Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Critical Introduction by A. W. Ward
Thomas Lodge (15581625)
[Thomas Lodge, born about 1556 at West Ham, was the son of a grocer in the city, afterwards Lord Mayor, in whose will however he found no mention. He was educated at Trinity College, Oxford, and at Lincolns Inn. His first publication, provoked and afterwards answered by Gosson, the Defence of Poetry, Music, and Stage-plays (157980) was prohibited by authority. Some four or five years later he seems to have entered upon a series of journeys, partly buccaneering expeditions, on one of which he contrived to compose his well-known work, Rosalynde, Euphues Golden Legacy (1590). During the intervals, and probably for some years following, he inhabited Bohemia in London, producing both prose and verse for the booksellers, and plays for the stage, and enjoying scant personal repute. In his later yearsperhaps from 1596 onwards, when a publication of his is dated from Low Leyton, he practised medicine, in which he is said to have graduated at Avignon. His non-professional writings were now principally translations from the classics. In 1616 he was again abroad; but he died in London, of the plague, in 1625. His works are still uncollected and in part difficult of access.]
IT is futile to seek in the remains of a writer such as Lodge for the traces of a style peculiar to the man, who seems to have been innocent of any uneasy pretence to originality of manner. The work of his pen, should it at any time prove possible to marshal in consecutive order its disjecta membra, would possibly prove all the more instructive, as a collective illustration of the literary history of his age. He was a man of extremely varied experience both in and outside the world of letters of which he claimed the freedom; and, to use his own phrase, he fell from books to arms, as easily as he exchanged Justinian for Galen, or Alsatia for the Spanish Main. In his Defence of Stage-plays and in his Alarm against Usurers, dedicated without any particular relevancy to Sir Philip Sidney, he had but journalised on themes with which he could claim something more than a bowing acquaintance. When, while accompanying Captain Clarke on his patriotic raid upon the Canaries, he composed his Rosalynde, his genius can hardly be said to have suffered a sea-change. Nor in point of fact does he in his dedication lay claim to any loftier purpose than that of whiling away the tedium of his voyage. It was accordingly almost a matter of course that, like Greene, with whom as a playwright he worked in common on at least one occasion, Lodge should, as a novelist, follow the fashion of his times both in the Euphuism of his style, of which the purple patches are inserted without more ado than are the pretty lyrical intermezzos which form so attractive a feature of his book, and in the Arcadian surroundings of its story. (Sidneys Arcadia was first printed in the same year as Rosalynde.) For the rest, however judgments may differ as to the intrinsic merits of the novel, it has beyond doubt plot enough to account for its popularity, although some of this may have been due to other elements than those which in Mr. Grant Whites opinion secured the success of the stage Rosalinds beard, cloak, and jack-boots. For Lodges novel, besides possessing a plot which may in a large measure be called its own, is neither in its characters nor in its incidents altogether conventional; and if Shakespeare invented the melancholy Jacques, and at all events the mellower phase of Touchstone, he allowed himself to be cast in old Adam, one of the characters of his original. It is impossible not to do Lodge the justice of quoting the passus of the wrestling bout. Mr. Grant White may again be correct in surmising that this scene was a stage success on its own account; but as a literary experiment, since only too often repeated, it must be described as both fresh and spirited.
When not aboard ship, Lodge in his rather protracted salad days seems to have been ready to set his hand to what was next to it. Of his extant prose-works, the Delectable History of Forbonius and Prisceria is a very ordinary love-pamphlet, not yet far advanced in Euphuism; while The Life of Robin the Devil, and The Life and Death of William Longbeard, the most famous and witty English Traitor, born in the City of London, may be surmised to be old histories newly dressed up. A more ambitious piece of literary work is the prettily named tale, A Margarite (i.e., pearl) of America, which the author professes to have discovered in its original Spanish, in a Jesuit library visited by him during his expedition with Cavendish, and to have translated on his passage through the Magellan Straits. Although there is plenty of ornate description in the book, some uncertainty remains as to its Spanish origin. About the turn of the century, Thomas Lodge, Doctor in Physics, having apparently exhausted his original and more especially his favourite lyric vein, turned to professional research and to translation from the Classics, then as now, the chosen solace of men of letters who are, or who wish to become, absolutely respectable. His resolution, he says in the Preface to his Seneca, had too long time surfeited upon time-pleasing; yet on the whole his chief vocation as an author was to please his times.