1866 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Chettle

John Payne Collier, "Englands Mourning Garment" in Bibliographical and Critical Account of the Rarest Books (1866) 1:160-62.



The variations between the present and the first impression (which came out without date) are not very material: the principal addition consists of a list (preceding "the Shepherd's Spring Song") of the twelve barons who carried "bannerols" at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth. There is, however, an omission of some importance, for in the first edition (without date), on sign. F 3, is found a note "to the Reader," signed by the author, Henry Chettle: it relates to the errors of the press, which, being subsequently corrected, it was probably considered not necessary to reprint.

The dedication is "to all true lovers of the right generous Queene Elizabeth"; and the tract commences with a dialogue in verse between Thenot and Colin, the author figuring himself under the latter name, although, as he mentions (when quoting Spenser on sign. D), it had been borne by Spenser. A sort of laudatory historical discourse follows, and forms the principal subject; but near the centre is a very interesting poem, in which Chettle reproaches all the principal poets of the day with their silence in offering tribute to the dead Queen, while some of them were so eager to pay their court to the living King. Daniel, Warner, Chapman, Ben Jonson, Shakspeare, Drayton, and Dekker, are all distinctly pointed at, although their names are not inserted. Of Shakspeare he speaks as follows by the name of Melicert, whom, on sign. B 3, he had already introduced:—

Nor doth the silver tongued Melicert
Drop from his honied Muse one sable teare
To mourne her death that graced his desert,
And to his laies open'd her royal care.
Shepheard, remember our Elizabeth,
And Slog her rape done by that Tarquin Death.

Chapman is spoken of as Corin "that finish'd dead Musaeus gracious song"; Ben Jonson is called "our English Horace"; and Dekker, (Ben Jonson's adversary,) "quick Anti-Horace": with the last he couples "young Moelibee his friend," a name not easily appropriated; and Henry Petowe, who, in 1598, had printed "the second part of Hero and Leander," and is, therefore, styled by Chettle "Hero's last Musaeus." Daniel is distinguished as "the sweetest song-man of all English Swains," and Warner, author of Albion's England, as having "sung forty years the life and birth" of Queen Elizabeth. Drayton is distinctly charged with having welcomed James on his accession, before he had deplored the loss of Elizabeth.

"The Shepherd's Spring Song," in gratulation of James I., occupies the four last pages, and is smoothly written, but it has little other recommendation: the following is one of the earlier stanzas, where Colin is endeavoring to rouse the sleeping shepherds.

The gray eyde morning with a blushing cheeke,
Like England's royal rose, mixt red and white,
Summons all eies to pleasure and delight.
Behold, the evenings deaws doe upward reeke,
Drawn by the Sun, which now doth gild the skie
With his light-giving and world-cheering eie.

In both editions the word "blushing" in the first of those lines is printed "blustring," but it is an easy and an obvious error.

Besides the two editions bearing the name of Millington, it appears from the books at Stationers' Hall, that Matthew Lawe had pirated England's Mourning Garment, in consequence of which he was ordered by the Court of the Company to bring all the copies in, and to pay a fine of 20s. This circumstance has only recently come to our knowledge, but we copy the following from the original record.

"7 Junij 1603. Math. Lawe. Yt is ordered that he shall presently pay xx s for a fine for printinge, contrary to order, a hook called England's mourning Garment, beinge Thomas Millington's copie; and that he shall bring into the hall, as forfayted by thordonance, all such numbers of the said bookes as now remayne in his hand unsold, which he say are 100 — xx s: pd. xv s."

In a note to the above it is added, that Lawe "brought in three quarterns, or thereabouts," and that "five shillings of the fine had been given back to him." No copy bearing Lawe's name is known, so that we may presume they were all destroyed.