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matter, being the miraculous history of the life of that saint, which continued four hours, and was concluded with many religious songs.b
Many curious circumstances of the nature of these miracle-plays, appear in a roll of the churchwardens of Bassingborne in Cambridgeshire, which is an accompt of the expenses and receptions for acting the play of SAINT GEORGE at Bassingborne, on the feast of saint Margaret in the year 1511. They collected upwards of four pounds in twenty-seven neighbouring parishes for furnishing the play. They disbursed about two pounds in the representation. These disbursements are to four minstrels, or waits, of Cambridge for three days, vs. vjd. To the players, in bread, and ale, iijs. ijd. To the garnementman for garnements, and propyrts, that is, for dresses, decorations, and implements, and for play-books, xxs. To John Hobard brotherhoode preeste, that is, a priest of the guild in the church, for the playbook, ijs. viijd. For the crofte, or field in which the play was exhibited js. For propyrte-making, or furniture, js. ivd. "For fish and bread, and to setting up the stages, ivd." For painting three fanchoms and four tormentors, words which I do not understand, but perhaps phantoms and devils... The rest was expended for a feast on the occasion, in which are recited, "Four chicken for the gentilmen, ivd." It appears from the manuscript of the Coventry plays, that a temporary scaffold only was erected for these performances. And Chaucer says, of Absolon, a parish-clerk, and an actor of king Herod's character in these dramas, in the MILLER'S TALE,
And for to shew his lightnesse and maistry
Strype, ibid. p. 379. With the religious pageantries, other ancient sports and spectacles also, which had fallen into disuse in the reign of Edward the Sixth, began to be now revived. As thus, "On the 30th of May was a goodly May-game in Fenchurch-street, with drums, and guns, and pikes, with the NINEWORTHIES who rid. And each made his speech. There was also the Morice-dance, and an elephant and castle, and the Lord and Lady of the May appeared to make up this show." Strype, ibid. 376. ch. xlix.
b Ludovicus Vives relates, that it was customary in Brabant to present annual plays in honour of the respective saints to which the churches were dedicated; and he betrays his great credulity in adding a wonderful story in consequence of this custom. Not. in Augustin. De Civit. Dei, lib. xii. cap. 25. C.
The property-room is yet known at our theatres.
d Mill. T. v. 275. Urr. Mr. Steevens and Mr. Malone have shown, that the accommodations in our early regular theatres were but little better. That the
old scenery was very simple, may partly be collected from an entry in a Computus of Winchester-college, under the year 1579. viz. Comp. Burs. Coll. Winton. A. D. 1573. Eliz. xv°.-" CUSTOS AULÆ. Item, pro diversis expensis circa Scaffoldam erigendam et deponendam, et pro Domunculis de novo compositis cum carriagio et recarriagio ly joystes, et aliorum mutuatorum ad eandem Scaffoldam, cum vj linckes et jo [uno] duodeno candelarum, pro lumine expensis, tribus noctibus in Ludis comediarum et tragediarum, xxv s. viijd." Again, in the next quarter, " Pro vij ly linckes deliberatis pueris per M. Informatorem [the school-master] pro Ludis, iijs." Again, in the last quarter, "Pro removendis Organis e templo in Aulam et præparandis eisdem erga Ludos, vs." By DOMUNCULIS I understand little cells of board, raised on each side of the stage, for dressing-rooms, or retiring places. Strype, under the year 1559, says, that after a grand feast at Guildhall, "the same day was a scaffold set up in the hall for a play." Ann. Ref. i. 197. edit. 1725.
Scenical decorations and machinery* which employed the genius and invention of Inigo Jones, in the reigns of the first James and Charles, seem to have migrated from the masques at court to the public theatre. In the instrument here cited, the priest who wrote the play, and received only two shillings and eight pence for his labour, seems to have been worse paid in proportion than any of the other persons concerned. The learned Oporinus, in 1547, published in two volumes a collection of religious interludes, which abounded in Germany. They are in Latin, and not taken from Legends, but the Bible.
The puritans were highly offended at these religious plays now revived. But they were hardly less averse to the theatrical representation of the christian than of the gentile story; yet for different reasons. To hate a theatre was a part of their creed, and therefore plays were an improper vehicle of religion. The heathen fables they judged to be dangerous, as too nearly resembling the superstitions of poperyt.
[Dr. Ashby suggests that some distinction should perhaps be made between scenery and machinery and it may probably be ceded that scenic decoration was first introduced.-PARK.]
A very late scripture-play is "A newe merry and witte comedie or enterlude, newlie imprinted treating the history of Jacob and Esau," &c. for H. Bynneman, 1568. 4to. bl. lett. But this play had appeared in queen Mary's reign, "An enterlude vpon the history of Jacobe and Esawe," &c. Licensed to Henry Sutton, in 1557. Registr. Station. A. fol. 23 a. It is certain, however, that the fashion of religious interludes was not entirely discontinued in the reign of queen Elizabeth; for I find licensed to T. Hackett in 1561, "A newe enterlude of the ij synnes of kynge Dauyde." Ibid. fol. 75 a. And to Pickeringe in 1560-1, the play of queen Esther. Ibid. fol. 62 b. Again, there is licensed to T. Colwell, in 1565, "A playe of the story of kyng Darius from Esdras." Ibid. fol. 133 b. Also, "A pleasaunte recytall worthy of the readinge contaynyge the effecte of iij worthye squyres of Daryus the kinge of Persia," licensed to Griffiths in 1565. Ibid. fol. 132 b. Often reprinted. And in 1566, John Charlewood is licensed to print "An enterlude of the repentance of Mary Magdalen." Ibid. fol. 152 a. Of this piece I have cited an ancient manuscript. Also, not to multiply instances, Colwell in 1568 is licensed to print "The playe of Susanna." Ibid. fol. 176 a. Ballads on scripture subjects are now innu
merable. Peele's David and Bathsheba is a remain of the fashion of scripture. plays. I have mentioned the play of Holofernes acted at Hatfield in 1556. Life of Sir Thomas Pope, p. 87. In 1556, was printed "A ballet intituled the historye of Judith and Holyfernes." Registr. ut supr. fol. 154 b. And Registr. B. fol. 227. In Hearne's Manuscript Collectanea there is a licence dated 1571, from the queen, directed to the officers of Middlesex, permitting one John Swinton Powlter," to have and use some playes and games at or uppon nine severall sondaies," within the said county. And because greate resorte of people is lyke to come thereunto, he is required, for the preservation of the peace, and for the sake of good order, to take with him four or five discreet and substantial men of those places where the games shall be put in practice, to superintend duringe the contynuance of the games or playes. Some of the exhibitions are then specified, such as Shotinge with the brode arrowe, The lepping for men, The pitchynge of the barre, and the like. But then follows this very general clause, " With all suche other games, as haue at anye time heretofore or now be lycensed, used, or played." Coll. MSS. Hearne, tom. Ixi. p. 78. One wishes to know, whether any interludes, and whether religious or profane, were included in this instrument.
+[Opposite sects, as Romanists and protestants, often adopt each other's arguments. See Bayle's Dict.-ASHBY.]
English Language begins to be cultivated. Earliest book of Criticism in English. Examined. Soon followed by others. Early critical systems of the French and Italians. New and superb editions of Gower and Lydgate. Chaucer's monument erected in Westminster Abbey. Chaucer esteemed by the Reformers.
Ir appears, however, that the cultivation of an English style began to be now regarded. At the general restoration of knowledge and taste, it was a great impediment to the progress of our language, that all the learned and ingenious, aiming at the character of erudition, wrote in Latin. English books were written only by the superficial and illiterate, at a time when judgement and genius should have been exerted in the nice and critical task of polishing a rude speech. Long Long after the invention of typography, our vernacular style, instead of being strengthened and refined by numerous compositions, was only corrupted with new barbarisms and affectations, for want of able and judicious writers in English. Unless we except sir Thomas More, whose DIALOGUE ON TRIBULATION, and HISTORY OF RICHARD THE THIRD were esteemed standards of style so low as the reign of James the First, Roger Ascham was perhaps the first of our scholars who ventured to break the shackles of Latinity, by publishing his TOXOPHILUS in English; chiefly with a view of giving a pure and correct model of English composition, or rather of showing how a subject might be treated with grace and propriety in English as well as in Latin. His own vindication of his conduct in attempting this great innovation is too sensible to be omitted, and reflects light on the revolutions of our poetry. "As for the Lattine or Greeke tongue, euerye thinge is so excellentlye done in Them, that none can do better. In the Englishe tongue contrary, euery thing in a maner so meanlye, both for the matter and handelinge, that no man can do worse. For therein the learned for the most part haue bene alwayes most redye to write. And they which had least hope in Lattine haue bene most bould in Englishe : when surelye euerye man that is most ready to talke, is not most able to write. He that will write well in any tongue, must folow this counsell of Aristotle; to speake as the common people do, to thinke as wise men do. And so shoulde euerye man vnderstand him, and the iudgement of wise men allowe him. Manye Englishe writers haue not done so; but vsinge straunge wordes, as Lattine, French, and Italian, do make all thinges darke and harde. Ones I communed with a man, which reasoned the Englishe tongue to be enriched and encreased thereby, sayinge, Who will not prayse that feast where a man shall drincke at a dinner both wyne, ale, and beere? Truly, quoth I, they be al good,
euery one taken by himselfe alone; but if you put Malmesye and sacke, redde wyne and white, ale and beere, and al in one pot, you shall make a drinke neither easye to be knowen, nor yet holsome for the bodye. Cicero in folowing Isocrates, Plato, and Demosthenes, encreased the Lattine tongue after another sort. This way, because diuers men that write do not know, they can neyther folow it because of their ignoraunce, nor yet will prayse it for uery arrogancy: two faultes seldome the one out of the others companye. Englishe writers by diuersitie of tyme haue taken diuers matters in hand. In our fathers time nothing was red but bookes of fayned cheualrie, wherein a man by readinge should be led to none other ende but only to manslaughter and baudrye. If anye man suppose they were good enough to passe the time withall, he is deceiued. For surely vaine wordes do worke no smal thinge in vaine, ignorant, and yong mindes, specially if they be geuen any thing thervnto of their owne nature. These bookes, as I haue heard say, were made the most part in abbayes and monasteries, a very likely and fit fruite of such an ydle and blind kind of liuinga. In our time now, when euery man is geuen to know much rather than liue wel, very many do write, but after such a fashion as very many do shoote. Some shooters take in hande stronger bowes than they be able to maintaine. This thinge maketh them sometime to ouershoote the marke, sometyme to shoote far wyde and perchance hurt some that loke on. Other, that neuer learned to shoote, nor yet knoweth good shaft nor bowe, will be as busie as the best b."
Ascham's example was followed by other learned men. But the chief was Thomas Wilson, who published a system of LOGIC and RHEToric, both in English. Of his LOGIC I have already spoken. I have at present only to speak of the latter, which is not only written in English, but with a view of giving rules for composing in the English language. It appeared in 1553, the first year of queen Mary, and is entitled, The ARTE OF RHETORIKE* for the vse of all suche as are studious of Eloquence, sette forthe in Englishe by THOMAS WILSON. Leonarde Cox,
He says in his Schoolemaster, written soon after the year 1563, "There be more of these vngracious bookes set out in print within these few monethes, than have bene seene in England many score years before." B.i. fol. 26 a. edit. 1589. 4to. [These ungracious books could not be recent productions of monasteries, says Dr. Ashby, and quere as to the fact?-PARK.]
b To all the Gentlemen and Yomen of England. Prefixed to Toxophilus, The Schole or partition of shooting, Lond. 1545. 4to.
* [Puttenham tells us that "Master secretary Wilson, giving an English name to his Arte of Logicke, called it Witcraft." Qu. whether this term was not the conceit of Ralphe Lever, who in 1573 published "The Arte of Reason, rightly term
ed Witcraft, teaching a perfect way to argue and dispute." This quaint author was fond of new-devised terms, whence he uses Speachcraft for rhetoric, and forespeach for preface. Dudley Fenner, who has before been mentioned as a puritan preacher (supr. p. 262. note ".), printed at Middleburg in 1584, "The Artes of Logike and Rethorike, plainly set forth in the English tongue; together with examples for the practise of the same," &c. These examples and their illustrations are constantly drawn from Scripture.-PARK.]
Lond. 1553. 4to. Dedicated to John Dudley, earl of Warwick. In the Dedication he says, that he wrote great part of this treatise during the last summer vacation in the country, at the house of sir
a schoolmaster, patronised by Farringdon the last abbot of Reading, had published in 1530, as I have observed, an English tract on rhetoric, which is nothing more than a technical and elementary manual. Wilson's treatise is more liberal, and discursive; illustrating the arts of eloquence by example, and examining and ascertaining the beauties of composition with the speculative skill and sagacity of a critic. It may therefore be justly considered as the first book or system of criticism in our language. A few extracts from so curious a performance need no apology; which will also serve to throw light on the present period, and indeed on our general subject, by displaying the state of critical knowledge, and the ideas of writing, which now prevailed.
I must premise, that Wilson, one of the most accomplished scholars of his time, was originally a fellow of King's College, where he was tutor to the two celebrated youths Henry and Charles Brandon dukes of Suffolk. Being a doctor of laws, he was afterwards one of the ordinary masters of requests, master of saint Katharine's hospital near the Tower, a frequent ambassador from queen Elizabeth to Mary queen of Scots, and into the Low Countries*, a secretary of state and a privy counsellor, and at length, in 1579, dean of Durham. He died in 1581. His remarkable diligence and dispatch in negotiation is said to have resulted from an uncommon strength of memory. It is another proof of his attention to the advancement of our English style, that he translated seven orations of Demosthenes, which, in 1570, he dedicated to sir William Cecile.
Under that chapter of his third book of RHETORIC which treats of the four parts belonging to elocution, Plainnesse, Aptnesse, Compo
Edward Dimmoke; and that it originated from a late conversation with his lordship, "emonge other talke of learnyng." It was reprinted by Jhon Kingston in 1560. Lond. 4to. With "A Prologue to the Reader," dated Dec. 7, 1560. Again, 1567, 1580, and 1585. 4to. In the Prologue, he mentions his escape at Rome, which I have above related; and adds, "If others neuer gette more by bookes than I have doen, it wer better be a carter than a scholar, for worldlie profite."
d Admitted scholar in 1541. A native of Lincolnshire. MS. Hatcher.
* [From a Prologue to the reader before the second edition of his Rhetoric in 1560, we learn that he was in Italy and at Rome in 1558, where he was" coumpted an heretike," for having written his two books on Logic and Rhetoric, where he underwent imprisonment, was convened before the college of Cardinals, and narrowly escaped with life to England, "his deare countrie, out of greate thraldome and forrein bondage."-PARK.]
e Which had been also translated into VOL. III.