Page images
PDF
EPUB

Golden Legacie, has been immortalised by Shakspere's adaptation in As you Like It.

Euphuism in fashionable circles gave way to Arcadianism, and that, in its turn, was displaced by the French of the Court of Charles I and his consort.

The Euphuism of Shakspere's Plays.

When young William Shakspere came up to London in 1586 or 1587 to seek his fortune, he found Euphuism in the full tide of fashion. From his study of Lyly's then extant works he extracted both golden ideas and drossy phrases. In the jargon of Osric, the page in Hamlet, in Henry IV, in Richard II, in Twelfth Night, we have Euphuistic "wit" and repartee, often in caricature, sometimes in sincere imitation. But there is one play, the early comedy of Love's Labour Lost, which was expressly composed to throw into high relief the absurd affectations of those who out-euphuized Lyly. In Don Adriano de Armado, "a man of fire, new words, fashion's own knight," we see what the lisping, mincing courtier may have descended to in the art of euphuizing our spoken English. In Holofornes again, supposed to be a personal caricature of a Don Florio of London, dull pedantry finds its incarnation and consummation. When the two characters are brought together, accompanied by their adoring friend Sir Nathaniel, and smartly criticised by the pert and witty page Moth, the effect is exquisitely humorous. There is not a better sustained comedy in all the Plays.

Ben Jonson satirised euphuism in his Cynthia's Revels, but gave Lyly an honourable place in his prefatory verses written for the 1623 folio edition of Shakspere. Michael Drayton was particularly severe upon Lyly, thanking Sidney for putting him out of fashion. On the other side, William Webbe and Edward Blount, who edited and pub

L

lished Lyly's Plays in 1632, gave him almost inordinate laudation. Certain it is that Euphues was in demand until 1636, when its tenth edition was issued. Lyly was a homo unius libri, and that book was not only good in its aim, and very successful in its day, but may even now, after three hundred years, be read with interest and enjoyment by one who, like myself, venerates the past, and wishes to trace out the origin of literary forms.

The length of the sentences and the monotony of the cadences of Euphues render it unsuitable for reading aloud-one of my favourite tests of a really worthy book. But nevertheless it is a book of solid merit. It is no small credit to a young college graduate, dependent mainly upon his pen for his living, to have written a book which in those restless days, when travelled Englishmen and resident foreigners were importing new vices and effeminate fashions into Britain, extolled the virtues of simple homelife; a book which inculcated true patriotism, while unsparingly lashing the faults, follies, and foibles of the author's fellow-citizens; lastly, a book which, in that age of coarse conversation and indecorous jests, the word "jesting" connotes this both in Euphues and in the Bible, was pure and refined in every line, and is as suitable for ladies' perusal now as it was then. "For this I have diligently observed," says the author, "that there shall be nothing found that may offend the chaste minde, with unseemely tearmes, or uncleanly talke!" We must except from this praise his Pappe with the Hatchet, which is decidedly coarse, for reasons given by himself. Still, good old John Lyly deserves our respect; and he is in dead earnest when, at the end of his Glasse for Europe, he exhorts the ladies of England thus: "Learne, Ladies, though late, yet at length, that the chiefest title of honour in earth is to give all honour to Him that is in Heaven;

that the greatest braverie in this worlde is to be burning lampes in the worlde to come; that the clearest beautie in this life is to be aimiable to Him that shall give life eternall."

I had much more prepared on the subject of my Paper, but the limitations of this volume exclude the remaining topics.

THE INFLUENCES OF EUPHUISM ON ENGLISH LITERATURE.

As regards the influence of Euphuism on English literature in general, I am of opinion, with Masson, that reminiscences of its best features have given a certain. euphony to all subsequent prose, and that they have endued it with both ornament and precision of expression. Writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, who never even heard of John Lyly, have inherited certain beneficial effects of his style. In the stately and balanced sentences of Dr. Johnson, the literary dictator of his age, as well as in the writings of Addison and Steele, one can trace the influence of Euphues. In our own Victorian era, this old, forgotten book has had its share in suggesting the brilliant antitheses of Macaulay, Motley, and Froude, the three most fascinating historians of the nineteenth century.

153

ROBERT BROWNING AND HIS WORK.
BY REV. EDWARD N. HOARE, M.A.

(This Paper has been condensed, and many illustrative quotations are omitted.)

ROBERT BROWNING was born in Camberwell, in May, 1812. His father, an employée of the Bank of England, was a man of great ability and of varied knowledge. He had a rare facility for rhyming; and by means of doggerel verses he taught many things to his son, including, we are told, the Latin declensions. He had accumulated a large library, amid the treasures of which the boy early learned to browse. It was characteristic of the poet that was to be that Quarles' Emblems, with its quaint illustrations, was one of the volumes that most fascinated his youthful imagination.

That imagination soon asserted itself, and at the age of twelve Master Robert had compiled a volume of verse which he modestly entitled Incondita. It was never

printed, and in later years the author destroyed it, as he did every other early production that he could lay his hands on. Apparently, however, he might have said of himself, as Pope did

As yet a child and all unknown to fame,

I lisped in numbers for the numbers came.

Browning was educated locally, and subsequently attended lectures for a term or two at University College. For the rest, his father taught him and he taught himself. Presumably he had no fault to find with this method, for he adopted the like system with his own son in after

« PreviousContinue »