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BOOK II

DRAMA AND LYRIC

CHAPTER I

FROM TRANSITION TO TRANSFORMATION-I

"The advancing man discovers how deep a property he has in literature."-EMERSON.

An important period of development-Italian influenceClassical translations-Arthur Golding-Sir Thomas North -Sir Thomas Hoby-Sir Geoffry Fenton-Painter's Palace of Pleasure-George Chapman-Edward Fairfax-Joshua Sylvester-John Florio Thomas Shelton-Sir Thomas Urquhart.

IN dealing with the important period of transition between the early Tudor and later Tudor period, we must pause. We are in a century of two great reigns. The Wars of the Roses are becoming forgotten. Henry VIII. is King.

The Tudor régime continues-in the eighties as in the forties the absolute despotism seems undisturbed, nay even strengthened by the repulse of external enemies. But great changes had taken place quietly and imperceptibly. By 1590 the Tudors had achieved their task. Parliament was reviving and was bracing itself up for a task of its own. The force of circumstance which had delivered Englishmen bound into the hands of tyrants was going to release them. The genius of the race demanded it. So in literature, extraordinary developments had taken place in this interval. External signs had been few and of no sensational order. We shall look in vain during the Pro

tectorates, and during the fifties, sixties, and seventies for any literary planet or for any star of the first magnitude. The literary aptitudes of Englishmen were being undemonstratively schooled and disciplined.

Poetry was acquiring a new quiet force. But it was mainly by forced labours of translation, and by journey work for the infant stage, that the literary train was laid.

The development that took place in regard to English literature between early Tudor and late Tudor times, in the fifty years let us say between 1529 and 1579, was a most important one. The period may at first sight seem empty and singularly barren. But when we regard it attentively and recognise the change brought about in the view taken of fundamentals, we must admit its claim to serious interest. At the commencement of it Sir Thomas More wrote his Utopia in Latin. This is a momentous fact.

Much had already been done to unify the English language. Caxton, like another King Alfred, had made translations into English, and having given vernacular books his imprimatur, had distributed them to serve as patterns of the "King's English" broadcast over the land. The same influence had been used to give a wider circulation to the poetry which had hitherto been mainly a monopoly and a luxury of the court-notably the works of Chaucer and Gower; a little later, the popular collections known as the Poetical Miscellanies. Already the Stationers' Company had grown into a powerful federation successfully interested in extending the dissemination of books.1 Much had assuredly been done, but not enough

1 In the reign of Mary, the Privy Council began to perceive and to regard with a jealous eye the far-reaching influence which the new art of printing was capable of exercising upon public opinion; the scriveners and book-sellers had formed a guild or craft fraternity in Henry IV.'s time. In Henry VII.'s

apparently for More to think it worth while to clothe the ideas of the future in their native garb of English. Much remained to be done, and the consolidation of English as a uniform literary language suitable for every kind of expression by Englishmen had to be established during there unostentatious years. The foundations had to be laid in translations into a sound, homespun, serviceable prose-religious translation was most effectual.

The result of these combined forces of the organisation of the book industry, the multiplication of translations, and the conversion of English into the medium of the popular religion, was greatly to strengthen the position of the native language. So far had these influences been brought to bear by 1579 that More, if he had been in the act of composing Utopia then, would not have dreamed of writing it in Latin. By 1579 England, though still looking abroad for inspiration and design, had definitely begun to aspire to a great literature of her own.

The extent of foreign influence upon English literature

reign, the Stationers, as they were called, were reinforced by printers, book-binders, paper-makers, type-founders, and others representing all the trades that took part in the book-producing industry. In May, 1557, the ancient guild was incorporated as a regular company and a charter was granted to it investing its master and wardens with the sole power of print. ing, with power to search, seize, and destroy any unlicenced or prohibited books and to imprison any person who should print without their authority. No one was allowed to print without the company's licence and all books were to be entered in the register at Stationers' Hall. The fee exacted by the company for licencing a book was at first usually 4d., but came in Shakespeare's time to be almost invariably 6d. The charter of incorporation was confirmed by Elizabeth in November, 1559, when we gather that there were twenty-two master-printers in London, and the number of printing houses remained fixed at twenty-two until quite down to Commonwealth times. As it was the purists of the day complained

in Elizabeth's day was almost incalculable. Of the various influences that then came in to shape our literature, that of the Italians was unquestionably the greatest. In history, politics, philosophy, science, manners, in travel-but above all, imaginative work of every kind from drama to lyric-Italian books and Italian models were the passion and the rage. From the queen to the humblest courtier the Italian tongue was the test of good breeding. It is doubtful whether any foreign vogue before or since ever took such a complete hold upon English society. It has been computed by Miss Scott, the diligent bibliographer of Elizabethan translations from the Italian, that over four hundred translations from the Italian were made in England during the century (1550-1650), representing over two hundred English translators and rather more Italian authors, the two lists, Italian and English, comprising nearly all the most eminent writers of the day. Shake

bitterly of the lavish way in which premises were licenced. The number of presses in operation is estimated at between fifty and sixty, and, considering that they were all small hand presses, the number of books, many of them large folios, which they were able to turn out speaks well for the untiring industry of their manipulators. Stereotyping was of course unknown; type was seldom allowed to stand or to be locked up for long; editions were small, rarely exceeding from twelve to fifteen hundred. Not the Privy Council only but also its divisional Courts of Star Chamber and High Commission seem to have exercised a general supervision over the output of the press; but such supervision was of a general and more or less accidental kind. The exact manner in which the censorship was exercised is not very easy to define; nor has the subject ever been worked out with the thoroughness which its intrinsic interest demands. It may be stated, however, in general terms that after 1559 every book, as a necessary condition of publication, had to receive the "allowance" of some recognised authority or other; but the authority varied a good deal. If the book were obviously free from political or theological taint the authority of the master

speare, it is true, did not immediately translate, but his poems are intensely Italianate, and the stories of fourteen of his plays are founded upon Italian fiction, while several other plays contain features which owe their suggestion to Italian sources. Of some seven hundred plays which survive from an output of probably over two thousand during the Elizabethan period, Miss Scott shows that nearly three hundred hark back to Italy for their motif; while if imitative plays or plays of remote suggestion were included, the number of "Italianate" dramas would be considerably greater.

The translators who swarmed so thickly had almost the whole field of Latin scholarship open to them. The direct influence exercised by the Greek authors was comparatively remote. The three writers of antiquity whose matter and form exercised most influence upon the Elizabethans were undoubtedly Virgil, Seneca, and Ovid, and after

or wardens of the Stationers' Company might suffice; if it had a doctrinal bearing, however remote, it might be necessary to obtain the licence of the Archbishop or the Bishop of London, or at any rate from the Archbishop's secretary or some well-recognised doctor of divinity, acting possibly as a deputy. In publishing plays it was necessary to affix the imprimatur of the Master of the Revels; the Earl Marshal sanctioned heraldic books; a deputy of the College of Surgeons medical books, and so on. Later on, in the time of the Long Parliament, regular boards were appointed for the licencing of books classified according to subjects. The universities appear to have almost full licencing powers, or powers at least coextensive with those of the bishops; in them too was vested a somewhat ill-defined power of issuing licences for the printing of Bibles and Testaments. In case of a book being issued which had a bearing upon the government, statecraft, home or foreign policy, it would have been considered advisable if not essential to obtain the imprimatur of the Secretary of State; neglect of such a precaution might very well lead to both author and publisher being deprived of their ears. These possibilities notwithstanding, it cannot be justly

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