Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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selfe over unto vanity and pleasures, and at last to excessive
droonkennesse : whereby hee became so odious unto his people
generally, that they privily conspired his death, and executed
the same.

Other examples from Roman history follow. In the
course of this passage the writer digresses (a defect, from
an artistic point of view, to which, owing to the rapidity
and spontaneousness of his writing, he was perpetually
liable) to propound the theory which Bacon develops in
his Wisdojn of the Ancients '.

For we must not thinke that the ancient Poettes in theyr most
famous works, dyd dyrectly meane as the lytterall text of theyr
Fables do import : but they dyd Clarkly in figures, set before us
sundry tales, which (being wel marked) might serve as examples,
to terrifie the posteritie from falling into sundry vanities, and
pestilent misgovernments ; and therupon they feigned y' Medea,
Circe, and such other coulde metamorphose and transforme men
into Beastes, Byrdes, Plantes and Flowres : meaning therby,
that whosever is so blinded in sensuality, that forgetting his
intellectual reasons, and the better part of his understanding, he
follow the appetite and concupiscence of nature, he shal without
doubt transforme him self, or be transformed from a man to a

He then comes to his own country, where he is
particularly interesting, and anticipates similar passages
in Nashe's works :


But now if we consider our own age (yea our owne Nation)
... we shal find by too true experience, that we doo so much
exceede al those that have gone before us, that if they might
seeme as men transfourmed into Beasts, we shal rather appeare as
Beasts mishapen and changed into Devyls. And in this accusa-
tion, I doo not onely summon the Gerjuaines (who of auncient
tyme have beene the continuall Wardens of the Droonkards
fraternitye and corporation) but I would also cyte to appeare
our newfangled Englyshe men, which thinke skorne to leave any
newe fashion (so that it be evyll) untryed or unfollowed.

He proceeds to denounce the drinking habits of
the English common people, in a similar tone to that
habitually adopted by both Bacon and Shakespeare in
treating of them in the mass :

Let us but consider this one thing : in what civyll Realme
or dominion, where the people are taught and exercised in the
commandementes and counsels of God (England onely excepted)
shall we see the unthriftie Artificer, or the labourer, permitted
to syt bybbing and drinking of Wine in every Taverne ? or what
woman (even amongst the droonken Almaines) is suffred to
foUowe her Husbande into the Alehouse or Beerehouse ? But
it were folly to stand so much upon these meane personages,
who for lacke of wytte or good education, maye easily be enclyned
to thinges undecent.

He then turns to the better classes of his own genera-
tion, whom in those days, and for some time after, he
aspired to influence and improve by his writings. In
dealing with them his style becomes gentler, and he
seeks to arrest attention by the power of description
and wit :

I woulde (for God) that our gentrie, and the better sort of
our people, were not so much acquainted with Quaffing,
Carowsing, and drinking of harty draughtes, at many mery
conventions : would God that we learned not (by the foreleaders
forenamed) to charge and conjure each other unto the pledge,
by the name of such as we most honour and have in estimation : ^
Ah las, we English men can mocke and scoffe at all Countreyes
for theyr defectes, but before they have many times mustred

* Against this passage is a marginal note (reconstructed) : " Befor [your]e
Mai-[stre]sse and [my] beloved [wif]e, pledge [m]e this [cu]pfull," etc.



before us, we can learne by lytle and lytle to exceede and passe
them al, in all that which (at first sight) we accoumpted both
vyle and vyllanous : The Spanish codpeece on the bellye : the
Ittalyan waste under the hanch bones : the Frenche Ruffes : the
Polonian Hose : the Dutch jerken : and the Turkic bonnet : all
these at the first we despised, and had in derision. But immedi-
ately {mutata opi?iione) we doo not onelye retyne them, but we do
so farre exceede them : that of a Spanish codpeece, we make an
English footeball : of an Ittalyan wast, an English Petycoate :
of a French ruffe, an English Chytterling : of a Polonian
Hose, an English bowgette : of a Dutch Jerken, an old English
Habergeone, and of a Turkic bonnet, a Copentank for Caiphas :
In lyke manner we were woont (in times past) to contempne and
condempne the Almaincs and other of the low Countreyes, for
theyr beastly drinking and quaffing. But nowe a dayes (although
we use it not dayly lyke them, for it seemes that they are
naturally enclyned to that vyce) yet, when we doo make
banquets and merymentes, as wee terme them, we surpasse them
very farre : and small difference is founde betwixt us and them,
but only that they (by a custome rooted amongst them, and
become next Cosen to nature as before sayd) doo dayly wallow
in a grosse maner of beastlines, and we think to cloak the
filthinesse therof by a more honorable solemnitye, and by the
cleanly tytle of curtesie. The Almaines with their smal Renish
wine are contented : or rather then faile a cup of beere may
entreate them to stoupe : But we must have March beere,
dooble dooble Beere, Dagger ale, Bragget, Renish wine.
White wine, French wine, Gascoyne wine. Sack, HoUocke,
Canaria wine, Vino greco : Vinum amabile, etc., al the w^ines
that may be gotten : Yea wine of it selfe is not sufficient, but
Suger, Limons, and sundry sortes of Spices, must be drowned
therin, to minister mater unto our vaine delights and to beguile
our selves with y^ baite which dronkennesse doth therein lay
for us. And all this must be covered with the cleanlye name
of curtesy, and friendly entertainment.

Whether any of the writer's fellow-countrymen would
be converted from excess by this wonderful harangue
may be doubted ; rather, probably, they would have been
flattered by the subtle appeal to the national vanity.
The treatise closes in moral and religious exhortation,
with citations of the judgments of God on the vice of
drunkenness :

Nowe finally to prove that it woundeth mans soule, is evident,


in that Almighty God hath as well by his Prophets, as also by
his Apostles, so often and so manifoldly reproved and forbidden
the same.

Sundry verses of Scripture follow, indicating the writer's
familiarity with the Bible.

I have quoted from this treatise at some length,
because it is full of significance from the point of view
of the theory which I seek to establish. In the first
place it anticipates sundry discourses by Nashe, and the
style is the same. In the second place it has the self-
confidence of immaturity in a very pronounced degree,
and so betrays the author's youth. Lastly, it reveals
exceptional genius, with which Gascoigne was certainly
not endowed.

It only remains to cite two passages from Shakespeare
which have a striking affinity with this treatise, and, to
my mind, bear the stamp of the same writer's hand, at
successive stages of his development ; the first from
Hamlety the second from Othello.

Hamlet^ i. 4 :

This heavy-headed revel east and west

Makes us traduced and tax'd of other nations :

They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase

Soil our addition ; and indeed it takes

From our achievements, though perform'd at height,

The pith and marrow of our attribute.

So, oft it chances in particular men,

That for some vicious mole of nature in them,

As, in their birth. . . .

Othello^ ii. 3 :

Cassio. 'Fore God, an excellent song.

lago. I learned it in England, where, indeed, they are most
potent in potting : your Dane, your German, and your swag-bellied
Hollander — Drink, ho ! — are nothing to your English.

Cas. Is your Englishman so expert in his drinking ?

lago. Why, he drinks you, with facility, your Dane dead drunk ;
he sweats not to overthrow your Almain ; he gives your Hollander
a vomit ere the next pottle can be filled.

Cas. To the health of our general !


Then follows the tragedy of Cassio's discharge :

lago. What, are you hurt, lieutenant ?

Cas. Ay, past all surgery.

lago. Marry, heaven forbid !

Cas. Reputation, reputation, reputation ! O, I have lost my
reputation ! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what
remains is bestial. My reputation, lago, my reputation !

lago. As I am an honest man, I thought you had received some
bodily wound ; there is more sense in that than in reputation.
Reputation is an idle and most false imposition. . . .

Cas. I will rather sue to be despised than to deceive so good a
commander with so slight, so drunken, and so indiscreet an officer.
Drunk ? and speak parrot ? and squabble ? swagger ? swear ? and
discourse fustian with one's own shadow ? O thou invisible spirit
of wine, if thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee devil !
. . . O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to
steal away their brains ! that we should, with joy, pleasance, revel
and applause, transform ourselves into beasts !

• •••*•••
lago. Come, you are too severe a moraler. . . .

Cas. I will ask him for my place again ; he shall tell me I am a
drunkard ! Had I as many mouths as Hydra, such an answer
would stop them all. To be now a sensible man, by and by a fool,
and presently a beast ! O strange ! Every inordinate cup is un-
blessed, and the ingredient is a devil.

lago. Come, come, good wine is a good familiar creature, if it
be well used : exclaim no more against it. And, good lieutenant, I
think you think I love you.

Cas. I have well approved it, sir. I drunk I

lago. You or any man living may be drunk at a time, man.

The other moral or, rather, religious tract, The Droomme
of Doomsday, I have already alluded to. The dedication
(to the Earl of Bedford) contains the customary (and
significant) formula, " Let it please your honor to rest
throughly satisfied with this my simple acknowledging
of your great goodnes," etc. The writer's account of the
origin of the discourse is, on the face of it, absurd :

And thereupon (not manye monethes since) tossyng and re-
tossyng in my small Lybrarie, amongest some bookes which had
not often felte my fyngers endes in XV yeares ^ before, I chaunced
to light upon a small volumne skarce comely covered, and wel

• Francis Bacon was fifteen years old at this time. This, therefore, may
be intentional. Compare p. 269, note.


worse handled. For to tell a truth unto your honor/ it was
written in an old kynd of caracters, and so tome as it neyther had
the beginning perspycuous, nor the end perfect. So that I can
not certaynly say who shuld be the Author of the same. But as
things of meane shewe (outwardely) are not alwayes to bee rejected,
even so this olde tome Pamphlette I founde sundrye thinges
(as mee thoughte) wrytten with suche zeale and affection, and
tendinge so dyrectly unto the reformacion of maners, that I dyd
not onely (myselfe) take great pleasure in perticuler reading
thereof, but thought them profitable to be published for a generall
commoditie. And thereupon have translated and collected into
some ordre these sundry parcells of the same. The which (as
well because the aucthor is to me unknowen, as also because the
original copies had no peculyar tytle, but cheefly because they
do all tend zealously to an admonicion whereby we may every
man walke warely and decently in his vocacion) I have thought
meete to entytle The Drootmne of Doomesdaye.

The reason probably for the translator's suppression
of the author's name was that he was a Catholic. I have
not looked for the original, but, as a piece of English,
the translation is done with admirable force and fluency.
As, however, it contains nothing which bears on my
argument, I shall not detain the reader with a discussion
of its contents. There is much in it of a spiritual and
edifying character, much also which is revolting to a
modern mind. I fancy that this part of it — the appalling
material terrors of hell elaborated by a monkish imagina-
tion — had attractions for the translator, as serving a
useful purpose in the maintenance of social order. At
the same time Bacon's thoughts (which embraced most
things) centred much on " divinity," and in his early
days at any rate he aspired to be an exponent in it.
An example of a later effort in this department of thought
occurs in the Advancement of Learning.

I come lastly to the prefatory epistle to Gilbert's
" Discourse " ' entitled " George Gascoigne Esquire to the
Reader." It is dated 12th April 1576, three days before
the dedication of The Steele Glas. The difference in the

^ A characteristic formula with this writer, when indulging in artifice.
'^ A Discourse of a Discotierie for a new Passage to Cataia.


tone of the two dedications is so remarkable as to arrest
attention at the outset. The style also of the two is
entirely different, and on this ground alone it is incredible
that they are by the same hand. There are other grounds
for the same conclusion, notably in the circumstances, as
related by the author, attending the publication of Sir
Humphrey Gilbert's alleged work. I say "alleged,"
because I have no doubt that both the Epistle to the
Reader and the " Discourse " are by the same hand, and
that neither Gascoigne nor Gilbert had to do with either
the one or the other. The whole publication is, in my
opinion, an artifice, designed with the object of promoting
the project of North-Western discovery which was at that
time being agitated. Only by such an explanation is it
possible, in my opinion, to account for the disgraceful
story (disgraceful if true) which the writer tells of his
conduct, and for which he has no sense of shame.

Parts of the Epistle to the Reader are written in the
euphuistic style which the young author, as I regard him,
was beginning to practise. It opens with the proposition
that as the State punishes offenders, so it should encourage
well-doers and reward merit. A strained analogy, in
curious language, from bee-keeping follows :

We see the good huswife is no lesse curious to decke her bees
hiue, to rub and perfume it with sweete herbes, to couer and
defend it from raine with clay and boordes, and to place it in
the warme Sunshine safe from the Northerly blastes : then Shee
is readie to wreck her malice on the drones, to smoke and
smoulder them with Bunte and Brimstone, to fray and chase
them out by soudaine noyse, and to kill them and caste them
away, as unprofitable members in her Microcosmos. Yea, and
with melodie of Basons and Timbrils will shee welcome home her
swarme, if at anye time they doe (waspishly) goe astray, and yet
at last retourne to their former abyding.

He proceeds :

Thus muche (gentle reader) I have thought good (Allegoric-
ally) to write in the behalfe of the right worshipful and my very
frend S. Humfrey Gilbert, Knight, the true authour of this
little (yet profitable) Pamphlet, intituled A Discourse of a Dis-
couerie for a newe passage to Cataia, etc.


After commending the breeding, valour, virtue, gifts
of mind and public spirit of Gilbert, he gives the following
astounding account of the origin and publication of his
" Discourse " :

You must herewith vnderstand (good Reader) that the author
hauinge a worshipfuU Knight to his brother, who abashed at this
enterprise (aswell for that he himselfe had none issue, nor other
heier whome he ment to bestow his lands vpon, but onely this
Authour, and that this voyage then seemed strange and had not
beene commonly spoken before, as also because it seemed vn-
possible vnto the common capacities) did seeme partly to mislike
his resolutions, and to disuade him from the same : there-upon he
wrote this Treatise vnto his saide Brother, both to excuse and cleare
himselfe from the note of rashnesse, and also to set downe such
Authorities, reasons, and experiences, as had chiefly encouraged
him vnto the same, as may appeare by the letter next following,
the which I haue here inserted for that purpose. And this was
done about vii. yeares now past, sithence which time the original!
copies of the same haue lien by the authour as one rather
dreading to hazarde the Judgements of curious perusers then
greedie of glorie by hasty publication.

Now it happened that my selfe being one (amongst manie)
beholding to the said S. Hutnfrey Gilbert for sundrie curtesies,
did come to visit him in Winter last passed at his house in
Limehoivse, and beeing verie bolde to demaunde of him howe he
spente his time in this loytering vacation from martiall stratagemes,
he curteously tooke me vp into his Studie, and there shewed me
sundrie profitable and verie commendable exercises, which he had
perfected painefuUy with his owne penne : And amongst the rest
this present Discouerie. The which as well because it was not
long, as also because I vnderstoode that M. Fourboiser^ (a kinsman
of mine) did pretend to trauaile in the same Discouerie^ I craued
at the said S. Humfreyes handes for two or three dayes to reade
and to peruse. And hee verie friendly granted my request, but
stil seming to doubt that therby the same might, contrarie to his
former determination, be Imprinted.

And to be plaine, when I had at good leasure perused it, and
therwithall conferred his allegations by the Tables of Ortelius, and
by sundrie other Cosmographicall Mappes ^wd^-Charts, I seemed in
my simple iudgement not onely to like it singularly, but also
thought it very meete (as the present occasion serueth) to giue
it out in publike. Whereupon I haue (as you see) caused my

1 Sir Martin Frobisher.


friendes great trauaile, and mine owne greater presumption to be
registred in print.

The reader will recollect that a similar performance
is alleged in connection with the publication of the
Adventures of Master' F. J. (see Chapter VIII.), and we find
in the Harvey Letter-book remonstrances against a trick
of the same kind played on Harvey by " Immerito " ;
and other examples occur.

From the date of this " Epistle " (i 2th April 1576)
Gascoigne's visit to Gilbert, mentioned in the above
extract, would have been in the winter of 1575. The
words "And this was done about vii. yeares now past"
are therefore inconsistent with the date of the letter to
Sir John Gilbert, and of the " Discourse," which is given
as "the last of June, Anno D. 1566.''

Gilbert had presented a petition for a licence for North-
western discovery in 1566, but without success. From
the Gascoigne "Epistle" it appears that in 1575 he was
living in retirement, probably on account of his health,
which had suffered during his service in Ireland. Gilbert
was a poor man, and it is difficult, therefore, to see why
he should have objected to any one backing his efforts by
publishing his work, unless it were from fear that his ideas
would be appropriated by others who had more means at
their disposal. If that were so, it only makes Gascoigne's
alleged performance the more scandalous. But it seems
incredible that any one could have acted in the manner
described ; still more incredible that he should have owned
up to it. The writer, however, proceeds to justify his
performance, and makes it worse (or, rather, more absurd) :

But since I have thus aduentured both his rebuke, and mine
owne reproofe, let me thus alledge in both our defences :

1 . First it is but a Pamphlet and no large discourse, and there-
fore the more to be borne withall : since the faults (if any be)
shalbe the fewer, because the volume is not great

2. Also it was ment by th'autour, but as a private Letter unto
his Brother for his better satisfaction : and therefore his im-
perfections therein (if any were) are to be pardoned, since it is
very likely that if he had ment to publish the same, he would



with greater heede have observed and perused the worke in
everie parte.

3. Againe, it commeth foorth without his consent : So that he
had neither warning nor time to examine, nor yet to amende anie
thing that were worthie misUking.

4. Furthermore it treateth of a matter whereof no man hath
heretofore written particularly, nor shewed ani approved reason
for the same. So that not onely his trauaile and paine are very
commendable (who out of sundrie Authorities woulde gather one
reasonable coniecture) but also the worke is not to be thought
bareine, although it doe not fully prooue so much as may be ex-
pected, since he that plougheth in a flintie fielde, speedeth well if
he reape but an indifferent crop.

5. And last of all it is to bee considered, that of thinges
uncertaine, the greatest Gierke that euer was could write but

The reader will not fail to notice that the affectation
of " simplicity " is not absent from this epistle — " in my
simple judgment." It also occurs twice in the " Discourse "
itself — " so that it resteth not possible (so farre as my
simple reason can comprehend) that the perpetual current
can by any means," etc. ; " this briefe and simple discourse."

The writer concludes his epistle by wishing —

my kinsman (who now attempteth to proue the same discouery)
a happy returne,^ and to myselfe, some thankes and none ill will,
for my presumption. So that the Authour being therby incouraged,
may be the more willing hereafter to publishe some other well
worthy which he hath in readinesse, and whereof hee hath made
me alreadie an eyedwitnes. Farewell.

A remarkable piece of patronage for Gascoigne to
extend to a man like Gilbert ! The epistle is subscribed
with a light-hearted flourish in the character (far from the
reality) of Gascoigne :

From my lodging where I march amongst the Muses for lacke
of exercise in martiall exploytes, this 12 of April 1576. — A friend
to all well willing Readers. George Gascoine,

* At the time when this was written Frobisher was preparing for his first
voyage in quest of a North-West passage. He started from the Thames on
7th June 1576.


It is followed by a " Prophetical Sonet of the same
George Gascoine, upon the commendable travaile which
Sir Humfrey Gilbert hath disclosed in this worke," and
then we come to the " Discourse " itself, which will be
considered in the next chapter.



The " Discourse " which follows the Epistle to the
Reader in the name of Gascoigne (dated 12 th April
1576), dealt with in the foregoing chapter, bears the
description, " A Discourse of a Discouerie for a new
Passage to Cataia — Written by Sir Humfrey Gilbert,
Knight. Quid non." ^ It is introduced by a letter, dated
the last day of June 1566, from Sir Humphrey Gilbert to
his elder brother, Sir John Gilbert, enclosing a copy of
the " Discourse," with a map, and explaining that the
author was not proposing to risk his life in a wild project,
but that it was a practical one, and likely to be very
profitable.^ The treatise is entirely theoretical, written
with numerous examples from history and books, to prove
that there must be a North- West passage to Cathay, and
that it was preferable, from every point of view, to the
North-Eastern route. It concludes with a promise of a
further discourse on " Navigation." ^

The question of a North- West passage for purposes of
trade with Cathay was evidently suggested in England

* Quid nonl referring to a device adopted by Gilbert, "Mars and
Mercury joined by a cross, with this motto, Quid non? i.e. What not?
intimating that almost anything may be achieved, if to strength and wit there
is added patience." — Biogr. Brit., art. " H. Gilbert."

'•^ " A Letter of Sir Humfrey Gilbert, Knight, sent to his Brother, Sir John
Gilbert, of Compton, in the Countie of Devon, Knight, concerning the dis-
course of this Discouerie." The letter opens as follows: "Sir, you might
justly haue charged mee with an unsettled head if I had at any time taken in
hand to discouer Utopia, or any countrey fained by imagination : But Cataia
is none such. . . ." The letter concludes : " Fare you well from my lodging
the last of June Anno D. 1566. Your loving Brother, Humfrey Gilbert."

8 For details, see p. 3 1 1 below.



as early as 1566; but the account in Camden's Annals

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 27 of 55)