Monday, January 1, 2024

The Lineaments of the Droeshout Engraving

 Imitating Authors, Colin Burrow

The word forma [...] has a complex history. It appears in its earliest usages to have meant something like ‘mould’; hence it shares its genealogy in part with the Greek word tupos, as a term for a shape which can give rise to multiple instances of the same shape, and which gives rise in due course to our use of the term ‘type-faces’ to describe the mechanical reproduction of texts. But in Melanchthon’s usage it takes on some of the senses which we would now include within the word ‘form’ when it is used of a text. Given Melanchthon’s  preoccupation with the structuring of discourse, it is likely that he principally means by forma Cicero’s habitual methods of collocation, Cicero’s way of putting things together, or the structuring principles which underlie Cicero’s writing. (p.214).


The association between the ‘form’ of a writer’s speech and his rhetorical ‘character’ is given a further tweak in Melanchthon’s later work. His final major statement about imitation came in a commentary on Quintilian. This was not published until 1570, a decade after his death. In the Commonefactio de imitatione appended to that commentary Melanchthon states that the imitator should hold an ‘Idea’ of Cicero in their mind (“Then the Idea of a certain pure and ancient orator will surround our soul, from which we should not depart far, even if we cannot straight away *express the lineaments* of one particular example’; [snip latin text]. This again recalls the Platonism of Cicero’s Orator (2.7-10), AND BY USING THE VERB ‘EXPRIMERE’, EXPRESS, PRINT OUT, Melanchthon suggests that the aim of imitation is to actualize the impress of a Platonic forma. By using that work ‘lineamenta’ – outlines, characterizing lines of a face – he may display his continuing debt to Pico’s letter to Bembo.

     Melanchthon elsewhere claims that an ‘idea’ derives from an act of intellection in which elements are taken from a range of instances, rather than being an abstraction which subsists in a supra-sensible world outside the mind. [...] The ‘idea’ of an orator is consequently in effect an abstract pattern of a rhetorician’s practice which is derived from observation of that practice. It is a mental conception of an orator as a particular way of ordering material, which can in turn be ‘expressed’ by another orator; and when positioned within Melanchthon’s earlier writing on imitatio it suggest that he came close to identifying forma with collocatio, or an author’s habitual practices of disposition and structure. (p. 216-217)


Jonson, Every Man In:


wrong not the quality of your desert, with looking

downward, Couz; but hold up your Head, so: and

let the IDEA of what you are, be portray'd i' your Face, 

that Men may read i' your Physnomy, (Here, within

this place is to be seen the true, rare, and accomplish'd Mon-

ster, or miracle of Nature, which is all one.) What

think you of this, Couz?


Imitating Authors, Colin Burrow

The passage at the very start of Book 10 of the Institutes in which Quintilian talks about the hexis, the habitual practices, of an earlier orator (a passage which had been missing from Petrarch’s manuscript of Quintilian)consequently was vital to post-Erasmian thinking about imitation in Northern Europe. In seeking to replicate the practice of an earlier author an imitator might also refine and express the *idea* of him which had been extrapolated from his practice, of which the dominant characteristic is his *forma*, the structure of his style at all levels, from the arrangement of the speech right down to the individual *kola* that make up his writing and his sequencing of rhetorical figures. Cicero has a particular way of putting things together, a kind of collocatio and, at a higher level, a particular kind of *cohaerentia* which gives rise to a particular kind of form – a ‘form’ which can be both abstracted from the works and imitated by a student who laboured to acquire a hexis analogous to that of Cicero. (p.217)


A Speech according to Horace. --Jonson


And could (if our great Men would let their Sons

Come to their Schools,) show 'em the use of Guns.

And there instruct the noble English Heirs

In Politick, and Militar Affairs;

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, Cynthia’s Revels

Mercury: He that is with him is Amorphus

a Traveller, one so made out of the mixture and shreds

of forms, that himself is truly deform'd. 


Jonson, Discoveries

In every action it behoves the poet to know which is the 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 its fit bounds. 


Jonson, Discoveries

DE SHAKESPEARE NOSTRAT[I].—I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, 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*; and to justify mine own candor, for I loved the man, and do honor his memory on this side idolatry as much as any. He was indeed honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed with that facility that sometime it was necessary he should be stopped. “Sufflaminandus erat,” as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his own power: would the *RULE* of it had been so too.  


De corruptela morum -- There cannot be one colour of the MIND; another of the wit. If the mind be staid, grave, and composed, the wit is so; that vitiated, the other is blown, and deflowered. Do we not see, if the mind languish, the members are dull? Look upon an effeminate person: his very gait confesseth him. If a man be fiery, his motion is so; if angry, 'tis troubled, and violent. So that we may conclude wheresoever manners, and fashions are corrupted, language is. It imitates the public riot. The EXCESS of feasts, and apparel, are the notes of a sick state; and the wantonness of language, of a sick MIND.

(Discoveries 1171) Jonson 


Outlaw Rhetoric: Figuring Vernacular Eloquence in Shakespeare's England - Jenny C. Mann

...Although early English rhetorics use the ideal of a "common" English eloquence to dedicate their own productions in service of national unity, these critiques mobilize social division in order to disparage rhetoric as the province of the uneducated and effeminate.

Yet despite their confident repudiation of rhetorical ornament, these statements against figurative language nevertheless evince a worried tone. That is because the devices of rhetoric can so easily captivate the attention of those whom Eachard describes as "the common sort of people"; such "Metaphor-mongers" are easily mesmerized by speeches "bespangled" with "Glitterings". For advocates of the new experimental philosophy, this alluring rhetorical ornament threatens to turn all philosophy into mere romance. Parker outlines such an argument in a attack on the Cambridge Platonists, speaking in his other guise as a natural philosopher:

My next Accusation is, that instead of pure and genuine Reason, they abound so much with gaudy and extravagant Phancies. I that am too simple or too serious to be cajol'd with the frenzies of a bold and ungovern'd Imagination cannot be perswaded to think the Quaintest plays and sportings of wit to be any true and real knowledge. I can easily allow their Discourses the Title of Philosophical Romances, (a sort of more ingenious impertinencies) and 'tis with this estimate I would have them read: But when they pretend to be Nature's Secretaries...and yet put us off with nothing but rampant Metaphors, and Pompous Allegories, and other splended but empty Schemes of speech, I must crave leave to account them (to say not worse ) Poets and Romancers. True Philosophie is too sober to descend to these wildnesses of Imagination, and too Rational to be cheated by them. She scorns, when she is in chase of Truth, to quarry upon trifling gaudy Phantasms: Her Game is *things not words*.


Jonson, Cynthia's Revels

P R O L O G U E.

IF gracious silence, sweet attention,

Quick sight, and quicker apprehension,

(The lights of Judgments throne) shine any where;

Our doubtful Author hopes this is their Sphere.

And therefore opens he himself to those;

To other weaker Beams his labours close:

As loth to prostitute their Virgin strain,

To ev'ry vulgar and adult'rate Brain,

In this alone, his Muse her sweetness hath,

She shuns the print of any beaten PATH;

And proves new ways to come to learned Ears:

Pied ignorance she neither loves nor, fears.

Nor hunts she after popular Applause,

Or fomy praise, that drops from common Jaws:

The Garland that she wears, their bands must twine,

Who can both censure, understand, define

What merit is: Then cast those piercing Rays,

Round as a Crown, instead of honour'd Bays,

About his Poesie; which (he knows) affords

Words, above action: MATTER, ABOVE WORDS. 


Jonson, Discoveries

Language most shows a man: Speak, that I may see thee. It springs out of the most retired and inmost parts of us, and is the image of the parent of it, the mind. *No glass renders a man’s form or likeness so true as his speech*. Nay, it is likened to a man; and as we consider *feature and composition* in a man, so words in language; in the greatness, aptness, sound structure, and harmony of it. ”


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.


Disarticulating Fantasies: Figures of Speech, Vices, and the Blazon in Renaissance English Rhetoric

Grant Williams

 ...In his section on ornament, Puttenham suggests the process by which figures permit the subject to gain an illusory ascendancy over the self: they equip the writer or speaker with the means to burnish and fashion his language into a “style” (119), which amounts to nothing less than “the image of man [mentus character] for man is but his mind” (124). This argument about style being the image of the speaker/writer is a popular topos in Renaissance writing and finds its most lucid expression in Jonson’s Timber, or Discoveries, a text, like Puttenham’s, which conjoins rhetoric with poetry. Quoting in the margin Vives’s terse expression “Oratio imago animi,” that is, “speech is the image of the soul,” Jonson asserts,

No glasse renders a mans forme or likeness, so true as his speech. Nay, it is likened to a man: and as we consider feature, and composition in a man; so words in Language: in the greatness, aptnesse, sound, structure, and HARMONY of it. (78)

The implications of this Renaissance topos are obvious: since style is the self, the instruments for shaping, controlling and beautifying that style – the figures – empower the individual to fashion his own identity.


Jonson – on the Droeshout Engraving FF

To the Reader.

This Figure, that thou here seest put,

It was for gentle Shakespeare cut,

Wherein the Graver had a strife

with Nature, to out-doo the life :

O, could he but have drawne his wit

As well in brasse, as he hath hit

His face ; the Print would then surpasse

All, that was ever writ in brasse.

But, since he cannot, Reader, looke

Not on his Picture, but his Booke.


Intro Cynthia’s Revels, Ben Jonson

"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. (Ben Jonson, _Cynthia's Revels_) 


Out of joint Figure:

Notes to Horace, Art of Poetry:

The word PRODIGIALITER apparently refers to that fictitious monster, under which the poet allusively shadows out the idea of absurd and inconsistent composition. The application, however, differs in this, that, whereas the monster, there painted, was intended to expose the extravagance of putting together incongruous parts, without any reference to a whole, this prodigy is designed to characterize a whole, but deformed by the ill-judged position of its parts. The former is like a monster, whose several members as of right belonging to different animals, could by no disposition be made to constitute one consistent animal. The other, like a landscape which hath no objects absolutely irrelative, or irreducible to a whole, but which a wrong position of the parts only renders prodigious. Send the boar to the woods, and the dolphin to the waves; and the painter might show them both on the same canvas.

Each is a violation of the law of unity, and a real monster: the one, because it contains an assemblage of natural incoherent parts; the other, because its parts, though in themselves coherent, are misplaced and disjointed.


Greville, An Inquisition vpon Fame and Honour.

Who worship Fame, commit Idolatry,

Make Men their God, Fortune and Time their worth,

Forme, but reforme not, meer hypocrisie,

By shadowes, onely shadowes bringing forth,

Which must, as blossomes, fade ere true fruit springs,

(Like voice, and eccho) ioyn'd; yet diuers things.


The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation, Richard Halpern

Looking back somewhat sourly on the culture of the sixteenth century, Francis Bacon wrote that it was marked by

An affectionate study of eloquence and copie of speech, which then began to flourish. This grew speedily to an excess; for men began to hunt more after words than matter; and more after the choiceness of the Phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of the clauses, and the varying and illustration of their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgement…Then did Car of Cambridge, and Ascham, with their lectures and writings, almost deify Cicero and Demosthenes, and allure all young men that were studious unto that delicate and polished kind of learning…In sum, the whole inclination and bent of those times was rather towards copie than weight.

What concerns Bacon here is not an imbalance within literary style but the proliferation of stylistic elegance throughout all of serious discourse. Paradoxically, the very autonomy of style allows it to colonize and dominate all other discursive functions; and as if to illustrate this peril, Bacon’s own language falls temporarily under the spell of style, succumbing to a delight in the “round and clear composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of the clauses.” This sudden access of eloquence is not a return of the repressed, however, but a witty tribute to the lures of a humanist tradition from which Bacon only halfheartedly tried to extricate himself.

     In assailing what one critic has called the “stylistic explosion” [Richard Lanham] of the sixteenth century, Bacon questions the values of the English literary Renaissance itself. Ciceronianism was only one small part of this movement, but more than any other it came to represent a mysterious addiction to style. Gabriel Harvey famously described his own bout with Ciceronianism in the confessional manner of a recovering alcoholic:

…..I valued words more than content, language more than thought, the one art of speaking more than the thousand subjects of knowledge; I preferred the mere style of Marcus Tully to all the postulates of philosophers and mathematicians; I believed that the bone and sinew of imitation lay in my ability to choose as many brilliant and elegant words as possible to reduce them into order, and to connect them together in a rhythmical period.


It is no accident…that Erasmus, who reorganized the teaching of Latin around the concept of style, also wrote the first modern book of manners. De civilitate morum puerilium (1530) taught children the codes of civil behaviour as a natural complement to the achievements of “lyberall science”; social manners and literary style thus cooperated to produce a subject “well fasshyoned in soule, in body, in gesture, and in apparayle.” The cultivation of a good Latin style now appears as part of a larger process of “fashioning” subjects – a process that submits not only language but also manners, dress, and comportment to ideal of “exactness and refinement.” If it is clear that stylistic pedagogy is a form of social discipline, it is equally certain that discipline is becoming stylized. For in defining civility as “outward honesty of the body” (externum…corporis decorum), Erasmus transforms a set of social behaviours into a bodily image. The “well-fashioned” or civil subject is an aesthetic ideal that expands the concept of “style” to cover the whole range of social bearing. To produce a civil subject is to produce a “style” – of manners, dress, and discourse. And social style, like the literary style that is now a part of it, is developed not through obedience to rules but through the mimetic assimilation of models. Thus De civilitate supplements a juridical approach to manners – the prescription and proscription of behaviours – with an imaginary logic. (snip) p32