Nonfiction > G. Gregory Smith, ed. > Elizabethan Critical Essays
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G. Gregory Smith, ed.  Elizabethan Critical Essays.  1904.
 
Thomas Nashe (1567–1601)
From Strange Newes, or Foure Letters Confuted
1592
 
[These extracts are taken from Strange Newes of the intercepting certaine Letters, and a Conuoy of Verses, as they were going Priuilie to victual the Low Countries, London. ?1592. The pamphlet is otherwise known, from the headline of each page, as Foure Letters Confuted. The text is that of the British Museum copy (96. b. 16).]

O HEATHENISTS and Pagan Hexamiters, come thy waies down from thy Doctourship, & learne thy Primer of Poetry ouer again; for certainly thy pen is in state of a Reprobate with all men of iudgement and reckoning….
  1
 
  The tickling and stirring inuectiue vaine, the puffing and swelling Satiricall spirit came vpon him, as it came on Coppinger and Arthington, when they mounted into the pease-cart in Cheapeside and preacht. Needes hee must cast vp certayne crude humours of English Hexameter Verses that lay vppon his stomacke; a Noble-man stoode in his way as he was vomiting, and from top to toe he all to berayd him with Tuscanisme….  2
 
  Tubalcan, alias Tuball, first founder of Farriers Hall, heere is a great complaint made, that Vtriusque Academiae Robertus Greene hath mockt thee, because hee saide that as thou wert the first inuenter of Musicke, so Gabriell Howliglasse was the first inuenter of English Hexameter verses. Quid respondes? canst thou brooke it; yea or no? Is it any treason to thy well tuned hammers to say they begat so renowmed a childe as Musicke? Neither thy hammers nor thou I knowe, if they were put to their booke oaths, will euer say it.  3
  The Hexamiter verse I graunt to be a Gentleman of an auncient house (so is many an english begger); yet this Clyme of ours hee cannot thriue in. Our speech is too craggy for him to set his plough in; hee goes twitching and hopping in our language like a man running vpon quagmiers, vp the hill in one Syllable, and downe the dale in another, retaining no part of that stately smooth gate which he vaunts himselfe with amongst the Greeks and Latins.  4
  Homer and Virgil, two valorous Authors, yet were they neuer knighted, they wrote in Hexameter Verses: Ergo, Chaucer and Spencer, the Homer and Virgil of England, were farre ouerseene that they wrote not all their Poems in Hexamiter verses also. In many Countries veluet and Satten is a commoner weare than cloth amongst vs: Ergo wee must leaue wearing of cloth, and goe euerie one in veluet and satten, because other Countries vse so.  5
  The Text will not beare it, good Gilgilis Hobberdehoy. Our english tongue is nothing too good, but too bad to imitate the Greeke and Latine.  6
  Master Stannyhurst (though otherwise learned) trod a foule, lumbring, boystrous, wallowing, measure in his translation of Virgil. He had neuer been praisd by Gabriel for his labour, if therein hee had not bin so famously absurd….  7
  Let Maister Butler of Cambridge his testimoniall end this controuersie, who at that time that thy ioyes were in the Fleeting, and thou crying for the Lords sake out at an iron window, in a lane not farre from Ludgate hill, questiond some of his companions verie inquisitiuelie that were newlie come from London, what nouelties they brought home with them. Amongst the rest he broke into this Hexamiter interrogatory very abruptlie.
But ah! what newes do you heare of that good Gabriel huffe snuffe,
Knowne to the world for a foole, and clapt in the Fleete for a Rimer?
  8
  … Thy Hexameter Verses, or thy hue and cry after a person as cleare as Christall, I do not so deeply commend, for al Maister Spencer long since imbrast it with an ouerlouing sonnet.  9
  Why should friends dissemble one with another: they are very vgly and artlesse. You will neuer leaue your olde trickes of drawing M. Spencer into euerie pybald thing you do. If euer he praisd thee, it was because he had pickt a fine vaine foole out of thee, and he would keepe thee still by flattring thee, til such time as he had brought thee into that extreame loue with thy selfe, that thou shouldst run mad with the conceit, and so be scorned of all men….  10
 
  As for Flores Poetarum, they are flowers that yet I neuer smelt too. Ile pawne my hand to a halfepenny, I haue readd more good Poets thorough than thou euer hardst off.  11
  The floures of your Foure Letters it may be I haue ouerlookt more narrowlie, and done my best deuoire to assemble them together into patheticall posie, which I will here present to Maister Orator Edge for a Newyeares gift, leauing them to his wordie discretion to be censured whether they be currant in inkehornisme or no: Conscious mind; canicular tales; egregious an argument—when as egregious is neuer vsed in English but in the extreame ill part; Ingenuitie; Iouiall mind; valorous Authors; inckehorne aduentures; inckehorne pads; putatiue opinions; putatiue artists; energeticall persuasions; Rascallitie; materiallitie; artificiallitie; Fantasticallitie; diuine Entelechy; loud mentery; deceitfull perfidy; addicted to Theory; the worlds great Incendiarie; sirenized furies; soueraigntie immense; abundant Cauteles; cautelous and aduentrous; cordiall liquor; Catilinaries and Phillipicks; perfunctorie discourses; Dauids sweetnes olimpique; The Idee; high and deepe Abisse of excellence; the only Vnicorne of the Muses; the Aretinish mountaine of huge exaggerations; the gratious law of Amnesty; amicable termes; amicable end; effectuate; addoulce his melodie; Mag[ic] polimechany; extensiuely emploid; precious Traynment; Nouellets; Notorietie; negotiation; mechanician.  12
  Nor are these all, for euerie third line hath some of this ouer-rackt absonisme. Nor do I altogether scum off all these as the new ingendred fome of the English, but allowe some of them for a neede to fill vp a verse; as Traynment, and one or two wordes more, which the libertie of prose might well haue spar’d. In a verse, when a worde of three sillables cannot thrust in but sidelings, to ioynt him euen, we are oftentimes faine to borrowe some lesser quarry of elocution from the Latine, alwaies retaining this for a principle, that a leake of indesinence, as a leake in a shippe, must needly bee stopt with what matter soeuer.  13
  Chaucers authoritie I am certaine shal be alleadgd for a many of these balductums. Had Chaucer liu’d to this age, I am verily perswaded hee would haue discarded the tone halfe of the harsher sort of them.  14
  They were the Oouse which ouerflowing barbarisme, withdrawne to her Scottish Northren chanell, had left behind her. Art, like yong grasse in the spring of Chaucers florishing, was glad to peepe vp through any slime of corruption, to be beholding to she car’d not whome for apparaile, trauailing in those colde countries. There is no reason that shee, a banisht Queene into this barraine soile, hauing monarchizd it so long amongst the Greeks and Romanes, should (although warres furie had humbled her to some extremitie) still be constrained, when she had recouerd her state, to weare the robes of aduersitie [&] iet it in her old rags, when she is wedded to new prosperitie. Vtere moribus praeteritis, saith Caius Caesar in Aulus Gellius, loquere verbis praesentibus….  15
  Wherein I haue borrowed from Greene or Tarlton, that I should thanke them for all I haue? Is my stile like Greenes, or my ieasts like Tarltons? Do I talke of any counterfeit birds, or hearbs, or stones, or rake vp any new-found poetry from vnder the wals of Troy? If I do, trip mee with it; but I doe not, therefore Ile be so saucy as trip you with the grand lie. Ware stumbling of whetstones in the darke there, my maisters.  16
  This I will proudly boast (yet am I nothing a kindred to the three brothers) that the vaine which I haue (be it a median vaine, or a madde vaine) is of my owne begetting, and cals no man father in England but my selfe, neyther Euphues, nor Tarlton, nor Greene. Not Tarlton nor Greene but haue beene contented to let my simple iudgement ouerrule them in some matters of wit. Euphues I readd when I was a little ape in Cambridge, and then I thought it was Ipse ille; it may be excellent good still for ought I know, for I lookt not on it this ten yeare: but to imitate it I abhorre, otherwise than it imitates Plutarch, Ouid, and the choisest Latine Authors.  17
  If you be auisde I tooke shortest vowels and longest mutes in the beginning of my booke as suspitious of being accessarie to the making of a Sonnet wherto Maister Christopher Birds name is set, there I saide that you mute forth many such phrases in the course of your booke which I would point at as I past by. Heere I am as good as my word, for I note that thou, beeing afraide of beraying thy selfe with writing, wouldest faine bee a mute, when it is too late to repent. Againe, thou reuiest on vs, and saist that mutes are coursed and vowels haunted. Thou art no mute, yet shalt thou be haunted and coursed to the full. I will neuer leaue thee as long as I am able to lift a pen.  18
  Whether I seeke to bee counted a terrible bulbegger or no, Ile baite thee worse than a bull, so that the[n] thou shalt desire some body on thy knees to helpe thee with letters of commendation to Bull the hangman, that he may dispatch thee out of the way before more affliction come vpon thee.  19
 
 
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