1607
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Knights Conjuring.

A Knights Conjuring. Done in Earnest: discovered in Jest. By Thomas Dekker.

Thomas Dekker


In a new conclusion to Thomas Dekker's vision of the underworld, Spenser is accorded special recognition: "Grave Spencer was no sooner entred into this Chappell of Apollo, but these elder Fathers of the divine Furie, gave him a Lawrel and sung his Welcome: Chaucer call'de him his Sonne, and plac'de him at his right hand." The satire originally appeared in 1606 as Newes from Hell.

Thomas Frognall Dibdin: "The greater part of Dekker's miscellaneous pieces (for I hope to be spared the reading of his dramatic ones) are equally curious and instructive to the philologist. Among them, the richly furnished library of Mr. Freeling supplies me with one called A Knight's conjuring done in earnest: Discovered in Jest: 1607, 4to. In the 9th Chapter, on the reverse of the last leaf but one, some of the contemporaneous poets are noticed, and Spencer is particularly lauded" Library Companion (1824; 1825) 2:600-01n.

John Payne Collier: "He first speaks of Chaucer, surrounded 'by all the makers or poets of his time'; and then he introduces Spenser, Watson, Kyd, Atchlow, Marlowe, Greene, Peele, Nash, and Chettle, which last had only just arrived, so that we may presume he was only recently dead. The passage regarding Spenser is more interesting than any other, because it decisively shows what has been doubted, namely, that he never wrote more of his Faerie Queene than has come down to us, and that there were in fact no six books, concluding the great subject, which were said to have been either lost at sea, on their way from Ireland, or destroyed by the carelessness of a servant. Dekker's words regarding Spenser are: 'Grave Spencer was no sooner entred into this Chappell of Apollo, but these elder Fathers of the divine Furie gave him a Lawrer and sung his Welcome: Chaucer call'de him his Sonne, and plac'de him at his right hand. All of them (at a signe given by the whole Quire of the Muses that brought him thither) closing up their lippes in silence, and tuning all their eares for attention, to heare him sing out the rest of his Fayrie Queenes praises.' It was because Spenser has never written 'the rest of his Faerie Queene' that the Muses listened to hear the conclusion of the subject. Had 'the rest' ever been composed, the Muses must have known it, and 'tuning their eares' for attention would have been needless" Bibliographical and Critical Account (1866)1:245-46.

George Saintsbury: "A hundred years ago Thomas Dekker was probably little more than a name to all but professed students of Elizabethan literature, and he waited longer than any of his fellows for due recognition by presentation of his work in a complete form. It is not fifteen years since his plays were collected; it is scarcely as many months since his prose works had the same honour. Yet, since attention was directed to Dekker in any way, the best authorities have been unanimous in his praise. Lamb's famous outburst of enthusiasm, that he had 'poetry enough for anything,' has been soberly endorsed by two full generations of the best judges, and whatever differences of detail there may be as to his work, it is becoming more and more the received, and correctly-received opinion, that, as his collaborator Webster came nearest to Shakespere in universalising certain types in the severer tragedy, so Dekker has the same honour on the gently pathetic side. Yet this great honour is done to one of the most shadowy personalities in literature. We have four goodly volumes of his plays and five of his other works; yet of Thomas Dekker, the man, we know absolutely less than of any one of his shadowy fellows. We do not know when he was born, when he died, what he did other than writing in the certainly long space between the two unknown dates. In 1637 he was by his own words a man of threescore, which, as it has been justly remarked, may mean anything between fifty-five and seventy. He was in circumstances a complete contrast to his fellow-victim in Jonson's satire, Marston. Marston was apparently a gentleman born and bred, well connected, well educated, possessed of some property, able to make testamentary dispositions, and probably in the latter part of his life, when Dekker was still toiling at journalism of various kinds, a beneficed clergyman in country retirement. Dekker was, it is to be feared, what the arrogance of certain members of the literary profession has called, and calls, a gutter-journalist — a man who had no regular preparation for the literary career, and who never produced anything but hand-to-mouth work. Jonson went so far as to say that he was a 'rogue'; but Ben, though certainly not a rogue, was himself not to be trusted when he spoke of people that he did not like; and if there was any but innocent roguery in Dekker he has contrived to leave exactly the opposite impression stamped on every piece of his work" History of Elizabethan Literature (1887; 1909) 199-210.

On general borrowings throughout Dekker's works, see Spenser Encyclopedia (1990) 212.




Beyond all these places is there a Grove, which stands by it selfe like an Iland; for a streame (that makes musicke in the running) claspts it round about like a hoope girdle of christall: Lawrells grew so thicke on all the bankes of it, that lightning it selfe, if it came thither, hath no power to pierce through them. It seemes (without) a desolate and unfrequented wood, (for those within are retyrde into themselves) but from them came forth such harmonious sounds, that birdes build nests onely in the trees there, to teach Tunes to their young ones prettily. This is called The Grove of Bay Trees, and to this Consort-Rome, resort none but the children of Phoebus, (Poets and Musitions:) the one creates the ditty, and gives it the life or number, the other lends it voyce, and makes it speake musicke. When these happy Spirits sit asunder, their bodies are like so many Starres, and when they joyne togither in severall troopes, they shew like so many heavenly Constellations. Full of pleasant Bowers and queint Arboures is all this Walke. In one of which, old Chaucer, reverend for prioritie, blythe in cheare, buxsome in his speeches, and benigne in his haviour, is circled a round with all the Makers or Poets of his time, their hands leaning on one anothers shoulders, and their eyes fixt seriously upon his, whilst their eares are all tied to his tongue, by the golden chaines of his Numbers; for here (like Evanders mother) they spake all in verse: no Attick eloquence is so sweete: their language is so pleasing to the goddes, that they utter their Oracles in none other. Grave Spencer was no sooner entred into this Chappell of Apollo, but these elder Fathers of the divine Furie, gave him a Lawrel and sung his Welcome: Chaucer call'de him his Sonne, and plac'de him at his right hand. All of them (at a signe given by the whole Quire of the Muses that brought him thither,) closing up their lippes in silence, and tuning all their eares for attention, to heare him sing out the rest of his Fayrie Queenes praises.

In another companie sat learned Watson, industrious Kyd, ingenious Atchlow, and (tho hee had bene a Player, molded out of their pennes) yet because he had bene their Lover, and a Register to the Muses, Inimitable Bentley: these were likewise carowsing to one another at the holy well, some of them singing Paeans to Apollo, som of them Hymnes to the rest of the Goddes, whil'st Marlow, Greene, and Peele had got under the shades of a large vyne, laughing to see Nash (that was but newly come to their Colledge,) still haunted with the sharpe and Satyricall spirit that followd him heere upon earth: for Nash inveyed bitterly (as he had wont to do) against dry-fisted Patrons, accusing them of his untimely death, because if they had given his Muse that cherishment which shee most worthily deserved, hee had fed to his dying day on fat Capons, burnt sack and Suger, and not so desperately have ventur'de his life, and shortend his dayes by keeping company with pickle herrings: the rest ask't him what newes in the world, hee told them that Barbarisme was now growne to bee an Epidemiall disease, and more common then the tooth-ache: being demaunded how Poets and Players agreed now, troth sayes hee, As Phisitions and patients agree, for the patient loves his Doctor no longer then till hee get his health, and the Player loves a Poet, so long as the sicknesse lyes in the two-penie gallery when none will come into it: Nay (sayes he) into so lowe a miserie (if not contempt,) is the sacred Arte of Poesie falne, that tho a wryter (who is worthy to sit at the table of the Sunne,) wast his braines, to earne applause from the more worthie Spirits, yet when he has done his best, hee workes but like Ocnus, that makes ropes in hell; for as hee twists, an Asse stands by and bites them in sunder, and that Asse is no other than the Audience with hard hands. He had no sooner spoken this, but in comes Chettle sweating and blowing, by reason of his fatnes, to welcome whom, because hee was of olde acquaintance, all rose up, and fell presentlie on their knees, to drinck a health to all the Lovers of Hellicon: in dooing which, they made such a mad noyse, that all this Conjuring which is past, (beeing but a dreame,) I suddenlie started up, and am now awake.


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