‘Nedelesse Singularitie’: George Gascoigne’s Strategies
for Preserving Lyric Delight

Matthew Zarnowiecki
Auburn University

Zarnowiecki, Matthew.  “‘Nedelesse Singularitie’: George Gascoigne’s Strategies for Preserving Lyric Delight.” Early Modern Literary Studies 14.1/Special Issue 18 (May, 2008) 4.1-28<URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/14-1/zarnowecki.htm>.

1. George Gascoigne’s A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (1573) is among the most miscellaneous of early miscellanies printed in England.[1]  It contains two dramatic texts, a prose romance that is arguably England’s first novel,[2] and more than seventy pages of poetry ranging from short lyrics to poems of more than three hundred lines.  Judging from the attributions in the title page, front matter, and throughout the volume, the collection has almost as many authors as genres: the first play, Supposes, was “written in the Italian tongue by Ariosto and Englished by George Gascoygne,” Jocasta was “written in Greke by Euripides, translated and digested into Acte by George Gascoygne, and Francis Kinwelmershe,” The Adventures of Master F.J. is credited to a man by those initials but also contains text written by a “G.T.,” while the poems, or “Devises of Sundrie Gentlemen,” are either anonymous or credited to Gascoigne.[3]  The greatest influence on the form of A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres was almost certainly Songes and Sonettes, a verse miscellany printed by Richard Tottel in 1557, with six editions by 1567.  This collection was in fact multiply authored, with poetry by the Earl of Surrey (the only author mentioned on the title page), Sir Thomas Wyatt, Nicholas Grimald, and other poets.  But recent bibliographical evidence suggests, and critics accept, that the multiple authorship of A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (hereafter HSF) is a façade, with Gascoigne as its sole author.[4]

2. Accordingly, critics have focused attention on Gascoigne’s multiplicity, primarily by examining the differences between the 1573 and 1575 editions.  (The second edition, entitled The Posies of George Gascoigne Esquire, does not claim to have multiple authors, though it retains the same miscellaneous material as the first edition.)  For example, Adrian Weiss and G.W. Pigman address the multiple states of the text in their efforts to establish how it was printed originally, and how it should be edited today.[5]  Cyndia Clegg examines the apparent censorship of the 1573 edition, the documented censorship of the 1575 edition, and the changes between the two.[6]  Other critics examine Gascoigne’s posture of penitence with regard to the revised edition, or note the multiple motivations of the characters in F.J., or call attention to Gascoigne as an author who inhabits the persona of G.T. in order to critique his own poems.[7]  These critical efforts signal a robust poetic principle in Gascoigne’s work, in which he eschews what he calls “nedelesse singularitie,” in favor of multiple representations of similar events, poems, and characters.

3. A related, but more basic question concerning Gascoigne’s poetic method nevertheless remains unanswered.  That question is, why does Gascoigne eschew singularity in favor of multiplicity?  One way to answer this question is to analyze Gascoigne’s relentless pursuit of delight, both physical and artistic.  Multiplicity is his solution to the impossible task of preserving those delights.  I take it to be no accident that his collections are named A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres and The Posies of George Gascoigne, since these titles demonstrate the paradox of all poetic anthologies (literally, flower-collections).[8]  That paradox involves the instantiation of ephemeral, evanescent delight into a more permanent form such as the printed book.  Thus, rather than seeking social answers to Gascoigne’s multiplicity, such as J.W. Saunders’s “stigma of print,”[9] or biographical answers, such as allegations of slander, I seek an answer that can yield a fuller account of Gascoigne’s poetry as it appears in its larger context, the miscellaneous A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres.

4. This line of inquiry furthers critical work that links Gascoigne’s career trajectory to his literary output.  Richard Helgerson and Richard McCoy, for example, have both commented on the theme of disillusionment and reversed fortune in Gascoigne’s work.  While Helgerson numbers Gascoigne among his “Elizabethan prodigals,” McCoy focuses on how Gascoigne’s literary output changed once he finally enjoyed some success in his bids for patronage.[10]  Gascoigne’s “creative autonomy diminished as his proximity to power increased” according to McCoy, and his later writings reflect a self-conscious turn to “works which were either grimly moralistic or insipidly occasional.”[11]  The best evidence for this negative evaluation comes in the form of Gascoigne’s later works themselves, such as The droomme of Doomes day or The Steele Glas (1576).  But the most frequently cited evidence for Gascoigne’s savvy consciousness of this transition is the phrase “poëmata castrata,” invoked by Gascoigne to describe the supposed vast changes he wrought upon the second edition.[12]  Both McCoy and Alan Stewart have argued persuasively that in using this phrase, Gascoigne is referring to Théodore Beza’s substantial changes to his own Poemata.  Gascoigne, however, playfully signals his awareness that he is not, in fact, changing the poetry in A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres much at all – certainly not gelding or castrating it.[13]  For McCoy, this ironic phrase nevertheless presages a significant development in Gascoigne’s artistic output:  poor poetry from thenceforward.  Stewart argues instead that when they move from manuscript to print, Gascoigne’s works have already been gelded.[14]  For Stewart, all Gascoigne’s assertions, ironic or not, that he has gelded his own poetry (by getting rid of objectionable phrases) overlook the fact that the process of print is much more destructive to his autonomy than he allows.

5. Such studies raise the thorny question of just what poëmata castrata might look like.  Particularly, how can poems possess, and lose, the capacities associated with the word “castrata?”  These capacities seem to be twofold: the capacity for delight, and the capacity for reproduction.  And while poems arguably possess an active, perhaps even autonomous capacity to delight, they nevertheless possess only a passive capacity to be reproduced.  Thus a gelded poem either ought not exist, or not delight.  But Gascoigne repeatedly lavishes his attention on the nature of the delight which short lyric poems both describe and provide.  For Gascoigne, textual and bodily delight are often combined or confused, while the reproduction of those delights often occurs beyond the controls and boundaries of established systems, whether manuscript or print.  These confusions and combinations of delight and reproduction are what make HSF such a groundbreaking miscellany, and such a fascinating collection of poetry.

6. Although Gascoigne’s work continually explores the connection between bodily and textual delight, and their preservation, Gascoigne also uses “delight” in its most conventional sense – paired with “profit” as a rhetorical goal.  This pairing appears frequently in contemporary title pages and front matter – “thine owne profite and pleasure” (Songes and Sonettes), “to stir up thy pleasure and further thy profit” (Barnabe Googe, Eglogs, Epytaphes, and Sonettes, 1563), the posthumous Pithy pleasaunt and profitable workes of maister Skelton, Poete Laureate (1568), and Thomas Tusser’s A Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandry (1570): “What looke ye for more in my booke? / Things nedefull in tyme for to come? / Else misse I of that I do looke / If pleasant thou findest not some.”  Rooted in Horace’s dulce et utile, and in Cicero’s earlier, tripartite formulation of “ut et concilientur animi et doceantur et moveantur,”[15] the phrase “pleasant and profitable” often simply reassures readers of early modern English miscellanies that the contents of the book are beyond reproach.[16]  Both the 1573 and 1575 editions of Gascoigne do make such conventional assurances.  The title page of HSF promises that its contents will be “bothe pleasaunt and profitable to the well smellyng noses of learned Readers,” while the address “To al yong Gentlemen” in the revised 1575 Posies qualifies this promise by categorizing the contents into flowers, weeds, and herbs.  The flowers are “more pleasant than profitable,” the herbs “more profitable than pleasant,” and the weeds are “neither pleasant nor yet profitable,” and yet still have some “medicinable” qualities (367).

7. Although these references to a solidly established rhetorical tradition seem offhand, Gascoigne makes it clear that for him, delight itself poses more essential questions: what does it mean to experience delight, how should he portray that experience, and how preserve it?  Tellingly, there is never a single answer to such questions.  In fact, the concept of singularity itself immediately comes under scrutiny, in the opening passage of the collection.[17]  As well, the full title of HSF helps to emphasize Gascoigne’s concern with singularity and multiplicity.  There, “A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres” have been “bounde vp in one small Poesie,” and yield “sundrie sweete sauours of tragical, comical and moral discourse, bothe pleasant and profitable to the well smellyng noses of learned Readers.”  The term “a hundreth” was conventionally used to signal a large, indeterminate number, but Gascoigne’s title calls attention to the conflict between unity and miscellaneity with the phrase “one small Poesie.”  The term “singularitie” occurs soon after, in one of the most intriguing moments in the miscellany, when we learn of the (fictional) textual transmission of The Adventures of Master F.J. and the other “devises of sundrie Gentlemen.”  In a letter to the reader, the figure H.W. describes how he received the text we are about to read from his friend G.T., calling the text “divers discourses and verses” by various authors:

And herewithal my said friend charged me, that I should use them onely for mine owne particuler commoditie, and eftsones safely deliver the originall copie to him againe, wherein I must confesse my selfe but halfe a marchant, for the copie unto him I have safely redelivered.  But the worke (for I thought it worthy to be published) I have entreated my friend A.B. to emprint: as one that thought better to please a number by common commoditie then to feede the humor of any private parson by nedelesse singularitie.  This I have adventured, for thy contentation (learned Reader.)  [141-42]

Gascoigne here portrays the opposed wishes of two agents: G.T., who has collected and organized texts from a variety of sources and who wants to control their circulation, and H.W., who instead immediately both copies and distributes them.[18]  H.W.’s bias is against restricted coterie exchange, as seen in the phrase “particuler commoditie,” in contrast to the more public model of “common commoditie.”  This bias leads H.W. to wrest control over what he terms “the worke.”  At first he states that what he returns to G.T. is the “originall copie,” but a moment later, it is just “the copie.”  Already, the thing itself – the work – is that which H.W. has dispersed among many, rather than that which G.T. would like to restrict for the few.

8. H.W.’s impulse is to disperse textual pleasure, to “please a number,” and this action provides a pattern for other experiences of delight in the collection.  That pattern is one in which there is a short-lived, and ultimately futile struggle to reserve for oneself a private, personal moment of delight.  Only when that experience is transmitted, or revisited, or even reconceived, is this futility forestalled.  The strategies for transmission and reconception, of course, are all textual strategies.  One such pivotal moment occurs in Gascoigne’s tale of The Adventures of Master F.J., on the morning after F.J. and the married Lady Elynor have spent a delightful night of illicit passion together.  The narrator has related the entire episode, and proceeds to describe these events as the conditions under which F.J. composes a poem: “At last F.J. awaked, and apparreling himselfe, walked out also to take the ayre, and being throughly recomforted aswell with remembraunce of his joyes forepassed, as also with the pleasaunt hermony which the Byrdes made on every side, and the fragrant smel of the redolent flowers and blossomes which budded on every braunche: hee did in these delightes compyle these verses following” (169).  F.J.’s method of poetic composition, or “compiling,” recasts the previous evening’s dalliances as a narrative poem, which has as its central conceit the moon’s vanishing, and how that vanishing facilitated their sexual encounter.  G.T. takes care to tell his readers that F.J. was still experiencing sensual delights when he composed this poem.  His experience of the “remembraunce of his joyes forepassed” is one among other, more immediate pleasures: the “pleasaunt hermony” of birds and the “fragrant smel” of flowers.  F.J.’s delights at this moment of composition both surround and infuse him.  He sees, hears, and smells delightful natural objects while he is remembering the previous night.  He thus compiles and writes from an actual locus amoenus, a place that is “in these delightes.”

9. With F.J. in this state of sensory overload, his next few poems all continue to praise Mistress Elynor and relate with much bravura their romantic exploits.  “A Frydayes Breakefast,” for example, laughingly figures another tryst as a breakfast, while a poem beginning “As some men say there is a kind of seed” uses several different cuckold euphemisms to laugh at Mistress Elynor’s husband by sharing a secret sonnet behind his back.  But amatory and lyric delight have a strange relationship to one another, and Gascoigne explores this relationship with an intentionally confusing explanation from G.T. as to why the majority of F.J.’s most delight-filled poems have not made it into this printed volume:

Well, thus these two Lovers passed many dayes in exceding contentation, and more than speakeable pleasures, in which time F.J. did compyle very many verses according to sundrie occasions proffred, whereof I have not obteyned the most at his handes, and the reason that he denied me the same, was that (as he alleged) they were for the most part sauced with a taste of glory, as you know that in such cases a lover being charged with inexprimable joyes, and therewith enjoyned both by dutie and discretion to kepe the same covert, can by no means devise a greater consolation, than to commit it into some cyphred wordes and figured speeches in verse, whereby he feeleth his harte halfe (or more than halfe) eased of swelling.  For as sighes are some present ease to the pensife mind, even so we find by experience, that such secrete entre comoning of joyes doth encrease delight.  (178)

G.T. continues at some length with his analysis of affect and expression, coming to the same conclusions already apparent here – that the recording of such delights may help to prolong and preserve them, but these records should be kept entirely private.  Examining this passage, Elizabeth Heale focuses on the bodily implications of expressing passion: “The dissemination of F.J.’s verses beyond the bed closet threatens to dissipate his inner self, to diminish his real presence through language.  The only solution to F.J.’s dilemma, caught between the need for bodily relief and fear of bodily loss, is private writing, verse as a form of auto-eroticism.”[19]  Heale’s analysis is acute, but in focusing on the pen / penis wordplay (and the related semen / dissemination pun), she emphasizes expulsion and dissipation over contrasting references here to collection, prolongation of delight, and remembrance in posterity.  The passage is also full of words like “reteyne” and “kepe,” where those verses that F.J. does not share with G.T. nevertheless can provide a “pleasaunt record” that is like a “hidden treasure” that helps him to “record unto him selfe in the inward contemplation of his mynde the often remembraunce of his late received joyes” (179).  Heale’s analysis describes a solitary, jealously guarded version of poetic creation in which pleasure, self-conservation, and artistic output all combine in a single act.  Gascoigne’s inclusion of G.T. in this scenario, however, immediately calls into question the privacy and solitude of F.J.’s poetic composition.

10. G.T. himself emphasizes delight’s privacy, even as his actions prolong that delight by means of a more public, textual form.  His statement that “secrete entre comoning of joyes doth encrease delight” accents reproduction (“encrease”) as a result of the sharing of delight between two people.  Yet there is an evident conflict between F.J.’s attempt to “commit” his own delight to the form of verse, and G.T.’s attempt to distribute F.J.’s poetic delights, making them more common, and less secret.  Both agents aim to increase delight, to prolong it and change its form, yet their desires are clearly at odds with one another.  Typographic variety helps the reader to visualize the contrast between Gascoigne’s fictional agents.  At the opening Fiv-Fiir for example (1573 HSF; see Figure 1 below), different type faces punctuate the actions of the different agents involved in F.J.’s delight.  At left, G.T. narrates the delightful occasion that led to the poem titled “a Frydayes Breakefast.”  The poem then narrates another tryst between F.J. and Lady Elynor.  But G.T. also relates to the audience F.J.’s delightful remembrance of this episode, and then presents another poem in which this remembrance spurs more poetic creation on F.J.’s part.  Finally, at right, F.J.’s verse includes the experience of being overcome by his lady’s beauty: “The wyndowes of myne eyes, are glaz’d with such delight, / As eche new face seemes full of faultes, that blaseth in my sight.”  Simultaneously, then, we are confronted with no fewer than three versions of F.J.’s delight.  In this context, the “entre comoning of joyes” takes on a new meaning, as the joys themselves begin to interact with each other on the facing page.  

Figure 1: George Gascoigne, A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (1573), Sig. Fiv-Fiir
Reproduced by permission of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California

11. In the last analysis, however, F.J. must revisit these joys in a much more downcast mood, once his love affair has gone awry.  The narrative of The Adventures of Master F.J. ends badly for F.J., with the discovery that Elynor’s infidelity with him has changed into what he perceives as an infidelity to him.  His last three poems ruefully echo the words that she has most recently spoken to him, and tellingly, they gradually lose their instrumental poetic force.  That is, each successive poem fails F.J. more grievously than the last in his immediate, amorous purpose.  With the first of the three, he attempts unsuccessfully “to recover some favor at her hands” (212).  The second poem quickly escapes his control: “he lost it where his Mistresse found it, and she immediately emparted the same unto Dame Pergo, and Dame Pergo unto others: so that it quickely became common in the house” (213).[20]  This commonality, we should recognize, is precisely what F.J. was avoiding, and what H.W. was seeking when he first reproduced the text of F.J.’s story and poetry.  Now the same lesson occurs again:  F.J.’s delights will be shared and multiple, despite his attempts to keep them to himself.  F.J., unaware of the irony of his situation, becomes embittered that his own joys have been shared to the whole household.  With that bitterness, his poetic output changes to complaint, and the third poem reaches no audience at all (in the tale’s world).  In stark contrast to the “mooneshine Banquet,” it is “compiled” not in a delightful garden, but in a “place sollitary” (215).

12. These last poems force us as readers to reevaluate the earlier, manic, delight-filled moments of poetry.  F.J. himself reevaluates them, when he finds himself in a state of jealousy, then in a state of being quite plainly rejected by his former lover.  F.J. just as plainly asks for more delight, via a letter “thrust...into her bosome, wherein he had earnestly requested another mooneshyne banquet or frydayes breakfast to recomfort his dulled spirits” (211).  And when she repels this request, it is clear that what remains of his delight is now textual.  However, by the end of the narrative, it is not at all clear that F.J. can return to these textual witnesses of his delight, for he never relives these moments by poring over his poems.  Instead, he makes an acidic poem out of Lady Elynor’s last, challenging words to him, “And if I did [leave F.J. for another lover] what than?” (214)  F.J.’s delights do seem to exist multiply, in many private poems, only a few of which have escaped singularity by being reproduced.  But here, in the face of F.J.’s obsessive, myopic concentration on the most recent event, we are forced to acknowledge how the delight of these poems survives into the present.  Primarily, Gascoigne makes it clear that this delight passes out of F.J.’s experience, and into textual circulation.  F.J.’s delights need the meddling of G.T. and H.W. in order to be preserved beyond their brief moment.  F.J. might feel the loss of control and pleasure implied by “gelding,” but Gascoigne carefully includes the subsequent reproduction and preservation of his pleasures as well.

13. Gascoigne thus makes it clear to the reader that F.J.’s insistence on singularity is misplaced, that G.T.’s willingness to reproduce those delights in fact saves them from annihilation.  And beyond The Adventures of Master F.J., throughout HSF, Gascoigne frequently demonstrates the same “nedelesse singularitie.”  In the “Devises of Sundrie Gentlemen,” poems #15-20 narrate a series of incidents very similar to those that occur in F.J.[21]  There are verses written into a lady’s book, her answer, and a whole dinner sequence which chiefly involves lots of meaningful looks exchanged silently among the various characters.  These events, as in F.J., are preserved for the reader’s perusal in a series of short narratives.  When read together with F.J., it is clear that this episode is meant to evoke, even reproduce, that narrative.

14. One key verbal connection between these two episodes is Gascoigne’s use of the word “contented.” This is the word with which Lady Elynor decorates herself just after she and F.J. have first become lovers (171-72), and it is also with this word that she finally discards him at the end of the story (211).[22]  The state of being “contented,” like that of delight, is thus never to last.  (In fact, Lady Elynor’s sign marks her as recently delighted, but when she applies it to F.J. at the end of the story, it is closer to “never-more-to-be-delighted.”)  In Devises 19-20, we see another version of the lovers’ quarrel over such contentment:

He held himselfe herwith contented: and afterwardes when they were better acquainted, he chaunced once (groping in hir pocket) to find a letter of hir old lovers: and thinking it wer better to wincke than utterly to put out his eyes, seemed not too understand this first offence: but soone after finding a lemman (the which he thought he saw hir old lemman put there) he devised therof thus, and delivered it unto hir in writing. 

I groped in thy pocket pretty peat,
And found a Lemman which I looked not:
So found I once (which now I must repeat)
Both leaves and letters which I liked not.
Such hap have I to find and seeke it not,
But since I see no faster meanes to bind them,
I will (henceforth) take lemmans as I find them.

The Dame within very short space did aunswere it thus.

A Lymone (but no Lemmane) Sir you found,
For Lemmans beare their name to broad before:
The which since it hath given you such a wound,
That you seeme now offended very sore:
Content your self you shall find (there) no more.
But take your Lemmans henceforth where you lust,
For I will shew my letters where I trust.  (#19-20)

This, we should recognize, is F.J. redux.  There is a gentle re-working of the same problems F.J. encountered: the transitory quality of his pleasure, the discovery that his leman has other lemans of her own, and the mutual accusations that result from such discoveries.  In both cases, the male lovers expect a faithfulness that is impossible, given that their relationship was a secret and illicit one to begin with.  Here, in this condensed version of the same problems, there is not as much time for the pathos of discovering faithlessness, and experiencing disillusion.  Instead, the more light-hearted lemman - lemon pun serves as the fulcrum on which the poems of both the lover and the “Dame” turn.  She answers his single rhyme royal stanza with one of her own.  Within those seven lines, all three of his points are economically answered: the pun, his suspicious searching of her pockets, and the results of that search.  The last three lines, in which we see the use of “contented” in its negative sense, demonstrate that the loss of the lover’s delight is again accompanied by a loss of control over circulation.  But rather than F.J.’s situation, in which his writings were dispersed against his wishes, here “The Dame” exerts control over her writings by taking them out of circulation: “For I will show my letters where I trust.”  In this version, then, each poetic response recuperates from the bitterness in F.J. by looking forward rather than backward.  The male lover looks forward to new “lemmans,” while the female lover looks forward to a situation in which she can trust her lover not to question the past.  Both these responses mitigate, and provide a new perspective on, the bleak picture of delight drawn at the end of F.J.

15. After Devise #48, Gascoigne’s name is continually attached to each poem, until the last sequence (the poems and story of “Dan Bartholmew of Bath”).  From among these poems, three of his finest and most often anthologized demonstrate that Gascoigne’s subtle portrayal of delight depends on the connections between individual, or singular, poems; likewise, his special brand of delight insists on a constant appraisal and re-appraisal of one’s own inward state.  These three are “Gascoignes Lullabie,” “Gascoignes passion,” and “Gascoignes wodmanship.”  His Lullabie (#56) is a masculinized and uneasy entrance into the lullaby tradition.[23]  “And lullabie can I sing to / As womanly as can the best,” boasts the speaker in the first stanza.  The bawling child he must quell, we find out in successive stanzas, takes multiple forms: Gascoigne’s youth, his “gazing eyes,” his “wanton will,” and finally his “louing boye” or his “little Robyn” – his penis.  These four aspects of Gascoigne’s earlier, delight-filled wanton days are supposedly put to rest by Gascoigne’s lullaby; night-time squawking and middle-aged lust are thus conceived to be of a piece.

16. If any poem in Gascoigne’s early oeuvre could be said to be a gelded or castrated poem, it is this lullaby.  Gascoigne seems systematically to reduce himself, eventually renouncing his own sexual organ as part of the pleasures of his former days.  Yet the instruments of youthful delight survive, precisely because the poem follows its conceit to a logical, if unexpected, conclusion.[24]  Having anatomized himself and attempted to quell each aspect of his earlier days, the final stanza begins with a formulaic recapitulation of the verses that have come before: 

Thus Lullabie my youth, myne eyes,
My will, my ware, and all that was,
I can no mo delayes devise,
But welcome payne, lette pleasure passe…

In each previous stanza, the lines that would come next employ “lullabie” in a refrain that forms a repetitive and hypnotic couplet, such as “With Lullabye bee thou content, / With Lullabye thy lustes relent…”  Each of these stanzas furthers the sense that youth is being successfully quelled, rocked to sleep both by repetition and persuasion.  One logical end-point to the poem would be here, at sleep.  The infant is finally rocked to sleep, just as Gascoigne finally bids farewell to all that his youth entailed.  But Gascoigne instead ends the poem not with sleep, but with waking.  In the final stanza, the “you” of the poem, which by now entails all the previous aspects of Gascoigne’s life, takes over:

With Lullabye nowe take your leave,
With Lullabye youre dreames deceyve
And when you rise with waking eye,
Remembre Gascoignes Lullabye.
                                    Ever or Never.

Though the commands from the speaker of the poem continue in these lines, Gascoigne himself has ceased to be the subject.  Instead, all the elements of youth and sexuality show themselves capable of surviving beyond the song that was supposed to lull them to sleep.  The song may help against bad dreams, but ultimately Gascoigne’s youth survives the song – that is, it survives his own attempts to quell it.  The bawdy image of a single, “waking eye” combines with the final command to “remembre” this song, ending the poem with a sexual dawn rather than a lustless sleep.  But it is not Gascoigne, the singular author, who rises at the end of the poem.  That would entail an impossible re-dawning of his past youth and his wanton ways.  Instead, “when you rise” refers to the youthful, anatomized elements of Gascoigne that he was trying to quell throughout the poem.  Perhaps these elements will be “remembered” in some other, hapless young lover.  Or perhaps Gascoigne’s attempts continually to rid himself of these elements nevertheless continually fail, just as infants are bound to wake again and wail again.  In any case, the poem effects its own preservation, and thus the preservation of lyric delight: the song itself, Gascoigne’s singular lullaby, will replicate – or “remember” – itself in all of these future instances.

17. F.J. and “Gascoignes Lullaby” thus accent the productive confusion between bodily and textual delight, and the implications of this confusion for the preservation and continuation of delight.  In both cases, delight escapes the strictures imposed on it, and survives into an extended moment and a new form.  In the final two poems I will examine, Gascoigne more explicitly addresses poesis itself.  The first, entitled “Gascoigne’s passion” (#53), takes on the pleasures and pains associated with Petrarchan metaphors.  Gascoigne begins by belittling the songs of other lovers: he smiles “to heare and see these lovers paint their paine, / And how they can in pleasaunt rimes repeate, / The passing pangs, which they in fancies faine.”  It is the feigning performance of passion that is at issue here.  Rather than reading their verses, the speaker is watching these lovers perform.  He hears and sees them, and it is apparent to him from the parroted conventions of their verses that the lovers lack real passion.  For these feigning lovers, the pains of love are “passing” – that is, both exaggerated and ephemeral.  “They friese, they flame, they flie alofte, they fall,” says the speaker with disdain, and it seems that this disdain is directed at the manner of expression, which is trita et obvia,[25] since it uncritically reproduces Petrarchan metaphors.

18. The poem turns at its midpoint, when Gascoigne devotes the entire stanza to his own affective and poetic state, rather than to a comparison with others’ states:

I live in love, even so I love to live,
(Oh happie state, twice happie he that finds it)
But love to life this cognisance doth give,
This badge this marke, to every man that minds it,
Love lendeth life, which (dying) cannot die,
Nor living live:  and such a life lead I.

As the speaker of the poem, Gascoigne claims that his passion differs from that of other courting lovers not by its outward signs, but by his “cognisance” of what these signs entail.  In the next four stanzas, Gascoigne exhibits many of the signs that he has just lampooned in others.  He enjoys “No quiet sleepe,” he has a “fever first…caught by wanton will,” and he experiences the same “heate…And shivring cold” described by other poets.[26]  But these poets ask silly questions like “How live I then, which thus drawe foorth my daies? / Or tell me how, I found this fever first?”  Gascoigne’s passion entails a kind of reflective and experience-based recognition, or cognizance, of just what kind of “happie state” he has entered into.

19. Yet the happy state described in stanzas 5-9 is not an unfamiliar one.  These lines describe the torments of love, and portray the poet in the act of coming to terms with these torments, primarily by asserting a voluntary quality to his state.  The torments, fevers, inflammations, and shivers are one side of the happy state that he is unwilling to relinquish.  Thus he ends the poem in the present continuous tense, since the state is an ongoing one.  He continues “delighting most in that which hurts my hart, / And hating change which might relieve my smart.”  These statements are not expressions of affect so much as of cognizance: he may be feeling delight, but he ends the poem by expressing his thoughts on the seeming paradoxes of his feelings.

20. Surprisingly, in “Lenvoie” at the end of the poem, Gascoigne addresses “you dere dame” directly.  Even more surprising are his traditional conceits, which seem identical to the ones he has just decried.  He seems stuck in older modes of poetry, despite his cognizance of the differences between himself and superficial, unthinking Petrarchan poets.  But that is his point here: his poetry cannot escape the same tropes and conceits of those other poets.  In the lullaby, we saw that an effort to bid farewell to youth and sexuality was thwarted by the implications of the form in which that farewell was couched.  Here, an effort to change the nature of expressions of passion gets thwarted by the inevitable somatic similarity with which all feeling bodies respond.  Poetic fevers, burning and freezing, happen to Gascoigne in his passion just as to any other poet, and his attempt at cognisance is subsumed under the strength of these sensations.  Gascoigne’s own vaunted singularity, which is the subject of the poem and which the title reinforces, dissolves in the very same urgent pangs he had set out to mock.  It is as though Gascoigne is simultaneously coming to terms not only with the pleasures and pains of loving, but also with his own inability, as a poet, to do anything but reinforce and reproduce the expression of these pleasures in Petrarchan metaphors.  The final lines of the envoy encapsulate this predicament, since Gascoigne can neither escape his own passion, nor convincingly differentiate it from that of other, lesser poets: “And though fond fooles set forth their fittes as fast, / Yet grant with me that Gascoignes passion past. / Ever or never.  As in “lullaby,” the final tag line expands the poem’s timeline, from the momentary to the eternal.  This poem, like the lullaby, will continue to survive for “ever.”  But he also embeds the opposite into the line, the negative “never.”  Again we see that in place of singularity, here the supposed singularity of “Gascoignes passion,” arises a productive poetics that allows for reproduction and continuation.  Within the lines of this poem, that passion itself never passes.  Rather, it is ever passing.

21. Finally, in his best-known poem, “Gascoignes wodmanship” (#72), we see the poet again combining his delights and disillusionments into a single poem.  Though much longer, the poem works in nearly the same way as the lullaby: a renunciation of former ways does not quite hold up under scrutiny, and in fact leads to their prolongation.  In the lengthy preceding material, the (singular) occasion of the poem is set out in detail.  It involves the Lord Grey of Wilton, who has been doing some winter hunting, and has given Gascoigne a crossbow, “calling him one of his wodmen.”  But Gascoigne’s ineptitude at hunting causes Grey to laugh at him, and he composes the poem to “excuse” his actions.

22. The poet, of course, responds to this occasion with a conceit: his shooting awry should not surprise Lord Grey, for Gascoigne has had this little problem for some time: “First if it please your honour to perceive, / What makes your wodman shoote so ofte amisse, / Beleeve me Lord the case is nothing strange, / He shootes awrie almost at every marke…”  The poet then elaborates these “marks” in succession: he has failed at attempts to be a man of law, a courtier, and a soldier.  As Gascoigne lists these marks, however, he makes them seem much less desirable targets to attain.  The law books studied nowadays allow no room for artful phrasing (ll. 25-30), the courtier’s clothes bankrupt him with no discernible gain (42-56), and the soldier can only succeed by cheating those under him and greedily despoiling innocent people (73-86).  Gascoigne initially changes the poem’s specific occasion, his missing Lord Grey’s actual marks, into its central conceit.  But that central conceit has, by the middle of the poem, been turned on its head.  Those who hit their marks are those who “spoile the simple sakeles man,” or “pinch the painefull souldiers pay…”  The specific objection turns out to be a more general, robust error.  So much for Grey’s objections to missing the mark.

23. But Gascoigne pursues Grey’s laughter further.  He also needs to address Grey’s other objection, the tendency to let deer pass by without even attempting to shoot them.  He answers that he is lost in thought – “rapte in contemplation” – at the prospect that many men have hit the marks he has missed, even though they are far less worthy.  While he muses, the deer escape without his ever letting an arrow fly.  The interaction between poem and occasion complicates in this moment.  We should recognize that this complication constitutes another, more masterful instance of the principle of “nedelesse singularitie.”  In this instance, Gascoigne forces his reader to attend to the multiplication that is inherent in the act of imagination, which requires only a word or a phrase to muse upon and reduplicate in a new context.  The repeated event of Gascoigne missing actual deer leads him to excuse this tendency by musing poetically on the similar events from his life.  But that musing itself now causes another instance of missing.  This instance differs in quality: he not only fails to hit, but fails to shoot.  Here, as in F.J., “Gascoignes Lullabie,” and “Gascoignes passion,” the processes of poetic composition and textual preservation are at odds.  Specifically, the chain of causality moves back and forth between the events of the occasion (which are presented as actual, but past), and the events of the poem itself (which are presented as imaginary, but current).  The figure “in” the poem, the musing Gascoigne, lets pass the real deer that Lord Grey has already laughed at him for missing.  Tenor and vehicle become as interchangeable as the past and present.  The occasional world and the poetic world thus each lead to the other’s “encrease.”  We have seen a similar instance of encrease already, when G.T. and H.W. circulated, reproduced, and thus effected the continuation of F.J.’s most private, singular delights.  Here, a more pensive Gascoigne wonders how to move forward, how to escape this cycle of seeming failure, a failure that he implies affects him singularly.

24. As though to emphasize that such increase is never-ending, in the final lines of the poem, Gascoigne uses the word we so rarely see in the poets of the so-called plain style, “if.”  He posits this hypothetical:

But since my Muse can to my Lorde reherse
What makes me misse, and why I doe not shoote,
Let me imagine in this woorthlesse verse:
If right before mee, at my standings foote
There stoode a Doe, and I shoulde strike hir deade,
And then shee prove a carrion carkas too,
What figure might I fynde within my head,
To scuse the rage whiche rulde me so to doo?

Why does Gascoigne’s woodmanship never succeed, even when the poem’s speaker is himself imagining another occasion, and thus another poem?  The imaginary situation is nearly indistinguishable from the accounts of what has happened previously.  When faced with yet another hunt, the imagined homunculus within the poem also chooses incorrectly, since the doe turns out to be another “carrion carkas.”[27]  The ideal situation, Gascoigne finally hitting a mark, defies imagination even in the poem-within-a-poem.  By now, an acute reader knows that hitting would be missing, and thus missing is a proper response.  Equally important, however, to Gascoigne as the maker of this poem, is how to react to this familiar situation, and to “the rage” that accompanies this act.  In answering the question posed above, Gascoigne discards the option of “playne paraphrase,” in favor of a more divine intervention: “I saye Jehova did this Doe advance…That by the sodaine of hir overthrowe, / I myght endevour to amende my parte…”  As the poem ends, the only situation in which the Gascoigne figure does not make a mistake is in the interpretation of his mistakes.  On the face of it, Gascoigne’s woodman seems to be one of Helgerson’s traditional Elizabethan prodigals, repenting of his ways and professing amendment.  But as we have seen before, Gascoigne recuperates this self-effacing and self-dismembering process in order to accomplish the production and reproduction of delight.  His admission of failure is simultaneously an enactment of success, since what comes out of his failures at traditional professions is the continual production and reproduction of poetry.

25. I dwell on this poem’s successful failure because it represents a subdued, though equally forceful example of Gascoigne’s lyric method in HSF.  In contrast to earlier examples, it is neither brash, sexual delight nor clever, conversational delight that the poet seeks to retain, and prolong, but instead the delight of poesis itself.  That kind of delight is what he longed after in all his earlier attempts at law and soldiering: if the law had been written “by arte,” he could have learned it “with pleasure.”  Those who do succeed lack this artfulness, and continually demonstrate that they “can nor speake, nor write in pleasant wise.”  Gascoigne’s version of woodmanship, however, prolongs the delight of making poetry by exemplifying those delights within the poem itself.  Unlike F.J.’s mischievous editor, or the lullaby song that survives after Gascoigne himself is gone, Gascoigne’s poetic delight in “wodmanship” is preserved without seeming to need any outside forces to prolong its existence.  Rather, it sustains itself by continually reproducing the paradox in which the only way to succeed is to continue shooting awry, and by continually spawning imaginative acts of poesis.

26. When we read “Gascoignes Wodmanship” together with his lullaby, the other devises, and the poems in F.J., the overwhelming effect is accretion: individual moments, or occasions, of delight find their way into myriad textual situations.  F.J.’s exuberance is quickly tempered by the complexities of textual exchange, expanding his attempts at private poesis into more “common” forms.  He and G.T. may think that they want such private delights, but these are shown to be illusory.  Likewise, in the Devises I have examined, Gascoigne uses the illusory or fleeting qualities of his youthful delights to highlight the crucial importance to him of textual, poetic delights.  Repeatedly, and sometimes painfully, he demonstrates that delight, whether it is bodily delight or poetic delight, cannot long be “singular,” that any such singularity disappears with its occasion. 

27. For this reason, we should pay special attention to Gascoigne’s ironic cognizance that he does not qualify as a typical prodigal, and that his poems are far from poëmata castrata.  The more recent view of the censorship controversy surrounding HSF and The Posies is that Gascoigne probably achieved his goal of patronage because of these poetic efforts rather than despite them, since preferment soon followed.  He dedicated The Glasse of Governement To Sir Owen Hopton, acted the part of a “savage man” in the 1575 entertainment of Elizabeth by Leicester, and presented The Tale of Hemetes the Heremyte to Elizabeth at New Year’s 1575 / 1576; a flurry of similar efforts followed in 1576 (The Steele Glas, The Droomme of Doomes day, and others), and he received his desired employment in the same year.[28]  By his own admission, these are the poetic efforts of a middle-aged man who has atoned for his youthful missteps, and who would be absorbed into society rather than continuing his rampages.

28. Yet his absorption, resignation, and correction come at a cost that he is not completely willing to pay.  Although it seems clear that he did in fact resign amatory verse and the gross ribaldries in F.J., he nevertheless holds out the possibility that his verse will be reproduced by younger men than he.  He creates this possibility by appearing to argue against it, in the address “To al yong Gentlemen, and generally to the youth of England...” (The Posies, 1575, ¶¶.ii - ¶¶.iiiiv).  On the face of it, this address is a perfectly straightforward and conventional monitory address, of one who has erred in his youth and wants others to avoid his mistakes.  He calls himself “a man of middle yeares,” and wants to “serue as ensample to the youthfull Gentleman of England...”  But the longer this address wears on, the more apparent it is that he wants his full, poetic example to live on in them.  For he addresses these Gentlemen excitedly, not soberly as would fit the occasion: “Gallant Gentlemen, and lustie youthes of this my natiue Countrey,” he opens, “my lustie youthes” a bit later, “my lustie Gallants” toward the end, and finally “my yong blouds.”  And that is just what they are to Gascoigne: something like his poetic offspring, those who will carry on his poetry.  Likewise, of the poetry itself, he reminds the reader that “my Posies hath beene verie much inquired for by the yonger sort.”  Most tellingly, he reveals a state of mind very much like F.J.’s, after he has been disillusioned in his love affair, and must settle for contentment rather than delight.  That contentment, as we have seen, depends on both the remembrance of joys past, and on the fact of their dispersal to a new audience.  Gascoigne realizes that this new reprint might brand him as a man “rather desyrous to continue in the freshe remembraunce of my follyes, than content too cancell them in obliuion by discontinuance” – and yet the work is reprinted, and the lusty young Gentlemen are left to pursue these delights, Gascoigne’s and yet their own.  It is no wonder, then, that in the 1575 Posies he refuses to excise or even significantly change his poems, for to do so would prevent these flowers’ perennial bloom.


[1] Some research for this essay was aided by the generous support of a Gilman Fellowship; this fellowship’s source is the Fantasy Fountain Fund.  I am indebted also to Molly Murray, Alan Stewart, and an anonymous reader for their suggestions in multiple versions of this essay.

[2] Leicester Bradner makes the assertion of preeminence in “The First English Novel, a Study of George Gascoigne’s Adventures of Master F.J.,” PMLA 45 (1930), 543-552.  See also Robert Adams, “Gascoigne’s ‘Master F.J.’ as Original Fiction,” PMLA 73 (1958), 315-326.  See G.W. Pigman, III, ed., George Gascoigne: A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), 549-550, for a full list of treatments of generic classification of F.J.

[3] Quotations of Gascoigne are from Pigman, except where noted.  Parenthetical references are to Pigman’s page numbers or to his numbering of the poems called “Devises.”  In quoting this edition, I adhere to his use of two fonts, Roman and Italic, to approximate the original’s use of three: Black Letter, Roman, and Italic.  Certain passages, however, require attention to the visual effect of the various type faces, and in these spots I refer the reader to the 1573 and 1575 editions of the collection, both accessed via Early English Books Online (EEBO).  The second edition of the collection, printed in 1575, is entitled The Posies of George Gascoigne EsquireCorrected, perfected, and augmented by the Authour.  The “corrections” include, among others,  a revamped F.J. that passes it off as an Italian romance, the categorization of all items as either “Flowres,” “Weedes,” or “Herbes,” and the addition of some new material, with very few cuts.  Pigman summarizes these changes in his edition, l-lxv.  He also discusses the implications of creating one edition from these two books in “Editing Revised Texts: Gascoigne’s A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres and The Posies,” in New Ways of Looking at Old Texts, II: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 1992-1996, ed. W. Speed Hill, (Tempe, AZ: Medieval & Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1998), 1-9.

[4] See Adrian Weiss, “Shared Printing, Printer’s Copy, and the Text(s) of Gascoigne’s A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres,” Studies in Bibliography 45 (1992), 71-104.  Weiss gives a comprehensive account of the printing of HSF that includes its being shared among two printers, and being printed over at least an eight month period (89).  He gives a month-by-month account of the printing of HSF’s sections which allows him to conclude that all paratextual material was most likely written by Gascoigne, rather than by G.T., H.W., and the printer; that Gascoigne did not oversee printing; and that “Gascoigne intended that ‘The Adventures of Master F.J.’ appear first in the book,” 98-99.  Although commentators disagree about whether the dates provided in HSF are fictional, and whether Gascoigne read proof (see Pigman, lvii-lvii; Weiss, 97), few argue that F.J. and G.T. stand for historical persons rather than existing solely as Gascoigne’s fictional characters.

[5] Weiss, n. 4 above.  Pigman, “Editing Revised Texts,” 2-6, notes the substantive changes from HSF to The Posies, but also shows that “the bulk of the first edition” undergoes only minor changes.  Gascoigne’s classification system in The Posies, with each individual work classified as either a “flower,” “weed,” or “herb,” revisits the relationship between pleasure and profit.  Pigman, 5, argues that this reclassification constitutes good reason that HSF and The Posies should be considered different works, rather than editions of the same work.

[6] Cyndia Clegg, “George Gascoigne and the rhetoric of censorship: A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (1573) and The Posies (1575).”  This is chapter 5 of her Press Censorship in Elizabethan England, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).  She determines that the 1573 HSF “may have been censured for its slander, [but] it was probably not censored for its sexuality,” 103.  Concerning the 1575 Posies, which is known to have been called in because of an entry in the Stationers’ Register, she argues that its “moral lewdness and lasciviousness was a red herring, and the real issue rested in offense to members of the Court,” 122.

[7] See, respectively, Felicity Hughes, “Gascoigne’s Poses,” Studies in English Literature (SEL) 37 (1997), 1-19; Paul A. Parrish, “The Multiple Perspectives of Gascoigne’s ‘The Adventures of Master F. J.,” Studies in Short Fiction 10 (1973), 75-84; and Penelope Scambly Schott, “The Narrative Stance in ‘The Adventures of Master F.J.’: Gascoigne as Critic of His Own Poems,” Renaissance Quarterly 29 (1976), 369-77.

[8] “Posies,” despite the traditional and often-employed homonym poesy-posy in the singular, usually refer to mottos rather than full poems, even short ones.  Cf. George Puttenham’s Arte of English Poesie, first published in 1589, in which Chapter XXX is “Of short epigrams called posies.”  Puttenham’s description attests to their occasional quality: they were “sent usually for New year’s gifts, or to be printed or put upon their banqueting dishes of sugar plate or of marchpanes...and were made for the nonce.”  Quoted in Brian Vickers, ed., English Renaissance Literary Criticism, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), 208.

[9] J.W. Saunders, “The Stigma of Print,” Essays in Criticism 1 (1951), 139-164.  Saunders argues for the reluctance of certain (noble Tudor) poets to allow their work to be published.  For these writers, printing poetry or other works denigrates and corrupts them by extending the rightful, coterie audience to larger, and undesirable, circles.  More recently, Steven W. May challenges this stigma, primarily by detailing instances in which nobles seemed willing to have their works published.  For the present study, this sentence of May’s is most telling: “It was poesy, not the printing press, which our ancestors viewed with suspicion: the ‘stigma of print’ should give place to the ‘stigma of verse’,” 17.  From “Tudor Aristocrats and the Mythical ‘Stigma of Print’,” Renaissance Papers (1980), 11-18.  For a slightly earlier example of the phenomenon, see Barnabe Googe’s 1563 Eclogues, Epitaphs, and Sonnets, in which Googe asserts, in a prefatory letter to William Lovelace, that “a very friend of mine, bearing as it seemed better will to my doings than respecting the hazard of my name, committed them all together unpolished to the hands of the printer…”  Judith M. Kennedy, ed., Barnabe Googe: Eclogues, Epitaphs, and Sonnets, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989), 38.  Kennedy asserts briefly that “there are bibliographical indications that the story is true, and that Googe was not a willing partner in the initiative,” 19.  Thus the same kinds of statements in the Googe collection that Kennedy treats as sincere and truthful, we have seen are now treated as facetious and obviously false in Gascoigne’s collection.

[10] Helgerson lists Gascoigne among his titular Elizabethan Prodigals, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976).  McCoy claims that the difference between the 1573 HSF and 1575 Posies is the result of Gascoigne’s efforts to change his style from a courtly, ambiguity-laden style to a plainer style that would please the “larger audience he sought.”  See “Gascoigne’s ‘Poëmata castrata’: The Wages of Courtly Success,” Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts 27 (1985), 29-55.  Stephen Hamrick, “‘Set in portraiture’: George Gascoigne, Queen Elizabeth, and Adapting the Royal Image,” EMLS 11.1 (2005), <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/11-1/hamrgasc.htm>, n. 8, draws our attention to two more recent, related evaluations.  One of these upholds McCoy’s assertions (Mentz), while the other challenges them (LaGrandeur).

[11] McCoy, “Gascoigne’s ‘Poëmata castrata’,” 30, 32.

[12] For my treatment, it is important to note that Gascoigne explicitly links Beza’s supposed example with both delight and preservation: “But I delight to thinke that the reuerend father Theodore Beza, vvhose life is vvorthily become a lanterne to the vvhole vvorld, did not yet disdaine too suffer the continued publication of such Poemes as he vvrote in youth.  And as he termed them at last Poëmata castrata, So shal your reuerend iudgements beholde in this seconde edition, my Poemes gelded from all filthie phrases, corrected in all erroneous places, and beautified vvith addition of many moral examples,” The Posies of George Gascoigne, ¶.iiii. 

[13] McCoy, “Gascoigne’s ‘Poëmata castrata’,” 32.  Alan Stewart, “Gelding Gascoigne,” in Prose Fiction and Early Modern Sexualities in England, 1570-1640, ed. Constance C. Relihan and Goran V. Stanivukovic (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 147-169.  Stewart, 161, notes that the phrase “Poëmata castrata” does not appear in Beza’s writing.  He also shows that unlike Gascoigne, Beza was not interested in the “continued publication” of his earlier poetry, since Beza’s cuts were actually substantial excisions of earlier material, 148.

[14] Stewart, “Gelding Gascoigne,” 162.

[15] Cicero, De Oratore 2.28.121 and 2.29.129, my emphasis.  The first passage sets up “winning over,” “instructing,” and “stirring of men’s minds” as three goals of oratory.  The second passage connects each of these three goals to a style: winning over requires “gentleness of style,” instructing requires “acuteness,” and stirring minds requires a style “of energy”  See E.W. Sutton, transl., Cicero, De Oratore Books I - II, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 285 and 291.  One crux when it comes to applying these definitions to poetry is the problem of the verbs movere, which roughly translates as “to move,” and later concitare, which gets translated as “to excite.”  Neither has direct connections to the concept of causing pleasure, and here the separation between writing poetry and writing speeches is more clear.  But Horace formulates a dual rather than triple characterization of poetry, usually summed by “dulce et utile.”  The entire sentence reads, “He has won every vote who has blended profit and pleasure, at once delighting and instructing the reader.”  Here “instructing” is not from “docere” but from “monere,” which includes the senses of warning and admonishment.  See H. Rushton Fairclough, transl., Horace: Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica, (London: William Henemann Ltd., 1955), 478-79. 

[16] For a brief survey of the phrase in the context of Elizabethan English treatises, see G. Gregory Smith, ed., Elizabethan Critical Essays, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1950), v.1, xxv-xxvii; cited in Pigman, HSF, 558.  An immediate precursor of Gascoigne, Thomas Wilson, reproduces the standard Ciceronian triad in his Arte of Rhetorique (1553): “Three things are required of an orator: 1. To teach  2.  To delight  3.  And to persuade.”  In describing delight, Wilson directs readers to “cheer...guests, and to make them take pleasure with hearing of things wittily devised and pleasantly set forth.”  Quoted in Vickers, English Renaissance Literary Criticism, 77.  See also Adam Smyth, “Profit & Delight”: Printed Miscellanies in England 1640-1682, (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004).  In his discussion of the “declared purpose” of these miscellanies, the phrase ‘profit and delight’ is all but absent, signaling a change in this time period to the goal of being “alluring conveyors of social status,” 27.

[17] Here I follow Pigman, HSF, liv-lix, who judges that Gascoigne probably meant to open the miscellany with The Adventures of Master F.J. rather than with Supposes and Jocasta.

[18] Jon C. Pope also notices the conflicting interests of G.T. and H.W. in “The Printing of ‘this written book’: G.T. and H.W.’s Editorial Disputes in The Adventures of Master F.J.,” in Renaissance Papers 2003, ed. Christopher Cobb and M. Thomas Hester, (Columbia, SC: Camden House, 2003), 45-53.  He claims that G.T. remains firmly in the mindset of manuscript circulation, while H.W. allies himself with the practices of print culture, 46-47.  But he does not leverage this assertion to achieve any better understanding of the poems, letters, and prose descriptions contained in the collection.

[19] Elizabeth Heale, Autobiography and Authorship in Renaissance Verse: Chronicles of the Self, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 39.

[20] G.T. also tells of another incident in which F.J.’s poetry reaches a wider audience than F.J. wishes: the poem “Beautie shut up thy shop,” which contains some lines insulting courtiers’ sartorial habits, was “by negligence of his Mistresse dispersed in to sundry hands, and so at last to the reading of a Courtier,” 176.  Stewart, “Gelding Gascoigne,” passim, examines the complicated circulation of letters in F.J., in which several letters also find their way into the wrong hands, or are written by the wrong hands.

[21] The numbers refer to only those poems in the section “The Devises of Sundrie Gentlemen.”  They are not in the original; Pigman adds them as a matter of convenience, and thus effects a bit more organization of this unruly set of poems.  I note these numbers in order to stress the total number of poems within “The Devises” (77, by Pigman’s count), and especially the change that occurs at #49. 

[22] The primary OED definition for the adjectival “content” (I.1.) is unusually prolix and descriptive: “Having one's desires bounded by what one has (though that may be less than one could have wished); not disturbed by the desire of anything more, or of anything different; ‘satisfied so as not to repine; easy though not highly pleased’.”  Examples of Gascoigne’s many usages just within F.J. include: satisfaction or edification (“This I haue adventured, for thy contentation (learned Reader)” [142]), satisfaction or delight in beauty (“my good hap hath bene to behold you to my (no small) contentation” [145], or “With deepe content, to gare, and gaze my fil” [170]), to settle or decide (“she was contented to accept his proferd service” [149]), to satisfy (“so if the shedding of my bloud may any way content you” [152]), to quiet or calm oneself (“but content your selfe, for the second cause you shall neuer know at my handes” [158]), to occupy or busy oneself or one’s mind (“partly of curtesie and affection, and partly to content hir mind by continuance of such talk” [162]), bliss (“Well, thus these two Louers passed many dayes in exceding contentation” [178]), willing (“bycause she doubted whether he would be contented to performe it or not” [208]), and a curious mix of “satisfied” though “denied one’s request” (“eyther learne to frame your request more reasonably, or else stand content with a flat repulse” [211], and “with such lucke and losse, / I will content my selfe” [215]).

[23] On the poem’s conceit, see Leonard Nathan, “Gascoigne’s ‘Lullabie’ and Structures in the Tudor Lyric,” in Thomas O. Sloan and Raymond B. Waddington (ed.s), The Rhetoric of Renaissance Poetry From Wyatt to Milton (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), 58-72.  Nathan’s analysis highlights the multiplicity of this poem by referring to “the complex of feelings implied: fondness, indulgence, tenderness, irony, and a sense of duty,” 68.

[24] In doing so, Gascoigne follows his own advice from his poetic treatise, called “Certayne Notes of Instruction concerning the making of verse or rhyme in English,” which appeared first in the 1575 Posies.  Gascoigne’s major contribution is his insistence that the poet “grounde” each poem “upon some fine invention,” or “some good and fine devise,” Pigman, HSF, 454.  This “devise,” which we should think of as a poetic conceit, must be original rather than “trita et obvia,” and the poet must not stray from it: “Your Invention being once devised, take heede that neither pleasure of rime, nor varietie of devise, do carie you from it: for as to use obscure and darke phrases in a pleasant Sonet, is nothing delectable, so to entermingle merie jests in a serious matter is an Indecorum,” 455.  Elsewhere, the treatise rings with similar reminders: let “your rime leade you not from your firste Invention,” “avoyde prolixitie and tediousnesse,” and “brevitie (so that it be not drowned in obscuritie) is most commendable,” 461. 

[25] Gascoigne’s own words to describe inferior poems; see n. 24 above.

[26] Pigman, HSF, 630, points out the probable source of comparison, Wyatt’s translation of Petrarch in Tottel’s Songes and Sonettes

[27] This crux term is discussed by Pigman, HSF, 664: the possibilities include both “pregnant” and “worthless” in the sense of “skeleton-like” (OED B.3).  In line 7, Gascoigne “wold faine hit the barren,” which makes it seem as though a “barren” deer is desirable prey but a “carren” one is not.  Pigman rejects various editors’ resolution that “carren” means pregnant, because of the context: the deer is not pregnant, but lactating.  This explanation still begs the original question of why the speaker would want to hit a deer that is “barren,” if not in contrast to a pregnant one.

[28] Pigman, HSF, xxxix-xl, details these publications and dedicatees.


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© 2008-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).