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ginning of the earlier Elizabethan literature from the year of her accession, 1558. The era of this earlier literature lasted till 1579, and was followed by the great literary outburst, as it has been called, of the days of Spenser and Shakespeare. The apparent suddenness of this outburst has been an object of wonder. Men have searched for its causes chiefly in those which led to the revival of learning, and no doubt these bore on England as they did on the whole of Europe. shall best seek its nearest causes in the work done during the early years of Elizabeth, and in doing so we shall find that the outburst was not so sudden after all. It was preceded by a various, plentiful, but inferior, literature, in which new forms of poetry and prose-writing were tried, and new veins of thought opened, which were afterwards wrought out fully and splendidly. All the germs of the coming age are to be found in these twenty years. The outburst of a plant into flower seems sudden, but the whole growth of the plant has caused it, and the flowering of Elizabethan literature was the slow result of the growth of the previous literature and the influences that bore upon it.
The Earlier Elizabethan Poetry, 1558–1579, is first represented by SACKVILLE, Lord Buckhurst. The Mirror of Magistrates, 1559, for which he wrote the Induction and one tale, is a poem on the model of Boccaccio's Falls of Princes, already imitated by Lydgate. Seven poets, along with Sackville, contributed tales to it, but his poem is the only one of
The Induction paints the poet's descent into Avernus, and his meeting with Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, whose fate he tells with a grave and inventive imagination. Being written in the manner and stanza of the elder poets, this poem has been called the transition between Lydgate and Spenser. But it does truly belong to the old time; it is as modern as Spenser. GEORGE GASCOIGNE, whose satire, the Steele Glas, 1576, is our first long satirical poem, is the best among a crowd of lesser poets who came after Sackville.
They wrote legends, pieces on the wars and discoveries of the Englishmen of their day, epitaphs, epigrams, songs, sonnets, elegies, fables, and sets of love poems; and the best things they did were collected in a miscellany called the Paradise of Dainty Devices, in 1576. This book, with Tottel's, set on foot in the later years of Elizabeth a crowd of other miscellanies of poetry, which were of great use to the poets. Lyrical poetry and that which we may call 'occasional poetry' were now fairly started.
2. The masques, pageants, interludes, and plays that were written at this time are scarcely to be counted. great ceremonial, whenever the queen made a progress or visited one of the great lords or a university, at the houses of the nobility, and at the court on all important days, some obscure versifier, or a young scholar at the Inns of Court, at Oxford, or at Cambridge produced a masque or a pageant, or wrote or translated a play. The habit of play-writing became common; a kind of school, one might almost say a manufacture, of plays arose, which partly accounts for the rapid production, the excellence, and the multitude of plays that we find after 1579. Represented all over England, these masques, pageants, and dramas were seen by the people, who were thus accustomed to take an interest, though of an uneducated kind, in the larger drama that was to follow. The literary men, on the other hand, ransacked, in order to find subjects and scenes for their pageants, ancient and mediæval and modern literature, and many of them in doing so became fine scholars. The imagination of England was quickened and educated in this way, and, as Biblical stories were also largely used, the images of oriental life were added to the materials of imagination.
3. Frequent translations were now made from the classical writers. We know the names of more than twelve men who did this work, and there must have been many more. Already in Henry VIII.'s and in Edward VI.'s time, ancient authors
had been made English; and before 1579, Vergil, Ovid, Cicero, Demosthenes, and many Greek and Latin plays were translated. In this way the best models were brought before the English people, and it is in the influence of the spirit of Greek and Roman literature on literary form and execution that we are to find one of the vital causes of the greatness of the later Elizabethan literature.
The Earlier Elizabethan Prose, 1558–1579, began with the Scholemaster of AscHAM, published 1570. This book, which is on education, is the work of the scholar of the New Learning of the time of Henry VIII, who has lived on into another time. It is not, properly speaking, Elizabethan, it is like a stranger in a new land and among new manners.
2. Theological reform stirred men to literary work. A great number of satirical ballads and pamphlets and plays issued every year from obscure presses and filled the land, Writers, like George Gascoigne and, still more, BARNABY GOOGE, represent in their work the hatred the young men had of the old religious system. It was a spirit which did not do much for literature, but it quickened the habit of composition, and made it easier. The Bible also became common property, and its language glided into all theological writing and gave it a literary tone; while the publication of John Fox's Acts and Monuments, or Book of Martyrs, 1563, gave to the people all over England a book which, by its simple style, the ease of its story-telling, and its popular charm, made the very peasants who heard it read feel what is meant by literature.
3. The love of stories again awoke. The old English tales and ballads were eagerly read and collected. Italian Tales by various authors were translated and sown so broadcast over London by William Painter, in his collection, The Palace of Pleasure, 1566, by George Turbervile and others, that it is said they were to be bought at every bookstall. A great number of subjects for prose and poetry were thus made ready for literary men, and fiction became possible in English literature.
Another influence of the same kind bore on literature. It was that given by the stories of the voyagers, who, in the new commercial activity of the country, penetrated into strange lands. Before 1579 books had been published on the northwest passage.
Frobisher had made his voyages, and Drake had started, to return in 1580 to amaze all England with the story of his sail round the world, and of the riches of the Spanish main. We may trace everywhere in Elizabethan literature the impression made by the wonders told by the sailors and captains who explored and fought from the North Pole to the Southern Seas. 4. The history of the country and its manners
was not neglected. A whole class of antiquarians wrote steadily, if with some dulness, on this subject. GRAFTON, Stow, HOLINSHED, and others at least supplied materials for the study and use of the historical drama.
5. Lastly, we have proof that there was a large number of persons writing who did not publish their works. It was considered at this time that to write for the public injured a man, and, unless he were driven by poverty, he kept his manuscript by him. But things were changed when a great genius like Spenser took the world by storm ; when Lyly's Euphues enchanted the whole of court society; when a great gentleman, like Sir Philip Sidney, became a writer. Literature was made the fashion, and, the disgrace being taken from it, the production became enormous. Manuscripts written and laid by were at once sent forth ; and, when the rush began, it grew by its own force. Those who had previously been kept from writing by its unpopularity now took it up eagerly, and those who had written before wrote twice as much now. improvement also in literary quality is easily accounted for by this—that men strove to equal such work as Sidney's or Spenser's, and that a wider and sharper criticism arose.
THE PROSE OF THE LATER ELIZABETHAN LITERATURE, 1579– 1603.—“This begins with the publication of Lyly's Euphues in 1579, and with the writing of Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia and his Defence of Poetrie, 1580-81. The Euphues and the Arcadia carried on the story-telling literature ; the Defence of Poetrie created a new form of literature, that of criticism.
The Euphues was the work of John Lyly, poet and dramatist. It is in two parts, Euphues and Euphues' England. In six years it ran through five editions, so great was its popularity. Its prose style is too poetic, but it is admirable for its smoothness and charm, and its very faults were of use in softening the rudeness of previous prose. The story is long and is more a loose framework into which Lyly could fit his thoughts on love, friendship, education, and religion than a true story. The second part is made up of several stories in one, and is a picture of the Englishman abroad. It made its mark, because it fell in with all the fantastic and changeable life of the time. Its far-fetched conceits, its extravagance of gallantry, its endless metaphors from the classics and natural history, its curious and gorgeous descriptions of dress, and its pale imitation of chivalry were all reflected in the life and talk and dress of the court of Elizabeth. It became the fashion to talk
Euphuism,' and, like the Utopia of More, Lyly's book has created an English word.
The Arcadia was the work of SiR PHILIP SIDNEY and, though written in 1580, did not appear till after his death. It is more poetic in style than the Euphues, and Sidney himself, as he wrote it under the trees of Wilton, would have called it a poem. It is less the image of the time than of the
Most people know that bright and noble figure, the friend of Spenser, the lover of Stella, the last of the old knights, the poet, the critic, and the Christian, who, wounded