spacer1. It is generally accepted that beginning in the 1590’s there was a revolution in prose style, represented in England by Donne, Bacon, and Brown, and in France by Montaigne and Pascal. A new style (sometimes rather questionably described as “baroque“) became popular, forsaking the highly artificial periodic Ciceronian period and its syntactic construction in favor of a more realistic paratactic one, the use of craggy sentence structures, the insertion of pointedly epigrammatic remarks and so forth. The use of this new style has been dubbed “the Anti-Ciceronian movement.” (The choice of this label was a trifle unfortunate because it wrongly implied that any actual hostility towards Cicero was a component of the Movement, that had to wait until the appearance of this 1744 item).The discovery of the Movement has traditionally been associated with  the work of Morris W. Croll, best remembered for two highly influential studies, his 1955 Style, Rhetoric, and Rhythm: Essays by Morris W. Croll and 1969   Attic and Baroque Prose Style: The Anti-Ciceronian Movement (but the germ of his thinking had already appeared as early as an article in the 1921 volume of Studies in Philology.) One reviewer has said “Maurice Croll’s essays … were arguably the most important of the early contributions to the history of rhetorical stylistics and remain a standard reference,” although the Movement’s existence had already been observed by  one of the most prominent and influential Classical scholars of his generation when it provided the central idea for the eighteenth chapter of Gilbert Highet’s magisterial  1949 The Classical Tradition. At about the same time, George Williamson published The Senecan Amble; A Study in Prose Form from Bacon to Collier (1966), and here the matter it came to rest, unchallenged, and given little further consideration because many English scholars, and also their colleagues down the corridor in the Department of Classics, moved on to very different enthusiasms and abandoned such intense interest in stylistics (Croll’s findings have been enthusiastically repeated, for example, in two recent essays posted on the Web, this one and also this one). Those who still write about Croll cite his work with approval and usually without substantial modification, and I have not seen any serious criticism of it.
2. Here I do not want to criticize, or even substantially add to, anything that Highet, Croll or anybody else has written about this revolution in stylistic taste. But I do wish to point out that when the so-called Anti-Ciceronian movement is discussed as if it were exclusively a matter of stylistics, this becomes a massive exercise in point-missing, and that in result our understanding of the literary history of the late Tudor and early Stuart periods becomes poverty-stricken. For substance as well as style was at stake and what has thus far been regarded only in isolation as a question of how prose was written was in fact only one facet of a far more complex and sweeping revolution in literary taste which began to take hold towards the end of the sixteenth century, when, to a significant degree, Silver Age Roman authors replaced Golden Age ones as models for study and imitation.
    3. The dependence of English authors on ancient models remained as strong as ever, but it emerged that “the classics” was a flexible concept capable of considerable change. Briefly put, the Roman authors whose influence had previously dominated all wrote near the end of the Republic and during the reign of Augustus:  Vergil, Horace and Ovid for poetry, Cicero for prose, Livy for history and so forth. Only the drama was exempt from this generalization for want of Golden Age models, so that contemporaries were obliged to turn to Plautus and Terence for comedy and Seneca for tragedy. Had such Golden Age exemplars as Ovid’s lost tragedy Medea survived for the reading, we can rest assured that Renaissance English playwrights have relied on them instead.
     4. Suddenly, beginning in the early 1590’s, these familiar standbys were elbowed aside in favor of a new roster of names: Tacitus for history, Seneca for essays, and such disparate authors as Lucan and Martial for poetry. Among prominent Silver Age authors, only Juvenal (inexplicably) seems to have escaped similar lionization. To put it briefly, Bacon’s imitation of Seneca’s form (and sometimes his contents), Ben Jonson’s dramatization of an episode from Tacitus, the giant steps forward in English historiography achieved by William Camden and Bacon, the imitation of Martial’s epigram in English by Sir John Harington and in Latin by Thomas Campion, and the learned commentaries of Thomas Farnaby were all manifestations of this same revolution in literary taste. Seemingly Shakespeare was the only conspicuous writer to resist this trend by continuing to write Livy-based plays (Corolianus was written as late as 1610), but below we shall see that even he was not entirely immune to this altered literary fashion.  Nevertheless Shakespeare was affected by changing literary tastes. This can readily be seen by comparing the speech of Gloucester in the Henry VI plays with that of the protagonist of Richard III. The former is florid and filled with mythological allusions as if the evil Duke went through life with his nose firmly planted in Ovid. In the latter, his language is severely pruned of such stuff.
    5. My only iintention here is to convince the reader that such an important revolution did in fact occur and that it warrants a great deal of further investigation. I have no ambition to study it in detail or in its every ramification. Writing a book-length study on the subject would require a writer with a far deeper familiarity with the literature of the time than mine. If I can achieve this much, and convince others that it would be worth their while to plumb the nature of this important and pervasive revolution in literary taste, I shall be well content.
     6. One feature of what is written here will no doubt raise some eyebrows, my willingness (indeed, my eagerness) to lump together English vernacular literature and works written in Latin by Englishmen, as if they were part and parcel of the same thing. For this I make no apology, because I am convinced that such was in fact the true situation. Due to the particular nature of the English educational system, on both secondary and university levels, the distinctive feature of that nation’s educated class (like that of every other nation of Europe) was its English-Latin bilingualism. And, while one can of course point to particular works that were more or less obviously written in Latin because they were meant for an international readership, by and large Englishmen who wrote in Latin did so for the instruction or entertainment of their fellow countrymen. There was no watertight bulkhead separating English vernacular from Neo-Latin literature. Quite to the contrary, these two kinds of literature were quite capable of exerting influence on each other and not infrequently both were written by the same man (beginning with John Skelton near the start of the sixteen century and continuing until Walter Savage Landor at a time when men were still dying from wounds received at Gettysburg). Such writings, therefore, fully deserve to be included within the general category of “English literature” and considered together with items written in the vernacular.
    7. In no particular order, I shall point out how the Movement manifested itself in various genres thanks to the influence of individual authors who now came to the fore.  Since so much has already been written by others about style, here for the most part I propose to ignore it and concentrate on questions of literary form and substance.

1. Tacitus: William Camden and Sir Francis Bacon

    8. Earlier British Humanistic history which transcended the level of the purely factual compilation of chronicles had its beginning with Polydore Vergil. We know from the dedicatory epistle addressed to his brother prefixed to the second edition of his book on proverbs Adagiorum Libellus (1525) that he started this work at the behest of Henry VII. Henry’s motive was transparent: he was the first English sovereign to be alive to the political value of literature and the tremendous multiplying power of the printing press. He was adept at getting Neo-Latin poets (with the exception of the blind Burgundian friar Bernard Andre, his regius poeta, they were Italian immigrants) to write flattering stuff about himself, to the point that it is probably fair to say that when he had induced them to migrate to England he managed to assemble a veritable propaganda team. He had a need for prose writers who could be counted on to present his version of controversial events, and he needed such stuff to be written in Latin because the audience most in need of convincing was overseas. It was necessary to place on the written record of the part he had played in the replacement of Richard III and probably even more so to convince the world that the claims of the pretender Perkin Warbeck were in fact bogus. Thomas More was expected to provide his help for the first of these problems, but that left the other outstanding, so it is tempting to suppose that this supplied the motivation for his request to Polydore.
    9. If so, Henry must have been very frustrated. No doubt he wanted a history of his own reign, and in all likelihood he wanted it to be written quickly. What he got was very different, something that took Polydore many years to write, the 1555 Anglica Historia. The problem was that Polydore seems to have fallen under the spell of recent soup-to-nuts history of Scotland Scotorum Historia (first printed in 1527) by the so-called Scottish Livy Hector Boece, and conceived the ambition of writing a similar one for of England (after finishing his work, in introducing it he boasted that he was the first English historian since Bede to accomplish this feat). For its time and place Boece’s history was revolutionary: not only was it Humanistic in the sense that it was written in what at the time was called “clean Latin” and relied on the armory of devices supplied by classical rhetoric. He also subtly injected himself into his narrative, in the guise of a reliable guide able to take the reader by the hand and help him understand not only the surface play of historical events but also the deeper forces driving them (whereas the chronicle-writers betray little if any awareness that any such forces existed).
     10. Polydore not only imitated Boece but managed to surpass him. He added another important element of modernity when he applied the rationalistic test of probability to explode the standard mythologizing prehistory of England purveyed by Geoffrey of Monmouth (it is surprisingly difficult to identify any English historian of  the Tudor or early Stuart periods who was convinced by Polydore: most stuck to the old account and even the great William Camden diplomatically declared his neutrality over the issue although, as an editor of the early historians Gildas and Nennius, it must have made an impression on him that these writers offered nothing to confirm Geoffrey). Again, Polydore encouraged his readers to understand the causes standing behind individual historical events. Most memorably, being particularly interested in money matters (he had originally come to England as a papal tax-collector), he focused on a repeated historical pattern: the king wants to wage war and needs the wherewithal to finance it, he goes to Parliament for funds and is only given his desired funding in exchange for granting Parliament new rights. Thus he was able to trace the progressive development of independent Parliamentary power. As a foreign newcomer he sometimes got details of his new country’s history and geography almost laughably wrong, but managed to acquire a good grasp of this most important of all trends in English constitutional history and give sound political instruction to his readers.
11. For the remainder of the Tudor period England produced no historian beyond the chroniclers Richard Grafton, Joseph Hall and Raphael Holinshed, who did much that was good and useful in assembling their nation’s history but little to achieve any forward motion in historiography: in that respect there is little to choose between them and monkish chroniclers of the Medieval period.  And so we are rapidly carried forward to the early seventeenth century and the remarkably different histories of William Camden and Sir Francis Bacon, both written at a time when Tacitus was enjoying a vogue. The origin of that new enthusiasm can be pinpointed in the researches of the scholarly Justus Lipsius, which exerted tremendous influence on the writing of Hugo Grotius’s  Annales et Historiae de Rebus Belgicis (largely completed in 1612 although not printed until 1657).  Meanwhile in England readers had been alerted to the importance of Tacitus by two translations in particular, the first four Books of the Historiae and the Agricola by the learned Sir Henry Savile, printed in 1591, NOTE 1 and Richard Grenewey’ 1598 version of the Annales and Germania.
     12. An early sign of an upsurge of interest in Tacitus was Queen Elizabeth's translation of Book I of the Annales (preserved in Lambeth Palace Library MS 683 and the subject of an important forensic article by John-Mark Philo in. Vol. 71, issue 298 of The Review of English Studies (2020) pp. 44 - 73. The Queen most likely took her inspiration from the 1591 translation of Tacitus' Histories (Saville subsequently translated the Agricola too). This is especially likely since Saville had served as Elizabeth's Greek and Latin tutor. In In a follow-up article that appeared in the Journal of the Northern Renaissance for 2022, Philo suggested at an awareness that Elizabeth had been engaged in this project sometime in the l 580's was precisely what inspired Saville's own effort. In 1597 Lord Burghley suggested to William Camden (already famous for the publication of the first edition of his topographical survey Britannia, published in 1586) that he write a history of Elizabeth’s reign. For a long time, Camden declined to comply with this request, but in the next century produced his great Annales Rerum Gestarum Angliae et Hiberniae Regnante Elizabetha (released in two installments, in 1615 and 1625). In many ways, Camden’s work was groundbreaking. Evidently Burghley had guaranteed that if he wrote such a history he would be given access to the full range of state documents, and King James abided by this promise. For at many points where in a Greek or Roman history one would find a fictitious speech composed by the author as an exercise of rhetorical display, we instead encounter a quoted source-document, which imparts to the work a radically novel and surprisingly modern cast. And instead of a chronicler’s bald recitation of facts we find Humanistic historiography with a vengeance. It is enormously attractive to suggest that Camden got the idea of writing the history of the Queen's reign in a markedly Tacitizing manner because he was aware of her enthusiasm for the Annales. Possibly in its early life the manuscript preserving Elizabeth's work had been gathered up into the state papers of her reign so that he had had the oppoortunity to see it.
     13. For Camden, heavy reliance on source-documents is an important tool for adhering to the Humanistic program of explaining the “why” as well as the “what” of history. Often they allow him (and therefore his readers) insight into the thought processes of history’s actors and why they make the choices they did. Nowhere is this clearer than regarding what was probably the single most crucial decision made by Elizabeth and her government in the course of her reign, the decision to send an English expeditionary force to the Netherlands to support Protestant rebels against Spanish domination, thereby enmeshing England into an open war with Spain that lasted for two decades. At the same time, this debate is distinctly imitative of an entirely fictitious one in Boece’s Scottish history on the subject of whether Scotland should ally itself with England or France). The choice of France set the stage for the Auld Alliance, which endured for centuries thereafter and led to frequent war with England. In the same manner, Camden takes us into the session of the Privy Council where the issue was debated, allows us to hear individual speakers set out the arguments pro and con, and the reasons which led the Council to proceed with this venture, and it is difficult to imagine him writing these pages without having access to the minutes to the session in question.
     14. Camden’s history is sedulously patterned after Tacitus’ Annales, not just in its year-by-year organization but also in his frequent sententiousness and in the interjection of foften withering epigrammatic remarks designed to shape the reader’s attitude towards individual actors in his narrative. His rough handling of the Earl of Leicester is probably a literary device more than a reflection of actual dislike: how could we have a satisfactory imitation of Tacitus’ Annales without a sinister villain matching Tiberius? Most readers will surely be glad that there is one respect in which Camden declined to imitate Tacitus: his annals are written in elegantly clear and straightforward Latin rather than in the gnarly syntax that often makes that Roman historian so difficult to understand.
    15. All in all, Camden’s history (rather than the Earl of Clarendon’s account of the Civil War, as is often claimed) is the first truly modern history written by an Englishman and provides the solid bedrock on which all subsequent histories of Elizabeth’s reign securely reside. The only subject on which he is unreliable is his treatment of her dealings with Mary Queen of Scots. James went to great lengths to ensure Camden’s sympathetic handling of his mother (the immigrant scholar Isaac Casaubon was recruited to supervise this effort), so whenever the subject of Mary comes up, Elizabeth suddenly grows a set of otherwise uncharacteristic fangs. All in all, it is impossible to dismiss the conviction that Camden had been deeply impressed by Richard Greneway’s 1598 Annales translation (and possibly the earlier partial one of Elizabeth, which he may have seen in manuscript) and whatever work by the prestigious and highly influential Lipsius he had seen. Patterning his history after the Annales may have been his way of paying personal tribute to the Queen).
spacer16. A second history of the early seventeenth century also merits our notice, Sir Francis Bacon’s 1622 History of the Reign of King Henry VII. Bacon obviously admires Henry’s braininess, and would appear to wish to present Henry as something like an ideal Renaissance prince, governing both himself and his realm by calm intellectual calculation, but he makes no attempt to conceal or mitigate his subject’s shortcomings. The ruthlessness with which he was capable of dealing with actual or even potential challengers to his rule might be deemed justifiable in terms of realpolitik, but the unambiguously foul blot on his reign was the king’s grasping avarice, which led to the systematic miscarriages of justice described at length in Chapter IX. This presents an obvious problem: how could Henry be at once wise in the framing of laws and harshly tyrannical in their administration? Bacon is well aware of this paradox that seemed to lie at the core of the king’s personality. Although he offers some guesses as to the motivation for this constant hunger for money, which shaped many of Henry’s policies and helped determine the events of his reign, in the end the historian confesses himself quite unable to explain it. In a highly significant sentence at the end of Chapter IX of the Latin text (printed in 1638), that has no equivalent in the English version, he acknowledges that Henry’s greed seems unfathomable: Ita ut unde tanta pecuniarum cupiditas regem obsiderit non facile quis habeat quod coniiciat ["...so that one cannot readily conjecture why so great a greed for money gripped the king."] Then too, there is the second interesting paradox that, although Henry is regularly portrayed as calculating, far-seeing, and almost pathologically suspicious, he is sometimes shown to be caught flat-footed by unforeseen developments.
spacer17. Underlying all of this, naturally, is an assumption that the course of history is determined by the ruler’s decisionmaking and by the strengths and weaknesses of his personality, so that, if one wishes to understand the causes underlying the surface play of events, one must focus on the ruler, and biography often has a way of turning into an exercise in abnormal psychology. In this, Bacon was specifically patterning his portrait after Tacitus' Tiberius. In both cases we have the portrait of an enthroned monster: a highly effective political leader compelled to commit crimes against his subjects by defects in his character. Therefore history at least comes close to becoming biography. In the course of the introduction to his edition of the English version, NOTE 2  Sir Brian Vickers spent a good deal time explaining how this approach is derived from Tacitus , but his observations require amplification here.
     Consider these two statements:

1. Inheriting a kingdom bankrupted by the War of the Roses and the extravagance of Edward IV, Henry VII was compelled to invent various canny shifts to replenish the fisc.

2. Henry VII’s pathological greed drove him to invent various canny moneymakaing shifts.

The difference between these statements is profound. The former (the one which, one presumes, modern historians would unhesitatingly adopt) makes Henry seem nearly as much a prisoner of history as the least of his subjects. As such, it seems to fly in the face of contemporary notions of the nature of kingship. The second has the double effect of upholding Renaissance ideas of omnipotent sovereignty and throwing the responsibility for historical events squarely onto Henry himself: not just his arguably faulty decisionmaking but most particularly the quirks and flaws of his personality. This is the approach of Tacitus and the lesser senatorial historians: when the so-called bad emperors commit atrocities against the senatorial class (and they are identified as such precisely because they came down hard on that one class), their individual moral defects and downright insanity are offered as explanations. The larger explanation, that the emperors were obliged to destroy the power of the senatorial class in order to maintain their system of imperial rule, and to thin out its membership in order to create a vacuum into which thrusting adherents of the Trimalchio variety could move (thus sponsoring a social mobility unheard-of under the old Republic, which goes far towards explaining the emperors’ popularity), and so carried on these persecutions as a sustained piece of imperial policy over a number of reigns, is never considered. These historians make it seem almost purely accidental that all the bad emperors were guilty of what were in essence the same crimes.  In Tacitus's portrait of Tiberius, historical causation often becomes reduced to personality, and personality is often reduced to abnormal psychology. Bacon assiduously does the same.
spacer18. It is true that in its externals Bacon’s History is not as studiously modeled on Tacitus is as Camden’s Annales. Bacon makes no attempt to imitate such characteristically Tacitean features as piquant epigrams and brief but trenchant character-sketches, and (unlike Camden) he brings very little cynicism to his job, although one could argue that a healthy dose of outspoken cynicism is a necessary element for the Tacitean approach. Yet au fond Bacon’s notion of historiography is profoundly Tacitean, for he shares that writer’s assumption that, if you want to understand historical causation, character-psychology is the right tool to use. (At the same time, for all his dependence on Tacitus, it must be added that Bacon’s portrait of the avaricious Henry, and even of some of the specific money-raising dodges he used, resembles to a remarkable and almost suspicious degree the account of William Rufus provided by Polydore Vergil in Book X of his Anglica Historia).
     19. In Bacon’s day the predominant idea about history was that it is supposed to be morally instructive. This is the burden of the inaugural lecture delivered by Digory Whear upon his installation as Oxford’s first Camden Professor of History (having been hand-picked for the job by Camden himself), De Ratione et Methodo Legendi Historias. When Camden funded this chair, some members of the Oxford faculty held the introduction of secular history to be an unworthy addition to the curriculum., and Whear’s purpose was to defend the legitimacy of his subject. In his view, history is to be categorized as a subspecies of "practical philosophy," i. e., it differs from moral philosophy in that its actual events provide specific exempla of behavior to be imitated and avoided, both in the public and private spheres. As such, its aim is not merely to equip the reader with knowledge, but also to prepare him for action, and Whear repeatedly stresses the utilitarianism of this view. The reader’s essential task is therefore to identify, extract, and retain the moral lessons that history has to offer. This is scarcely an idiosyncratic idea. One finds it in a number of Continental writers (Pontano, Robortello, Bodin, Riccoboni, and Patrizi). Something of the sort, in a general way, had been expressed in England by Thomas Blundeville in his The True Order and Methode of Wryting and Reading Hystories (1574), who in a preface addressed to Leicester, states that he knew the Earl:

…to delyte moste in reading of Hystories, the true Image and portrature of Mans lyfe, and that not as many doe, to passe away the tyme, but to gather thereof such iudgement and knowledge as you may thereby be the more able, as well to direct your priuate actions, as to giue Counsell lyke a most prudent Counseller in publyke causes, be it matters of warre, or peace.

Since Whear was looking at history from the viewpoint of a pedagogue — his immediate interest was developing a rationale and a curriculum for the novel branch of learning presently in his charge — he limited his attention to the reading of history, and said nothing about its writing. But surely there is an unspoken corollary: if it is the reader’s responsibility to extract exempla pertaining to decisionmaking, the leading of the vita activa and the exercise of authority, it is the duty of the historian to purvey such exempla in the first place.
   20. Certainly there could be no better example of such an approach to moralizing historiography than Bacon’s Life, for the career of Henry VII exhibits a wealth of good and bad examples for the instruction of the reader, and Bacon is ever-careful to highlight them as such. In this sense, it is perhaps somewhat unnecessary to spend as much time as Weinberger did (both in his introduction and in a concluding Interpretative Essay) in juggling the good and the bad in Bacon’s portrait of Henry and attempting to reconcile them and deduce a coherent philosophy of politics. The very fact that Henry’s life provides such a lavish feast of instructive exempla may be all the rationale one needs.
21. At the same time, Bacon carries forward the Humanistic historians’ program of explaining causation of historical events. Not infrequently, he presumes to understand and report the king’s inner cogitations (a magnificent example of this is Henry’s reported meditations after the death of Isabella of Spain in Chapter X, where the tortured syntax reflects his convoluted broodings on the alterations this development might bring to Europe’s balance of power). Such passages of course go beyond the historical record, and the underlying reasoning seems to be “I, although currently functioning as an historian, am no less intelligent a man of affairs than was Henry, this is what an intelligent statesman would have thought and done in the historical situation now under discussion, therefore such may be presumed to have been Henry’s motive, and I am capable of penetrating his arcana.” Therefore, although Camden’s Annales and the present work are very different in the approach they take, they both represent important steps forward in the development of English historiography and each, in his own way, is greatly indebted to Tacitus.
spacer22. A different way in which Roman historians of the historical period affected English literature at this time also requires consideration: their influence on the stage. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, plays taking their subject-matter from Tacitus begin to appear. The first and most memorable example is so well known that it requires no discussion here: Ben Jonson’s Tacitus-based Sejanus his Fall.
23. With about equal justice, one could describe Matthew Gwinne’s 1603 Latin Nero as a masterpiece or a monstrosity. This huge play — so long that its author felt obliged to provide marginal notes in the printed version showing how it could be broken up and staged as a dilogy — is based on Tacitus, fleshed out and completed with the help of Suetonius’ Life of Nero and Dio Cassius. One can see why St. John’s College, Oxford (where Gwinne was a Fellow) declined to produce it: not only because of its great length but also because of its equally huge cast of characters, numerous settings, bizarre and sometimes difficult Latin (in this play and elsewhere Gwinne specialized in importing the devices of John Lyly’s Euphuism into Latin, possibly as a counterpart to Tacitus’ convoluted style), and because, more than any other role in the entire range of English university drama, its title character calls for an actor possessed of remarkable range and physicality. The other difficulties could have been transcended — similar ones did not prevent St. John’s College Cambridge from staging Thomas Legge’s equally huge trilogy Richardus Tertius in 1579. The insuperable obstacle could well have been the impossibility of finding anybody capable of doing the role justice.
spacer 24. One commentator dismissed Nero as “an academic exercise,” merely a vehicle for the display of the author’s erudition and rhetorical verbosity.” NOTE 3 Rarely has a play been so misdiagnosed. In his introductory epistle Gwinne admits that Nero is a bit drowsy at the start but goes on to say that things subsequently liven up (dormivi forsitan in primis actibus: at non defeci in extremo). This is a play full of seductions, betrayals, conspiracies, suicides, and murders, often ingeniously contrived. Nero’s deplorable sexual proclivities are dealt with frankly. Gwinne caters to contemporary audiences’ tastes for the lurid and the macabre. It features a large population of spectral apparitions and supernatural beings, and is equally well stocked with corpses, many killed onstage by such means as strangulation, poisoning, stabbing, stomping, vein-opening and burning, not without death rattles. Spectators with an enthusiasm for picturesque violence would have appreciated a scene set in a torture chamber (life is not without its ironies: a couple of years later, in his capacity as a Royal Physician Gwinne was perhaps present at the interrogation of some or all of the Gunpowder Plotters), and another in which Nero dances on the severed head of one of his victims.
spacer25. In fact, if Nero is to be subjected to any criticism, far from deprecating it for being an academic exercise, one would be more accurate to censure its author for erring in the opposite direction. Nero is so excessive in its violence that it sometimes seems (to paraphrase the novelist Thomas Pynchon) like a Road Runner cartoon written in iambic senarii, NOTE 4 and its central figure goes so lavishly “over the top” in his wretched excess that he comes dangerously close to being a kind of homicidal zany. This is especially so because Gwinne goes out of his way to appropriate extra details from the rather gossipy and salacious accounts of Suetonius and Dio in order to embellish on Tacitus’ already lurid portrait. And at several points he transfers to Nero nefarious traits and memorably wicked sayings of other evil emperors. The Nero of the 1624 vernacular play next to be described is considerably tamer. Nevertheless, at least for readers with strong stomachs Nero is great fun, and it certainly goes to show how greatly university drama was capable of succumbing to the gravitational pull of the London popular theater, and of course Tacitus and Suetonius both provide much to feed the tastes of a contemporary audience.
26. A second play on the same subject is the  anonymous The Tragedy of Nero  printed at London in 1624. the play’s editor A. J. Bullen was highly enthusiastic. His assessment begins: NOTE 5

After reading the first few open-lines the reader feels at once that this forgotten old play is the work of no ordinary man. The brilliant scornful figure of Petronius, a character admirably sustained throughout, rivets his attention from the first. In the blank verse there is the true dramatic ring, and the style is “full and heightened.” As we read on we have no cause for disappointment. The second scene which shows us the citizens hurrying to witness the triumphant entry of Nero, is vigorous and animated. Nero's boasting is pitched in just the right key; bombast and eloquence are equally mixt. If he had been living in our own day Nero might possibly have made an ephemeral name for himself among the writers of the Sub-Swinburnian School. His longer poems were, no doubt, nerveless and insipid, deserving the scornful criticism of Tacitus and Persius; but the fragments preserved by Seneca shew that he had some skill in polishing far-fetched conceits. Our playwright has not fallen into the error of making Nero “out-Herod Herod”; through the crazy raptures we see the ruins of a nobler nature. Poppaea's arrowy sarcasms, her contemptuous impatience and adroit tact are admirable. 

And continues in the same vein. The close similarities of a couple of scenes with corresponding ones in Gwinne’s Nero evidently go to show that the author of this work was familiar with that earlier play.
27. Then too, in compiling a list of English plays based on Roman historians of the Imperial period one cannot forget Philip Massinger’s 1626 The Roman Actor, a play about the equally mad and tyrannical emperor Domitian that primarily draws on the histories of Suetonius and Dio Cassius (some readers have detected echoes of Tacitus too, but it is not always easy to decide whether these are taken directly for him or indirectly by way of Jonson’s Sejanus). Other Tacitus-based plays of the time are an anonymous 1607 pot-boiler The Tragedy of Nero, Romes Greatest Tyrant (which is actually about Tiberius), Beaumont and Fletcher’s Bonduca (1618/19) and Thomas May’s Julia Agrppina (acted 1628, printed 1639).
28. To the plays just mentioned must be added an earlier one that comes as rather a surprise: Shakespeare’s 3 Henry VI, commonly thought to have been written in the same year that Saville’s translation appeared, 1591. In a pair of Notes and Queries contributions NOTE 6 D. J. Womersley has shown that the portion of II.v beginning with the stage direction Alarum. Enter a Son that has killed his father, dragging in the dead body, describing the horrors of civil war, draws on Savillle’s translation of Histories III.xxv, where the historian recounts the killing of a father by his son at the second battle of Bedriacum, and identified other Tacitean echoes in the same play.
spacer29. Nevertheless, one is obliged to admit that it is curious that so few plays took their plots from Tacitus and the other senatorial historians, or at least represented episodes of Roman imperial history (often theatrical and sometimes downright lurid). This stands in stark contrast with the large number of plays that took their plots from another Flavian historian who wrote in Greek, Josephus.

2. Martial: Thomas Campion, Sir John Harington, and other English epigrammists

spacer30. One of the literary forms bequeathed the world by the Romans was the short epigram, normally written in elegiac couplets, and often witty with a concluding “sting in the tail,” a specialty of Martial. It is striking that until the 1590’s English epigrams were rare. But with the rise of the Anti-Ciceronian Movement there developed a positive craze for it. One can see why: in a sense, the concluding “stings“ of Martial’s short epigrams are the poetic equivalent of Tacitus’ pithy observations along the lines of “everybody imagined he would make a fine emperor — until he actually became one.” This and a number of the historian’s similar remarks could almost be reworked into a “punch line” for an epigram: such remarks appeal to similar stylistic tastes.
spacer31. For the purpose of this discussion we may safely ignore John Leland’s Epigrammata (printed in 1589 but of course written much earlier since its author died in 1552). Although a very few of Leland’s items do reveal an awareness of Martial (notably I.24 and I.148), these are not items written with humorous intent and in fact humor plays a very small part in this collection. Then too, there was John Heywood’s Proverbs and Epigrams, first printed in 1562. followed  with An Hundred Epigrammes and A Fourth Hundred of Epygrams in 1556 and 1560 respectively, which probably do reflect Martial’s influence. But Heywood does not seem to have found any imitators or made any especial impression on the literary taste of his time. The only other mid-century efforts worth mentioning are John Parkhurst's Juvenlia (presently to be mentioned) and Timothy Kendall's 1577 Flowers, Epigrammes of Sundrie the Moste Singular Authors Selected (which contains a number of items by Parkhurst in English translation).
spacer32. By the 1590’s altered literary taste was ready for the rediscovery of Martial. Walter R. Davis has written that in the 1590’s: NOTE 7

A new set of genres sprang up which, eschewing myth and fiction, espoused realism and a plain unadorned style. The erotic elegy as practiced by Donne and Jonson ran counter to the sonnet sequences: the emphasis was not on the mistress in a mythic context but on the half-amused self-observation of the lover in a social context, and it was direct erotic experience rather than its transcendence that was celebrated. The self-proclaimed originality of verse satire by Hall (1597), Marston (1598), and others featured the addressing of actual abuses of the time instead of a mythic past, and in a rough, plain, and frequently scurrile style…the 1590’s were the heyday of the epigram, which treated actual city life, the London scene, with amusement, wit, satire, and a plain style. If we follow its history from Weever (1599) and Davies (1600) to Donne and Johnson, we will discover a growth in brevity and wit.

This should not be misunderstood to mean that the Martial-style epigram was entirely foreign to an earlier generation of English Neo-Latinists. One can especially mention John Parkhurst's 1573 Ludicra containing material written during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward ViiI and Mary, but the apologetic tone adopted by the author in his initial address to the reader and most of the contributors of gratulatory verses at the front of the book suggest a certain anxiety that such stuff will be unfamiliar and perhaps scandalous to the reader because of the close association of the epigram with Martial, who was capable of being naughty and occasionally downright nasty. Then too, there might have also been an anxiety that such work was published by an Anglican Bishop, whereas another member of the cloth publishing an epigram collection a few decades later, Charles Fitzgeoffrey, felt no similar need to defend himself. All in all, speaking more generally, the upsurge of Martial-imitating work beginning at the end of the sixteenth century is remarkable.
spacer33. At least on the surface, it appears that this rediscovery of the Martial-style epigram was initiated by Thomas Campion in the relevant section of his 1595 Thomae Campiani Poemata featuring two Books of epigrams (a second edition issued in 1619 under the title Thomae Campiani Epigrammatum libri II — the entirety of his epigrams can be read in a modern edition here— contains so many additions and replacements that it comes close to counting as a new and different publication). At first glance it looks like the credit for introducing the short epigram belongs to Campion both because he published his Latin ones before any vernacular ones saw print, and because he had spent time studying medicine in France, where (as will be discussed presently) the epigram already enjoyed a measure of popularity. But here caution must be exercised. Thee full set of Harington’s epigrams only appeared in 1618 with the title The most elegant and witty epigrams of Sir John Harrington, Knight digested into foure bookes: three whereof never before published.) This volume did not appear during its author’s lifetime (he died in 1612) and his epigrams presumably circulated in manuscript for an extended period before finding their way into print, so the exact chronological relation of Harington’s work to Campion’s is not as easily determined as one might think. It is worth adding that during this same time-frame the epigrams of the Greek Anthology were also the object of intensified study: one may mention, for example, a volume devoted to their translation into Latin, John Stockwood’s 1597  Progymnasma Scholasticum, which could readily be employed as a manual on epigram-composition.
spacer34. Previous writers have tended to issue appraisals of Campion’s Latin poetry that are lukewarm and sometimes downright disparaging.   The authors of a book-length study stated “The Latin poems, which were his pride, are read (if ever) for the light they throw on his life and times, not for their poetic interest.” NOTE 8 This appraisal is grossly unfair: among English Neo-Latin poets of the late Tudor and Stuart period, it would be more reasonable to rank him among the very best along with such others as William Gager of Oxford and Thomas Watson (Marlowe’s friend and one-time cellmate). About the epigrams, even a considerably more thoughtful and well informed reader has unfairly complained that,

…the bulk of his epigrams are written in a low key, drawing attention to some trait of human folly or weakness. They lack the mordant vehemence of satire, the “sting in the tail ” is slight…Many of these seem to be only mildly amusing today, to be low-powered and laboured, lacking the neat and biting conclusion necessary to make them memorable. Campion has toned down the final emphasis characteristic of the epigrams of Martial. NOTE 9

Such attitudes may mislead the reader into imagining he can know Campion well without knowing his Latin work. Perhaps a modern may safely remain indifferent to the consideration that they were highly prized in his own lifetime. NOTE 10 Far more to the point are the considerable affinities between the epigrams and the ayres, upon which his modern reputation ultimately rests. Campion earned his place in the English pantheon as a miniaturist. NOTE 11 In the manifesto-like introduction to the first Booke of Ayres (1601) he proclaimed,

What Epigrams are in Poetrie, the same are Ayres in musicke, then in their chiefe perfection when they are short and well seasoned…And as Martiall speakes in defence of his sort Epigrams, so may I say in th’ apologie of Ayres, that where there is a full volume, there can be no imputation of shortnes. The Lyricke Poets among the Greekes and Latines were first inuenters of Ayres, tying themselves strictly to the number, and value of their sillables, of which sort, you shall find here onely one song in Saphicke verse; the reast are after the fascion of the time, eare-pleasing rimes with out Arte. The subiect of them is for the most part, amorous, and why not amorous songs, as well as amorous attires? Or why not new Ayres, as well as new fascions…Ayres haue both their Art and pleasure, and I will conclude of them, as the Poet did in his censure, of Catullus the Lyricke, and Vergil the Heroicke writer:

tantum magna suo debet Verona Catullo:
quantum parva suo Mantua Vergilio.

spacer35. The affinity between Campion’s English ayre and Latin epigram is not merely a matter of scale. Davis devoted several pages to exploring the parallels:  both feature economy of expression, emphasis on structure, frequent compressed aphorisms, and sometimes the traditional epigrammatic “sting in the tail.” The same writer points the way to an even more significant comparison: NOTE 12

A new set of genres sprang up which, eschewing myth and fiction, espoused realism and a plain unadorned style. The erotic elegy as practiced by Donne and Jonson ran counter to the sonnet sequences: the focus was not on the mistress in a mythic context but on the half-amused self-observation of the lover in a social context, and it was direct erotic experience rather than its transcendence that was celebrated. The self-proclaimed originality of verse satire by Hall (1597), Marston (1598), and others featured the addressing of actual abuses of the time instead of a mythic past, and in a rough, plain, and frequently scurrile style…the 1590’s were the heyday of the epigram, which treated actual city life, the London scene, with amusement, wit, satire, and a plain style. If we follow its history from Weever (1599) and Davies (1600) to Donne and Jonson, we will discover a growth in brevity and wit.

spacer36. Given this literary environment, growth of interest in the classical epigram was inevitable, and Martial became a popular model for imitation.  Both because he was a poet of the Imperial period, and because the pithy epigrammatic remark was a feature of Silver Age prose it is likely that this literary vogue engendered new interest in Martial and the literary possibilities of the short and pointed kind of epigram one associates with his name. But Campion’s better-informed attitude towards Martial is revealed in epigram II.27):spacer

Cantabat Veneres meras Catullus;
Quasvis sed quasi silva Martialis
Miscet materias suis libellis,
Ludes, stigmata, gratulationes,
contemptus, ioca, seria, ima, summa;
multis magnus hic est, bene ille cultis.

[“Catullus used to sing mere love songs. But, like a forest, in his slim volumes Martial commingled all sorts of material: praises and reproaches, congratulations and diatribes, witticism and serious stuff, the highest and the lowest. So the former is great in the eyes of the multitudes, while the latter is well-liked by those of cultivated taste.”]

spacer37. His collection of epigrams is not composed exclusively of the comic “sting in the tail” type (neither, for that matter, is Martial’s). Like those of their Roman model, his epigrams largely consist of generalized humor, or sometimes of more pointed social satire (attacks on usury, for example, or the use of tobacco), written about fictitious characters assigned Roman names often borrowed from Martial, who are no more than representative “types.” There is one kind of Martial specialty which finds no equivalent in this collection: the occasional ones characterized by downright nastiness (in the 1595 set Campion did use such words as cunnus and mentula, but these are severely pruned from the 1619 version).
spacer38. Yet there are a couple of elements in Campion’s formula that can scarcely be credited to the Roman poet. First, a number of epigrams are written on medical subjects (a professional interest, since Campion was a trained physician). Then too, in Book II repeatedly addresses epigrams to his two mistresses heartless Caspia and promiscuous Mellea, which add a personal and erotic dimension wholly foreign to that Roman predecessor (these two women also appear in Campion’s longer and more serious elegies). We need to search elsewhere for a precedent for these erotic epigrams. It seems likely that while studying medicine at Caen Campion had the opportunity to read the epigram collection Stephani Forcatuli Iurisconsulti Epigrammata by the Toulouse jurist Etienne Forcadel, published at Lyons in 1554, which adheres to a similar formula and contains many of these same elements, including a number of poems written to the poet’s mistress Clytia and items reflecting the author’s professional interests (in this case, the law). It seems not unreasonable to suspect that Forcadel was responsible for developing the kind of short erotic epigram Campion favored, or at least for integrating this kind of poem into a serio-comic miscellany. (The fact that Martial’s epigrams were already being read and imitated in France explains why there is a section devoted to that genre in that often-reprinted Georgii Buchanani Scoti, Poetarum sui seculi facile principis, Opera Omnia, since Buchanan spent much of his life living and teaching in that country). This fat book first appeared at Edinburgh in 1578, in which its epigrams appeared on pp. 449 - 475). Thanks to the example set by  Buchanan, the history of the Scottish epigram is very different from that of England, and produced such memorable practitioners as John Maitland and  Andrew Melville.
spacer39. Campion did not have to wait long to find imitators. Most conspicuously, in English there were epigrams by Queen Elizabeth’s only godson and the inventor of the flush toilet Sir John Harington (none of his epigrams saw print prior to 1615 and the full set of four Books had to wait until 1618) NOTE 12 During this period lesser-known epigram sets written in the vernacular also appeared, such as the 1613 Linsi-Woolsie by William Gamage (second edition 1621). The Welsh Gamage was brother-in-law to Sir Philip Sidney and had family ties to another Glamorganshire epigrammatist soon to be discussed, Sir John Stradling.
spacer40. We shall now take a briefer look at a trio of subsequent Neo-Latin epigrammists. Charles Fitzgeoffrey’s collection, Affaniae, appeared in 1601. Apparently thanks to the agency of their mutual acquaintance the poet Edward Michelborne (whose work, like that of his two brothers, is almost entirely lost), he entered into a friendship with Campion attested by that poet’s epigrams I.178 and II.70 as well as Fitzgeoffrey’s own epigram I.39. He obviously was a close reader of his friend’s 1595 publication and learned a lot from it, but his collection is no slavish imitation. Rather, in important respects Fitzgeoffrey displayed plenty of originality, namely:

1. A number of his individual poems have autobiographical contents.

2. Fitzgeoffrey was born a Cornishman and eventually became the vicar of an important Cornwall parish. Many of the friends of whom he writes were from the West. Even at Oxford he belonged to Broadgates Hall (that latterly morphed into Pembroke College), a kind of boarding house for men from the West Country, so that the friendships he struck up during his university days did not expand his social horizons as much as would otherwise have been the case, so that much of what he writes has a distinctly regional cast.

3. Like Campion, he included a number of items written to or about his mistress Cordula (“Dear Heart”). But these are not merely imitative of Campion’s. Some are considerably longer and more developed, which read more like sonnets or even miniature Roman elegies.

4. Fitzgeoffrey was more adventurous in his choice of meters.

spacer41. Today most visitors arrive at Cornwall after a long and rather tedious train ride from Paddington Station, so that the place seems rather remote and isolated. This should not mislead us about the nature of the place in Fitzgeoffrey’s time or make us assume that his existence there was hopelessly insular. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Falmouth harbor was not yet silted up and still capable of receiving seagoing ships. In consequence, the region was not nearly so insular and was in fact easily open to the outside world. A striking example of this is his epigram III.38, in which he cross-examines friends newly crossed over from Belgium about new poetry by Continental Neo-Latinists. And in Cornwall the Protestant gentry with whom he consorted (his parish belonged to the Rouses of East Anthony) were an educated and sophisticated lot, which is reflected in the kind of things he writes to and about its members. Hence Affaniae is varied, interesting and lively.
spacer42.  Not long thereafter appeared Sir John Stradling’s 1607 Epigrammatum Libri Quatuor. Stradling was an Oxford-educated native of Glamorganshire in Wales, and what he writes is largely shaped by his environment. one comes away from both Fitzgeoffrey and Stradling with a vivid sense both of the poet’s personality and of the social milieu in which he moved. Both poets use their short poems to write much about things near and dear to them, and in doing so manage to present us with a kind of cumulative self portrait. And in a number of ways the near and dear things were strikingly similar: family, friendships, and region (the major way in which this comparison breaks down is that in Book I of Affaniae, as in Campion’s elegies, there is a strong erotic component, which is absent from Stradling save a couple of isolated items, notably III.126). To both poets, family was of cardinal importance. Fitzgeoffrey writes little about his own family, a small amount about the Mohuns into which he was absorbed by his mother’s remarriage, but much more about that of Sir Anthony Rous, into which he seems to have been all but adopted. Stradling belonged to a prominent Anglo--Welsh clan that allegedly could trace its origin to one of the original colonizing Norman families of Glamorganshire, and was connected by marriage to such powerful families as the Gamages, Herberts, Mansels, Pophams, Portmans, and Sidneys. Like Fitzgeoffrey, who appended to his volume a special collection of epitaphs under the title CenotaphiaStradling was a master at writing versified epitaphs, and a large number of the ones he wrote were for his relatives. Each such one read in isolation might seem no more than a memorial for a kinsman. Taken collectively, they amount to a glorification of the Stradling clan, and even in such details as the dedications he prefixes to his more lighthearted epigrams the poet loses no opportunity for advertising his family and the social class to which it belongs.
spacer43. Likewise, both poets use their poems to address and otherwise commemorate members of their circle of close acquainances. One learns of Stradling that he numbered among his friends Sir John Harington (II.101, IV.8) and William Camden (I.117), although the great majority are members of the local intelligentsia, physicians, legalists and clergymen of South Wales and the West Country of England. Finally, both poets employ their epigram-collections for a rather aggressive display of regional pride. Fitzgeoffrey’s celebration of Cornwall and the West finds a close match in Stradling’s proud presentation of himself as a Welshman and his glorification of national heroes of Welsh birth (such as John Norris, Sir Thomas Morgan, and Sir Roger Williams) or at least from the West (like Drake and Hawkins). All in all, in its spirit and contents, Stradling’s volume is so strikingly similar to Fitzgeoffrey’s that it is difficult to dismiss the impression that it was Fitzgeoffrey, much more than Stradling’s fellow Welsh epigrammist John Owen (IV.90), who provided the actual inspiration. Acknowledgment of debt only to Owen may be another manifestation of Welsh self-consciousness.
spacer 44. Unlike those of Campion and Fitzgeoffrey, Stradling’s epigrams are devoid of any erotic element. Indeed, the large number of his items which show women in a bad light suggests a certain misogynist streak in his character.
spacer45. It is a matter of some interest that three of the epigram collections discussed here are examples of regional literature, even if one is unsure what significance, if any, is to be attached to this. It may not be amiss to add that other Neo-Latin poetry of this period is equally regional in nature. One thinks, for example, of John Brownswerd’s 1589 Progymnasmata Quaedam Poetica (mostly representing the Midlands iin the Manchester area, although for a short time the poet was schoolmaster at Stratford-upon-Avon when Shakespeare was still in his infancy), and George Coryate’s 1611 Posthuma Fragmenta Poematum (he was the father of the famous walking tourist, he wound up as vicar of Odcombe, Somerset.) It is refreshing to read literature of the period written at places other than London, Oxford, and Cambridge, representing regional points of view. This should come as no great surprise. Every Church of England parish in the land at least nominally had an Oxford or Cambridge man as its vicar, every school had a university-educated schoolmaster, and communities possessed their individual gentry, often cultured. Thus many a town had at least the nucleus of a local intelligentsia. It is likely that further research could unearth more such specimens of regional poetry written in both languages. Such literature goes far towards refuting the argument advanced by some Oxfordites and others that William Shakespeare cannot have written the works ascribed to him because of his provincial upbringing
spacer46. John Owen [1564? - 1622?] was born at Plas Dhu, Carnarvonshire, Wales, the third son of Thomas Owen. He was, no doubt, a member of the Welsh gentry. His ultimate supporter, as we gather from his work, was his kinsman John Williams, simultaneously Bishop of Lincoln and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. Other distinguished members of the Williams clan figure in his epigrams (cf. X.42 - 45): a President of Jesus College, Oxford, a Fellow of St. John College, Cambridge, and a London Alderman. A large number of individuals are identified as kinsmen (cognati) in one or more epigrams: these men are all university-educated, and almost all are professional men, clergymen or lawyers. Then too, he had kinsmen about whom he was careful not to write: his uncle, the famous Catholic traitor Hugh Owen, and his maternal uncle Sir William Morris of Cleneney, also a Catholic. He was a scholarship boy at the Winchester School (at epigram II.25 he recalls that Thomas Bilson, a future Bishop of Winchester, was his tutor there), and as a schoolboy he already gained a small measure of national visibility as a prodigy at Latin versification (see the commentary note on II.39). Next he passed on to New College, Oxford, where he became a probationer fellow in 1582 and an actual Fellow two years later. Since a Fellowship in Law was the only one available, he was obliged to read that subject, and (much like Thomas Campion during his days at the Inns of Court) all that he ultimately derived from that subject was an abiding dislike of law and lawyers, which colors a large number of epigrams (Martyn p. 3). Receiving the B. C. L. in 1590 and going down from Oxford in 1591, he supported himself as a schoolmaster until he was appointed headmaster of Henry VIII’s school at Warwick.
spacer 47. In this position he could have lived out a life of honorable obscurity, as Ben Jonson (a rare detractor) called him a pure Pedantique Schoolmaster sweeping his living from the Posteriors of little children, having no thinge good in him, his epigrames being bare narrations (Conversations with Drummond I.138 Herford-Simpson). Were he not a poet, his only distinction might have been service as tutor to Sir Thomas Puckering, a future Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal (VI.9). But in 1606 he published the first of a series of volumes of Latin epigrams, which earned him an enduring reputation as “England’s Martial” both at home and abroad. His epigram volumes (invariably published by at London by Samuel Waterson) were printed over a span of 1606 - 1613. As the Oxford historian Anthony à Wood (Athenae Oxonienses II.320 Bliss) put it:

He was a person endowed with several gifts, especially with the faculty of poetry, which hath made him famous for those books of epigrams that he hath published, wherein an ingenious liberty of joking being by him used was, and is now with some, especially foreigners, not a little pleasing and delightful.

spacer48. Owen’s epigrams were repeatedly reprinted in England: in 1618, 1622, 1633, 1634, 1653 (twice), 1659, 1668, and 1671. European editions also appeared rapidly and frequently: one might be able to dispute the statement of Martyn (I.1) that “On the Continent [Owen’s epigrams] were as popular, it seems, as the works of his contemporary, Shakespeare,” on the grounds that one needs to be convinced that in the early seventeenth century Shakespeare made any immediate impact on Europe remotely like that of Owen’s (the dramas written for production at Anglo-Catholic educational institutions on the Continent being an exception to this generalization). Unfortunately, Continental editions are not listed in the Pollard and Redgrave Short Title Catalogue. I am aware of ones at Leipzig in 1615, Leipzig 1620, Amsterdam 1624, Amsterdam 1628, Amsterdam 1646, Amsterdam 1647 (three in a year), Amsterdam 1657, Breslau 1658, Amsterdam 1669, Amsterdam 1679, Leiden 1682, Breslau 1694, Breslau 1705, Cologne, 1708, Paris 1794, and Leipzig 1824). This list, which may well be incomplete, at least serves to convey an idea of Owen’s rapidly spreading popularity, and how slow it was to fade. Translations into English and various other languages, mentioned here in a later context, reinforce the impression. One cannot refrain from thinking of the American Jerry Lewis, held in low esteem in his own America but hailed as a comedic genius by the French.
spacer49. Owen operated under a very different theory than any of the English epigrammatists we have thus far considered. At II.9 of his collection he writes:

Praecipue hoc epigramma valet quod distichon aiunt,
spacerPaucis sub verbis si modo multa velis.
Quod sequitur, sibi iure locum tetrastichon optat,
spacerSi fuse mentem vis aperire tuam.
Postremum vero est epigramma hexastichon. Illum
spacerSi numerum excedis, non epigramma facis.

[“The best kind of epigram is the so-called two-liner, if you want to conceal much substance in a few words. The kind that follows, the four-liner, hopes to claim its rightful place, if you want to disclose your thought more profusely. And the six-liner is the final kind. Exceed that number and you are not writing an epigram.”]

Nearly all of his epigrams are written in six lines or less, and the overwhelming majority of them being composed in elegiac couplets. The effect of monotony ultimately produced by this narrow approach makes a striking contrast to the volumes of Campion, Fitzgeoffrey, and Stradling, and also, for that matter, the Scotsman John Leech, author of Epigrammatum Libri Quatuor (1620 - 1623), who present their readers with a interestingly kaleidoscopic variety of poem-types in terms of subject matter, seriousness, length, and choice of meters, which does much to stave off tedium when their epigrams are read in large numbers. Some of Owens’ items are written about or addressed to fellow Welshmen or personalities of the West, but his narrow definition of the epigram denied him the scope of functioning as a spokesman for his particular corner of the world, so he fails to qualify as a genuinely regional poet.
spacer50. Another epigrammist of the time was John Dunbar, who in 1616 published a volume at London entitled Epigrammaton Ioannis Dunbari Megalo-Britanni Centuriae Sex, Decades totidem What is currently known about Dunbar’s life is largely what he himself tells us in his poetry and what can reasonably be deduced from them.  He was a younger son of a well-connected Scottish lairdly (and lordly) family of distinguished ancestry, the Dunbars of Baldoon, and in the course of his epigrams he mentions four brothers. The exact order of their birth is unknown, but clearly he was a younger son. For this reason and also because his strong inclination towards Presbyterianism did him no good at a time when James’ attempt to Anglicize the Kirk was at its zenith, as a young man he seems to have had difficulty in finding his feet. No doubt these were the reasons that impelled him to emigrate to England, where, in 1614, he married Elizabeth Wallis at Plymouth. Then (if not earlier) he became fast friends with Sir Ferdinando Gorges, Governor of the fort at Plymouth, and chose to settle there. Plymouth was not all that far from East Anthony in Cornwall, and somehow he struck up a friendship with Charles Fitzgeoffrey: his epigrams  II.16 and II.17 (and possibly also I.8) are addressed to that poet, and suggest that Dunbar was familiar with his  Affaniae. In Fitzgeoffrey, Dunbar was able to meet an established practitioner of his own craft, but he rejected the option to follow in Fitzgeoffrey’s steps and preferred to imitate John Owen. 
spacer51. Fro in considering the epigram collections of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries it soon becomes evident that there were two ways of going about the job. Either one sided with Owen and stuck to writing short and humorously barbed epigrams in a very limited number of meters, or one presented his readers with a much more varied medley regarding subject, seriousness, length and metrification. Dunbar was a scrupulous adherent of Owen’s theory and so his collection likewise ultimately palls and grows tedious. It bears repeating that the short and humorous epigram was only one of the many varieties of poems that Martial included in his collection, so that the claim can plausibly be made that Campion and his imitators better understood the Roman poet, whereas Owen and Dunbar mistook the part for the whole.
spacer52. Given the popularity of Martial as a model for imitation, it comes as a surprise that evidently Juvenal’s satires excited no similar interest. Within the scope of my reading, the closest to this we find to a Juvenal imitator is Sir Thomas Chaloner in certain passages of his enormous De Republica Anglorum Instauranda libri decem, completed in 1564 but not printed until the following decade. Chaloner wrote this to occupy his copious free time while marooned in Madrid as England’s ambassador, and his central message was the deadly serious one of sharing with his readers his conviction that war with Spain was inevitable, so that the English needed to steel themselves for the coming ordeal. But occasionally he included satirical passages that show he had a real talent for the genre. Had he cared to indulge that penchant further, he would have been capable of gaining a considerable reputation as a satirist, but he did not. Had he done so, his satires would have been g. Other than that, the only important English imitation of a Roman satirist of which I can think is Richard Eede’s 1583 Iter Boreale, a modern equivalent of Horace’s Iter ad Brundisium (Satire I.v.).

3. Seneca: Sir Francis Bacon and others

spacer53. It is well known that the literary form of the essay (or, if you will, of the essay collection) was first introduced into England by Sir Francis Bacon in his 1597 set, the title page of which managed to give the genre its name in our language. It is an equally familiar fact that Bacon was profoundly influenced by Michel Montaigne’s 1580 Essais (and it is possible that the appearance of his essays whetted English interest in his French predecessor, an English translation of Montaigne’s essays by the Italian immigrant known as John Florio was printed as early as 1603). After the publication of Bacon’s collection there followed a spate of similar ones. Discounting collections with the word “satirical” in their title or are otherwise clearly of humorous intent, and others which are collections of poetry, one can mention ones printed before 1620 by Daniel Tuville (1609), Nicholas Breton (1615), John Stephens (1615, only partially relevant) and Sir George Cornwallis (1616). NOTE 13 This was a distinctly new phenomenon: prior to the appearance of Bacon’s collection nothing remotely it had ever been written by an Englishman. Although the use of the word “characters” in the titles of a couple of these suggest possible influence by Theophrastus, the collections just cited have contents similar to those of Montaigne and Bacon: philosophical, reflective, and tending to focus on moral topics.
spacer54. Here, it would seem, was something new under the sun. But in dealing with Renaissance literature one must ever be on the qui vive for classical influence, and Gilbert Highet (p. 191) has succinctly summarized the situation with Montaigne:

The origin of the essay...is made fairly clear by the subjects of the first two volumes which Montaigne published. The themes are predominantly moral precepts: Cruelty, Glory, Anger, Fear, Idleness; That we should not judge of our happiness until after our death; To philosophize is to learn how to die; All things have their season. The moral treatises of Seneca and Plutarch, although on the average longer than Montaigne’s first essays, are on similar subjects with similar titles: Anger, Kindness, On the Education of Children, How to distinguish Flatterers from Friends. In addition, many of Seneca’s ethical treatises are in the form of letters to his friends: a shape which Montaigne apparently borrowed for his essay on education.

Seneca was one of Montaigne’s favorite authors (to the point he is sometimes called “the French Seneca”), and he imitated some of the Roman philosopher’s tactics. One recent online writer, for example, has observed:

If Montaigne needed a model for his first-person style, he would have found it excellently represented in Seneca’s so-called Moral Letters. In spite of being formally addressed to his friend Lucilius, Seneca also used the epistolary form in order to converse with his readers, in much the same way as Montaigne uses the second-person singular in his essays. And in both authors the methodology has the philosophical and educative function of inviting readers to test their own understanding of themselves and the world against the experience presented by the author.

spacer55. One could pursue this subject for some time, were it not too well known to require expatiation. Suffice it to say that Montaigne was profoundly indebted to Seneca regarding form, content and style. And there is no need to point out that the same is true of Montaigne’s English follower Bacon as well, since he himself confessed as much in a prefatory epistle to Henry Prince of Wales:

It may please your Highness: Having divided my life into the contemplative and active part, I am desirous to give his Majesty and your Highness of the fruits of both, simple though they be. To write just treatises, requireth leisure in the writer and leisure in the reader, and therefore are not so fit, neither in regard of your Highness’s princely affairs nor in regard of my continual service; which is the cause that hath made me choose to write certain brief notes, set down rather significantly than curiously, which I have called Essays. The word is late, but the thing is ancient; for Seneca’s Epistles to Lucilius, if you mark them well, are but Essays; that is, dispersed meditations though conveyed in the form of epistles.

So in this case too, Bacon’s form and content are indebted to Seneca no less than his prose style. At least some of his successor-essayists produced work cut to the same pattern (although, understandably, it is not always self-evident if they were writing under the influence of Montagne, Bacon, or both). Perhaps the most interesting of these are the essays of Sir William Cornwallis (whose set was popular enough to warrant multiple reprintings, more in fact than Bacon’s). Again we find essays on moral topics: Of Resolution, Of Advise, Of Patience, Of Suspition, Of Love and so forth, and at least one, Of Concept. To the Lady Withipoll which adopts the same Senecan quasi-epistolary technique of being addressed to a specific individual.
spacer56. Some earlier English readers most have had a certain limited interest in Seneca’s prose compositions, as is reflected in a couple of printed translations of the sixteenth century: of the Ad Gallioneni de remediis fortuitorum (1547, a work now recognized to be spurious), The Line of Liberalitie (1569, translating De Beneficiis), and Concerning benefyting (1578, translating the same work), but prior to Bacon nobody had been moved to imitate him or write under his influence.To most Elizabethans, he was first and foremost a paradigmatic tragedian, not a philosopher or a prose author.

spacer4. Lucan: Christopher Marlowe, Sir Arthur Gorges, and George Chapman

spacerIn this same time-frame Lucan’s Bellum Civile began to attract the attention of English translators and playwrights. NOTE 14 In 1600 the printer Edward Blunt issued Christopher Marlowe’s Lucan His First Booke Translated Line for Line. The fact that Marlowe only managed to complete Book I of the Bellum Civile has suggested to some scholars that he was still working on it at the time of his death in 1593. This idea makes sense insofar as the grim reality of Lucan’s Silver Age epic poem is a far cry from the romanticism of the Hero and Leander story as it had been told by Ovid and Musaeus, and this offers a hint that his art was beginning to undergo a significant change. This epic was fully translated by Sir Walter Raleigh’s cousin Sir Arthur Gorges in 1614 (interestingly, it was issued by Edward Blount, the same printer responsible for the appearance of Marlowe’s earlier fragment). NOTE 15  The Bellum Civile is sometimes regarded as a source for George Chapman’s play Caesar and Pompey (acted ca. 1612/13, printed 1631). NOTE 16 Interest in Lucan resurfaces in a 1618 publication by Thomas Farnaby mentioned directly below.

5. Scholarship: Thomas Farnaby

spacer57. There exists a series of annual bibliographical volumes that first appeared in 1924 entitled L’Année Philologique, in which are registered the relevant publications for every classical author treated during the year in question. It would seem possible to perform some kind of statistical analysis on this series, treating it as a kind of literary stock market in which the amount of annual work devoted to each author is tabulated and the cumulative results are represented graphically, so that the popularity of each one as it fluctuates over time is visually represented. Such a project would be a mammouth and soul-crushingly dreary task, but the results would be fascinating, for we could trace the scholarly interest displayed in any given author as it rises and falls over time. Then, if we were to ask what reasons impel these fluctuations, we would learn a lot about fashions in classical scholarship. An obvious example of this is the huge uptick in scholarship devoted to Petronius’ Satyricon after the Second World War. The reason, of course, is that the Satyricon resembles a modern novel more than any other ancient work: it appeals to contemporary tastes and is therefore understandable, the critical approaches developed for the study of the modern novel can be applied to it, and the Satyricon can be discussed using a vocabulary associated with such approaches (in this case, it is easy to categorize the Satyricon as a picaresque novel and its central character is identifiable as a picaro, and scholars sometimes write about it and him accordingly).
spacer58. Within our discipline the single most important development in the second half of the twentieth century was the abandonment of the traditional “canonical” approach to the classics whereby a severely limited number of authors (or even a small selection of works by a major author) were privileged above all others and many of the rest ignored (a scholarly and also a pedagogical approach that extends back as far as the Alexandrian period). When I was a graduate student, we were officially presented with a list of authors and works upon which we could expect to be examined when taking our doctoral “prelims.” Than a couple of our professors would quietly take us aside and hand us a second list of authors and works we could safely ignore because nobody would dream of using them as examination fodder. Significantly enough, in more recent times it has been precisely authors included on that latter list (Seneca’s tragedies, for example, and Statius and Valerius Flaccus) who have experienced the greatest increase in attention, as would be revealed by that statistical analysis of L’Année Philologique. Part of the reason, to be sure, has to do with careerism: given the existence of the “publish or perish” requirement, it is easier to work with such authors both because in the case of those excluded from the charmed circle the body of scholarship one needs to read is significantly less, and because it is easier to find original and interesting things to say about them. But more importantly, there has been a growing conviction that the study of non-canonical literature is a genuinely worthwhile enterprise.
spacer59. With this in mind, it would seem that the choices a scholar makes in his selection of subjects can at least partially be dictated by the literary tastes of his times. Hence attention should be paid to the annotated editions of individual authors published by Thomas Farnaby (c. 1575 - 1647), all originally issued at London and all repeatedly reprinted, some with Continental reprintings: Juvenal and Persius (1612), Seneca’s tragedies (1613), Martial (1615), Lucan (1618), Vergil (1634), and Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1637), to which must be added a similar volume devoted to the comedies of Terence co-authored with Isaac Casaubon’s son Meric, which appeared at Amsterdam in 1651. Farnaby may have been a highly successful schoolmaster by profession, but the volumes in this series are scarcely helps intended for schoolboys. Rather, if one accepts Nietzsche’s definition of philology as “the art of careful reading,” Farnaby might better be called the first true English philologist. They are so densely packed with information that often the actual text is crowded into half of a page or less, and Farnaby felt at liberty to insert snatches of Greek, Hebrew and such modern languages as French in his notes. These volumes are, in short, meant for consumption by reasonably well-educated adults and deserve to be classified as works of scholarship rather than mere textbooks. With one surprising exception (Baptista Mantuanus’ Adulescentia, no doubt thinking back on his schoolroom days Holofernes describes him as the “good old Mantuan” in Love’s Labor’s Lost IV.2.), this standard roster of authors studied in schools was overwhelmingly composed of the canonic Golden Age ones. NOTE 17 It is difficult to imagine seventeenth century schoolboys being introduced to Juvenal, Persius, Seneca, Martial and Lucan, which is further reason for doubting that Farnaby was in the business of turning out textbooks (if that were the case, one would have to contend that his aim was to engineer a revolution in the English educational system, which seems unlikely). Rather, he catered to the altered tastes of contemporary readers interested in going considerably beyond the range of a traditional canon which now seemed outmoded. So the relevant ones of his commentaries count as another manifestation of the Anti-Ciceronian Movement.


spacer60. By now it should be abundantly clear that the traditional idea of the Anti-Ciceronian movement is, as was claimed at the start of this essay, hopelessly poverty-stricken. The lesson to be drawn from the above investigations is that form, content and style come together as an inseparable bundle, and that it is naive and misguided to imagine that any one of these can be considered separately without reference to the others. The Movement most certainly did exist, but it would be a great mistake to confuse the part with the whole. Obviously, this is a subject which requires much further investigation. Most urgently, it would seem, the influence of Seneca on Montaigne,the scholarship of Lipsius, the influence of Tacitus on Grotius, and the Continental popularity of the epigrams of John Owens combine to raise the question whether the Anti-Ciceronian Movement was an exclusively English phenomenon or a local English manifestation of a more comprehensive international one. This would seem to be a subject well worth investigation.


NOTE 1 See D. J.  Womersley, “Sir Henry Savile’s Translation of Tacitus and the Political Interpretation of Elizabethan Texts,” Review of English Studies 42 (191) pp. 313 -3  42. Beside Philo's article presently to be mentioned, see the same author's follow-uip article "An Historian fit for a Queen? Elizabeth' I's translation of the Annales and the Tacitean Turn," in Journal of the Northern Renaissance 13 (2022). Surely the Queen's project was undertaken in response to the appearance of Saville's translation of the Histories in 1591, since Philo assigned it to the early 1590's.

NOTE 2 Sir Brian Vickers, Francis Bacon: The History of the Reign of King Henry VII and Selected Works (Cambridge U. K., 1998), pp. xv – xxii.

spacerNOTE 3 Matthew Gwinne, Nero (Printed 1603), Prepared with an Introduction by Heinz-Deiter Leidig (Renaissance Latin Drama in England Series, vol. I.13, Hildesheim, 1983).

spacerNOTE 4 I do not mean to convey that Nero is unique among University plays for its horrifics. It finds matches in such other items as Thomas Legge’s trilogy  Solymitana Clades (never produced) and William Alabaster’s Roxana (ca. 1595). Surely this relish for atrocitas, like such other elements as music, dance, and extravagant stage spectacle, reflects the ever-increasing influence of the London popular stage on academic drama.

spacerNOTE 5 Edited by A. H. Bullen, A Collection of Old English Plays IV (London, 1885), first item in the book.

spacerNOTE 6 J. Womersley, “3 Henry VI: Shakespeare, Tacitus, and Parricide,” Notes and Queries for December 1985, pp. 468 - 473. See also the same author’s “Shakespearian Debt to Tacitus’ Histories,” Notes and Queries for June 2008, pp. 202 - 205.

spacerNOTE 7 Walter R. Davis, The Works of Thomas Campion (New York, 1967), pp. 40f. Subsequently Davis shows how the literary fashions described here impinge on Campion’s English poetry.

NOTE 8 For example by Edward Lowbury, Timothy Slater, and Alison Young, Thomas Campion, Poet, Composer, Physician (New York, 1970) 13. In accordance with this view, some evidence is taken from the Latin poetry in a biographical chapter (2), but no attention is paid to the body of work in its own right.

spacer NOTE 9  J. W. Binns, “The Latin Poetry of Thomas Campion,” in J. W. Binns (ed.), The Latin Poetry of English Poets (London, 1974) 16, who had a higher opinion of the poet’s elegies.

spacerNOTE 10 See the accolades collected by Percival Vivian, Campion’s Works (Oxford, 1909, repr. 1966) pp. xxxvif., Edward Lowbury, Timothy Slater, and Alison Young, Thomas Campion, Poet, Composer, Physician (New York, 1970) 13, pp.  1- 3, and Davisop. cit. (1974) 154 - 6.

spacerNOTE 11 Lowbury et al .(pp. 1 - 3) aptly compared his art to that of the greatminiaturist painter Nicholas Hilliard.

spacerNOTE 11 Davis pp. 40f. Subsequently Davis shows how the literary fashions described here impinge on Campion’s English poetry.

spacerNOTE 12 Edited by John S. Farmer,  The Proverbs, Epigrams, and Miscellanies of John Heywood (London, 1906, repr. Charleston S. C., 2016).

spacerNOTE 13 Compare the list of “essays which appeared between 1597 and 1668, inclusive,“ given by W. L. MacDonalad, Beginnings of the English Essay (Toronto, 1914) pp. 120 - 122.

spacerNOTE 14 For a general study of Lucan’s contemporary reception, cf. Edward Paleit, War, Liberty, and Caesar: Responses to Lucan’s Bellum Civile, ca. 1580 - 1650 (Oxford, 2013).

spacerNOTE 15 For the appearance of this volume cf. András Kiséry, “An Author and a Bookshop: Publishing Marlowe’s Remains at the Black Bear,” Philological Quarterly 91 (2012) pp. 361 - 392.

spacerNOTE 16 J. E. Ingledew, “Chapman’s Use of Lucan in Caesar and Pompey,“ Review of English Studies 13 (1962) pp. 283 - 288).

spacerNOTE 17 The very standardized curriculum of Renaissance secondary education in England has been painstakingly studied in Thomas Whitfield Baldwin’s magisterial William Shakespere’s small Latine & lesse Greeke (Urbana, 1944).