A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Lyly, John

Lyly, John (1554?-1606). -- Dramatist and miscellaneous writer, was b. in the Weald of Kent, and ed. at both Oxf. and Camb. He wrote several dramas, most of which are on classical and mythological subjects, including Campaspe and Sapho and Phao (1584), Endymion (1591), and Midas (1592). His chief fame, page 247however, rests on his two didactic romances, Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit (1579), and Euphues and his England (1580). These works, which were largely inspired by Ascham's Toxophilus, and had the same objects in view, viz., the reform of education and manners, exercised a powerful, though temporary, influence on the language, both written and spoken, commemorated in our words "euphuism" and "euphuistic." The characteristics of the style have been set forth as "pedantic and far-fetched allusion, elaborate indirectness, a cloying smoothness and drowsy monotony of diction, alliteration, punning, and such-like puerilities, which do not, however, exclude a good deal of wit, fancy, and prettiness." Many contemporary authors, including Shakespeare, made game of it, while others, e.g. Greene, admired and practised it. L. also wrote light dramatic pieces for the children of the Chapel Royal, and contributed a pamphlet, Pappe with an Hatchet (1589) to the Mar-prelate controversy in which he supported the Bishops. He sat in Parliament for some years.