« PreviousContinue »
It should be observed, that few of these had now learned to read. But such was the privilege of peerage, that ladies of quality might read "to themselves and alone, and not to others," any chapter either in the Old or New Testament. This has the air of a sumptuary law, which indulges the nobility with many superb articles of finery, that are interdicted to those of inferior degrees. Undoubtedly the duchesses and countesses of this age, if not from principles of piety, at least from motives of curiosity, became eager to read a book which was made inaccessible to three parts of the nation. But the partial distribution of a treasure to which all had a right could not long remain. This was a MANNA to be gathered by every man. The claim of the people was too powerful to be overruled by the bigotry, the prejudice, or the caprice of Henry.
I must add here, in reference to my general subject, that the translation of the Bible, which in the reign of Edward the Sixth was admitted into the churches, is supposed to have fixed our language. It certainly has transmitted and perpetuated many antient words which would otherwise have been obsolete or unintelligible. I have never seen it remarked, that at the same time this translation contributed to enrich our native English at an early period, by importing and familiarising many Latin words h
f Ibid. Artic. x. seq.
And of an old DIETARIE FOR THE CLERGY, I think by archbishop Cranmer, in which an archbishop is allowed to have two swans or two capons in a dish, a bishop two. An archbishop six blackbirds at once, a bishop five, a dean four, an archdeacon two. If a dean has four dishes in his first course, he is not afterwards to have custards or fritters. An archbishop may have six snipes, an archdeacon only two. Rabbits, larks, pheasants, and partridges, are allowed in these proportions. A canon residentiary is to have a swan only on a Sunday. A rector of sixteen marks, only three blackbirds in a week. See a similar instrument, Strype's PARKER, APPEND. p. 65.
In the British Museum, there is a
beautiful manuscript on vellum of a French translation of the Bible, which was found in the tent of king John, king of France, after the battle of Poictiers. Perhaps his majesty possessed this book on the plan of an exclusive royal right. [As perhaps there were few such copies in that great kingdom, and very little spirit of reading in the laity.—ASHBY.]
h More particularly in the Latin derivative substantives, such as, divination, perdition, adoption, manifestation, consolation, contribution, administration, consummation, reconciliation, operation, communication, retribution, preparation, immortality, principality, &c. &c. And in other words, frustrate, inexcusable, transfigure, concupiscence, &c. &c.
These were suggested by the Latin vulgate, which was used as a medium by the translators. Some of these, however, now interwoven into our common speech, could not have been understood by many readers even above the rank of the vulgar, when the Bible first appeared in English. Bishop Gardiner had therefore much less reason than we now imagine, for complaining of the too great clearness of the translation, when with an insidious view of keeping the people in their antient ignorance, he proposed, that instead of always using English phrases, many Latin words should still be preserved, because they contained an inherent significance and a genuine dignity, to which the common tongue afforded no correspondent expressions of sufficient energy1.
To the reign of Edward the Sixth belongs Arthur Kelton, a native of Shropshire or Wales. He wrote the CRONICLE OF THE BRUTES in English verse. It is dedicated to the young king, who seems to have been the general patron; and was printed in 1547. Wood allows that he was an able antiquary; but laments, that he "being withall poetically given, must for
i Such as, Idololatria, contritus, holocausta, sacramentum, elementa, humilitas, satisfactio, ceremonia, absolutio, mysterium, penitentia, &c. See Gardiner's proposals in Burnet, HIST. REF. vol. i. B. iii. p. 315. And Fuller, CH. HIST. B. v. Cent. xvi. p. 238.
Lond. Octavo. [16mo.] Pr. "In the golden time when all things.'
[Herbert, who possessed a copy of the book, has thus imparted the title: "A Chronycle with a genealogie declaryng that the Brittons and Welshmen are lineallye dyscended from Brute. Newley and very wittely compyled in metre. Imp. by Richard Grafton. It appears to have been written (he adds) in the time of king Henry VIII., but he dying before it was printed, the author then dedicated it to king Edward VI." Typ. Ant. i. 523. Richard Harvey, the brother of Gabriel, published a prose tract in 1593, entitled "Philadelphus, or a defence of Brutes and the Brutans history," but of Arthur Kelton's work no notice is taken. It opens with a per
sonal invective against Buchanan for his rejection of the Brute tradition, proceeds with an affected division of his subject into three portions, which he terms Anthropology, Chronology and Topography, and concludes with three sarcastic " supposes of a student concerning Historie. The tract is pompous, pedantic and silly. Warner in his Albion's England, 1586, traces the genealogy of Brute (the conqueror of this island, which from him "had Brutaine unto name") through all the wild fictions of mythology and allegory up to antediluvian origin, making him at once the grandson of Æneas, and calculating his descent to be thrice five degrees from Noah, and four times six from Adam. Warner's Chronicle is in metre, except an addition to his second book, which contains a breviate of the history, of Æneas to the birth of his grandson Brutus. I do not observe, however, that any reference is made by him to Arthur Kelton.-Park.]
sooth write and publish his lucubrations in verse; whereby, for rhime's sake, many material matters, and the due timing of them, are omitted, and so consequently rejected by historians and antiquarians'." Yet he has not supplied his want of genealogical and historical precision with those strokes of poetry which his subject suggested; nor has his imagination been any impediment to his accuracy. At the end of his CRONICLE is the GENEALOGY OF THE BRUTES, in which the pedigree of king Edward the Sixth is lineally drawn through thirty-two generations, from Osiris the first king of Egypt. Here too Wood reproaches our author for his ignorance in genealogy. But in an heraldic enquiry, so difficult and so new, many mistakes are pardonable. It is extraordinary that a Welshman should have carried his genealogical researches into Egypt, or rather should have wished to prove that Edward was descended from Osiris: but this was with a design to shew, that the Egyptian monarch was the original progenitor of Brutus, the undoubted founder of Edward's family. Bale says that he wrote, and dedicated to sir William Herbert, afterwards earl of Pembroke, a most elegant poetical panegyric on the CambroBritons. But Bale's praises and censures are always regulated according to the religion of his authors.
The first CHANSON à BOIRE, or DRINKING-BALLAD, of any merit, in our language, appeared in the year 1551*. It has a vein of ease and humour, which we should not expect to have been inspired by the simple beverage of those times. I believe I shall not tire my reader by giving it at length; and am only afraid that in this specimen the transition will be thought too violent, from the poetry of the puritans to a convivial and ungodlie ballad.
Though I go bare, take ye no care,
I stuffe my skin so full within,
Backe and side go bare, go bare,
Booth foot and hand go colde;
But, belly, God send thee good ale inoughe,
I love no rost, but a nut-browne toste,
A little bread shall do me stead,
Moche bread I noght desire.
No frost no snow, no winde, I trowe,
I am so wrapt, and throwly lapt
Backe and side, &c.
And TIB my wife, that as her life
Loveth well good ale to seeke, Full oft drinkes shee, till ye may see
The teares run downe her cheeke.
Then doth she trowle to me the bowle
And, saith, "Sweet heart, I tooke my part
Backe and side, &c.
Now let them drinke, till they nod and winke,
Even as good fellows should do:
They shall not misse to have the blisse
Good ale doth bringe men to.
And al goode sowles that have scoured bowles, Or have them lustely trolde,
God save the lives, of them and their wives,
Whether they be yong or olde!
Backe and side, &c.
"having drank she says.
This song opens the second act of GAMMER GURTON'S NEEDLE, a comedy, written and printed in 1551o, and soon afterwards acted at Christ's College in Cambridge. In the title of the old edition it is said to have been written "by Mr. S.* master of artes," who probably was a member of that society. This is held to be the first comedy in our language: that is, the first play which was neither Mystery nor Morality, and which handled a comic story with some disposition of plot, and some discrimination of character. The writer has a degree of jocularity which sometimes rises above buffoonery, but is often disgraced by lowness of incident+. Yet in a more polished age he would have chosen, nor would he perhaps have disgraced, a better subject. It has been thought surprising that a learned audience could have endured some of these indelicate But the established festivities of scholars were gross, and agreeable to their general habits: nor was learning in that age always accompanied by gentleness of manners. When the sermons of Hugh Latimer were in vogue at court, the university might be justified in applauding GAMMER GURTON'S
On the authority of MSS. Oldys. A valuable black-letter copy, in the possession of Mr. Steevens, is the oldest I have seen. [The play was acted before it was printed, and it was not printed till 1575.-RITSON.]
*[i. e. STILL, afterwards bishop of Bath and Wells: from an original head of whom at Cambridge, Mr. Steevens had a plate engraved, which, after a few impressions were taken off, he destroyed. -PARK.]
See supr. vol. iii. p. 205.
[Perhaps, as they were in general graver at Cambridge than at the inns of court, when they did unbend, they were more apt to exceed.-ASHBY.]
[And yet, as Mr. Ashby suggests, if Wilson, who wrote the judicious treatise on Rhetoric in 1553, and himself a dean, could pronounce Hugh Latimer, "the father of all preachers" (vid. infra, Sect. lv.) why might not the court approve?-PARK.]