« PreviousContinue »
sicion, Exornacion, Wilson has these observations on simplicity of style, which are immediately directed to those who write in the English tongue. "Among other lessons this should first be learned, that we neuer affect any straunge ynkehorne termes, but to speake as is commonly receiued: neither seking to be ouer fine, nor yet liuing ouer carelesse, vsing our speache as moste men do, and ordering our wittes as the fewest haue doen. Some seke so farre for outlandishe Englishe, that they forget altogether their mothers language. And I dare sweare this, if some of their mothers were aliue, thei were not able to tel what thei saie and yet these fine Englishe clerkes wil saie thei speake in their mother tongue, if a man should charge them for counterfeityng the kinges Englishe. Some farre iournied gentlemen at their returne home, like as thei loue to go in forrein apparel, so thei will pouder their talke with ouersea language. He that cometh lately out of Fraunce will talke Frenche Englishe, and neuer blushe at the matter. Another choppes in with Englishe Italianated, and applieth the Italian phraise to our Englishe speakyng: the whiche is, as if an Oratour that professeth to vtter his mynde in plaine Latine, would needes speake Poetrie, and farre fetched colours of straunge antiquitie. The lawier will store his stomacke with the prating of pedlers. The auditour, in makyng his accompt and reckenyng, cometh in with sise sould, and cater denere*, for vjs. and iiijd. The fine courtier will talke nothyng but CHAUCER. The misticall wisemen, and poeticall clerkes, will speake nothyng but quainte prouerbes, and blinde allegories; delightyng muche in their owne darknesse, especially when none can tel what thei do saie. The vnlearned or folishe phantasticall, that smelles but of learnyng (svche fellowes as haue seene learned men in their daies) will so Latine their tongues, that the simple cannot but wonder at their talke, and thinke surely thei speake by some reuelacion. I know Them, that thinke RHETORIKE to stand wholie vpon darke wordes; and he that can catche an ynkehorne terme by the taile, hym thei compt to be a fine Englishman and a good rhetorician. And the rather to set out
[i.e. accounts kept in French or Latin, size sous and quatre deniers.-ASHBY.]
[And yet Puttenham, a little afterwards, in the passage quoted by Mr. Warton (Note f), alleges that the language of Chaucer was then out of use, which made it unadvisable for poets to follow it. Spenser however thought otherwise, and Webbe seems to have applauded his practice.PARK.]
Puttenham, in The Arte of English Poesie, where he treats of style and language, brings some illustrations from the practice of oratory in the reign of queen Mary, in whose court he lived: and although his book is dated 1589, it was manifestly written much earlier. He refers to sir Nicholas Bacon, who began to
be high in the departments of the law in queen Mary's time, and died in 1579. Having told a story from his own knowledge in the year 1553, of a ridiculous oration made in parliament by a new speaker of the house, who came from Yorkshire, and had more knowledge in the affairs of his country, and of the law, than gracefulness or delicacy of language, he proceeds, "And though graue and wise counsellours in their consultations do not vse much superfluous eloquence, and also in their iudiciall hearings do much mislike all scholasticall rhetoricks; yet in such a case as it may be (and as this parliament was) if the lord chancelour of England or archbishop of Canterbury himselfe were to speke, he ought to do it cunningly and elo
this folie, I will adde here svche a letter as William Sommer himself could not make a better for that purpose,-deuised by a Lincolneshire man for a voide benefice." This point he illustrates with other familiar and pleasant instances1.
In enforcing the application and explaining the nature of fables, for
quently, which cannot be without the vse of figures and neuerthelesse, none impeachment or blemish to the grauitie of their persons or of the cause: wherein I report me to them that knew sir Nicholas Bacon lord keeper of the great seale, or the now lord treasurer of England, and haue bene conuersant with their speeches made in the parliament house and starre chamber. From whose lippes I haue seene to proceede more graue and naturall eloquence, than from all the oratours of Oxford and Cambridge.—I have come to the lord keeper sir Nicholas Bacon, and found him sitting in his gallery alone, with the workes of Quintilian before him. In deede he was a most eloquent man and of rare learning and wisdome as euer I knew England to breed, and one that ioyed as much in learned men and men of good witts." Lib. iii. ch. ii. pag. 116 seq. What follows soon afterwards is equally apposite: "This part in our maker or poet must be heedyly looked vnto, that it [his language] be naturall, pure, and the most vsuall of all his countray: and for the same purpose, rather that which is spoken in the kinges court, or in the good townes and cities within the land, than in the marches and frontiers, or in port townes where straungers haunt for traffike sake, or yet in vniuersities where schollars vse much peevish affectation of words out of the primitiue languages; or finally, in any vplandish village or corner of the realme, &c. But he shall follow generally the better brovght vp sort, such as the Greekes call charientes, men ciuill and graciously behauored and bred. Our maker therefore at these dayes shall not follow Piers Plowman, nor Gower, nor Lydgate, nor yet Chaucer, for their language is now out of vse with vs: neither shall he take the termes of northerne men, suche as they vse in daily talke, whether they be noblemen or gentlemen, or of their best clarkes, all is a matter, &c. Ye shall therefore take the vsuall speach of the court, and that of London, and the shires lying abovt London within lx myles, and not mvch aboue. I say not this, but that in euery shyre of England there be gentlemen and others that speke, but specially write, as good Sovtherne as we of Middlesex or Surrey do, bvt not the common people of euery shire, to whom the gentlemen, and also their learned clarkes, do
for the most part condescend: but herein we are already ruled by the English Dictionaries, and other bookes written by learned men. Albeit peraduenture some small admonition be not impertinent; for we finde in our English writers many wordes and speeches amendable, and ye shall see in some many ink-horne termes so ill-affected brought in by men of learning, as preachers and schoolemasters, and many straunge termes of other languages by secretaries and marchaunts and traueillours, and many darke wordes and not vsuall nor well sounding, though they be daily spoken at court." Ibid. ch. iii. fol. 120, 121.
King Henry's jester. In another place he gives us one of Sommer's jests. "William Sommer seying muche adoe for accomptes makyng, and that Henry the Eight wanted money, such as was due to him, And please your grace, quoth he, you haue so many Frauditours, so many Conueighers, and so many Deceiuers, to get vp your money, that thei get all to themselues." That is, Auditors, Surveyors, and Receivers. fol. 102 b. I have seen an old narrative of a progress of king Henry the Eighth and queen Katharine to Newbery in Berkshire, where Sommer, who had accompanied their majesties as courtbuffoon, fell into disgrace with the people for his impertinence, was detained, and obliged to submit to many ridiculous indignities; but extricated himself from all his difficulties by comic expedients and the readiness of his wit. On returning to court, he gave their majesties, who were inconsolable for his long absence, a minute account of these low adventures, with which they were infinitely entertained. What shall we think of the manners of such a court?
h Viz. " Ponderyng, expendyng, and reuolutyng with myself, your ingent affabilitie, and ingenious capacitie for mundane affaires, I cannot but celebrate and extoll your magnificall dexteritie above all other. For how could you have adapted suche illustrate prerogative, and dominicall superioritie, if the fecunditie of your ingenie had not been so fertile and wonderfull pregnaunt?" &c. It is to the lord chancellor. See what is said of A. Borde's style, at p. 73 of this volume.
i B. iii. fol. 82 b. edit. 1567
the purpose of amplification, he gives a general idea of the Iliad and Odyssey. "The saying of poetes, and al their fables, are not to be forgotten. For by them we maie talke at large, and win men by perswasion, if we declare before hand, that these tales wer not fained of suche wisemen without cause, neither yet continued vntill this time, and kept in memorie without good consideracion, and therevpon declare the true meanyng of all svche writynge. For vndoubtedly, there is no one Tale among all the poetes, but vnder the same is comprehended somethyng that perteyneth either to the amendement of maners, to the knowledge of truthe, to the settyng forth of natures worke, or els to the vnderstanding of some notable thing doen. For what other is the painful trauaile of Vlisses, described so largely by Homere, but a liuely picture of mans miserie in this life? And as Plutarche saith, and likewise Basilius Magnus, in the ILIADES are described strength and valiauntnesse of bodie; in ODISSEA, is set forthe a liuely paterne of the mynde. The Poetes were Wisemen, and wisshed in harte the redresse of thinges, the which when for feare thei durst not openly rebuke, they did in colours paint them out, and tolde men by shadowes what thei shold do in good sothe: or els, because the wicked were vnworthy to heare the trueth, thei spake so that none might vnderstande but those vnto whom thei please to vtter their meanyng, and knewe them to be men of honest conuersacion*."
Wilson thus recommends the force of circumstantial description, or, what he calls, An euident or plaine setting forthe of a thing as though it were presently doen. "An example. If our enemies shal inuade and by treason win the victory, we al shal die euery mothers sonne of vs, and our citee shal be destroied, sticke and stone: I se our children made slaues, our daughters rauished, our wiues carried away, the father forced to kill his owne sonne, the mother her daughter, the sonne his father, the sucking childe slain in his mothers bosom, one standyng to the knees in anothers blood, churches spoiled, houses plucte down, and al set on fire round about vs, euery one cvrsing the daie of their birth, children criyng, women wailing, &c. Thus, where I might haue said, We shal al be destroied, and say no more, I haue by description set the euill forthe at largek." It must be owned that this picture of a sacked city is literally translated from Quintilian; but it is a proof, that we were now beginning to make the beauties of the ancients our own.
On the necessity of a due preservation of character he has the following precepts, which seem to be directed to the writers of Historical Plays. "In describyng of persons, there ought alwaies a comelinesse to be vsed, so that nothing be spoken which may be thought is not in them. As if one shold describe Henry the Sixth, he might call hym jentle, milde of nature, ledde by perswacion, and ready to forgiue, carelesse for wealth, suspecting none, mercifull to al, fearful in aduersitie,
and without forecast to espie his misfortvne. Againe, for Richarde the Thirde, I might brynge him in cruell of harte, ambicious by nature. enuious of minde, a deepe dissembler, a close man for weightie matters, hardie to reuenge and fearefull to lose hys high estate, trustie to none, liberall for a purpose, castyng still the worste, and hoping euer the best'. By this figure also, we imagine a talke for some one to speake, and accordyng to his persone we frame the oration. As if one shoulde bryng in noble Henry the Eight of moste famous memory, to enuegh against rebelles, thus he might order his oration. What if Henry the Eight were alive, and sawe suche rebellion in the realme, would he not saie thus and thus? Yea, methinkes I heare hym speake euen nowe. sette forthe suche wordes as we would haue hym to say "." Shakspeare himself has not delineated the characters of these English monarchs with more truth. And the first writers of the MIRROUR FOR MAGISTRATES, who imagine a talke for some one to speake, and according to his person frame the oration, appear to have availed themselves of these directions, if not to have catched the notion of their whole plan from this remarkable passage.
He next shows the advantages of personification in enlivening a composition. "Some times it is good to make God, the Countray, or some one Towne, to speake; and looke what we would saie in our owne persone, to frame the whole tale to them. Such varietie doeth much good to auoide tediousnesse. For he that speaketh all in one sorte, though he speake thinges neuer so wittilie, shall sone weary his hearers. Figures therefore were inuented, to auoide satietie, and cause delite: to refresh with pleasure and quicken with grace the dulnesse of mans braine. Who will looke on a white wall an houre together where no workemanshippe is at all? Or who will eate still one kynde of meate and neuer desire chaunge"?"
Prolix narratives, whether jocose or serious, had not yet ceased to be the entertainment of polite companies; and rules for telling a tale with grace now found a place in a book of general rhetoric. In treat
1 Richard the Third seems to have been an universal character for exemplifying a cruel disposition. Our author, meaning to furnish a chamber with persons famous for the greatest crimes, says in another place, "In the bedstede I will set Richarde the Third kinge of Englande, or somelike notable murtherer." fol. 109 b. Shakspeare was not the first that exhibited this tyrant upon the stage. In 1586, a ballad was printed called a "tragick report of kinge Richarde the iii." Registr. Station. B. fol. 210 b.
Lively description. "Fol. 91 b.
Fol. 91 b. 92 a.
P Yet he has here also a reference to the utility of tales both at the Bar and in the Pulpit. For in another place, professedly
both speaking of Pleadings and Sermons, he says, "If tyme maie so serue, it were good when menne be wearied, to make them somewhat merie, and to begin with some pleasaunte tale, or take occasion to ieste wittelie," &c. fol. 55 b. Again," Men commonlie tarie the ende of a merie Plaie, and cannot abide the half hearyng of a sower checkyng Sermon. Therefore euen these aunciente preachers muste nowe and then plaie the fooles in the pulpite to serue the tickle eares of their fletyng audience." &c. fol. 2 a. I know not if he means Latimer here, whom he commends, "There is no better preacher among them al except Hugh Latimer the father of al preachers." fol. 63 a. And again, "I would thinke it not amisse to speake muche accordyng to the nature and phansie of the igno
ing of pleasaunt sporte made rehearsyng of a whole matter, he says, "Thei that can liuely tell pleasaunt tales and mery dedes doen, and set them out as wel with gesture as with voice, leauing nothing behinde that maie serue for beautifying of their matter, are most meete for this purpose, whereof assuredly ther are but fewe. And whatsoeuer he is, that can aptlie tell his tale, and with countenaunce, voice, and gesture, so temper his reporte, that the hearers may still take delite, hym coompte I a man worthie to be highlie estemed. For vndoubtedly no man can doe any such thing excepte that thei haue a greate mother witte, and by experience confirmed suche their comelinesse, whervnto by nature thei were most apte. Manie a man readeth histories, heareth fables, seeth worthie actes doen, euen in this our age; but few can set them out accordinglie, and tell them liuelie, as the matter selfe requireth to be tolde. The kyndes of delityng in this sort are diuers: whereof I will set forth many,-Sporte moued by tellyng of olde tales.—If there be any olde tale or straunge historie, well and wittelie applied to some man liuyng, all menne loue to heare it of life. As if one were called Arthure, some good felowe that were well acquainted with KYNG ARTHURES BOOKE and the Knightes of his Rounde Table, would want no matter to make good sport, and for a nede would dubbe him knight of the Rounde Table, or els proue hym to be one of his kynne, or else (which
rant, that the rather thei might be wonne through fables to learne more weightie and graue matters. For al men cannot brooke sage causes and auncient collations, but will like earnest matters the rather, if something be spoken there among agreeing to their natures. The multitude, as Horace doth saie, is a beast or rather a monster that hath many heddes, and there. fore, like vnto the diuersitie of natvres, varietie of inuention must alwaies be vsed. Talke altogether of most graue matters, or deppely searche out the ground of thynges, or vse the quiddities of Dunce [Duns Scotus] to set forth Gods misteries, you shal se the ignorant, I warrant you, either fall aslepe, or els bid you farewell. The multitude must nedes be made merry; and the more foolish your talke is, the more wise will the counte it to be. And yet it is no foolishnes but rather wisdome to win men, by telling of fables to heare Gods goodnes." fol. 101 a. See also fol. 52 a. 69 a. Much to the same purpose he says, "Euen in this our tyme, some offende muche in tediousnesse, whose parte it were to comfort all men with cherefulnesse. Yea, the preachers of God mind so muche edifiyng of soules, that thei often forgette we have any bodies. And therefore, some doe not so muche good with tellyng the truthe, as thei doe harme with dullyng the hearers; beyng so farre gone in their matters, that oftentimes thei can
not tell when to make an ende." fol. 70 a.