G. Gregory Smith, ed. Elizabethan Critical Essays. 1904.
VIII. The Sources
There remains the question of origins: how much of Elizabethan criticism expresses a general tendency or deals with matters which are as English as they are Italian or French, and how much is directly drawn from foreign sources. It is of course impossible to measure the latter with accuracy, and it is easy to err in overestimating its extent. Yet it is not the less true that Elizabethan criticism, especially on its theoretical side, shows, and to some extent admits, a considerable assimilation of argument and illustration from without. Whatever may be said of the original qualities of these essays, it is clear that their authors, like certain wits described by Jonson, usurped freely from others; but it must be put to their credit that, unlike these, they did not protest against all reading, or make a false venditation of their own naturals.1 The notes will show how handsomely some of them borrowed.
We shall confine ourselves here to a general statement of that indebtedness, and in attempting to estimate its extent we shall assume that the essayists drew from one or more of three main sources, (1) from Classical canon, either directly or through the medium of the mediaeval recensions of Plato, Aristotle, Horace, and others, (2) from Italian and French criticism, Latin and vernacular, of the sixteenth century, and (3) from English writers before 1570 and from contemporaries.
It is hardly necessary to remark on the persistence of classical tradition in criticism, at all stages of its history, whether in the theory of poetry or in the regulation of poetic form. The chief guides had been Plato, Aristotle, and Horace, or what passed for them at the hands of the grammarians. Of these, Plato is of least account. There is nothing in Elizabethan criticism corresponding to the influence exerted by the Platonic philosophy in the works of contemporary poets and thinkers. The all-important notion of [evfyis] is an adaptation to literature from philosophy, and, though Platonic in origin, was most probably known to the Renaissance writers and the Elizabethans through later works, such as Plutarchs Moralia.2 The direct references to Plato (and their directness is sometimes disputable) are almost without exception to the passage dealing with the expulsion of poets from the commonwealth: and in these the critics more often discuss the plain question of Platos intention3 than his general views on the fable and the relation of poetry to philosophy, by which he appeared to conclude against the poets.4 Though the critics strain to prove that Plato was no enemy to poetry, they show that they bear him some grudge. Sidney is careful to say that he reverences him as a philosopher;5 and Puttenham, on his first page, challenges the Platonists with their Ideas.6 Webbes references to the Platonic explanation of rhythm7 are unimportant. It is perhaps possible, with the aid of the Italians, to find some threads of Platos doctrine in the Elizabethan application of the arguments in favour of the philosopher to the defence of the poet; or in the assumption that the Platonic theory of beauty can be extended as a justification of poetry. There is certainly something Platonic in Sidneys conception of the golden world of art beyond the brazen world of nature.8 But it would be pushing the historical method too far to explain such positions as direct borrowings, even from the Renaissance Platonists. And it would be not less extreme to connect the romantic feeling for freedom in the exercise of the imagination with any special system or dictum. If these things were originally Platos, Plato had been absorbed in European thought; and the impulses, though first expressed by him, were, in every valid sense, each thinkers own.
With Aristotle, and especially with Horace, the case is otherwise. As formalists they more readily commended themselves to a young criticism which was concerned before everything with practical matters of form. Ascham puts it on record, that he, Cheke, and Watson, the author of Absolon, had many pleasant talks together in comparing the precepts of Aristotle and Horace de Arte Poetica with the examples of Euripides, Sophocles, and Seneca.9 The passage has the additional interest of containing, as far as we know, the first allusion in English to the Poetics.10 Hitherto all the Aristotelian borrowings had been from the philosophical works, the Politics, and the Rhetoric; and, indeed, for some time to come the tradition of the scholastic discipline was paramount in English letters, or at least the writers show by their allusions to the Politics, Ethics,11 and Analytics greater intimacy with these works. Of the ten or twelve passages in these essays which are based on the Poetics, only a few imply any knowledge of the text or discuss its doctrine; and nearly all of them are to be found in Sidneys Apologie, in which the Poetics takes its place in the list of literary testimonies in favour of poetry.12 They refer to the commonplace on [mimesis],13 to the comparison of poetry with history,14 to the Unity of Time,15 and to [to geloion].16 But there is a suspicion even in these that Sidney had reached Aristotelian theory in a roundabout waya suspicion which is confirmed by other vague and unauthenticated references,17 and is but slightly removed by his recommendation in his correspondence that Aristotle should be studied in the original.18 The passage on the Unity of Time, for example, derives its importance from its relationship to recent Italian views rather than to the original.19 Of the other writers, Harington, who owes so much to Sidney, merely alludes to [mimesis],20 and to the fable, 21 though he elsewhere speaks approvingly of Aristotle and the best censurers of Poetry.22 Webbes allusions are accidental, and as valueless as his references to Plato.23 Puttenham refers to Aristotle thrice, but does not seem to have known the Poetics; and Daniel makes mention at second-hand of some Latin account of Aristotles views on rhythm.24 There are but few traces of other Greek critics in the Essays. Demetrius Phalereus and Dionysius of Halicarnassus are known to Ascham, and possibly to Puttenham, whose strangely mixed list of points of good utterance would appear to be based upon them, though perhaps indirectly.25 From Longinus little or nothing has been borrowed.
The vitality of Horatian tradition in late classical and mediaeval times, and especially throughout the Renaissance, is one of the most remarkable facts of literary history. An essentially derivative criticism such as the Elizabethan could not but draw freely from this storehouse; and it did so from the first, before it had acquired anything from Aristotle, directly or indirectly. The Horatian notion of the original function of the poet as the legislator and vates commended itself to the English mind, and would have done so hardly less easily had there been no predisposing cause in mediaeval and Renaissance habit. Horace, too, in his body of general rules, met the taste and practical needs of the defenders of poetry; Aristotle, in a sense a new acquaintance, offered theory and canon for the drama, which was but one of their interests, and not the most important. The debt to Horace is certainly greater than would appear at the first estimate, for much that stands to the credit of Aristotle and others is really his, or is at least Horatian. The Ars Poetica had usurped the place of mentor, not only to many who would write poetry, but to all who would write about it. Though the direct references in these essays to it or its author are not frequent, and though Webbes inclusion in his Discourse of a complete translation of Fabriciuss vademecum26 is an exceptional proof of enthusiasm by one of the least scholarly of the critics, there is no lack of borrowing of Horatian doctrine and rule, not to speak of innumerable tags of quotation in Latin. But the matter need not be laboured further; and the many references in the Notes may be accepted as evidence.
The critical influence of Cicero and Quintilian was, as might be expected, confined almost exclusively to rhetorical matters. When it is found outside these, it is merely illustrative or analogical; that is, it occasionally applies arguments in favour of poetry which were familiar in the Rhetorics. This is, however, more noticeable in the Italians, as in Minturno,27 than in the Elizabethans who are indebted to them. Ciceros sole claim on English, as a critic and not as the educational demi-god of the Ciceronians, is based on an error; for the credit of the definition of comedy given by Lodge28 and others belongs to Donatus. Quintilian has some share in the genesis of the doctrine of imitation upheld by Ascham. The latter was directly inspired by Sturm,29 and by Cheke, too, we may be certain; and they, with Melanchthon and others, had well digested the chapter on imitation in the Institutes.30 Though Ascham criticizes Quintilian, and even qualifies Sturms view, which he thinks is far best of all,31 he helps us to trace the genealogy of the argument. Yet Quintilians influence was never active, then or later. The frequent quotations and allusions in the Discoveries prove nothing more than that the rhetorician was one of Jonsons favourites.
Plautus, Terence, and Seneca are referred to merely as models of dramatic form. Aelius Donatus, the scholiast of the second, was too well known, even to schoolboys, to escape being pilfered from by some. His characterization of comedy was a commonplace, though nobody gave him the credit of its authorship. Lodge evidently knew his tract,32 and it is plausible that not a little of what passes for older dramatic theory and history in these essays is not more ancient.33 Plutarch, whose Moralia was not less popular than his Lives, stands sponsor for Simonides metaphor of the speaking picture,34 but for little else.
Virgil is used but sparingly as a critical aid, though there is ample proof in the quotations and references that mediaeval Maronism was still a living faith, now disciplined by Humanism. When he is alluded to, it is to point a comparison with some later author; or his verses are treated as practical models by the reformers of English measures. The comparative passages, somewhat in the Macrobian vein, are of no critical value, except when Harington turns the balance in favour of Ariosto, and Chapman in favour of Homer; and there the critical interest lies, not in what they say in behalf of their literary gods, but in the ones daring so bravely for Ariosto, and in the others trouncing Scaliger so roundly.
These classical authorities, and, we may add, the classics of early patristic literature35 are the general quarries where every man who would build his house found his stone. So far the borrowing is inevitable, and its extent cannot be satisfactorily determined. The difficulty is perhaps not less when we endeavour to estimate the debt to immediate predecessors and contemporaries. There the detective of plagiarism must carry himself with the greatest circumspection, even though it be clear that the borrowings have a more individual character and deal with narrower issues, instead of being the consensus of long-established opinion. At the same time it must be kept in mind that not a few of these appropriations, of which the writers make full confession, are of value only as indicating the personal liking, or perhaps the recent reading of the critic, and have little or no bearing on the general critical process. For example, it is easy to exaggerate the importance of Harveys lists and interesting allusions as evidence of the debt of the Elizabethans to Italian literature; perhaps even to overestimate the influence of that literature on Harvey himself.
The difficulty lies in tracing the original owners of the contents of these packets of pilferies, not in proving that they are stolen goods. Whatever objections may be taken to the detailed evidence advanced by enthusiasts for the Italian origin of Elizabethan criticism, there can be no doubt as to the validity of the general contention. Its truth will be apparent to every one who reads, more or less carefully, the series of critical essays between Giraldi Cintios Discorsi (1554) and Castelvetros version of Aristotles Poetics (1570). The identities and parallelisms recorded in the notes to this collection may be taken as merely illustrative; they are not an adequate estimate of the evidence in some cases. If their cumulative strength does not bring conviction, let us admit that the proofs have been indifferently marshalled, or but partially stated; or, as we incline to believe, that they are of a kind that must be judged by general impression rather than by painful statistics. It would be an easy matter for the historical critic were all plagiarists, and especially Elizabethan plagiarists, to disclose where and how they borrowed. Yet, even if we neglect the occasional clues which the essays themselves afford, it would be difficult to escape the impression that they had been written with an intimate knowledge of Italian criticism.
It may be at times a question how much of the borrowing from Italian sources is taken direct from Boccaccios De Genealogia Deorum or from the sixteenth-century critics who were undoubtedly inspired by that work. Its great popularity throughout Europe, especially between 1500 and 1600, must have established a critical tradition; and it is plausible to find in it, in the fourteenth and fifteenth books, the originals of some of the propositions which were in vogue in the later Renaissance. Thus, to give but one or two illustrations, we have an anticipation of the Agrippan argument and of its answer in the chapter Poetas non esse mendaces, in a second beginning Porro zelantes hi suasores criminum Poetas affirmant, and in another, entitled Philosophorum simias minime Poetas esse.36 So, too, the comparison of the Poet with the Historiographer,37 and the interpretation of Platos much quoted dictum about the danger of Poetry,38 at once connect themselves with passages in Sidneys Apologie.39 The assumption that Sidney not merely knew but used the book comes in one place as near as possible to proved fact.40 Yet in whatever way future research may adjust the claims of Boccaccio and of his successors, the Elizabethan debt to Renaissance Italy will remain undisputed.
The period between Cintio and Castelvetro is but a portion of a full century of critical activity in Italy, which begins with Vidas De Arte Poetica (1527), but it contains nearly all the material which was used by the Elizabethans. Important as Vida was to Renaissance criticism generally, as the high-priest of decorum, the upholder of the Horatian canon, and the panegyrist of classical culture, he appears to have had no influence in England at this stage.41 He is neither named nor quoted. It may be that the extremeness of his view did not readily attract the more moderate English mind, as it did Du Bellay and Vauquelin in France;42 it is probable that he was forgotten in the crush of immediate interests. Minturno and Scaliger barely preceded the earlier Elizabethans, and were, with certain others, apart from any intrinsic value or reputation, the writers who would most naturally come under the notice of Englishmen who knew Italy and her literature. This chronological fact, and another not less important, that the general defence of poetry, which was the first pressing problem of English criticism, was the main topic with these Italians, compel us to assume that some interconnexion was not merely possible, but almost inevitable. It is a question whether the Elizabethans would have been attracted by Italian criticism had their needs not been so happily met by the Italian discussion of the general principles. The other matters dealt with in the complex body of Italian criticism could have had but little interest for them. Its unbounded confidence in Italian and supercilious neglect of other literatures, its business in ordering the minutiae of Italian vocabulary and grammar, its over-elaboration of strict classical canon were more or less outside the English purpose. The only exception might be found in metrical theory, which would interest the English hexametrists. Yet Daniels reference to Tolomeis treatise43 (1539) does not imply more than that he had heard of it, and knew its drift. Ascham is interested in Tomitano,44 not as a prosodist, but as a critic of the Aristotelian logic. The various allusions to Italian prosody45 have but a secondary importance, and are merely illustrative of the Italianate practice of contemporary English verse. Aschams mention of Pigna,46 though interesting evidence of an Englishmans knowledge of one of the most original of sixteenth-century critics, is provokingly disappointing by its narrow concern in the Italians views on Horaces golden Epistle, Aristotles Rhetoric, and the plays of Sophocles. If any one wandered beyond the limits which we have chosen, it is Sidney, in his reference to Cristofero Landino,47 and perhaps in his echoes of Daniello. But the latter48 are merely conjectural.
After all, the more important question is not whether Italian influence can be found in English criticism, but why it is not more active. There were strong predisposing causes to borrow other things than an academic defence of Poetry. Italy had for some time supplied the models to English letters, as it had to art and music. We know what the pastoral owed to Tasso and Guarini, or satire to Alamanni, or the epic to Ariosto; how much Wyatt, Surrey, Sidney, and Spenser owed in the structure of their verse; how much, in fact, of the form of Elizabethan literature was defined by Italian practice. For great as is the debt to the matter of Italian literature, it is small and accidental compared with the debt to its rules and artistic habit. The poets tasted the sweet and stately measures and style of the Italian Poesy:49 the courtly ordered themselves by the etiquette of Della Casa, Castiglione, and Guazzo.50 The entire Italianate controversy resolves itself into a discussion of ways and manner. Further, English by its translating fury had established the custom of going to Italy for everything, even for learning, which it might have had direct through native scholarship. How reasonable, therefore, to assume that when the Elizabethans turned their attention to criticism they should look first to the literature from which they had drawn their formal experience, and in which the principles of the art of writing had already been fully discussed. And it might not be less reasonable to assume that the rise and activity of critical writing in Italy not merely defined the content of English criticism, but was the immediate cause of its appearance at this time. When the essayists show an acquaintance with even the lesser-known Italian poets and prose-writers, and refer to books like Celianos which had just been published,51 it is unlikely that they passed by the critics. There was, of course, greater temptation to be silent when plagiarizing from the latter than when praising or damning a Tuscan poet.
This relationship to Italian may be traced in several ways. There is, in the first place, the more specific indebtedness to individual authors, either expressly admitted by the essayists or reasonably certain to the reader who makes the comparison. This evidence52 is drawn mainly from Minturno and Scaliger, but not entirely. Thus Daniels statement about Remensi, which has disturbed his editors and tempted them to an absurd correction, is Giraldi Cintios, and is fixed down by Daniels parenthesis as some Italians hold.53 Sidneys explanation of the function of comedy is strangely like Trissinos,54 as is his comparison of poetry with ethics and law like Varchis;55 and there is a temptation to think that he knew Castelvetros opinion when he enlarged on verses being but an ornament and no cause of Poetry,56 and that he may have been helped by that critic to his extension of the notion of the Dramatic Unities.57 Such points are of minor importance by themselves, but they strengthen the general impression that the Elizabethan critics, and especially Sidney, were in one way or another conversant with the work of their Italian contemporaries.
In the case of Minturno and Scaliger the claim might be urged on the side of general theory alone, by the terms of the defence of poetry, the view as to its origin, and the history of its development. Minturno is not named by any of the essayists: Scaliger is frequently cited by them, and at least four times by Sidney. The contrast may be explained by the fact that Minturno was almost exclusively a critic,58 known to critics by two works, while Scaliger had already a European reputation, based on a long series of treatises, of which the Poetice was but a part. It was easier to draw silently from Minturno than from imperial Scaliger, a name to be conjured with even in the Pueriles of the schools.
Minturnos earlier work De Poeta (1559)59 shows nearly all the points of contact. Harington may have his Arte Poetica (1564)60 in mind when he refers to the opinion of Aristotle and the best censurers of Poesy on the period of the Epic.61 There is less doubt about Sidneys connexion with the De Poeta. Almost all the references are to be found in the Apologie, and there in the first instance; for, as we shall see, Sidney was in turn freely copied by his English contemporaries. Yet his disciple Harington, who had stronger Italian interests than any, must have known it at first hand, if only because of the very guilty passage on Peripeteia and Agnition.62 The traces of Minturno are more obvious in the earlier portion of Sidneys essay, where indeed they should occur, as the portion is concerned with general doctrine and allows less opportunity for original and English matter. Of these may be mentioned the terms of his plea for the antiquity of poetry,63 and for its being found in all nations;64 the order of the illustrative details in the passage on the works of Nature as the principal object of art;65 the view that the poet feigns notable images of virtues and vices;66 the criticism of the thorny argument of the philosopher,67 which, though found in Daniello, probably takes its true place with the subsequent passage comparing the poet with the philosopher.68 These and the important reference to Admiration69 are seven: the Notes will supply as many more; and others may be discoverable. It is open to any one to dispute Sidneys debt in each case, but we cannot escape the lesson of the whole body, even if they are only possibilities. A dozen possible indications of borrowing constitute the best of circumstantial evidence.
The case for Scaliger 70 is still more clear, partly because the writers have on not a few occasions admitted their knowledge of his treatise. It is not difficult, for example, to see that Sidneys dramatic theory, though Aristotelian, is derived through the medium of Scaliger, and that his illustrations 71 and his lists are reminiscent of the Poetice. Passages such as that on the poet as maker,72 on imitation,73 on the three several kinds,74 and on the very end of poetry,75 give point to the direct reference in Sidneys peroration.76 He is, by his own admission, brought to the question of the necessity of verse to poetry by a passage in Scaliger.77 Webbe may be echoing Scaliger when he points to the Iliad and Odyssey as fixing the distinction of the dramatic kinds,78 though the idea was widely diffused,79 and may have been borrowed from Donatus. Puttenham, who had lived abroad and refers to Italian and French matters in his Arte, is distinctly Scaligerian in his general notion of poetry and the function of the poet, and comes perilously near direct copying in details of the more rhetorical kind; e.g. in his treatment of the figured verses,80 and perhaps in his definition of Energia and Enargia.81 Harington refers to Scaligers Maronism,82 a topic which gives Chapman an opportunity for vigorous denunciation. Yet in the latters epithets and taunts there is something more than angry froth: Thou soule-blind Scaliger, that neuer hadst anything but place, time, and termes to paint thy proficiencie in learning.83
The relationship may, however, be illustrated in other ways than by chapter and page in specified authors. There are certain common topics, and metaphors and phrases, and methods, which, though they cannot be ascribed to any one, were first formulated in Italian, or at least came from it to English criticism. The evergreen antithesis of the soldier and scholar84 is an Italian commonplace, which is used to some purpose in Sidneys plea for poetry as the companion of the camps. The notion of the speaking picture, though as old as Simonides, was discovered by English critics in Renaissance Italy. So too was the culinary metaphor by which poetry is a dainty dish of divers ingredients; and so the nursery figure of coated pills, and rhubarb and candy, which do so much for the allegorical part of the argument. And the bee which distilled honey and the spider which sucked poison, for the benefit of controversialists on the goodness or badness of poetry, were creatures of the South. We may reasonably suspect that Sidneys metaphor of the ulcer85 discovers a trace of that Italian tradition which expresses the original medical sense of [catharsis]. Minturno clearly leans to this view,86 though he is, with the majority of his countrymen, as with Milton in English,87 medical rather than surgical. Again, in regard to the form and literary manner, apart from the material of the essays, there are salient likenesses which are best explained by some sort of kinship. The conception of the treatise, whether art or apology, its ordonnance, its restriction to poetry, its monotony in title, give these essays a familiar look to the reader who knows the Italian predecessors, and is yet willing to make full allowance for the English quality of such a writer as Sidney. Of the mere cataloguing manner, shown at its best, or worst, in the Palladis Tamia, it is reasonable, and certainly generous, to think of the models supplied by Lilius Gyraldus and others. And as for the trade of glose, which Nash saw to be as painfully enlarged as that of translation, it is not fantastical to find some clue in the well-strewn postilli and sposizioni of the Italian critics and poets88even if we had not had E. K.s frank statement that the manner then seemed strange and rare in our tongue.89
The filcheries from French criticism are unimportant and would appear to be confined to the contemporary prefaces of Du Bellay and Ronsard.90 The earlier dissertations from Deschamps to Sibilet, had they been known, would have given little to the theorists of Poetry, and would have been useless to English prosodists. Interesting as it is to find the old lines of argument on the antiquity of poetry in Sibilet,91 Pelletier,92 Fauchet,93 or De Laudun;94 or Sidneys comparison of the poet with the orator in Pelletier,95 or his views on poets being more than rhymers in Sibilet;96 or to read the general defence of French against outlandish and inkhorn dangers such as beset English; or to be reminded in Fauchet97 of Aschams account of the origin of rhyme, or in Jean de la Taille98 of Sidneys advance in the conception of the Dramatic Unitiesnothing but parallelism can be proved, or is likely. This is perhaps remarkable, when we consider how much of French literature was known to the Elizabethans, and how even these essays show some knowledge of French authors. On the other hand, it need not be pointed out that though this fact makes French criticism of small account for our present purpose, that criticism is of the greatest importance to the comparative study of critical development. For a spontaneous parallelism in idea in two literatures may give a better clue to first principles than a parallelism which is merely, or largely, derivative. So it would appear that though the French Arts of Poetry are not very helpful in explaining the genealogy of English doctrine, their interpretative value in the study of Renaissance theory in England is not inferior to that of the Italian models. And, it may be added, this would appear to be the true lesson of the French analogies in later periods and in other kinds, where direct influence, though stronger than here, has without doubt been exaggerated.
The French influence showed itself in borrowings of words, as noted by E. K.99 and Puttenham100quaffings of the cup of Frenchmans Helicon as the Returne from Parnassus has it101and in certain plagiarisms of conceits and verse-forms from the literature of the Pléiade;102 or it acted in the more general way of suggesting a topic, as is shown in Carews acknowledgements to Henri Estienne.103 The technical concern of Du Bellay and Ronsard in matters of poetic diction and metre perforce restricted their effect to a small part of English criticism. Indeed, if any critical debts or parallelisms are to be found we must look for them in metrical essays of the type of Gascoignes and King Jamess. An agreement such as appears between Sidney104 and Ronsard is reached independently, and most probably from Scaliger or other Italian sources.
The hard characterization of the poet by Gascoigne, and especially by James,105 is in marked contrast with the Italian view, and is strongly reminiscent of Du Bellay and Ronsard. The former is named by James in his tract, when he explains his reasons for undertaking an Art of Scots Poetry, and excuses himself for repeating second-hand observations. His seventh chapter,106 on the difference between the attitude of the translator and of the poet, may be part of his debt. Puttenhams theft from the Defense,107 though not of critical importance, shows at least that he was familiar with its text. The suggestions of indebtedness to Ronsard are perhaps more numerous. These may be found in the remarks on invention,108 on the musical value of the caesura,109 and on the use of comparisons.110 Puttenhams reference to the metre of twelve syllables, which the Frenchman calleth a verse Alexandrine,111 may well have come from Ronsards chapter, Des vers Alexandrins in the Abrégé.
Great as is the debt of Elizabethan literature to Spain,112 it would appear that criticism owes nothing. Occasional references, such as Aschams to Gonçalvo Perezs translation of Homer,113 or Puttenhams to Vargas,114 or Puttenhams and Harveys to Guevara,115 show but a more or less direct knowledge of certain Spanish books. It could not well be otherwise, for Spanish criticism, if we exclude the older rhetorical treatises, does not begin before the close of the century, in Rengifo (1592) and Alonzo Lopez (1596); and these do not appear to have been known in England. Even the excusable suspicion that something of the Spanish dramatic heresies of the mixture of kinds and of indifference to the Unities may have affected English criticism, and perhaps Sidney himself, is dispelled when we find that the earlier Spanish examples were not yet available. All that is allowed to us is to speculate on the change of attitude which might have taken place in English dramatic criticism had chronology been other than it was.
The tale of indebtedness is not complete until we know how much the Elizabethans borrowed from each other. That it can be proved that they plagiarized may strengthen the contention that they would not be less inclined to draw from such foreign writers as were accessible; but at the same time it compels us to guard against overestimating the extent of that draught. For it is clear that not a few of the statements, which are obviously non-English in origin, are taken from English writers who had already made them their own. We are helped to this in some places by the greater frankness of the borrowers (partly due to the growing pride in the sufficiency of English letters), and in others by the forced confession of the texts.
We have an interesting side-light on this literary habit in the frequent efforts to apportion what is, in Puttenhams words, as borrowed, and what as of our own peculiar.116 It is one of E. K.s commendations of Spenser that he follows the footing of many poets, yet so as few, but they be well scented, can trace him out.117 The Sidney of the Apologie can protest, as the poet lover of Stella,
Nash resents the charge that he has borrowed from Greene, or Tarlton, or Lyly: the vein which I have is of my own begetting, and calls no man father in England but myself.119 As things went, each critic, like each poet, might well suspect his neighbour. Haringtons preface takes a different place when we discover how inadequately his acknowledgement to Sidney covers his debt to the Apologie. Meres, obviously a dullard to the most casual reader, discloses an editorial cunning which does him credit, and indeed makes his Comparative Discourse not the least important of these documents. For by having no mind of his own, and only a plodding interest in the whims of others, he has given us a digest of contemporary history and opinion which is of positive value.
Not a little comes to these essayists from writers of the earlier part of the century: notably from the different editions of Wilsons Arte of Rhetorique (1553) and his Rule of Reason, conteinyng the Art of Logique (1551), and from Sir Thomas Elyots Governour (1531).120 Yet the relationship is one of general agreement rather than of literal copying. We can see, for example, in Wilsons view that eloquence itself came not up first by the art, but the art rather was gathered upon eloquence121 something of his successors dislike of a critical tyranny. Of their own number, Ascham and Sidney are the favourite quarries. Aschams dead advertisement and persuasion, as Harvey calls it,122 in behalf of artificial verses, is kindly remembered by the reformers. Stanyhurst cites the golden pamphlet entitled The Scholemaster on this point;123 and Webbe repeats its views on the barbarous origin of rhyming,124 and incorporates at least one passage verbatim.125 Nash refers his reader to its excellent censures on Greek and Latin authors.126 The debt to Sidney is greatera fact the more striking when we remember that the Apologie remained in MS. till 1595. He is known to everybody, and cited by nearly all, but never so greedily as by his admirer Harington.127 Puttenham, however, is not far behind.128 And Harington is in turn indebted to Puttenham;129 as James VI and Webbe are to Gascoigne.130 But we cannot thread this labyrinth. The Notes will supply clues to what each author has taken from his contemporaries. There is some recompense in this discounting of the originality of these essayists. It may minimize their individual value, but it at least shows that a critical interest had arisen, and that by it not only many, but the best of them, had been attracted. The activity discloses, as it were, a rude concerted plan for the recognition of the Art of Criticism as a separate branch of English literature. It matters not how much was copied, or how much was inappropriate to English needs, if we acknowledge the vitality of the Elizabethan endeavour which lies behind old argument and metaphor, and see in these registers the genuine beginnings of a literary kind in England, and the first hints of the true temper of English criticism.
Note 10. The recovery of the Poetics in Italy, France, and England inaugurated the critical reputation of Aristotle, just at the time when his long-established authority in philosophy was on the decline. [back]
Note 19. See note to i. 398. Yet Sidney has the credit, however much he may have drawn from Scaliger and others, of infusing the Aristotelian elements into English criticism, especially on the dramatic side. [back]
Note 27. For example: Nam, ut id quoque de oratore ad poetam, ex M. Tullio in hunc locum, quemadmodum et alia non pauca transferamus, hic noster Heroicus, quem , &c. (De Poeta, p. 105). Cf. the application of the Platonic eulogy of the philosopher to the poet, supra. [back]
Note 40. See note to i. p. 206, ll. 67. References like that to Robert of Sicily (ed. u. s., p. 385) may be the sources of some of the Elizabethan allusions. [back]
Note 41. In the late seventeenth century, and especially in the eighteenth. Vidas honourd brow is reverently crowned with the critics ivy. (Cf. Pope, Essay on Criticism,704.) [back]
Note 42. It is possible that the accepted view that Vida exercised a strong influence on the continent, especially in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, is an exaggeration. At least it is difficult to prove it. For beyond the testimony of Scaliger, inspired by a common enthusiasm for Virgil, there is little of sincere discipleship. [back]
Note 50. Note, too, that the epithetic habit or the Elizabethans, including the critics, was most generally Italian: e.g. Harveys Petrarchize, and his calling of Nash the English Aretine. Spenser to others is the English Petrarch. [back]
Note 58. He wrote verses in Latin and Italian. He is the author of Lamore innamorato (1559). [back]
Note 59. ANTONII | SEBASTIANI MINTVRNI | DE POETA, AD HECTOREM | PIGNATELLVM, VIBONEN- | SIVM DVCEM, | LIBRI SEX | .. | VENETIIS, ANN. MDLIX. 4to. pp. v + 567. [back]
Note 60. LARTE POETICA | DEL SIG. ANTONIO | MINTVRNO, | NELLA QVALE SI CONTENGONO | i precetti Heroici, Tragici, Comici, Saty | r-ici, e dogni altra Poesia: | CON LA DOTTRINA DE SONETTI, CANZO- | ni, & ogni sorte di Rime Thoscane, doue sinsegna it mo- | do, che tenne il Petrarca nelle sue opere. | Et si dichiara a suoi luoghi tutto quel, che da Aristotele, Horatio, | & altri auttori Greci, e Latini è stato scritto per | am maestra mento di Poeti. | CON LE POSTILLE DE DOTTOR VALVASSORI, || Per Gio. Andrea Valuassori del M.D.LXIIII. 4to. x + 48 (Contents and Index) + 453 + 2 (unnumbered). [back]
Note 70. IVLII CAESARIS | SCALIGERI, VIRI | CLARISSIMI, | POETICES LIBRI SEPTEM: || I. Historicus. II. Hyle. III. Idea. IV. Parasceve. V. Criticus. VI. Hypercri-ticus. VII. Epinomis. | Ad Sylvium Filium. || Apud Ioannem Crispinum | M.D.LXI. Fol., 364 pp. double columns + 36 pp. of Index (triple columns). The second edition appeared in 1581 (Apud Petrum Santandreanum). The fifth, which is now the most easily procurable, was issued in 1617 (In Bibliopolio Commeliano). [back]