Sunday, October 30, 2011

Laureate Jonson Raised a Monument to Oxford's Folly

Jonson, Timber

Good men are the stars, the planets of the ages wherein they live and illustrate the times. God did never let them be wanting to the world, as Abel...Enoch...Noah...Abraham...and so of the rest. These, sensual men thought mad, because they would not be partakers or practicers of their madness. But they, placed high on the top of all virtue, looked down on the stage of the world and contemned the play of fortune. For though the most be players, some must be spectators. (VIII, 597)


Contemning the play of fortune:

Horace, 3.30

I have created a monument more lasting than bronze/brass
and loftier than the royal structure of the pyramids,
that which neither devouring rain, nor the unrestrained North Wind
may be able to destroy nor the immeasurable
succession of years and the flight of time.
I shall not wholly die and a greater part of me
will evade Libitina [Goddess of Death]; continually I,
newly arisen, may be strengthened with ensuing praise so long
as the high priest climbs the Capitoline with the silent maiden.


My Shakespeare, rise!


stultitia - Etymology From stultus (“stupid, foolish”).

Noun stultitia (genitive stultitiae); f, first declension

1.Folly, stupidity, foolishness, simplicity, silliness, fatuity.


Ignorant Praise/Gilding the Monument:

To draw no envy, Shakespeare, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book and fame;
While I confess thy writings to be such
As neither man nor muse can praise too much;
'Tis true, and all men's suffrage. But these ways
Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise;
For seeliest ignorance on these may light,
Which, when it sounds at best, but echoes right;
Or blind affection, which doth ne'er advance
The truth, but gropes, and urgeth all by chance;
Or crafty malice might pretend this praise,
And think to ruin, where it seem'd to raise.
These are, as some infamous bawd or whore
Should praise a matron; what could hurt her more?
But thou art proof against them, and indeed,
Above th' ill fortune of them, or the need.
I therefore will begin. Soul of the age!
The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage!
My Shakespeare, rise!

1.MODUS - measure, bound, limit, manner, method, mode, way


Thou art a monument without a tomb,
And art alive still while thy book doth live
And we have wits to read and praise to give.


That is the state word, the phrase of court (placentia college), which

some call Parasites place, the Inn of IGNORANCE. (Jonson, Timber)


De Shakspeare NOSTRAT. - Augustus in Hat. - I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakspeare, that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, “Would he had blotted a thousand,” which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this but for their IGNORANCE who chose that circumstance to commend their friend by wherein he most FAULTED;


Boundedness is the condition of all proportion and fitness; nothing can be good without its proper limits. It is a principle that goes beyond poetics, informing for example these comedies' preoccupation with the idea of humor. Asper, the authorial mouthpiece of Every Man Out, defines humor as "whatsoe'er hath flexure and humidity, / As wanting power to contain itself," and explains that the medical humors (choler, melancholy, and so on) are so called "By reason that they flow continually / In some one part, and are not continent" ("Grex," ll. 96-101). The follies we are about to see, then, are types of incontinence, ugly and absurd because of their lack of any limiting principle. A comedy that wandered whimsically from country to country would be complicit with the humors it displayed. Rather, it should emulate the wise men who RULE their lives by KNOWLEDGE, "and can becalm / All sea of humour with the marble trident / Of their strong spirits" (The Poetaster, 4.6.74-76). -- Peter Womack


Jonson, Catiline, Act V

...And now had fierce Enyo, like a Flame,
Consum'd all it could reach, and then it self;
Had not the Fortune of the Commonwealth
Come, Pallas-like, to every Roman thought.
Which Catiline seeing, and that now his Troops
Cover'd that Earth they had fought on, with their Trunks,
Ambitious of great Fame, to crown his Ill,
Collected all his Fury, and ran in
(Arm'd with a Glory high as his Despair)
Into our Battel, like a Lybian Lion
Upon his Hunters, scornful of our Weapons,
Careless of Wounds, plucking down Lives about him,
Till he had circled in himself with Death:
Then fell he too, t' embrace it where it lay.
And as in that Rebellion 'gainst the Gods,
Minerva holding forth Medusa's Head,
One of the Gyant-Brethren felt himself
Grow Marble at the killing Sight, and now
Almost made Stone, began t' inquire, what Flint,
What Rock it was, that crept through all his Limbs,
And, ere he could think more, was that he fear'd;
So Catiline, at the sight of Rome in us,
Became his Tomb:


Jonson, Discoveries

In every action it behoves the poet to know which is his utmost bound, how far with fitness, and a necessary proportion, he may produce, and determine it…*For, as a body without proportion cannot be goodly, no more can the action, either the comedy, or tragedy, without his fit bounds*.


Jonson, Timber

Good men are the stars, the planets of the ages wherein they live and illustrate the times. God did never let them be wanting to the world, as Abel...Enoch...Noah...Abraham...and so of the rest. These, sensual men thought mad, because they would not be partakers or practicers of their madness. But they, placed high on the top of all virtue, looked down on the stage of the world and contemned the play of fortune. For though the most be players, some must be spectators. (VIII, 597)


But stay, I see thee in the hemisphere

Advanced, and made a CONSTELLATION there! (Jonson, First Folio poem)



a cluster of stars, or stars which appear to be near each other
in the heavens, and which astronomers have reduced to certain
figures (as the "Great Bear," the "Bull," etc.) for the sake of
classification and of memory. In Isa. 13:10, where this word
only occurs, it is the rendering of the Hebrew _kesil_, i.e.,
"FOOL." This was the Hebrew name of the constellation Orion (Job
9:9; 38:31), a constellation which represented Nimrod, the
symbol of folly and impiety. The word some interpret by "the
giant" in this place, "some heaven-daring rebel who was chained
to the sky for his impiety."


Proverbs 26

1 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,

honor is not fitting for a fool.


Cynthia's Revels, Jonson

Beware then thou render men's Figures truly --


Cynthia's Revel Act V. Scene XI.

Cynthia, Arete, Crites, Masquers.

Arete. Nay, forward, for I delegate my Power
And will that at thy Mercy they do stand,
Whom they so oft, so plainly scorn'd before.
"'Tis Vertue which they want, and wanting it,


…the lips of a fool consume him. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is wicked madness. A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him? (Ecclesiastes 10:12-14; RSV).


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hamlet, Laureate Disdain and Oxfordian Courtesy

There is a flavour to some of the writings of the laureate-type poets (read anti-Shakespearean)  that smacks strongly of what I'll call 'laureate disdain'.

It is a neo-Stoic combination of contempt for 'Ignorance' and vulgar opinion and a general despair at the corrupted state of the world. The laureate sets himself apart; his learning, self-discipline and virtuous labours are unrecognized by his ignorant age with the exception of the discerning judgements of a few choice men. Value is placed on a nobility of the mind that transcends the nobility of the blood. He looks to time, to better men and to a better age for vindication of his worth.

In its starkest form, the laureate declares that even if his work were to be rejected by every sentient being of his age, he would stand on its integrity and transcendent moral  value.

Ben Jonson, Chapman, Milton - all expressed these sentiments. Chapman gives a good overview of his 'resolute' Senecan contempt for the ignorant fashions of his time in an dedication to Matthew Roydon:


IT is an exceeding rapture of delight in the deepe search of knowledge, (none knoweth better then thy selfe sweet Mathew) that maketh men manfully indure th'extremes incident to that Herculean labour: fro flints must the Gorgonean fount be smitten. Men must be shod by Mercurie, girt with Saturnes Adamantine sword, take the shield from Pallas, the helme from Pluto, and haue the eyes of Grea (as Hesiodus armes Perseus against Medusa) before they can cut of the viperous head of benumming ignorance, or subdue their monstrous affections to most beautifull iudgement.

How then may a man stay his maruailing to see passion-driuen men, reading but to curtoll a tedious houre, and altogether hidebownd with affection to great mens fancies, take vpon them as killing censures as if they were iudgements Butchers, or as if the life of truth lay tottering in their verdits.

Now what a supererogation in wit this is, to thinke skil so mightilie pierst with their loues, that she should prostitutely shew them her secrets, when she will scarcely be lookt vpon by others but with inuocation, fasting, watching; yea not without hauing drops of their soules like an heauenly familiar. Why then should our Intonsi Catones [Unshorn Catos] with their profit-rauisht grauitie esteeme her true fauours such questionlesse vanities, as with what part soeuer thereof they seeme to be something delighted, they queimishlie commende it for a pretie toy. Good Lord how serious and eternall are their Idolatrous platts for riches! no maruaile sure they here do so much good with them. And heauen no doubt will grouill on the earth (as they do) to imbrace them. But I stay this spleene when I remember my good Mat. how ioyfully oftentimes you reported vnto me, that most ingenious Darbie, deepe searching Northumberland, and skill imbracing heire of Hunsdon had most profitably entertained learning in themselues, to the vitall warmth of freezing science, & to the admirable luster of their true Nobilitie, whose high deseruing vertues may cause me hereafter strike that fire out of darknesse, which the brightest Day shall enuie for beautie. I should write more, but my hasting out of towne taketh me from the paper, so preferring thy allowance in this poore and strange trifle, to the pasport of a whole Cittie of others. I rest as resolute as Seneca, satisfying my selfe if but a few, if one, or if none like it.

By the true admirour of thy vertues and perfectly vowed friend. G. CHAPMAN.


As can be seen above, Matthew Roydon functions as Chapman's 'Horatio' - the temperate 'friend' to whom Chapman can 'confide' his heroic resolution and contempt for common understandings. Ironically, this pose of private, discreet conversation takes place in a very public place (dedication to published work), and is therefore a performance rather than an authentic action. (Must be difficult for neo-Stoics to find occasions to demonstrate the vast subdermal edifice of their Stoicism. If a Stoic were to fall in a forest, would there be any sound?)


Ben Jonson also declared that he would never be the slave of misguided public opinion. His authorial commentaries drip with contempt for the ignorants that would dare to judge his choice and judicious productions; like Chapman, he was confident that his discretion could pierce even the most elegant and sophisticated exteriors to determine the ignorance beneath.

Court, for Jonson, was the Inn of Ignorance - Parasites Place (Discoveries). He has nothing kind to say about his age, and looks forward to a time when better men will appreciate his carefully wrought works. He separates himself from the ignorant age of which the jig-maker Shakespeare was later to be characterized as the 'Soul'.

Writing to William Herbert, (one of the choice souls he has distinguished):

Catiline, 1611

My Lord,
In so thick and dark an Ignorance, as now almost covers the Age, I crave leave to stand near Your Light, and by that to be read. Posterity may pay Your Benefit the Honor and Thanks, when it shall know, that You dare, in these jig-given Times, to countenance a Legitimate poem...

Jonson, like Chapman, declares that he prefers the judgement of one choice soul before the opinions of a whole theater of ignorant others:

From Poetaster

T O T H E R E A D E R.

...But, that these base and beggerly conceits
Should carry it, by the multitude of Voices,
Against the most abstracted work, oppos'd
To the stuff'd Nostrils of the drunken rout!
O, this would make a learn'd and liberal Soul,
To rive his stained Quill, up to the Back,
And damn his long-watch'd Labours to the Fire;
Things, that were born, when none but the still Night,
And his dumb Candle, saw his pinching throes:
Were not his own free merit a more Crown
Unto his Travels, than their reeling Claps?
This 'tis, that strikes me silent, seals my Lips,
And apts me rather to sleep out my time,
Than I would waste it in contemned strifes,
With these vile Ibides, these unclean Birds,
That make their Mouths their Clysters, and still purge
From their hot entrails. But, I leave the Monsters
To their own fate. And, since the Comick Muse
Hath prov'd so ominous to me, I will try
If Tragœdie have a more kind aspect;
Her favours in my next I will pursue,
Where, if I prove the pleasure but of one,
So he *judicious* be; *He shall b' alone
A Theater unto me*:

Epigraph, Catiline - Jonson

*----------His non plebecula gaudet:

Verum equitis quoque jam migravit ab aure voluptas
Omnis, ad incertos oculos, & gaudia vana. Horat.

For such things please the common herd. But today all the pleasure
even of the knights has moved from what is heard to the empty delights
of the uncertain eye.'

Mount Bank
Sweet Swan of Avon ! what a *sight* it were

To see thee in our waters yet appear,
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames,
That so did take Eliza, and our James !



If thou beest more, thou art an understander, and then I trust thee. If thou art one that takest up, and but a pretender, beware of what hands thou receivest thy commodity; for thou wert never more fair in the way to be COZENED, than in this age, in poetry, especially in plays: wherein, now the concupiscence of dances and of antics so reigneth, as to run away from nature, and be afraid of her, is the only point of art that tickles the spectators. But how out of purpose, and place, do I name art? When the professors are grown so obstinate contemners of it, and presumers on their own naturals, as they are deriders of all diligence that way, and, by simple mocking at the terms, when they understand not the things, think to get off wittily with their ignorance. Nay, they are esteemed the more learned, and sufficient for this, by the many, through their excellent vice of judgment. For they commend writers, as they do fencers or wrestlers; who if they come in robustuously, and put for it with a great deal of violence, are received for the braver fellows: when many times their own rudeness is the cause of their disgrace, and a little touch of their adversary gives all that boisterous force the foil. I deny not, but that these men, who always seek to do more than enough, may some time happen on some thing that is good, and great; but very seldom; and when it comes it doth not recompense the rest of their ill. It sticks out, perhaps, and is more eminent, because all is sordid and vile about it: as lights are more discerned in a thick darkness, than a faint shadow. I speak not this, out of a hope to do good to any man against his will; for I know, if it were put to the question of theirs and mine, the worse would find more suffrages: because the most favour common errors. But I give thee this warning, that there is a great difference between those, that, to gain the opinion of copy, utter all they can, however unfitly; and those that use election and a mean. For it is only the disease of the unskilful, to think rude things greater than polished; or scattered more numerous than composed.


Jonson, epigraph, Alchemist and Folio - adapted from Horace:

"Neque, me ut MIRETUR turba, laboro: / Contentus paucis lectoribus"

" I do not expend my efforts so that the multitude may wonder at me:
I am contented with a few readers"


Soul of the age!

The applause ! delight ! the WONDER of our stage!

Shakespeare/Oxford - Mastered (initiated?) the wonderful/admirable style (see James Biester) both as courtier and poet.
Jonson's First Folio Encomium - uncharacteristically in the admirable style - uses suspicio, the figure of figures - Oxford buried under metaphor/trash. No mention of virtue.


Milton 'transcend[s] the difficulties inherent in his temporal location', his 'grandly imposing solitariness' itself figuring amongst 'the most persistent and most powerful signs of [his] laureate transcendance'. (Andrew Bennett)

Hamlet, too, expresses the laureate's contempt for...pretty much everything. Commoners, kings, school-chums, mother, courtiers, Denmark, the world, and, finally, himself. Unlike jiggy, bombastic Shakespeare, who sought to 'please all', Hamlet, too, relies upon the refined judgement of his friend and is dismissive of the opinions and perceptions of the vulgar run of men:


Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone or come tardy off, though it make the unskillful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve, the censure of the which one must in your allowance o'erweigh a whole theatre of others.
Oh, there be players that I have seen play and heard others praise (and that highly), not to speak it profanely, that, neither having th' accent of Christians nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of nature’s journeymen had made men and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.

Jonson, Epilogue, Magnetick Lady:

CHORuS changed into an E P I L O G u E
to the K I N G.

Ell, Gentlemen, I now must under Seal,
      And th'
Author's charge, waive you, and make my
To the Supremest Power, my
Lord, the King;
   Who best can judge of what we humbly bring.
He knows our weakness, and the
Poets faults;
   Where he doth stand upright, go firm, or halts;
And he will doom him. To which Voice he stands,
   And prefers that, 'fore all the Peoples Hands.

Ignorance speaks:
Erasmus, _Praise of Folly_


That arch-Stoic denies to the wise man all emotions, but by so doing he leaves us no human being any more, but rather creates a new god who never existed anywhere, and never shall exist. Or let me rather put it like this, in plainer words: he makes of a human being a marble stature, dumb and totally impervious to all human feeling. So if they want to , they may enjoy their wise man, and lavish on him all thier love, and live with him in Plato's republic, or if they prefer, in the Realm of Ideas, or in Tantalus' garden. For who would not run away from such a man as from a ghost or a monster, who is deaf to all natural emotions, who knows no passion, and does not allow himself to be stirred by love or pity any more 'than the hard flint or the cold Parian marble'? - whom nothing escapes, who never errs, who penetrates everything with the eyes of a Lynceus; who is alone sufficient unto himself, alone rich, alone healthy, alone King, alone free - in short, who alone is all things, at least according to what he thinks. Yet such a creature is their perfect sage. If this had to be put to the vote, what citizens would choose such a man as their leader, what soldiers would elect him to be their general? To put it even more clearly: what woman would desire or even tolerate such a husband, what host such a guest, what slave such a master?


What subject such a prince?


Many of the earliest mentions of the play Hamlet indicate that it was Hamlet's madness that made an impression upon audiences - mad Hamlet running with his clothing disordered and down-gyved, the stoic Horace/Horatio at his side. I often think of Hamlet as a Northern European Revenge Comedy -Shakespeare's arsy-versy response to the unflattering representations/demonizations of his beloved Southern Europeans.

In 1604 appeared Antony Scolloker's "Diaphantus; or, the
Passions of Love." In his preface, telling us what an epistle
to the reader should be, Scolloker writes: "It should be like
the Never-too-well read Arcadia, where the Prose and verce
(Matters and Words) are like his Mistresses eyes, one still
excelling another and without Co-rivall: or to *come home to
the vulgars Element, like Friendly Shakespeare's Tragedies*,
where the Commedian rides, when the Tragedian stands on
tip-toe: Faith IT SHOULD PLEASE ALL, like Prince Hamlet.


Hamlet's contempt for others, and his contempt for courtesy itself leads to the destruction of the court of Denmark. He has the soul of a critic.

I believe that Oxford was a master and maker of manners who, like Ulysses, travelled widely to learn the manners of men, and brought the fruits of his travels home.:

Chapman's Homer:

The Man, O Muse, informe that many a way
Wound with his wisedome to his wished stay;
That wanderd wondrous farre when He the
Of sacred Troy had sackt and shiverd downe.
The cities of a world of nations,
With all their manners, mindes and fashions,
He saw and knew; at Sea felt many woes,
Much care sustaind, to save from
Himselfe and friends in their retreate for

“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 has learned the manners of many men, and the arts of foreign countries. -- Gabriel Harvey, Latin Address to the Earl of Oxford


Oxford's early association with the most important courtesy literature of the day (e.g. Galateo, Castiglione's Courtier) indicate his interest in self-transformation and social harmony. In _Speculum Tuscanismi_, Gabriel Harvey, who had earlier noted that Oxford had travelled widely and 'learned the manners of many men', goes on to elaborate upon the results of Oxford's study by depicting him as a smirking, mincing fool who appears to be composed of the disparate parts and gestures of southern European and Catholic cultures (esp. Italy and France).

So, presuming that Oxford was not a mincing fool, what kind of impression would he have made?

Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, writes of the phenomenon of aristocratic manners:

Manners are generally the product of the very basis of character, but they are also sometimes the result of an arbitrary convention between certain men. Thus they are at once natural and acquired. When some men perceive that they are the foremost persons in society, without contest and without effort, when they are constantly engaged on large objects, leaving the more minute details to others, and when they live in the enjoyment of wealth which they did not amass and do not fear to lose, it may be supposed that they feel a kind of haughty disdain of the petty interests and practical cares of life and that their thoughts assume a natural greatness which their language and their manners denote. In democratic countries manners are generally devoid of dignity because private life is there extremely petty in its character; and they are frequently low because the mind has few opportunities of rising above the engrossing cares of domestic interests.

True dignity in manners consists in always taking one's proper station, neither too high nor too low, and this is as much within the reach of a peasant as of a prince.

In trying to imagine what the Earl of Oxford may have been like (since I've dismissed uncourteous Hamlet as a model), my readings on manners suggest that I may be trying to recover something that no longer exists; something that may be entirely beyond my ability to imagine. Alexis de Tocqueville's American commentary warns me that I will not be capable of understand the phenomenon of aristocratic manners, simply because they do not exist in democracies, and because I have not been trained to appreciate their subtleties. I think of architectural marvels I have seen , and then try to imagine the human/behavioural equivalent. Not entirely effective.

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.

The Architecture of Manners: The evening and the environment lack an overall narrative that leads, ultimately, to the attainment of a superior, interior space of production...Only a "great court-function" would have sufficed to "crown the hour"

Shakespeare - aristocratic, interior space of production. Aristocracy as 'makers' rather than 'consumers' of high culture. Not strait-jacketed by ordinary conceptions (neo-classical?)of virtue and propriety.

I am that I am - Oxford

Much Ado, Shakespeare

BENEDICK: I'll tell thee what, prince; a college of

wit-crackers cannot flout me out of my humour. Dost
thou think I care for a satire or an epigram? No:
if a man will be beaten with brains, a' shall wear
nothing handsome about him...


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


Chapman, writing of the Earl of Oxford:

...Nor did it fit

His owne true estimate how much it waigh'd;
FOR HEE DESPIS'D IT, and esteem'd it freer
To keepe his owne way straight, and swore that hee
Had rather make away his whole estate110
In things that crost the vulgar then he would
Be frozen up stiffe (like a Sir John Smith,
His countrey-man) in common Nobles fashions;
Affecting, as't the end of noblesse were,
Those servile observations.

The Master of Manners. Light and exquisite touches. Choice and distinguished manners. Who has charmed the souls of all manner of men? Who had been made welcome by almost every culture, as if he were a native? Who is welcome in gatherings; who is the welcome companion of millions of solitudes? Who is loved by kings and commoners, and appears in the most elegant courts and the rawest log-huts?

Edward de Vere:

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


What is it about Shakespeare that the whole world has fallen in love with his mind and manner? I suspect that Shakespeare stoops to our level - he accommodates himself to our minds with such ease and grace that we do not even know we are being condescended to. We experience the agreeable effects of compleasance and accommodation without recognizing them for what they are - the product of the generous mind of a man who was at the social apex of his culture; who chose to study the ways of men. We mistake generousity for a natural affinity, not understanding that our thoughts are being clothed in noble robes and that our elevation is artificial. We are content to believe that his genius is some kind of natural excrescence, part of a shared inheritance, when, in fact, Shakespeare's book must be one of the most complex and refined social displays in the history of mankind.

Shakespeare's works emanate from a 'superior, interior place of production', one that I can only guess at.


The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.

Washington Irving

On returning to my inn I could not but reflect on the singular gift of the poet, to be able thus to spread the magic of his mind over the very face of Nature, to give to things and places a charm and character not their own, and to turn this "working-day world" into a perfect fairy-land. He is indeed the true enchanter, whose spell operates, not upon the senses, but upon the imagination and the heart. Under the wizard influence of Shakespeare I had been walking all day in a complete delusion. I had surveyed the landscape through the prism of poetry, which tinged every object with the hues of the rainbow. I had been surrounded with fancied beings, with mere airy nothings conjured up by poetic power, yet which, to me, had all the charm of reality. I had heard Jaques soliloquize beneath his oak; had beheld the fair Rosalind and her companion adventuring through the woodlands; and, above all, had been once more present in spirit with fat Jack Falstaff and his contemporaries, from the august Justice Shallow down to the gentle Master Slender and the sweet Anne Page. Ten thousand honors and blessings on the bard who has thus gilded the dull realities of life with innocent illusions, who has spread exquisite and unbought pleasures in my chequered path, and beguiled my spirit in many a lonely hour with all the cordial and cheerful sympathies of social life!


Lines of Authority

Steven N. Zwicker

…Milton attempts to control the affective power of the Eikon Basilike by embarrassing or, perhaps more accurately, humiliating and denouncing its audience; but the issue of reception allows him to intertwine intellectual and social abuse. The notion of a vulgar audience enables Milton to move seamlessly between the two. At first, vulgarity seems to have only a literal meaning, for Milton refers to the Latin motto that appears at the close of Eikon Basilike in the same breath with which he dismisses the king’s “conceited portraiture,” materials to “catch fools and silly gazers” (E,342). The audience is vulgar in a linguistic sense, incompetent to decode visual conceits or the Latin motto, language over which Milton intends to exercise his full intellectual rights.

Linguistic vulgarity has a clear intellectual charge, but Milton broadens the term into a social argument that echoes and inverts, perhaps as well mocks, the conventional royalist charges against the Elect. Those who adore the king’s book are “exorbitant and excessive in all their motions” (E, 343); they are “the mad multitude” (E.345) who exhibit the “boisterous folly and superstition that possesses and hurries on the vulgar sort” (E, 348), that ‘miserable, credulous, deluded…creature…which is call’s the Vulgar” (E, 426). They are “imbastardiz’d from the ancient nobleness of their Ancestors,” and now with a “besotted and degenerate baseness of spirit,…are ready to fall flat and give adoration to the Image and Memory of this Man” (E, 344). Nor are the vulgar to be found only among the king’s most naïve admirers, who “DOTE UPON HIS DEFORMITIE…(and)live and dye in such a STROOK’N BLINDNESS, as next to that of Sodom hath not happ’nd to any sort of men more gross” (E, 341-42). The clergy belong to the same vicious class, “corrupted and beleper’d…with a worse infection then Gehezi’s…For never such holy things as he means, were giv’n to more Swine, not the Churches Bread more to Dogs, then when it fed ambitious, irreligious and dumb Prelats” (E, 497). The king’s followers are scared up from the “cold and dark provinces of ignorance and lewdness” (E, 529), formed from the “ragged Infantrie of Stewes and Brothels; the spawn and shipwreck of Taverns and Dicing Houses” (E, 380-81). The court itself is composed of the “most corrupted sort of men; and Court Ladies, not the best of Women; who when they grow to that insolence as to appeare active in State affaires, are the certain sign of a dissolute, degenerate, and pusillanimous Common-wealth” (E, 370). The whole is a “dissolute rabble…both hees and shees, it there were any Males among them” (E, 455), made up of thousands of “blaspheming Cavaliers…whose mouthes let fly Oaths and Curses by the volley…and (whose) Carouses (are) drunk to the confusion of all things good or holy” (E, 452). Milton complicates the notion of the vulgar here by compounding ignorance and folly with sexual license, indecency, and effeminacy. The whole argument is fulfilled at the close of Eikonoklastes, where Milton unfolds a tirade against the “inconstant, irrational, and Image-doting rabble.” And now vulgarity – intellectual, moral and social- is compounded with political baseness as Milton denounces the “credulous and hapless herd, begott’n to servility, and inchanted with these popular intstitutes of Tyranny, subscrib’d with a new civic of the Kings Picture at this praiers, who hold out both their eares with such delight and ravishment to be stigmatiz’s and board through in witness of their own voluntary and beloved baseness” (E, 601)