1687 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Greene

William Winstanley, Lives of the Most Famous English Poets (1687) 74-77.



Robert Green, one of the Pastoral Sonnet makers of Qu. Elizabeth's time, Contemporary with Dr. Lodge, with whom he was associated in the writing of several Comedies, namely the Laws of Nature, Lady Alimony, Liberality and Prodigality, and a Masque call'd Luminalia; besides which he wrote alone the Comedies of Fryer Bacon, and fair Emme.

Robert Greene (that great Friend to the Printers by his many Impressions of numerous Books) was by Birth a Gentleman, and sent to study in the University of Cambridge; where he proceeded Master of Art therein. He had in his time sipped of the Fountain of Helicon, but drank deeper Draughts of Sack, that Helliconian Liquor, whereby he beggar'd his Purse to enrich his Fancy; writing much against Viciousness, but too too vicious in his Life. He had to his Wife a Virtuous Gentlewoman, whom yet he forsook, and betook himself to a high coarse of Living; to maintain which, he made his Pen mercenary, making his Name very famous for several Books which he wrote, very much taking in his time, and in indifferent repute amongst the vulgar at this present; of which, those that I have seen, are as followeth) Euphues his Censure to Philautus; Tullies Love, Philomela, The Lady Fitz-waters Nightingale, A Quip for an upstart Courtier, the History of Dorastus and Fawnia, Green's never too late, first and second Part; Green's Arcadia, Green his Farewell to Folly, Greene's Groat's worth of Wit, &c. He was also an Associate with Dr. Lodge in writing of several Comedies; namely, The Laws of Nature; Lady Alimony; Liberality and Prodigality; and a Masque called Luminalia; besides which, he wrote alone the Comedies of Fryer Bacon, and fair Emme.

But notwithstanding by these his Writings he got much Money, yet was it not sufficient to maintain his Prodigality, but that before his death he fell into extream Poverty, when his Friends, (like Leaves to Trees in the Summer of Prosperity) fell from him in his Winter of Adversity: of which he was very sensible, and heartily repented of his ill passed Life, especially of the wrongs he had done to his Wife; which he declared in a Letter written to her, and found with his Book of A Groatsworth of Wit, after his Death, containing these Words;

"The Remembrance of many Wrongs offered Thee and thy unreproved Vertues, add greater sorrow to my miserable State than now I can utter, or thou conceive; neither is it lessened by consideration of thy Absence (though Shame would let me hardly behold thy Face) but exceedingly aggravated, for that I cannot (as I ought) to thy own self reconcile my self, that thou mightest witness my inward Wo at this instant, that have made thee a woful Wife for so long a time. But equal Heaven hath denied that comfort, giving at my last need, like Succour as I have sought all my Life: Being in this extremity, as void of help, as thou hast been of hope. Reason would that after so long waste, I should not send thee a Child to bring the Charge, but consider he is the fruit of thy Womb, in whose Face regard not the Father's so much as thy own Perfections: He is yet Green, and may grow strait, if he be carefully tended; otherwise apt enough (I fear me) to follow his Father's Folly. That I have offended thee highly, I know; yet I perswade my self, if thou sawest my wretched estate, thou couldst not but lament it: Nay, certainly I know thou wouldst. All my wrongs muster themselves about me, and every Evil at once plagues me: For my Contempt of God, I am contemned of Men; for my swearing, no man will believe me; for my Gluttony I suffer Hunger; for my Drunkenness Thirst; for my Adultery, ulcerous Sores: Thus God hath cast me down that I might be humbled, and punisht me for example of others; and though he suffers me in this world to perish without succour, yet trust I in the world to come to find Mercy by the Merits of my Saviour; to whom I commend thee, and commit my Soul.

Thy Repentant Husband

for his Disloyalty,

Robert Greene."

In a Comedy called Green's Tu quoque, written by John Cooke, I find these Verses made upon his Death;

How fast bleak Autumn changeth Flora's Die;
What yesterday was Greene, now's sear and dry.