1866 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Nashe

John Payne Collier, "Have with you to Saffron-Waldon" in Bibliographical and Critical Account of the Rarest Books (1866) 3:21-25.



The course of the quarrel between Nash and Gabriel Harvey appears to have been this. In 1592, Greene, in his Quip for an upstart Courtier, had called Harvey and his two brothers the sons of a rope-maker at Saffron Walden — as they unquestionably were. In the same year, after Greene's death, Harvey replied in his Four Letters and certain Sonnets; and Nash took up the cudgels for his deceased friend in Strange News, also bearing date in 1592. Harvey returned to the contest in his Pierce's Supererrogation of 1593. Nash, with apparent sincerity, offered amends and reconcilement in his Christ's Tears of 1593, which Harvey indignantly rejected in his New Letter of Notable Contents, also of 1593. In 1594 Nash recalled his amends, and renewed the attack in an epistle preceding a reissue of his Christ's Tears; and thus matters rested until, in 1596, Harvey being still unforgiving and revengeful, Nash put forth the volume which gives title to the present article. He dedicated it in burlesque to Richard Litchfield, the barber of Trinity College, Cambridge; and in 1597 Harvey answered Nash under the assumed character of the same barber. We have stated these points and dates, in order to render what we are about to offer regarding Nash's Have with you to Saffron Walden more intelligible. The reader will thus see in what order it came out, and to what it was meant by its author to be a reply.

It is written in Nash's usual off-hand and trenchant style, and the long rambling dedication to Litchfield contains the noted passage showing that there was a Latin play upon the history of Richard III. as early as 1596. There, too, we are told of Tarlton, the "Dick of all Picks," who, coming into a church where the organ was out of repair, proposed to supply the deficiency with his pipe and tabor.

In his address to the Reader, Nash excuses himself for not having answered Harvey earlier, and thus added length to "the lease of his adversary's life." He then explains that he had written his reply in the Italian style, by way of dialogue, the interlocutors being Importunio (grand Consiliadore), Bentivoli Carneades de boone Compagniola, and himself, of whom he generally speaks as Pierce Penniless, though sometimes as Nash, and Tom Nash. Here it is that he charges Polidore Virgil, in the time of Henry VIII., with having "burned all the ancient records of the true beginning of our Isle after he had finished his Chronicle." Nash laughs at Harvey for the length of his preliminary matter, but he does not arrive at the commencement of his own work until sign. D.

Near the opening of the dialogue he accounts for his delay in replying to Harvey's Pierce's Supererrogation, and New Letter of notable Contents, by making his friend Importunio vouch that, during the greater part of the interval, "he hath been hatching of nothing but toies for private gentlemen, and neglected the peculiar business of his reputation, that so deeply concerned him, to follow vaine hopes, and had I wist humours about Court, that make him goe in a thredbare cloake, and scarce pay for boat hire." Nash afterwards confirms this statement in his own person, and from his own mouth: "I am faine," he says, "to let my plow stand still in the midst of a furrow, and follow some of these new-fangled Galiardos and Senior Fantasticos, to whose amorous Villanellas and Quipassas I prostitute my pen in hope of gaine; but otherwise there is no new fanglenes in mee but povertie, which alone maketh mee so unconstant to my determined studies; nor idlenesse, more then discontented trudging from place to place, too and fro, and prosecuting the meanes to keep me from idlenesse."

This is curious, if only that it affords one more proof, out of numbers that might be adduced, to show the manner in which the young Innamorati of that day not unfrequently employed better pens than their own to write their love-verses.

Nash informs us that his Pierce Penniless's Supplication had been "maimedly translated into the French tongue," (sign F,) and that in English "it had passed, at the least, through the pikes of sixe impressions." A page or two afterwards he inserts a woodcut of his antagonist, heading it "The picture of Gabriell Harvey, as he is ready to let fly upon Ajax." He thus drolly introduces it: — "Those that be disposed to take a view of him, ere hee bee come to the full Midsommer Moone, and raging Calentura of his wretchednes, here let them behold his lively counterfet and portraiture; not in the pantofles of his prosperitie, as he was when he libeld against my Lord of Oxford, but in the single-soald pumpes of his adversitie, with his gowne cast off, untrussing and ready to beray himselfe upon the newes of the going in hand of my booke."

Harvey might be a match for Nash in abuse and argument, but he was by no means a match for him in ridicule, and it was such as would pierce the skin of the hardest pachyderm; while thin-skinned Harvey, whose vanity was not less than his violence, smarted under it most severely. All he could do in revenge was, in the character of Litchfield, the barber, similarly to exhibit Nash in fetters, in reference to his imprisonment for a now lost drama called The Isle of Dogs. The subsequent passage is important, since it shows that in 1596 the boys of St. Paul's School were again in disgrace, and prohibited from acting their usual plays. In connection with them Nash mentions one of Lyly's dramas by name, as if it had been the cause of silencing the young company: — "Troth," says Carneades, "I would bee might for mee (that's all the harme I wish him) for then we neede never wish the Playes of Powles up againe; but if we were wearie with walking, and loth to goe too farre to seeke sport, into the Arches we might step, and heare him plead, which would be a merrier Comedie then ever was old Mother Bomby."

On signature I 2 begins a pretended biography of Harvey under the title of "The life and godly education, from his childhood, of that thrice famous Clarke, and worthie Orator and Poet, Gabriell Harvey," very provoking and ridiculous, but doubtless (to render it more biting) in many places founded on fact. Here, in reference to Richard Harvey, one of the brothers of Gabriel, Nash says: "This is that Dick of whom Kit Marloe was wont to say, that he was an asse good for nothing but to preach of the Iron Age." Some pages on Nash abuses Barnabe Barnes and Anthony Chute, and imputes to the latter a work called Procris and Cephalus, which was entered by Wolfe on the books of the Stationers' Company in 1593, but, if printed, no copy of it is now known. If we may believe Nash, Chute was also author of a comedy on "the transformation of the King of Trinidadoes two Daughters Panachaea and Tobacco." This too has been lost, although an anonymous narrative poem, in couplets, on the Metamorphosis of Tobacco, was printed in 1602. In 1596 Chute was dead, and, as Nash asserts, "rotten." John Lyly, we learn on the same authority, was then at work on "the Paradoxe of the Ass," which we might think the very production called The Nobleness of the Ass, reviewed Vol. I. p. 40, but that it was printed with the date of 1595. It might be a mistake for 1596, or the tract might be antedated.

As Nash's Have with you, &c. has not been hitherto duly noticed in any bibliographical work, we may here add a brief passage in which he speaks of his father, the clergyman of Lowestoft, whom Harvey had very unfairly dragged into the compass of his attack. "My father," he asserts, "put more good meate in poore mens mouthes, than all the ropes and living is worth his [Harvey's] Father left him, together with his mother and two brothers; and (as another Scholler) he brought me up at S. Johns, where (it is well knowen) I might have been Fellow if I had would."

It must be acknowledged that Nash draws out his reply to Harvey to an unreasonable length, and some letters from Chettle and Thorius (who had been reconciled to Nash and withdrawn from Harvey) might have been omitted. We only add that Messrs. Cooper, in their generally accurate account of Nash (Ath. Cantabr. II. 307), mistakenly assign to him Gabriel Harvey's New Letter of Notable Contents, 1593. Plaine Percival, in the same list of works, was, as we have shown, (ante, p. 7,) by Richard Harvey. The play of the Isle of Dogs, which Nash was writing for Henslowe's company in May, 1597, may have been a comedy founded upon his earlier play, for which he had been imprisoned, and to which, on that account, public attention was specially directed. Meres, in his Palladis Tamia, 1598, p. 286, laments Nash's misfortune, and terms him "gallant young Juvenal," as Greene had done in his Groats worth of Wit, 1592, where he finally addressed several of his poetical contemporaries.