1802 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Puttenham

Joseph Ritson, Biographia Poetica (1802) 302-05 & n.



WEBSTER PUTTENHAM, one of the gentlemen pensioners to queen Elizabeth, and author of "The arte of English poesie," 1589, wrote, according to his own account, "A little brief romance or historical ditty of the isle of Great Britaine in short and long meetres, and by breaches or divisions to be more commodiously song to the harpe in places of assemble, where the company shal be desirous to heare of old adventures and valiaunces of noble knights in times past, &c." also "Elpine, an eclogue, made at the age of 18, and other things; all now lost, unless certain lines, inserted in pp. 147, and 161, may be part of the above ditty. [Author's note: From Puttenhams report of having inscrib'd this eclogue, at the age of 18, to K. Edward VI. it places the date of his birth anterior to 1535.] He describes himself to have been "a scholler in Oxford," though Wood could not tel where he was bred.

Neither Bolton, who first mentions him, nor Wood, gives his name; which for any thing that appears, is first mentioned by Ames, upon whatever authority. Doctor Lort, in his copy, had inserted a memorandum to the same purport: but mister Steevens call'd the author "George," from a MS. (as he term'd it) of Nicholson among authours. T. P.

"A ballad of Brittaishe Sidanen, applied by a courtier to the praise of the quene," license'd, 13th August 1579, to Richard Jones, was, probablely, by this authour. The following list of his works was taken by mister Steevens from a MS. memorandum of Ben Jonson. "Hiertechni," "A brief romance of the isle of Great Britain," "Gynaecocratia," "The original and pedigree of the English tongue," "The interview of two great princesses," "Lustie London," "Epitaphes," "Partheniades," "Minerva," "A book," "An hymne," "De Durra."

"That Puttenham was a courtier (says Oldys) is visible; also had been a traveller, and seen the courts of foreign princes; wherefore his illustrations, both historical and political, are drawn so familiarly from thence, that he may be call'd the court-critic of that reign." — Life of Raleigh. Wood hints, that "some have thought" the book was written by Sidney. T. P.