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ordinary prose of that day would lead us to suppose; the difference is rather that the generality of writers were more pedantic then than now, and sought, in a way that is no longer the fashion, to brocade their composition with what were called ink-horn terms, and outlandish phrases never used except in books. If they had been satisfied to write as they spoke, the style of that day (as we may perceive from the example of Nash) would have in its general character considerably more resembled that of the present. Gabriel Harvey's mode of writing exhibits all the peculiarities of his age in their most exaggerated form. He was a great scholar—and his composition is inspired by the very genius of pedantry; full of matter, full often of good sense, not unfrequently rising to a tone of dignity, and even eloquence, but always stiff, artificial, and elaborately unnatural to a degree which was even then unusual. We may conceive what sort of chance such a heavy-armed combatant, encumbered and oppressed by the very weapons he carried, would have in a war of wit with the quick, elastic, inexhaustible Nash, and the showering jokes and sarcasms that flashed from his easy, natural pen. Harvey, too, with all his merits, was both vain and envious; and he had some absurdities which afforded tempting game for satire. In particular he plumed himself on having reformed the barbarism of English verse by setting the example of modelling it after the Latin hexameter: “If I never deserve any better remembrance,” he exclaims in one of his pamphlets, “let me be epitaphed the inventor of the English hexameter" Nash, again, profanely characterises the said hexameter as “that drunken, staggering kind of verse, which is all up hill and down hill, like the way
betwixt Stamford and Beechfield, and goes like a horse. plunging through the mire in the deep of winter—now
soused up to the saddle, and straight aloft on his tiptoes”
(in these last words, we suppose, exemplifying the thing
he describes and derides).
ENGLISII HEXAMETER VERSE.
Harvey, however, did not wantimitators in his crotchet; and among them were some of high name. He boasts, in the same place where he claims the credit of the invention, of being able to reckon among his disciples, not only “learned Mr. Stanyhurst,”—that is Richard Stanyhurst, who in 1583 produced a most extraordinary performance, which he called a translation of the First Four Books of the AEneid, in this reformed verse,” but “excellent Sir Philip Sidney,” who, he observes, had not disdained to follow him in his Arcadia, and elsewhere. This is stated in his ‘Four Letters and certain Sonnets, especially touching Robert Greene, 1582.'t But from a preceding publication, entitled ‘Three Proper and Witty Familiar Letters lately passed between two University Men, touching the Earthquake in April last, and our English Reformed Versifying,’ which were given to the world in 1580, f we learn that Edmund Spenser too was for a short time half inclined to enlist himself among
* This very scarce volume was reprinted, under the care of Mr. Maidment, in 4to., at Edinburgh in 1836.
f Reprinted by Sir E. Brydges in the second volume of the Archaica, 1813.
# Reprinted in the second volume of “Ancient Critical Essays upon English Poets and Poesy,' edited by Joseph Haslewood, 2 vols. 4to. Lond. 1811-15.
the practitioners of the new method. The two University men between whom the Letters had passed are Spenser (who is designated Immerito) and Harvey, with whom he had become intimate at Cambridge (they were both of Pembroke Hall), and by whom he is supposed to have been introduced to Sidney a short time before this correspondence began. The Letters are in fact five in number; the original three, before the pamphlet was published, having had two others added to them, “of the same men's writing, both touching the foresaid artificial versifying, and certain other particulars, more lately delivered unto the printer.” The publication is introduced by a Preface from “a Well-willer” to both writers, who professes to have come by the letters at fourth or fifth hand, through a friend, “who with much eaty had procured the copying of them out at Immerito's hands.” He had not, he declares, made the writers privy to the publication. The merits of Harvey's letters in particular—which form indeed the principal part of the pamphlet, and to which the only one by Spenser originally designed to be given is merely introductory— are trumpeted forth in this Preface in a very confident style:—“But show me or Immerito,” exclaims the Well-willer, “two English letters in print in all points equal to the other two, both for the matter itself and also for the manner of handling, and say we never saw good • English letters in our lives.” “And yet,” he adds, “I am credibly informed by the foresaid faithful and honest friend, that himself [the writer of the said two letters] hath written many of the same stamp both to courtiers and others, and some of them discoursing upon matters
of great weight and importance, wherein he is said to be
fully as sufficient and habile as in those scholarly points of learning.” Nevertheless, this well-wisher, or his faithful and honest friend, was strongly suspected at the time to be no other than Harvey himself. Nash declares in one of his pamphlets that the compositor by whom the Well-willer's epistle, or Preface, was set up, swore to him that it came under Harvey's own hand to be printed. And in another place, addressing, Harvey, he says, “You were young in years when you privately wrote the letters that afterward were publicly divulged by no other but yourself. Signior Immerito was counterfeitly brought in to play a part in that his interlude of epistles. I durst on my credit undertake Spenser was in no way privy to the committing of them to print. Committing I will call it, for in my opinion G. H. should not have reaped so much discredit by being committed to New: gate, as by committing that misbelieving prose to
press.” Nash's authority, however, is none of the best; and it is fair to add that Harvey himself, in one of his ‘Four Letters’ published in 1592, speaks of the present letters as having been sent to the press either by some malicious enemy or some indiscreet friend. It can hardly be supposed that he designed to conceal himself under the latter description. But to return to what Spenser tells us of his studies and experiments in English hexameters and pentameters. In one letter, written from Leicester House, Westminster, in October, 1579, he says: “As for the two worthy gentlemen, Mr. Sidney and Mr. Dyer [afterwards Sir Edward Dyer, and greatly esteemed as a writer of verse in his day], they have me, I thank them, in some use and familiarity, of whom and to whom what speech passeth to your credit and estimation I leave yourself to conceive; having always so well conceived of my unfeigned affection and zeal towards you. And now they have proclaimed in their apeiaráyo ageneral surceasing and silence of bald Rhymers, and also of the very best too; instead whereof they have, by authority of their whole senate, prescribed certain rules and laws of quantities of English syllables for English verse; having had thereof already great practice, and almost drawn me into their faction.” Afterwards he goes farther: “I am more in love,” he says, “with English versifying [that was the name by which Harvey and his friends distinguished the new invention] than with Rhyming; which I should have done [with ?] long since if I would then have followed your counsel.” And he concludes, “I received your letter sent me the last week, whereby I perceive you continue your old exercise of versifying in English; which glory I had now thought should have been ours at London and the court.” “Trust me,” he adds, “your verses I like passingly well, and envy your hidden pains in this kind, or rather malign and grudge at yourself that would not once impart so much to me.” He remarks, however, that Harvey has once or twice made a breach in the rules laid down for this new mode of versifying by Master Drant, that is, Thomas Drant, chiefly known as the author of two collections of Latin poetry, entitled Sylva, and Poemata Varia, but also the author of some verse translations from the Latin and Greek. “You shall see,” says Spenser in conclusion, “when we meet in London (and when it shall be, certify us), how fast I have followed after you in that course: beware lest in time I overtake you.” And, as a sample of what he had been doing, he subjoins a few English