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His Career. – Surrey studied at Oxford; in 1535 he married Lady Frances Vere; be served in the wars of Henry VIII. against France; fell into disfavor, and, in 1547. was beheaded upon the absurd charge of high treason.
His Poetry. - Surrey was the composer of a number of songs and sonnets, which have appeared in many editions. His sonpets are mostly dedicated to “ The Fair Ger. aldine," the daughter of Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare. Besides these original poems, Surrey translated a part of Virgil in “strange metre." This "strange metre " is blank verse,- its first appearance in English literature.
“Surrey is the first who introduced blank verse into our English poetry. The translation by Surrey of the second book of the Æneid, in blank verse, is among the chief of his productions. No one had, before his time, known how to translate or imitate with appropriate expression. But the structure of his verse is not very harmonious, and the sense is rarely carried beyond the line." - Hallam.
“Surrey, for his justness of thought, correctness of style, and purity of expression, may justly be pronounced the first English classical poet. He is unquestionably the first polite writer of love verses in English.
In the sonnets of Surrey we are surprised to find nothing of that metaphysical cast which marks the Italian poets, his supposed masters, especially Petrarch. Surrey's sentiments are for the most part natural and unaffected; arising from his own feelings and dictated by present circumstances. His poetry is alike unembarrassed by learned allusions and elaborate conceits." - Warton.
Tusser. Thomas Tusser, 1523–1580, is one of the earliest English didactic poets.
Tusser was born at Rivenhall, Essex, and “. was successively musician, schoolmaster, serving-man, husbandman, grazier, poet, more skilful in all than thriving in any vocation," Fuller, He wrote A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry, being a practical treatise, in rhyme, on farming.
“It must be acknowledged, that this old English georgic has much more of the simplicity of Hesiod than of the elegance of Virgil; and a modern reader would suspect that many of its salutary maxims originally decorated the margins, and illustrated the calendars, of an ancient almanac. It is without invocations, digressions, and descriptions: no pleasing pictures of rural imagery are drawn from meadows covered with flocks and fields waving with corn, nor are Pan and Ceres once named. Yet it is valuable, its a genuine picture of the agriculture, the rural arts, and the domestic economy and customs, of our industrious ancestors.” – Warton.
Harington. Sir John Harington, 1561-1612, is chiefly known for his metrical translation of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, the first version of that work in English.
Harington also published a collection of Epigrams, and Nugæ Antiquæ, a miscella
neous collection of papers in prose and verso, composed in the times of Henry VIII., Mary, Elizabeth, and James I.
John Leland, 1552, was the earliest of the race of great English antiquaries, and therefore deserves mention here, although he wrote mostly in Latin.
His Career. -- Leland was born near the close of the reign of Henry VII., and was educated at Cambridge. He was chaplain to llenry VIII., and received also from that sovereign the singular title of Royal Antiquary. Under this title, he was empowered, in 1533, by royal commission, to search for objects of antiquity in the libraries and archives of all cathedrals, abbeys, and priories, throughout the kingdom. In the exercise of this office he spent six years, travelling through England and Wales, rummaging old manuscripts, and visiting remains of ancient buildings and monuments. After completing this visitation, le returned to London, and began arranging and methodizing liis vast collection. But the fatigue of too intense study rendered him insane, and he remained in this condition till his death about two years after.
His Works — Leland, besides some smaller pieces published during his life, had ready for publication a most important work in Latin, Commentarii de Scriptoribus Britannicis, Notes on British Writers, which was printed in 1709, in 2 vols. 8vo. The great mass of his materials, however, were left in manuscript, in their undigested condition, until the early part of the last century, when they were arranged and published by a kindred spirit, the antiquary Thomas Hearne, 1678–1735. Ilearne edited Leland's work De Rrbus Britannicis Collectanea, 6 vols. 8vo., and his Itinerary, in 9 rols. 8vo. The last named is in English, and is the work of chief importance.
Elyot. Sir Thomas Elyot, 1546, a diplomatist in the reign of Henry VIII., wrote many works, of which, however, only one, The Governor, is now much known.
Elyot, though not an antiquary himself, was an intimate friend of the antiquary Leland, as also of Sir Thomas More.
His Character and Works. — Elyot was a man of various and profound learning. He was a favorite with llenry VIII., and was employed on important embassies. He wrote The Governor ; Apology for Good Women; The Banquet of Sapience; The Education of Children; Discourse of Christian War and Single Combat, being an essay on duelling; A Latin and English Dictionary; and a large number of works translated from the Greek and Latin, or rather made up of translated extracts from the ancient authors. The work first named, The Governor, passed throngh many editions. It was a treatise on education, containing useful hints on that subject, and especially notoworthy as deprecating the terrible cruelties then prevalent both in school and family government.
John Bale, 1495–1563, Bishop of Ossory, was a prolific writer, mostly on controversial theology, during the reign of Henry VIII., Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth.
His Career.- Bale was a zealous reformer, and a partisan of Essex, and on the downfall of the latter he took refuge in Flanders. On the accession of Edward VI., Bale returned to England, and was made Bishop. On the death of Edward and the accession of Mary, he was again obliged to flee to the continent. Under Elizabeth, he returned once more to England, but preferred a prebendal stall in the cathedral church of Canterbury to regaining his bishopric.
His Works.- Bale was a man of learning, and a voluminous writer. His principal work is in Latin, Scriptorum Illustrium Majoris Britanniæ Catalogus, A Catalogue of the Illustrious Writers of Great Britain. He wrote, however, a great deal in English and for popular effect. He was the author, among other things, of nineteen Miracle Plays. These Miracle Plays were a part of the machinery by which the early reformers songht to influence the popular mind. They were dramatic entertainments, founded on parts of Scripture history, and were often played in the churches and on Sunday. Two of his plays, John the Baptist, and God's Promises, wbich were publicly acted on Sunday, gave special offence to the Catholics. Of Bale's Miracle Plays eleven were comedies on scenes iu the life of Christ, as on his Baptism, his Passion, &c.
On Prelates that do not Preach.
[N.B. — The spelling has been modernized.] But now, for the default of unpreaching prelates, methink I could guess what might be said for excusing them. They are so troubled with lordly living, they be so pleased in palaces, couched in courts, burdened with ambassages,
that they cannot attend it. They are otherwise occupied, some in the King's matters, some are ambassadors, some of the Privy Council, some to furnish the Court, some are Lords of the Parliament, some are Presidents, and some Comptrollers of mints. Well, well!
Is this their duty? Is this their office? Is this their calling? Should we have ministers of the church to be comptrollers of the mints? Is this a meet office for a priest that hath cure of souls? Is this his charge? I would here ask one question: I would fain know who comptrolleth the devil at home, at his parish, while he comptrolleth the mint? If the Apostles might not leave off preaching to the deacons, shall one leave it for minting?
I cannot tell you, but the saying is, that since priests have been minters, money hath been worse than it was before; and they say that the evilness of money hath made all things dearer.
Is there never a nobleman to be a Lord President, but it must be a prelate? Is there never a wise man in the realm to be a comptroller of the mint? I speak it to your shame, I speak it to your shame. If there be never a wise man, make a water-bearer, a tinker, a cobler,
a slave, a page, comptroller of the mint. Make a mean gentleman, a groom, a yeoman, make a poor beggar Lord President.
A bishop hath his office, a flock to teach, to look unto, and therefore he cannot meddle with another office, which alone requireth a whole
He should therefore give it over to whom it is meet, and labor in his own business, as Paul writeth to the Thessalonians: Let every man do his own business and follow his calling. Let the priest preach, and the nobleman handle the temporal matters.
And now I would ask a strange question. Who is the most diligent bishop and prelate in all England, that passeth all the rest in doing his office? I can tell, for I know him, who it is; I know him well. But now I think I see you testing and hankering that I should name him. There is one that passeth all the others, and is the most diligent prelate and preacher in all England. And will ye know who it is? I will tell you. It is the Devil. He is the most diligent preacher of all others; he is never out of his diocese; he is never from his cure; ye shall never find him unoccupied; he is ever in his parish; he keepeth residence at all times; ye shall never find him out of the way; call for him when you will, he is ever at home, the diligentest preacher in all the realm.
Ile goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. I would have this text well viewed and examined, every word of it. Circuit, — he goeth about, in every corner of his diocese. He goeth on visitation daily. He leaveth no place of his cure unvisited. He walketh round from place to place, and ceaseth not. Sicut leo, - as a lion, that is, strongly, boldly, and proudly, straightly, and fiercely, with haughty looks, with his proud countenance, with his stately trappings. Rugiens, — roaring, for he letteth not slip any occasion to speak, or to roar out, when he seeth his time. Quærens, - he goeth about seeking, and not sleeping, as our bishops do, but he seeketh diligently, he searcheth diligently all corners, whereas he may have his prey; he roveth abroad in every place of his diocese, he standeth not still, he is never at rest, but ever at hand with his plough that it may go forward. There was never such a preacher in England as he is.Bishop Latimer: From the Sermon on the Ploughers.
SPENSER AND CONTEMPORARY POETS.
The authors brought together in this Chapter are in the main associated with the time of the poet Spenser, and with the reign of Queen Elizabeth, 1558-1603, or the latter half of the sixteenth century.
This period is known in history as the secondary stage of the Reformation. Among the great events of this period are the Spanish Armada, and the rise of the Dutch Republic. Among its great names are Elizabeth, and her two leading counsellors, Cecil and Walsingham, Mary Queen of Scots, Philip II. of Spain, the Dukes of Alva and Parma, Henry of Navarre, Condé, Coligny, and William the Silent.
NOTE. - Many of the authors in this chapter run back into the reigns of Mary, 1553-1558, and of Edward VI., 1547-1553, or forward into that of James, 1603-1625. It will be found, however, on examination, that these authors did their chief work in the reign of Elizabeth.
Spenser. Edmund Spenser, 1553-1599, is the next great name in English literature, after that of Chaucer. His principal work, The Fairy Queen, is one of the chief treasures of the language. This poem adds an undying lustre to the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It is of itself sufficient to make any
Early Career.- Spenser was born in London, in humble circumstances. IIe was educated at Cambridge, where he made the acquaintance of Gabriel Harvey. After leaving the University in 1576, at the age of twenty-three, he spent two years in the north of England. At the end of that time, he returned to London, and published