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Edition (Clarendon Press). No adequate life of CHAUCER (13407-1400)
Chaucer has been written. There is much of Geoffrey Chaucer was born probably in 1340,
value in Lounsbury's Studies in Chaucer (Harper), the son of a London vintner. By April, 1357, he
Root's The Poetry of Chaucer (Houghton Mifflin), had taken service at the court, perhaps as a page.
and Kittredge's Chaucer and His Poetry (Har
vard Univ. Press). Miss Hammond's Chaucer: In 1359 he was a member of the army that was
A Bibliographical Manual (Macmillan) is infighting the French in the Hundred Years' War,
valuable to the serious student. Lovrell's essay and was already of sufficient importance to be ransomed from his captors by the king. In 1370
in My Study Windows (Houghton Mifflin) is sughe made the first of several diplomatic journeys to
gestive and sympathetic, although slightly in
accurate as to details. the continent, and in 1372 first went to Italy. In 1374 he was appointed controller of customs for the port of London, and in 1386 sat in Parlia- THE ENGLISH AND SCOTTISH POPULAR ment for Kent. In 1389 Richard II appointed
BALLADS him clerk of the king's works, and in 1394 granted him a pension. In 1399 Henry IV succeeded The great edition of the ballads is that of Richard, and at the poet's petition largely in
Francis James Child, in five volumes (Houghton creased his pension, and enabled him to spend the Mifflin). This gives every text of every ballad last
year of his life in comparative affluence. He that Child and his many assistants were able to died in 1400, and was buried in Westminster discover, and is the starting point for all serious Abbey.
study of English balladry. A condensation of Since the court in which Chaucer grew up was
this edition in one volume (Cambridge edition, in many respects French, it was inevitable that Houghton Mifflin), contains representative texts when the young poet began to write his work of practically all the ballads in the larger work, should show strong traces of foreign literary in
and is prefaced by Kittredge's valuable essay. fuence. He early translated part or all of the
Gummere's Old English Ballads (Ginn and Co.) Romance of the Rose, a famous French allegory, is an inexpensive collection with valuable notes. and in the Book of the Duchess (1369), composed
The same author's The Popular Ballad (Houghton at the death of Blanche, wife of John of Gaunt,
Mifflin) discusses the problems of ballad origins wrote a poem which is saturated with French
and related questions. influence. When in 1372 he first visited Italy, he came under the spell of the Italian Renaissance, and
SPENSER (1552–1599) in the works of Dante (d. 1321), Petrarch (d. 1374), and Boccaccio (d. 1375), found much that was new Up to the age of Elizabeth England had proand inspiring. The effect of Renaissance art and duced but one great poet-Chaucer. Edmund literature on Chaucer's imagination is evident in Spenser was the second. He was born in London the work of his second, the so-called Italian period. and received his early education in the famous Here came the House of Fame (?1379), and school of the Merchant Tailors, to whose guild Troilus and Cressida (?1383), the latter one of his his father probably belonged. The family purse most important works, a character-novel in must have been lean, for the boy obtained help verse, concerned with the love of Troilus and from a charitable foundation. At Cambridge Diomede for the Trojan girl Cressida. The poem University, too, he was entered in 1569 as a sizar, is founded directly on Boccaccio, as is the Legend or needy student, who rendered certain services of Good Women (ca. 1385). Following these came in return for food and tuition. At Cambridge Chaucer's greatest work, the unfinished Canterbury Spenser formed the chief of his friendships, with Tales (1385 and after). Here, although French Gabriel Harvey, who had some influence upon and Italian influences still persist, the inspiration Spenser's poetical theory, and figures as one of is predominantly English. Chaucer's busy life had the characters of The Shepherd's Calendar. After brought him in contact with men and women of taking his master's degree in 1576 Spenser lived all sorts, and in the Canterbury Tales he gives us for a time with relatives in Lancashire, and later the most brilliant picture ever painted of four- held two secretarial positions. By 1579 he had teenth century English life. As the poem is entered the service of the great Earl of Leicester, Chaucer's largest work, so until the days of Spen- and in that year published The Shepherd's Calenser and Shakespeare it remained the chief glory of dar, a series of pastoral eclogues, one for each of English literature.
the twelve months. In 1580 he became secretary The best editions of Chaucer for general read- to Lord Grey of Wilton, Lord Deputy of Ireland, ing are the Globe (Macmillan), and the Student's and spent the remainder of his life, apart from (Clarendon Press), although the serious student two visits to London, in Ireland. For some years will have to consult Skeat's monumental Oxford he held office in Dublin, as a clerk of the Court of
Chancery, but resigned in 1588 to become clerk into English poetry, and Surrey, who gave it its of the Council of Munster; he had previously characteristic Elizabethan form of three alternatbought the estate of Kilcolman, in the county of ing quatrains followed by a couplet, were both Munster, where he took up his residence. Sir avowed Petrarchists. Walter Raleigh was then living some thirty miles In the last decade of the sixteenth century the away. While on a visit to Kilcolman in 1589 sonnet was cultivated by English poets with an he saw the manuscript of the first three books assiduity which for a time amounted almost to of The Faerie Queene. Enthusiastic about their mania: Sir Sidney Lee estimates that the number merits, he took the poet with him to London, of sonnets printed in the years 1591-1597 "far where the three books were published in 1590. exceeds two thousand.” Both subject matter The work confirmed the reputation earned by and style were largely dependent upon French The Shepherd's Calendar, and won for Spenser and Italian models. There are, for instance, a the patronage of the Queen and many people of large number of sonnets addressed to friends or high rank. Its favorable reception encouraged patrons, and as many on philosophy and religion. Spenser to hope for political preferment in Eng- But love is the favorite theme, and the poet proland, but the only tangible reward was a pension tests his devotion and bewails his mistress's coldof fifty pounds. Disappointed in his political ness in a hundred pretty hyperboles passed from ambitions, he returned to Ireland early in 1591. pen to pen. Such sonnets were usually published In 1594 he married an Irish lady, Elizabeth in the form of a sequence, including from twenty Boyle; a poetical record of his courtship may be to a hundred or more sonnets, and frequently found in the Amoretti and the Epithalamion, pub- entitled by the name assigned by the poet to the lished together in 1595. The following year saw real or imaginary mistress of his affections. Thus him again in London, superintending the print- we have Daniel's Delia (1592), Constable's Diana ing of the second three books of The Faerie Queene, (1592), Lodge's Phillis (1593). In these only ocand once more seeking advancement-in vain. casional sonnets rise to the first rank of excellence. In 1598 a rebellion broke out in Munster. Kil- From such sonnet sequences three stand out colman Castle was sacked and burned, and Spen- preeminent by reason of their superior beauty of ser, with his wife and four children, fled to Cork. phrasing and apparently greater sincerity of emoFrom there he was sent with despatches to London, tion. Sidney's Astrophel and Stella (written early where he died Jan. 16, 1599. He was buried in in the eighties, printed 1591) purports to reflect Westminster Abbey, near Chaucer.
the love of Sidney (Astrophel) for Penelope The record of Spenser's life is one of unsatisfied Devereux (Stella), who married Lord Rich. ambition. Although he enjoyed the friendship of While Sidney employs all the familiar tricks of the Sidney and Raleigh and the favor of the Queen, Petrarchists, his sonnets are marked by a fervor he was, like Swift, compelled to live most of his thoroughly in accord with his ardent and chival. life in a country he detested, balked of the honors rous temper. Spenser's Amoretti (1595) are adhe hoped for. As a poet, however, he won im- dressed to Elizabeth Boyle, who became his wife. mediate recognition, and on the appearance of In general they are distinguished by a greater The Faerie Queene was at once acclaimed as heir sense of fact and a deeper seriousness than Sidto the mantle of Chaucer. Spenser is the most ney's. Into the maze of conjecture raised by truly representative of Elizabethan poets, be- Shakespeare's Sonnets (printed 1609, though writcause his work, especially The Faerie Queene, ten considerably earlier) it would be profitless to shows to perfection the blending of the spirit of plunge. Suffice it to say that they are divided the Renaissance with that of the Reformation. into two series, one addressed to a youthful male It is of the Renaissance in its sensuous beauty, friend, the other to a "dark lady," who has played its intimate connection with the literatures of the poet false. The question of whether or not the Greece, Rome, and Italy, and the depth and sweep sonnets are biographically true is not essential to of its imagination; its profound moral earnest- an appreciation of their quality. The fact reness it owes to the Reformation.
mains that “the best, for depth and fulness of Much the best single volume edition of Spenser thought, for mastery of poetical phrase, at times is that by R. E. N. Dodge in the Cambridge Poets for the white heat of passion and perfection of (Houghton Mifflin). There are fine critical essays literary finish, rise above the erotic poetry of their by Lowell (in Among My Books) and by Edward own age as they serve yet for the goal and ultiDowden (in Transcripts and Studies).
mate exemplar of their kind” (Schelling).
Sidney Lee's Elizabethan Sonnets (2 vols., Con
stable and Co.) contains most of the important ELIZABETHAN SONNETS
sonnet sequences and a valuable introduction. The sonnet, like several other artificial forms Lee's chapter on the sonnet in vol. iii of the Comof the lyric, owes its existence to Provençal poets,
bridge History of English Literature puts the whole whose work furnished models for the Italian
matter in brief compass, and is equipped with a lyrists of the thirteenth century. It was Petrarch
useful bibliography. (1304-1374), however, who perfected its form, established its amorous tone, and gave vogue to the “conceited” style distinctive of its early his
ELIZABETHAN LYRICS tory. From Italy the spreading of the Renais- Samuel Johnson's description of Pembroke Colsance influence brought the sonnet to France and lege, Oxford, as "a nest of singing birds," may later to England. Wyatt, who introduced it aptly be applied to all England in the fifty years
centering at 1600. Not only did this half-century produce the greatest drama the world has ever seen, but it also gave voice to an amazing outburst of lyric verse. In contrast with that of the Romantic period, whose history is that of a few great names, Elizabethan verse is the product of a very large number of men. Even writers of the veriest jog-trot doggerel now and then caught a spark of the divine fire and rescued their names from oblivion through an exquisitely turned song or two. The Renaissance canie to full flower in the reign of Elizabeth, and the immense enjoyment of life, the youthful buoyancy, the delight in sensuous beauty, and the sheer pleasure of artistic workmanship characteristic of the Renaissance spirit, all find perfect expression in these lyrics. Here is found too the influence of the classical learning and of Italian and French models, but the material has been assimilated and made thoroughly and unmistakably English. The fondness for the use of “conceit," elaborately wrought metaphor or simile, frequently characterized by ingenuity rather than appropriateness, and sometimes degenerating into mere delight in cleverness for its own sake, is apparent in such a lyric as Southwell's The Burning Babe, though here, as in many another poem, the intensity of the imagination and personal emotion raises to the plane of high poetry what would otherwise be a rhetorical curiosity.
The history of the Elizabethan lyric starts with the publication in 1557 of Tottel's Miscellany. Wyatt and Surrey are the most important of the poets represented, and these courtiers of Henry VIII are the “birds of dawning” whose song
"Preluded those melodious bursts which fill
The spacious times of great Elizabeth.” Miscellanies such as Tottel's were very popular, the best of them being The Paradise of Dainty Devices (1576), The Phenix' Nest (1593), England's Helicon (1600), and Davison's Poetical Rhapsody (1602). After 1600 the characteristic form in which lyrics were collected was the songbook, where songs were accompanied by their musical settings. John Dowland's First Book of Songs of Airs (1597, followed by others in 1600 and 1603) and Campion's Book of Airs (1601, others 1613, 1617) are good examples. Nor must the lyrics scattered through the drama be forgotten: “Back and side, go bare, go bare” is an early example. Lyly emphasized the fashion of enlivening plays with musical moments, and Shakespeare, Jonson, and Fletcher merely did supremely well what practically all their contemporaries were doing.
Two men may be singled out for special mention. Thomas Campion (15677-1620), a Cambridge graduate, was a lawyer by training, a doctor by profession, and a poet by instinct. One of the few men who have composed both words and music, he is also unrivalled, save by Ben Jonson, for skillful use of classical suggestions. His work is notable for its good taste, its limpid diction and freedom from affectation, and for an exquisitely light gracefulness of touch.
John Donne (h. 1573), after a youth checkered by adventure, changes of occupation, and dire
poverty, at last took holy orders in 1615, and rose rapidly in the church. He soon became the most famous preacher in London, with an extraordinary reputation for piety and fervor, was made Dean of St. Paul's in 1621, and only his death in 1631 kept him out of a bishopric. It has been customary to class Donne with the Jacobean, or even with Caroline poets. This is surely uncritical, since practically all his love poetry was written by
1600. Donne is one of the most strikingly original and independent poets in the language. In contrast with other lyrists of the time he follows no fashions, uses no models, borrows no material. The “strangely intellectual” fire of Donne's verse, its combination of pulsating passion and keen intellectual power, also sets it apart. Donne's extravagance of conceit, wherein he outdoes the Petrarchists, led Dr. Johnson to entitle him (however wrongly) the founder of the "metaphysical school" of poetry. Finally, his verse, always masculine in vigor, and sometimes rough to the point of uncouthness, is capable of the most subtle harmony, and at its best, as in “Sweetest love, I do not go,” is as melodious as that of the smoothest of the Cavalier poets.
A fine anthology is Arthur Symons's A Pageant of Elizabethan Poetry (Blackie); A. H. Bullen's Lyrics from the Song-Books of the Elizabethan Age and Lyrics from the Dramatists of the Elizabethan Age are delightful collections. F. E. Schelling's A Book of Elizabethan Lyrics (Ginn) has a valuable introduction, a good brief selection, and useful notes. A helpful book of general criticism is Schelling's The English Lyric (Houghton MifAin).
LYLY (15547-1606) The first of a group of clever young college men who, in the decade 1580-90, did much to put English drama on its feet and to pave the way for Shakespeare, John Lyly took a bachelor's degree at Oxford in 1573, a master's in 1575. He first sought public favor in 1579 with a didactic romance, Euphues: the Anatomy of Wil, the success of which led to a sequel, Euphues and his England, in 1581. The same year saw the production of Lyly's first comedy, Alexander and Cam pas pe. During the next ten or twelve years Lyly produced several other comedies, influenced by classical models, of a light and fantastic nature, well adapted for court presentation. He held a minor position at court, but his efforts to obtain the important post of Master of the Revels were in
He was a member of four Parliaments between 1589 and 1601.
Lyly gave vogue to the prose style called from the title of his first book, Euphuism. It is a thoroughly artificial style, employing a balanced sentence structure, wherein antithesis is emphasized by alliteration, and a free use of ornament, largely in the way of classical allusion and of illustration drawn from pseudo-scientific sources. Euphuism for a time furnished the model for polite conversation, and though its affectations were soon abandoned it did a useful service to English prose by aiding the development of a firmer and neater sentence structure.
in all probability attended the free grammar SIDNEY (1554-1586)
school of Stratford, where he obtained the “small The story is well known of how Sir Philip Sid
Latin” and perhaps the “less Greek” which Ben
Jonson ascribed to him. But after the date of his ney, as he lay dying on the battlefield of Zutphen, refused the water that was put to his lips, and
christening the first certain information that we had it given to a wounded soldier, saying, “Thy
have of him comes in 1582, when he married Anne necessity is yet greater than mine." The deed
Hathaway, of the neighboring village of Shottery. was thoroughly typical of the chivalrous nobility
A daughter Susanna was born the following year, of Sidney's life. Born of one of the best families
and twins, Hamnet and Judith, in 1585. Family of England, educated at Shrewsbury and Oxford,
responsibilities, coupled with the fact that John he rounded off his formal education by travel on
Shakespeare had fallen into financial straits, apthe continent, and returned to England in 1575
parently led Shakespeare to abandon Stratford for an accomplished courtier, to become one of the
London, with its greater possibilities of employ brightest ornaments of the brilliant circle about
ment; 1586 is usually given as the year in which the Queen. Not only a man of affairs-courtier,
he made the change, and tradition has it that a soldier, member of Parliament, diplomat-but
deer-stealing escapade hastened the departure. also a man of letters-scholar, critic, novelist,
It is probable that Shakespeare soon became con
nected with one of the two theaters then in exist. poet—Sidney because of his astonishing versatility was a living embodiment of Renaissance culture.
ence in London. At any rate we first hear of him “The courtier's, scholar's, soldier's eye, tongue,
as a playwright in 1592, when his rival Robert sword” were all his. When to the list of his
Greene left a sneering death-bed reference. Shakeachievements we add the nobility of his nature
speare's name first appeared on the title-page of a high-spirited, generous, and loyal-it is no wonder
book when Venus and Adonis, an erotic poem in that he made a profound impression on his time,
the highly ornate manner then fashionable, was and that his name is coupled with that of Bayard,
printed in 1593; Lucrece, a work of the same sort, the knight “sans peur et sans reproche.”
followed in the next year. That he had in these Though Sidney was greater as a man than as
early years of his career become established as a writer, his personality ennobles his work. The
an actor we learn from a partial list of members of Defense of Poesy, written about 1583, printed
the Lord Chamberlain's Company made in 1594, 1595, was a reply to Stephen Gosson's School of
and we have records of his membership in this Abuse, a Puritan attack upon poetry and the stage.
company as late as 1604. The income from his It is a representative piece of sixteenth century acting and his authorship was so considerable that criticism, deriving its theories from the classics
in 1597 Shakespeare was able to buy New Place, and previous critical treatises, but animated by
one of the best pieces of property in Stratford;
this was but the first of a series of real estate a true love of poetry, and written in a fresh and vivid style. Its most interesting section is that
investments in Stratford and London, so that in which Sidney criticises the verse and drama
by the time of his death he owned a large of his own day. The Arcadia, written about 1580,
amount of property. He had furthermore by printed 1590, is a pastoral romance, excessively
1599 become a shareholder in the Globe, the most loose and rambling in structure, told in a forid
important of the London playhouses, and in 1610 and affected manner which never says a thing
in the Blackfriars Theater as well. When, theresimply if it can say it elaborately. In ornateness
fore, he was ready to give over active work he was of style, in the care lavished upon the idealized
tolerably well-to-do, as wealth ran in those days; beauty of the setting, and in the shadowy por
this worldly prosperity is as good proof as is needed trayal of the characters, it is not unlike the Faerie
of Shakespeare's success in his twin professions Queene. Like Lyly's Euphues, it became ex
of actor and playwright. It seems to have been tremely popular and inspired many imitations.
about 1611 that he retired to Stratford to pass Sidney's best poetic work was done in his sonnets
the remainder of his life as a country gentleman. (see section on the Sonnets).
There he died April 23 (O. S.), 1616. His only The standard life of Sidney is that by J. A. Sy
son Hamnet had died at the age of eleven. His monds (E. M. L.). There is a guarded short esti
two daughters had both married, and survived mate of the man and his work in Sidney Lee's
their father, but Shakespeare's line died out in the Great Englishmen of the Sixteenth Century (Scrib
third generation with the death of his only grandners).
daughter in 1670.
On the basis of the different kinds of work that SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616)
Shakespeare did at various times in his career as
playwright, it is customary to make a classificaWilliam Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on- tion of his plays by periods, as follows. (Dates Avon in April, 1563, his christening being recorded are, of course, approximate.) in the register of Holy Trinity Church on April 26. I. Apprenticeship. 1590-1595. His father, John Shakespeare, was a prosperous Here the young playwright was learning his business man of some prominence in the town, profession, either collaborating with older and for, after holding various minor offices, he became more experienced men, as in Henry VI, or writing in 1568 bailiff or mayor. Shakespeare's mother, plays modelled on the work of the best masters Mary Arden, came of an old Warwickshire family, of the time. The method of chronicle history be and brought John Shakespeare some little property learned from Marlowe, whose influence is plainly when she married him in 1557. The boy William seen in Richard III and Richard II. Titus Ak
dronicus is a crude attempt at the tragedy of blood, popularized by Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. Love's Labors Lost is an obvious imitation of the type of comedy written in the eighties by John Lyly, while The Comedy of Errors is dependent upon two plays of Plautus.
II. Best Chronicle History and High Comedy. 1596-1601.
Here Shakespeare brings the writing of chronicle history to its highest perfection in the two parts of Henry IV and in Henry V. In addition to the merry farce comedies The Taming of the Shrew and The Merry Wives of Windsor, he writes the three great comedies As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and Twelfth Night.
III. Tragedy and Ironic Comedy. 1602–1609.
For whatever reason, a change seems to have come over the spirit of Shakespeare's work about 1601, and in the years following we get the series of great tragedies dealing with profoundly serious problems: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra; in these a surpassingly beautiful style accompanies complex action and subtle characterization. Tragic in all but a technical sense are the three plays well called ironic comedies: Troilus and Cressida, All's Well That Ends Well, and Measure for Measure, where the sordid subject-matter and sardonic spirit baffle interpretation. In this period too (1009), though written earlier, were printed the Sonnets, whose story of friendship disappointed and love disillusioned has been thought by some students to furnish the clew to the motive animating the work of these years.
IV. Tragicomedy, or Romance. 1610-1612.
In this period Shakespeare enables happiness to triumph over tragic circumstance after a series of improbable and surprising events. He seems to be trying experiments in technique, as in The Winter's Tale, with its break between acts three and four, or in characterization, as in The Tempest, with brutish Caliban and etherial Ariel.
The best single volume edition of Shakespeare is the Cambridge, edited by W. A. Neilson (Houghton Mifflin). No serious student can afford to ignore the Variorum, edited by H. H. Furness and H. H. Furness, Jr. A good library edition, a play to a volume, is the Tudor (Macmillan). The standard biography is that by Sidney Lee (revised edition 1909, Macmillan). The best general handbook, containing information on biography, chronology of the plays, history of the text, and accounts of the London and the theaters of Shakespeare's time, is The Facts about Shakespeare by Neilson and Thorndike (Macmillan).
RALEIGH (1552–1618) Raleigh's name is always coupled with Sidney's when the brilliance and versatility of Elizabeth's courtiers are mentioned. Born in Devon, home of sea-dogs, he came naturally by his adventurous disposition, and, his Oxford course over, he engaged in many a daring exploit on land and sea, including the fight with the Armada and the Cadiz voyage of 1596. His attempts in the eighties to colonize the region named by him Virginia were
failures. The royal favor shown him by Elizabeth gave him no standing with James, who threw him into the Tower on a charge of treason, and kept him there thirteen years. Released in 1616 to command an expedition to Guiana in search of El Dorado, he returned in failure and disgrace to be rearrested and beheaded.
Raleigh's earlier prose belongs to the literature of exploration and adventure: here fall the stirring Last Fight of the Revenge, and a highly interesting account of his first trip to the Orinoco, The Discovery of Guiana (1596). The unfinished History of the World was the work of the years in prison; it displays enormous learning and philosophical insight, but is chiefly notable for its bits of terse and vivid characterization and occasional comments on the history of Raleigh's own time. The verse which can with certainty be assigned to Raleigh is small in body, seems intimately connected with his personal history, and reflects his proud and passionate temper.
A good short estimate of Raleigh is that in Sidney Lee's Great Englishmen of the Sixteenth Century.
SIR THOMAS NORTH (1535?-16012) Of North's life little is known, and that is of no importance for his work. This consists of translation, for North was one of that band of Englishmen of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who took upon themselves the useful mission of making the classics of Greece and Rome, of Italy and France and Spain, accessible to their countrymen in their own language. Their success may be judged by the fact that many of the so-called Tudor translations have become established as English classics. Thus North turned a French translation of the Libro Aureo by the Spaniard Antonio Guevara into English as The Dial of Princes in 1557, a book which had some influence on Lyly and Euphuism. Then he took from the Italian a collection of fables, calling it The Moral Philosophy of Doni (1570). But the work which has kept North's name alive is his translation of Plutarch's Lives, printed in 1579. Not that North knew Plutarch in the original; he only translated the French version of Jacques Amyot. The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans can lay no claim to being a scholarly rendering of Plutarch's grave and lucid Greek. But it is a fine specimen of early Elizabethan prose, full of vigor and color, and free from the affectation which mars the prose of the generation immediately following it. Despite the looseness of its sentence structure it is the best prose written up to its time. Shakespeare made it the basis of Julius Cæsar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus, and had recourse to it in Midsummer Night's Dream and Timon of Athens; the closeness with which Shakespeare frequently follows his source is the best proof of its quality.
BACON (1561-1626) Francis Bacon, Baron Verulam and Viscount St. Albans, was born 22 January, 1561, in London. He was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper