H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Social England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) online

. (page 40 of 68)
Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 40 of 68)
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engaged in the study of alchemy and of magic. In 157-1
he wrote to Burghley, asking leave to search for hidden
treasure (which Avas illegal), and offering to halve any that he
found with him. In the same year the Queen visited him to see
the spirits in his famous specula (one of which is now in the
British Museum). In 1579 he revealed the secret of the elixir
to Roger Cooke a secret which he himself afterwards learnt in
1586 from Kelly. While giving Dee credit for his wide learning.,
his undoubted ability and zeal, we cannot but accept the con-
clusion that his excursions to the Continent covered other secrets
than alchemical ones ; and that he was, in reality, one of
Elizabeth's political agents, especially when we remember how
the Steganographia of Trithemius, a book of magical conjura-
tions, was shown in the eighteenth century to be a manual of
cryptograms for the conveyance of secret information.

Astrology. The connection between astrology and alchemy, always
intimate, was never closer than in the period under notice.
Norton's poem (see Vol. II, p. 520) had given the proper
astrological periods for each stage of the " great work," and
this work is only named as one of many others because it is



in English ; astrology was universally believed in. As time
wore on, people began to doubt, first the rules of one or the
other master of the art, and then the very foundations of
it ; till at last the triumph of the Copernican system de-
stroyed the fundamental basis of astrology, leaving it to be
driven out of court by the common sense of mankind,
though the fulfilled predictions of the Commonwealth astro-
logers are still appealed to as proofs of the science. Yet
even to the present day our language bears token of the
belief, and some of the finest passages in Shakespeare and
Milton owe their beauty to the cant of the astrologer.

The foundation of an English school of medicine by Lin- Astrology
acre, and of the College of Physicians in 1518, tended, if
anything, to strengthen the hold of astrology on popular
belief. The great Greek physicians were believers in it, making
it a first condition of success in medicine that the student
should understand astrology. The doctrines of the complexions,
humours, and qualities were intimately bound up with the
astronomical theories in vogue so much so that the greatest
physician of his day, Jerome Cardan, was also the first
astrologer. Called to Scotland in 1552 to cure Cardinal
Hamilton, he was tempted to pass through England and
give an opinion on the state of the king's health. His
account shows plainly that the chief desire among the nobles
of the court w T as to get from the most renowned astrologer
of the day some information as to how long Edward would live.
Accordingly he calculated his nativity, which stands first of
twelve nativities published in full by Cardan. The stars
showed a sufficiently long life, with sicknesses at the ages of
23, 34, and 55. But what the stars failed to reveal to
him, his own common sense told him, and he hurried
away from England. Scarcely had he returned when the
news of the king's death reached him ; and Cardan, in-
stead of suppressing his predictions, added to them a chapter,
"What I thought afterwards about it." When in England,
Cardan lodged with Sir John Cheke (p. 280), perhaps the most
learned man in England, with whom he may have seen the
experiments of Eden the alchemist in the Tower, and where
certainly Dr. Dee made his acquaintance, and saw the famous
magic ring that Cardan wore.



The Begin-
nings of

The Devel-
opment of

X ATT UAL SCIENCE in England, as in modern Europe generally,
can scarcely be said to have been definitely set going till
the seventeenth century. Before then everything is tentative.
At the close of the Middle Ages, along with or following the
humanistic movement, there had been a movement of return to
the study of the sciences - - mathematical, physical, and
biological that had been carried forward some distance by
the ancients, but in the intervening period had made little
or no progress. For a century or more nothing had come of the
movement in special science beyond a few new observations
that were waiting to be organised, and some important
theories that had not yet found verification. The philosophers,
indeed, in trying to work out new systems, aimed at an
explanation of the whole of Nature, and sometimes, by
taking up the most promising generalisations, were able to
go beyond both ancient and medieval thinkers in their
cosmical conceptions. But for this, peculiar insight was
needed. New conceptions of the world, such as Avere in-
volved in the Copernican astronomy, could not yet be forced
on reluctant minds by undeniable facts ; and not till this
has taken place can a scientific theory be regarded as fully
proved. In the meantime, the state of things in relation
to scientific research was not the same as at the close of
antiquity. If there was little more actual knowledge, there
had been a long preparatory process, which was soon to
produce its effect. In the fourth century men's minds were
turning away from science, in the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries they were returning to it.

The dialectical disputes of the Middle Ages had not been
altogether wasted. By means of them new precision had at
least been given to language ; and language of a higher
degree of precision was needed to make modern scientific
analysis possible. Even before modern languages were used
for scientific or philosophical purposes, the Latin that had
passed through the hands of the Scholastics could adapt
itself to the more analytic turn of modern thought. Other
new instruments, both of a symbolic and of a material kind,
were awaiting scientific use. The much more convenient
system of numerals introduced by the Arabians, from what-



ever source it came originally, and the beginnings of algebra Aids.
derived from them, were to be the basis of a more advanced
mathematics. The mariner's compass known to have been
in use in the twelfth century became the germ of the new
science of magnetism. And, by the latter part of the six-
teenth century, constantly renewed attempts to make dis-
coveries in the realm of external nature had spread abroad
the conviction that in experiment was to be found the key

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(RcconJe, " Whetstone of Wit," 1557.)

to truth of fact. This had been the conviction of Roger Bacon
long before the times were favourable to it. It was preached
by Francis Bacon after it had become, among philosophic
opponents of scholasticism and small bodies of scientific
investigators, a note of the new time.

For the special period dealt with in this chapter, there is
little that is striking to relate in the way of new discovery, period,
A treatise on algebra, entitled " The Whetstone of Wit," was
published by Robert Recorde, in 1557. This work is the first in
which the modern sign of equality is used. In 1576 the dip of
the magnetic needle was independently discovered by Robert
Norman, having been observed earlier (1544), but not by an



Englishman. Norman, who published a work called 'The
Newe Attractive " in 1581, was recognised by Gilbert (.see next
chapter) as a precursor.

GEORGE NOTHING is more characteristic of the Renaissance in all
SAINTSBURY. countries than the intense and diffused interest in education
ture ofEidu- which distinguished it (p. 112). Nor was this interest of the
cation. narrow kind, which is too often intended when we speak of

education in our own days. The newly recovered treasures of
Greek and Latin, indeed, beguiled men to bestow as much
attention as possible on them and to introduce others to them ;
the endeavour to imitate the perfections of the classics urged
them, though for some time in a shamefaced and apologetic
manner, to cultivate their own tongues ; the increase of com-
munication between different countries for commercial, religious,
and political purposes, opened to them the modern literatures
and languages ; and the universal curiosity of the time by
degrees directed itself into the various branches of physical
science. But, to do the Renaissance justice, the education with
which it chiefly busied itself was a real paideia, a real attempt
to revive and extend and apply to contemporary circumstances 1
the Greek ideal of the complete culture of a gentleman in
bodily and mental exercises, in philosophy, in religion, in
statecraft. The famous passage in which, almost for the only
time, Rabelais casts aside his mask and mantle of humorous
extravagance and portrays the education' of a prince as he
conceived it, is but the capital and genial exemplar of a vast
multitude of similar attempts.

England was by no means behindhand in these generous
and not always fantastic speculations and practices. Even
before the accession of Elizabeth the two streams of the
current the purely scholastic and the more widely j><i!<l<'itt !<
-had been represented by the works of Cheke and Wilson, at
Cambridge, for the one, and by such books as Elyot's " Gover-
nour," and Hoby's translation of Castigiione's " Courtier " for
the other. But the two currents to a great extent met, and
were best represented in the famous work and personality of
Roger Aschain, whose "Schoolmaster," the best known and
perhaps the best example of the whole class, was written, or
at least finished, when his royal pupil had been about ten years



on the throne, though it was not printed till 1570, after
Ascham's own death.

This was one of the little books which have cfood fates. It Ascham's
,. ... . 5 . "School-

had no extraordinary popularity in its own time, but it was master."

taken up at intervals afterwards by persons of literary
influence by Upton in 1711, by Dr. Johnson sixty years later,
by Mr. Mayor and Mr. Arber twenty or thirty years ago and
has thus been constantly kept before the world of readers for
the last two centuries. And so it deserved to be. Ascham had,
indeed, the great fault of hating poetry and romance, which
may be one reason why the generations that immediately
succeeded him paid him little attention ; but otherwise it has
been generally admitted that no better book of pedagogy in the
best sense exists in English or, perhaps, in any other language.
Its directions for the mere learning of the tongues are very
shrewd and sound, but the general spirit of the book, in its
hints on the bringing-up of a "yong lentleman," is better still,
and gives the key to much that was good, if not best, in the
nature and nurture of the great race that were at school in
Ascham's own day.

No one exactly followed the genial author of " Toxophilus "
(wherein, long before the " Schoolmaster," he had vindicated
the rights of bodily education) in his combined advantages of
representation of the Court and practice in actual educational
work. Florio, indeed, might have had some claims to do so,
but the translator of Montaigne, though an exceedingly de-
lightful writer, was, if not a complete Holofernes, undoubtedly
something of a coxcomb. Mulcaster, the Headmaster of St.
Paul's and Merchant Taylors, whose work has been recently
resuscitated by the pious and most jealous care of the late
Mr. R. H. Quick, was the chief follower of Ascham in the
strictly pedagogic vein during the later years of Elizabeth.
But the other side, the larger if also vaguer education, which,
as I have said, caught the imagination of the Renaissance,
English and other, so strongly, was very widely represented
and cultivated. It w r as represented, indeed, not solely, but
mainly, in the first book of Elizabeth's reign which attained
to really commanding notoriety, and it may even be said
fame a book which was endlessly imitated, wildly extolled,
and after a time fiercely attacked and decried the celebrated



" Euphucs " of John Lyly, which appeared in 1570, before
"Eupbues." e it,h er Spenser or Sidney had published anything of importance,
There is, perhaps, no single book the reading of which is
more necessary to anyone who is thoroughly to understand the
age of Elizabeth from the literary side than " Euplmes " ; but
there are not many more difficult to read. The merely
literary characteristics of it, though they have often been
strangely misunderstood, are not hard to sum up. They
consist, on the one hand, in endless antithesis ; on the other,
in an endless abuse of simile, derived partly from classical
history and anecdote, partly from the strange natural history
of real or imaginary birds, beasts, and fishes, herbs, flowers,
and minerals which had gradually possessed the mind of the
later middle ages and earlier Renaissance, and which made its
mark on science for many a year to come. But the matter is,
for the present purpose, more important than the manner.
" Euphues " is the work of a man thoroughly acquainted with
Oxford (which he describes or addresses sometimes under its
own name, more commonly under that of "Athens"), an
aspirant to, and soon to become if, indeed, he was not already
a familiar of the Court, and deeply imbued with the ideal of
a sort of educational course, at once affecting body, mind,
manners, sentiment, and business. The nearest approach to
" Euphues " in all other literature is " Wilhelm Meister," and
both the differences and the resemblances are invaluable,
because both enlighten us as to the character of the attempt
at a cosmopolitan education. Indeed, it may be said that
Goethe was the last person who seriously aimed at this,
though Lyly was not the first,

The The book consists of two parts "Euphues, the Anatomy of

Anatomy ^y^>> anc | Euphues and his England." The scene of the first
is laid at Naples, and the story, in so far as there is any story
at all, turns on the caprices of a certain Lucilla, a maiden of
great beauty, rank, and fortune, who, after setting the friends
Euphues and Fhilautus at variance by reason of their love for
her, is false to both and chooses a fribble named Curio, thereby
breaking her father Ferardo's heart and inflicting grinding
torments on her two jilted suitors. Although, however, this
is what may be called the plot, there is next to no incident
to work it out, and great part of the considerable space of



the section is allotted to an enormous epistle from " Euphues to
Philautus," after Lucilla has made fools of both ; to a dialogue
of the orthodox kind between " Euphues and Atheos," whom he
converts, and to an episode between the two called " Euphues
and his Ephcebus " (see infra), which contains a complete
theory of education, and is thought by some to be the kernel
and most important part of the whole work. It contains
both the plan and the eulogy a little vague and rhetorical,
but decidedly sound on the whole of an education directed
not more to good learning than to good living ; partly of a
rather sharp reprobation of the actual state of " Athens." The
first part ends with divers letters of Euphues, referring',
among other things, to the death of Lucilla in poverty and

The second transports the scene openly and nominatim

to England, which Euphues and Philautus visit together. and , M l,,

r England.

They land authentically at Dover, and see Canterbury ; but
it is always irksome to Lyly to be on firm ground long, and
he promptly leads them off into cloudland at the house of a
certain Fidus, once a courtier, now a bee-keeper, who morals
them many old tales, notably that, a rather graceful one, of
his own ill-starred love long ago for a certain Iffida. At last
they reach London and the Court ; and Philautus the sus-
ceptible, falling in love, consults Psellus, an Italian magician,
but gets little good of him or of direct addresses to Camilla,
his idol. But he is a little consoled by an obliging Lady
Flavia, who offers him her niece Frances to be " his violet "
while he is in England. All this time and it is a very long
time we hear little or nothing of Euphues except that he is
hard at study, having, indeed, quarrelled again with Philautus
in the beginning of the latter's suit to Camilla. In his forsaken
condition, however, Philautus abases himself, and with some
difficulty succeeds in appeasing his friend, whereafter the main
book ends with a supper given by Lady Flavia to most of the
characters, and very fruitful of conversation. In a sort of
appendix Philautus, more and more drawn towards his " violet "
Frances, first prolongs his stay and then settles in England ;
while Euphues, after a set of letters, the longest of which is
a panegyric on the ladies of England, on Burleigh, and above
all on Elizabeth, announces his departure to meditate at the



bottom of the mountain Silexsedra, in which not over cheerful
locality we leave him.

This brief abstract seemed exceptionally well worth making
because of the extremely small number of persons who read
"Euphues," and because of the epoch-marking, if not epoch-
making, character of the book. Much of it is no doubt taken
bodily from the classics it has been pointed out that " Euphues
and his EphuAms " is little moije than " Plutarch t>n Education "
with some omissions, additions, and alterations. But as a
whole it could hardly have been written at any other time
than one in which the whole of life, and noc merely youth,
politics, A and love-making as well as book-learning, the Court
and camp as well as the university, were regarded as parts and
scenes of education. A view with faults and drawbacks,
doubtless, but infinitely preferable to the view in virtue of
which almost the whole of our modern legislation and practice
on the subject is constructed.

The Early

IT has been constantly observed by judicious literary historians,
and yet it is a thing probably in need of still more constant
inculcation, that the "Elizabethan" age of our literature belongs
almost Avholly to the last half, and, in all its most effectual
and characteristic manifestations, to the last quarter of the
great Queen's reign. She had been on the throne for
more than twenty years when the earliest work ftf Lyly,
Spenser, Sidney, and others gave what was itself but a

foretaste of the future glories of her time, in non-dramatic

literature : while several more were to elapse before what is
itself a sort of lever de ridcan to the great dramatic work of
her era the theatre of the " University wits " -was to appear.
Yet there is no doubt that the thirty years which passed
between the probable appearance of ludjJt Roisfn'
and the certain appearance of Peele's Arraignment of
were marked by a great deal of dramatic production of various
kinds, and by a growing taste for dramatic performances in
the people, which was certain to attract more and more Avriters
to the profession of dramatist, We have some results of this ;
and it is absolutely certain that a great deal more has perished
partly because it was not worth preserving, partly because




of difficulties with the censorship, or of the unwillingness of
men who had reached a certain position in Church or State to
preserve work which was looked on askance, partly also
because it was the obvious interest of the actors to keep a


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widi their Enfi2,nes.


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(From the unique volume in Eton College Library, by permission of the Provost.)

successful play imprinted as long as possible : while, when it
ceased to be successful, nobody cared to print it.

Thus, to give one example only, we know that Stephen
Gosson, afterwards (but no later than the very beginning of



the great dramatic period) the vehement opponent of stagv-
plays, had both written and, it seems, acted in them before he
changed his views. But we have nothing save the names of
the plays which he wrote, and not even the names of the
plays in which he acted.

Conspicuous The loss of so much writing, which probably or certainly
Examples, existed, is not in this, as it is in some other cases, a matter over
which we need make much moan. For we have sufficient if not
abundant examples in actual preservation ; and these examples
are not of a kind to make us long vehemently for more. Three
famous pieces Ralph Roller Do Inter, of uncertain date, but not
probably much younger than Mary's reign at the latest, by
Nicholas Udall, head-master of St. Paul's and Eton ; Gammer
Gurtons Needle, assigned to Still, afterwards bishop, which
may be ten or a dozen years younger ; and the tragedy of
Gorboduc, by Norton and Sackville the poet, which was
certainly first acted in 1501 (under the title of Ferrex <m<!
Porrex) are the three traditional and, beyond all question,
the three capital plays of this period. Around and under
them may be grouped at least a dozen others, which are easily
accessible in the latest edition of " Dodsley," a few more which
have not been collected, and perhaps a very few others yet
uhich are only in MSS. The intrinsic interest even of the best
is but small. Ralph Roister Doister is amusing and not
offensive. Gn muter Gurtoii' is more questionable and less
amusing. Gorboduc is an everlasting example of meritorious
but mistaken attempt at something which most emphatically
(like a later play) " will not doe." But it is in the lines which
these plays follow, in the paths of adventure and exploration
(often ending in mere bafflement and squirrel-track nothingness)
which they pursue, in the vehicles and mediums with which
they experiment, that their real interest lies. The " high-
sniffing " critic who demands only the best and principal
things, who has no interest in literary history and morphology-
will and can make nothing of them ; those to whom even the
best thing produced is better if they are enabled to under-
stand its origin, to whom the greatest single exploit of
literature is not so fascinating as that marvellous map of the
ever-varying and never-changing human mind which all
literature presents, may rind them very interesting indeed.



The two chief points on which this interest centres are : The struc-

Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 40 of 68)