1817 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Gabriel Harvey

Nathan Drake, in Shakespeare and his Times (1817; 1838) 223-24.



The literature and the moral character of Harvey were highly respectable; but he was vain, credulous, affected, and pedantic; he published a collection of panegyrics on himself; he turned astrologer and almanack-maker, he was perfectly Italianated in his dress and mariner, in his style he was pompously elaborate, and he boasted himself the inventor and introducer of English Hexameters. These foibles, together with the obscurity of his parentage, his father being a rope-maker at Saffron-Walden, in Essex, a circumstance of which he had the folly to be ashamed, furnished to his adversaries an inexhaustible fund of ridicule and wit; and had these legitimate ingredients been unmingled with personal invective and brutal sarcasm, Gabriel, who was no mean railer himself, had not been sinned against; but the malignity of Greene and Nash was unbounded; and Harvey, who was morbidly irritable and bled at every pore, catching a portion of their spirit, the controversy be came so outrageously virulent, that the prelates of Canterbury and London, Whitgift and Bancroft, interfering, issued an order, "that all Nashe's books and Dr. Harvey's books be taken wheresoever they may be found, and that none of the said books be ever printed hereafter;" an injunction which has rendered most of the pamphlets on this literary quarrel extremely scarce, particularly Harvey's Four Letters And Certaine Sonnets. Especially touching Robert Greene and other Poets by him abused. Imprinted by John Wolfe, 1592; a very curious work, which we shall have occasion to quote hereafter; and Nash's Have with you to Saffron-Walden, or Gabriel Harvey's hunt is up, 1596, which includes a humorous but unmerciful representation of Gabriel's life and character, the bitter satirist exulting in the idea that he had brought on his adversary, by the poignancy of his invectives, the effects of premature old age. "I have brought him low," he exclaims, "and shrewly broken him; look on his head, and you shall find a gray hair for everie line I have writ against him; and you shall have all his beard white too by the time he hath read over this book."