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
From Gabriel Harvey’s ‘Letter-Book’
WHAT thoughe Italy, Spayne, and Fraunce, rauisshed with a certayne glorious and ambitious desier (your gallantshipp would peraduenture terme it zeale and deuotion) to sett oute and aduaunce ther owne languages aboue the very Greake and Lattin, if it were possible, and standinge altogither vppon termes of honour and exquisite formes of speaches, karriinge a certayne braue magnificent grace and maiestye with them, do so highly and honorablely esteeme of ther countrye poets, reposing on greate parte of their souraigne glory and reputation abroade in the worlde in the famous writings of their nobblist wittes? What though you and a thousand such nurrishe a stronge imagination amongst yourselues that Alexander, Scipio, Cæsar, and most of ower honorablist and worthyest captaynes had neuer bene that they were but for pore blinde Homer? What thoughe it hath vniversally bene the practisse of the floorishingist States and most politique commonwelthes, from whence we borrowe our substantiallist and most materiall præceptes and examples of wise and considerate gouernement, to make the very most of ther vulgare tunges, and togither with there seignioryes and dominions by all meanes possible to amplifye and enlarge them, deuisinge all ordinarye and extraordinarye helpes, both for the polisshinge and refininge of them at home, and alsoe for the spreddinge and dispersinge of them abroade? What though Il Magnifico Segnior Beniuolo hath notid this amongst his politique Discourses and matters of state and gouernemente, that the most couragious and valorous minds have euermore bene where was most furniture of eloquence, and greatist stoare of notable orators and famous Poets? What, a goddes name, passe we what was dun in ruinous Athens or decayid Roome a thousand or twoe thousande yeares agoe? Doist thou not ouersensibely perceiue that the markett goith far otherwise in Inglande, wherein nothinge is reputid so contemptible, and so baselye and vilelye accountid of, as whatsoeuer is taken for Inglishe, whether it be handsum fasshions in apparrell, or seemely and honorable in behauiour, or choise wordes and phrases in speache, or anye notable thinge else in effecte that sauorith of our owne cuntrye and is not ether merely or mixtely outlandishe? Is it not cleerer then the sonne at noonedayes that oure most excellent Inglish treatises, were they neuer so eloquentlye contriued in prose, or curiously deuised in meeter, haue euer to this daye, and shall euer hereafter, be sibb to arithmetericians or Marchantes cownters, which nowe and then stande for hundreds and thowsands, by and bye for odd halfpens or farthinges, and otherwhiles for very nihils? Hath your monsieurshipp so soone forgottin our long Westminster conference the verie last Ester terme touchinge certayne odd peculiar qualities, appropriate in a manner to Inglishe heddes, and esspeciallye that same worthy and notorious [Britannikin zilotoupian] that Erasmus prettily playeth withall in a certayne gallant and braue politique epistle of his, written purposely to an Inglish gentleman, a courtier, to instructe him howe he mighte temporize and courte it best here in Inglande? Is not this the principall fundation and grande maxime of our cuntry Pollicy, not to be ouer hasty in occupying a mans talent, but to be very chary and circumspect in opening himselfe and reuealinge his giftes vnto others? Is it not on of the highest pointes of our Inglish experiencid wisdum, and, as a man would saye, the very profoundist mystery of our most deepe and stayd hedds, to haue euery on in continuall ielouzye lest he sitt ouer neere there schirtes or haue familiar insighte in ther commendable and discommendable qualityes? Doth not silence couer and conceale many a want, and is it not both an easier and far surer way to maynetayne and nurrish the opinion of a mans excellency by noddinge and countenauncinge oute the matter ether with tunge or penne withoute thessame discoursing vagaries after a certayne solemne manner then by speakinge or writinge to purchisse creddit: Esspecially in Inglishe where Inglishe is contemnid, or in meeter where meeter goith a begginge? And canst thou tell me nowe, or doist thou at the last begin to imagin with thyselfe what a wonderfull and exceeding displeasure thou and thy Prynter have wroughte me, and howe peremptorily ye have preiudishd my good name for euer in thrustinge me thus on the stage to make tryall of my extemporall faculty, and to play Wylsons or Tarletons parte? I suppose thou wilt go nighe hande shortelye to sende my lorde Vawsis or my lord Ritches Players or sum other freshe starteupp comedanties vnto me for sum newe deuised interlude, or sum maltconceiuid comedye fitt for the Theater or sum other paintid stage, whereat thou and thy liuely copesmates in London maye lawghe ther mouthes and bellyes full for pence or twoepence apeece: by cause peraduenture thou imaginest Vnico Aretino and the pleasurable Cardinall Bibiena that way esspecially attraynid to be so singularly famous. And then perhappes not longe after vppon newe occasion (an God will) I must be M. Churchyards and M. Eldertons successours tooe, and finally cronycled for on of the most notorious ballat makers and Christmas carollers in the tyme of Her Maiestyes reigne. Extra iocum, In good troothe, and by the fayth of a most faythfull frende, I feare me exceedinglye thou haste alreddy hazardid that that will fall owte to your greatist …  1
  In the nexte seate to thes hexameters, adonickes, and iambicks I sett those that stand vppon the number, not in meter, sutch as my lorde of Surrey is sayde first to haue putt forthe in prynte, and my lorde Buckhurste and M. Norton in the Tragedye of Gorboduc, M. Gascoygnes Steele Glasse, an vncertayne autor in certayne cantions agaynst the wylde Irishe, and namelye Mack Morrice, an inuectiue agaynst Simmias Rhodius, a folishe idle phantasticall poett that first deuised this odd riminge with many other triflinge and childishe toyes to make verses, that shoulde in proportion represente the form and figure of an egg, an ape, a winge, and sutche ridiculous and madd gugawes and crockchettes, and of late foolishely reuiuid by sum, otherwise not vnlernid, as Pierius, Scaliger, Crispin, and the rest of that crue. Nothinge so absurde and fruteles but beinge once taken vpp shall haue sume imitatoures. The like veyne of those that hunte the letter; and I heard one Mr. Willes, a greate trauelour, very well lernid, and nowe of riper yeares and sownder iudgment, that hath vsid them himselfe, call them meere fooleryes, vices taken vpp for virtues, apish deuices, friuolous boyishe grammer schole trickes.  2
  And heare will I take occasion to shewe you a peece of a letter that I lately receyuid from the Courte written by a frende of mine, that, since a certayn chaunce befallen vnto him, a secrett not to be reuealid, calleth himself Immerito.  3
  ‘The twoe worthy gentlemen, Mr. Sidney and Mr. Dyer, haue me, I thanke them, in sum vse of familiaritye; of whome and to whome what speache passith for your creddite and estimation, I leaue yourselfe to conceyue, hauinge allwayes so well conceyuid of my vnfainid affection and good will towardes yow. And nowe they haue proclaymid in there [areio pago].’  4

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