Page images
PDF
EPUB

Bourne. We will now close Whetstone's "English Myrror," and before we leave him just look at his "Mirour for Magestrates of Cyties," 1584, which is a rarer work, and is directed against the practices at Dicing Houses, Taverns, Ordinaries, Stews, &c. in the city. The latter part of this pamphlet, called "An Addition: or Touchstone for the Time," is the most curious, though perhaps not so much so, as the title would lead one to expect. He inveighs with great zeal against the corruptions of his day, but in terms rather too general, and he had reason to abuse them, for at the end he states that he had been a great sufferer. "No man (he observes) was euer assaulted with a more daungerous strategeme of cosonage than my selfe with which my life and liuing was hardly beset. No man hath more cause to thanke God for a free deliuery than my selfe, nor anie man euer sawe more suddaine vengeance inflicted vpon his aduersaries, than I my selfe of mine."

Morton. He gives no particulars, does he, of his narrow escape and signal revenge?

Bourne. None, but he refers to his "Rocke of Regarde." I will not go through his violent abuse of gaming houses, ordinaries, &c. but merely (as we shall have occasion to look at the tract again) read the following singular anecdote, told of one of the judges of his time. "Olde Judge Chomley euermore aunswered naughtie liuers that sued for mercie desiring him to regard the frailtie of young men by the bolde and unlawful actions of his owne youth, and by the testimonie of his grace, good fortune, and present authoritie, to conceiue hope of their amendment: O my friendes, quoth the Judge, I tel you plainly that of twentie that in those dayes were my companions, I onely escaped hanging 3 and it is very like that some one of your fellowship is by Gods goodnesse reserued to be an honest man; but you are found offenders by the Lawe, and truely iustice (whose sentence I am sworne to pronounce) commaundeth me to commend your soules to Almightie God, and your bodies to the Gallowse."

Elliot. He was determined, at all events, that none of those before him should have a chance of reforming, and becoming an honest man.

Bourne. Although Whetstone was rather a voluminous author, there are circumstances to show that he was not popular, and among them the fact that as his printer, Richard Jones, could not sell his "Mirour for Magestrates of Cyties" under that title (though sufficiently taking one would have imagined, recollecting the great popularity of a work well known, and with nearly a similar name) he republished it in 1586 under the new title of " The Enemie of Vnthryftinesse, &c. discouering the vnsufferable Abuses raigning in our happie English comon wealth:" the title-page is the only difference, as all the body of the work is the identical impression of 1584, a number of copies remaining on hand, notwithstanding a sort of advertisement by the author at the end of his " English Myrror."

Morton. Then it contains no alterations or additions of any kind.

Bourne. I was in error when I said that the title only was new, because at the back of it there is another novelty of some interest—I mean a list of the works which Whetstone had published up to 1586: they are arranged as follows, but not chronologically, as you will see in a moment.

"1 The Enemie of Vnthryftinesse

2 The Rocke of Regarde

3 The honourable Reputation and Morall Ver

tues of a Souldier

4 The Heptameron of Cyuill Discourses

5 The Tragicall Comedie of Promos & Cassandra

6 The lyfe and death of M. G. Gascoyne

7 The lyfe and death of the graue & honorable

Maiestrat Sir Nicholas Bacon, late L. keeper

8 The lyfe and death of the good L. Dyer

9 The lyfe and death of the noble Earle of Sussex 10 A Mirrour of true Honor shewinge the lyfe,

death and Vertues of Frauncis Earle of Bedforde."

To these are added, " Bookes ready to be printed."

"11 A Panoplie of deuises

12 The English Mirour

13 The Image of Christian Iustice."

This list, not hitherto mentioned, I apprehend will settle some doubtful points, as to the works of Whetstone. Elliot. But are they worth settling?

Bourne. Perhaps not, or not worth much labour in settling. In the last page but one of his "Touchstone for the Time" the author speaks of a forthcoming work called " The Blessings of Peace," but I fancy that this was included in the "English Myrror," as much of the third book is devoted to that subject.

Elliot. I think you have now had scope enough for your antiquarian mania, which has been attended, that I can perceive, with no material advantage, unless it be one to divert us from the course we were pursuing. How we travelled backwards from Wither to Whetstone I know not.

Morton. And I very little care, as long as we gain the object we have in view.

Bourne. Well, I have done. We will now return to Wither's " Abuses stript & whipt." I must say, however, that you have had your share of entertainment out of the jokes I read, both of the Vicar of Croydon, and of the Physician and the Gout.

Morton. He is only in the ordinary case; affecting a little to despise what he does not understand. But let us go on with Wither.

Bourne. What I am now going to read is in the same satire as our last extract: he is touching upon the manner in which envy affected even him:

"So I haue found

The blast of enuy flies as low's the ground,
And though it hath already brought a man
Euen vnto the meanest state it can
Yet tis not satisfi'd, but still diuising
Which way it also may disturbe his rising:
This I know true, or else it could not be
That any man should hate or enuy me,
Being a creature (one would thinke) that's plast
Too low for to be toucht with enuies blast:
And yet 1 am; I see men haue espi'd
Some-thing in me too that may be enui'd;
But I haue found it now, and know the matter;
By reason they are rich, and He not flatter:
Yes; and because they see that I doe scorne
To be their slaue whose equall I am borne."

Elliot. That is closed in a fearless spirit of independence: the whole extract is eloquent.

Morton. It is a touch of the levelling republican which Wither afterwards turned out to be.

Bourne. I think you mistake; he is there speaking only of his equality with the rich in being the work of God, with the same faculties and understanding. There is no more republicanism there than some of the most loyal, not to say the most flattering, poets have at times expressed. Skelton, who cannot be charged with too much independence of mind, even in the reign of Henry VIII., speaks

« PreviousContinue »