Nonfiction > G. Gregory Smith, ed. > Elizabethan Critical Essays
G. Gregory Smith, ed.  Elizabethan Critical Essays.  1904.
Spenser-Harvey Correspondence: Letters on Reformed Versifying, &c. 1579–80
Gabriel Harvey to Edmund Spenser [II]
To My Verie Friende
M. Immerito.

Liberalissimo Signor Immerito, in good soothe my poore Storehouse will presently affourd me nothing, either to recompence or counteruaile your gentle Masterships long, large, lauish, Luxurious, Laxatiue Letters withall (now, a Gods name, when did I euer in my life hunt the Letter before? but, belike, theres no remedie; I must needes be euen with you once in my dayes), but only, forsoothe, a fewe Millions of Recommendations and a running Coppie of the Verses enclosed. Which Verses (extra iocum) are so well done in Latin by two Doctors, and so well Translated into English by one odde Gentleman, and generally so well allowed of all that chaunced to haue the perusing of them, that, trust mee, G. H. was at the first hardly intreated to shame himselfe, and, truely, now blusheth to see the first Letters of his name stande so neere their Names, as of necessitie they must. You know the Greeke prouerb, [porphyra peri porphyran diacritea], and many colours (as in a manner euery thing else), that seuerally by themselues seeme reasonably good and freshe ynough, beyng compared and ouermatched wyth their betters are maruellously disgraced, and, as it were, dashed quite oute of Countenaunce. I am at this instant very busilye and hotly employed in certaine greate and serious affayres: whereof, notwithstanding (for all youre vowed and long experimented secrecie), you are not like to heare a worde more at the moste, till I my selfe see a World more at the leaste. And, therefore, for this once I beseech you (notwithstanding your greate expectation of I knowe not what Volumes for an aunsweare) content your good selfe with these Presentes (pardon me, I came lately out of a Scriueners shop) and, in lieu of many gentle Farewels and goodly Godbewyes at your departure, gyue me once againe leaue to playe the Counsaylour a while, if it be but to iustifie your liberall Mastershippes, Nostri Cato maxime saecli: and I coniure you by the Contents of the Verses and Rymes enclosed, and by al the good and bad Spirites that attende vpon the Authors themselues, immediatly vpon the contemplation thereof to abandon all other fooleries, and honour Vertue, the onely immortall and suruiuing Accident amongst so manye mortall and euer-perishing Substaunces. As I strongly presume, so good a Texte, so clearkly handeled by three so famous Doctours, as olde MAISTER WYTHIPOLE and the other two bee, may easily and will fully perswade you, howsoeuer you tush at the fourths vnsutable Paraphrase. But a worde or two to your large, lauishe, laxatiue Letters, and then for thys time Adieu. Of my credite, youre doubtes are not so redoubted as youre selfe ouer suspiciously imagine; as I purpose shortely to aduize you more at large. Your hotte yron is so hotte that it striketh mee to the hearte; I dare not come neare to strike it. The Tyde tarryeth no manne, but manye a good manne is fayne to tarry the Tyde. And I knowe some, whyche coulde be content to bee theyr own Caruers, that are gladde to thanke other for theyr courtesie. But Beggars, they saye, must be no choosers.
  Your new-founded [areion pagon] I honoure more than you will or can suppose, and make greater accompte of the twoo worthy Gentlemenne than of two hundreth Dionisii Areopagitae, or the verye notablest Senatours that euer Athens dydde affourde of that number.  2
  Your Englishe Trimetra I like better than perhappes you will easily beleeue, and am to requite them wyth better, or worse, at more conuenient leysure. Marry, you must pardon me, I finde not your warrant so sufficiently good and substauntiall in Lawe that it can persuade me they are all so precisely perfect for the feete, as your selfe ouer-partially weene and ouer-confidently auouche: especiallye the thirde, whyche hathe a foote more than a Lowce (a wonderous deformitie in a righte and pure SENARIE), and the sixte, whiche is also in the same Predicament, vnlesse happly one of the feete be sawed off wyth a payre of SYNCOPES: and then shoulde the Orthographie haue testified so muche: and, in steade of Haunl Virgnls, you should haue written Heanl Virgnls, and Virgnls againe in the ninth, and should haue made a Curtoll of Immrt in the laste: being all notwithstandyng vsuall, and tollerable ynoughe, in a mixte and licentious IAMBICKE: and of two euilles better (no doubte) the fyrste than the laste, a thyrde superfluous sillable than a dull SPONDEE. Then me thinketh you haue in my fancie somwhat too many SPONDEES beside: and whereas TROCHEE sometyme presumeth in the firste place, as namely in the second Verse, Make thy, whyche thy by youre Maistershippes owne authoritie muste needes be shorte, I shall be faine to supplye the office of the Arte Memoratiue, and putte you in minde of a pretty Fable in ABSTEMIO the Italian, implying thus much, or rather thus little, in effect.  3
  A certaine lame man, beyng inuited to a solempne Nuptiall Feaste, made no more adoe, but sate me hym roundlye downe foremoste at the hyghest ende of the Table. The Master of the feast, suddainly spying his presumption, and hansomely remoouing him from thence, placed me this haulting Gentleman belowe at the nether end of the bourd; alledging for his defence the common verse Sedes nulla datur praeterquam sexta Trochaeo, and pleasantly alluding to this foote, which, standing vppon two syllables, the one long, the other short (much like, of a like, his guestes feete), is alwayes thrust downe to the last place in a true Hexameter, and quite thrust out of doores in a pure and iust SENARIE. Nowe, Syr, what thinke you I began to thinke with my selfe, when I began to reade your warrant first, so boldly and venterously set downe in so formall and autentique wordes as these, PRECISELY PERFIT, AND NOT AN INCH FROM THE RULE? Ah Syrrha, and Iesu Lord, thought I, haue we at the last gotten one, of whom his olde friendes and Companions may iustly glory In eo solum peccat, quod nihil peccat, and that is yet more exacte and precise in his English Comicall Iambickes than euer M. WATSON himselfe was in his Latin Tragicall Iambickes, of whom M. Ascham reporteth that he would neuer to this day suffer his famous Absolon to come abrode, onely because Anapaestus in locis paribus is twice or thrice vsed in steade of Iambus? A small fault, ywisse, and such a one, in M. ASCHAMS owne opinion, as perchaunce would neuer haue beene espyed, no neither in Italy nor in Fraunce. But when I came to the curious scanning and fingering of euery foote and syllable: So here, quoth I, M. WATSONS Anapaestus for all the worlde: A good horse, that trippeth not once in a iourney: and M. IMMERITO doth but as M. WATSON, and in a manner all other Iambici haue done before him: marry, he might haue spared his preface, or, at the least, that same restrictiue and streightlaced terme PRECISELY, and all had been well enough: and I assure you, of my selfe, I beleeue, no peece of a fault marked at all. But this is the Effect of warrantes, and perhappes the Errour may rather proceede of his Master M. DRANTES Rule than of himselfe. Howsoeuer it is, the matter is not great, and I alwayes was, and will euer continue, of this Opinion, Pauca multis condonanda vitia Virtutibus, especially these being no Vitia neither, in a common and licencious IAMBICKE. Verum ista obiter, non quidem contradicendi animo aut etiam corrigendi mihi crede: sed nostro illo Academico, pristinoque more ratiocinandi. And, to saye trueth, partely too to requite your gentle courtesie in beginning to me, and noting I knowe not what breache in your gorbellyed Maisters Rules: which Rules go for good, I perceiue, and keepe a Rule, where there be no better in presence. My selfe neither sawe them, nor heard of them before, and therefore will neither praise them, nor dispraise them nowe; but, vppon the suruiewe of them and farther conference (both which I desire), you shall soone heare one mans opinion too or fro. Your selfe remember I was wonte to haue some preiudice of the man; and I still remaine a fauourer of his deserued and iust commendation. Marry in these poyntes, you knowe, PARTIALITIE in no case may haue a foote: and you remember mine olde Stoicall exclamation, FIE ON CHILDISH AFFECTION, IN THE DIS-COURSING AND DECIDING OF SCHOOLE MATTERS. This I say, because you charge me with an vnknowne authoritie, which, for aught I know yet, may as wel be either vnsufficient or faultie as otherwise; and I dare more than halfe promise (I dare not saye warrant) you shall alwayes in these kinde of controuersies finde me nighe hande answerable in mine owne defence. Reliqua omnia quae de hac supersunt Anglicorum versuum ratione in aliud tempus reseruabimus otiosum magis. Youre Latine farewell is a goodly braue yonkerly peece of work, and, Goddilge yee, I am alwayes maruellously beholding vnto you for your bountifull Titles: I hope by that time I haue been resident a yeare or twoo in ITALY I shall be better qualifyed in this kind, and more able to requite your lauishe and magnificent liberalise that way…. TRINITIE HALL, stil in my Gallerie, 23 Octob. 1579. In haste.
Yours, as you knowe,        
G. H.    

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