spacer1. A familiar feature of modern English letters is the existence of distinguished literary families, such as the Huxleys and the Amises. This is nothing new, history has known earlier examples. One such were the Fletchers of the late Tudor / early Stuart period. Richard Fletcher, vicar of Bishop’s Stortford, fathered Giles Fletcher the Elder [d. 1611], who in turn fathered two sons, Phineas [1582 - 1650] and Giles the Younger [d.1623]. All three were Cambridge-educated men who wrote distinctly upmarket poetry in both English and Latin. Richard Fletcher fathered another son, also named Richard [1544/5 - 1596], who had held the offices of Dean of Peterborough, Bishop of Bristol, and Bishop of Worcester, before being consecrated Bishop of London in 1595. This prelate sired the well-known London playwright John Fletcher [1579 - 1625], best remembered for his frequent collaboration with Francis Beaumont, who replaced Shakespeare as resident playwright with the King’s Men theatrical company and collaborated with Shakespeare on no less than three plays (the extant Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and the lost Cardenio). An inveterate collaborator, he also worked on plays with such other dramatists of the time as Massinger, Milddleton, Chapman, Shirley, and Jonson. For a variety of reasons (including possible involvement in the Essex Rebellion) this prelate soon fell out of favor with the queen and teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, so his seven children, John included, were handed over to Giles the Elder, who may therefore in a certain technical sense be said to have functioned as John’s stepfather (although by this time John too had already found his way to Cambridge, evidently matriculating from Corpus Christi at what we today would regard as the astonishingly young age of eleven, although in those days such an early entrance to a university was not as remarkable as one would imagine). Like Philip Sidney, Daniel Rogers, and a number of other Englishmen who had been beneficiaries of a Humanistic education, after going down from Cambridge he entered the diplomatic service. Elizabeth was keen to renew trade relations with Russia, and so in 1588 he was sent to the court of the boy-Tsar Feodor I of Russia. On his return he published an entirely different kind of writing, a mordantly negative treatise Of the Russe Common Wealth, which did much to open his fellow countrymen’s eyes to conditions in that faraway land. Not long after his return, and possibly to compensate him for all the hardships he had endured on this mission, Elizabeth appointed him her Master of Requests.
spacer2. So, with the exception of Bishop Robert’s sad end, we have the picture of a highly successful and creative family which, collectively speaking, managed to make a noticeable impression on the literary life of its time. In general, they have been served well by modern students. In the case of Giles the Elder, we have plenty of secondary scholarship and no less than two editions of his English poetry, by the Rev. Alexander Grosart (1876) and Lloyd E. Berry (1968). Unfortunately, his Latin poetry has not fared so well by being gathered together out of the various old books and manuscripts in which it is preserved. And yet, as we are about to see, there is reason for regarding him as an influential and important figure in the history of English Neo-Latin literature, and so it seems highly desirable to assemble all the remaining disjecta membra of his Latin work that chances to survive in order to arrive at a critical edition.
spacer3 . Why bother? In a rare attempt to come to grips with Fletcher as the author of bucolic poetry, in 1984 Lee Piepho attempted to construct the following narrative of the history of the English Neo-Latin eclogue: NOTE 1

The Latin pastorals of Giles Fletcher the Elder, Phineas’ father, are largely dominated by religious allegory and satiric attacks on corruption within the clergy. Their models are the Mantuan of the ninth and tenth eclogues, and after him Petrarch and Boccaccio. With the publication of Thomas Watson’s Amintas (the predecessor of Amintae Gaudia in 1585) Latin pastoral in England took a new turn, however, towards the exclusively, obsessively amatory, a topic Watson enriched by a massive infusion of the commonplaces of romantic love drawn from Petrarch and the Italian poets of the quattrocento and early cinquecento. In subject matter, Phineas Fletcher’s eclogues generally follow Watson’s model: three of his four eclogues are love complaints, all of them mercifully less claustrophobic than those in Amintas (ten eclogues lamenting the death of Phyllis, each approximately 100 lines long, each beginning and ending with a verbal variation of the same theme). Watson’s collection is pure literary pastoral, however, a self-contained world free of personal allusions as well as references to the political and religious issues of the times.

spacer4. Virtually everything contained in these sentences is incorrect. Take, for example, Watson. In his Amyntas (to use the correct spelling of its title) there is something dreadfully wrong with the lover’s tedious (and yes, if you will, claustrophobic) lamentation over his dead darling. The single question he endlessly asks is how could you have done this to me?, scarcely an appropriate question for a true lover (or, for that matter, for a Christian) to be asking. Within a short time the reader grows to have a hearty dislike of this cycle’s protagonist, and it is difficult to shake off the impression this is the reaction Watson wanted us to have. There is, in short, something subversive in the whole production, and the rude blat from the trombone section in the work’s final poem is strangely incompatible with the solemn twaddle of all that has preceded it. In the sequel, the posthumous Amintae Gaudia, this subversiveness occasionally rises to the level of downright farce. For example, in one poem in the cycle Amyntas is sitting with Phyllis’ head cradled in his lap, and he looks down and congratulates her on her freedom from dandruff (Eclogue III.74f.). In another (Epistle V), we are treated to a description of rather heroic depictations of memorable episodes from Richard Hakluyt's Principal Navigations, Voyages, and Discoveries of the English Nation absurdly painted on the sides of a milkmaid’s pail. Whatever precisely Watson was trying to achieve by writing such self-sabotaging stuff may be debatable — it is probably relevant to observe that in the actions of his life and in what his contemporaries had to say about him there is plenty of evidence that he was an inveterate practical joker — but clearly his attitude towards erotic verse of the Petrarchan variety was quite different from straightforward acceptance and simple imitation. If anything, it would be closer to the mark to suggest that is aim was to lampoon the entire tophamper of the erotic rhetoric used by Petrarch and his followers. Then too, it is incorrect to claim that Watson’s bucolic work was free of personal allusions: the purpose of one item in Amintae Gaudia (Epistle I) was to purge himself, in a transparently fictitious way, of any guilt in his 1589 killing of William Bradley in an affray in Hog Lane that landed both himself and his friend and cellmate Christopher Marlowe in trouble with the law, and another (Epistle II) to clear his name of a seemingly disreputable involvement in a domestic scandal within the household of Sir William Cornwallis, in which he served as a tutor to that gentleman’s son. At any rate it was both silly and seriously misleading to claim that Fletcher’s eclogues “generally follow Watson’s model” when all of Fletcher’s datable ones were written in the 1560’s and early 1570’s, whereas Amyntas was published in 1585 and Amintae Gaudia appeared posthumously in 1592. Even if there more truth in this assessment than there actually is, it would have been necessary to write that ”Watson’s eclogues generally follow Fletcher ’s model.”
spacer5. Turning to Giles the Elder, it is undeniable that the eclogue was his preferred literary form (out of the thirty items collected here, long and short, no less than seven are specifically called such in their titles), and Piepho plausibly identifies him as an important figure in the development of that genre in English Neo-Latin literature. But if his eclogues, taken together, have anything at all to teach a historian of literature, it is how flexible that genre could be, since Fletcher used it for a considerable variety of purposes. Far from limiting himself to “religious allegory and satiric attacks on corruption within the clergy,” his eclogues were designed to accomplish such varied things as congratulating Elizabeth on her heaven-sent accession (II); buck up her morale (and, by implication, that of the nation) after reversals suffered by a disastrous military expedition sent to France (VII); launch a venomous attack on a former Marian Catholic Bishop of London, newly deceased, whose routinized burning of Protestants had earned him the sobriquet “Bloody Bonner,” thus, not coincidentally, placing his own doctrinal and political orthodoxy on the public record; mourn the premature death of a close friend (XVII); celebrate the marriage of the Earl of Oxford (XX); support Dr. John Caius in asserting the historical priority of Cambridge over Oxford and at the same time provide a kind of tourist’s walking guide to Cambridge (XXI); complain of the harsh treatment of Protestant clergy during the reign of Mary (XXVII); and write in rather obscure allegorical terms (no doubt a good deal more comprehensible to his collegiate contemporaries than to us) of some difficulty within his own college (XXVIII). So if his eclogues served to exert any appreciably influence on his successors, it was to teach them the many and varied uses to which the form could be put. Then too, the bulk of Fletcher’s Latin poetry consisted of literature written about or at least for the consumption of his own academic community. Hence a recurrent feature in his eclogues is fusion of contemporary Cambridge with the “green cabinetry” of classical bucolic’s ever-so-artificial world. Thus we have Father Cam (Chamus) raising his hoary head out of his river waters, surrounded by his bevy of nymphs, the Backs (replete with their iconic willows) being pressed into service to provide an archetypal pastoral setting, and so forth.
spacer6. Truth to tell, at this point Fletcher’s exact position in the history of the English Neo-Latin eclogue, and his importance for its development, cannot be ascertained with certainty. To do so, one would no doubt have to examine a fairly large number of such eclogues written in previous decades, which would probably entail unearthing a good deal of unpublished and unedited material that has yet to be properly examined. But it certainly looks as if he was an innovator, perhaps a radical one. The eclogues of Theocritus and Vergil are set in the highly artificial never-never land of the bucolic countryside, from which they never stray (at most, ever since later antiquity claims have been made that this one or that one of Vergil’s has some allegorical value). NOTE 2 The large majority of eclogues in Baptista Mantuanus’ 1498 Adulescentia (required reading in every Tudor schoolroom) uphold this tradition and the two ones that do not are limited to the single subject of the Church. In startling contrast, each and every one of Fletcher’s is in some way firmly tied to the here-and-now of contemporary life, frankly and unabashedly using the bucolic genre to deal with such varied subjects as contemporary events and personalities, doctrinal strife and its hideous results, and the poet’s own university. Two of the items Fletcher labels as eclogues (poems II and VII) do not even bother to maintain the fiction of an idealized Arcadian setting and rely solely on responsive dialogue as qualification for membership in this genre. The result is a new kind of eclogue that is considerably more interesting and lively than yet more routinized trips to Arcadia. When we read later English Neo-Latin eclogues that do the same thing (the two fine ones written by the Oxford poet William Gager on the death of Sir Philip Sidney, Bellisita and Daphnis, spring rapidly to mind), it appears not unlikely that Fletcher taught their authors how to do this. NOTE 3 The question, then, becomes what Englishman first imitated them by repurposing the eclogue as an instrument for discussing the contemporary world? At least in the current state of play of research, it would appear that Fletcher was the figure responsible for effecting this transition.
spacer6. I do not wish to seem unduly harsh on Prof. Piepho (whom prior to his sadly early death I regarded as a good and supportive friend). Misguided assessments such as his are the inevitable byproduct of reading a small number of an author’s works in isolation, and dramatize the necessity for all-inclusive editions as the only sure preventative for interpretational error. The works of plenty of other writers (the aforementioned Thomas Watson is a prime example of this dictum) look very different if read in this way. When the totality of Fletcher’s extant work is made available, a considerably clearer synoptic picture of what he was seeking to achieve, and hence of his proper place in the history of English literature, emerges. Such, in any event, is the aspiration motivating this present edition. NOTE 4



spacerNOTE 1 Lee Piepho, “The Latin and English Eclogues of Phineas Fletcher: Sannazaro’s Piscatoria among the Britons, Studies in Philology 81 (1984) pp. 461 - 72 (the quotation comes from pp. 461f.).

spacerNOTE 2 See the interesting article by Harrison Cadwallader Coffin, “Allegorical Interpretation of Vergil with Special Reference to Fulgentius,” The Classical Weekly XV:5 for Monday, October 31, 1921, available (for subscribers) here.

spacerNOTE 3 There is an interesting parallel regarding the development of the Neo-Latin epigram in England. In the 1590’s, after the epigrams of Martial became fashionable models for imitation (thanks in large part to the similar vernacular ones by Sir John Harington) we find something entirely absent from Martial himself: erotic epigrams to and about their author’s mistress which read like miniature versions of the elegiac poetry written by Tibullus, Propertius and so forth, written by such poets as Thomas Campion and Charles Fitzgeoffrey. It appears possible to trace this new kind of epigram back to a single innovating volume, the 1554 Epigrammata of Estienne Forcadel (Forcatulus).

spacerNOTE 4 I have seen some handlists of Fletcher’s Latin poetry in which it is alleged that he contributed a liminal poem for Nicholas Carr’s Demosthenis Graecorum Oratorum Principis Olynthiacae Orationes Tres Philippicae Quatuor e Graeco in Latinum Conversae a Nicolao Carro Anglo Novocastrensi Doctore Medico Graecarum Literarum in Cantabrigiensi Academia Professore Regio (London, 1571), so some readers may be surprised not to find that item included here. But this is a bibliographical phantom: the book contains nothing by Fletcher.