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His popularity, in short, in all these various branches was unrivalled; and such was his reputation as a cattle doctor, that the booksellers, aware of the value of his works in this kind of circulation, got him to sign a paper in 1617, in which he bound himself not to publish any thing further on the diseases of "horse, oxe, cowe, sheepe, swine, goates, etc." His books on agriculture were not superseded until the middle of the eighteenth century, and the fifteenth impression of his Cheap and Good Husbandry," which was originally published in 1616, is now before us, dated 1695. Nor were his works on rural amusements less relished; for his Country Contentments," the first edition of which appeared in 1615, had reached the eleventh in 1675. The same good fortune attended him even as a poet, for in England's Parnassus, 1600, he is quoted thirty-four times, forming the largest number of extracts taken from any minor bard in the book. He appears to have been an enthusiast in all that relates to field-sports, and his works, now becoming scarce, are, in many respects, curious and interesting, and display great versatility of talent. By far the greater part of them, as is evident from their dates, was written before the year 1620, though many were subsequently corrected and enlarged.
Having thus given a sketch of three great classes of miscellaneous writers, it will be necessary to add some notice of a few circumstances which more peculiarly distinguished this branch of literature during the life-time of our poet.
It is to the reign of Elizabeth, that we have to ascribe the origin of genuine printed Newpapers, a mode of publication which has now become absolutely essential to the wants of civilised life. The epoch of the Spanish invasion forms that of this interesting innovation, for, previous to the daring attempt of Spain, all public news had been circulated in manuscript, and it was left to the sagacity of Elizabeth and the legislative prudence of Burleigh to discover, how highly useful, in this agitated crisis, would be a more rapid circulation of events, through the medium of the press. Accordingly, in April, 1588, when the formidable Armada approached the shores of old England, appeared the first number of "The English Mercury." That it was published very frequently, is evident from the circumstance that No. 50, the earliest number now preserved, and which is in the British Museum, Sloane MSS., No. 4106, is dated the 23d of July, 1588. It resembles the London Gazette of the present day, with respect to the nature of its articles, one of which presents us with this curious information :-" Yesterday the Scotch Ambassador had a private audience of Her Majesty, and delivered a letter from the King his master, containing the most cordial assurances of adhering to Her Majesty's interests, and to those of the protestant religion; and the young King said to Her Majesty's minister at his court, that all the favour he expected from the Spaniards was, the courtesy of Polyphemus to Ulysses, that he should be devoured the last."*
tion of Saint John, &c. 4to. 1600 -9. Cavalerice, or the English Horseman, 4to. 1607.-10. England's Arcadia, alluding his beginning from Sir Philip Sydney's ending, 4to. 1607.-11. Ariosto's Satyres, 4to. 1608.-12. The Famous Whore, or Noble Courtezan, 4to. 1609.-13. Cure of all diseases, incident to Horses, 4to. 1610.-14. The English Husbandman in two parts, 1613.-15. The Art of Husbandry, first translated from the Latin of Cour Heresbachiso, by Barnaby Googe, 4to. 1614.-16. Country Contentments, or the Husbandman's Recreations, 4to. 1615.-17. The English Huswife, 4to. 1615.-18. Cheap and Good Husbandry, 4to. 1616-19. Liebault's Le Maison Rustique, or the Country Farm, folio. 1616 -The English Horseman, 4to. 1617.-(8. How To Chuse, Ride, Traine. And Diet Both Hunting Horses And Running Horses, 1599.)-22. The Inrichment of the Weald of Kent, 4to.-23. Markham's Farewel to Husbandry, 4to. 1620.-24. The Art of Fowling, 8vo. 1621.-25. Herod and Antipater, a Tragedy, 4to. 1622.-26. The Whole Art of Husbandry, contained in Four Bookes, 4to. 1631.-27. The Art of Archerie, 8vo. 1634.28. The Faithful Farrier, 8vo. 1635.-29. The Soldiers Exercise, 3d edit. 1643.-30. The Way to Get Wealth, 4to. 1638.-31. The English Farrier, 4to. 1649.-32. Epitome concerning the Diseases of Beasts and Poultry, 8vo.-34. His Masterpiece, concerning curing of Cattle, 4to. an edition 1662.—(10. Marie Magdalen's Lamentations, 4to. 1601.)
Numerous editions of many of these works, with alterations in the title-pages, were published to the year 1700. See Censura Literaria, vol. ii. p. 217–225. Ritson's Bibliographia Poetica, p. 273, 274. Beloe's Anecdotes of Literature, vol. ii. p. 244, et seq. and vol. ii. p. 339. Bridges's Theatrum Poetarum, p. 278-285. Biographia Dramatica. British Bibliographer, No. iv. p. 380, 381. Warton's Hist. of Engl. Poetry, vol. iii. p. 485.
See Chalmers's Life of Ruddiman, 8vo. p. 106. Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, vol. iv. p. 34, and Andrew's History of Great Britain, vol. i. p. 145, 156.
So rapid was the progress of newspapers after this memorable introduction, that towards the close of the reign of James, Ben Jonson, in his "Staple of News," alludes to them, as fashionable among all ranks of people, and as sought after with the utmost avidity, one consequence of which was, that the greater part of what was communicated was fabricated on the spot. To this grievance the poet refers in an address to his readers, where, speaking of spurious news, he calls it "news made like the Times news (a weekly cheat to draw money), and could not be fitter reprehended, than in raising this ridiculous office of the Staple, wherein the age may see her own folly, or hunger and thirst after published pamphlets of news, set out every Saturday, but made all at home, and no syllable of truth in them." Act. ii.
Another branch of miscellaneous literature which may be said to have originated at this period, was that employed in the writing of Characters; a species of composition which, if well executed, necessarily throws much light on the manners and customs of its age.
A claim to the first legitimate collection of this kind, may be allotted, on the authority of Fuller, to Sir Thomas Overbury; "he was," says that entertaining compiler, "the first writer of Characters of our nation, so far as I have observed." With the exception of two small tracts, descriptive of the characters of rogues and knaves, † this assertion appears to be correct. Few works have been more popular than Overbury's volume; it was printed several times, according to Wood, before the author's death in 1613; but the earliest edition now usually met with is dated 1614, and is, with great probability, supposed to be the fifth impression, for the sixth, which is not uncommon, was published the subsequent year. Various alterations took place in the title-page of this miscellany, but that of 1614 is as follows:-A Wife now the Widdow of Sir Thomas Overbury. Being a most exquisite and singular Poem of the Choice of a Wife. Whereunto are added many witty Characters and conceited Newes, written by himselfe and other learned Gentlemen his friends.
London, Printed for Lawrence Lisle, and are to bee sold at his shop in Paule's Church-yard, at the signe of the Tiger's head. 1614, 4to."t 4to." The characters in this edition amount to twenty-two, but were augmented in the eleventh, printed in 1622, to eighty. So extensive was the sale of this collection, that the sixteenth impression appeared in 1638.
Both the poem and the characters exhibit no small share of talent and discrimination. In Overbury's Wife, observes Mr. Neve, "the sentiments, maxims, and observations with which it abounds, are such as a considerable experience and a correct judgment on mankind alone could furnish. The topics of jealousy, and of the credit and behaviour of women, are treated with great truth, delicacy and perspicuity. The nice distinctions of moral character, and the pattern of female excellence here drawn, contrasted as they were with the heinous and flagrant enormities of the Countess of Essex, rendered this poem extremely popular, when its ingenious author was no more."S The prose characters, though rather too antithetical in their style, are drawn with a masterly hand, and are evidently the result of personal observation.
Numerous imitations of both were soon brought forward; in 1614 appeared "The Hushand. A poeme expressed in a compleat man;" small 8vo and in 1616, "A select Second Husband for Sir Thomas Overburie's Wife; now a
* Fuller's Worthies, p. 359.
"The Fraternitye of Uagabondes," 1565, and "A Caveat for common Cursetors vulgarely called Vagabones, set forth by Thomas Herman, Esq." 1567.
Three editions were probably published in 1614; for Mr. Capel, in his Prolusions, 8vo, notices one in Svo, and one in 4to, stated in the title-page to be the fourth. Vide Bliss's edition, of the Microcos mography, p. 258, and Censura Literaria, vol. v. p. 363.
g Cursory Remarks on Ancient English Poets, 1789. p. 27, et seq.
matchlesse Widow :" small 8vo; which were followed by many others. The prose characters established a still more durable precedent, for they continued to form a favourite mode of composition for better than a century. Of these the most immediate offspring were, Satyrical Characters" by John Stephens, 8vo, 1615, and "The Good and the Badde, or Description of the Worthies and Unworthies of this Age. Where the Best may see their Graces, and the Worst discerne their Basenesse," by Nicholas Breton, 4to. 1616. Perhaps the most valuable collection of characters previous to the year 1700, is that published by Bishop Earle, in 1628, under the title of Microcosmography, and which may be considered as a pretty faithful delineation of many classes of characters as they existed during the close of the sixteenth, and commencement of the seventeenth, century.*
One of the earliest attempts at miscellaneous Essay-writing, since become a most fashionable and popular species of literary composition, may likewise very justly be ascribed to a similar epoch. In 1601, Thomas Wright published in small octavo a collection of Essays, on various subjects, which he entitled "The Passions of the Minde." This volume, consisting of 336 pages independent of the preface, was re-issued from the press in 1604, enlarged by nearly as much more matter, and in quarto form; and a third edition in the same size appeared in 1621. The work is divided into six books, and, from the specimens which we have seen, is undoubtedly the production of a practised pen and discerning mind. It is termed by Mr. Haslewood,
"An amusing and instructive collection of philosophical essays, upon the customary pursuits of the mind;" and he adds, "though a relaxation of manners succeeded the gloomy history of the cowl, and the abolishing of the dark cells of superstition; it was long before the moralist ventured to draw either example or precept from any other source than Scripture and the writings of the fathers. Genius run riot in some instances from excess of liberty, but the calm, rational, and universal essayist was a character unknown. In the present work there are passages that possess no inconsiderable portion of ease, spirit, and freedom, diversified with character and anecdote that prove the author mingled with the world to advantage; and could occasionally lighten the hereditary shackles that burthened the moral and philosophical writer."†
It is, however, to the profound genius of Lord Bacon that we must attribute. the earliest legitimate specimen of essay-writing in this country; for though his "Essays on Councils, Civil and Moral," were not completed until 1612, the first part of them was printed in 1597; and in the intended dedication to Prince Henry of this second edition, he assigns his reason for adopting the term essay. "To write just treatises," he observes, "requires leisure in the writer, and leisure in the reader, and therefore are not so fit, neither in your Highness's princely affairs, nor in regard of my continual service, which is the cause that hath made me chuse to write certain brief notes, set down rather significantly than curiously, which I have called Essays. The word is late, but the thing is ancient; for Seneca's Epistles to Lucilius, if you mark them well, are but essays, that is, dispersed meditations, though conveyed in the form of epistles." This invaluable. work, in a moral and prudential light, perhaps the most useful which any English author has left to posterity, has been the fruitful parent of a more extensive series of similar productions, collectively or periodically published, than any other country can exhibit.
The age of Shakspeare was fertile, also, in what may be termed Parlour-window Miscellanies; books whose aim was to attract the attention of the idle, the dissipated, and the gossipping, by intermingling with the admonitions of the sage a more than usual share of wit, narrative, and anecdote. Two of these, as exemplars of the whole class, it may be necessary to notice. In 1589, Leonard Wright published "A Display of dutie, dect with sage sayings, pythie sentences, and proFor an accurate Catalogue of the various Writers of Characters to the year 1700, consult Bliss's edition of Earle's Microcosmography, 1811. Bacon's Works, 1740, vol. iv. p. 586.
Censura Literaria, vol. ix. p. 168.
per similies Pleasant to reade, delightfull to heare, and profitable to practise;" a collection which Mr. Haslewod calls "an early and pleasing specimen" of this species of miscellaneous writing. It contains observations and friendly hints on all the principal circumstances and events of life;" certaine necessarie rules both pleasant and profitable for preventing of sicknesse, and preserving of health: rescribed by Dr. Dyet, Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merryman;" and concludes with "certaine pretty notes and pleasant conceits, delightful to many, and hurtfull to none." The author closes
“A friendly advertisement touching marriage," by enumerating the infelicities of the man who marries a shrew, where "hee shall finde compact in a little flesh, a great number of bones too hard to digest. And therefore," adds he, "some do thinke wedlocke to be that same purgatoric, which some learned divines have so long contended about, or a sharp penance to bring sinnefuil men to heaven. A merry fellow hearing a preacher say in his sermon, that whosoever would be saved, must take up and beare his cross, ran straight to his wife, and cast her upon his back.
Finally, he that will live quiet in wedlocke, must be courteous in speech, cheareful in countinance, provident for his house, carefull to traine up his children in vertue, and patient in bearing the infirmities of his wife. Let all the keyes hang at her girdle, only the purse at his own. He must also be voide of jelosie, which is a vanity to thinke, and more folly to suspect. For eyther it needeth not, or booteth not, and to be jelious without a cause is the next way to have a cause.
"This is the only way, to make a woman dum:
To sit and smyle and laugh her out, and not a word, but mum.” *
In 1600, appeared the first edition of " The Golden-grove, moralized in three books: A worke very necessary for all such as would know how to governe themselves, their houses, or their countrey. Made by W. Vaughan, Master of Artes, and Graduate in the Civill Law." A second edition, "reviewed and enlarged by the Authour," was printed in 1608.
Each book of this work, which displays considerable knowledge both of literature and of mankind, is divided, after a ridiculous fashion of the time, into plants, and these again into chapters. The first book, on the Supreme Being, and on man, contains eleven plants, and eighty-four chapters; the second, on domestic and private duties, five plants, and thirty chapters; and the third, upon the commonwealth, nine plants and seventy-two chapters.
Great extent of reading, and much ingenuity in application, are discoverable in the Golden Groue, accompanied by many curious tales, and local anecdotes. It is one of the books, also, which has thrown light upon the manners and diversions of its age, and will hereafter be quoted on this account, Vaughan, though he professes himself attached to poetry from his earliest days, and has devoted a chapter to its praise, was too much of the puritan to tolerate the stage, against which he inveighs with more acrimony than discrimination. The pasages which allude to our old English poets, we shall throw together, as a specimen of his style and composition.
"Jeffery Chaucer, the English poet, was in great account with King Richard the Second, who gave him in reward of his poems, the mannour of Newelme in Oxfordshire.-King Henry the eighth, her late Maiesties father, for a few psalms of David turned into English meeter by Sternhold, made him groome of his privie chamber, and rewarded him with many great giftes besides. Moreover, hee made Sir Thomas More Lord Chauncelour of this realme, whose poeticall workes are as yet in great regarde.-Queene Elizabeth made Doctour Haddon, beyng a poet, Master of the Requests. Neither is our owne age altogether to be dispraysed. Sir Philip Sydney excelled all our English poets, in rareness of stile and matter. King James, our dread Soveraigne, that now raigneth, is a notable poet, and hath lately set out most learned poems, to the admiration of all his subjects.
"Gladly I could go forward in this subject, which in my stripling yeeres pleased me beyond all others, were it not I delight to bee briefe: and that Sir Philip Sydney hath so sufficiently defended it in his Apology of Poetry; and if I should proceede further in the commendation thereof, whatsoever I write would be eclipsed with the glory of his golden eloquence. Wherefore, I stay myselfe
British Bibliographer, No. VI. p. 49, 51.
in this place, earnestly becseching all gentlemen, of what qualitie soever they bee, to advaunce poetrie, or at least to admire it, and not bee so hastie shamefully to abuse that, which they may honestly and lawfully obtayne.'
We shall conclude these observations on the miscellaneous literature of Shakspeare's time, by noticing one of the earliest of our Facetiæ, the production of an author who may be termed, in allusion to this jeu d'esprit, the Rabelais of England. Had the subject of this satire been less exceptionable in its nature, the popularity which it acquired for a season might have been permanent; but its grossness is such as not to admit of adequate atonement by any portion of wit, however poignant. It is entitled "A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, called the Metamorphosis of Ajax. Written by Misacmos to his friend and cosin Philostilpnos," London, 1596, and is said to have originated from the author's invention of a water-closet for his house at Kelkston. The conceit, or pun upon the word Ajax, or a jakes, appears to have been a familiar joke of the time, and had been previously introduced by Shakspeare in his Love's Labour's Lost, when Costard tells Sir Nathaniel, the Curate, on his failure in the character of Alexander, " you will be scraped out of the painted cloth for this: your lion, that holds his poll-ax sitting on a close-stool, will be given to A-jax: he will be the ninth worthy." Act v. sc. 2. A similar allusion is to be found in Camden and Ben Jonson. The Metamorphosis, for which Sir John published a witty apology, under the appellation of "An Anatomie of the Metamorphosed Ajax," abounds with humour and sarcastic satire, and is valuable as an illustration of the domestic manners of the age. Either from its indecency, however, or its severity upon her courtiers, the facetious author incurred the displeasure of Elizabeth, and was banished for some time from her presence. It is probably to the latter cause that his exile is to be attributed; for in a letter addressed to the knight by his friend, Mr. Robert Markham, and dated 1598, he says:
"Since your departure from hence, you have been spoke of, and with no ill will, both by the nobles and the Queene herself. Your book is almoste forgiven, and I may say forgotten; but not for its lack of wit or satyr. Those whome you feared moste are now bosoming themselves in the Queene's grace; and tho' her Highnesse signified displeasure in outwarde sorte, yet did she like the marrowe of your booke. Your great enemye, Sir James, did once mention the Star-Chamber, but your good esteeme in better mindes outdid his endeavours, and all is silente again. The Queen is minded to take you to her favour, but she sweareth that she believes you will make epigrams and write misacmos again on her and all the courte; she hath been heard to say, 'that merry poet, her godson, must not come to Greenwich, till he hath grown sober, and leaveth the ladies sportes and frolicks.' She did conceive much disquiet on being tolde you had aimed a shafte at Leicester." ‡
The genius of Harrington was destined to revive, with additional vigour, in the person of Swift, who, to an equal share of physical impurity, united a richer and more fertile vein of coarse humour and caustic satire.
That Shakspeare was well acquainted with the various works which we have noticed in this class of literature, and probably with most of their authors, there is much reason to infer. We have already found S that he was justly offended with Robert Green, for the notice which he was pleased to take of him in his "Groat's Worth of Witte bought with a Million of Repentance," and there can be no doubt that the philippics of Gosson and Stubbes, being pointedly directed against the stage, would excite his curiosity, and occasionally rouse his indignation. The very popular satires also of Nash and Decker must necessarily have attracted his notice, nor could a mind so excursive as his, have neglected to cull from the varied store which the numerous miscellanies, characters, and essays of the age presented to his view. It can
* British Bibliographer, No. VIII. p. 272.
Idem, vol. i. p. 239, 210.
Nuga Antiquæ, vol. i. p. xi. edit. 1804. § Part II. chap. 1.