F. O. MANN.
Of his earlier life and education nothing is known, but his translation of the proclamation and letters in the Cologne tract (p. 274) show him to have had a good working knowledge of Latin. There is some probability that he knew French, for in Iacke of Newberie he apparently refers to a passage(p. 7, l. 25, and note.) in Montaigne's Essays, which were not Englished by Florio until 1603. Similarly the 'Spirit of Mogunce'(p. 24, l. 40, and note.) may have been remembered from Belleforest's Histoires Prodigieuses; the story of the Kings daughter of France(pp. 333-8, and note.) seems definitely drawn from the Histoires Tragiques; while even the French-English of John in The Gentle Craft (I) is of some importance in this connexion. He was at any rate a man of some culture, and had probably received such education as an Elizabethan Grammar-school allowed, adding to it a knowledge of the Continental languages, acquired either from the foreign artisans with whom he rubbed shoulders, or perhaps from his own family.
Elderton of the 'ale-crammed nose', so famous in contemporary pamphlets, was the king of the London Ballad-makers until his death in 1592, and him Deloney seems to have followed and finally succeeded as the popular balladjournalist of the day, at first combining the weaving of good silk with the production of popular poetry. His earliest extant performances in this direction are of a rather lugubrious description, such as The Lamentation of Beckles and The Death and Execution of Fourteen Most Wicked Traitors (1586). About this time he appears as a married man, living in the parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate, for the baptismal entry in the church registers can scarcely apply to any but him:
Richard the son of Thomas Deloney. Weaver. bap. Octr 16th 1586.
Although little of the work of his next eight years is extant, there can be no doubt that during this time he was writing prolifically, I and had become one of the most notorious authors of the Elizabethan Grub Street that catered for the 'groundlings'. Greene, in apologizing for the matter of his Defence of Conny Catching (1592), singles him out as a typical ballad-writer:
'Such triviall trinkets and threedbare trash, had better seemed T.D. whose braines beaten to the yarking up of Ballades, might more lawfully have glaunst at the quaint conceites of connycatching and crosse-biting'.(The Works of Robert Greene (Grosart), vol. xi, p. 49.)
Gabriel Harvey, in Pierce's Supererogation (1593),(The Works of Gabriel Harvey (Grosart), vol. ii, pp. 280-1.) classes him with `Philip Stubs, Robert Armin, and the common Pamfleteers of London', advising Nash `to boast lesse with Thomas Delone, or to atchieve more with Thomas More'.
Strype, in his edition of Stow's Survey, notes that 'abusive Ballads and Libels were too common in the City in Queen Elizabeth's Time, therein reflecting too boldly and seditiously upon the Government, particularly in case of Dearth'. His relation of an incident of 1596 throws light both upon the activities of Thomas Deloney and the difficulties of sixteenth-century popular journalism.(Survey of London (Stow, edited Strype, 1720), bk. v, p. 333.)
`In the next Year  Sir Stephen Slany, Maior, in the Month of July was brought to his Hands a certain Ballad, containing a Complaint of great Want and Scarcity of Corn within the Realm. And forasmuch as it contained in it certain vain and presumptuous matters, bringing in the Queen, speaking with her People Dialogue wise in very fond and undecent sort (as the said Maior in his letter, wrote also to the Lord Treasurer shewed) and prescribing Order for the remedying of this Dearth of Corn; which was extracted, as it seemed, out of a Book, published by the Lords the last Year, but done in that Vain and indiscreet manner, as that thereby the Poor might aggravate their Grief, and take occasion of some Discontentment: therefore he thought fit to acquaint the said Lord, that he called before him both Printer and the Party by whom it was put to print; who pretended a License for it. But that finding it to be untrue, he committed him to one of the Counters, and took Sureties of the printer himself for his appearance.
The Maker of this scurrilous Ballad was one Delonie, an idle Fellow, and one noted with the like Spirit, in printing a Book for the Silk Weavers: Wherein was found some such like foolish and disorderly matter. Him the Maior also was in Search for, but could not yet find him; as he signified also the said Lord, and sent him a Copy of the foresaid Ballad.'
The Ballad on the Want of Corn has entirely disappeared, together with the 'Book for the Silk Weavers'. But it seems fairly certain that Deloney was now installed as the poet of the people, and his voicing of popular cries was beginning to bring him into trouble. Slany's letter to Lord Burghley is still extant and is the original source of Strype's information. It is dated the 25th of July, 1596, and may be read in Wright's Elizabeth and her Times (vol. ii, p. 462).
'I loathe to speake it', says the author of the Epistle to Martin Mar-Sixtus (1592), 'euery red-nosed rimester is an author, euery drunken man's dreame is a booke, and he whose talent of little wit is hardly worth a farthing, yet layeth about him so outragiously, as if all Helicon had run through his pen, in a word, scarce a cat can look out of a gutter, but out starts a halfpenny chronicler, and presently A propper new ballet of a strange sight is endited'.(Quoted in Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time, vol. i, p. 106.) The ballad-singer was a common enough figure of popular Elizabethan life, and Tudor legislation had found it necessary to include him in a sweeping scheme of social reform. By the 14th of Elizabeth, Cap. V,
All fencers, bearwards, common players in interludes and minstrels, not belonging to any baron of this realm or towards any other honourable personage of greater degree; . . . which . . . shall wander abroad and have not license of two justices of the peace ... shall be deemed rogues, vagabonds and sturdy beggars'.(Prothero's Statutes and other Constitutional Documents, p. 69.)
Chettle, in Kind-Hartes Dreame (1592), describes the balladsinger's peculiar garb.
'His head was couered with a round cap, his body with a side skirted tawny coate, his legs and feete trust vppe in leather buskins, . . . his treble violl in his hande, assured me of his profession. On which (by his continual sawing, hauing left but one string) after his best manner, hee gaue me a huntsup.'(Kind-hartes Dreame (N. S. S. Shakspere Allusion Bks.), pt. i, p. 43.)
With this we may compare Deloney's own account of Antony Nownow in The Gentle Craft (II). But Chettle goes on to describe the ballad-singers further:
`A company of idle youths, loathing honest labour and dispising lawful trades, betake themselues to a vagrant and vicious life, in euery corner of Cities and market Townes of the Realme, singing and selling of ballads and pamplets full of ribaudrie, and all scurrilous vanity, to the proclamation of God's name, and withdrawing people from christian exercises, especially at faires, markets, and such publike meetings.'(Ibid., p. 47.)
Northbrooke and Stubbes attacked them with the proper dignity of Puritan morality, and Stubbes denounces their indifference to moral issues with rhetorical fervour: 'Who be more bawdie than they ? who vncleaner than they ? who more licentious and looseminded ?'(Anatomy of Abuses (N. S. S.), p. 171)
To this honourable fraternity Thomas Deloney, the fervent Puritan-Protestant, joined himself, rising to more prominence in proportion as he left silk-weaving behind him. His novels show the closest acquaintance with the life of travelling craftsmen, with the legends, customs, and topography of certain districts, and especially those round which the Elizabethan textile industries were centred,(Note on Sources of Thomas of Reading, infra, pp. 547-8.) an acquaintance which could scarcely have been gained except by personal experience. He writes of Petworth and the high road thence to London,(p. 176, l. 1; p. 178, l. 31; p. 185, l. 39, and notes.) of Gloucester,(p. 222, ll. 5-10, and notes.) Canterbury,(p. 97, ll. 31, 45, and notes.) and Colnbrook,(Note on Sources of Thomas of Reading, infra, p. 549.) with the casual accuracy which betokens familiarity, and his skilful imitation of the Northern dialect(e. g. p. 227, ll. 34-8; p. 244, ll. 20-7.) indicates a very real knowledge of its peculiarities. There cannot be the slightest doubt that he must have lived at Newbury long enough to have become well acquainted with its traditions and customs,(p. 27, l. 6; p. 32, l. 33; p. 33, l. 12, and notes.) with the surrounding countryside and the names and reputations of local gentlefolk. Probably Berkshire as a whole was well known to him, for both Iacke of Newberie and Thomas of Reading seem largely derived from traditional sources. His knowledge of Newbury streets and suburbs is remarkably detailed and correct.(e. g. p. 5, l. 21; p. 6, l. 8; p. 15, l. 36, and notes.) Parry,(p. 22, l. 10, and note.) Englefield,(p. 24, l. 5, and note.) and Hungerford(p. 22, l. 11, and note.) in Iacke of Newberie, and Nevel, Abridges, and Rainsford(Note on Sources of Gentle Craft (II), infra, pp. 532-3.) in The Gentle Craft (II), are the names of Berkshire county families adopted boldly into fiction. 'It was her lucke vpon a Bartholomew day (hauing a Fayre in the toun) to spy her man Iohn giue a paire of Gloues to a proper maide for a Fayring,' he writes in Iacke of Newberie;(p. 10, ll. 5-7.) and Ashmole, in the Antiquities of Berkshire (sub Newbury), mentions five yearly fairs, one upon August 24th, Bartholomew day. Hence Deloney is here referring to an actual fact of local topography, the casual nature of the reference making it all the more certain that he speaks of a custom familiar to him by continued experience. He may have frequented Newbury with his ballads on fair days, an Autolycus among the villages of Bohemia, but more probably he worked there at his trade of silkweaving. The silk industry reached considerable importance in Berkshire in Elizabeth's time, especially at Reading, and at Newbury itself it survived until the early nineteenth century.(Victoria County History of Berks, vol. i, p. 395.) Deloney's knowledge of Newbury customs and people appears too detailed to have been acquired in any other way than by actual residence in the town, and Canaans Calamitie (See note on p. 33, l. 12; also Note on Authorship of Canaans Calamitie, infra, p. 593.) is actually dedicated to Richard Kingsmill of Highclere, near by.
Nash's Haue With You to Saffron-Walden (1596) gives a list of Deloney's pamphlets, some of which have entirely perished or cannot be identified with certainty.
'-as Thomas Deloney, the Balletting Silke-Weauer, of Norwich, hath rime inough for all myracles, and wit to make a Garland of Good will, more than the premisses, with an epistle of Momus and Zoylus; whereas his Muse, from the first peeping foorth, hath stood at Liuery at an Alehouse wispe, neuer exceeding a penny a quart, day or night, and this deare yeare, together with the silencing of his looms, scarce that; he being constrained to betake him to carded Ale: whence it proceedeth that, since Candlemas or his Iigge of John for the King, not one merrie Dittie will come from him, but the Thunder-bolt against Swearers, Repent, England, repent, and the strange iudgments of God.' (The Works of Thomas Nash (McKerrow), vol. iii, p. 84.)
Deloney's muse, from the first, was probably nourished on very small beer, and by 1596 the dear year and the slackness of trade seem to have driven him from his loom to rely entirely for sustenance on his ballads and romances. If this be the case, the issue was happy enough, for Deloney's chief claims for remembrance rest upon his novels, Iacke of Newberie, registered March 7, 1596-7; The Gentle Craft (I), October 19, 1597; and The Gentle Craft (II) and Thomas of Reading, written between 1597 and 1600, all of which seem to be the product of enforced idleness from his loom.
The author of Skialetheia or the Shadow of Truth (1598) found Deloney a poet of sufficient importance to satirize, noting at once the great popularity of his ballads and his choice of dolorous subjects.
To DELONEY 
Like to the fatal ominous Rauen which tolls
The sicke mans dirge within his hollow beake,
So euery paper-clothed post in Poules,
To thee (Deloney) mourningly doth speake,
And tells thee of thy hempen tragedy,
The wracks of hungry Tyburne nought to thine.
Such massacre's made of thy balladry,
And thou in griefe, for woe thereof maist pine.
To Kemp's Nine Daies Wonder (April, 1600) is appended `Kempes humble request to the impudent generation of Balladmakers and their coherents, that it would please their Rascalities, to pity his pains in the great journey he pretends; and not fill the country with lies of his never-done-acts, as they did in his late Morrice to Norwich. To the tune of Tomas Deloney's Epitaph.'(Social England Illustrated (An English Garner, pp. 159, 160) A further reference follows which fixes the date of Deloney's death as about March, 1600, and clearly shows that if he kept his position as `general' of the ballad-mongers up to the last, it at least did little to fill his needy pockets.
`I have made a privy search, what private Jigmonger of your jolly number hath been the Author of these abominable Ballets written of me.
`I was told it was the great Ballad-maker, T. D., alias Thomas Deloney, Chronicler of the memorable lives of the Six Yeomen of the West, Jack of Newbury, the Gentle Craft, &c., and such like honest men, omitted by Stow, Hollinshed, Grafton, Halle, Froissart, and all the rest of those well deserving writers.
`But I was given since to understand, your late general, Thomas, died poorly (as ye all must do) and was honestly buried, which is much to be doubted of some you.' (Ibid., vol. vii, p. 36.)
It is difficult to say much of a writer of whom so meagre details have been preserved, but Deloney's work to a certain extent betrays his character. He was doubtless an eager reader of such printed matter as came in his way, from the jest-book of Long Meg of Westminster to the Chronicles of Grafton and Holinshed, the Acts and Monumments of Fox, and The Golden Legend of Caxton. There are reasons to think he had dipped into some classical and foreign literature, nor did he neglect the contemporary stage, founding one of his ballads on the play of Edward III and often remembering Shakespeare in the plot and dialogue of his novels. Besides this, he had stored his memory with fragments of folk-songs and quaint local customs and sayings, picked up on his wanderings about the country; and out of this vivid information he spun much of the stuff of his prose and rhyme. None of the contemporary references to him are hostile or ill-tempered, and if the litterateurs of the day treated him with little respect, at least it was with good humour. Nash, although writing satirically in what he considered the vein of the `Diuine Aretino', is pleasantly enough disposed to the ale-house muse; Harvey recognizes the unpretentious merit which is really present in Deloney's poetry, while Kemp's reference is a testimony to a respectability almost pathetic. He `died poorly . . . and was honestly buried'.
From his surviving work we can gather his acquaintance and sympathy with trade and handicraftsmen of all sorts, his admiration and satisfied acceptance of blue blood and the established order of things, which particularly marks the bourgeois class to which he belonged. Simon Eyer and John Winchcombe, the successful merchants endowed with all the popular virtues of generosity and good spirits, were his heroes of real life, but his sentimental conviction was the pre-eminent virtue of an aristocracy, so that all his kings are truly `royal' and their ladies `gracious'. He had all the democratic value for the commonplace virtues, and the democratic enjoyment of sheer life, pathetic, ridiculous, or merely coarse. A strong patriot and Protestant, he hated Spain and the Catholic Church with an honourable virulence, while his pride in substantial aldermen and civic corporations bespeaks him a typical Elizabethan Londoner, by adoption if not by birth.
He is the chief representative of a host of writers (mostly nameless) who catered for that Elizabethan vulgar, eager for entertainment either in prose or verse.
Nevertheless, in the sixteenth century one step had been taken of the greatest importance in the development of the English novel. Fielding defines the novel as the 'prose epic', and in scope it certainly embraces aspects of human life hostile to poetic treatment. The death of Barkis in David Copperfield may touch the realms of poetry, but Mr. Micawber can only move in the atmosphere of prose; Esmond is `himself a true poem', but Tom Tusher would be strangely out of place in the poetic conventions. Hence it was imperative for the just development of the novel that the medium adopted should be prose and not poetry, and by the time of the Elizabethans this change of medium had already taken place, so that if contemporary novelists produced nothing approximating to Troilus and Criseyde, at least they were subduing the hand to that it worked in, and experimenting in prose as a medium of creative literature.
But the character of the sixteenth century was hardly favourable to the development of the novel in its higher forms. The tendencies of an ambitious Renaissance were towards poetic form and method, and the popularity of the drama and poetry led writers of the day to throw the most prosaic matter into the more popular shape. Drayton endeavoured to sublimate the details of topography into the Songs of Polyolbion, and Sir John Davies discussed metaphysics in the four- lined stanzas of Nosce Teipsum. While poetic energy was potent enough to hammer out such unmalleable subjects as these, there can be little wonder that other prosaic but more vivid matter, which seems to a modern reader best fitted for the treatment of the novelist, should have found its expression in verse, and more especially in the drama. While the latest murder found artistic elaboration in The Yorkshire Tragedy or Arden of Feversham, and Ben Jonson illustrated the humours of Elizabethan life in Bartholomew Fair or The Alchemist, the use of the nove; as a medium of literature was apt to be overlooked by the more important writers and despised by the more cultured readers. Renaissance ideals pointed to the great epic and the great tragedy as the two pinnacles of literary achievement, and it needed a prophetic soul to appreciate the ultimate possibilities of the rough contemporary work in prose fiction.
But while poetry claimed the first attention of the educated, there was a large Elizabethan audience clamouring for literature of any kind, provided only that it should be sufficiently amusing. Eager publishers were not slow to reckon up the tastes of the vulgar, and not only were the old romances set forth again in a new and attractive rhetoric, but a host of writers who depended for sheer livelihood on popular approval set to work to `yark up' new pamphlets of pothouse jests, of London rogueries, of outrageous knight-errantry, of anything and everything which might satisfy the thirst for novelty and amusement. Greene poured forth the tragic reminiscences of his own life in The Repentance of Robert Greene, M.A., and his series of `cony catching' pamphlets; Nash lashed himself into the vein of `lusty Juvenal' to attack the vices of London and the age in Christs Teares and the Anatomie of Absurditie; Dekker fancifully set forth the humours of men and things in The Bachelors Banquet, The Guls Horn Book, and a dozen more such pamphlets; while Painter, Whetstone, Fenton and their brother translators introduced to the contemporary public the popular stories of Italy, France, and Spain.
Amidst this torrent of miscellaneous literature the Elizabethan novel took its shape and developed its characteristics, and it is to the prose audience for whom these authors wrote that we owe the Elizabethan novel.
There was no lack of good stories in the Middle Ages. The epic legends which the Teutons brought with them in their descent upon the south were softened down by Christianity and a more elaborate civilization into the romance of Chretien de Troyes and Godfrey of Strasbourg. The sentiment of chivalry, with its half mystic refinements upon love and honour, replaced the old glorification of magnificent slaughter, and while nice points of honour were debated in the lord's court or lady's bower, the growth of a powerful burgher class in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries led to the rise of the fabliau, or town literature, which dealt preferably with the crude realities of life rather than with courtly theories of conduct or etherealized adventures.
`Why were taverns invented but to ripen men's wits ? and why were tales devised but to make men pleasant ?' asks the anonymous author of the Cobler of Canterburie (1608), and doubtless much of the realistic literature of the Middle Ages took rise from the tavern talk of those who, like Langland's Gula, missed mass for the alehouse. Here, travellers beguiled the time by the mutual relation of good stories, which passed down from mouth to mouth and from generation to generation until the tradition was lost or received a final literary shape at the hand of a Boccaccio or a Bandello. Chaucer shows us the Canterbury Pilgrims whiling away their journey with tales, and Chaucer's own work shows us how various were the sources, classical, romantic, and popular, upon which the mediaeval artist could draw for his material.
Besides the stories -- naked and undisguised -- told in the taverns, clerical zeal made collections of tales for moral edification, these being fragments from the floating mass of mediaeval oral and written literature, quaintly moralized. The Gesta Romanorum contains all sorts of stories from all sorts of sources, and its publication in 1517 by Wynkyn de Worde may be taken as a sign of its continued popularity in the sixteenth century.
While the mediaeval minstrel read or sang his romances to gentle or simple, and the mediaeval bourgeoisie scattered their satirical and realistic fabliaux broadcast, the more tragic episodes of life that touched the heart and imagination of the people found their expression in the ballad, a traditional literature that stayed with us longest of all, and has not yet finally disappeared. Thus in the Middle Ages, the story or `novel' was an especially popular form of literature, in whatever guise it appeared, and whether it dealt with the matter of romance, the matter of town life, or the matter of tragedy.
The continuity of the mediaeval and Tudor ages has been strangely overlooked, and this continuity is plainly marked in the early history of the English novel. For while the Renaissance set before Englishmen new ideals in literature and flooded England with new and strange material for fiction, yet it did not, as elsewhere, choke the springs of native genius, and the foreign matter was rather absorbed by the English literary tradition than triumphed over it. In spite of Ascham and Lyly English prose developed on its own lines, and in spite of the `enchantments of Circes' brought from Italy our novel of the sixteenth century is characteristically English. The two main streams of mediaeval literature, the realistic and the romantic, as they express themselves in the novel, may be seen in continuous development in popular Tudor prose, in the Hundred Merry Tales and Long Meg of Westminster on the one hand, and in the Morte Arthur and Montelion on the other.
For the popularity of simple prose romances in Elizabethan times there is ample evidence. `As the Lord de la Noue in the Sixth Discourse of his Politic and Military Discourses, censureth the books of Amadis de Gaul, which, he saith, are no less hurtful to youth than the works of Machiavelli; so these books are accordingly to be censured of, whose names follow,' writes Meres in Palladis Tamia (1598), and adds a list of romances, including Huon of Bordeaux, Guy of Warwick, Four Sons of Aymon, Arthur of the Round Table, The Seven Champions of Christendom, and other well-known mediaeval stories. The early English printing-press had in the first place busied itself with the dissemination of the culture and literature of an age which was passing away. In Caxton's Golden Legend, Capgrave's Nova Legenda Angliae was passed on to the Elizabethans, and Copland's translations from the French handed down the spirit of knight-errantry in romances such as Guy of Warwick and The Knight of the Swan. Ascham's censure witnesses the popularity of Morte Arthur, and Shakespeare's Oberon reminds us of the vogue of Berners's Huon of Bordaux. But these versions of French romance, popular though they were, really belong to another civilization than the Tudor. For the Elizabethan children of the Renaissance looked out upon a world of garbled glories, and the haunting pathos of a dying age that broods upon the pages of Malory and Berners could find no real echo in the hearts of men who saw the New World unrolled before them like a scroll and took all human learning and experience to be their province. More violent emotions shook society and the individual, and the excitement of the age coloured enen its language and its novels. Thus while the old stories in their old settings never ceased to be read, later writers who reedited them for the press, or wrote similar romances of their own, decorated them with a more florid style and seasoned them with a more Renaissance sentiment.
With this change in romantic method and the rise of the professional author, the old tales were degraded from their earlier dignity and addressed to a more popular audience. The end of this process is to be seen in the chap-books of the eighteenth century, when the stories originally invented for the delight of courtly lords and ladies end in the penny tracts of Guy of Warwick, Bevis of Hampton and The Seven Wise Masters. More cultured Elizabethan readers preferred the brand-new phrases and sentimentalities of the Euphuistic romances to the old simple stories of endless adventures; and even writers who, like Richard Johnson, wrote more distinctly for the vulgar, made their old-fashioned stories bright with a new and often astonishing rhetoric. Johnson's Tom a Lincolne, the Red Rose Knight is a tangled romance of the usual mediaeval kind, but it is evidently pitched for a bourgeois audience, and the characters constantly break out into violent apostrophes.
`Despaire, where art thou ? I'll saddle winged Pegasus, and scale the mansion place of Jove, I will ransack all the corners of the sky, I will throw doun the sun, the moon and stars.'
A comparison of Johnson's romance with Copland's Knight of the Swan shows clearly how the knightly romance had changed its literary method with its audience. Dignity and restraint have been replaced by over-emphasis and mere extravagance, and the subdued colourings of late mediaeval romance are transformed into the garish bravadoes of a bastard poetic prose. Of this school the chief writer was Emanuel Ford, and Ornatus and Artesia, Parismus, and the rest of his novels add to the mediaeval confusion of incident and sequence the Renaissance confusion of rhetoric and affectation. Antony Munday's numerous translations from the Spanish brought to native invention the tangles of foreign growth, and the romance of knight-errantry flourished with undiminished popularity into the seventeenth century, until it was swallowed up into the heroic novel and the heroic drama.
But when the University wits, educated in the school of Lyly, took up the novel of romance, a more ambitious method, addressed to a more cultured audience, makes a definite appearance. The readers of Tom a Lincolne were content with `ginger, hot i' the mouth', a torrent of rhetoric and adventure, but the interest of Greene's Philomelia or Lodge's Margarite of America obviously lay in a different direction. George Petty's Petite Palace of Petty his Pleasure, containing many pretty stories by him set forth in comedy colours (1576) was dedicated, like Lyly's Euphues, to the `Gentle women of England', and with Petty, and not with Lyly as M. Jusserand would persuade us, we enter upon the prose literature of the drawing-room. Petty, like Lyly, Greene, and Lodge, has all the tricks of euphuism at his fingers' ends, the `pickt words and choise phrases' that would recommend him to readers interested in the nice use of language, and his real business is not the depicting of character or action, but the discussion of emotions and delicate points of conduct. Here we have all the dignified morality, the sententiousness and interminable monologues and conversations of Euphues, two years before Euphues was published. So distinctly does Petty's interest lie in the sentiment and in the moralizations which seem more properly to belong to the essay than the novel, that he passes over the finest possibilities of a story to indulge his euphuistic vein. In the story of Horatia, when the heroine's husband is slain by her brother, we have a theme as keenly tragic as any in the old ballads. The born novelist or tragedian would have known how to use such a situation, but Petty slurs over the tragic crisis in a shower of mere words.
`But seeing afar off about her brother's shoulders the coat armour of her Curiatus, which she herself with needlework curiously had made, being thereby fully assured of his death, she was drawn into these doleful plaints.
`Oh heauens, what hellish sight do I see; far more dolorous and dangerous than Medusa's head. And is my Curiatus slain ? then care come cut in sunder my corps, then dole deliuer me to the dreadful darts of death.'
`Euphues I read when I was a little Ape at Cambridge,' wrote Nash, `and I then thought it was ipse ille,' and Euphues, published in 1578, the final elaboration of Petty's style and sentiment, was the guiding influence that permeated the romantic novels of Lodge and Greene. So essential indeed had euphuism become to romance that Greene, like Deloney, while using the plainer English for ordinary occasions, relapses into the euphuistic method immediately he takes in hand a romantic subject. Like Lyly, Greene aims at morality, `how young gentlemen that aim at honour should level the end of their affections'; the construction of his novels is as loose as his master's, and his characters equally indefinite. Heroes and heroines retire to private closets or cool arbours `to powder forth their complaints' at remorseless length, and are really nothing more than mouths through which the author pours sententious platitudes and pleasing rhetoric. But Greene, aiming at the elegant discussion of sentimental emotion, really achieves something in the management of courtly conversation, and Pandosto and Menaphon show an agreeable variety of colour and movement. Lodge's work, while sharing the general characteristics of Greene's, rises to more reality in A Margarite of America, and in Rosalynde achieves a vivacity which explains the close relation of the novel and As You Like It.
But while mediaeval romance had thus changed under the moulding influences of the Renaissance, the mediaeval fabliau had also been developed to a more elaborate form. In the Gesta Romanorum the Universal Church had held good wit prisoner for the sake of righteousness, but with the progress of the sixteenth century men began to print good stories without the excuse of allegory. The Tudor jest-books, carried in the pocket or passed from hand to hand, were the successors of the Exempla Predicatorum, and they bear traces in their `significations' of their honourable lineage. The Hundred Merry Tales (1528) is the earliest example extant of a literature which was popular all through the Tudor period, and which survives in a debased form even in the age of free education and public libraries. Many of the tales are those excellent jokes of all time that reappear with unfailing regularity, though in slightly altered guise, in the columns of modem publications. Some are attached to actual localities, as the story of the `archdekyn of Essex' and that of the curate of Botley. There are few or none that seem to have a definitely literary source, and yet in many cases they are told with an art that has perhaps never been excelled in the history of the written joke. The story of the Welshmen in heaven is related with a satirical reserve and malice that shows how completely the art of simple jest was understood bg the writers of earliest Tudor English.
`I find written among old gestes, how God made St Peter porter of heauen, and that God of his goodness, soon after his passion, suffered many men to come to the kingdom of heauen with small deseruing; at which time there was in Heauen a great company of Welshmen, which with their cracking and babbling troubled all the other. Wherefore God said to St Peter, that he was weary of them, and that he would fain haue them out of Heauen. To whom St Peter said: Good Lord, I warrant you, that shal be done. Wherefore St Peter went out of heauen gates and cried with a loud voice Cause bobe, that is as much to say as roasted cheese, which thing the Welshmen hearing ran out of heauen a great pace. And when St Peter saw them all out he suddenly wente into Heauen, and locked the door, and so sparred all those Welshmen out.'
The Sackful of News (1557) is full of stories nearly as good, but Merry Tales, Witty Questions and Quick Answers (1567) draws distinctly from literary sources, from Diogenes Laertius, Aesop, and Plutarch, and there is a corresponding decrease in vigour and effect. As a matter of fact, the temper of the age was becoming more literary, and the isolated joke belonging more distinctly to the oral literature of an age when books were rare, lacked the continuity and size demanded by the readers of Lyly and Greene. The essence of the joke is its brevity and point; for a collection of jokes to become a humorous book some sort of constructional framework is necessary. The unsatisfactoriness of a torrent of unconnected `japes' had been felt in the Middle Ages, and had resulted in the creation of Reynard the Fox, the gigantic burlesque hero to whom could be attached all the rogueries and cunning tricks known to the mediaeval storyteller. But Caxton's prose epic of Reynard was the finished product of a civilization different from and more elaborated than that of the Tudors, and the earlier sixteenth-century attempts at unifying the jest-book seem childish in comparison with the broad outlines of the Reynard cycle. Tudor printers, however, found it profitable to ascribe collections of jokes to well-known jesters, such as Scogin (1565) and Dr. Skelton (1567), and these, like Tarlton at a later date, tended to become the central figures of buffoonery, and thus to give a biographical unity to an otherwise disconnected series of fragments. This unity had already been exemplified in the Oule Glasse version of the Eulenspiegel stories printed by Copland in 1530, where Owleglasse is a grotesque lubberly hero, a practical joker of magnified dimensions. The jest-books by their very nature were realistic and often crude; hence their development is towards the realistic novel, a development which is clearly illustrated by the relation of the jest-book called Long Meg of Westminster to the story of Richard Casteler in Deloney's Gentle Craft(See Note on the Sources of The Gentle Craft (II), infra, pp. 531-2.) (Part II). Long Meg is extant in an edition of 1582, and as it stands is a collection of rough practical jokes, ascribed to an Amazonian maiden in service at a Westminster inn. But it was impossible to ascribe such doings to Long Meg without investing her with a personality of her own, coarse and crude, but distinct and vigorous enough. To describe `the pranks of Long Meg' was to describe her character and life; and Deloney easily transferred this roughly sketched character to his own pages, endowing it with new life and more human personality.
The Famous Historie of Fryer Bacon (before 1594?) is little more than an elaborated jest-book, where full advantage is taken of Bacon's magical powers to work practical jokes on a larger scale than is ordinary, `How Fryer Bacon deceiued an old Vsurer,' `How Miles, Fryer Bacons man did coniure for meat, and got meate for himselfe and his hoast,' &c.; and The History of Doctor Faustus (1587-9), in spite of the magnificence of the plot upon which the rather stupid incidents are hung, may be adequately described in the same way. Nevertheless the titles of both plainly indicate that the jest-book was rapidly becoming the Life and Adventures of a picaresque hero.
While these books of printed jokes thus brought the stuff of realism to the making of the Elizabethan novel, miscellaneous popular prose literature exerted a similar influence by its frank treatment of contemporary life. The Elizabethan age had an insatiable appetite for information about life of all kinds, for then human nature seemed to be discovering itself anew, and hence side by side with the literature of Arcadia runs the literature of Southwark and the bordello. Mediaeval satire in Langland had sat at the alehouse door and painted misery and vice with a masterful veracity that made Piers Plowman a favourite Elizabethan poem, and Skelton in his Eleanor Rummyge had carried on the tradition of unrelenting realism into the literature of the sixteenth century -- into the poetry of Spenser and into the prose of the pamphleteers.
Awdeley's Fraternity of Vagabonds (1560) shows the author writing with `his eye upon the object', and Harman in his Caveat to Common Cursitors describes from first-hand experience life among the Tudor vagrants, with a vividness and pathos that anticipates the work of Defoe. Harman reached the rock bottom of the realistic literary method when he gave a faithful transcript of a phase of human life he knew thoroughly well, and the truth and value of his work may be judged from the unscrupulous use that Greene and Dekker made of it in their own pamphlets on London low life. But while Dekker
added little to his stolen material but the ornamentation of exuberant fancy, Greene worked into his `cony-catching' pamphlets much of his own seamy experience, so that his Notable Discouerie of Cosenage (1591) and the Defence of Cony Catching (1592) have a distinct value of their own, full as they are of vigorous character- drawing and conversation.
In Never Too Late and The Repentance of Robert Greene, M.A. he gave his own pathetic biography to the world, and in the `cony-catching' pamphlets his accounts of London rogues, wrought from the matter of his own experience, constantly tend to the biographical form. To the Disputation betweene a Hee Conny catcher and a shee Conny catcher (1592) he added an account of the conversion of an English courtesan, which equals Moll Fanders in realistic power as it surpasses it in all true and fine feeling. Harman's description of the English rogues had been by no means lacking in sympathy, and Greene, forced too often to rub shoulders with crossbiters and cutpurses, was not without a fellow-feeling for the criminals he describes. The biography of the rogue told with sympathy and admiration becomes the picaresque novel, and in the Black Book's Messenger, laying open the life and Death of Ned Browne, Greene definitely takes for his hero `one of the most notable Cutpurses, Crosbiters, and Conny catchers that euer liued in England', attempting that kind of novel of which Gil Blas is the final type. While Reynard the Fox and Owleglass may be in some sense regarded as picaresque rogues, yet David Rowland's translation of Lazarillo de Tormes in 1567 really provided a new model for the imitation of English writers. For Lazarillo has much of that humorous subtlety which, attaining its full richness in the pages of Don Quixote, appears distinctive of the realistic Spanish novel, and is written with a sureness of touch and unity of design unknown to contemporary English fiction. But in spite of these merits, it is doubtful whether it had much influence on the development of the Elizabethan novel of roguery. Chettle's Pierce Plainness appears to be the only direct imitation of its method, and the realistic novels of Greene, Nash, and Deloney belong distinctly to the English tradition of the jest-book, alike in their vigour and directness as in their faults of construction. The Life and Death of Ned Browne is little more than a collection of conny-catching stories, told with zest and enjoyment, and put into the mouth of a highwayman before he is turned off at Tyburn, just as The Gentle Craft is a collection of jests and stories elaborated and fitted into a framework.
Nash's Jack Wilton is the most complete example of the Elizabethan picaresque novel, and in writing it Nash owed little or nothing to Lazarillo, but much to contemporary realistic prose and his own experience. For the material, his own travels and adventures sufficed; for the arrangement, it evolves itself from the autobiographical character of the novel, and is only the arrangement of a number of stories and incidents that, like the Theseids mentioned by Aristotle, owe their only unity to the fact that they happened within the experience of a single person. The `life' of Jack Wilton is a string of breathless experiences huddled together with little or no regard to importance or grouping, and the real strength of Nash's method lies in its characterizations, its movement and melodramatic power. Nash has infused his own vigour into the narrative, and by the heat of his own fury welded an unpromising material into something like unity. In language Jack Wilton is the complete antithesis of Lazarillo; English in its vigorous crudity, where the Spaniard is good-humouredly ironic. The malicious resene of Lazarillo's `My father (whom God pardon)' was beyond the art of Nash, who plays the `Lusty Juvenal' amidst his gallery of grotesques, lashing and trouncing the puppets of his own creation with an unsparing hand, and while the full merit of his `biting portraits' must be allowed, it may be doubted whether the method of the satirist was that best adapted to the legitimate development of the novel. Thackeray calls himself the `showman', and his characters the `puppets', artistic creations that seem, however, to work freely of themselves. Nash, however, has none of this aloofness; he cannot stand aside and let his characters unfold themselves, but openly introduces them with abuse, as that unfortunate `bursten belly inkhorn orator called Vanderhulke . . . one that had a sulphurous big swollen large face, like a Saracen, eyes like two Kentish oysters, a mouth that opened as wide every time he spake, as one of those old knit trap doors, a beard as though it had been made of a birds nest pluckt in pieces, which consisteth of straw, hair and dust mixed together'. But while Nash lacked the sympathetic outlook that was needed for the development of the novel as the `prose epic', he by no means omitted that vein of extravagant sentiment which formed the staple of the romantic novel, and the introduction of the Earl of Surrey and Lady Geraldine into Jack Wilton served at once to flavour realism with the `Arabian spiceries of sweet passions' and to give a certain solidity to the novel by reason of the historical matter.
Two main methods have been traced in the Elizabethan novel -- the realistic, derived from the jest-book and popular satire, and the romantic, derived from mediaeval romance, both being reinforced to some extent by foreign influence as it filtered through in the numerous translations and imitations of that age. But these two streams of Elizabethan development cannot be strictly shut off, the one from the other, and realism and romanticism are seen running side by side in such novels as Greene's Never Too Late, Nash's Jack Wilton, and Deloney's Thomas of Reading. While, however, the two methods are not mutually exclusive in the same novel, nevertheless the romantic episodes usually break clearly away from the realistic, and the alternation of the one with the other tends to faulty construction and incongruity in style. As a rule the Elizabethan novelist preferred the abnormal and dealt with the sublimations of sentiment or the very crudities of fact. Nash is equally violent in his description of a `greasy ale-knight', as in the alliterative raptures of the Earl of Surrey, and Greene only deserts the racy slang of the `conny-catcher' to pour out the full flowers of euphuism in a love scene.
The exaggeration of Elizabethan romance has little charm for the modern reader, and Fenton's Tragical Discourses of Bandello prove how unreal the exaggeration of realism may become. What sixteenth- century fiction required was its direction toward the more normal phases of human life, and its riddance on the one hand of merely abstract sentiment and on the other of meaningless discordant detail. The romantic novel had sought its heroes and heroines in Arcadia, and found shadows and rhetoric; the
realistic jest-book and novel had sought the stuff of life in taverns, and found hearty animals and some dirt. Romance required incident and reality, realism a saner ideal and sense of order. Both were defective inasmuch as they avoided the faithful delineation of normal life, but it was realism on the whole which was more fruitful for English literature. Lyly's Euphues and Greene's Mamillia have an interest for the literary historian, but The Caveat to Common Cursitors and the Hundred Merry Tales have a present and human value in themselves, and while romance was satisfied with the constant repetition of the same platitudes and situations, if only in a sufficiently pleasing manner, the progress of realism, in the jest-hook and satirical essay alike, was towards characterization and construction, that is to say, towards the English novel as we know it to-day.
Riche, in his Farewell to the Militarie Profession (1581), had left on one side the exaggerations of romance and realism, and striven to a certain extent to represent in literature the more ordinary life of the times. But it is in the novels of Thomas Deloney that we find the first consistent attempt at drawing material for fiction from the everyday life of everyday people. Familiar with local gossip and tradition, and with a mind eagerly absorbent of such printed literature as came within his reach, he found the sources of his stories anywhere, but their characterization and colour are the accurate reflection of Elizabethan life in Cheapside and Westminster, among the cobblers of Whitehall and the drapers of Candleweek Street. The difference in the subjects and method of his work from those of contemporary novelists is perhaps to be chiefly explained by the circumstances of his life and by the audience he addressed. Unlike Lodge or Nash or Greene, he belonged to no circle of University wits; Renaissance ambition had touched him but little, and he aimed not at fine writing but profitable story-telling. The English writers Italianate would scarcely sink to the life of `base mechanicals', their proclivities and culture led them much rather to the unsubstantialities of Arcadia and the brothels of Southwark.
While Greene wrote for the young gallants, `how young gentlemen that aim at honour should leuel the end of their affections',(Tullies Love, title-page.) and Petty for `Gentle Readers, whom by my will I would haue only Gentlewomen',(Pettys Palace, `To the Gentle Gentlewomen Readers') Deloney dedicated his novels to the `famous Cloth Workers in England'(Iacke of Newberie, p. 2.) or `To the Master and Wardens of the worshipfull company of Cordwaynors'(Gentle Craft (II), p. 139.) and wrote as an artisan for the jolly companions of his craft, with whom he had worked at his loom in Norwich or tramped the high roads of East Anglia. But he by no means breaks away altogether from the traditional separation of realism and romanticism. In Thomas of Reading the bourgeois history of the clothiers is interwoven with, although not blended with, the romantic life and love of the Duke of Normandy and the Fair Margaret, and the story of St. Hugh in the First Part of the Gentle Craft is a knight-errant romance of the most ordinary kind, preceding the hearty domestic story of Sir Simon Eyer. But these are his least successful work; his hand is out when he deals in such bloodless abstractions as St. Hugh and St. Winifred, and Margaret is only real as the servant of Gray of Gloucester. The story of Crispine and Crispianus (Gentle Craft) owes its merits to the vein of healthy realism which breaks through the plot of a sentimental story, and Deloney's artistic mastery only finds full scope in the handling of such realistic themes of bourgeois life as the Histories of Iacke of Newberie and the love affairs of Florence with her foreign suitors (Gentle Craft, I). It is here that the influence of the jest-book on the shaping of his novels is most apparent, betraying itself in the matter used, and the happy unrestraint of attitude. His use of the material of the jest-books can be amply illustrated, not only in the signal reconstruction of Long Meg of Westminster but also in the many comic episodes which he slenderly links together upon the thread of a personality incidents such as the adventure of Dr. Burcot (Gentle Craft, II) the disappointment of Benedict (Jacke of Newberie), and the deception of Sir William Ferris (Thomas of Reading). Elizabethan novels, usually discursive and unformed, are apt to become even more shapeless when based upon materials such as these, but Deloney, while never aiming at the size and structure of the modern novel, none the less attains a clearness of construction and homogeneity of atmosphere which is missing in most contemporary fiction, for he writes straightforwardly from a simple point of view, fitting his stories into an appropriate framework, and informing them with the same vivid life, so that the whole novel is one in atmosphere, if not in connected incident -- a book like Iacke of Newberie, for `all famous Cloth-Workers in England',(p. 2, l. 2) or like The Gentle Craft, 'for the worshipfull company of Cordwaynors'.(p. 139, l. 2.) Further, the single biographical aim `to set to sight the long hidden History' of the bourgeois heroes of the loom and the cobbling last removes much of the temptation to irrelevancy; nor were Deloney's readers likely to be of that class which Lyly and Greene edified with endless digressions on nice points of morals and manners, while the introduction of historical matter gave a background and solidity to his narrative as a whole. Lodge had drawn on history in his feeble William Longbeard (1593), and Nash had introduced historical events and characters into the Life of Iacke Wilton; but Deloney, endowed with a democratic facility for the fabulizing of history, could more successfully blend the matters of fact and of fiction. His life as a travelling artisan had led him from town to town and county to county, and, chatting with fellow artisans and chance travellers picked up on the way, he had gathered local tradition and history first hand from incidental gossip, and thus history was to him, even more than to other Elizabethans, a garner-house of stories, and the printed pages of Holinshed and Grafton only further material for weaving into pleasant romances. To folk tradition belongs a vivacity and colour unmatchable even `in the great Chroniclers', and the vigorous personality of Iacke of Newberie is the vivid figure of countryside gossip preserved to us by Deloney's literary skill, while Thomas of Reading is probably a blending of the history of Holinshed with now lost Berkshire tradition. In the tales of Simon Eyer, Richard Casteler, and Master Peachey it is impossible to decide how much is taken from the printed page, how much from tradition, and how much is Deloney's own invention. Certainly he commonly took familiar phrases and customs, the origins of which had been forgotten, and wove around them his own stories of explanation, `Tom Drum's entertainment'(Note on Sources of Gentle Craft (II), infra, p. 535.) suggesting the rough courting of Mistress Farmer, and the quaint usages at Bosoms Inn(Note on Sources of Thomas of Reading, infra, p. 549.) Cuthbert of Kendal's intrigue with the host's wife. The jest-book of itself tended towards characterization and biography, but in dealing with the heroes of weaving and cobbling, and elaborating the more or less commonly known circumstances of their lives, Deloney was bound to develop this tendency further, and the happy mingling of traditional history and the matter of the jest-book resulted in the creation of such characters of flesh and blood as Richard Casteler, Simon Eyer, and John Winchcombe, who, unlike the heroes of the early jest-books, really dominate the situation and occupy the real interest.
Deloney's excellence lies in his faithful and sympathetic rendering of commonplace human life. Where he attempts the romanticism of subject and language fashionable in his time, he is as successful as his contemporaries in wearying the modern reader, but the straightforward pleasures of a healthy middle class he presents with a gusto and vivacity which is an ample apology for an occasional coarseness. He understood thoroughly the artisan class of whom he wrote; his pity was for the `poore people' `who laboured to get their owne bread', `whom,' as he quaintly says, `God lightly blesseth with most children'(p. 213, ll. 18-9); and he gave a willing admiration to the master-workmen and successful merchants who paid a fair day's wages for a fair day's work, to Iacke of Newberie who would not have his people `pincht of their victualls', and to Simon Eyer who remembered from prentice days his debt of `pudding-pies' and `feasted all the Prentices on Shrove Tuesday'. He describes with faithful enjoyment the life and love of the Elizabethan workshop, how the widow woos her man, or how the sparing Richard Casteler marries a Dutch maiden who `could doe diuers pretty feates to get her owne liuing'. He tells us of that warm-blooded bourgeois life of Elizabethan times with a spirit and wealth of detail to be found in no other author, describing a phase of society which most contemporary literature chose to overlook contemptuously. His delight in telling his stories is that of a man who describes what he has enjoyed; his railing conversations between Long Meg and Gillian of the George, or Tom Drum and the cobblers of Petworth, have all the point and good-humour of the dialogue of the market-place, while the description of how Iacke of Newberie's servants were revenged on Mistress Franks glorifies the content of the jest-book into excellent prose comedy. Nor is he less successful in dealing with more tragic material. It would be hard to overrate the art of that chapter(Thomas of Reading, chap. 11.) where Old Cole is murdered at his inn, and where circumstance is made to follow on circumstance and so to culminate in inevitable catastrophe, but with a restraint and sureness unsurpassed by any work of more ambitious contemporary novelists. A masterpiece of bourgeois pathos, it may well be suggested(By Professor Sir Walter Raleigh.) that Shakespeare was indebted to it in those scenes of Macbeth where a host and hostess similarly plot together to murder a guest, or where Lady Macbeth sees the visionary blood on her hand as Old Cole saw it on the hands of his hostess at the Crane.
Deloney has no problems of life or conduct to discuss as his modern successors in fiction are apt to have, but simply holds the mirror up to nature without the interposition of himself or his views. Hence, however slightly his characters be sketched they are shown to us in a clear and transparent medium, and his worthies move freely and vividly in the pleasant atmosphere of their own occupations, honest craftsmen of the Elizabethan workshop or good housewives of the Elizabethan home. How popular his novels were may be judged from the long period in which they held the public estimation, often reprinted through the seventeenth century and surviving plentifully in chapbook form into the eighteenth.'(e.g. The British Museum And the Bodleian together contain seven eighteenth century chapbook versions of the Gentle Craft (I)) `The Book of the Gentle Craft hath had a general acceptance of the Cordwainers, and the History of the Six Worthy Yeomen of the West, and Jack of Newbery the like from the weavers', wrote Winstanley in 1668 in the preface to The Honor of the Merchant Taylors; and Winstanley's own book, servilely founded on the novels he mentions, is only one specimen of a whole class of popular literature that sprang up in the tradition that Deloney created. But the spontaneity and vigour of the original were not to be repeated by meaner hands; the novels of his imitators may be allowed to rest on the library shelves for the curious, but his own have a permanent literary value and deserved a recognition less belated.
The term 'ballad' in modern literature seems to be used loosely for nearly every kind of lyric, but more scientifically for those traditional poems which retain in part the conventions and spirit of an earlier poetic age, when literary composition was more communal than individual, and the emotional atmosphere more simple and epic. The true ballad, whether taken down from a twentieth-century tradition or found in a fifteenth-century manuscript, has distinguishing features of its own which mark it off from the poetry of more complex and sophisticated ages, and these peculiar features are fully explained by the circumstances of primitive composition. The poet of modern civilization is a lonely Heine or prophetic Blake pouring forth bitterness or celestial intoxication from the height of his own egoism. Primitive poetry was the voice of the people, more the rhythm of an elemental civilization than the expression of individual desires and convictions. The source of modern poetry is the individual soul brooding on `things past, present, and to come', the source of ancient poetry was the gathering of the people for work or play, who lightened communal labour at the oar or reinforced communal pleasure in the dance by rhythmic music and rhymes. Now a Byron or Shelley sings to a merely receptive audience; then the people were audience and performer too and bore the burden
Binnorie O Binnorie,
or took up the alternate lines:
She sat down below a thorn
Fine flowers in the valley;
And there she has her sweet babe born,
And the green leaues they grow rarely.
With the metres of Provence, the French ballata or round dance conquered Teutonic Europe, and the `glad animal movements' of the `carols' demanded a tune to dance to, and a kind of poetry in which all could take part. Hence doubtless the form of both ballads and nursery rhymes. The formal peculiarities of the genuine folk-ballad can be catalogued with some preciseness, and among these may be noted the almost verbatim repetition of speeches and messages, the tendency to accentuate the last and weak syllable of a metrical line, the use of assonance, the spirited openings in medias res, the delight in bright elemental colours, and the use of magic numbers such as seven and three.
But while the folk-ballad flourished in mediaeval England and owed so much of its dramatic intensity and lyrical spontaneity to the circumstances of its communal composition, the individual whose songs were his own property and who only sang them in return for some gratuity to an audience entirely passive must have existed from the earliest times.
Men speke of romances of prys,
Of Horn child and of Ypotys,
Of Bevis and sir Gy,
wrote Chaucer in his Sir Thopas, his own delicate parody of the popular poesy of his age, and the minstrel, leaving aside the tragic themes of contemporary life which made the very stuff of the communal ballad, hawked round the country from alehouse to alehouse decrepit versions of sentimental French romance, striking up in the usual medicant key,
Lythe and listen, gentlemen,
A story I yow bitelle,
and demanding perhaps a gratuity in pence or ale. Less often his wares would consist of love-lyrics such as Bytuene Mershe and Aueril, or of political songs such as those of Laurence Minot (c. 1350). Wherever men and women came together, for work or play, at the fairs and markets, or travelling the great roads on business or on pilgrimage, the professional minstrel was sure to make one of the company to help while away the leisure hour or tedious journey. Chaucer's pilgrims amused themselves with their own stories, but the ordinary devotees of St. Thomas of Canterbury or Our Lady of Walsingham were not so self-sufficing. `When divers men and women will go thus,' William Thorpe told his examiners, `they will ordain before to have with them both men and women that can well sing wanton songs.'(The Examination of William Thorpe (1407), in Arber's Garner) Laurence Minot stands out as the first definite figure of the professional minstrel in mediaeval England, one who strikes a clear individual note, and, half poet, half journalist, clothes political feeling and contemporary events in the garb of popular metres.
How Edward (th)e King came to Braband
And tok homage of all (th)e land
How Edward at Hogges vnto land wan,
And rade thurgh France or euer he blan.
Intinerant minstrelsy was no less popular in Tudor than in mediaeval times, and with the invention of printing the oral ballad, whether of traditional or individual composition, began to be thrown into type and circulated in broadsides. But the sixteenth-century broadside versions of the older and true ballads are unfortunately by no means mere transcripts from tradition, but have usually passed through the hands of an editor with a literary method of his own, appealing to a different kind of audience. The folk-ballad, governed by the conditions of its composition, told the story in lyrical glimpses and tense dialogue, originally no doubt eked out by action and dancing, but the Elizabethan editor, with his eye on passive and not too intelligent listeners, aimed at a remorseless recounting of the whole story from beginning to end. Hence, instead of the opening in medias res of
Hie upon Hielands,
And low upon Tay,
Bonnie George Campbell
Rode out on a day,
the Elizabethan ballad type begins with a long explanatory introduction.
Both gentlemen, or yeomen bould,
Or whatsoeuer you are,
To haue a stately story tould
Attention now prepare.
It is a tale of Robin Hood,
Which I to you will tell,
Which being rightly vnderstood,
I know will please you well.
This Robbin (so much talked on)
Was once a man of fame,
Instiled earle of Huntingdon,
Lord Robert Hood by name.
Similarly the old lyric narrative, such as,
O ye've had a cruel mither, Willie,
And I have had anither,
But we shall sleep in Clyde's water
Like sister and like brither,
replaced by prosaic explanation:
And to his little daughter Iane
Fiue hundred pounds in gold,
To be paid down on marriage-day,
Which might not be controlled.
But if the children chance to die
Ere they to age should come,
Their vncle should possess their wealth;
For so the will did run.
Yet in spite of this change from an intense method of poetry to another, dangerously prosaic, a fair amount of genuine folk-poetry was often enclosed in the shapeless padding of the later editor. The Robin Hood Ballads as they appear in the broadsides of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are excellent examples of the way in which the ancient habits of traditional poetry cling on in an age of professional balladists. Endless dilutions and accretions have reduced this popular epic to an average level of pedestrianism, but here and there the old literary methods strike out the old vigour from a page of dull narrative.
Come thou hither to mee, thou lovely page,
Come thou hither to mee;
For thou must post to Nottingham,
As fast as thou can dree.
In many cases, no doubt, the traditional ballad was only lightly touched and modernized, and where the editor was a versifier of some skill it is difficult to distinguish between the original and the later additions. While the history of the Robin Hood Ballads can be fairly well made out, from Langland's reference to them in the fourteenth century until their appearance in the various Garlands of the seventeenth, the question of the originals of Come over the Borne, Bessie, of Walsingham, and of many another popular Elizabethan poem remains entirely obscure. We can only surmise that the printed ballads of the sixteenth century represent a small and edited portion of a large oral tradition, most of which has now perished unrecorded.
The broad question of the relation of traditional poetry to the work of the individual ballad-writer suggests itself at once in connexion with the poems of Deloney. There can be no doubt that in many of his poems, and especially in those which seem most successful to the modern reader, he has either merely written down or closely imitated folk tradition. In Iacke of Newberie he plainly indicates the communal origin of the song of Flodden Field: `Wherefore in disgrace of the Scots, and in remembrance of the famous atchieued victory, the Commons of England made this Song: which to this day is not forgotten of many'(p. 25, ll. 34-6, and note.); and the two other traditional versions of the same song given in Child's Ballads conclusively prove that in this case at least Deloney was merely printing a traditional ballad. Similarly The Faire Flower of Northumberland (Iacke of Newberie, p. 33) in motif and treatment alike might be purely traditional, and Walsingham (See note thereon, infra, pp. 579-80.) (p. 365) is almost certainly built up on a traditional foundation. But lacking further evidence we can only draw strong inferences from style and matter, without reaching any absolutely definite conclusion.
The great bulk of sixteenth-century ballad literature, however, is the lineal descendant, not of the communal ballad, but rather of the minstrel's songs of the Middle Ages, and plainly the individual work of the professional entertainer, catering for the amusement of the general public with matter drawn from all sources. While the communal ballad was the folk expression of largesimple emotions, the ordinary Elizabethan ballad is journalism pure and simple, and Autolycus the ballad-hawker, eternally alive in the Winter's Tale hawks round, not the Douglas Tragedy or the Death of the Earl of Murray, but How a usurers wife was brought to bed of twenty money-bags at a burden, and 'another ballad Of a fish that appeared vpon the coast on Wednesday the fourscore of April, forty thousand fathom aboue water, and sung this ballad against the hard hearts of maids'. A glance at the Roxburghe Ballads, the Shirburn Collection, or the Registers of the Stationers' Company, will show that Shakespeare has scarcely done more than `hold the mirror up to nature '. The following are representative titles of ballads registered with the Stationers' Company:
A true relacon of the birth of Three Monsters in the Citty of Namen in Flaunders.
The wofull complaynt of Ffraunce for the deathe of the late kinge Henry the Ffourth.
A lamentation of a Yonge man for the deathe of his Mother..
How Maydes shulde penne the Dore &c.
A ballet intituled taken out of Ye XIII Chapter of Saynt Luke.
Tydinges of a Huge and Ougly childe borne at Arneheim in Gerderland.
A ballet against Swerynge.
Thus it may be gathered the Elizabethan ballad was the vehicle for popular edification, instruction, and amusement, and supplied the vulgar with sermons, history, politics, sentiment, and the latest news. Of this multifarious activity Deloney is almost completely representative, combining in his work all the different functions of the sixteenth-century ballad-maker. As a modern newspaper reporter hurries his exclusive news into print, so Deloney registered A ioyfull songe of the Roiall Receauing of the queenes maiestie into her camp at Tilbery: the 8 and 9 of August 1588, the very day after the event; and as modern newspapers send broadcast over the land accounts of criminals, trials, inquests, and accidents, so Deloney circulated the Lamentation of Pages Wife of Plymouth, the Death and Execution of Fourteen most wicked Traitors, the Lamentation of Beccles, and probably many another news sheet of which no trace remains. The Elizabethan appetite for history he satisfied with paraphrases from the Chronicles of Holinshed and Grafton; he touched on social questions of the day in his ballad on the Scarcity of Corn; dealt with the religious and political question in Truth and Ignorance and Judith and Holofernes, and served up moral exhortations and advice in Repent, England, Repent and Salomons good houswife. Nor did he forget the business of mere amusement, but in the Kings daughter of France, Patient Grissel, and King Edward the third, and the faire Countesse of Salisbury, set forth the pretty sentimental stories as dear to the Elizabethan heart as to the mediaeval.
While Deloney is so completely representative of the sixteenth-century ballad-writers, from the very conditions which called forth his work, it was impossible for him to maintain any constant level of excellence. The public was his master, and to please it he ransacked all the sources at his command -- the chroniclers, the stage, tradition, and contemporary history, but he could not handle all these topics with the same degree of facility. Such lyrics as the Weavers Song in Iacke of Newberie or Cutbert's Countrey Iigge in Thomas of Reading , flowed easily and delightfully from his pen, but in his narrative ballads he seems often to have flagged, and perhaps more especially in the Strange Histories which may have been a volume hastily `yarked up' for the printer, to supply immediate necessity. The great fault of the average Elizabethan ballad is lack of imagination, and in the ballads `taken from the chronicles' Deloney has seldom assimilated the story completely enough to reproduce it in an artistic or dramatic form. Hence his poems are too often little more than a metrical paraphrase of the prose, and refractory rhymes deliver him over to all sorts of temptations. Thus where Holinshed writes: `Thomas Gurney . . . flieng vnto Marcels, three years after being knowne, taken and brought toward England was beheaded on the sea', Deloney renders the passage:
Commandement was sent by one called Lea
he should be beheaded forth with on the sea, (p. 410, ll. 77-8.)
inventing a fictitious name to solve the difficulty of rhyming, and where he describes the imprisonment of Edward II by his Queen, an epithet contradictory to the sense is his only escape from the same impasse:
Our comely King, her husband deere,
Subdued by strength as did appeare,
By her was sent to prison stronge. (p. 402, ll. 3-5.)
Ballad-making to him was often merely a mechanical process; he used words and metre not to body forth a dramatic story, hot and incandescent in his mind, but to worry a narrative into the compass of a catch, and thus he does not escape at times a woful pedestrianism of style.
The Saylers and the shipmen all,
through foule excesse of wine,
Were so disguisde that at the sea,
they shewd themselues like swine. (p. 387, ll. 46-9.)
Three score and ten were dround in all,
and none escaped death,
But one poore Butcher which had swome
himself quite out of breath. (p. 389, ll. 117-20.)
Nor is this pedestrianism entirely limited to the narrative ballads. In The Widdowes Solace a beautiful verse: --
'Twas neither Cressus treasure,
nor Alexanders fame,
Nor Solomon by wisdome,
that could deaths fury tame.
No Physicke might preserue them
when Nature did decay:
What man can hold for ever,
the thing that will away ?
followed by this bathetic advice: --
If he were true and faithfull,
and louing unto thee,
Doubt not but ther's in England
enough as good as he.
But if that such affection,
within his heart was none:
Then giue God praise and glory,
that he is dead and gone. (p. 331.)
Such alterations seem to show a certain unsureness of taste and feeling that was shared by other and much greater writers of the Elizabethan age, but there is an individual strain of bourgeois materialism in Deloney's work which recalls the same weakness in the powerful Hogarth. `O faulce and foule disloyall men !' cries Deloney of the Babington conspirators:
what person would suppose,
That clothes of veluet and of silke
should hide such mortall foes? (p. 467, ll. 102-5.)
Hogarth brings the Industrious Apprentice safely to the arms of his master's daughter and the Mayoral seat in the Guildhall.
But Deloney must not be judged by his worst poems. His ballads on the stirring events of his time are comparable with those of Laurence Minot for a vigour and force that marks them for contemporary documents. As Minot wrote from the exultation of a fierce English heart:
Whare er 3e, Skottes of Saint Johnes toun?
(th)e boste of 3owre baner es betin all doune,
so Deloney in a truer, greater cause could write even while the wrack of the great Armada was still strewing the northern seas:
O Noble England,
fall doune vpon thy knee:
And praise thy God with thankfull hart
which still maintaineth thee
The forraine forces,
that seekes thy vtter spoil:
Shall then through his especiall grace
be brought to shamefull foile.
With mightie power they come vnto our coast:
To ouer runne our country quite,
they make their brags and boast.
In strength of men they set their only stay:
But we, vpon the Lord our God,
will put our trust alway. (p. 468.)
The patriotism that saved Elizabeth's England lends a boldness and vigour to the Winning of Cales and his three Armada Ballads, and where he touches religion sincerity infuses his verse with the energy of poetry, as in Truth and Ignorance:
But many Kings and Prophets
as I may say to thee:
Haue wisht the light that you haue,
and neuer could it see.
or in Holofernes:
Lo here behold how God prouides
for them that in him trust:
When earthly hope is all in vain,
he takes vs from the dust.
He writes with real sympathy of the emotions and troubles of domestic life, so that his paraphrase of Salomons good houswife, in the 31 of his Proverbes is completely delivered from the monotony of mere hack-work, and the Lamentation of Mr. Pages Wife becomes informed with a touching indignation. Where he deals with the topics of common artisan life, in the poems scattered through his novels, he writes with a singular freshness in that happily careless vein that is lacking in modern poetry. His more slender lyrics, such as Walsingham, The Spanish Ladies Love, and Age and Youth, are distinguished by a delicacy of diction and a rare simplicity of feeling that has made them remembered in later times when their author's name was forgotten or ignored.
Perhaps the chief literary influence moulding the ballad of the sixteenth century was exercised by the Mirrour for Magistrates. The tragic encyclopaedia of the Fall of Princes had eternal attractions for mediaeval readers, and the literary tradition merely took new form with the same popularity in the Elizabethan collection of doleful tragedies, related in the first person and clothed in long-drawn leisurely verse. Its influence is seen chiefly in the `Lamentation' type of ballad, exemplified in Deloney's work by the Lamentation of Shores Wife and the Lamentation of Beccles, and in the lugubrious choice of historical topics illustrated by ballads such as The lamentable death of King Iohn; Of Eduward the second, being poysoned; and the Imprisonment of Queene Elenor. The Mirrour for Magistrates (1587) had previously treated many of the subjects of Deloney's ballads,(e.g. King John's Death, Locrine, Albanact and Humber, Edward II.) and Strange Histories may perhaps be regarded as a bourgeois imitation of the more aristocratic prototype, even in its inclusion of the prose passage amongst the verse.'(p. 415.) But while the balladist of necessity squeezed `strange and lamentable' histories into the compass of a common rhythm and bore in mind always that his audience wanted rhymes `to the tune of Fortune' or `Prince Arthur died at Ludlow', authors like Daniel and Drayton could treat the same subject in much the same spirit in the larger and statelier stanzas of ten-syllabled verse. While Deloney scribbled his verses to the thin quavering of a street tune running through his head, Drayton and Daniel unfolded their tragic themes in the long march and rich cadences of the literary metres that had developed with the school of Spenser. Canaans Calamitie is the evidence that Deloney, writing up history into ballads for the market-place and tavern-door, did not nevertheless escape altogether the literary ambitions of his age, and, not merely content with the metrical paraphrasing of dolorous passages from the chronicles, really aimed, once at least, at a poem of some size and construction, where the treatment of tragic history and the metrical arrangement should be definitely nobler in tradition. The stanza he chose was that of Shakespeare's popular Venus and Adonis, and the subject, epic; in the choice of the one he reflects the Renaissance desire for dignified form, in the choice of the other its desire for dignified matter. The `little epic' was a favourite variety of Elizabethan poetry, which lent scope for the skilful handling of metre, for description, action, and narrative, giving many of the opportunities of the epic without its difficulties of construction, -- a variety which is exemplified in Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, in Marlowe's Hero and Leander, and profusely in the works of Drayton and Daniel.
In Canaans Calamitie Deloney leaves the simpler opportunities of the ballad metre and manages to attain in some degree to the dignity which marks the smaller epic, his first stanza recalling in the determination of its melancholy the opening verse of Milton's immature and mannered poem on The Passion:
Like to a Mourner clad in dolefull black,
That sadly sits to heare a heauie tale:
So must my pen proceed to shew the wrack,
That did with terror Syon hill assaile.
What time Iersulem that Cittie faire,
Was sieg'd and sackt by great Vespatians heire.
For now to sorrow must I tune my song,
And set my harp to notes of saddest woe,
Which on our dearest Lord did seize ere long
Dangers, and snares and wrongs, and worse than so,
Which he for us did freely undergo:
Most perfect Hero, tried in heaviest plight
Of labours huge and hard, too hard for human wight.
But Deloney's muse, though not only of the ale-house to which Nash relegated it, was not capable of filling a canvas with such a large historical piece as the destruction of Jerusalem. His stanzas are never entirely secure from the pedestrianism that marks his inferior ballads, and his diction lacks the strength to support an epic story. Hence he endeavours to escape from the larger tragic issues of his subject by sliding into the `Lamentation' point of view --
God grant we may our hatefull sins forsake,
And by the Jewes a Christian warning take
-- by dropping easily into the narrative method of the poetical chronicler, and weakening the tragedy of a catastrophe by overemphasis of the pathetic elements. In common with many of the Elizabethan dramatists Deloney had the power of creating pathetic situations from the simplest and barest elements of life, and probably the episode of Miriam and her son, in spite of its extravagant subject and grotesque exaggeration of circumstance and feeling, is the best part of his ambitious poem. In its fantastic setting of discordant and unpleasing detail there is a simple directness of feeling in the entreaty of Miriam's son for food, which recalls the vivid dialogue of the murderous father and his son in The Yorkshire Tragedy -- `O what will you do, father? I am your white boie.' -- `Thou shalt be my red boie.' (sc. iv.) Deloney from much same situation creates the same kind of pathos:
I am (deere Mother) hungry at the heart,
And scalding thirst, makes me I calmot speake,
I feele my strength decay in euery part,
One bit of bread, for me good Mother breake,
My lesson I haue learnd, where you did lay it,
Then giue me some-what: you shall heere me say it.' (p. 434, ll. 505-10.)
But this measure of success is an indication of his limitations. A story dealing with the more simple and elemental emotions he could throw into verse with success, and embody a fancy in a pleasant lyric. But probably the complex and graver emotions never came home to his heart nor hence the adequate means of their expression home to his mind, and he remains, when all is said and done, not so much the author of Canaans Calamitie as `the great Ballad-maker T.D.'
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