Henry Peacham.

Peacham's Compleat gentleman, 1634 online

. (page 1 of 22)
Online LibraryHenry PeachamPeacham's Compleat gentleman, 1634 → online text (page 1 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook








3.1924 093 830 358

Date Due

^^31 mas

JAN 11


jp24 mi

mz a y-

^ TT Ft^- S


duy^^ w&Xi



Sf » t»-.

Cornell University

The original of this book is in
the Cornell University Library.

There are no known copyright restrictions in
the United States on the use of the text.


Tudor &' Stuart Lihrary
VeachanCs Compleat Gen-

Henry Frowde, M.A.

Publisher Co the University of Oxford

London, Edinburghj New York

and Toronto




With an Introduction
by G. S. Gordon


Q-At the Clarendon Tress



Printed at the Clarendon Press

By Horace Hart, M.A.

Printer to the University


PEACHAM'S Compleat Gentleman is a record of the manners,
education, and way of thinking of the better sort of Cavalier
gentry before the Civil wars. It is also part of that great Literature
of Courtesy which still awaits the discerning pen of some magnani-
mous and sympathetic historian. The attempt to define the gentleman
is as old as the institution of nobility itself; and every age, since
literature began, has claimed the right to make its own definition.
For the gentleman is always the protege of the age whose incense
he breathes j and he has his fashions and his periods like everything
else which society creates. Achilles listening to the Centaur or
Ulysses with Minerva at his elbow, the young Academicians of Athens,
the orators of Cicero and Quintilian, are, if we look rightly, as much
a part of the varied and fascinating history of the gentleman as the
Courtier of Castiglione and the ' Compleat Gentleman ' of Peacham,
as Chesterfield's man of fashion and the beaus of the Georges. It is
an apt device, approved by Peacham, which represents the prince
with a book in one hand and a sword in the other. With the latter we
are not concerned ; but just what this book may be, whether Plato's
l^ublic or the Bible, Cicero's Offices or yTmudis de GnuL matters every-
thing. The fact that we preferred the Offices to the I^efublic had a great
deal to do with the character of the later Renaissance in England.
The genius of Platonism, which had inspired the finest products of
Elizabethan poetry, went, as it had come, by the poets. With it
went also the hey-day of the Renaissance gentleman, the Courtier,
who for the next half-century, as the Cavalier, had to struggle for
his very existence, and perished in his triumph at the Restoration.
The Court of James I could never pretend to be what Elizabeth's
had been, the Academy of the nation j and in its meaner atmosphere


vi Introduction.

Surrey and Wyatt would have found themselves as little at home as
did Raleigh. The bitterness of political and religious strife shattered
the unity of an ideal which had been the proudest ornament of the
previous age ; there were henceforth two standards by which the
gentleman was measured, and Cavalier and Puritan divided the
suffrages of society.

Other and less invidious causes had contributed to the change.
In the history of the English gentleman the growth of the idea of
Public Duty is almost as noticeable as his transformation into the
Courtier. It had made some progress under Richard II, only to be
miserably shattered in the wars of the succession; under the
Tudors it steadily made way, and when the troubles of religion began
it threatened the destruction of everything that had made the
gentleman an amiable companion and a courteous enemy. It was
something of this feeling, joined to a narrow sort of nationalism,
which inspired that sturdy band of ' Anglo-Saxons ', of whom Cheke
and Ascham were the leaders. They had welcomed the revival of
classical learning and could not help admiring the high ideal of the
Courtier, drawn so splendidly by Castiglione ; but they feared the
subtle genius of Italy, and her seducing influence on the morals of
their country and the purity of the English tongue. As it turned
out, their fear for English morals was ungrounded ; and Italy only
made way for France, a much less worthy guest.

We are left then with two schools of thought and manners, and
two sets of rival teachers. 'The most popular book in Cavalier
circles,' says Professor Raleigh, in his Introduction to Hoby's
translation of The Courtier, "^was Henry Peacham's Compleat Gentleman
(i^ii), which ran through many editions, and was held in high
esteem by the courtiers of the Restoration. Richard Brathwaite
in his English Gentleman (1630) and English Gentlewoman (1^31)
presented the Puritans with the draft of a character by no means
destitute of polite accomplishments yet grounded at all points on
religious precepts.* With Brathwaite we need not much concern


Introduction*. vii

ourselves ; he writes ' long pulpit homilies, proving from the Bible
that clothes are the mark of man's corruption, that there is no
greatness which has not a near relation to goodness, and that the
only armoury that can tmly deblazon a gentleman is to be found in
acts of charity and devotion '. But Peacham is a man of quite anothei
stamp, and he had far too much sense ever to imagine that ''tis only
noble to be good '. He represents the best that was left of the
Renaissance. With Ascham he is a patriot and a reforming school-
master; with the courtiers of Elizabeth he believes in the gentleman
born, and in learning as the fountain of good counsel and the graces.
It was his determination to rescue the gentleman ' from the tyranny
of these ignorant times and from the common education ' that led
him to write this book. On both of these his own life is perhaps as
interesting a commentaiy as we could have.

Henry Peacham was born in 1 57^ at Northmimms in Hertfordshire,
near St. Albans, the place, as he tells us, where 'merrie John Heywood
wrote his epigrams and Sir Thos. More his Utopia. He was the son
of a clergyman, sometime rector of Leverton in Lincolnshire, and
his school days were passed between St. Albans and London, under
a variety of masters (if we are to believe his own account) of every
shade of eccentricity. Above all his early and incorrigible love of
drawing brought him into constant trouble with his teachers: 'yet,' he
assures us, ' could they never beate it out of me.' But it is the way
with forward pupils that their reminiscences nearly always take the
form of complaints ; and he had at any rate profited so far as to
become at seventeen a Scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, where
he spent the next five years, graduating B.A. in i J9J and M.A. three
years later. Here his favourite studies seem to have been History
and Cosmography, and he spent much of his time, like Hobbes at
Oxford, hanging over maps ; but the lighter accomplishments then
fashionable, the devising of Emblems, Impresas, and Anagrams,
occupied some of his leisure.

Some time before 1600 he began his teaching as Master of the


viii Introduction.

Free School at Wymoiidham in Norfolk ; but it was not till six years
later that he became an author, with the publication of Crafbice, a
treatise 'on drawing with the pen and limning in water-colours ,
republished as The Gentleman's Exercise in 16 iz and KJ343 ^""
subsequently included in the 1661 edition of the present work. The
treatise itself, which was evidently popular, may perhaps be neg-
lected ; though the Third Book, a Dialogue on the Blazonry of Arms
between an enlightened merchant, Cosmopolites, and a scholar,
Eudaemon, who represents Peacham himself, is interesting both on
account of its literaiy form (sanctified for such gentlemanly subjects
by the example of The Courtier), and because, as is the way with
dialogue, it is always straying from the main topic and giving us
excellent things on the manners of the time. But to readers of
the Comfleat Gentleman it is the Preface that will provide most
interest. It is a kind of Declaration of Independence in favour of
the honest writing of textbooks. His principles, he declares, are
his own, ' not borrowed out of the shops, but the very same Nature
acquainted me withal from a child, and such as in practise I have
ever found most easie and true.' As for the malice of rival artists,
' the worst hurt they can do me,' he says, ' is to draw my Picture ill-
favouredly.' It is the same man who set himself later to denounce
the educational errors of his time, and who, in his Preface to the
Comfleat Gentleman, could throw in the face of his critics the brave
words ' I care not ; I have pleased myselfe '.

In i^i I we find him contributing three pieces, one ' in the Utopian
tongue ', to Thomas Coryat's Crudities ; and a year later he settled
for a time in London in the parish of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. He
seems to have lived at this time partly by his pen, partly by tutoring
young men for the University ; and he testifies to the happiness which
he found in the friendship both of the fathers and their sons. He
tried also, in the fashion of the time, to recommend himself at Court.
In 1606 he had presented to young Prince Henry, the avowed
patron of the arts, a rendering into Latin verse, 'with Emblems,' of


Introduction. ' ix

his father's Basilkon Doron. Seven years later, on this Prince's
untimely death, he published an elegy, 'in sixe visions," entitled
The Period of Mourning. His efforts seem to have met with some
success. He was offered and accepted a commission to travel on
the Gsntinent as tutor to the sons of Thomas Howard, Earl of
Arundel, of Hannibal Baskerville, and others ; and until the end
of 1614 his time was spent in visiting the chief cities of Holland,
France, and Italy. His longest stay seems to have been in the
Low Countries, where he learned much and made many friends.
His book is fiill of references to this visit ; he was a keen observer,
and was interested in every form of life and art. Practical pedagogy
and military formations, Dutch painting and the armorial eccen-
tricities of 'mine old host at Arnhem', the number of lancers in the
armies of Spinola and the Prince of Orange, — everything was
noted and remembered for future use. But it was at the table of
Sir John Ogle, the Governor of Utrecht, that he learned most.
Here resorted scholars and soldiers from all the northern nations,
English, Scots, French, and Dutch ; and their disputations (all the
better for their being strangers to one another) ranged so freely
over every topic of warfare and the arts that, as Peacham says,
•^ his table seemed many times a little Academy' (p. 173). It is
a pity he did not keep a journal of his travels instead of bothering
about the ' Affaire of Cleve and Gulick ', of which he wrote
a ' most true relation ' on his return to London in 161 5.

He did not find things very pleasant for him there ; a charge of
having libelled the king was trumped up against him by a namesake,
Edmund Peacham, rector of Hinton St. George. It was proved to
be false ; but the episode cannot have tended to sweeten his view of
life. How he lived at this time in London we do not know : probably
much as before. He still retained some considerable friends, among
them the Earl of Arundel and his son, to the latter of whom the
Compteat Gentleman is dedicated ; to others, of whom the best
known are Thomas Dowland the musician and Inigo Jones, he had


X Introduction.

been recommended by common tastes. His early inclination to
verse, and the precious pastime of Emblems and Impresas, had never
left him ; of his Anagrams the reader may judge for himself by some
specimens which he gives at p. 231 of this reprint. His last published
essay in this sort of fashionable verse was a collection of 1 27 Epigrams,
called Thalia's Banquet, which appeared in i6zo ; and he then
expressed his intention of abandoning poetry for more serious and
profitable studies. He was now forty-four, and freer than most people
from the delusions of his age. He was widely and intelligently read,
and master of ^ strong and forcible English which he knew how to
alleviate with the saving grace of humour. His experiences abroad
had widened his views, and forced upon him a comparison of the
gentlemen of his own with those of other countries. It hurt him,
both as an Englishman and as a firm believer in the merits of gentle
birth, to see them come so ignominiously out of the balance. The
story of the young English gentleman in Artoise is so well related by
Peacham in his Preface that it will not bear a second telling ; it should
be read as well for its own sake as for the influence which it had on
Peacham's mind.

The result was the publication, in 1622, of the Comfleat Gentleman.
It is, of course, primarily a guide to the gentlemanly arts and
accomplishments, but a considerable motive in its composition was
the desire to protest against slovenliness in the education of his time,
and, by precept and example, to supply a remedy. The book became
as popular as it deserved. It was issued again in l6z6 and 1617 ; a
second and enlarged edition was published in 1^34, and a third, with
additions on the art of Blazonry 'by a very good hand', possibly
Thomas Blount, appeared in 166 1, seventeen years after the author's
death. If we believe the preface of M. S. to this posthumous edition,
the book had to struggle against a powerful force of malice and
censure, over which it was finally triumphant. The reference is no
doubt to Puritan opposition, which ceased with the Restoration.

Here, so far as the Comfleat Gentleman is concerned, the story of


Introduction.' xi

his life might very well come to an end. But what remained of it
was neither uninteresting nor unproductive. The times grew hard,
and he must have been sometimes very poor. But the harder life
became with him, the greater interest he seems to have taken in
affairs about him ; and indeed hunger is a fine quickener of the wits.
He was affected, or at any rate profited, by the current frenzy of
disputation. A number of tracts from his pen, of whimsical title, fill
the years from 1^36, when he published, anonymously, his Coach
and Sedan, to 1^41, the probable date of the most popular of all his
works. The Worth of a Peny, or a caution to keep money. It was
republished after his death in 1^64, and seven editions appeared in
the next forty years, the last in 1703. As a tract on the shifts of the
indigent and the shady side of contemporary life it would be hard
to find its equal for wit, vigour, and keenness of observation. It
may now be read in Arber's English Garner (vol. vi, 1883). The
^rt of Liiiing in London, which appeared in the next year, deals
with the same topics. There seemed to be no place for the old man
any longer. His former patrons, if they were not dead, had other
things to do than attend to decayed scholars ; nobody wanted his
Emblems, and his 'Thalia's banquets' were as far as possible from
having a relish for Puritan palates. Nothing but that mixture of
artistic feeling with a naturally robust sense of the realities of life
(the peculiar compound which made the Renaissance gentleman so
much of a novelty) could have kept his wit so keen and his observa-
tion so fresh. Low life, it would seem, loses half its terrors for the
man who can grasp its crude and subterranean philosophy : a
philosophy to be found in its purity nowhere in English save in the
works of Fielding He was never married j and died, we cannot
doubt it, in poverty, about 1644.

We are better able now to appreciate the characteristics of the
book. The double motive of the Cavalier and the Schoolmaster is
evident in the opening chapters. The union of nobility and sound
learning is declared to be the only surety of a country's glory j and


xii Introduction.

history, both sacred and profane, even the order of nature itself, is
invoked to bestow its approval on this happy marriage. To hold
great place, we are reminded, is to be like the Sun, ' so in view of
all that his least eclijse is taken to a minute " ; and an ignorant
nobleman is compared to a blind man at the mercy of the boy
whose eyes and ears he borrows. It was here that Peacham found
his difficulty. Of nobles and gentlemen there was plenty in
England, and of excellent parts ; but as for ' that sweet bride, good
Learning,' she seemed impossible to come by. The common edu-
cation presented to him an almost uniform spectacle of confusion
and error — masters who did not understand their work, and parents
who did not know their duty. Can any wonder, he asks, that the
pedagogue is become a regular subject of comedy, when he has
either no knowledge to give, or, if he has knowledge, cannot
impart it ; when, above all, he cannot even speak his own
language without the grossest solecisms ? He especially denounces
that 'carterly judgment' of the master who sets his pupils 'like
horses in a teame, to draw all alike,' keeping only ' some one or two
prime and able wits, airoSiSaKToi, which he culs out to admiration if
strangers come, as a Costardmonger his fairest Pippins ' (pp. 11-3).
Meanwhile parents grumbled at a state of things for which they were
in fact largely responsible. Most gentlemen, we are told, ' will give
better wages and deale more bountifully with a fellow who can but
teach a Dogge, or reclaim an Hawke,thanuponanhonest, learned, and i
well qualified man to bring up their children ' ; and this, it is dryly
suggested, may be the reason why 'Dogges are able to make Syllogismes
in the fields, when their young Masters can conclude nothing at home '
(p. 31). And while they starve the tutor, they indulge his pupil,
who is sent to the University, sometimes before his teens, with so
much in his purse and so little in his head that after four or five years
there ' he returns home as wise as ^mmoniushis Asse, that went with
his Master every day to the Schoole, to heare Origm and Porphyrle
reade Philosophy ' (p. 31). This chapter on the Duty of Parents is

Introduction. xiii

one of the best in the book ; and neither it nor the next. Of
a Gentleman's carriage in the University, can ever be anything but
n-.odern. He opens with a little flourish, as befits the importance of
the matter. The young gentleman, ' having passed that, I imagine,
Limbus fturorum, and those perillous pikes of the Grammar rules," is
on the point of setting out for the University ; his horse stands
ready bridled, and Peacham proposes, as a wrell-wisher to him and
to his studies, to ' turn the head of his discourse ' and bear him
company some part of the way. As they proceed he beguiles the
journey with kindly advice, which is less concerned with the young
scholar's future labours than with his friendships and recreations.
Peacham was really sorry for ' these young things ', as he calls them,
' of twelve, thirteene or fourteene, that have no more care than to
expect the next Carrier, and where to sup on Fridayes and Fasting
nights : no fiirther thought of study, than to trimme up their
studies with Pictures, and place the fairest Bookes in openest view,
which, poore Lads, they scarce ever opened, or understand not ;
that when they come to Logicke, and the crabbed grounds of Arts,
there is such a disproportion betweene ^ristotles Categories, and their
childish capacities, that what together with the sweetnesse of libertie,
varietie of companie, and so many kinds of recreation in Towne and
Fields abroad . . . they proove with Homers Willow ^kio-iKapiroi, and
as good goe gather Cockles with Caligulas people on the Sand, as yet
to attempt the difficulties of so rough and terrible a passage ' (p. 33).
The ordinary undergraduate is older nowadays ; but is he then so
very unlike his youthful ancestor ?

The rest of the book is devoted to the instruction of the gentle-
man, ' fashioning him absolut,' as the title-page runs, ' in the most
necessary and commendable Qualities concerning Minde or Body."
Both in arrangement and in method it is characteristic of its author
and of his age. There is no attempt to give a complete and
artistically finished portrait such as we get in The Courtier j the
textbook arrangement precluded any such high design, and we are


xlv Introduction,

left to frame the result for ourselves. By his method also we are
reminded of the enormous difference between a really practical age
(such as all great ages are) and one, like his own, which is merely
useful. It is never the really great age that makes most play with
the motive of utility ; and Peacham is distinguished from his
predecessors of the Renaissance by nothing more than by this, that
utility is his prime and unfailing test of the validity of his scheme.
The determination thus to recommend some study leads him
occasionally into the quaintest passages. Bodin is quoted to tell of
some ' who have recovered their healthes by reading of History ', and
the example is cited of that King Alphonsus who by ' the onely
reading of Quint. Curtius ' was cured of a very dangerous fever. ' If
I could have been so rid,' our author comments slyly, ' of my late
quartan Ague, I would have said with the same good King : Valeat
Avicenna, vivat Curtius.' Then there is the tale of Telesilla in
Plutarch who was cured of sickness by nothing else than poetry,
and ' it is most certaine that those who are stung with the Taran-
tula are cured onely by Musicke '. Even if Peacham only half
believed these stories, and regarded them as a sort of ' medicinal
lie ' told in the cause of education, it is significant of the state of
opinion at the time that these sacrifices to the cause should have
taken this particular form and that they should have been thought
capable of effecting anything in its behalf.

The motive of utility, however, is always capable in good hands of
producing the sanest results, and in alliance with that spirit of nation-
alism which informs so much of the book it is the key to Peacham's
gentleman. It was not thought necessary in the fiill-blooded days
of the Renaissance to warn the gentleman against excessive scholar-
ship ; but nothing is more insisted on by Peacham. The business of
his life being the management of his own affairs and the service of
King and State, the studies of literature and the arts must be always
with him ' inter splendidas nugas ', treated as relaxations merely.
To neglect for them his more serious employments would be to

Introduction. ' xv

incur the charge, as Peacham puts it, of deserting the Mistress to
make love to the Maid. The distinction is one which has always
come home to Englishmen, and which is still maintained by our older
Universities as the foundation of most of their teaching. It is not
proposed, for instance, that the gentleman should rival the professional
musician. ' I desire no more in you,' he says, ' than to sing your part
sure, and at the first sight, withall, to play the same upon your Violl,
or the exercise of the Lute, privately to yourselfe.' And so with the
rest of his studies. What then, we ask, were those ' more serious
employments' of which we hear so much? To answer [this question
from Peacham is by no means easy. The gentleman, as we gather,
was expected to be ready with sword or counsel at the call of his
Prince and of the Commonwealth. He must be well enough versed
in knightly accomplishments to bring his country no discredit in
foreign courts and camps. And so he would remain, in vague
portrait, a respectable but undersized descendant of his Renaissance
ancestor, if it were not for one thing, which we become aware of
slowly, but which is fiindamental. The decay of the Courtier had
given a new settlement to the long-standing quarrel of Court and
Country, and the result was that excellent person who in the seven-
teenth century saved England and astonished Europe, and has won
ever since their respect and admiration, Peacham's ideal, the
enlightened and public-spirited Country Gentleman. The most
definite demand that Peacham makes on behalf of public economy
(a demand which King Charles I translated into law), is contained
in his reproach against those lords of manors who appear ' but as
Cuckoes in the Spring, one time in the yeere to the Countrey and
their Tenants, leaving the care of keeping good houses at Christmas
to the honest Yeomen of the Countrey'. And as if to remove any doubts
we still might have of the correctness of our interpretation, there is
that fine declaration of faith, written, when Peacham was still a young

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryHenry PeachamPeacham's Compleat gentleman, 1634 → online text (page 1 of 22)