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Morton. I remember reading in old Gower's Confessio Amantis, where he introduces the well known fable of iEsop, the following lines regarding Envy, which remind one of Wither.
"Where I my selfe may not auaile
Bourne. And in another place he describes the envious as "sicke of another mans hele," which is just the same as Wither's line "It is a grief that springs from other's good."
Elliot. That of course has been its chief characteristic from the earliest times, without it it is not Envy; tristitia de bonis alienis. Churchill, whom I before mentioned, carries it one degree further;
"With that malignant envy which turns pale
And sickens even if a friend prevail;" which is a fine addition, and constitutes his superiority.
Bourne. Whetstone, who is not generally a favourite with me, in his "English Myrror," 1586, has rather a good saying on the subject of Envy: if a man "be enuious, (says he) he dare not recyte so much as the name of enuie; the reason is, this passion is so fowle and infamous, as it stinketh in the opinion of him that is infected therewith."
Morton. Is not that "English Myrror" one of the books you promised to show us, but have not yet performed your promise?
Bourne. Not that I remember, but here it is if you wish to see it.
Elliot. Does it contain any thing worth seeing?
Bourne. Many things, but principally in a historical point of view, as it refers to various events in the reign of Elizabeth previous to its date (1586), and more especially to the conspiracies against the Queen. It is called, "The English Myrror. A Regard, wherein all estates may behold the Conquests of Enuy." This is the subject of the first book; the second is called "Enuy conquered by Vertue," meaning the virtue of the Queen, and the third, "A fortresse against Enuy."
Morton. Is any poetry interspersed in the volume?
Bourne. Yes; but not much, and that bad, as you can judge from the subsequent specimen, which you may take my word for it is the best: he has been referring to Dionysius and Damocles in Book II,
"There is no fort that seemeth safe or strong,
VOL. II. D
The softest bedde a thycket full of thorne,
Elliot. Those lines certainly justify the opinion you have given.
Bourne. He was but an indifferent poet, though he wrote much, and particularly elegiac or funeral poems, one of which, on Sir P. Sidney, I formerly noticed; he refers to some of these in the dedication to the third book of his English Myrror, where he says that several "worthy personages, which in my time are deceased, haue had the second life of their vertues bruted by my Muse."
Morton. Can you refer us to any particular part worth reading?
Bourne. The whole is well worth reading as a work of much study and learning, now and then diversified with a humorous tale or anecdote; as the following of a Vicar of Croydon before the reformation, who kept a " daughter of the game" in his vicarage, being of course forbidden to marry. "As (says Whetstone) hee thought to take away all suspition of his misbehauiour, made a vehement Sermon against Lecherie, and agravated the vengeaunces of that sinne, with all the authorities which he could recite in the Scripture; earnestlie exhorting his Parishioners, to cleanse the towne of that damnable & filthie iniquitie: whereuppon one of the Church-wardens (that knew the Viccar had violated his vowe) cryed out, Master Viccar if you will giue vs example, by purging the Church-yarde, wee will bee careful to cleanse the rest of the Parish. The Viccar smelling the meaning of the Church-warden, pleasantlie to huddle vp the matter, replied that the Church-warden spake without reason; for, quoth he, the Church-yarde is the appointed place to receiue the most filthie Carrion of the worlde; and withall wished the people not to mistake him, for he onely spake of the sinne, but meddled not with the sinner." ■ i
Elliot. That is fair enough.
Bourne. And the author's application of the jest is better: I could point out other amusing extracts, but it is scarcely worth while now to go out of our way for them. Speaking of Physicians in the first book he states that " a gentleman of Vermis," (for Whetstone had travelled in Italy, as he mentions elsewhere) "one a time supping with a Fhisition in Padua, marueiled that the Phisitions, who in shorte space finde a remedie for the most violent newe disease that raigneth, can not cure as well as giue. ease to the Gowt, an auncient maladie. Which doubt, the Doctor thus pleasauntly resolued. O Sir, (quoth hee) the Gowte is the proper disease of the riche, and wee liue not by the poore; it may suffice that they finde ease; but to prescribe a cure, to beggar our facultye, were a great follye."
Morton. And to the present day they have kept up the artifice; only with this difference, that now they seem to find it their interest not even to give the sufferer any ease under his torments from "arthritic tyranny," as Dr. Johnson calls it in one of his minor poems.
Elliot. Massinger, in his "Emperor of the East," has a passage somewhat similar, where Paulinus is discovered with the gout, attended by a surgeon, who for a time has lessened the acuteness of his pain; Paulinus says that he would give the moiety of his fortune to ensure a continuance of his respite, and the surgeon answers,
"If I could cure The gout, my Lord, without the Philosopher's stone I should soon purchase; it being a disease In poor men very rare, and in the rich The cure impossible."
Bourne. He means impossible from the habitual luxuriousness of their habits: Whetstone's Physician said a cure was impossible from a very different and politic cause.
Morton. It would not have done for the surgeon to have actually told Paulinus, suffering under the disease, that it was against the interest of the faculty to discover and introduce a cure.