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The short and sanguinary reign of this female fanatic does not seem to have left any traces of its malignant influence on our literary history. The narrowness of the queen's temper, the gloom of her court, and her frequent proscriptions, were not likely to excite a taste or to furnish subjects for poetry; nevertheless they did not materially check the impulse already given. Indeed, if Mr Warton's mode of arrangement be admitted, it is to this reign that we are indebted for the first regular tragedy, and the first attempt at epic poetry, in the English language, as well as for two critical dissertations of very considerable merit.
The tragedy of Gorboduc, afterwards published under the title of Ferrex and Porrex, was written by SACKVILLE LORD BUCKHURST, and first earl of Dorset, who was born in 1530. It is said to have been completed and fitted for the stage by the assistance of Norton ; but Mr Warton thinks that the whole was Sackville's composition, and finished in the beginning of this reign, when he was a student at the Inner Temple. In 1557, he formed the outline of a poem of the epic kind, entitled a Mirrer for Magistrates, and which, in its plan and character, had some resemblance to the Inferno of Dante. It was intended to exhibit all the illustri. ous and unfortunate characters of English history, from the Conquest to the end of the fourteenth century; who were to pass in review before the poet, and severally recite to him their misfortunes. The scene was hell, to which the poet was supposed to have descended, under the guidance of Sorrow. But Sackville had only leisure to finish the induce tion, or poetical preface, and the concluding legend, which was that of Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham.
The two associates, WILLIAM BALDWIN and GEORGE FERRERS, to whom he delegated the completion of the work, materially altered its structure; substituting for his machinery the contrivance adopted by Boccacio in his treatise “ de Casibus Principum." A company is assembled, each of whom, excepting one, personates an unfortunate sufferer, and, under that assumed character, relates his adventures to the silent
of the assembly The work thus arranged, was published by Thomas Marsh in 1559. After passing through four (if not five) subsequent editions, it was republished in 1587, with considerable additions, under the care of a new editor, John HIGINS; and, its popularity
still continuing, it was again edited (licentiously modernized) by RICHARD Niccols, in 1610, with the addition of “ A Winter Night's Vision,” and of a new poem, called “ England's Eliza."
The Tocophilus, by Roger Ascham, and the Art of Rhetorique, by Thomas Wilson, both of which were intended as models of a pure English prose style, and contain many just and pertinent remarks on our language, are referred by Mr Warton to this reign. But Wilson's Rhetoric, though first printed in 1553, must have been composed in the reign of Edward VI., and the Toxophilus, which was published in 1545, seems to belong to that of Henry VIII. It may also be doubted whether the greater part of the poems in the Paradise of Dainty Devices were composed during this reign; but having no means of ascertaining the date of such anonymous pieces as are extracted from that miscellany, I have thought it best to follow Mr Warton's authority.
The time of his birth is not mentioned by Wood, who calls
him a forward and busy Calvinist. He has been already noticed in the account of the preceding reign (to which, perhaps, he more properly belongs) as a translator of the psalms, and as a supposed assistant to Sackville in completing the tragedy of Gorboduc. His title to the followivg short piece rests on the authority of a MS. in the Cotton library, entitled “ Verses on several Subjects, about Queen Mary's Time."
live thrice Nestor's life, Thrice wander out Ulysses' race, Yet never find Ulysses' wife;
Such change hath chanced in this case ! Less time will serve than Paris had,
Small pain (if none be small enow) To find good store of Helen's trade; Such
sap the root doth yield the bough! For one good wife, Ulysses slew
A worthy knot of gentle blood:
The town of Troy. Sith bad and good
Was born in 1523, educated at Oxford, and in the begin
ning of Queen Elizabeth's reign was appointed one of the gentlemen of her chapel. He died in 1566, much esteemed by his contemporaries for the variety of his talents, being at once the best fiddler, mimic, and sonneteer of the court. He composed three theatrical pieces, viz. Damon and Pythias (printed in Dodsley's Old Plays), and Palamon and Arcite, in two parts ; as well as the “ Soul knil,” soul's knell, once very generally admired, which Gascoigne ridicules some of his time for supposing to have been made in extremity of sickness. Vide his “ Epistle to al yong Gentlemen” in his works, ed. 1677.
(From “ Verses on several Subjects, about Queen Mary's
" Time.” Cotton MSS. Brit. Mus.]
When women first dame Nature wrought,