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verbatim in the exordium of his Pardoner—a proof, if any proof were needed, of the close link between his art and that of the father of English poetry.
John Heywood was a Londoner, and a choir boy of the Chapel Royal. When his voice broke, he proceeded in due course to Oxford, and studied at Broadgate Hall, now Pembroke College. Sir John More befriended him, and took a kindly interest, we hear, in the composition of his first work, a collection of epigrams. Early in his life Heywood obtained a fixed place at Court in connection with the exhibition of Interludes and Plays. It is probably due to this fact that he has been reckoned among the King's jesters; and if he was not actually a Yorick of the Tudor Court, there is no doubt that he played a merry part there, and acquired considerable wealth by the exercise of his wit. After Henry's death he fell under suspicion of disaffection to the Government, and only escaped, says Sir John Harrington, 'the jerk of the six-stringed whip’ by special exercise of Edward's favour. Heywood was a staunch Catholic, and his offence seems to have been a too sturdy denial of the royal supremacy in spiritual affairs. When Mary came to the throne, he was recalled to Court, where he
1 I take this on the faith of Mr. Julian Sharman's Introduction to his edition of The Proverbs of John Heywood (London : George Bell, 1874). Heywood is there stated to have held a place among the Children of the Chapel in 1515. It is not altogether easy, however, to bring this detail into harmony with the little that we know about his early life, especially with the circumstance that he owned land at North Mims.
LIFE OF JOHN HEYWOOD.
exercised his dramatic talents for the Queen's amusement, and lived on terms of freedom with her nobility. After Mary's death, being a professed enemy of the Reformed Church, Heywood left England, and died about the year 1565 at Mechlin. One of his sons, Jasper Heywood, played a part of some importance in the history of our drama, as we shall see when the attempted classical revival comes to be discussed.
The vicissitudes of Heywood's life are not without their interest in connection with his Interludes. During the religious changes of four reigns, he continued faithful to the creed of his youth. Yet, though he suffered disgrace and exile for the Catholic faith, he showed himself a merciless satirist of Catholic corruptions. Though he was a professional jester, gaining his livelihood and taking his position in society as a recognised mirth-maker, he allowed no considerations of personal profit to cloud his conscience. He remained an Englishman to the backbone, loyal to his party and his religious convictions, outspoken in his condemnation of the superstitions which disgraced the Church of his adoption. This manliness of attitude, this freedom from time-service, this fearless exposure of the weak points in a creed to which he sacrificed his worldly interests, give a dignity to Heywood's character, and prepossess us strongly in favour of his writings. Their tone, like that of the man, is homely, masculine, downright, and English, in the shrewdness of the wit, the soundness of the sense, and the jovial mirth which pervades each scene.
The 'Four P's,' which I propose to examine more closely, is an excellent comic dialogue. More than this it cannot claim to be; for it has no intrigue, and aims at the exhibition of characters by contrast and collocation, not by action. Its motive is a witty situation, and its dénouement is a single humorous saying. Thus this Interlude has not the proportions of a play, although its dialogue exhibits far more life, variety, and spirit than many later and more elaborate creations of the English stage. It is written in pure vernacular, terse and racy if rude, and undefiled by classical pedantry or Italianising affectation. Heywood, here as elsewhere, reminds us of Chaucer without his singing robes. As Charles Lamb called his namesake Thomas Heywood a prose Shakspere, so might we style John Heywood a prose Chaucer. The humour which enchants us in the
Canterbury Tales,' and which we claim as specifically English, emerges in Heywood's dialogue, less concentrated and blent with neither pathos nor poetic fancy, yet still indubitably of the genuine sort. The Four P's are four representative
personages, well known to the audience of Heywood's day. They are the Palmer, the Pardoner, the Poticary, and the Pedlar. The Palmer might be described as a professional pilgrim. He made it his business to travel on foot all through his life from shrine to shrine, subsisting upon alms, visiting all lands in Europe and beyond the seas where saints were buried, praying at their tombs, seeking remission for his sins through their intercessions and
entrance into Paradise by the indulgence granted to pilgrims at these holy places.' His wanderings only ended with his death. Pardoners are described in an old English author as 'certain fellows that carried about the Pope's Indulgences, and sold them to such as would buy them.'? Since this was a very profitable trade, it behoved the purchasers of their wares, which, besides Indulgences, were generally relics of saints, rosaries, and amulets, to see that their credentials were in order ; for, even supposing, if that were possible, that a Pardoner could be an honest man, and his genuine merchandise be worth the money paid for it, who could be sure that impostors, deriving no countenance from the Roman Curia, were not abroad? Therefore all Pardoners displayed Bulls and spiritual passports from the Popes, which, if duly executed and authenticated, empowered them to sell salvation at so much the groat. The difficulty of testing these credentials put wary folk in much perplexity. Ariosto has used this motive in a humorous scene of one of his best comedies, where a would be purchaser of pardon insists on taking the friar's Bull to his parish priest for verification. Chaucer alludes to the custom of Pardoners exhibiting their Bulls, in the exordium of his · Pardoner's Tale,' and Heywood in the
1 Dante defines a Palmer thus in the Vita Nuova: 'Chiamansi Palmieri inquanto vanno oltra mare, laonde molte volte recano la palma : Peregrini, inquanto vanno alla casa di Galizia ; Romei inquanto vanno a Roma. In England a distinction was drawn between Palmers and Pilgrims. "The pilgrim had some home or dwelling-place; but the palmer had none. The pilgrim travelled to some certain designed place or places; but the palmer to all. The pilgrim went at his own charges ; but the palmer professed wilful poverty, and went upon alms,' &c. See Note 2 to p. 331 of Hazlitt's Dodsley, vol. i. 2 Hazlitt's Dodsley, i. 343, Note 2.
Scolastica, Act iv. Scene 4.
Interlude of · The Pardoner and the Friar' makes merry for many pages with the same motive. The sale of Indulgences, as is well known, brought large profits to the Papal exchequer ; and when the extravagance of Leo X. plunged him into deep financial difficulties, his eagerness to stimulate this source of revenue drove Germany into the schism of the Reformation. While S. Peter's was being built with commissions upon pardons, Luther was taunting the laity with ‘buying such cheap rubbish at so dear a price.'
Chaucer's portrait of the Pardoner forms so good a frontispiece to Heywood's Interlude, that a quotation from it may be here acceptable :
A voys he hadde as smal as eny goot.
The Poticary, or Apothecary, and the Pedlar require no special introduction to a modern audience. Both are much the same in our days as in those of Queen Mary—the Pedlar with his pack stuffed full of gauds and gear for women ; the Poticary taking life as a philosopher inclined to materialism.
See Hazlitt's Dodsley, vol. i. pp. 212-223.