[ocr errors]

Italian influence, for, as Mr. Boas says later, “At Oxford, as at
Cambridge, the records of the University stage for a period of
nearly fifteen years after Elizabeth's visit are very meagre. No
extant plays can be assigned to this time, and the account books
of Christ Church and St. John's College, which would doubtless
have furnished some details of theatrical entertainments, are
unfortunately missing till 1577-8 and 1579-80 respectively."
It is obvious that we cannot, with such incomplete records, assert
there were no Italian plays at the Universities. On the contrary,
in view of the great vogue of Italian literature in England during
these years, it is highly probable that Italian plays were performed
at the Universities. According to the dating of Mr. Bond, its
last editor, Buggbears, based primarily upon Grazzini's La Spiri-
tata, was performed in 1564 or 1565. Mr. Boas does not discuss
Buggbears, though Herr Grabau had thought that the manuscript
bore traces of the school origin of the play. The elaborateness with
which the music is copied into the manuscript does suggest that it
was a school play. But whether it be a school play or not, it bears
witness of an Italian drama's serving as the source of an English
play as early as 1565. In 1566 The Supposes, which had been
translated from Ariosto by George Gascoigne, was performed at
Gray's Inn. In the same year appeared the first part of Painter's
Pallace of Pleasure; in the next, the second part of Painter
and Geoffrey Fenton's Tragicall Discourses from Bandello via
Belleforest. The tremendous popularity of these Italian stories
is shown in the attack by Roger Ascham, who, it will be remem-
bered, died in 1568, upon “the fond books of late translated out
of Italian into English, sold in every shop in London, commended
by honest titles the sooner to corrupt honest manners
that they furnished the plots for many plays is indicated by
Gosson's denouncing in 1579 the Pallace of Pleasure as among the
works which“ have beene thoroughly ransackt to furnish the playe-
houses in London.” 74 Amidst this great enthusiasm for Italian
literature, would it be surprising that an Oxford play of 1567


».73 and

"2 Ibid., p. 157. * Schoolmaster, Little Classics edition, s1. * Plays Confuted in Five Actions, quoted by Brooke, The Tudor Drama,

p. 234,

should adopt several of the conventional characters and situations of Italian comedy?

To summarize--for the six following reasons I believe that Wily Beguiled is a reworked form of the Merton College Wylie Beguylie:

1. Wily Beguiled is evidently a revised play. 2. Its content indicates that it was undoubtedly a school play. 3. Both plays seem to be connected with the Christmas season.

4. The humor of Wily Beguiled is of a type no more subtle than that of plays contemporary with Wylie Beguylie.

5. There is indication that about the same time that Wily Beguiled must have been reworked other Oxford plays were being reworked.

6. Those characteristics which the original of Wily Beguiled must have possessed are found in plays contemporary with Wylie Beguylie.

The Rice Institute.



[ocr errors][merged small]

The past quarter century has witnessed a striking growth in the study of Edmund Spenser, where the centre of interest perhaps has been shifting from England to America. Many of us Americans feel a peculiar interest of inheritance in the culture and in the literature of England which dates before the great colonial migration to these shores. And Edmund Spenser, with his extraordinary blend of qualities, renaissance zest and range, modulated Platonic-Puritanic moralism, romance-with-practicality, along with his preëminent gift of purely poetic power, appeals strongly to us, perhaps not so much for what we are as for what we are always aspiring to be.

I do not think that this growth has been mainly an academic or professional one, however largely it has been witnessed by academic discussion and dissertation. The very considerable number of editions of Spenser which have been absorbed during this period both in England and America proves that he has been read. I do not know nor do I care whether he has been read by the man in the street, but he has been read at any rate by that saving remnant which still, and always, is accessible to the appeal of poetry, and read often with an effort at real understanding, as the continual use of annotated editions proves.

A two-century cycle of Shakespeare-study has now reached a certain finish and completion. But no such finish or completion has yet been attained in the study of Spenser, although the progress of this study is in many ways paralleling the progress of the study of Shakespeare.

In the course of a rapid general survey of the field of the study of Spenser which I have recently been making in the process of compiling a selective bibliography of Spenser 1 some of the gaps

* Which I hope to publish soon under the title of A Reference Guide to Spenser. Three-quarters of my material is now in manuscript ready for the printer, but there remain two or three rather difficult sections to block out and reduce to form.

in this study have been forced upon my attention. Some of these are of a rather large and general sort. Others are minor topics. Others still are the numerous little baffling puzzles which recur in the study of Spenser more frequently than in the case of any other English author of equal prominence.

The first of the desiderata in the study of Spenser, as all competent students will agree, is that of a modern variorum edition. Todd's variorum edition had many good points; Grosart's abortive attempt was ambitious; and a considerable amount of material available for a variorum edition has been brought to light since Todd's day and lies scattered in various editions of parts of Spenser, in learned dissertations and in various periodicals. The contributions of recent years, especially in the study of the works, are many of them of high merit. But all of this material needs to be assembled, digested, and attached to the text in one comprehensive edition. That will be no small labor, if properly performed, but well worth the doing. Luckily the major part of the labor of textediting already and very recently has been performed in the editions of Smith and Sélincourt, of Dodge, and of others presenting selected portions of the poetry of Spenser. And the monumental Concordance to Spenser by Osgood and the Subject Index of Whitman will vastly abridge the course of the labor of the variorum editor. This work is obviously the next thing to come upon the carpet. Whether America or England will have the honor of its performance remains to be seen. I understand that the project now has the serious consideration of a group of American scholars, and will soon be undertaken if some public spirited publisher or some institution will agree to produce the work.

There is a considerable body of material collateral to Spenser which is deserving of study. Some of it is in print, but not easily accessible. There is the Spenser-Apocrypha. I do not mean by this the late seventeenth and the eighteenth century "imitations” masquerading under Spenser's name, but the things which reputable scholars have either doubtfully or confidently attributed to Spenser. Britain's Ida and the Doleful Lay of Clorinda have recently been discussed, but there are other pieces in print or in manuscript unmentioned or barely mentioned by the writers on Spenser. Dr. Pierce Butler and I are planning to bring out a volume of Material Illustrating Spenser which will make some of this collateral material available. This will include

1) The MS. Dialogue on Ireland between Sylvanus and Peregrine, in the Public Records Office, attributed to Spenser by Bagwell.?

2) Alabaster's Eliseis.

3) The Translation of Ariochus, from the text of 1607. Probably the same as the text of 1592, long attributed to Spenser, but apparently lost.

4) Portions of the De Rebus Gestis, by “E. S.” published without date, but between 1570-1580 —and one or two shorter pieces, such as the Latin verses by R. H. (Richard Harvey ?) on Spenser's death (which are possibly a copy of one of the copies of verses thrown into Spenser's tomb, as Camden relates), and Sir Kenelm Digby's Discourse concerning Edmund Spenser (Harl. MS. 7375).

After a variorum edition I should place next in importance a new Life of Spenser. In listing the material, documentary and otherwise, to which I have been able to find reference, I have been strongly impressed by the inadequacy of the treatment of Spenser's life up to the present. Craik's attempt was in the right spirit, but much has come to light since Craik's time. Grosart was industrious and zealous, but as a writer of biography unsatisfactory. Sélincourt's Life (in the one-volume Oxford edition of Spenser, 1912) is by far the best of its kind, treating the biographical matrial to be found in Spenser's writings with extraordinary skill. But its scope is necessarily limited, and the outside material is in part neglected and in part summarily handled, without full and adequate consideration. Other very respectable attempts to write the life have been made, but none of them is thoroughly critical, nor have any of them utilized and interpreted as it should be utilized the very considerable material now available. It will prove to be a very difficult task, but not impossible. The chief trouble, in my opinion, is either that these writers have not been sufficiently critical and have not sufficiently discriminated what is documented

• The Briefe Note on Ireland, “By Spencer” according to the guess of the editor of the Calendar of State Papers, Ireland, 1598-99 (probably Spenser's final official report) is accessible in Grosart's edition of Spenser, Vol. I, 537-55, but seems to be totally neglected by later writers on Spenser.

« VorigeDoorgaan »