1862 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Marston

Thomas Arnold, in A Manual of English Literature (1862; 1885) 200.



Marston is the author of five separate satires (1598), besides three books of satires, collectively named The Scourge of Villanie (1599). The separate satires are not without merit, as the passage given above (p. 193), which was taken from the fourth of them, might, prove. The second contains an attack on the Puritans, who first appeared a few years before this time as a separate party. A Puritan citizen, who said grace for half an hour, but was a griping usurer, is thus satirised:—

No Jew, no Turke, would use a Christian
So inhumanely as this Puritan....
Take heed, O worlde! take heed advisedly,
Of these same damned anthropophagi.
I had rather be within an harpie's clawes
Than trust myself in their devouring jawes,
Who all confusion to the world would bring
Under the forme of their new discipline.

The Scourge of Villanie is much inferior to the separate satires. The author gloats over the immoralities which he pretends to scourge in a manner which forces one to think of "Satan reproving Sin." All is invective; those delightful changes of hand, with which Horace wanders back to the scenes of his boyhood, or gives us his opinion of Lucilius, or sketches the poetical character, or playfully caricatures the Stoic philosophy, are not for the imitation of such blundering matter-of-fact satirists as Hall, or Donne, or Marston; with them satire is satire: they begin to call names in the first line, and, with the tenacity of their country's bull-dogs, continue to worry their game down to the very end.