent despotism to be told over and over again that cruel kings and
unjust judges habitually came at last to a bad end.


THE SHEPHEARDS HUNTING: _being Certain Eglogues written during the
time of the Authors Imprisonment in the Marshalsey. By George Wyther,
Gentleman. London, printed by W. White for George Norton, and are to
be sold at the signe of the red-Bull neere Temple-barre_. 1615.

If ever a man needed resuscitation in our antiquarian times it was
George Wither. When most of the Jacobean poets sank into comfortable
oblivion, which merely meant being laid with a piece of camphor in
cotton-wool to keep fresh for us, Wither had the misfortune to be
recollected. He became a byword of contempt, and the Age of Anne
persistently called him Withers, a name, I believe, only possessed
really by one distinguished person, Cleopatra Skewton's page-boy.
Swift, in _The Battle of the Books_, brings in this poet as the
meanest common trooper that he can mention in his modern army. Pope
speaks of him with the utmost freedom as "wretched Withers." It is
true that he lived too long and wrote too much--a great deal too
much. Mr. Hazlitt gives the titles of more than one hundred of his
publications, and some of them are wonderfully unattractive. I should
not like to be shut up on a rainy day with his _Salt upon Salt_, which
seems to have lost its savour, nor do I yearn to blow upon his _Tuba
Pacifica_, although it was "disposed of rather for love than money."
The truth is that good George Wither lost his poetry early, was an
upright, honest, and patriotic man who unhappily developed into a
scold, and got into the bad habit of pouring out "precautions,"
"cautional expressions," "prophetic phrensies," "epistles at random,"
"personal contributions to the national humiliation," "passages,"
"raptures," and "allarums," until he really became the greatest bore
in Christendom. It was Charles Lamb who swept away this whole tedious
structure of Wither's later writings and showed us what a lovely poet
he was in his youth.

When the book before us was printed, George Wither was aged
twenty-seven. He had just stepped gingerly out of the Marshalsea
Prison, and his poems reveal an amusing mixture of protest against
having been put there at all and deprecation of being put there again.
Let no one waste the tear of sensibility over that shell of the
Marshalsea Prison, which still, I believe, exists. The family of the
Dorrits languished in quite another place from the original Marshalsea
of Wither's time, although that also lay across the water in
Southwark. It is said that the prison was used for the confinement of
persons who had spoken lewdly of dignitaries about the Court. Wither,
as we shall see, makes a great parade of telling us why he was
imprisoned; but his language is obscure. Perhaps he was afraid to be
explicit. In 1613 he had published a little volume of satires, called
_Abuses stript and whipt_. This had been very popular, running into
six or seven editions within a short time, and some one in office, no
doubt, had fitted on the fool's cap. Five years later the poor poet
would have had a chance of being shipped straight off to Virginia, as
a "debauched person"; as it was, the Marshalsea seems to have been
tolerably unpleasant. We gather, however, that he enjoyed some
alleviations. He could say, like Leigh Hunt, "the visits of my friends
were the bright side of my captivity; I read verses without end, and
wrote almost as many." The poems we have before us were written in the
Marshalsea. The book itself is very tiny and pretty, with a sort
of leafy trellis-work at the top and bottom of every page, almost
suggesting a little posy of wild-flowers thrown through the iron bars
of the poet's cage, and pressed between the pages of his manuscript.
Nor is there any book of Wither's which breathes more deeply of the
perfume of the fields than this which was written in the noisome
seclusion of the Marshalsea.

Although the title-page assures us that these "eglogues" were written
during the author's imprisonment, we may have a suspicion that the
first three were composed just after his release. They are very
distinct from the rest in form and character. To understand them we
must remember that in 1614, just before the imprisonment, Wither had
taken a share with his bosom friend, William Browne, of the Inner
Temple, in bringing out a little volume of pastorals, called _The
Shepherd's Pipe_. Browne, a poet who deserves well of all Devonshire
men, was two years younger than Wither, and had just begun to come
before the public as the author of that charming, lazy, Virgilian poem
of _Britannia's Pastorals_. There was something of Keats in Browne, an
artist who let the world pass him by; something of Shelley in Wither,
a prophet who longed to set his seal on human progress. In the
_Shepherd's Pipe_ Willy (William Browne) and Roget (Geo-t-r) had been
the interlocutors, and Christopher Brooke, another rhyming friend, had
written an eclogue under the name of Cutty. These personages reappear
in _The Shepherd's Hunting_, and give us a glimpse of pleasant
personal relations. In the first "eglogue," Willy comes to the
Marshalsea one afternoon to condole with Roget, but finds him very
cheerful. The prisoner poet assures his friend that

_This barren place yields somewhat to relieve,
For I have found sufficient to content me,
And more true bliss than ever freedom lent me_;

and Willy goes away, when it is growing dark, rejoiced to find that
"the cage doth some birds good." Next morning he returns and brings
Cutty, or Cuddy, with him, for Cuddy has news to tell the prisoner
that all England is taking an interest in him, and that this adversity
has made him much more popular than he was before. But Willy and
Cuddy are extremely anxious to know what it was that caused Roget's
imprisonment, and at last he agrees to tell them. Hitherto the poem
has been written in _ottava rima_, a form which is sufficiently
uncommon in our early seventeenth-century poetry to demand special
notice in this case. In a prose postscript to this book Wither tells
us that the title, _The Shepherd's Hunting_, which he seems to feel
needs explanation, is due to the stationer, or, as we should say now,
to the publisher. But perhaps this was an afterthought, for in the
account he gives to Willy and Cuddy he certainly suggests the title
himself. He represents himself as the shepherd given up to the
delights of hunting the human passions through the soul; the simile
seems a little confused, because he represents these qualities not
as the quarry, but as the hounds, and so the story of Actaeon is
reversed; instead of the hounds pursuing their master, the master
hunts his dogs. At all events, the result is that he "dips his staff
in blood, and onwards leads his thunder to the wood," where he is
ignominiously captured by his Majesty's gamekeeper. But the allegory
hardly runs upon all-fours.

The next "eglogue" represents again another visit to the prisoner, and
this time Willy and Cuddy bring Alexis with them; perhaps Alexis is
John Davies, of Hereford, another contributor to _The Shepherd's
Pipe_. Roget starts his allegory again, in the same mild, satiric
manner he had adopted, to his hurt, in _Abuses stript and whipt_.
Wither becomes quite delightful again, when cheerfulness breaks
through this satirical philosophy, and when he tells us:

_But though that all the world's delight forsake me,
I have a Muse, and she shall music make me;
Whose aery notes, in spite of closest cages,
Shall give content to me and after ages_.

They all felt certain of immortality, these cheerful poets of
Elizabeth and James, and Prince Posterity has seen proper to admit the
claim in more instances than might well have been expected.

But the delightful part of _The Shepherd's Hunting_ has yet to come.
With the fourth "eglogue" the caged bird begins to sing like a lark at
Heaven's gate, and it is the prisoned man--who ought to be in doleful
dumps--that rallies his free friend Browne on his low spirits. It is
time, he says, to be merry:

_Coridon, with his bold rout,
Hath already been about,
For the elder shepherds' dole,
And fetched in the summer pole;
Whilst the rest have built a bower
To defend them from a shower,
Sealed so close, with boughs all green,
Titan cannot pry between;
Now the dairy-wenches dream
Of their strawberries and cream,
And each doth herself advance,
To be taken in to dance_.

What summer thoughts are these to come from a pale prisoner in the hot
and putrid Marshalsea! They are either symptoms of acute nostalgia, or
proofs of a cheerfulness that lifts their author above a mortal pitch.
But Willy declines to join the Lady of the May at her high junketings;
he also has troubles, and prefers to whisper them through Roget's iron
bars. There are those who "my Music do contemn," who will none of the
poetry of Master William Browne of the Inner Temple. It is useless for
him to wrestle with brown shepherds for the

_Cups of turned maple-root,
Whereupon the skilful man
Hath engraved the Loves of Pan_,

or contend for the "fine napkin wrought with blue," if those base
clowns called critics are busy with his detraction. But Roget
instructs him that Verse is its own high reward, that the songs of a
true poet will naturally arise like the moon out of and beyond all
racks of envious cloud, and that the last thing he should do is
to despair. He rises to his own greatest and best work in this
encouragement of a brother-poet, and no one who reads such noble
verses as these dare question Wither's claim to a _fauteuil_ in the
Academy of Parnassus:

_If thy Verse do bravely tower
As she makes wing, she gets power,
Yet the higher she doth soar,
She's affronted still the more;
Till she to the highest hath past,
Then she rests with Fame at last.
Let nought therefore thee affright,
But make forward in thy flight;
For if I could match thy rhyme
To the very stars I'd climb,
There begin again, and fly
Till I reached Eternity_.

In the fifth "eglogue" Roget and Alexis compare notes about their
early happiness in phrases of an odd commixture. The pastoral
character of the poetry has to be carried out, and so we read of how
Roget on a great occasion played a match at football, "having scarce
twenty Satyrs on his side," against some of "the best tried Ruffians
in the land." Great Pan presided at that match by the banks of Thames,
and though the satyrs and their laureate leader were worsted, the
moral victory, as people call it, remained with the latter. All this
is an allegory; and indeed we walk in the very shadow of innuendo all
through _The Shepherd's Hunting_.

The moral of the whole thing is that eternal ditty of tuneful youth:
All for Verse and the World well lost. The enemy is around them on
all sides, jailers of the Marshalsea and envious critics, the evil
shepherds that preside over grates of steel and noisome beds of straw,
but Youth has its mocking answer to all these:

_Let them disdain and fret till they are weary!
We in ourselves have that shall make us merry;
Which he that wants and had the power to know it,
Would give his life that he might die a poet_.

It was no small thing to be suffering for Apollo's sake in 1614.
Shakespeare might hear of it at Stratford, and talk of the prisoner
as he strolled with some friend on the banks of Avon. A greater than
Shakespeare--as most men thought in those days--Ben Jonson himself,
might talk the matter over "at those lyric feasts, Made at the Sun,
The Dog, the triple Tun"; for had not he himself languished in a
worse dungeon and under a heavier charge than Wither? To be
seven-and-twenty, to be in trouble with the Government about one's
verses, and to have other young poets, in a ferment of enthusiasm,
clinging like swallows to the prison-bars--how delicious a torment!
And to know that it will soon be over, and that the sweet, pure
meadows lie just outside the reek of Southwark, that summer lingers
still and that shepherds pipe and play, that Fame is sitting by her
cheerful fountain with a garland for the weary head, and that lasses,
"who more excell Than the sweet-voic'd Philomel," are ready to cluster
round the Interesting captive, and lead him away in daisy-chains--what
could be more consolatory! And we close the little dainty volume, with
its delicate perfume of friendship and poetry and hope.


DEATH'S DVELL; _or, A Consolation to the Soule, against the dying
Life, and living Death of the Body. Delivered in a Sermon at White
Hall, before the King's Maiesty, in the beginning of Lent_, 1630. _By
that late learned and Reverend Divine, John Donne, Dr. in Divinity, &
Deane of S. Pauls, London. Being his last Sermon, and called by his
Maiesties houshold The Doctor's owne Funerall Sermon. London, Printed
by Thomas Harper, for Richard Redmer and Benjamin Fisher, and are to
be sold at the signe of the Talbot in Alders-gate street. MDCXXXII_.

The value of this tiny quarto with the enormous title depends
entirely, so far as the collector is concerned, on whether or no it
possesses the frontispiece. So many people, not having the fear of
books before their eyes, have divorced the latter from the former,
that a perfect copy of _Death's Duel_ is quite a capture over which
the young bibliophile may venture to glory; but let him not fancy that
he has a prize if his copy does not possess the portrait-plate. One
has but to glance for a moment at this frontispiece to see that there
is here something very much out of the common. It is engraved in the
best seventeenth-century style, and represents, apparently, the head
and bust of a dead man wrapped in a winding-sheet. The eyes are shut,
the mouth is drawn, and nothing was ever seen more ghastly.

Yet it is not really the picture of a dead man: it represents the
result of one of the grimmest freaks that ever entered into a pious
mind. In the early part of March 1630 (1631), the great Dr. Donne,
Dean of St. Paul's, being desperately ill, and not likely to recover,
called a wood-carver in to the Deanery, and ordered a small urn, just
large enough to hold his feet, and a board as long as his body, to be
produced. When these articles were ready, they were brought into his
study, which was first warmed, and then the old man stripped off his
clothes, wrapped himself in a winding-sheet which was open only so far
as to reveal the face and beard, and then stood upright in the little
wooden urn, supported by leaning against the board. His limbs were
arranged like those of dead persons, and when his eyes had been
closed, a painter was introduced into the room and desired to make a
full-length and full-size picture of this terrific object, this solemn
theatrical presentment of life in death. The frontispiece of _Death's
Duel_ gives a reproduction of the upper part of this picture. It
was said to be a remarkably truthful portrait of the great poet and
divine, and it certainly agrees in all its proportions with the
accredited portrait of Donne as a young man.

It appears (for Walton's account is not precise) that it was after
standing for this grim picture, but before its being finished, that
the Dean preached his last sermon, that which is here printed. He had
come up from Essex in great physical weakness in order not to miss his
appointment to preach in his cathedral before the King on the first
Friday in Lent. He entered the pulpit with so emaciated a frame and a
face so pale and haggard, and spoke with a voice so faint and hollow,
that at the end the King himself turned to one of his suite, and
whispered, "The Dean has preached his own funeral sermon!" So, indeed,
it proved to be; for he presently withdrew to his bed, and summoned
his friends around to take a solemn farewell. He died very gradually
after about a fortnight, his last words being, not in distress or
anguish, but as it would seem in visionary rapture: "I were miserable
if I might not die." All this fortnight and to the moment of
his death, the terrible life-sized portrait of himself in his
winding-sheet stood near his bedside, where it could be the "hourly
object" of his attention. So one of the greatest Churchmen of the
seventeenth century, and one of the greatest, if the most eccentric,
of its lyrical poets passed away in the very pomp of death, on the
31st of March, 1631.

There was something eminently calculated to arrest and move the
imagination in such an end as this, and people were eager to read the
discourse which the "sacred authority" of his Majesty himself had
styled the Dean's funeral sermon. It was therefore printed in 1632. As
sermons of the period go it is not long, yet it takes a full hour to
read it slowly aloud, and we may thus estimate the strain which it
must have given to the worn-out voice and body of the Dean to deliver
it. The present writer once heard a very eminent Churchman, who was
also a great poet, preach his last sermon, at the age of ninety. This
was the Danish bishop Grundtvig. In that case the effort of speaking,
the extraction, as it seemed, of the sepulchral voice from the
shrunken and ashen face, did not last more than ten minutes. But the
English divines of the Jacobean age, like their Scottish brethren of
to-day, were accustomed to stupendous efforts of endurance from their
very diaconate.

The sermon is one of the most "creepy" fragments of theological
literature it would be easy to find. It takes as its text the words
from the sixty-eighth Psalm: "And unto God the Lord belong the issues
of death." In long, stern sentences of sonorous magnificence, adorned
with fine similes and gorgeous words, as the funeral trappings of a
king might be with gold lace, the dying poet shrinks from no physical
horror and no ghostly terror of the great crisis which he was himself
to be the first to pass through. "That which we call life," he says,
and our blood seems to turn chilly in our veins as we listen, "is but
_Hebdomada mortium_, a week of death, seven days, seven periods of our
life spent in dying, a dying seven times over, and there is an end.
Our birth dies in infancy, and our infancy dies in youth, and youth
and rest die in age, and age also dies and determines all. Nor do
all these, youth out of infancy, or age out of youth, arise so as a
Phoenix out of the ashes of another Phoenix formerly dead, but as a
wasp or a serpent out of a carrion or as a snake out of dung." We
can comprehend how an audience composed of men and women whose
ne'er-do-weel relatives went to the theatre to be stirred by such
tragedies as those of Marston and Cyril Tourneur would themselves
snatch a sacred pleasure from awful language of this kind in the
pulpit. There is not much that we should call doctrine, no pensive
or consolatory teaching, no appeal to souls in the modern sense. The
effect aimed at is that of horror, of solemn preparation for the
advent of death, as by one who fears, in the flutter of mortality, to
lose some peculiarity of the skeleton, some jag of the vast crooked
scythe of the spectre. The most ingenious of poets, the most subtle of
divines, whose life had been spent in examining Man in the crucible of
his own alchemist fancy, seems anxious to preserve to the very last
his powers of unflinching spiritual observation. The Dean of St.
Paul's, whose reputation for learned sanctity had scarcely sufficed
to shelter him from scandal on the ground of his fantastic defence of
suicide, was familiar with the idea of Death, and greeted him as a
welcome old friend whose face he was glad to look on long and closely.

The leaves at the end of this little book are filled up with two
copies of funeral verses on Dean Donne. These are unsigned, but we
know from other sources to whom to attribute them. Each is by an
eminent man. The first was written by Dr. Henry King, then the royal
chaplain, and afterward Bishop of Chichester, to whom the Dean had
left, besides a model in gold of the Synod of Dort, that painting of
himself in the winding-sheet of which we have already spoken. This
portrait Dr. King put into the hands of Nicholas Stone, the sculptor,
who made a reproduction of it in white marble, with the little urn
concealing the feet. This was placed in St. Paul's Cathedral, of which
King was chief residentiary, and may still be seen in the present
Cathedral King's elegy is very prosy in starting, but improves as it
goes along, and is most ingenious throughout. These are the words in
which he refers to the appearance of the dying preacher in the pulpit:

_Thou (like the dying Swan) didst lately sing
Thy mournful dirge in audience of the King;
When pale looks, and weak accents of thy breath
Presented so to life that piece of death,
That it was feared and prophesied by all
Thou thither cam'st to preach thy funeral_.

The other elegy is believed to have been written by a young man of
twenty-one, who was modestly and enthusiastically seeking the company
of the most famous London wits. This was Edward Hyde, thirty years
later to become Earl of Clarendon, and finally to leave behind him
manuscripts which should prove him the first great English historian.
His verses here bespeak his good intention, but no facility in

It was left for the riper disciples of the great divine to sing his
funerals in more effective numbers. Of the crowd of poets who attended
him with music to the grave, none expressed his merits in such
excellent verses or with so much critical judgment as Thomas Carew,
the king's sewer in ordinary. It is not so well known but that we
quote some lines from it:

_The fire
That fills with spirit and heat the Delphic choir,
Which, kindled first by thy Promethean breath,
Glow'd here awhile, lies quench'd now in thy death.
The Muses' garden, with pedantic weeds
O'erspread, was purg'd by thee, the lazy seeds
Of servile imitation thrown away,
And fresh invention planted; thou disdt pay
The debts of our penurious bankrupt age_.

* * * * *

_Whatsoever wrong
By ours was done the Greek or Latin tongue,
Thou hast redeem'd, and opened us a mine
Of rich and pregnant fancy, drawn a line
Of masculine expression, which, had good
Old Orpheus seen, or all the ancient brood
Our superstitious fools admire, and hold
Their lead more precious than thy burnish'd gold,
Thou hadst been their exchequer....
Let others carve the rest; it will suffice
I on thy grave this epitaph incise:--
Here lies a King, that ruled as he thought fit
The universal monarchy of wit;
Here lies two Flamens, and both these the best,--
Apollo's first, at last the True God's priest_.

There was no full memoir of Dr. Donne until it was the privilege of
the present writer, in 1900, to publish his Life and Letters in two
substantial volumes. Since then, in 1912, his Poetical Works have been
edited and sifted, with remarkable delicacy and judgment, by Professor
Grierson. It is now, therefore, as easy as it can be expected ever to
be to follow the career of this extraordinary man, with all its cold
and hot fits, its rage of lyrical amativeness, its Roman passion, and
the high and clouded austerity of its final Anglicanism. Donne is one
of the most fascinating, in some ways one of the most inscrutable,
figures in our literature, and we may contemplate him with instruction
from his first wild escapade into the Azores down to his voluntary
penitence in the pulpit and the winding-sheet.


THE HERBALL _or General Historie of Plantes. Gathered by John Gerarde,
of London, Master in Chirurgerie. Very much enlarged and amended by
Thomas Johnson, citizen and apothecarye of London. London, Printed by
Adam Islip, Joice Norton, and Richard Whitakers. Anno_ 1633.

The proverb says that a door must be either open or shut. The
bibliophile is apt to think that a book should be either little or
big. For my own part, I become more and more attached to "dumpy
twelves"; but that does not preclude a certain discreet fondness
for folios. If a man collects books, his library ought to contain a
Herbal; and if he has but room for one, that should be the best.
The luxurious and sufficient thing, I think, is to possess what
booksellers call "the right edition of Gerard"; that is to say, the
volume described at the head of this paper. There is no handsomer book
to be found, none more stately or imposing, than this magnificent
folio of sixteen hundred pages, with its close, elaborate letterpress,
its innumerable plates, and John Payne's fine frontispiece in
compartments, with Theophrastus and Dioscorides facing one another,
and the author below them, holding in his right hand the new-found
treasure of the potato plant.

This edition of 1633 is the final development of what had been a slow
growth. The sixteenth century witnessed a great revival, almost a
creation of the science of botany. People began to translate the great
_Materia Medica_ of the Greek physician, Dioscorides of Anazarba, and
to comment upon it. The Germans were the first to append woodcuts to
their botanical descriptions, and it is Otto Brunfelsius, in 1530, who
has the credit of being the originator of such figures. In 1554 there
was published the first great Herbal, that of Rembertus Dodonaeus,
body-physician to the Emperor Maximilian II., who wrote in Dutch. An
English translation of this, brought out in 1578, by Henry Lyte, was
the earliest important Herbal in our language. Five years later, in
1583, a certain Dr. Priest translated all the botanical works of
Dodonaeus, with much greater fulness than Lyte had done, and this
volume was the germ of Gerard's far more famous production. John
Gerard was a Cheshire man, born in 1545, who came up to London, and
practised there as a surgeon.

According to his editor and continuator, Thomas Johnson, who speaks of
Gerard with startling freedom, this excellent man was by no means well
equipped for the task of compiling a great Herbal. He knew so little
Latin, according to this too candid friend, that he imagined Leonard
Fuchsius, who was a German contemporary of his own, to be one of the
ancients. But Johnson is a little too zealous in magnifying his own
office. He brings a worse accusation against Gerard, if I understand
him rightly to charge him with using Dr. Priest's manuscript
collections after his death, without giving that physician the credit
of his labours. When Johnson made this accusation, Gerard had been
dead twenty-six years. In any case it seems certain that Gerard's
original _Herbal_, which, beyond question, surpassed all its
predecessors when it was printed in folio in 1597, was built up upon
the ground-work of Priest's translation of Dodonaeus. Nearly forty
years later, Thomas Johnson, himself a celebrated botanist, took up
the book, and spared no pains to reissue it in perfect form. The
result is the great volume before us, an elephant among books, the
noblest of all the English Herbals. Johnson was seventy-two years of
age when he got this gigantic work off his hands, and he lived eleven
years longer to enjoy his legitimate success.

The great charm of this book at the present time consists in the
copious woodcuts. Of these there are more than two thousand, each a
careful and original study from the plant itself. In the course of two
centuries and a half, with all the advance in appliances, we have not
improved a whit on the original artist of Gerard's and Johnson's time.
The drawings are all in strong outline, with very little attempt at
shading, but the characteristics of each plant are given with a truth
and a simplicity which are almost Japanese. In no case is this more
extraordinary than in that of the orchids, or "satyrions," as they
were called in the days of the old herbalist. Here, in a succession of
little figures, each not more than six inches high, the peculiarity of
every portion of a full-grown flowering specimen of each species is
given with absolute perfection, without being slurred over on the one
hand, or exaggerated on the other. For instance, the little variety
called "ladies' tresses" [_Spiranthes_], which throws a spiral head of
pale green blossoms out of dry pastures, appears here with small bells
hanging on a twisted stem, as accurately as the best photograph could
give it, although the process of woodcutting, as then practised
in England, was very rude, and although almost all other English
illustrations of the period are rough and inartistic. It is plain that
in every instance the botanist himself drew the form, with which he
was already intelligently familiar, on the block, with the living
plant lying at his side.

The plan on which the herbalist lays out his letterpress is methodical
in the extreme. He begins by describing his plant, then gives its
habitat, then discusses its nomenclature, and ends with a medical
account of its nature and virtues. It is, of course, to be expected
that we should find the line old names of plants enshrined in Gerard's
pages. For instance, he gives to the deadly nightshade the name,
which now only lingers in a corner of Devonshire, the "dwale." As an
instance of his style, I may quote a passage from what he has to say
about the virtues, or rather vices, of this plant:

"Banish it from your gardens and the use of it also, being a plant so
furious and deadly; for it bringeth such as have eaten thereof into a
dead sleep wherein many have died, as hath been often seen and proved
by experience both in England and elsewhere. But to give you an
example hereof it shall not be amiss. It came to pass that three boys
of Wisbeach, in the Isle of Ely, did eat of the pleasant and beautiful
fruit hereof, two whereof died in less than eight hours after they had
eaten of them. The third child had a quantity of honey and water mixed
together given him to drink, causing him to vomit often. God blessed
this means, and the child recovered. Banish, therefore, these
pernicious plants out of your gardens, and all places near to your
houses where children do resort."

Gerard has continually to stop his description that he may repeat to
his readers some anecdote which he remembers. Now it is how "Master
Cartwright, a gentleman of Gray's Inn, who was grievously wounded into
the lungs," was cured with the herb called "Saracen's Compound," "and
that, by God's permission, in short space." Now it is to tell us that
he has found yellow archangel growing under a sequestered hedge "on
the left hand as you go from the village of Hampstead, near London, to
the church," or that "this amiable and pleasant kind of primrose" (a
sort of oxlip) was first brought to light by Mr. Hesketh, "a diligent
searcher after simples," in a Yorkshire wood. While the groundlings
were crowding to see new plays by Shirley and Massinger, the editor of
this volume was examining fresh varieties of auricula in "the gardens
of Mr. Tradescant and Mr. Tuggie." It is wonderful how modern the
latter statement sounds, and how ancient the former. But the garden
seems the one spot on earth where history does not assert itself, and,
no doubt, when Nero was fiddling over the blaze of Rome, there were
florists counting the petals of rival roses at Paestum as peacefully
and conscientiously as any gardeners of to-day.

The herbalist and his editor write from personal experience, and this
gives them a great advantage in dealing with superstitions. If there
was anything which people were certain about in the early part of
the seventeenth century, it was that the mandrake only grew under a
gallows, where the dead body of a man had fallen to pieces, and that
when it was dug up it gave a great shriek, which was fatal to the
nearest living thing. Gerard contemptuously rejects all these and
other tales as "old wives' dreams." He and his servants have often
digged up mandrakes, and are not only still alive, but listened
in vain for the dreadful scream. It might be supposed that such a
statement, from so eminent an authority, would settle the point, but
we find Sir Thomas Browne, in the next generation, battling these
identical popular errors in the pages of his _Pseudodoxia Epidemica_.
In the like manner, Gerard's botanical evidence seems to have been of
no use in persuading the public that mistletoe was not generated out
of birdlime dropped by thrushes into the boughs of trees, or that its
berries were not desperately poisonous. To observe and state the truth
is not enough. The ears of those to whom it is proclaimed must be
ready to accept it.

Our good herbalist, however, cannot get through his sixteen hundred
accurate and solemn pages without one slip. After accompanying him
dutifully so far, we double up with uncontrollable laughter on p.
1587, for here begins the chapter which treats "of the Goose Tree,
Barnacle Tree, or the Tree bearing Geese." But even here the habit of
genuine observation clings to him. The picture represents a group of
stalked barnacles--those shrimps fixed by their antennae, which modern
science, I believe, calls _Lepas anatifera_; by the side of these
stands a little goose, and the suggestion of course is that the latter
has slipped out of the former, although the draughtsman has been far
too conscientious to represent the occurrence. Yet the letterpress is
confident that in the north parts of Scotland there are trees on which
grow white shells, which ripen, and then, opening, drop little living
geese into the waves below. Gerard himself avers that from Guernsey
and Jersey he brought home with him to London shells, like limpets,
containing little feathery objects, "which, _no doubt_, were the fowls
called Barnacles." It is almost needless to say that these objects
really were the plumose and flexible _cirri_ which the barnacles
throw out to catch their food with, and which lie, like a tiny
feather-brush, just within the valves of the shell, when the creature
is dead. Gerard was plainly unable to refuse credence to the mass of
evidence which presented itself to him on this subject, yet he closes
with a hint that this seems rather a "fabulous breed" of geese.

With the Barnacle Goose Tree the Herbal proper closes, in these quaint

"And thus having, through God's assistance, discoursed somewhat
at large of grasses, herbs, shrubs, trees and mosses, and certain
excrescences of the earth, with other things moe, incident to the
history thereof, we conclude, and end our present volume with this
wonder of England. For the which God's name be ever honoured and

And so, at last, the Goose Tree receives the highest sanction.


PHARAMOND; or, _The History of France. A New Romance. In four
parts. Written originally in French, by the Author of Cassandra and
Cleopatra: and now elegantly rendered into English. London: Printed by
Ja: Cottrell for Samuel Speed, at the Rain-Bow in Fleetstreet, near
the Inner Temple-Gate. (Folio_.) 1662.

There is no better instance of the fact that books will not live by
good works alone than is offered by the utterly neglected heroic
novels of the seventeenth century. At the opening of the reign of
Louis XIV. in France, several writers, in the general dearth of prose
fiction, began to supply the public in Paris with a series of long
romances, which for at least a generation absorbed the attention of
the ladies and reigned unopposed in every boudoir. I wonder whether my
lady readers have ever attempted to realise how their sisters of two
hundred years ago spent their time? In an English country-house of
1650, there were no magazines, no newspapers, no lawn tennis or
croquet, no afternoon-teas or glee-concerts, no mothers' meetings or
zenana missions, no free social intercourse with neighbours, none of
the thousand and one agreeable diversions with which the life of a
modern girl is diversified. On the other hand, the ladies of the house
had their needlework to attend to, they had to "stitch in a clout," as
it was called; they had to attend to the duties of a housekeeper,
and, when the sun shone, they tended the garden. Perhaps they rode
or drove, in a stately fashion. But through long hours they sat over
their embroidery frames or mended the solemn old tapestries which
lined their walls, and during these sedate performances they required
a long-winded, polite, unexciting, stately book that might be read
aloud by turns. The heroic novel, as provided by Gombreville,
Calprenede, and Mlle. de Scudery supplied this want to perfection.

The sentiments in these novels were of the most elevated class, and
tedious as they seem nowadays to us, it was the sentiments, almost
more than the action, which fascinated contemporary opinion. Madame
de Sevigne herself, the brightest and wittiest of women, confessed
herself to be a fly in the spider's web of their attractions. "The
beauty of the sentiments," she writes, "the violence of the passions,
the grandeur of the events, and the miraculous success of their
redoubtable swords, all draw me on as though I were still a little
girl." In these modern days of success, we may still start to learn
that the Parisian publisher of _Le Grand Cyrus_ made 100,000 crowns
by that work, from the appearance of its first volume in 1649 to its
close in 1653. The qualities so admirably summed up by Madame de
Sevigne were those which appealed most directly to public feeling in
France. There really were heroes in that day, the age of chivalric
passions had not passed, great loves, great hates, great emotions of
all kinds, were conceivable and within personal experience. When La
Rochefoucauld wrote to Madame de Longueville the famous lines which
may be thus translated:

_To win that wonder of the world,
A smile from her bright eyes,
I fought my King, and would have hurled
The gods out of their skies_,

he was breathing the very atmosphere of the heroic novels. Their
extraordinary artificial elevation of tone was partly the spirit of
the age; it was also partly founded on a new literary ideal, the tone
of Greek romance. No book had been read in France with greater avidity
than the sixteenth-century translation of the old novel _Heliodorus_;
and in the _Polexandres_ and _Clelies_ we see what this Greek spirit
of romance could blossom into when grafted upon the stock of Louis

The vogue of these heroic novels in England has been misstated, for
the whole subject has but met with neglect from successive historians
of literature. It has been asserted that they were not read in England
until after the Restoration. Nothing is further from the truth.
Charles I. read _Cassandra_ in prison, while we find Dorothy Osborne,
in her exquisite letters to Sir William Temple, assiduously studying
one heroic novel after another through the central years of Cromwell's
rule. She reads _Le Grand Cyrus_ while she has the ague; she desires
Temple to tell her "which _amant_ you have most compassion for, when
you have read what each one says for himself." She and the King read
them in the original, but soon there arrived English translations
and imitations. These began to appear a good deal sooner than
bibliographers have been prepared to admit. Of the _Astree_ of
D'Urfe--which, however, is properly a link between the _Arcadia_ of
Sidney and the genuine heroic novel--there was an English version
as early as 1620. But, of the real thing, the first importation was
_Polexandre_, in 1647, followed by _Cassandra_ and _Ibrahim_ in 1652,
_Artamenes_ in 1653, _Cleopatra_ in 1654-8, and _Clelie_ in 1655, all,
it will be observed, published in England before the close of the

Dorothy Osborne, who had studied the French originals, turned up her
nose at these translations. She says that they were "so disguised
that I, who am their old acquaintance, hardly knew them." They had,
moreover, changed their form. In France they had come out in an
infinite number of small, manageable tomes. For instance, Calprenede
published his _Cleopatre_ in twenty-three volumes; but the English
_Cleopatra_ is all contained in one monstrous elephant folio.
_Artamenes_, the English translation of _Le Grand Cyrus_, is worse
still, for it is comprised in five such folios. Many of the originals
were translated over and over again, so popular were they; and as the
heroic novels of any eminence in France were limited in number,
it would be easy, by patiently hunting the translations up in old
libraries, to make a pretty complete list of them. The principal
heroic novels were eight in all; of these there is but one, the
_Almahide_ of Mile, de Scudery, which we have not already mentioned,
and the original publication of the whole school is confined within
less than thirty years.

The best master in a bad class of lumbering and tiresome fiction
was the author of the book which is the text of this chapter. La
Calprenede, whose full name was nothing less than Gautier de Costes de
la Calprenede, was a Gascon gentleman of the Guards, of whose personal
history the most notorious fact is that he had the temerity to marry
a woman who had already buried five husbands. Some historians relate
that she proceeded to poison number six, but this does not appear to
be certain, while it does appear that Calprenede lived in the married
state for fifteen years, a longer respite than the antecedents of
madame gave him any right to anticipate. He made a great fame with his
two huge Roman novels, _Cassandra_ and _Cleopatra_, and then, some
years later, he produced a third, _Pharamond_ which was taken out of
early French history. The translator, in the version before us, says
of this book that it "is not a romance, but a history adorned with
some excellent flourishes of language and loves, in which you may
delightfully trace the author's learned pen through all those
historians who wrote of the times he treats of." In other words, while
Gombreville--with his King of the Canaries, and his Vanishing Islands,
and his necromancers, and his dragons--canters through pure fairyland,
and while Mlle. de Scudery elaborately builds up a romantic picture of
her own times (in _Clelie_, for instance, where the three hundred and
seventy several characters introduced are said to be all acquaintances
of the author), Calprenede attempted to produce something like a
proper historical novel, introducing invention, but embroidering it
upon some sort of genuine framework of fact.

To describe the plot of _Pharamond_, or of any other heroic novel,
would be a desperate task. The great number of personages introduced
in pairs, the intrigues of each couple forming a separate thread
wound into the complex web of the plot, is alone enough to make any
following of the story a great difficulty. On the fly-leaf of a copy
of _Cleopatra_ which lies before me, some dear lady of the seventeenth
century has very conscientiously written out "a list of the Pairs of
Lovers," and there are thirteen pairs. _Pharamond_ begins almost in
the same manner as a novel by the late Mr. G.P.R. James might. When
the book opens we discover the amorous Marcomine and the valiant
Genebaud sallying forth along the bank of a river on two beautiful
horses of the best jennet-race. Throughout the book all the men are
valiant, all the ladies are passionate and chaste. The heroes enter
the lists covered with rubies, loosely embroidered over surcoats
of gold and silk tissue; their heads "shine with gold, enamel and
precious stones, with the hinder part covered with an hundred plumes
of different colours." They are mounted upon horses "whose whiteness
might outvie the purest snow upon the frozen Alps." They pierce into
woodland dells, where they by chance discover renowned princesses,
nonpareils of beauty, in imminent danger, and release them. They
attack hordes of deadly pirates, and scatter their bodies along the
shore; and yet, for all their warlike fire and force, they are as
gentle as marmozets in a lady's boudoir. They are especially admirable
in the putting forth of sentiments, in glozing over a subtle
difficulty in love, in tying a knot of silk or fastening a lock of
hair to their bonnet. They will steal into a cabinet so softly that a
lady who is seated there, in a reverie, will not perceive them; they
are so adroit that they will seize a paper on which she has sketched
a couplet, will complete it, pass away, and she not know whence the
poetical miracle has come. In valour, in courtesy, in magnificence
they have no rival, just as the ladies whom they court are unique in
beauty, in purity, in passion, and in self-denial. Sometimes they
correspond at immense length; in _Pharamond_ the letters which pass
between the Princess Hunnimonde and Prince Balamir would form a small
volume by themselves, an easy introduction to the art of polite
letter-writing. Mlle. de Scudery actually perceived this, and
published a collection of model correspondence which was culled bodily
from the huge store-house of her own romances, from _Le Grand Cyrus_
and _Clelie_. These interchanges of letters were kept up by the
severity of the heroines. It was not thought proper that the lady
should yield her hand until the gentleman had exhausted the resources
of language, and had spent years of amorous labour on her conquest.
When Roger Boyle, in 1654, published his novel of _Parthenissa_, in
four volumes, Dorothy Osborne objected to the ease with which the hero
succeeded; she complains "the ladies are all so kind they make no

This particular 1662 translation of _Pharamond_ appears to be
very rare, if not unique. At all events I find it in none of the
bibliographies, nor has the British Museum Library a copy of it. The
preface is signed J.D., and the version is probably therefore from
the pen of John Davies, who helped Loveday to finish his enormous
translation of _Cleopatra_ in 1665. In 1677 there came out another
version of _Pharamond_, by John Phillips, and this is common enough.
Some day, perhaps, these elephantine old romances may come into
fashion again, and we may obtain a precise list of them. At present no
corner of our literary history is more thoroughly neglected.[1]

[Footnote 1: Since this was written, a French critic of eminence,
M. Jusserand, has made (in _The English Novel in the Time of
Shakespeare_, 1890) a delightful contribution to this portion of our
literary history. The earlier part of the last chapter of that volume
may be recommended to all readers curious about the vogue of the
heroic novel. But M. Jusserand does not happen to mention _Pharamond_,
nor to cover the exact ground of my little study.]


In his _Ballad of the Book-Hunter_, Andrew Lang describes how, in
breeches baggy at the knees, the bibliophile hunts in all weathers:

_No dismal stall escapes his eye;
He turns o'er tomes of low degrees;
There soiled romanticists may lie,
Or Restoration comedies_.

That speaks straight to my heart; for of all my weaknesses the weakest
is that weakness of mine for Restoration plays. From 1660 down to 1710
nothing in dramatic form comes amiss, and I have great schemes, like
the boards on which people play the game of solitaire, in which space
is left for every drama needed to make this portion of my library
complete. It is scarcely literature, I confess; it is a sport, a long
game which I shall probably be still playing at, with three mouldy old
tragedies and one opera yet needed to complete my set, when the Reaper
comes to carry me where there is no amassing nor collecting. It would
hardly be credited how much pleasure I have drained out of these
dramas since I began to collect them judiciously in my still callow
youth. I admit only first editions; but that is not so rigorous as it
sounds, since at least half of the poor old things never went into a

As long as it is Congreve and Dryden and Otway, of course it is
literature, and of a very high order; even Shadwell and Mrs. Behn
and Southerne are literature; Settle and Ravenscroft may pass as
legitimate literary curiosity. But there are depths below this where
there is no excuse but sheer collectaneomania. Plays by people who
never got into any schedule of English letters that ever was planned,
dramatic nonentities, stage innocents massacred in their cradles, if
only they were published in quarto I find room for them. I am not
quite so pleased to get these anonymities, I must confess, as I am to
get a clean, tall _editio princeps_ of _The Orphan_ or of _Love for
Love_. But I neither reject nor despise them; each of them counts one;
each serves to fill a place on my solitaire board, each hurries
on that dreadful possible time coming when my collection shall be
complete, and I shall have nothing to do but break my collecting rod
and bury it fathoms deep.

A volume has just come in which happens to have nothing in it but
those forgotten plays, whose very names are unknown to the historians
of literature. First comes _The Roman Empress_, by William Joyner,
printed in 1671. Joyner was an Oxford man, a fellow of Magdalen
College. The little that has been recorded about him makes one wish to
know more. He became persuaded of the truth of the Catholic faith, and
made a voluntary resignation of his Oxford fellowship. He had to do
something, and so he wrote this tragedy, which he dedicated to Sir
Charles Sedley, the poet, and got acted at the Theatre Royal. The cast
contains two good actors' names, Mohun and Kynaston, and it seems that
it enjoyed a considerable success. But doubtless the stage was too
rough a field for the gentle Oxford scholar. He retired into a
sequestered country village, where he lingered on till 1706, when he
was nearly ninety. But Joyner was none of the worst of poets. Here is
a fragment of _The Royal Empress_, which is by no means despicably

_O thou bright, glorious morning,
Thou Oriental spring-time of the day,
Who with thy mixed vermilion colours paintest
The sky, these hills and plains! thou dost return
In thy accustom'd manner, but with thee
Shall ne'er return my wonted happiness_.

Through his Roman tragedy there runs a pensive vein of sadness, as
though the poet were thinking less of his Aurelia and his Valentius
than of the lost common-room and the arcades of Magdalen to be no more

Our next play is a worse one, but much more pretentious. It is the
_Usurper_, of 1668, the first of four dramas published by the Hon.
Edward Howard, one of Dryden's aristocratic brothers-in-law. Edward
Howard is memorable for a couplet constantly quoted from his epic poem
of _The British Princes_:

_A vest as admired Vortiger had on,
Which from a naked Pict his grandsire won_.

Poor Howard has received the laughter of generations for representing
Vortiger's grandsire as thus having stripped one who was bare already.
But this is the wickedness of some ancient wag, perhaps of Dryden
himself, who loved to laugh at his brother-in-law. At all events,
the first (and, I suppose, only) edition of _The British Princes_ is
before me at this moment, and the second of these lines certainly

_Which from this island's foes his grandsire won_.

Thus do the critics, leaping one after another, like so many sheep,
follow the same wrong track, in this case for a couple of centuries.
The _Usurper_ is a tragedy, in which a Parasite, "a most perfidious
villain," plays a mysterious part. He is led off to be hanged at last,
much to the reader's satisfaction, who murmurs, in the words of R.L.
Stevenson, "There's an end of that."

But though the _Usurper_ is dull, we reach a lower depth and muddier
lees of wit in the _Carnival_, a comedy by Major Thomas Porter, of
1664. It is odd, however, that the very worst production, if it be
more than two hundred years old, is sure to contain some little
thing interesting to a modern student. The _Carnival_ has one such
peculiarity. Whenever any of the characters is left alone on the
stage, he begins to soliloquise in the stanza of Gray's _Churchyard
Elegy_. This is a very quaint innovation, and one which possibly
occurred to brave Major Porter in one of the marches and
counter-marches of the Civil War.

But the man who perseveres is always rewarded, and the fourth play in
our volume really repays us for pushing on so far. Here is a piece of
wild and ghostly poetry that is well worth digging out of the Duke of
Newcastle's _Humorous Lovers_:

_At curfew-time, and at the dead of night,
I will appear, thy conscious soul to fright,
Make signs, and beckon thee my ghost to follow
To sadder groves, and churchyards, where we'll hollo
To darker caves and solitary woods,
To fatal whirlpools and consuming floods;
I'll tempt thee to pass by the unlucky ewe,
Blasted with cursed droppings of mildew;
Under an oak, that ne'er bore leaf, my moans
Shall there be told thee by the mandrake's groans;
The winds shall sighing tell thy cruelty,
And how thy want of love did murder me;
And when the cock shall crow, and day grow near,
Then in a flash of fire I'll disappear_.

But I cannot persuade myself that his Grace of Newcastle wrote those
lines himself. Published in 1677, they were as much of a portent as a
man in trunk hose and a slashed doublet. The Duke had died a month or
two before the play was published; he had grown to be, in extreme old
age, the most venerable figure of the Restoration, and it is possible
that the _Humorous Lovers_ may have been a relic of his Jacobean
youth. He might very well have written it, so old was he, in
Shakespeare's lifetime. But the Duke of Newcastle was never a very
skilful poet, and it is known that he paid James Shirley to help him
with his plays. I feel convinced that if all men had their own,
the invocation I have just quoted would fly back into the works of
Shirley, and so, no doubt, would the following quaintest bit of
conceited fancy. It is part of a fantastical feast which Boldman
promises to the Widow of his heart:

_The twinkling stars shall to our wish
Make a grand salad in a dish;
Snow for our sugar shall not fail,
Fine candied ice, comfits of hail;
For oranges, gilt clouds will squeeze;
The Milky Way we'll turn to cheese;
Sunbeams we'll catch, shall stand in place
Of hotter ginger, nutmegs, mace;
Sun-setting clouds for roses sweet,
And violet skies strewed for our feet;
The spheres shall for our music play,
While spirits dance the time away_.

This is extravagant enough, but surely very picturesque. I seem to see
the supper-room of some Elizabethan castle after an elaborate
royal masque. The Duchess, who has been dancing, richly attired in
sky-coloured silk, with gilt wings on her shoulders, is attended to
the refreshments by the florid Duke, personating the river Thamesis,
with a robe of cloth of silver around him. It seems the sort of thing
a poet so habited might be expected to say between a galliard and a

At first sight we seem to have reached a really good rhetorical play
when we arrive at Bancroft's tragedy of _Sertorius_, published in
1679, and so it would be if Dryden and Lee had never written. But its
seeming excellence is greatly lessened when we recollect that _All for
Love_ and _Mithridates_, two great poems which are almost good
plays, appeared in 1678, and inspired our poor imitative Bancroft.
_Sertorius_ is written in smooth and well-sustained blank verse, which
is, however, nowhere quite good enough to be quoted. I suspect that
John Bancroft was a very interesting man. He was a surgeon, and his
practice lay particularly In the theatrical and literary world. He
acquired, it is said, from his patients "a passion for the Muses,"
and an inclination to follow in the steps of those whom he cured or
killed. The dramatist Ravenscroft wrote an epilogue to _Sertorius_, in
which he says that--

_Our Poet to learned critics does submit,
But scorns those little vermin of the pit,
Who noise and nonsense vent instead of wit_,

and no doubt Bancroft had aims more professional than those of the
professional playwrights themselves. He wrote three plays, and lived
until 1696. One fancies the discreet and fervent poet-surgeon, laden
with his secrets and his confidences. Why did he not write memoirs,
and tell us what it was that drove Nat Lee mad, and how Otway really
died, and what Dryden's habits were? Why did he not purvey magnificent
indiscretions whispered under the great periwig of Wycherley, or
repeat that splendid story about Etheredge and my Lord Mulgrave? Alas!
we would have given a wilderness of _Sertoriuses_ for such a series of

The volume of plays is not exhausted. Here is Weston's _Amazon Queen_,
of 1667, written in pompous rhymed heroics; here is _The Fortune
Hunters_, a comedy of 1689, the only play of that brave fellow, James
Carlile, who, being brought up an actor, preferred "to _be_ rather
than to _personate_ a hero," and died in gallant fight for William
of Orange, at the battle of Aughrim; here is _Mr. Anthony_, a comedy
written by the Right Honourable the Earl of Orrery, and printed in
1690, a piece never republished among the Earl's works, and therefore
of some special interest. But I am sure my reader is exhausted, even
if the volume is not, and I spare him any further examination of
these obscure dramas, lest he should say, as Peter Pindar did of Dr.
Johnson, that I

_Set wheels on wheels in motion--such a clatter!
To force up one poor nipperkin of water;
Bid ocean labour with tremendous roar
To heave a cockle-shell upon the shore_.

I will close, therefore, with one suggestion to the special student
of comparative literature--namely, that it is sometimes in the minor
writings of an age, where the bias of personal genius is not strongly
felt, that the general phenomena of the time are most clearly
observed. _The Amazon Queen_ is in rhymed verse, because in 1667
this was the fashionable form for dramatic poetry; _Sertorius_ is
in regular and somewhat restrained blank verse, because in 1679 the
fashion had once more chopped round. What in Dryden or Otway might be
the force of originality may be safely taken as the drift of the age
in these imitative and floating nonentities.


The Lives of The Most Famous English Poets, _or the Honour of
Parnassus; in a Brief Essay of the Works and Writings of above Two
Hundred of them, from the Time of K. William the Conqueror, to the
Reign of His Present Majesty King James II. Written by William
Winstanley. Licensed June 16, 1686. London, Printed by H. Clark, for
Samuel Manship at the Sign of the Black Bull in Cornhil,_ 1687.

A maxim which it would be well for ambitious critics to chalk up on
the walls of their workshops is this: never mind whom you praise, but
be very careful whom you blame. Most critical reputations have struck
on the reef of some poet or novelist whom the great censor, in his
proud old age, has thought he might disdain with impunity. Who
recollects the admirable treatises of John Dennis, acute, learned,
sympathetic? To us he is merely the sore old bear, who was too stupid
to perceive the genius of Pope. The grace and discrimination lavished
by Francis Jeffrey over a thousand pages, weigh like a feather beside
one sentence about Wordsworth's _Excursion_, and one tasteless sneer
at Charles Lamb. Even the mighty figure of Sainte-Beuve totters at the
whisper of the name Balzac. Even Matthew Arnold would have been wiser
to have taken counsel with himself before he laughed at Shelley. And
the very unimportant but sincere and interesting writer, whose book
occupies us to-day, is in some respects the crowning instance of the
rule. His literary existence has been sacrificed by a single outburst
of petulant criticism, which was not even literary, but purely

The only passage of Winstanley's _Lives of the English Poets_ which
is ever quoted is the paragraph which refers to Milton, who, when it
appeared, had been dead thirteen years. It runs thus:

"_John Milton_ was one whose natural parts might deservedly give him a
place amongst the principal of our English Poets, having written
two Heroick Poems and a Tragedy, namely _Paradice Lost, Paradice
Regain'd_, and _Sampson Agonista_. But his Fame is gone out like a
Candle in a Snuff, and his Memory will always stink, which might have
ever lived in honourable Repute, had not he been a notorious Traytor,
and most impiously and villanously bely'd that blessed Martyr, King
_Charles_ the First."

Mr. Winstanley does not leave us in any doubt of his own political
bias, and his mode is simply infamous. It is the roughest and most
unpardonable expression now extant of the prejudice generally felt
against Milton in London, after the Restoration--a prejudice which
even Dryden, who in his heart knew better, could not wholly resist.
This one sentence is all that most readers of seventeenth-century
literature know about Winstanley, and it is not surprising that it has
created an objection to him. I forget who it was, among the critics of
the beginning of this century, who was accustomed to buy copies of the
_Lives of the English Poets_ wherever he could pick them up, and burn
them, in piety to the angry spirit of Milton. This was certainly more
sensible conduct than that of the Italian nobleman, who used to build
MSS. of Martial into little pyres, and consume them with spices, to
express his admiration of Catullus. But no one can wonder that the
world has not forgiven Winstanley for that atrocious phrase about
Milton's fame having "gone out like a candle in a snuff, so that his
memory will always stink." No, Mr. William Winstanley, it is your own
name that--smells so very unpleasantly.

Yet I am paradoxical enough to believe that poor Winstanley never
wrote these sentences which have destroyed his fame. To support my
theory, it is needful to recount the very scanty knowledge we possess
of his life. He is said to have been a barber, and to have risen by
his exertions with the razor; but, against that legend, is to be posed
the fact that on the titles of his earliest books, dedicated to public
men who must have known, he styles himself "Gent." The dates of his
birth and death are, I believe, a matter of conjecture. But the _Lives
of the English Poets_ is the latest of his books, and the earliest was
published in 1660. This is his _England's Worthies_, a group of what
we should call to-day "biographical studies." The longest and the most
interesting of these is one on Oliver Cromwell, the tone of which is
almost grossly laudatory, although published at the very moment
of Restoration. Now, it is a curious, and, at first sight, a very
disgraceful fact, that in 1684, when the book of _England's Worthies_
was re-issued, all the praise of republicans was cancelled, and abuse
substituted for it. And then, in 1687, came the _Lives of the
English Poets_, with its horrible attack on Milton. The character of
Winstanley seems to be as base as any on literary record. I have come
to the conclusion, however, that Winstanley was guilty, neither of
retracting what he said about Cromwell, nor of slandering Milton. The
black woman excused her husband for not answering the bell, "'Cause
he's dead," and the excuse was considered valid. I hope that when
these interpolations were made, poor Winstanley was dead.

Any one who reads the _Lives of the English Poets_ carefully, will be
impressed with two facts: first, that the author had an acquaintance
with the early versifiers of Great Britain, which was quite
extraordinary, and which can hardly be found at fault by our modern
knowledge; while, secondly, that he shows a sudden and unaccountable
ignorance of his immediate contemporaries of the younger school.
Except Campion, who is a discovery of our own day, not a single
Elizabethan or Jacobean rhymester of the second or third rank escapes
his notice. Among the writers of a still later generation, I miss no
names save those of Vaughan, who was very obscure in his own lifetime,
and Marvell, who would be excluded by the same prejudice which mocked
at Milton. But among Poets of the Restoration, men and women who were
in their full fame in 1687, the omissions are quite startling. Not a
word is here about Otway, Lee, or Crowne; Butler is not mentioned, nor
the Matchless Orinda, nor Roscommon, nor Sir Charles Sedley. A careful
examination of the dates of works which Winstanley refers to, produces
a curious result. There is not mentioned, so far as I can trace, a
single poem or play which was published later than 1675, although the
date on the title-page of the _Lives of the English Poets_ is 1687.
Rather an elaborate list of Dryden's publications is given, but it
stops at _Amboyna_ (1673). On this I think it is not too bold to
build a theory, which may last until Winstanley's entry of burial is
discovered in some country church, that he died soon after 1675. If
this were the case, the recantations in his _English Worthies_ of 1684
would be so many posthumous outrages committed on his blameless tomb,
and the infamous sentence about Milton may well have been foisted into
a posthumous volume by the same wicked hand. If we could think that
Samuel Manship, at the Sign of the Black Bull, was the obsequious
rogue who did it, that would be one more sin to be numbered against
the sad race of publishers.

In studying old books about the poets, it sometimes occurs to us to
wonder whether the readers of two hundred years ago appreciated the
same qualities in good verse which are now admired. Did the ringing
and romantic cadences of Shakespeare affect their senses as they do
ours? We know that they praised Carew and Suckling, but was it "Ask me
no more where June bestows," and "Hast thou seen the down in the air,"
which gave them pleasure? It would sometimes seem, from the phrases
they use and the passages they quote, that if poetry was the same
two centuries ago, its readers had very different ears from ours. Of
Herrick Winstanley says that he was "one of the Scholars of Apollo of
the middle Form, yet something above _George Withers_, in a pretty
Flowry and Pastoral Gale of Fancy, in a vernal Prospect of some Hill,
Cave, Rock, or Fountain; which but for the interruption of other
trivial Passages, might have made up none of the worst Poetick
Landskips," and then he quotes, as a sample of Herrick, a tiresome"
epigram," in the poet's worst style. This is not delicate or acute
criticism, as we judge nowadays; but I would give a good deal to meet
Winstanley at a coffee-house, and go through the _Hesperides_ with
him over a dish of chocolate. It would be wonderfully interesting to
discover which passages in Herrick really struck the contemporary
mind as "flowery," and which as "trivial." But this is just what all
seventeenth-century criticism, even Dryden's, omits to explain to us.
The personal note in poetical criticism, the appeal to definite taste,
to the experience of eye and ear, is not met with, even in suggestion,
until we reach the pamphlets of John Dennis.

The particular copy of Winstanley which lies before me is a valuable
one; I owe it to the generosity of a friend in Chicago, who hoards
rare books, and yet has the greatness of soul sometimes to part with
them. It is interleaved, and the blank pages are rather densely
inscribed with notes in the handwriting of Dr. Thomas Percy, the
poetical Bishop of Dromore. From his hands it passed into those of
John Bowyer Nichols, the antiquary. Percy's notes are little more than
references to other authorities, memoranda for one of his own useful
compilations, yet it is pleasant to have even a slight personal relic
of so admirable a man. Mr. Riviere has bound the volume for me, and
I suppose that poor rejected Winstanley exists nowhere else in so
elegant a shape.


HISTOIRE DE L'ACADEMIE FRANCOISE: _avec un Abrege des Vies du Cardinal
de Richelieu, Vaugelas, Corneille, Ablancourt, Mezerai, Voiture,
Patru, la Fontaine, Boileau, Racine Et autres Illustres Academiciens
qui la Composent_.


It is not often, in these days, when the pastime of bibliography is
reduced to a science, that one is rewarded, as one so often was a
quarter of a century ago, by picking up an unregarded treasure on the
bookstalls. But the other day I really had a pleasant little "find,"
and it was the reward of virtue. It came of having a tender heart.
My eye caught what Mr. Austin Dobson would call "a dear and dumpy
twelve," lying open upon other books, face downward, in the most
ignominious posture. I saw at a glance, from the tooling on its faded
and half-broken back, that it was French and of the seventeenth
century, and that somebody had prized it once. I could read the
lettering _Academ. Franc_., and I gave the pence which were wanted
for it. It proved a most rewarding little volume. It was published
at The Hague in 1688, and it was a new edition of the _Histoire de
l'Academie Francaise_. A preface says that "for the honour of our
nation" (the French, presumably, not the Dutch), the publisher has
thought it proper to issue an edition "more correct and more elegant"
than has hitherto been seen, brought down to date with many new and
curious pieces. Among other things, the said publisher thinks that
"the English will not be displeased to see the Panegyric" of King
Louis XIV. "admirably rendered in their language by a Person of their
Nation." But what immediately caught my attention, and filled me with
delight, was an absolutely contemporary account, written specially for
this 1688 edition, of the great quarrel between the French Academy and
the Abbe Furetiere. Of this I propose to speak to-day.

We live in an age of Dictionaries and Encyclopedias, which we look
upon as universal panaceas for culture. There was a similar rage for
dictionaries in France two hundred and fifty years ago. We may very
rapidly remind ourselves that the French Academy was constituted in
1634 with thirty-five members, who became the stationary and immortal
Forty in 1639. One of its original functions was the preparation of a
great Dictionary of the French language, under the special care of
the eminent grammarian, Vaugelas, who had through his lifetime
made collections--"various beautiful and curious observations," as
Pellisson calls them--towards a reasoned philological study of French.
The poet Chapelain was appointed a sort of general editor of the
projected Dictionary, which was solemnly started early in 1638. For
the next four years the Academicians were very active, spurred on by
Richelieu, but when, in 1642, the Cardinal died, their zeal relented,

Book of the day: