1781 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Chettle

Thomas Warton, in History of English Poetry (1774-81; 1840) 3:243-44n.



I do not recollect to have seen any of Chettle's comedies. He wrote a little romance, with some verses intermixed, entitled, Piers Plainnes seaven yeres Prentiship, by H. C. Nude Veritas, Printed at London by J. Danter for Thomas Gosson, and are to be sold at his shop by London-bridge gate, 1595. 4to. bl. lett. He wrote another pamphlet, containing anecdotes of the petty literary squabbles, in which he was concerned with Greene, Nashe, Tarleton, and the players, called Kinde-Harts Dreame. Containing five Apparitions with their invectives against abuses raigning. Delivered by severall Ghosts unto him to be publisht after Piers Penilesse Post has refused the carriage. Invita Invidia. By H. C. Imprinted at London for William Wright. 4to. without date, bl. lett. In the Epistle prefixed, To the Gentleman Readers, and signed Henrie Chettle, he says, "About three moneths since died M. Robert Greene [in 1592], leaving many papers in sundry Booke sellers handes, among others his Groats worth of Wit, in which a letter written to divers Play-makers is offensively by one or two of them taken," &c. In the same, he mentions an Epistle prefixed to the second part of Geriteon, falsely attributed to Nashe. The work consists of four or five Addresses. The first is an ironical Admonition to the Ballad-singers of London, from Antonie Now Now, or Anthony Munday, just mentioned in the text, a great Ballad-writer. From this piece it appears, that the ancient and respectable profession of ballad-making, as well as of ballad-singing, was in high repute about the metropolis and in the country fairs. Signat. C. "When I was liked, says Anthonie, there was no thought of that idle upstart generation of ballad-singers, neither was there a printer so lewd that would set his finger to a lascivious line." But now, he adds, "ballads are abusively chanted in every street; and from London this evil has overspread Essex and the adjoining counties. There is many a tradesman, of a worshipfull trade, yet no stationer, who after a little bringing uppe apprentices to singing brokerie, takes into his shoppe some fresh men, and trustes his olde servauntes of a two months standing with a dossen groates worth of ballads. In which if they prove thriftie, he makes them prety chapmen, able to spred more pamphlets by the state forbidden, than all the booksellers in London," &c. The names of many ballads are here also recorded, Watkins Ale, the Carmans Whistle, Chopping-knives, the Frier Fox-taile. Out-roaringe Dick, and Wat Wimbars, two celebrated trebles, are said to have got twenty shillings a day by singing at Braintree fair in Essex. Another of these Addresses is from Robert Greene to Peirce Pennilesse. Signat. E. Another from Tarleton the Player to all maligners of honest mirth. E.2. "Is it not lamentable," says he, "that a man should spende his two pence on plays in an afternoone? — If players were suppressed, it would be to the no smal profit of the Bowlinge Alleys in Bedlam and other places, that were [are] wont in the afternoones to be left empty by the recourse of good fellowes into that unprofitable recreation of stage-playing. And it were not much amisse woulde they joine with the Dicing-houses to make sute againe for their longer restrainte, though the Sicknesse cease. — While Playes are usde, halfe the daye is by most youthes that have libertie spent uppon them, or at least the greatest company drawne to the places where they frequent," &c. This is all in pure irony. The last address is from William Cuckowe, a famous master of legerdemain, on the tricks of jugglers. I could not suffer this opportunity, accidentally offered, to pass, of giving a note to a forgotten old writer of comedy, whose name may not perhaps occur again. But I must add, that the initials H. C. to pieces of this period do not always mean Henry Chettle. In England's Helicon are many pieces signed H. C. probably for Henry Constable, a noted sonnet-writer of these times. I have Diana, or the excellent conceitfull Sonnets of H. C. Augmented with divers quatorzains of honorable and learned personages, Divided into viii. Decades. Vincitur a facibus qui jacit ipse faces. At Lond. 1596. 16mo. These are perhaps by Henry Constable. The last Sonnet is on a Lady born 1588. In my copy, those by H. C. are marked H. C. with a pen. Henry Constable will be examined in his proper place. Chettle is mentioned, as a player I think, in the last page of Dekker's Knight's Conjuring, printed in 1607.