1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Marston

John Payne Collier, in Poetical Decameron (1820) 1:230-33.



ELLIOT. You mentioned Marston.

BOURNE. I did: Kinsayder was his nom de guerre; that under which he made war upon the age. He seems to have had good reason for the concealment of his real name, as, notwithstanding his protestation to the contrary, he lashes not merely in the general but in the particular. Among others he makes a vigorous assault upon Hall, his immediate predecessor in this walk of poetry. This is chiefly contained in his Scourge of Villanie, first printed in 1598, and again, a more complete and fuller edition, in 1599, with some new satires.

ELLIOT. Do you mean that he introduces Hall by name?

BOURNE. Not exactly, but quite unequivocally as the writer of Virgidemiarum: I should first explain to you that Marston's poem of Pigmalion's Image, which occasion'd a good deal of noise, was intended as an exaggeration and ridicule of certain lascivious poems of that day, which had been made more popular by, and were written in the same style as, Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis and Tarquin and Lucrece. Marston's object was to show how injurious they were to morals. He himself says of his own poem in his second work—

Hence thou misjudging Censor! know I wrot
Those idle rimes, to note the odious spot
And blemish that deformes the lineaments
Of moderne Poesies habiliaments.

And in other places and other words he says the same thing, and expresses his astonishment that it could have been mistaken.

MORTON. Shall we hear no part of it?

BOURNE. Presently; but I will first explain how Hall fell foul of Marston, and Marston, in return, of Hall. In his Pigmalions Image and Certaine Satyres, Marston treats Hall rather severely, accusing him (as indeed Warton does in his History of English Poetry) of being mysteriously obscure, and dealing in "Sphinxian riddles," as well as taking him to task for his abuse of the Mirror for Magistrates in his 5th satire. I will quote the passages themselves in a few minutes, which seem to have excited Hall's wrath, and accordingly (if Marston be to be relied upon) Hall wrote an Epigram, "which he caused to be pasted to the latter page of every Pigmalion that came to the Stationers of Cambridge." This epigram is given by Marston in the following terms:

I askt Phisitions what their counsell was
For a mad dogge, or for a mankind Asse?
They told me though there were confections store
Of Poppie seede, and soveraigne Hellebore,
The dogge was best cured by cutting and kinsing;
The Asse must be kindly whipped for winsing,—
Now then S. K. I little passe
Whether thou be a madde dogge or a mankind Asse.

ELLIOT. Marston, I suppose, inserts it for the sake of adding his own answer, but the epigram appears to me rather coarse than keen.

BOURNE. Hall was probably too angry to be severe, and Marston's reply is in much the same spirit. At the word "kinsing" Marston inserts a note, "Marke the witty allusion to my name," meaning his assumed name of Kinsayder, and after giving as a motto "Medice cura teipsum," he speaks thus:

Smart jerke of wit! Did ever such a straine
Rise from an Apish schoole-boyes childish braine!
Dost thou not blush, good Ned, that such a sent
Should rise from thence where thou hadst nutriment?
Shame to Opinion, that perfumes his dung,
And streweth flowers rotten bones among.
Juggling Opinion, thou inchaunting witch,
Paint not a rotten post with colours ritch.

MORTON. Though Marston does not retort "mad dog" and "mankind Asse" upon Hall, he is not at all behindhand in vulgarity.