1866 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir George Buc

John Payne Collier, "An Eclog treating of Crownes, and of Garlandes" in Bibliographical and Critical Account of the Rarest Books (1866) 1:117-19.



Sir George Buck, or Buc, as he sometimes spelt his name, having been knighted in 1603, became Master of the Revels in 1610. In the interval he printed this poetical tract, his earliest production, dedicating it, in a Latin inscription and in an English epistle, to King James, and subscribing it Georgius Bucus, Eq. Here he states that he had begun the poem "long since," but "could not finish it (according to my project) untill such time as he which should he sent (Expectatio gentium Britannicarum) should come, who was ordained from above to weare all these crownes and garlands, and to reduce this whole Isle (with the hereditary Kingdomes and Provinces thereof) to one monarchie and entire Empire." He then proceeds to deduce the genealogy of King James from the earliest period, adding an engraved table, entitled Anglicae Regum Prosapia a tempore quo Anglia appellari coepit &c. The plate bears date in 1602, with the engraver's name, Joan. Woutneel: but in this copy it is altered by pen and ink to 1605. Probably Sir George Buck originally contemplated the publication of the work in 1602. "The Preface or Argument of this Poesy" succeeds upon seven leaves, when we come to the text of the work, in fifty-seven eight-line stanzas, besides "L'Envoy au Roy," in one more stanza, and [Greek characters]: the Hymne inauguratory for his Majesty," in eight-syllable couplets, filling one page. The last page is occupied by a Latin epigram, offered to the King at Hampton, and two lines in Latin, headed "Aliud tie symbolo nummi novi." The following stanza is quoted on account of its accordance with the notion upon which Sir George Buck afterwards enlarged in the History of the Life and Reign of Richard the Third, published in 1646, about twenty years after the death of the author:—

Two Richards more succeed, the one a Prince
Whose goodly presence men to woonder moved,
And was as bountefull as any since.
Fame hath been sharp to th' other; yet bicause
All accusations of him are not proved,
And he built Churches, and made good laws,
And all men held him wise and valiant,
Who may deny him then his Genest plante?

The copy before us was presented by the author to Lord Ellesmere, and on the fly-leaf is a poetical inscription in Sir George Buck's handwriting. It is very clear that he was under obligations of some kind to his lordship in 1605, and it is not unlikely that the Chancellor subsequently assisted him in obtaining the office of Master of the Revels, which he held until 1622. In the last line the writer plays upon his own name, and, as we may guess, upon that of a person of the name of Griffin, who possibly had been his adversary in a Chancery suit, which Lord Ellesmere decided in favor of Sir George Buck. Of this we hear nothing in his scanty biography. The autograph inscription of this copy of [Greek characters] to Lord Ellesmere is addressed "To the right honourable the greatest counsellor, Sir Tho. Egerton, knight, baron of Ellesmere, Lord Chancellour of England, my very good Lord," in the following terms:—

Great & grave Lord, my mind hath longed long
In any thankfull maner to declare,
By act or woord, or were it in a song,
How great to you my obligations are,
Who did so nobly and so timely pluck
From Griffins talons your distressed Buck.

A comparison with this specimen of the penmanship of the Master of the Revels leaves no doubt that the inscription on an existing copy of the play of Locrine, 4to, 1595, assigning the authorship of it to Charles Tylney, is the handwriting of Sir George Buck. He adds the information, that be himself had written the "dumb shews" by which it was illustrated, and that it was originally called "Elstrild." Charles Tylney was brother to Edmund Tylney, who had preceded Sir George Buck as Master of the Revels. The interesting question of the authorship of Locrine, falsely imputed to Shakspeare, is thus decided.