1866 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Nashe

John Payne Collier, "Strange Newes of the intercepting certaine Letters" in Bibliographical and Critical Account of the Rarest Books (1866) 3:11-13.



This tract is an answer by Nash to Gabriel Harvey's Four Letters and Certain Sonnets, (see Vol. II. p. 124,) printed in the same year. Other copies of Nash's Strange Newes have the title of The Apologie of Pierce Pennilesse, (that perhaps being considered a more attractive name,) and bear date in 1593. The preliminary matter only (including the dedication and address) was reprinted, the rest being from the identical types as the edition before us.

The dedication is to a person whom Nash styles William Apislapis, probably Beestone, whom he calls, in derision, "the most copious Carminist of our time, and famous persecutor of Priscian." This person was perhaps the father of Christopher Beestone, or Beeston, an actor, and subsequently master of a company of players. On this title-page and others Nash is styled "Gentleman," and to this circumstance he refers in the body of the work, claiming for his family an ancient and reputable origin. In the Shaksp. Soc. Papers, Vol. III. p. 178, is an account of the family of Nash, by which it appears that Thomas was born at Lowestoft, in Suffolk, in 1567, and that he was the son of the Rev. William Nash, who then held the living. The previous history of the family is not known, but they had been resident in Hertfordshire, and came from thence: "my father sprang from the Nashes of Hertfordshire," are the poet's own words.

On sign. L 3. b. Nash quotes (with some careless omissions) Spenser's Sonnet in praise of Harvey, and he ends his reply by one of his own in abuse of him:—

Were there no warres, poore men should have no peace:
Uncessant warres with waspes and droanes! I crie.
Hee that begins oft knows not how to cease:
They have begun, I'le follow till I die.
Ile heare no truce wrong gets no grave in nice;
Abuse pell mell encounter with abuse:
Write bee againe, lie write eternally.
Who feedes revenge hath found an endlesse Muse.
If Death ere made his blacke dart of a pen,
My penne his speciall Baily shall becum.
Somewhat I'le be reputed of mongst men
By striking of this duns or dead or dum:
Awaite, the world, the tragedy of wrath!
What next I paint shall tread no common path.
Aut nunquam tentes, aut perfice.
THO. NASHE.

This contest between Nash and Harvey was continued almost without cessation. After his Christ's Tears, 1594, (see p. 16,) Nash vigorously renewed the war in 1596, by publishing his Have with you to Saffron-Walden, which he dedicated to Richard Lichfield, the Barber of Cambridge. Harvey answered it in the name of Lichfield, in a tract called The Trimming of Thomas Nashe, 4to, 1597; and in both of these productions we have not only coarse abuse, but personal caricatures. Nash first began this species of hostility by inserting in his Have with you to Saffron-Walden a woodcut, representing Dr. Gabriel Harvey, although he admits that he has "put him in round hose, that usually weares Venetians."

Nash wrote a play called The Isle of Dogs, for which he sustained a temporary imprisonment, and Harvey in his retort availed himself of this circumstance to represent Nash in fetters. The design is much inferior to that Nash had given of Harvey, but it is the only resemblance (if such it can be called) that has been preserved of our celebrated prose-satirist. Both were, probably, from pen-and-ink sketches by the authors, but Nash was the better artist. In the end it was ordered that the tracts on both sides should be burned.