R. Warwick Bond (ed.), The Complete Works of John Lyly, Vol. 1: Life. Euphues: The Anatomy Of Wyt; Entertainments
THE work here offered to Elizabethan students is the first collected edition of an author whose immense importance to English Literature is beginning to receive a tardy recognition. I hope it may come to seem yet more strange that Lyly should have had to wait so long for his due. The neglect of him is, I think, partly referable to his depreciation by Collier, whose indefatigable and invaluable labours as a bibliographer and collector of facts were not, so far as I have observed, assisted by any commensurate critical or literary gift. Prof. Arber's excellent reprint (with Introduction) of the text of Euphues was issued in 1868; Fairholt's edition, however inadequate, of the eight acknowledged plays, as early as 1858; while Pappe has appeared obscurely once or twice; and it would be a churlish temper that failed in gratitude to these, who have at least kept Lyly within the ken of readers. We have had, further, essays on Euphuism from Professor Morley in 1861 and Dr. Weymouth in 1871, a chapter on the same subject in Mr. Courthope's History of Poetry, vol. ii, chapters on the connexion of Lyly's dramatic work with that of Shakespeare from Mr. J. A. Symonds and Dr. A. W. Ward, Mr. Sidney Lee's article in the Dictionary of National Biography, and other contributions. But attention to the substance of Lyly's work and recognition of its literary bearings has been paid first, or chiefly, abroad. It has reached us mainly through the channels of Mézières, Hense, Landmann, Jusserand, and others; while the best and most complete account of Euphuism pg viis from the pen of an American, Mr. C. G. Child, and the only serious attempt at a Life from that of another American, Mr. G. P. Baker. And almost everywhere far more attention has been paid to Euphuism than to the matter of the Euphuist's work, or to the man. Lyly is still generally regarded in England mainly as the originator of a tiresome and fantastic style that enjoyed an exaggerated and mistaken vogue among contemporaries of ill-regulated taste, and as one who may further deserve some brief notice because he wrote in Shakespeare's time.
This is not the subject which arrested my attention a long while since, not that to which I have, latterly, devoted four years of continuous and exclusive work. These volumes deal, in the first place, with the earliest English writer with an acute sense of form, or, if Pettie, his model, must be excepted, at least with the first who made Englishmen feel that prose was an art; also with the first English novelist, and—though this is a point of quite minor importance—with one of the most admired and conspicuous men of letters of the period 1580–1600. They deal, in the second place, with the first regular English dramatist, the true inventor and introducer of dramatic style, conduct, and dialogue; and, in these respects, the chief master of Shakespeare and (but mainly through the latter) of Ben Jonson, and the attendant host of playwrights. There is no play before Lyly. He wrote eight; and immediately thereafter England produced some hundreds—produced that marvel and pride of the greatest literature in the world, the Elizabethan Drama. What the long infancy of her stage had lacked was an example of form, of art: and Lyly gave it. It was seized upon by men of more splendid talents than he, of younger years, of mind uncramped by the learning and the toils which had produced it in himself; and the world, with the detestable complacency of the self-protective creature, accepted the supreme service and speedily forgot its benefactor. Later scholars, working backwards from pg viiShakespeare, found all before him, of course, much inferior. They included Lyly with Greene and Kyd and Marlowe and Peele as 'Predecessors,' and overlooked the not unimportant fact that he wrote before all the rest. It was natural enough. Before them lay the whole rich field: Lyly was only one among many; one whose work had been done in the half-light of dawn before the rising of the sun; one, too, it must be admitted, whose immense merits and originality were further obscured by the surface-qualities, the artificiality and tedium, of his style. I appeal now to the thoughtful critic to study his plays along with my essay on 'Lyly as a Playwright,' and to judge if there is not far more dramatic credit due, and far more influence on Shakespeare attributable, to him than to Marlowe or any other of those with whom he has been customarily classed1.
As a poet I make no such claim for him. Spite of his authorship of two or three of the most graceful songs our drama can boast—an authorship which, if still unsusceptible of positive proof, is equally so of disproof—some of those in his plays, and others, pretty certainly his, which I have found elsewhere, stamp him as negligent, uncritical, or else as inadequately practised in the art; while he lacked altogether, in my judgement, 'those brave translunary things' so infinitely beyond technique, so far above mere grace or daintiness of fancy, of which the true poet is made. The poems I print as 'doubtful' exhibit, however, a growing mastery; some of the 'Later Love-Poems' yield a positive, and many a qualified, pleasure; I have given decided praise to some of the verse in The Woman; and it is only fair to add that the worst of his youthful essays have been disinterred from MSS. or collections where his carelessness or his judgement left them to moulder, only as illustrating the growth and the limitations pg viiiof one who has other and imperative claims on our literary respect.
In a separate full discussion of the Text and Bibliography of Euphues (vol. i. 83–118) I have endeavoured to fix the number and order of the very numerous quarto editions of that book.
On Euphuism (Essay, vol. i. 119–75) I have little to say that has not already been said by others. My aim has been rather to summarize and condense, than to enlarge a discussion that has already grown unwieldy. I have been much aided in my treatment by the lucid and elaborate essay of Mr. C. G. Child in Münchener Beiträge; and I have appended to vol. i a brief note on Sentence-structure in Euphues, deprecating what I deem the existing tendency to too curious a consideration of this aspect of Lyly's work. To the criticism of the book, however, as the first great example of artistic prose and the earliest English novel, I hope I have added something; and I have explored, more thoroughly than has been hitherto attempted, the question of sources, showing, for example, in detail how exactly Euphuism, save in the building of the long sentences, was anticipated by Pettie, and tracing many borrowings or reminiscences from other works, contemporary or classical. Never before has the attempt been made to annotate the Two Parts of Euphues, a work which bristles with quotations, proverbs, and allusions of every kind; and Fairholt, who did supply some useful notes to the Plays, generally abandoned this exercise of verification and hunting-down to his successor. Such tracking down of matters to which the text usually furnished no clue has formed by far the most arduous part of my task, and, next to my endeavour to give Lyly his rightful position as a playwright, that which I am chiefly glad to have accomplished; though a later editor will still find points that have defied my search. Above all I deemed it desirable to ascertain with as much precision as possible the limits of my author's debt to Pliny and Plutarch. pg ixInvestigation shows that the majority of his natural-history allusions are definitely assignable to the former; the majority of his historical allusions, and several long passages besides the Ephœbus tractate, to the latter; but some of his history comes from Pliny or other sources; and some of his natural history from Plutarch or Aelian or Bartholomaeus Anglicus; while some striking events, and many unusual phenomena, are purely of his own invention. His proverbs are generally from John Heywood's collection, or from the Chiliades of Erasmus; but often, I think, rather part of a folklore personally imbibed in youth.
Further, the Notes, or the various Essays, call attention not only to some general points of practice wherein Lyly set the example to Shakespeare, but also to a great many Shakespeare parallels of phrase or idea, though not to all that I have observed. Though the note is seldom so worded, I make no doubt that the great majority of such are cases of imitation, adaptation, or unconscious reminiscence by Shakespeare, and not of mere coincidence. If any be inclined to except against such notification as superfluous or too frequent, I would urge that one of my chief objects is to show a closer, fuller, more vital and more detailed connexion between the work of the two men than has hitherto been shown; and, further, that the Baconian heresy, sensationally attractive in itself, maintained by some honest folk, and by some other folk anxious to get on, has derived so much plausibility from Shakespeare's rustic origin and want of full education as renders it especially desirable to adduce all that may make more credible the sudden marvel of his great achievement.
In addition to the general essay on Lyly's work as a playwright (vol. ii. 230–300), I have prefixed to each Play a brief Introduction, dealing with such matters as the state of the text, date, materials, treatment of the Unities, &c. For all except Mother Bombie I am able to show some definite, if only pg xpartial, source not hitherto pointed out1, though in this matter Lyly is distinguished rather by his independence. In a long note immediately following the text of Gallathea (vol. ii. 473–85), I have discussed the question of his probable debt to some particular Italian works; and I have written a separate essay in revision of Halpin's view of the Court-allegory underlying the play of Endimion (vol. iii. pp. 81–103).
As regards the Life, too, I have, I hope, made some considerable additions to former knowledge; fixing Boxley near Maidstone with tolerable certainty as Lyly's paternal home or birthplace (cf. pp. 4–5, 384–5); ascertaining the precise post he occupied in the Revels Office and the probable dates of his tenure of it, besides gathering other details connected with the routine of duty within the Office itself; giving a brief account of the Marprelate Controversy and of Lyly's connexion with Nash in that affair; setting at rest the vexed question of the dates of his two Petitions to the Queen; and printing seven autograph letters never before included in his biography, one of which (from the Cotton MSS.) I owe to the generous courtesy of Mons. A. G. Feuillerat, lecturer at Rennes University, while the rest are derived from the Hatfield MSS., with the exception of one, to which Dr. Bloxam gave a reference, among the State Papers in the Record Office. I regret that much of this new matter must be sought rather in the Biographical Appendix (vol. i. pp. 377–401) than in the Life itself, which was printed off a year ago, before I had attained to present knowledge; but except as regards his entry of the Office in 1588 rather than 1585, the deferring of the Petitions to 1598 and 1601, the discovery of a brother of the author, chaplain of the Savoy, and the probability of Lyly's receipt of some grant before his death, the pg xiconclusions of the Life remain unaltered (see Chronological Summary, pp. 398–9).
Further, I have to introduce to the reader as Lyly's a certain number of Speeches or Entertainments (vol. i. 403–507) dating 1590–2, 1600, and 1602, which serve to illustrate his occupations in connexion with the Revels Office, and to enlarge somewhat the circle of his acquaintance. Nearly all of them were printed anonymously in his lifetime, and found their way later into Nichols' Progresses of Queen Elizabeth; none has ever been claimed for Lyly, though one or two of them have been generally assigned elsewhere. They are of no great literary weight, but thoroughly Lylian and (with brief and partial exceptions noted in their places) undoubtedly his, as will, I believe, be allowed by him who reads the Introduction to them and verifies the marginal references to his other works. Also I present as his a very respectable but anonymous Funeral Oration on Queen Elizabeth (vol. i. pp. 509–16); and some distressing lines (vol. iii. 427–32) on the suppression of the Babington plot, which I much doubt whether I shall, or should, be forgiven for discovering. The list of my additions to Lyly's text is completed by the abovementioned collection of unsigned Poems (vol. iii. 433–502) from contemporary printed or manuscript sources, the references appended to which, though I have labelled them collectively as 'doubtful,' will I think facilitate and in some cases compel the reader's acceptance. Among them is The Bee, hitherto assigned to Essex.
I have included The Maydes Metamorphosis, though I believe Lyly merely added some portions to this play in preparing it for performance by the Paul's Boys; and also A Whip for an Ape and some of the doggrel in Mar-Martine, to which he has unfortunately a better claim.
pg xiiTurning to the pleasant task of acknowledgement, besides what I inevitably owe to those who have previously printed work upon Lyly—among whom I would particularly distinguish Professors Arber, Landmann, Steinhäuser, C. G. Child, and G. P. Baker—I am indebted to many others for special suggestions or helpful kindness during the prosecution of my task; to Mr. John Murray for full reproduction permitted of the contents of my Quarterly article of January, 1896; to the Committee of the Hampstead Public Library for the free loan during four years of the very valuable Morley copy of Euphues, which belongs to that institution; to Lord Salisbury for kind permission to copy five letters of Lyly among the Hatfield MSS. and to photograph two of them, and to Mr. R. T. Gunton, his private secretary and librarian, for taking the copies (one of the letters was of his suggestion) and making some other search at my request; to Mr. F. J. H. Jenkinson, the Cambridge University Librarian, for most courteous hospitality and assistance during one of my visits; to Dr. Sinker, librarian of Trinity College, Cambridge, for opportunities of collation; to Professor Littledale, of Cardiff, for some notes of his own on the plays, freely placed at my disposal; to Mr. P. A. Daniel for one or two similar notes; to Prof. M. Sampson, of Indiana University, for some remarks on Euphuism; to Mr. R. J. Whitwell for a suggestion; to Mons. A. G. Feuillerat, of Rennes University, for the Cotton letter above mentioned, whose own forthcoming critical survey of Lyly's life and works I expect with peculiar interest1; to various incumbents of churches in London or in Kent, whom I have pestered with inquiries about their Parish Registers; to the officials of the British Museum, and especially to the Superintendent of the MS. room; to Mr. Salisbury of the Record Office for unvaryingly patient and indispensable help in deciphering old documents; to Mr. E. W. B. Nicholson, pg xiiiBodley's Librarian, and Mr. F. Madan; to the Rev. H. A. Wilson, librarian of Lyly's college of Magdalen, and to one or two other librarians of Oxford colleges; to Professor Robinson Ellis and to the Bishop of Oxford, for suggestions; lastly and chiefly to the Printer, and to the various officials of the Clarendon Press, who have given such minute attention to the proof-sheets, and from whom I have gratefully accepted an occasional correction or suggestion. With Professor York Powell, especially, I have been in consultation throughout as to the form and scope of the work; and a judicious squeeze, kindly imparted by himself, has wrung some drops of superfluous humour from my Notes. To all, and any others who have rendered me help now momentarily forgotten, my best thanks.
I part from my long and self-imposed task with some regret, in spite of the heavy toil it has cost and the very serious sacrifices that such work, under present conditions, must involve. I am never likely to find either the patience, or the means, for another such. Even here I am troubled by the sense that there is more yet to be discovered about Lyly, and that more time might profitably have been spent on the appraisement of his striking bulk of work even than I have given. Too much of my four years has been consumed in mere collation, in search too often resultless, in the finding, noting, and renumbering of a host of cross-references. I trust this expenditure, but half-voluntary, of 'stupid industry' may make for utility and permanence; and that in other respects this edition, much needed, long meditated, and now at length completed, may not be found to fall short of the rapidly-rising standard of present-day Elizabethan scholarship.
R. W. B.
Sept. 20, 1902. pg xiv
1 The reader will not suppose me to be speaking of power or beauty: I allude to form, art, intelligence, the qualities of the French rather than the English mind.
1 Hense indicated the Ovidian origin of the two stories of which Midas is composed, and of that of Erisichthon and Protea in Loves Metamorphosis.
1 I was pleased to find that M. Feuillerat had, like myself, decided that Tellus in Endimion must be identified with Mary Queen of Scots.