1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Peele

Philip Bliss, Athenae Oxonienses (1815) 1:689-90.



Reed in his Biographia Dramatica adds the following particulars concerning our author. On his arrival in the metropolis he became city poet, and had the ordering of the pageants. He lived on the Bank-side, over against Blackfryars, and maintained the estimation in his poetical capacity which he had acquired at the university, and which seems to have been of no inconsiderable rank. About 1593, he appears to have been taken into the patronage of the earl of Northumberland, to who he dedicated The Honour of the Garter. He was almost as famous for his tricks and merry pranks as Scoggan, Skelton, or Dick Tarleton; Meres, in his Wit's Treasury, p. 286, says, "as Anacreon died by the pot, so George Peele by the pox." Oldys adds, that he left behind him a wife and a daughter. He seems to have been a person of a very irregular life, and Mr. Steevens, with great probability, supposes that the character of George Pieboard in the Puritan was designed as the representative of Peele.

Peele's character as a poet ranked peculiarly high with his contemporaries: Nash says, "I dare as the chief supporter of pleasance now living, the atlas of poetrie, and primum verborum artifex; whose first increase, the Arraignment of Paris, might pleade to your opinions his pregnant dexteritie of wit, and manifold dexteritie of invention, wherein, me judice, he goeth a step beyond all that write." Menaphon, 1589. Greene speaks of him as no less deserving than Marlow and Lodge, in some things rarer, in nothing inferior. Groatsworth of Wit, 1592....

Peele contributed three pieces to England's Helicon, three to the Paradise of daintie Devices, besides one which is found in the Phoenix Nest, 1593. There are others in England's Parnassus, 1600, and in Bel-vedere, or the Garden of the Muses, 1610, and he prefixed a short compliment, in blank verse, to Watson's Centurie of Love.