Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Edward de Vere and the Honnête Homme

In _Cynthia's Revels_ Jonson satirizes a courtly conception of 'honnêteté' as practiced by a group of Elizabethan courtiers led by an Edward de Vere-type character (Amorphus, The Deformed). For a courtly and theatrical 'art of pleasing' Jonson would substitute a modern understanding of 'honesty' based on an ideal integrity of character - a correspondence between the inner and outer man.

Urbino was immortalized by Castiglione.

The Elizabethan Courtier was made ridiculous by Jonson. Amorphus's 'philosophy of style' was viewed by Jonson as a corrupting influence on the court:


The Court.
THou art a Bountiful and Brave Spring, and waterest all the Noble Plants of this Island. In thee the whole Kingdom dresseth it self, and is ambitious to use thee as her Glass. Beware then thou render Mens Figures truly, and teach them no less to hate their Deformities, than to love their Forms: For, to Grace, there should come Reverence; and no Man can call that Lovely, which is not also Venerable. (snip)


Sociability, Cartesianism, and Nostalgia in Libertine Discourse

Elena Russo

...When the petit-maître Versac, in Crébillon's Les Egarements du coeur et de l'esprit, decides to take under his wing the young and inexperienced Meilcour, in order to initiate him to the social game of galanterie, he is careful to choose a secluded spot where their conversation will not be disturbed. Their dialogue demands not only tranquillity but also secrecy. 
Versac dazzles Meilcour from their first meeting with his perfect command of his social persona: he displays the sense of ease and naturalness that is recommended by all the classical theoreticians of sociability, from Castiglione, to Méré, to La Rochefoucauld, to name just a few: "Coolly likable and always pleasing, both by the content and by the new turn he gave to the things he said, he lent an unexpected charm to the stories he related after others, and nobody was able to relate after him the stories of his own invention. He had composed the charms of his body and those of his mind and was able to appropriate those unique attractions that can be neither imitated nor defined . . . It seemed that such easy impertinence was a gift that nature had bestowed upon him only. Nobody could resemble him. 6 Thanks to his command of body and language, Versac has mastered an art de plaire which lies in a renewed effect of surprise and a capacity to be creative with his own self: everything he says and does has a "tournure neuve" and a "charme nouveau." His "heureuse impertinence" corresponds to Castiglione's noble "sprezzatura," the art of doing everything as if it came naturally. In a language deeply indebted to classical aesthetics, Meilcour evokes Versac's "grâces" and "agréments," which cannot be imitated because the effect of surprise they create is endlessly renewed and always different. In his undefinable power of seduction, the libertine is the direct heir of the seventeenth-century honnête homme, whose capacity to please is both the natural gift of his aristocratic nature and the product of a hidden art, both concurring to create a charm, a je-ne-sais-quoi that cannot be analyzed because it knows no rules and no codification. The language of the libertine is indebted to the seventeenth-century reflection on sociability. His discourse makes constant reference to "honnêteté," "bienséance" and the authority of established "usage." And yet, the libertine spirit is in many respects the very antithesis of the ideal of honnêteté.

In the classical reflection on honnêteté, social virtues are seen as universal; they are both rooted in nature and in the norms and practices of the community of honnêtes gens, whose values are represented as universal. This community finds its unity in a shared language and norms that are at once perfectly "natural" and [End Page 385] perfectly coded. They are natural because they are supposed to conform to nature and create an effect of spontaneity, but they are also coded, since "nature" itself is nothing but an ideal model sanctioned by the rules of vraisemblance and bienséance, the content of which is defined, in its turn, by the community of honnêtes gens. 7 The honnête subject thus finds his or her expression in the miraculous correspondence between his or her own "naturel" and the ideal model he or she strives to conform to. Honnêteté strikes a balance between the "private" aristocratic self (already socialized through and through) and the public, idealized language of the community. For Méré honnêteté is universal because it is based on reason: "True honnêteté . . . is nothing if not just and reasonable in every part of the world, because it is universal and its manners belong to every court, from one end of the earth to the other . . . Changes in space, revolutions in time and differences in custom take nothing away from it." (snip)

Stoicism is not unique to the eighteenth-century libertine; Méré's honnête homme, his predecessor, displayed a similar stoic awareness of the theatrical nature of social roles. Here is what he says in his essay "Le commerce du monde": "I am convinced that on many occasions it is useful to consider what we do as a comedy, and to imagine that we are playing a character on the stage. That prevents us from taking things too much at heart and gives us a freedom of language and action that we do not have when we are preoccupied and troubled by fear." 16 However, Méré's metaphor of the theater does not have the same value it has in Versac's discourse. For Méré, role playing does not involve thwarting and repressing the self, but only aims at protecting it. The Latin motto adopted by the erudite libertines, Intus ut libet, foris ut [End Page 388] moris est (inside as if free, outside as if bound by custom) 17 applies to the honnête homme as well, since it prescribes a critical attitude towards social forms and an inner freedom for the self that should keep it from becoming too dependent on the community whose norms it professes to follow. However, the libertine honnête homme is not a mere hypocrite, because even though he tries to see himself as playing a role, the role he plays is his own: act thyself is the necessary complement of be thyself. "The heart is no less necessary than the mind to the activities of polite society because society is not an empty appearance like the theater, but always involves some real sentiment," writes Méré in the same passage. 18 The metaphor of the theater has therefore a double function in the discourse of honnêteté. On the one hand, it reveals a desire to preserve critical distance and inner freedom, on the other, it indicates a belief in the necessity to mold and fashion the private self for the sake of its public appearance. The latter point needs some explanation. Acting one's own "real" character allows the honnête homme to channel his true nature along the path prescribed by the rules of bienséance, to present an aesthetically more appealing version of himself. In the words of Méré I just quoted, acting gives "freedom" from troubling feelings such as "crainte et inquiétude," which make a person awkward and unfit to appear in public. In the discourse of honnêteté, ethics merges with aesthetics, and the true criterion of moral behavior is a capacity to please; one's own natural disposition has therefore to be worked on, it has to be molded into an acceptable form. It is important to understand that seventeenth-century writers of sociability all try to strike a fragile balance between unhewn nature and a preestablished ideal model of behavior embodied in the rules of bienséance; all their efforts go at reconciling the two. In his essay "De l'air et des manières," La Rochefoucauld judges the socialized self in the same way as he would a work of art: there has to be a "harmony" between one's attitude, gestures, tone, and one's thoughts and feelings. The metaphor he uses is borrowed from music: "The reason why we often displease is that nobody knows how to make one's manners and air conform to one's countenance, one's tone with one's thoughts and sentiments. We disturb their harmony by something false and unfamiliar . . . nobody has an ear attuned enough to hear perfectly that sort of cadence." 19 Taste replaces moral judgment about the self: the accomplished honnête homme manages to balance and harmonize the different parts of his self, and creates, by the same token, a pleasing social persona.
Jennifer Richards _Rhetoric and Courtliness in Early Modern Literature_

"Sixteenth century humanists inherited an overlapping but distinct Socratic dialogue style which informed that rival genre to the courtesy book, the husbandry manual. The figures of the courtier and the husbandman offer different styles of social and commercial exchange and also different styles of 'honesty' which are not easily translated into a modern political idiom. to understand these traditions we will nee to be more open in our thinking about where we locate 'subversive' or 'conservative' agendas. *The representation of the courtier as dissembling in much modern criticism, for example, indicates the victory of the plain husbandman as a social and cultural authority*. Yet, there are good reasons why such plain-speakers are not to be trusted, not least because there is no way of knowing whether the claim to be telling the truth, or the promise of transparency, however plainly put, is not also a rhetorical ploy which aims to occlude the interests of others. (p.5)


One idea which is examined closely (note-in Guazzo's Civile Conversation) is the virtue of 'honesty', a virtue which serves as a glue to all social relationships. In the course of his conversation with Anniball, William will learn to appreciate the greater honesty of the dissimulative courtier rather than the anti-social simplicity of the 'scholler'. For the scholar only maintains his simple lifestyle by removing himself from the rough and tumble of daily social interaction, whereas the courtier attempts to balance honestly - or decorously - personal aspirations with social duty...I want to explore how the character of Anniball makes William honest and sociable in Civile Conversation, and also how, in the attempt, the concept of 'honesty' is defined in such a way as to make plain the potential of others. I will also explore, however, how seemingly honest converstaion can equally disguise the power dynamic of intimate relationships...'Honesty' remains the crucial term here: how we define it will affect profoundly the way in which we imagine people should relate to one another." (p.23)


Oxfordian/Shakespearean honnêteté, and Jonsonian 'honesty':
Mocking  honnêteté:
Cynthia's Revels
Act II, Sc. iii
Asotus. Crites, I have a sute to you; but you must not

deny me: pray you make this Gentleman and I friends.

Crites. Friends! Why? is there any difference between


Aso. No, I mean acquaintance, to know one ano-


Cri. O, now I apprehend you; your phrase was

without me before.

Aso. In good faith, he's a most excellent rare Man,

I warrant him!

Cri. 'Slight, they are mutually enamour'd by this


Aso. Will you, sweet Crites?

Cri. Yes, yes.

Aso. Nay, but when? you'll defer it now, and for-

get it.

Cri. Why, is't a thing of such present necessity, that

it requires so violent a dispatch?

Aso. No, but (would I might never stir) he's a most

ravishing man! good Crites, you shall endear me to you,

in good faith-law.

Cri. Well, your longing shall be satisfied, Sir.

Aso. And withal, you may tell him what my Father

was, and how well he left me, and that I am his Heir.

Cri. Leave it to me, I'll forget none of your dear

graces, I warrant you.

Aso. Nay, I know you can better marshal these Af-

fairs than I can — O Gods! I'd give all the world (if

I had it) for abundance of such acquaintance.

Cri. What ridiculous Circumstance might I devise

now, to bestow this reciprocal brace of Butter-flies one

upon another?

Amo. Since I trode on this side the Alpes, I was not

so frozen in my Invention. Let me see: to accost him

with some choice remnant of Spanish, or Italian? that

would indifferently express my languages now: mar-

ry then, if he should fall out to be ignorant, it were

both hard and harsh. How else? step into some ra-

gioni del stato, and so make my induction? that were

above him too; and out of his Element, I fear. Feign

to have seen him in Venice or Padua? or some face neer

his in similitude? 'tis too pointed, and open. No, it

must be a more quaint, and collateral device. As —

stay: to frame some encomiastick Speech upon this our

Metropolis, or the wise Magistrates thereof, in which

politick number, 'tis odds, but his Father fill'd up a

Room? descend into a particular admiration of their

Justice, for the due measuring of Coals, burning of

Cans, and such like? as also Religion, in pulling

down a superstitious Cross, and advancing a Venus, or

Priapus, in place of it? ha? 'twill do well. Or to talk

of some Hospital, whose Walls record his Father a

Benefactor? or of so many Buckets bestow'd on his

Parish-church, in his life time, with his name at length

(for want of Arms) trickt upon them? Any of these?

Or to praise the cleanness of the Street, wherein he

dwelt? or the provident painting of his Posts against he

should have been Prætor? Or (leaving his Parent) come

to some special Ornament about himself, as his Rapier,

or some other of his Accoutrements? I have it: Thanks,

gracious Minerva.

Aso. Would I had but once spoke to him, and

then — He comes to me.

Amo. 'Tis a most curious, and neatly-wrought Band,

this same, as I have seen Sir.

Aso. O God, Sir.

Amo, You forgive the humour of mine Eye, in ob-

serving it.

Cri. His Eye waters after it, it seems.

Aso. O Lord, Sir, there needs no such Apology, I as-

sure you.

Cri. I am anticipated: they'll make a solemn deed of

gift of themselves, you shall see.

Amo. Your Ribband too do's most gracefully, in troth.

Aso. 'Tis the most gentile, and receiv'd wear now,


Amo. Believe me, Sir, (I speak it not to humour you)

I have not seen a young Gentleman (generally) put on

his Cloaths with more judgment.

Aso. O, 'tis your pleasure to say so, Sir.

Amo. No, as I am vertuous (being altogether un-

travel'd) it strikes me into wonder.

William Empson points out that 'honest' and 'honesty' are used  52 times in Othello, writing that 'in Othello, divergent uses of th(is) key word are found for all the main characters; even the attenuated clown plays upon it; the unchaste Bianca, for instance, snatches a moment to claim that she is more honest than Emilia the thief of the handkerchief; and with all the variety of use the ironies on the word mount up steadily to the end. Such is the general power of the writing that this is not obtrusive, but if all but the phrases involving honest were in the style of Ibsen the effect would be a symbolical charade. Everyone calls Iago honest once or twice, but with Othello it becomes an obsession; at the crucial moment just before Emilia exposes Iago he keeps howling the word out. (William Empson, _Honest in Othello_)
"To My Book" by Ben Jonson

It will be looked for, book, when some but see

Thy title, Epigrams, and named of me,

Thou should'st be bold, licentious, full of gall,

Wormwood, and sulphur, sharp, and toothed withal;

Become a petulant thing, hurl ink, and wit,

As madmen stones: not caring whom they hit.

Deceive their malice, who could wish it so.

And by thy wiser temper, let men know

Thou are not covetous of least self-fame.

Made from the hazard of another's shame:

Much less with lewd, profane, and beastly phrase,

To catch the world's loose laughter, or vain gaze.

He that departs with his own HONESTY

For VULGAR PRAISE, doth it too dearly buy.


De mollibus & effoemenatis    There is nothing valiant, or solid to be hoped for from such,    as are always kempt and perfumed; and every day smell of the tailor: the exceedingly curious, that are wholly in mending such an imperfection in the face, in taking away the morphew in the neck; or bleaching their hands at midnight, gumming and bridling their beards; or making the waist small, binding it with hoops, while the mind runs at WASTE: too much pickedness is not manly. Nor from those that will jest at their own outward imperfections, but hide their ulcers within, their pride, lust, envy, ill nature, with all the art and authority they can. These persons are in danger; for whilst they think to justify their ignorance by impudence, and their persons and clothes and outward ornaments; they use but a comission to deceive themselves. Where, if we will look with our understanding, and not our senses, we may behold virtue and beauty (though covered with rags) in their brightness; and vice, and DEFORMITY so much the fouler, in having all the splendour of riches to gild them, or the false light of honour and power to help them. Yet this is that, wherewith the world is taken, and runs mad to gaze on: clothes and titles, the birdlime of fools. (Discoveries 1751)

Since Galatea came in, and Tuscanism gan usurp,

Vanity above all: villainy next her, stateliness Empress

No man but minion, stout, lout, plain, swain, quoth a Lording:

No words but valorous, no works but womanish only.

For life Magnificoes, not a beck but glorious in show,

In deed most frivolous, not a look but Tuscanish always.

His cringing side neck, eyes glancing, fisnamy smirking,

With FOREFINGER KISS, and brave embrace to the footward.


Interlaced with beautiful songs and lyrics, Lodge's elegant "Rosalynd" is among the finest works of Elizabethan prose, of intrinsic interest in its own right and, as the source for "As You Like It," essential reading for students of Shakespeare

'Howsoever, you are a great philosopher in Venus' principles, else could you not discover her secret aphorisms. But, sir, our country amours are not like your courtly fancies, nor is our wooing like your suing, for poor shepherds never plain them till love pain them, where the courtier's eyes is full of passions when his heart is most free from affection. they court to discover their eloquence, we woo to ease our sorrows. Every fair face with them must have a new fancy sealed with a FOREFINGER KISS and a far-fetched sigh, we here love one, and live to that one so long as life can maintain love, using few ceremonies because we know few subtleties, and little eloquence for that we ightly account of flattery; only faith and troth, that's shepherds' wooing; and, sir, how like you of this?' 'So,' quoth Saladyn, 'as I could tie myself to such a love.'

 Purging 'honest' Ben:

Iago's Clyster:

Purgation, Anality, and the Civilizing Process

Ben Saunders

This essay considers Othello in relation to early modern discourses of anality and purgation, reading certain scatological tropes as the metaphorical indices of more pervasive and pernicious cultural fantasies. (Snip)

I will begin with an aside spoken by Iago, when he reveals his plan to turn Cassio's courteous behavior toward Desdemona into evidence of adultery:

He takes her by the palm; ay, well said, whisper. With as little

web as this I will ensnare as great a fly as Cassio. Ay, smile upon

her, do: I will gyve thee in thine own courtesies. You say true, 'tis

so indeed. If such tricks as these strip you out of your lieutenantry,

it had been better you had not KISSED your THREE FINGERS so oft, which

now again you are most apt to play the sir in. Very good, well kissed,

and excellent courtesy: 'tis so indeed! Yet again, your fingers to

your lips? would they were clyster-pipes for your sake!


Iago has seen that, in a culture already inclined to foster anxious masculinist fantasies about the promiscuous female, public conventions of courtesy and lechery are barely a semiotic step apart. His swiftly improvised plot to "gyve" the objects of his hatred by closing this narrow gap wins the appalled admiration of critics who read this moment as just one among many in which Iago displays a distinctly artistic viciousness--here, taking what we might describe as *wicked poetic license with an innocent social grammar*. But Cassio, by his smiling, whispering, and repeated kissing of his own hand, does more than provide Iago with the material to construct an artful trap; he also sets Iago thinking in terms of lower-body functions and, specifically, in terms of the medicinal "clyster," or enema.

What does it mean for Iago to wish Cassio's fingers into clyster pipes? Although most editors gloss the phrase as "enema tubes," none, to my knowledge, has attempted to explicate Iago's precise intention in invoking them--reasonably enough, perhaps, since the image's affective force cannot be expressed by simple paraphrase. To make the attempt, nonetheless: Iago seems to be suggesting that Cassio would be slower to indulge in courteous finger-kissing gestures if his fingers had recently been inserted into someone's anus. The implication is therefore something like you'd cut that out if you knew what was good for you! or you wouldn't put them in your mouth if you knew where they had been!

In this essay I will elaborate a hermeneutic strategy that builds on the hints provided by Iago's attraction to verbal figures of purgation, evacuation, and oral/anal substitution and displacement, as witnessed in this passage. By attending to the neglected (waste) matter of bodily purgation and regulation in this play, I hope not only to say something about early modern anality but also to broaden our sense of its relation to a historically emergent racist vocabulary. In the process I will expand on the (by-now) commonplace notion that Othello generates a good deal of its aesthetic effect, and emotional affect, through "a black/white opposition" that is "built into the play at every level." Assuming the centrality of a related opposition between civilization and barbarism, which I find reinscribed and deconstructed throughout the text, I will suggest that the process of ideological invention whereby "civilized" man is distinguished from his "barbaric" other emerges in Othello quite literally from the sewer. In this account, Iago represents not only a portrait of the villain as anal-retentive artist but also as the Shakespearean figure who expresses the (disavowed) centrality of lower- body functions to the production of "civilized" Christian masculinity-- and who therefore also best reveals the violent, disciplinary force that is the (again, disavowed) foundation of that "civilizing" process.


"I cannot imagine any spectator leaving Othello feeling cleansed." --Edward Pechter

An excretory précis of the plot of Othello therefore runs as follows: Iago talks shit, pumping pestilence into Othello's ear, literally filling Othello's head with shit, until he believes that his love object smells like shit, and comes to feel that he has actually been smeared with shit--shit that can be washed away only with Desdemona's blood. Then, upon killing her, Othello discovers that he has not removed the stain but has rather become the very substance that soils: along with everything else he touches, Iago has turned Othello into shit.


To conclude by returning briefly to the "clyster-pipes" that initially inspired my inquiry: these pipes may now look more unpleasant than ever, though in the context of the foregoing arguments, their invocation is perhaps less startling. For the entire text of Othello can be read as in some sense the result of Iago's investment in violent evacuation and purgation. Iago--who restores the "natural" order in terms of normative homo-social and racially pure power relations--might even see his actions as analogous to those of the early modern physician, restoring health to what he would consider a diseased body politic, clogged as it is with unhealthful foreign excrements that have risen from the lower extremities, where they belong, to positions of power and authority: "Work on, / My medicine, work!" he cries, as the fit seizes Othello and drives him to his knees (4.1.44-45). He hatches a plot to expunge Venetian society of everything he associates with lower-body functions: women, people of color, sexual desire. Iago's "monstrous birth" is no baby, then, but rather a tremendous evacuation--the inevitable and horrific consequence of a "diet of revenge." And the complete success of Iago's enema is attested to when this masterful shitmonger has nothing left to say: "Demand me nothing. What you know, you know. / From this time forth I never will speak word" (5.2.300-301). The clyster has done its work. Othello, Desdemona, Emilia, and Roderigo lie dead, and Iago is . . . empty. Silent. Purged. But Iago's sadistic drives have already exposed the civilized impulses toward order, control, and cleanliness, impulses that provide one linguistic matrix for modern racism, as rooted in a series of paradoxical disavowals and denials: the obsessive need for order that itself produces chaos; the tremendous appetite to deny appetite; the consuming passion to be free of passion; the excessive desire to eliminate all excess; the overpowering lust to banish lust. Shakespeare has personified the civilizing process in Iago, an anal-retentive proto-racist poet devoted to the terrible logic of the purge.

Barbarous, passionate Othello/Shakespeare
Civilized, self-restrained Iago

I envy not this BUFFONE, for indeed

Neither his fortunes nor his parts deserve it:

But I do hate him, as I hate the devil,

Or that BRASS-VISAGED monster Barbarism.


Shakespeare and Voltaire.

Thomas R. Lounsbury

Review author[s]: Walter T. Peirce

Modern Language Notes, Vol. 18, No. 6. (Jun., 1903), pp. 178-179.

(...)The book is timely. We know that Voltaire once wrote a letter to the Academy on the subject of Shakespeare, and that he referred to him as a drunken savage. But no one before Professor Lounsbury, I think, has collected the various remarks of Voltaire on the subject, or traced the growth of his hatred through fifty years.


(Voltaire) himself had patronized Shakespeare, but with a distinct sense of that author's shortcomings. Bur when it came to the point of his being read and approved of in France, this was another matter. To quote Professor Lounsbury:

"From the outset Shakespeare had been in his eyes an inspired barbarian. As time moved on, he came to forget the adjective and remembered only the noun."

From this time until his death in 1778 Voltaire never desisted from the struggle in behalf of the honor, not to say of the preservation, of the classic French drama. He was never silent on the subject for long at a time, and toward the end of his life his remonstrance rises to a senile shriek. In his letters, in his prefaces, in his Commentary on Corneille, in his Philosophic Dictionary, he piles abuse on him whom he now calls GILLES - the clown. His tragedies are heaps of incredible stories, monstrous farces. His breaches of good taste would be tolerated nowhere save in the dark ages of an uncivilized country. And the author himself is a drunken savage.

Shakespeare's Race and Ben's Tribe:

"In the classical reflection on honnêteté, social virtues are seen as universal; they are both rooted in nature and in the norms and practices of the community of *honnêtes gens*, whose values are represented as universal. " --

(The Latin word for Race is Gens, Gens is defined as: clan, race, nation, people, TRIBE. )

The Race of Shakespeare's Mind and Manners

Look how the father's face

Lives in his issue, even so the RACE

Of Shakespeare's mind and manners brightly shines

In his well-turned, and true-filed lines;

In each of which he SEEMS to shake a lance,

As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance.



Cynthia's Revels


Do, good Detraction, do, and I the while

Shall shake thy spight off with a careless smile.

Poor piteous gallants! what lean idle slights

Their thoughts suggest to flatter their starv'd hopes!

As if I knew not how to entertain

These straw-devices; but, of force must yield

To the weak stroke of their calumnious tongues.

What should I care what every dor doth buz

In credulous ears? It is a crown to me

That the best judgments can report me wrong'd;

Them liars; and their slanders impudent.

Perhaps, upon the rumour of their speeches,

Some grieved friend will whisper to me; Crites,

Men speak ill of thee. So they be ill men,

If they spake worse, 'twere better: for of such

To be dispraised, is the most perfect praise.

What can his censure hurt me, whom the world

Hath censured vile before me! If good Chrestus,

Euthus, or Phronimus, had spoke the words,

They would have moved me, and I should have call'd

My thoughts and actions to a strict account

Upon the hearing: but when I remember,

'Tis Hedon and Anaides, alas, then

I think but what they are, and am not stirr'd.

The one a light voluptuous reveller,

The other, a strange arrogating puff,

Both impudent, and ignorant enough;

That talk as they are wont, not as I merit;

Traduce by custom, as most dogs do bark,

Do nothing out of judgment, but disease,

Speak ill, because they never could speak well.

And who'd be angry with this RACE OF CREATURES?

What wise physician have we ever seen

Moved with a frantic man? the same affects

That he doth bear to his sick patient,

Should a right mind carry to such as these;

And I do count it a most rare revenge,

That I can thus, with such a sweet neglect,

Pluck from them all the pleasure of their malice;

For that's the mark of all their enginous drifts,

To wound my patience, howso'er they seem

To aim at other objects; which if miss'd,

Their envy's like an arrow shot upright,

That, in the fall, endangers their own heads.


_Cynthia's Revels_ Act V, Sc. 1



MER. It is resolved on, Crites, you must do it.

CRI. The grace divinest Mercury hath done me,

In this vouchsafed discovery of himself,

Binds my observance in the utmost term

Of satisfaction to his godly will:

Though I profess, without the affectation

Of an enforced and form'd austerity,

I could be willing to enjoy no place

With so unequal natures.

MER. We believe it.

But for our sake, and to inflict just pains

On their prodigious follies, aid us now:

No man is presently made bad with ill.

And good men, like the sea, should still maintain

Their noble taste, in midst of all fresh humours

That flow about them, to corrupt their streams,

Bearing no season, much less salt of goodness.

It is our purpose, Crites, to correct,

And punish, with our laughter, this night's sport,

Which our court-dors so heartily intend:

And by that worthy scorn, to make them know

How far beneath the dignity of man

Their serious and most practised actions are.

CRI. Ay, but though Mercury can warrant out

His undertakings, and make all things good,

Out of the powers of his divinity,

Th' offence will be return'd with weight on me,

That am a creature so despised and poor;

When the whole court shall take itself abused

By our ironical confederacy.

MER. You are deceived. The BETTER RACE in court,

That have the true nobility call'd virtue,

Will apprehend it, as a grateful right

Done to their separate merit; and approve

The fit rebuke of so ridiculous heads,

Who, with their apish customs and forced garbs,

Would bring the name of courtier in contempt,

Did it not live unblemish'd in some few,

Whom equal Jove hath loved, and Phoebus form'd

Of better metal, and in better mould.

CRI. Well, since my leader-on is Mercury,

I shall not fear to follow. If I fall,

My proper virtue shall be my relief,

That follow'd such a cause, and such a chief.


In each of which he SEEMS to shake a lance, /As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance. TOTEM AND TABOO IN THE TRIBE OF BEN: THE DUPLICITY OF GENDER AND JONSON'S SATIRES BY VICTORIA SILVER

Thus the epigram "On Something, that Walks Somewhere" (Epigrams XI) equates "brave" or ostentatious dress with the activity of "SEEMING" good, substantial and duly paternal -- namely, "a statesman" (1-2). This configuration of effects or signs typifies the presumptive courtier and fashionable man-about-town in such satires as "On the New Motion," "On Don Surly," "To Mime," or supremely "On the Town's Honest Man," one of Jonson's attacks on Inigo Jones, the author of "shows, shows, mighty shows" ("An Expostulation with Inigo Jones" [39]). And because they commit this fraud to acquire illegitimate status and power (an argument usually taken up in the verse epistles like "To a Friend, to Persuade Him to the Wars" [Underwoods XV]), the effeminate invariably break the grand taboo of insurgency against the status quo, in the process becoming prodigious and deformed. Accordingly, to the moral imposture of statesmanship manufactured from clothes, title and grave looks, Jonson's little epigram adds the concomitance of sexual disfigurement and monstrosity, simultaneously neutering and denaturing the courtier with his choice of pronoun and the command to "walk dead still" (8). If one may return again to Epicoene, the synergy of moral imposture and artificial display is the argument made by Clerimont's song ("Still to be neat, still to be dressed"): the presumption that especially where "art's hid causes are not found, / All is not sweet, all is not sound" (4-6). Every vice in Jonson's satires involves a similar practice of deceit, especially of the EYE, and is exposed to the shrewd observer by the sort of excessive display put on by the lady here: "Still to be neat, still to be dressed, / As you were going to a feast; / Still to be powdered, still perfumed" (1-3). The iteration of "still" conveys a further quality of the semblances of vice, which is that they involve an immense activity merely to "appear" like virtue. The vicious are thus singularly mobile in Jonson, an image of their seditious and epidemic pictorial energy. And the shrubs, the courtlings, the Captains Hungry and Surly, the Guts and Groins, my Lords Ignorant, the plagiarists and censors, the spies, the Fine Lady Would-be's, Court Pucell's, all in one way or another follow this same pattern. They each undertake to create an illusion that Jonson detects in the very excess or ostentation, the virulent energy of its display, whether this illusion is created by speech, by dress, by title, by profession, or in the case of Sir Voluptuous Beast, by panoramic sex.


T H E F O R E S T .



..............What if alone,

Without companions ? 'tis safe to have none.

In single paths dangers with ease are watch'd ;

Contagion in the press is soonest catch'd.

This makes, that wisely you decline your life 50

Far from the maze of custom, error, strife,

And keep an even, and unalter'd gait ;

Not looking by, or back, like those that wait

Times and occasions, to START FORTH, and SEEM.

Which though the turning world may disesteem,

Because that studies spectacles and shows,

And after varied, as fresh objects, goes,

Giddy with change, and therefore cannot see

Right, the right way ; yet must your comfort be

Your conscience, and not wonder if none asks 60

For truth's complexion, where they all wear masks.

Let who will follow fashions and attires,

Maintain their liegers forth for foreign wires,

Melt down their husbands land, to pour away

On the close groom and page, on new-year's day,

And almost all days after, while they live ;

They find it both so witty, and safe to give.

Let them on powders, oils, and paintings spend,

Till that no usurer, nor his bawds dare lend

Them or their officers ; and no man know, 70

Whether it be a face they wear or no.

Let them waste body and state ; and after all,

When their own parasites laugh at their fall,

May they have nothing left, whereof they can

Boast, but how oft they have gone wrong to man,

And call it their brave sin : for such there be

That do sin only for the infamy ;

And never think, how vice doth every hour

Eat on her clients, and some one devour.

You, madam, young have learn'd to shun these shelves, 80

Whereon the most of mankind wreck themselves,

And keeping a just course, have early put

Into your harbor, and all passage shut

'Gainst storms or pirates, that might charge your peace ;

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Earl of Oxford, Aristocratic Identity, and the Je-Ne-Sais-Quois

From Gabriel Harvey, Latin Address at Audley End – to the Earl of Oxford

For long time past Phoebus Apollo has cultivated thy mind in the arts.

English poetical measures have been sung by thee long enough.

Let that Courtly Epistle, more polished even than the writings of Castiglione himself

witness how greatly thou dost excel in letters.

I have seen many Latin verses of thine, yea,

even more English verses are extant;

Thou hast drunk deep draughts not only of the Muses of France and Italy,

But hast learned the MANNERS of many men, and the arts of foreign countries.

It was not for nothing that Sturmius, himself was visited by thee,

Neither in France, Italy, nor Germany are any such cultivated and polished men.


Alexis de Tocqueville

Chapter XIV


Nothing seems at first sight less important than the outward form of human actions, yet there is nothing upon which men set more store; they grow used to everything except to living in a so- ciety which has not their own manners. The influence of the social and political state of a country upon manners is therefore deserving of serious examination.


Nothing is more prejudicial to democracy than its outward forms of behavior; many men would willingly endure its vices who cannot support its manners. I cannot, however, admit that there is nothing commendable in the manners of a democratic people.

Among aristocratic nations, all who live within reach of the first class in society commonly strain to be like it, which gives rise to ridiculous and insipid imitations. As a democratic people do not possess any models of high breeding, at least they escape the daily necessity of seeing wretched copies of them. In democracies manners are never so refined as among aristocratic nations, but on the other hand they are never so coarse. Neither the coarse oaths of the populace nor the elegant and choice expressions of the nobility are to be heard there; the manners of such a people are often vulgar, but they are neither brutal nor mean.

I have already observed that in democracies no such thing as a regular code of good breeding can be laid down; this has some inconveniences and some advantages. In aristocracies the rules of propriety impose the same demeanor on everyone; they make all the members of the same class appear alike in spite of their private inclinations; they adorn and they conceal the natural man. Among a democratic people manners are neither so tutored nor so uniform, but they are frequently more sincere. They form, as it were, a light and loosely woven veil through which the real feelings and private opinions of each individual are easily discernible. The form and the substance of human actions, therefore, often stand there in closer relation; and if the great picture of human life is less embellished, it is more true. Thus it may be said, in one sense, that the effect of democracy is not exactly to give men any particular manners, but to prevent them from having manners at all.

The feelings, the passions, the virtues, and the vices of an aristocracy may sometimes reappear in a democracy, but not its manners; they are lost and vanish forever as soon as the democratic revolution is completed. It would seem that nothing is more lasting than the manners of an aristocratic class, for they are preserved by that class for some time after it has lost its wealth and its power; nor so fleeting, for no sooner have they disappeared than not a trace of them is to be found, and it is scarcely possible to say what they have been as soon as they have ceased to be. A change in the state of society works this miracle, and a few generations suffice to consummate it. The principal characteristics of aristocracy are handed down by history after an aristocracy is destroyed, but the light and exquisite touches of manners are effaced from men's memories almost immediately after its fall. Men can no longer conceive what these manners were when they have ceased to witness them; they are gone and their departure was unseen, unfelt, for in order to feel that refined enjoyment which is derived from choice and distinguished manners, habit and education must have prepared the heart, and the taste for them is lost almost as easily as the practice of them. Thus, not only cannot a democratic people have aristocratic manners, but they neither comprehend nor desire them; and as they never have thought of them, it is to their minds as if such things had never been. Too much importance should not be attached to this loss, but it may well be regretted.

I am aware that it has not infrequently happened that the same men have had very high-bred manners and very low-born feelings; the interior of courts has sufficiently shown what imposing externals may conceal the meanest hearts. But though the manners of aristocracy do not constitute virtue, they sometimes embellish virtue itself. It was no ordinary sight to see a numerous and powerful class of men whose every outward action seemed constantly to be dictated by a natural elevation of thought and feeling, by delicacy and regularity of taste, and by urbanity of manners. Those manners threw a pleasing illusory charm over human nature; and though the picture was often a false one, it could not be viewed without a noble satisfaction.


The Architecture of Manners:

Henry James, Edith Wharton, and The Mount

Sarah Luria


(T)he business elites, according to James, enjoy the sweeping vistas through their cavernous rooms, and yet feel vaguely conscious of having reached a dead-end. In The American Scene, James describes a lavish New York dinner party, where despite all the impeccable surroundings (a "palace"), and the beautiful ladies ("glittering with gems," their gowns a "semblance of court-trains")

"it was impossible not to ask one's self with what, in the wide American frame, such great manners might be supposed to consort or to rhyme. The material pitch was so high that it carried with it really no social sequence, no application, and that, as a tribute to the ideal, to the exquisite, it wanted company, support, some sort of consecration. The difficulty, the irony, of the hour was that so many of the implications of completeness, that is, of a sustaining social order, were absent. There was nothing for us to do at eleven o'clock--or for the ladies at least--but to scatter and go to bed. There was nothing, as in London or in Paris, to go 'on' to; the going 'on' is, for the New York aspiration, always the stumbling-block." (163)

Rather than lead to some climactic event, the "consecration" of their magnificence, the evening trails off inconsequentially into another American example of "this struggle in the void--a constituted image of the upper social organism floundering there all helplessly." The evening and the environment lack an overall narrative that leads, ultimately, to the attainment of a superior, interior space of production. The "palace" is perfect, but in outward form only. James implies that the "pitch" from the start is too high. One starts at the top and has no place left to go. There is no hierarchy of space, "no sequence"; the evening does not connect or "rhyme" with anything outside of itself. Only a "great court-function" would have sufficed to "crown the hour," and this the American "upper social organism" of course cannot provide. 32


a superior, interior space of production - aristocratic manners/entertainment. Shakespeare's plays produced at court. The aesthetic of 'honnête bonne humeur'.


Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Letter to Bartholomew Clerke 1571

Dedication in Latin to Bartholomew Clerke's Translation of The Courtier (1571/1572)

[translated by B. M. Ward]

Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford, Lord Great Chamberlain of England, Viscount Bulbeck and Baron Scales and Badlesmere to the Reader -- Greeting.

A frequent and earnest consideration of the translation of Castiglione's Italian work, which has now for a long time been undertaken and finally carried out by my friend Clerke, has caused me to waver between two opinions: debating in my mind whether I should preface it by some writing and letter of my own, or whether I should do no more than study it with a mind full of gratitude. The first course seemed to demand greater skill and art than I can lay claim to, the second to be a work of no less good-will and application. To do both, however, seemed to combine a task of delightful industry with an indication of special good-will.

I have therefore undertaken the work, and I do so the more willingly in order that I may lay a laurel wreath of my own on the translation in which I have studied this book, and also to ensure that neither my good-will (which is very great) should remain unexpressed, nor that my skill (which is small) should seem to fear to face the light and the eyes of men.

It is no more than its due that praises of every kind should be rendered to this work descriptive of a Courtier. It is indeed every way right, and one may say almost inevitable, that with the highest and greatest praises I should address both the author and the translator, and even more the great patroness of so great a work, whose name alone on the title-page gives it a right majestic and honorable introduction.

For what more difficult, more noble, or more magnificent task has anyone ever undertaken than our author Castiglione, who has drawn for us the figure and model of a courtier, a work to which nothing can be added, in which there is no redundant word, a portrait which we shall recognize as that of a highest and most perfect type of man. And so, although nature herself has made nothing perfect in every detail, yet the manners of men exceed in dignity that with which nature has endowed them; and he who surpasses others has here surpassed himself and has even out-done nature, which by no one has ever been surpassed. Nay more: however elaborate the ceremonial, whatever the magnificence of the court, the splendor of the courtiers, and the multitude of spectators, he has been able to lay down principles for the guidance of the very Monarch himself.

Again, Castiglione has vividly depicted more and even greater things than these. For who has spoken of princes with greater gravity? Who has discoursed of illustrious women with a more ample dignity? No one has written of military affairs more eloquently, more aptly about horse-racing, and more clearly and admirably about encounters under arms on the field of battle. I will say nothing of the fitness and the excellence with which he has depicted the beauty of chivalry in the noblest persons. Nor will I refer to his delineations in the case of those persons who cannot be courtiers, when he alludes to some notable defect or to some ridiculous character, or to some deformity of appearance. Whatever is heard in the mouths of men in casual talk and in society, whether apt and candid or villainous and shameful, that he has set down in so natural a manner that it seems to be acted before our very eyes.

Again, to the credit of the translator of so great a work, a writer too who is no mean orator, must be added a new glory of language. For although Latin has come down to us from the ancient city of Rome, a city in which the study of eloquence flourished exceedingly, it has now given back its features for use in modern courts as a polished language of an excellent temper, fitted out with royal pomp and possessing admirable dignity. All this my good friend Clerke has done, combining exceptional genius with wonderful eloquence. For he has resuscitated that dormant quality of fluent discourse. He has recalled those ornaments and lights which he had laid aside, for use in connection with subjects most worthy of them. For this reason he deserves all the more honor, because that to great subjects -- and they are indeed great -- he has applied the greatest lights and ornaments.

For who is clearer in his use of words? Or richer in the dignity of his sentences? Or who can conform to the variety of circumstances with greater art? If weighty matters are under consideration, he unfolds his theme in a solemn and majestic rhythm; if the subject is familiar and facetious, he makes use of words that are witty and amusing. When therefore he writes with precise and well-chosen words, with skillfully constructed and crystal-clear sentences, and with every art of dignified rhetoric, it cannot be but that some noble quality should be felt to proceed from his work. To me indeed it seems, when I read this courtly Latin, that I am listening to Crassus, Antonius and Hortensius, discoursing on this very theme.


"it cannot be but that *some noble quality* should be felt to proceed from his work. " (De Vere)

nescio quid

"And I maintain this also, that when a certain training and well- formed learning achieve and outstanding and illustrious character, then that *noble and unique something* usually STANDS FORTH." (Cicero)


The Sign of the Ineffable -

The Performance of Nobility in Early Modern European Literature
David M. Posner

Edmund Spenser summed up the aspirations of a class and an age when he described, in the Faerie Queene (I, v, 1, 1-4), the state of mind of the Redcrosse Knight on the eve of a great tournament:

The noble hart, that harbours virtuous thought,

And is with child of glorious great intent,

Can never rest, until it forth have brought

Th’eternal brood of glorie excellent…

This image of nobility – as something pure, unmediated, even innocent– is one which late Renaissance nobility liked to hold of itself, at a time when the possibility of artless, unconstrained public self- presentation seemed as if it were rapidly being foreclosed. The historical position and identity of the nobility were being threatened by the rise of the modern nation-state and the new power and importance of the princely court. A nostalgic yearning for a Golden Age of artless self-presentation thus formed an important part of the ideology of nobility in this period. Spenser’s text itself executes a double movement of optimism and despair; even as these lines enunciate the idealized image of the “noble hart,” they simultaneously suggest the impossibility of its realization. This comes about both through the self-conscious archaism of the Faerie Queene as a whole, situating itself in a nostalgically viewed and no longer accessible past, and through this passage’s insistence on the inability of that “noble hart” to rest, to be content, until it has attained the “eternal….glorie” – that is – the public fame, the perfect reputation always still to be achieved – that will render it immortal. In Spenser, internal virtue in not enough for the noble soul; that soul cannot rest, indeed noble identity cannot be said to exist, until it is confirmed in front of an audience. It is this imperative of display, of the public performance of nobility that is the subject of the present work.

The link between theatricality and ideas of nobility and courtly behaviour in the late Renaissance, hinted at here in Spenser, is made far more explicit by other Renaissance writers, who regularly use the metaphor of the theatre to describe both the court and noble identity. To be sure, this usage is in part just another version of the ancient commonplace of the theatrum mundi; but for authors and readers of the period, who are often themselves players on the stage of the court, it seems to acquire a particular urgency. The present inquiry will investigate the reasons for this urgency and its futility. (pp. 1-2)


The theatrical discourse of which the Caracteres (La Bruyere) are a kind of culmination is set in motion, in the early sixteenth century, by Castiglione’s Cortegiano. Its dazzling aestheticized vision of courtly behavior, dominated by metaphors of performance and theatricality, engenders a seemingly endless proliferation of texts on questions of nobility, courtliness, and identity, all governed to a greater or lesser extent by the same topos of the theatre. The Cortegiano can in some sense be held responsible for the entire range of such texts, from the sophisticated critiques of Montaigne or La Rochefoucauld to the compound platitudes of Cammillo Baldi or Eustache de Refuge. While these texts vary widely in complexity and sophistication, they all work within a *discourse of public identity* whose terms and conditions are largely established by Castiglione.

This is not to suggest that Castiglione invents the problem, nor that he is the first to apply systematically the metaphor of the theatre to the question of public identity. On the contrary, the notions of public life as a kind of theatre, and of the individual-as-actor are already commonplaces for Cicero, from whom Castiglione borrows not only the quasi-theatrical form of his work, but also a number of key metaphors. But Castiglione’s artful reformulations of classical topoi of theatricality have resonances for his Renaissance readers that even Cicero cannot always match.


Castiglione’s emphasis on the persuasive effectiveness of performance is therefore a development of something already present in Cicero, rather than a radical turning away from the Ciceronian ideal. The direction of this development is nevertheless significant and revealing. Castiglione recognizes the danger of persuading an audience of something they do not want to hear (a danger equally real for Cicero, although he was perhaps less willing to recognize it), and therefore moves away form the idea that the purpose of persuasion, and of its attendant delectation, is to present potentially uncomfortable truths with overwhelming rhetorical force. The aesthetic pleasure brought to the audience becomes, for Castiglione, more of an end in itself; rather than being in the service of forensic persuasion, it is part of a larger context of princely otium, and functions for the performer primarily as a means of attracting favor and onore to oneself, and as a means of self-protection.


Even and especially when the noble courtier is performing that unction most proper to his class, namely making war, that activity becomes above all a performance designed not so much to serve the interests of the State as to impress one’s employer. One should be sure, when in battle, to perform one’s heroic deeds as visibly as possible, and if it can be managed, right in front of one’s boss. The practical results – if any – of this martial performance, and of other, less overtly dangerous forms of showing off, are vastly less important than the perception therof by the princely onlooker. In the discussion in book II, section 11, of masquerade (“lo esser travestito”), and of its great utility for showing of one’s true (noble) identity through disguising it, Castiglione emphasizes that the success of the courtier’s performance is determined by the audience reaction, and particularly by whether or not the audience “si diletta e piglia peacere” (“is delighted and pleased”). Control of that reaction, through controlling the pleasure experienced by the beholder, thus becomes paramount. This pleasure arises not from the audience’s experience of the showing forth of some Truth, a la Cicero, but rather from its being deceived. Castiglione shows that the essence of the courtier’s performance is a kind of multi-layered deception, in he form of a performed concealment – a concealment that pretends to be the opposite, to be an intentionally incomplete concealment that instead reveals, with a wink and a nudge, the “truth” behind its supposedly consensual pretense. Through performing "con abito disciolto,”: in a disguise meant to be seen into, the performer invites the audience to feel as though it is in on the joke. The audience’s pleasure arises from its accepting that invitation, from being fooled into believing that , rather than being fooled, it is seeing beyond the mask (representing e.g. a pastor selvatico, a peasant) to the “real” (i.e. noble) visage underneath.

The precise locus of this pleasure, as Castilione makes clear, is the tension between what is actually seen and what is artfully hinted at, without however being revealed in what Bacon will call the “Naked, and Open day light” of Truth. *Nor could that shadowy something-hinted-at ever be thus revealed, as it is neither presence nor substance, neither essence nor Truth, but rather the reflection of the desire of the beholder, at the very moment of “l’animo…(chi)…corre ad imaginar…” (“the mind which rushes to imagine”)*. In this specular performance, there is always something more – Castiglione’s “molto maggior cosa” – than can be seen, or indeed be present; the desire for that shadowy cosa is the delectation proper to this masquerade, and it is the eliciting of that desire that is the object of the courtier’s performance.

The success of that performance, of its come-hither pseudo- revelation, is in turn dependent on a sort of meta-deception, another layer of pretense that likewise attempts to disguise itself as its opposite. The courtier’s performance must persuade, but that effort at persuasion must itself be covered over by another persuasive effort, on that “demonstrates” to the audience that no effort at persuasion is being made. One cannot be seen to be doing what one is in fact doing, namely working very hard to persuade one’s audience of a noble identity which – if it actually were what it claims to be – would need no rhetorical helps to impose its intrinsic veracity, its mathematical Identity with itself, on the minds and emotions of the audience. That such an effort of rhetoric is in fact needed suggest that the Identity being performed is not what it professes to be, or at least that the person laying claim to it has no intrinsic, “natural” right to do so. Effort must therefore be disguised as its opposite; one must persuade the witnesses to that effort of its absence. This is sprezzatura.(pp.9-12)


Castiglione appropriates from Cicero the notion of artful artlessness, as well as its seductive effect: that the audience, finding what it beholds “sit venustius sed non ut appareat,” is incited to suspect, and desire, the presence of something more than what is actually seen. (While Castiglione’s rewriting of diligens negligentia jettisons the explicit comparison with the woman made more beautiful and attractive by her non-use of external adornments, the model of a seductive delectation is everywhere implicit in Castiglione’s idea of the courtier’s relationship with his or her audience.) But the Cortegiano expand the field of application of diligens negligentia well beyond the narrow limits of a single style of oratory (note – plain style); sprezzatura governs all courtly behaviour, and indeed is its essential defining characteristic. Upon it depends grazia, grace, which must be seen to accompany the courtier’s every action; *upon it depends above all the crucial ability to persuade one’s public of the presence of the “molto maggior cosa,” that Something Else, always just beyond the reach of clear perception, which is the key to noble identity*.(p.13)

molto maggior cosa ("much greater thing", 2.11)


...In single PATHS dangers with ease are watch'd ;

CONTAGION in the press is soonest catch'd.

This makes, that wisely you decline your life

Far from the maze of custom, error, strife,

And keep an even, and unalter'd gait ;

Not looking by, or back, like those that wait

Times and occasions, to start forth, and SEEM.

Which though the turning world may disesteem,

Because that studies spectacles and shows,

And after varied, as fresh objects, goes,

Giddy with change, and therefore cannot see

Right, the right way ; yet must your comfort be

Your conscience, and not wonder if none asks

For truth's complexion, where they all wear MASKS.


Jonson's dedication to his Epigrammes.







While you cannot change your merit, I dare not change your title: It was that made it, and not I. Under which name, I here offer to your LO: the ripest of my studies, my Epigrammes; which though For, when I made them, I had nothing in my conscience, to expressing of which I did need a cypher. But, if I be falne into those times, wherein, for the likenesse of vice and facts, every one thinks anothers ill deeds objected to him, and that in their IGNORANT and guilty mouthes, the common voyce is (for their securitie) Beware the Poet, confessing, therein, so much love to their DISEASES, as they would rather make a partie for them, then be either rid, or told of them: I must expect, at you Lo: hand, the protection of truth, and libertie, while you are constant to your owne goodnesse. In thankes whereof, I returne you the honor of leading forth so many good and great names (as my verses mention on the better part) to their remembrance with posteritie. Amongst whom, if I have praysed, unfortunately , any one, that doth not deserve; or, if all answere not, in all numbers, the pictures I have made of them: I hope it will be forgiven me, that they are no ill pieces, though they be not like the persons. But I foresee a neerer fate to my book, then this: that the vices therein will be own'd before the vertues (though, there, I have avoyded all particulars, as I have done names) and that some will be readie to discredit me, as they will have the impudence to belye themselves. For, if I meant them not, it is so. Nor, can I hope otherwise. For, why should they remit any thing of their riot, their pride, their self-love, and other inherent graces, to consider truth or vertue; but , with the trade of the world, lend their long eares against men they love not: and hold their deare MOUNTEBANK, or JESTER, in farre better condition, then all the studie, or studiers of humanitie? For such, I would rather know them by their VISARDS, still, then they should publish their faces, at their perill, in my Theater, where CATO, if he liv'd, might enter without scandall.

Your Lo: most faithfull honorer,

Ben. Jonson

Tempest, Shakespeare


Now my charms are all o'erthrown,

And what strength I have's mine own,

Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,

I must be here confined by you,

Or sent to Naples. Let me not,

Since I have my dukedom got

And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell

In this bare island by your spell;

But release me from my bands

With the help of your good hands:

Gentle breath of yours my sails

Must fill, or else my project fails,

*Which was to please*. Now I want

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,

And my ending is despair,

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so that it assaults

Mercy itself and frees all faults.

As you from crimes would pardon'd be,

Let your indulgence set me free .


The Aristocrat as Art: A Study of the Honnête Homme and the Dandy in Seventeenth and Nineteenth-Century French Literature

By Domna C. Stanton

…In what constitutes the most extensive seventeenth-century commentary on le je ne sais quoi, Bouhours insists that it can only be known only by its effects and that all the terms which have been used to define it – “those impressions, penchants, instincts, feelings, affinities: - are nothing but flim-flam: “When we have said all that and and a thousand other things besides, we have said nothing. It would no longer be a je ne sais quoi if we knew what it was; its nature is to be incomprehensible and unexplainable”.

Although Mere purported to believe that “certain people know its cause and origin, he, along with the other writers on honnêtete, continued to regard le je ne sais quoi as the impenetrable “explanation” of the self-as-art. The countenance of an honnête homme, for example, radiates “a merry and insinuating je ne said quoi:, and his body, “a certain secret, charming je ne sais quoi that we cannot describe". Like his manner, urbanity brings together “a courteous and polished je ne sais quoi, a je ne sais quoi that is at the same time bantering and flattering”. In conversation, his voice has a "gentle and tender je ne said quoi that touches the heart", or “one that has an appealing, casual je ne sais quoi”, and his verbal style, according to Mere, has a “je ne sais quoi (that is) pure and noble,” “refined,” “natural,” “subtle and lofty,” “precise and insinuating” The global pertinence of this SIGN OF THE INEFFABLE also dominates Scudery’s analysis: “this je ne sais quoi galant which permeated the entire person of its possessor – his mind, his words, his actions or even his clothing – put the finishing touch on honntêtes gens, makes them lovable and causes others to love them. Bouhours said both the first and the last word on the subject when he insisted that the presence of the je ne sais quoi could remedy all defects and that its absence could invalidate all virtues. (p.208)


honntêtes gens - the race of Shakespeare's mind and manners


Jonson, _Cynthia's Revels_

MERCURY. Why, Crites, think you any noble spirit,

worth the title of a man,

Will be incensed to see the enchanted veils

Of self-conceit, and servile flattery,

Wrapt in so many folds by time and custom,

Drawn from his wronged and bewitched eyes?

Who sees not now their shape and nakedness,

Is blinder than the son of earth, the mole;

Crown'd with no more humanity, nor soul.

CRI. Though they may see it, yet the huge estate

FANCY, and FORM, and SENSUAL PRIDE have gotten,

Will make them blush for anger, not for shame,

And turn shewn nakedness to impudence.

Humour is now the test we try things in:

All power is just: *nought that delights is sin*.

And yet the zeal of every knowing man

Opprest with hills of tyranny, cast on virtue

By the light fancies of fools, thus transported.

Cannot but vent the Aetna of his fires,

T'inflame best bosoms with much worthier love

Than of these outward and effeminate shades;

That these vain joys, in which their wills consume

Such powers of wit and soul as are of force

To raise their beings to eternity,

May be converted on works fitting men:

And, for the practice of a forced look,

An antic gesture, or a fustian phrase,

Study the native frame of a true heart,

An inward comeliness of bounty, knowledge,

And spirit *that may conform them actually

To God's high figures*, which they have in power;

Which to neglect for a self-loving neatness,

Is sacrilege of an unpardon'd greatness.


According to Gabriel Harvey, Oxford was a 'brave mirror for Gallants':

_Speculum Tuscanismi_

In Courtly guiles a passing singular odd man,

For GALLANTS A BRAVE MIRROR, a Primrose of Honour,

A Diamond for nonce, a fellow peerless in England.


Les Signes Galants: A Historical Reevaluation of Galanterie
Alain Viala and Daryl Lee

In the last few years, literary history and criticism have recognized the importance of the tradition of galanterie in France during the seventeenth century. The research first accounted for galanterie as a form of amorous sentiment, then it acknowledged that its scope as a literary tendency was much broader, encompassing both an aesthetic and , beyond that, a social model, an ethics.


Contradictions and questions are specifically the result of the doubly twofold identity of the tradition of galanterie. On the one hand, there are two galanteries, as indicated by the adjective's change of meaning according to its position in the sentence: a galanterie of distinction and a galanterie of debauchery. On the other hand, this tradition was at once a matter of aesthetic and of ethics. It consisted of a literary aesthetic, with its own conception of the beautiful and the good, of pleasure and emotion, and its own forms and tones; and it was a social ethics with its own models of behavior and values. The potential result of this doubly twofold structure is an assortment of ambiguities: I will attempt to distinguish between them. Ambiguity is, above all, a matter of signs: I intend, therefore, to consider a few signes galants.


The new galanterie, the positive and fashionable galanterie, took form as an outgrowth of the expanding social model of honnêteté. The figure of the honnête homme, originally an adaptation of the Italian heritage of Castilione's Cortegiano, incorporated the even more positive nuance of the "galant homme" borrowed from Della Casa's Galateo. While Castiglione counsels on how to establish oneself in the world, particularly at court, the Galateo provides more precise precepts of social conduct. It enters into details of gesture, facial expression, and dress, in order to explain how to have an agreeable appearance, to be pleasing, and to care for one's self-presentation so as to appear to one's advantage in social commerce. Accordingly, these preoccupations correspond in the French realm to finery and festivity.


A Speech according to Horace.



...But he that should perswade, to have this done

For Education of our Lordings; Soon

Should he hear of Billow, Wind, and Storm,

From the Tempestuous Grandlings, who'll inform

Us, in our bearing, that are thus, and thus,

Born, bred, allied? what's he dare tutor us?

Are we by Book-worms to be aw'd? must we

Live by their Scale, that dare do nothing free?

Why are we Rich, or Great, except to show

All licence in our Lives? What need we know?

More then to praise a Dog? or Horse? or speak

The Hawking Language? or our Day to break

With Citizens? let Clowns, and Tradesmen breed

Their Sons to study Arts, the Laws, the Creed:

We will believe like Men of our own Rank,

In so much Land a year, or such a Bank,

That turns us so much Monies, at which rate

Our Ancestors impos'd on Prince and State.

Let poor Nobility be vertuous: We,

Descended in a Rope of Titles, be

From Guy, or Bevis, Arthur, or from whom

The Herald will. Our Blood is now become,

Past any need of Vertue. Let them care,

That in the Cradle of their Gentry are;

To serve the State by Councels, and by Arms:

We neither love the Troubles, nor the harms.

What love you then? your Whore? what study? Gate,

Carriage, and Dressing. There is up of late

THE ACADEMY, where the GALLANTS meet ——

What to make Legs? yes, and to smell most sweet,

All that they do at Plays. O, but first here

They learn and study; and then practise there.

But why are all these Irons i' the Fire

Of several makings? helps, helps, t' attire

His Lordship. That is for his Band, his Hair

This, and that Box his Beauty to repair;

This other for his Eye-brows; hence, away,

I may no longer on these Pictures stay,

These Carkasses of Honour; Taylors blocks,

Cover'd with Tissue, whose prosperity mocks

The fate of things: whilst totter'd Vertue holds

Her broken Arms up, to their empty Moulds.


Jonson, _Discoveries_

De Poetica. - We have spoken sufficiently of oratory, let us now make a diversion to poetry. Poetry, in the primogeniture, had many peccant humours, and is made to have more now, through the levity and inconstancy of men' s judgments. Whereas, indeed, it is the most prevailing eloquence, and of the most exalted caract. Now the discredits and disgraces are many it hath received through men' s study of depravation or calumny; their practice being to give it diminution of credit, by lessening the professor' s estimation, and making the AGE afraid of their liberty; and the AGE is grown so tender of her fame, as she calls all writings aspersions. That is the state word, the phrase of court (placentia college), which some call Parasites place, the *Inn of Ignorance*. (Jonson)


Jonson, _Discoveries_

AFFECTED language:

DE VERE argutis.--I do hear them say often some men are not witty, because they are not everywhere witty; than which nothing is more foolish. If an eye or a nose be an excellent part in the face, therefore be all eye or nose! I think the eyebrow, the forehead, the cheek, chin, lip, or any part else are as necessary and natural in the place. But now nothing is good that is natural; right and natural language seems to have least of the wit in it; that which is writhed and tortured is counted the more exquisite. Cloth of bodkin or tissue must be embroidered; as if no face were fair that were not powdered or PAINTED! no beauty to be had but in wresting and writhing our own tongue! Nothing is fashionable till it be DEFORMED; and this is to write like a gentleman. All must be affected and preposterous as our GALLANTS' clothes, sweet-bags, and night-dressings, in which you would think our men lay in, like ladies, it is so curious.


Les Signes Galants: A Historical Reevaluation of Galanterie
Alain Viala and Daryl Lee

The texts of the 1650's acknowledge less the Italian model than models from Antiquity...Obviously, a model that includes expressions such as je ne sais quoi and delicatesse (words that come back again and again in texts from this period) is an ideal that evades easy definition. In the end galant and galanterie solidify into literary categories. They denote and aesthetics combining arts and genres (the lettre galante, for example, combines prose and verse, the comedy-ballet combines stage arts), privileging a style both "middle" and "natural", and in search of humorous wit and entertainment: in a word, the aesthetic of the honnête bonne humeur. When understood correctly, the objective of this search is a satisfying balance of mind, temperament, and being, that is, a harmonious distribution of "HUMOR" (in the sense of the anthropology of the time). There is no absolute privilege granted to reason, no surrendering to the flow of the passions, but rather a sense of playing - that is to say, the capacity to maintain a certain distance from objects and from facts: the right and proper distance, a respectful distance. The pleasure of the literary game thus assumes a therapeutic function. It is both end and means at once, the space in which a social integration is achieved and displayed by a proper balancing of the affects and of the mind: the literary game prepares one for the social game at the same time as it shapes it. Galanterie then asserts itself as a social model by crystallizing the various tendencies or nuances carried by the various concomitant terms.

It is literature, therefore, that during the second generation infuses sociable conduct with the model it has constructed. Unlike the preceding generation, the social model crystallizes through the construction of an aesthetics. The idea of the utility of literature has not disappeared: it verges on divertissement to the point of incorporating it, by dint of the affirmation of the virtue of an aesthetics that the ethical model takes form. Literature is conceived no longer as a vector only, but as the very space in which an ideological model is elaborated: it signals the increased autonomy of the literary field, which generates its own values, of an aesthetic order. However, the process toward autonomy is only relative, for the taste of galant literary circles is precisely not to parade themselves as gens de lettres, but rather to pass themselves off as worldly amateurs.



Every Man in his Humour
Act III. Scene IV.

Cob, Cash.

FAsting days? what tell you me of Fasting days? 'Slid, would they were all on a light Fire for me: They say the whole World shall be consum'd with Fire one day, but would I had these Ember- weeks and villanous Fridays burnt in the mean time, and then ———

Cash. Why, how now Cob? what moves thee to this Choler? ha?

Cob. Collar, Master Thomas? I scorn your Collar, I Am none o' your Cart-horse, though I carry

and draw Water. An' you offer to ride me with your Collar or Halter either, I may hap shew you a Jades trick, Sir.

Cash. O, you'll slip your Head out of the Collar?

why goodman Cob you mistake me.

Cob. Nay I have my Rheum, and I can be angry as well as another, Sir.

Cash. Thy Rhume Cob? thy Humour, thy Humour? thou mistak'st.

Cob. Humour? mack, I think it be so indeed: what is that Humour? some rare thing I warrant.

Cash. Mary I'll tell thee Cob: It is a Gentleman-like

MONSTER, bred in the SPECIAL GALLANTRY of our Time, by Affectation; and fed by Folly.

Cob. How? must it be fed?

Cash. Oh I, Humour is nothing if it be not fed.

Didst thou never hear that? it's a common Phrase, Feed

my Humour.

Cob. I'll none on it: Humour, avant, I know you not, be gone. Let who will make hungry Meals for your Monster-ship, it shall not be I. Feed you, quoth he? 'Slid, I ha' much ado to feed my self; especially on these lean rascally days too; and't had been any other day but a Fasting-day (a Plague on them all for me) by this Light, one might have done the Commonwealth good Service, and have drown'd them all i' the Flood Two or three hundred thousand years ago. O, I do stomach them hugely! I have a Maw now, and 'twere for Sir Bevis his Horse, against 'em.


The Je-Ne-Sais-Quoi in Early Modern Europe

Richard Scholar

The Case of Shakespeare:

...An entire study of the je-ne-sais-quois could be devoted to Shakespeare's plays. They dramatize its main themes, whether the ghostly apparition of an insensible force in nature, the stroke of a disastrous passion, or the super-subtle artifice of signs of quality; they show the characters who undergo such experiences attempting, with extraordinary sophistication, to come to terms with them; and, at such moments, forms of the English phrase 'I know not what' tend to appear. Shakespeare's place in the present study is marginal, since my criterion of inclusion was that a writer should occupy at least a potential place in the historical rise and fall of the je-ne-sais- quois (n.), and Shakespeare has no place in that history. He stands apart from it, a stranger on its threshold, while effortlessly revealing his mastery of its terms and themes. As with so many of the new approaches and theories that literary critics bring to his plays, one is left with the bardolatrous feeling that Shakespeare saw the whole thing first, that it was in fact he who dreamt up the je-ne-sais-quois.

A Midsummer Night's Dream exemplifies Shakespeare's mastery of the je-ne-sais-quois. A strange force of sympathy falls between certain individuals in the play. The characters discuss the nature of this force obsessively: some attempt to dispel, subdue, and explain it away; others sense that it is something really inexplicable and inexplicably real and, in saying so, they grasp at forms of the phrase 'I know not what'.


nescio quid


"And I maintain this also, that when a certain training and well- formed learning achieve and outstanding and illustrious character, then that *noble and unique something* usually STANDS FORTH." (Cicero)


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Burke - 'Manners are of more importance than laws.'

It cannot at this time be too often repeated; line upon line; precept upon precept; until it comes into the currency of a proverb, To innovate is not to reform. (Letter to a Noble Lord, Burke)


Deprivation of Taste is as great as that of Morals, and tho' the correcting the latter may seem a more laudable Design, and more consistent with public-Spirit; yet there is so strong a Connection between them, and the Morals of a Nation have so great Dependence on their Taste nad Writings, that the fixing the latter, seems the first and surest Method of establishing the former. (The Reformer, Issue 1, 1748)


The Chief use of to implant and elegant disposition into the mind and manners and root our of them everything sordid, base or illiberal...the polite arts are rather better calculated for this purpose than any others; and this for the very reason that some condemn them; because they apply to the passions...

For this mind when it is entertained with high fancies, elegant and polite sentiments, beautiful language, and harmonious sounds, is modelled insensible into a disposition to elegance and humanity. For it is the bias the mind takes that gives direction to our lives; and not any rules or maxims of morals or behaviour.
(Burke, 'The Character of a Fine Gentleman')


With many of his contemporaries, he (Burke) employed 'chivalry' as a term of art signifying the complex European union of manners. It was not a defence of the past, but of his present, of a social order he perceived as being more progressive and enlightened perhaps than any in history. In the Reflections, he observed:

Nothing is more certain, than our manners, our civilization, and all the good things which are connnected wiht manners, and with civilization, have, in this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles: and were indeed the result of both combined: I mean the spirit of a gentleman, and the spirit of religion.

In notes of the period, Burke wrote that revolutionary philosophy left 'no other principle of restraint but terror. No other incentive but personal interest.

(''Language Is the Eye of Society': Edmund Burke on the Origins of the Polite and the Civil, Seán Patrick Donlan )


France has always more or less influenced manners in England; and when your fountain is choked up and polluted, the stream will not run long, or not run clear, with us, or perhaps with any nation. This gives all Europe, in my opinion, but too close and connected a concern in what is done in France. Excuse me, therefore, if I have dwelt too long on the atrocious spectacle of the 6th of October, 1789, or have given too much scope to the reflections which have arisen in my mind on occasion of the most important of all revolutions, which may be dated from that day, I mean a revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinions. (Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke)


Manners are of more importance than laws. The law can touch us here and there, now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and colour to our lives. According to their quality they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them. (Letters on a Regicide Peace, Burke)


It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France, then the Dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in—glittering like the morning star, full of life, and splendor, and joy. Oh! what a Revolution! And what a heart must I have to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever.


There ought to be system of manners in every nation which a well-formed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely. (Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke)


Ben Jonson,

The Court.

THou art a Bountiful and Brave Spring, and waterest all the Noble Plants of this Island. In thee the whole Kingdom dresseth it self, and is ambitious to use thee as her Glass. Beware then thou render Mens Figures truly, and teach them no less to hate their Deformities, than to love their Forms: For, to Grace, there should come Reverence; and no Man can call that Lovely, which is not also Venerable. It is not Powd'ring, Perfuming, and every day smelling of the Taylor, that converteth to a Beautiful Object: but a Mind shining through any Sute, which needs no False Light, either of Riches or Honours, to help it. Such shalt thou find some here, even in the Reign of C Y N T H I A, (a C R I T E S and an A R E T E.) Now, under thy P H œ B U S, it will be thy Province to make more: Except thou desirest to have thy Source mix with the Spring of Self-love, and so wilt draw upon thee as welcom a Discovery of thy Days, as was then made of her Nights.

Thy Servant, but not Slave,


Look how the father's FACE

Lives in his issue, even so the race

Of Shakspeare's MIND AND MANNERS brightly shines

In his well torned and true filed lines;

In each of which he seems to shake a lance,

As brandisht at the eyes of ignorance.



This figure that thou here seest put,

It was for gentle SHAKSPEARE cut,

Wherein the graver had a strife

With nature, to out-do the life :

O could he but have drawn his wit

As well in BRASS, as he has hit

His FACE ; the print would then surpass

All that was ever writ in BRASS :

But since he cannot, reader, look

Not on his picture, but his book.

"Thou art a Moniment, without a tombe". The monument motif alludes to Horace's ode beginning "exegi monumentum aere perennius" [I have finished a monument more lasting than bronze] (3,30.1), expressing the immortality of his own poetry. But readers then may have thought of another meaning of "Moniment".

"Monument" still retained its etymological sense of "portent", deriving from the Latin monere, to remind [especially of universal disorder] (OED). It was used almost synonymously with "monster"; Shakespeare offers a good example in The TAming of the Shrew (1593-94):

[Pet] Gentles, methinks you frown,
And wherefore gaze this goodly company,
As if they saw some wondrous monument,
Some comet or unusual prodigy? (3.2.93-96)

Petruchio, appearing in bizarre clothes on hs wedding day, thus brags to the attendants who stand astounded. The portentousness of the word is clear, for it is used with "some comet or unusual prodigy", while his servant Grumio was called a "monster in apparel" some 30 lines earlier.

Moreover, the "wondrous" that "modifies "monument" in line 95 here means "ominous". From this we can safely infer that "the wonder of our Stage" four lines above "Moniment" implies "portent" (OED) The few readers who perceived "the portent" behind "the wonder of our Stage", when they encountered "Moniment", a monster portentous of a sickness in nature or of a vicious age. Precisely the same thing can be said of Lope de Vega, who was called "el monstruo de naturaleza" by Cervantes. (p.63)

Ben Jonson and Cervantes, Tilting against Chivalric Romances
Yumiko Yamada


Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues

We write in water. (Shakespeare)

"It is from the asymmetrie of our Poetrie, want of decorum and proportion in our *Figures*, that the irregularity of our humours and affections many be shrewdly discern’d…"


Folly, and brain-sick HUMOURS of the time,

Distemper'd passion, and audacious crime,

Thy pen so on the stage doth personate,

That ere men scarce begin to know, they hate

The vice presented, and there lessons learn,

Virtue, from vicious habits to discern.

Oft have I seen thee in a sprightly strain,

To lash a vice, and yet no one complain ;

Thou threw'st the ink of malice from thy pen,

Whose aim was EVIL MANNERS, not ill men.

(Hawkins, Jonsonus Virbius)


Jonson, _Volpone_, dedication

(...)For, if Men will impartially, and not asquint, look toward the Offices and Function of a Poet, they will easily conclude to themselves the Impossibility of any Man's being the good Poet, without first being a good Man. He that is said to be able to inform young Men to all good Disciplines, inflame grown Men to all great Vertues, keep old Men in their best and supream State, or as they decline to Childhood, recover them to their first Strength; that comes forth the Interpreter and Arbiter of Nature, a Teacher of Things Divine no less than Humane, a MASTER in MANNERS; and can alone (or with a few) effect the Business of Mankind: This, I take him, is no Subject for Pride and Ignorance to exercise their failing Rhetorick upon. But it will here be hastily answer'd, That the Writers of these Days are other Things; that not only their MANNERS, but their NATURES are INVERTED, and nothing remaining with them of the Dignity of Poet, but the abused Name, which every Scribe usurps; that now, especially in Drammatick, or (as they term it) Stage-Poetry, nothing but Ribaldry, Prophanation, Blasphemy, all Licence of Offence to God and Man is practis'd. I dare not deny a great part of this, (and I am sorry I dare not) because in some Mens abortive Features (and would they had never boasted the Light) it is over-true: But that all are imbark'd in this bold Adventure for Hell, is a most uncharitable Thought, and, utter'd, a more malicious Slander.


Jonson, _Discoveries_

De malign. studentium. - There be some men are born only to suck out the poison of books: Habent venenum pro victu; imô, pro deliciis. {66a} And such are they that only relish the obscene and foul things in poets, which makes the profession taxed. But by whom? Men that watch for it; and, had they not had this hint, are so unjust valuers of letters as they think no learning good but what brings in gain. It shows they themselves would never have been of the professions they are but for the profits and fees. But if another learning, well used, can instruct to good life, INFORM MANNERS, no less persuade and lead men than they threaten and compel, and have no reward, is it therefore the worst study? I could never think the study of wisdom confined only to the philosopher, or of piety to the divine, or of state to the politic; but that he which can feign a COMMONWEALTH (which is the poet) can govern it with counsels, strengthen it with laws, correct it with judgments, inform it with religion and morals, is all these. We do not require in him mere elocution, or an excellent faculty in verse, but the exact knowledge of all virtues and their contraries, with ability to render the one LOVED, the other HATED, by his proper embattling them. The philosophers did insolently, to challenge only to themselves that which the greatest generals and gravest counsellors never durst. For such had rather do than promise the best things.


el monstruo de naturaleza

De Vere

For what more difficult, more noble, or more magnificent task has anyone ever undertaken than our author Castiglione, who has drawn for FIGURE and model of a courtier, a work to which nothing can be added, in which there is no redundant word, a PORTRAIT which we shall recognize as that of a highest and most perfect type of man. And so, although NATURE herself has made nothing perfect in every detail, yet THE MANNERS OF MEN exceed in dignity that with which NATURE has endowed them; and he who SURPASSES others has here SURPASSED himself and has even OUT-DONE nature, which by no one has ever been SURPASSED.


Jonathan Gibson, _Sidney's Arcadias and Elizabethan Courtiership_,

Oxford University Press

"One aspect of the Alencon dispute that, rather surprisingly, has been neglected in discussions of Sidney is the relationship between his own work and the writings of his court rival Edward DeVere, seventeenth earl of Oxford. The _Arcadias_ can plausibly be read as using their opposition to a specifically 'Oxfordian' literary aesthetic to trigger a more general meditation on the problems of Elizabethan courtiership. As Steven W. May has shown, French-influenced 'new lyricism', closely associated with Oxford, was the dominant poetic form at the Elizabethan court at the time of the composition of the old _Arcadia_.

Early Elizabethan court poetry had been largely religious and didactic but during the 1570's Oxford pioneered a revival of courtly Petrarchan lyric in the tradition of Wyatt and Surrey. I have argued elsewhere that this was connected with Oxford's advocacy of the French match, forming a key element in what H.R. Woudhuysen has called the 'wholesale importation of FRENCH CULTURE AND MANNERS to England' which occurred in the wake of the marriage negotiations. The arrival of 'new lyricism' meant that the Petrarchan language of love became part of the lingua franca of English court life. The complicated overlap at the Elizabethan court between the language of early modern patronage negotiations and the language of Petrarchanism has been much discussed. The blurring of the two was greatly heightened - and arguably set in place, in its specifically Elizabethan manifestation - by Oxford's literary programme.


The subject of manners is really a subdivision of the general subject

of esthetics. Judgments about manners are made by applying the

principles of esthetic excellence to the field of human relationships

and personal conduct. Good manners are modes of behavior that are

fitting and appropriate to a particular situation; bad manners are

modes of behavior that are out of place in the same situation. *The

evaluation of fitness within a specific context is clearly an esthetic



Manners are a kind of language, a "language of the act," which often

conveys meanings more effectively than can words.


The principal characteristics of aristocracy are handed down by

history after an aristocracy is destroyed, but the light and exquisite

touches of manners are effaced from men's memories almost immediately

after its fall. (Tocqueville)


el monstruo de naturaleza

Speculum Tuscanismi (1580)

Since GALATEO came in, and Tuscanism gan usurp, (Galateo - Conduct manual)

Vanity above all: villainy next her, stateliness Empress

No man but minion, stout, lout, plain, swain, quoth a Lording:

No words but valorous, no works but womanish only.

For life Magnificoes, not a beck but glorious in show,

In deed most frivolous, not a look but Tuscanish always.

His cringing side neck, eyes glancing, fisnamy smirking,

With forefinger kiss, and brave embrace to the footward.

Large bellied Cod-pieced doublet, uncod-pieced half hose,

Straight to the dock like a shirt, and close to the britch like a diveling.

A little Apish flat couched fast to the pate like an oyster,

French camarick ruffs, deep with a whiteness starched to the purpose.

Every one A per se A, his terms and braveries in print,

Delicate in speech, quaint in array: conceited in all points,

In Courtly guiles a passing singular odd man,

For Gallants a brave Mirror, a Primrose of Honour,

A Diamond for nonce, a fellow peerless in England.


Author: Davies, John, 1565?-1618.

Title: Humours heau'n on earth with the ciuile warres of death and fortune. As also the triumph of death: or, the picture of the plague, according to the life; as it was in anno Domini. 1603. By Iohn Dauies of Hereford.


Some followed her by acting all mens parts,

Stage she rais'd (in scorne) to fall:

And made them Mirrors, by their acting Arts,

Wherin men saw their faults, thogh ne'r so small:

Yet some she guerdond not, to their desarts;

But, othersome, were but ill-Action all:

Who while they acted ill, ill staid behinde,

(By custome of their maners) in their minde.


If maners make mens fortunes good, or bad,

According to those maners, bad, or good,

Then men, ill-manner'd, still are ill bestad;

Because, by Fortune, they are still withstood:

Ah, were it so, I muse how those men had

Among them some that swamme in Foizons flood;

*Whose maners were but apish at the best*;

But Fortune made their fortunes but a Iest.


There were knights-arrant, that in Fortunes spite,

(Because they could not king it as they would)

Did play the Kings, at least prowd kings in sight,

And oft were prowder then a Caesar should:

Yet Nature made them men by Fortunes might,

And Fortune made them Natures Zanees bold:

So those, in nature, Fortune flowted so,

That though she made them Kings, she kept them low.


SONNET 111 - Shakespeare

O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide,

The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,

That did not better for my life provide

Than public means which public MANNERS breeds.

Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,

And almost thence my nature is subdued

To what it works in, like the dyer's hand:

Pity me then and wish I were renew'd;

Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink

Potions of eisel 'gainst my strong infection

No bitterness that I will bitter think,

Nor double penance, to correct correction.

Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure ye

Even that your pity is enough to cure me.


In Rank, Manners and Display: The Gentlemanly House, 1500-1750, Nicholas Cooper

Shaftesbury, pupil of Locke and philosopher of the Revolution of 1688, made express connections between patriotism, the aristocratic principle, reason, morality and aesthetics. Properly ordered, houses and their surroundings were models of a higher mind set, connecting appropriate architectural display to both morality and manners. Though worked out by Shaftesbury, such an equation of aesthetics, morals and politeness was of course long established. The language of earlier writers is loaded with terms of moral opprobrium. Evelyn had written that ‘it is from the asymmetrie of our buildings, want of decorum and proportion in our Houses, that the irregularity of our humours and affections may be shrewdly discern’d.'