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pear from his title, which from its archness alone deserves to be inserted. “ The GOLDEN BOOKE OF THE LEADEN GODDES, “ wherein is described the vayne imaginations of the heathen
pagans, and counterfeit christians. With a description of their • severall tables, what each of their pictures signified'.” The writer, however, doctor Stephen Batman, had been domestic chaplain to archbishop Parker, and is better known by his general chronicle of prodigies called Batman's Doom'. He was also the last translator of the Gothic Pliny, BARTHOLOMEUS DE PROPRIETATIBUS RERUM, and collected more than a thousand manuscripts for archbishop Parker's library.
This enquiry might be much farther enlarged and extended, But let it be sufficient to observe here in general, that the best stories of the early and original. Italian novelists, either by immediate translation, or through the mediation of Spanish, French, or Latin versions, by paraphrase, abridgement, imitation, and often under the disguise of licentious innovations of names, in, cidents, and characters, appeared in an English dress, before the close of the reign of Elisabeth, and for the most part, even before the publication of the first volume of Belleforrest's grand repository of tragical narratives, a compilation from the Italian writers, in 1583. But the Cent HISTOIRES TRAGIQUES of Belleforrest himself, appear to have been translated' soon afterwards". In the meantime, it must be remembered, that many translations of Tales from the modern languages were licenced to be printed, but afterwards suppressed by the interest of the puritans. It appears from the register of the Stationers, that among others, in the year 1619, “ The Decameron of “ Mr. John Boccace Florentine,” was revoked by a sudden inhibition of Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury". But not only the clamours of the Calvinists, but caprice and ignorance, perhaps partiality, seem to have had some share in this business of. • In quarto, for Thomas Marshe, 1577.
t Lond. 1581. 4to. It contains only 72 pages. Licenced Aug. • See, under 1596, REGISTR. STATION, 1577. REGISTR. Station. B. fol,
» Registr, C.fol. 3.11, a.
licencing books. The rigid arbiters of the press who condemned Boccace in the gross, could not with propriety spare all the licentious cantos of Ariosto. That writer's libertine friar, metamorphosis of Richardetto, Alcina and Rogero, Anselmo, and hoft's tale of Astolfo, are shocking to common decency. When the four or five first books of AMADIS DE GAUL in French were delivered to Wolfe to be translated into English and to be printed, in the year 1592, the signature of bishop Aylmer was affixed to every book of the original *. The romance of PalMERIN OF ENGLAND was licenced to be printed in 1580, on condition, that if any thing reprehensible was found in the book after publication, all the copies should be committed to the fames '. Notwithstanding, it is remarkable, that in 1587, a new edition of Boccace’s DECAMERON in Italian? by Wolfe, should have been permitted by archbishop Whitgift*: and the English AMOROUS FIAMETTA of Boccace, abovementioned, in the same year by the bishop of London b.
But in the year 1599, the Hall of the Stationers underwent as great a purgation as was carried on in Don Quixote's library. Marston's Pygmalion, Marlowe's Ovid, the Satires of Hall and Marston, the Epigrams of Davies and others, and the CALTHA POETARUM, were ordered for immediate conflagration, by the prelates Whitgift and Bancroft. By the same authority, all the books of Nash and Gabriel Harvey were anathematised ; and, like thieves and outlaws, were ordered to be taken wherefoever they maye be found. It was decreed, that no Satires or Epigrams should be printed for the future. No plays were to be printed without the inspection and permission of the archbishop of Canterbury
* REGISTR, STATION. B. fol. 286. a. Hence Dekker's familiarity of allufion, in The VNTRUSSING OF THE HUMOROUS Poet, “ Farewell my sweete Amadis de “ Gaule !" Lond. 1602. 4to. Signat. D 2.
y To John Charlewood, Feb. 13. Ibid. fol. 177. b.
z Two or three other Italian books, a proof of the popularity of the language,
were allowed to be printed in 1588. Ibid.
b. fol. 234. b.
Ibid. Sept. 18.
and the bishop of London, nor any Engliske Historyes, I suppose novels and romances, without the fanction of the Privy-council. Any pieces of this nature, unlicenced, or now at large and wandering abroad, were to be diligently sought, recalled, and delivered over to the ecclesiastical arm at London-house".
If any apology should be thought necessary for so prolix and intricate an examination of these compositions, I shelter this section under the authority of a polite and judicious Roman writer, “ Sit apud te honos ANTIQUITATI, fit ingentibus factis, “ fit FABULIS quoque :"
NOUGH has been opened of the reign of E
Elisabeth, to afford us an opportunity of forming some general reflections, tending to establish a full estimate of the genius of the poetry of that reign; and which, by drawing conclusions from what has been said, and directing the reader to what he is to expect, will at once be recapitulatory and preparatory. Such a survey perhaps might have stood with more propriety as an introduction to this reign. But it was first necessary to clear the way, by many circumstantial details, and the regular narration of those particulars, which lay the foundation of principles, and suggest matter for discursive observation. My sentiments on this subject shall therefore compose the concluding section of the present volume. The age
of queen Elisabeth is commonly called the golden age of English poetry. It certainly may not improperly be styled the most poETICAL age of these annals. Among the
great features which strike us in the poetry of this period, are the predominancy of fable, of fiction, and fancy, and a predilection for interesting adventures and pathetic events. I will endeavour to assign and explain the cause of this characteristic distinction, which may chiefly be referred to the following principles, sometimes blended, and sometimes operating fingly: The revival and vernacular versions of the classics, the importation and translation of Italian novels, the visionary reveries or refinements of false philosophy, a degree of superstition sufficient for the purposes of poetry, the adoption of
the machineries of romance, and the frequency and improvements of allegoric exhibition in the popular spectacles.
When the corruptions and impostures of popery were abolished, the fashion of cultivating the Greek and Roman learning became universal : and the literary character was no longer appropriated to scholars by profession, but assumed by the nobility and gentry. The ecclesiastics had found it their interest to keep the languages of antiquity to themselves, and men were eager to know what had been so long injuriously concealed. Truth propagates truth, and the mantle of mystery was removed not only from religion but from literature. The laity, who had now been taught to assert their natural privileges, became impatient of the old monopoly of knowledge, and demanded admittance to the usurpations of the clergy. The general curiosity for new discoveries, heightened either by just or imaginary ideas of the treasures contained in the Greek and Roman writers, excited all persons of leisure and fortune to study the classics. The pedantry of the present age was the politeness of the last. An accurate comprehension of the phraseology and peculiarities of the antient poets, historians, and orators, which yet
feldom went farther than a kind of technical erudition, was an indispensable and almost the principal object in the circle of a gentleman's education. Every young lady of fashion was carefully instituted in classical letters : and the daughter of a duchess was taught, not only to distil strong waters, but to construe Greek. Among the learned females of high distinction, queen Elisabeth herself was the most conspicuous. Roger Ascham, her preceptor, speaks with rapture of her astonishing progress in the Greek nouns s and declares with no small degree of triumph, that during a long residence at Windsor-castle, The was accustomed to read more Greek in a day, than “ some prebendary of that church “ did Latin, in one week “' And although perhaps a princess looking out words in a lexicon, and writing down hard phrases
· SCHOOLEMASTER, p. 19. b. edit. 1589. 4to.
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