Chettle, Henry (DNB00)


CHETTLE, HENRY (d. 1607?), dramatist and pamphleteer, son of Robert Chettle, a dyer of London, bound himself apprentice for eight years at Michaelmas 1577 to Thomas East, a stationer (Arber, Transcript of Stat. Reg. ii. 81), and in 1591 became partner with William Hoskins and John Danter (Ambs, Typogr. Antiq., (Herbert), ii. 1113). Chettle first comes into notice as editor of Greene's 'Groats-worth of Wit.' Greene died on 2 Sept. 1592, and Chettle lost no time in editing the posthumous tract. Doubts as to the genuineness of passages of the 'Groats-worth of Wit' were entertained at the time of publication; some suspected Nashe to have had a hand in the authorship, others accused Chettle. Nashe, in the private epistle to the printer prefixed to 'Pierce Pennilesse,' 1592, indignantly repudiated all connection with the obnoxious pamphlet; and Chettle, in the preface to 'Kind-Hart's Dreame' (undated, but entered on the Stationers' Registers in December 1592, and probably published early in 1593), hastened to explain that he had merely transcribed Greene's manuscript (as Greene's handwriting was difficult for the printers to read), and that his sole deviation from the manuscript had been the omission of certain passages (probably relating to Marlowe) which were unfit for publication. In the same preface he made a handsome apology to one of the persons whom Greene had attacked; this apology was undoubtedly intended for Shakespeare. 'Kind-Hart's Dreame' is an interesting exposure of some of the abuses of the time. We next hear of Chettle in connection with the controversy between Nashe and Gabriel Harvey. In 'Pierce's Supererogation,' 1593, Harvey mentioned Chettle as one of the persons whom Nashe 'odiously and shamefully misuseth' (Gabriel Harvey, Works, ed. Grosart, ii. 322). Replying to this charge in 'Have with you to Saffron Walden,' 1596, Nashe printed a letter in which Chettle declared that he had never suffered any wrong at Nashe's hands. The letter is signed, 'Your old Compositer, Henry Chettle.' In 1595 Chettle published a tract entitled 'Pierce Plainnes' Seaven Yeres' Prentiship,' of which there is a copy (supposed to be unique) in the Bodleian Library. 'Pierce Plainnes' tells an amusing story of his seven years' service in Crete and Thrace; he was employed successively by a courtier, a money-lender, and a miser. It is not known at what date Chettle began to write for the stage, but in Meres' 'Palladis Tamia,' 1598, he is mentioned as one of 'the best for comedy amongst us.' In Henslowe's 'Diary ' there are many entries, ranging from February 1597-8 to May 1603, relating to plays which Chettle either wrote with his own hand or in the authorship of which he had a share. As Henslowe's spelling was peculiarly erratic, the following lists are given in modern spelling. The plays written wholly by Chettle are: 1. 'A Woman's Tragedy,' July 1598, which has been absurdly identified with the anonymous 'Wit of a Woman,' published in 1604. 2. 'Tis no Deceit to deceive the Deceiver,' November 1598. 8. 'Troy's Revenge, with the Tragedy of Polyphemus,' February 1598-9. 4. 'Sir Placidas,' April 1599. 6. 'Dunon and Pythias,' January 1599-1600. 6. 'The Wooinff of Death,' April 1600. 7. 'All is not Gold that glisters,' March 1600-1. 8. 'Life of Cardinal Wolsey,' June 1601. 9. ' Tobias,' May 1602. 10. 'A Danish Tragedy,' July 1602. 11. 'Robin Goodfellow,' September 1602. 12. 'The Tradegy of Hoffman,' December 1602. 13. 'The London Florentine,' part ii. March 1602-3. Of these thirteen plays only one was printed, 'The Tragedy of Hoffman; or, a Revenge for a Father,' which is extant in a very corrupt quarto, published, without the author's name, in 1631. A reprint, edited by H. B[arrett] L[eonard], in which an attempt was made to correct the text of the old copy, appeared in 1851. Intense tragic power is shown in some of the scenes of this mutilated, ill-starred play. The works for which Chettle was partly responsible are: 1. 'The first Part of Robin Hood.' This play was written by Monday, but in November 1598 Chettle was paid ten shillings for 'mending' it. 2. 'The Second Part of Robin Hood,' February 1597-8, by Monday and Chettle. 3. 'A book wherein is a part of a Welchman,' March 1597-8, by Drayton and Chettle. Either Henslowe forgot the exact title of the play, or the dramatists had not fixed on a name. It has been conjectured, without any show of probability, that this piece is identical with 'The Valiant Welchman,' published in 1615 as the work of 'R. A., Gent.' 4. 'The Famous Wars of Henry I,' March 1597-&, by Drayton, Dekker, and Chettle. 5. 'Earl Goodwin and his Three Sons,' part i. March 1597-8, by Drayton, Chettle, Dekker, and Wilson. 6. 'Pierce of Exton,' March 1597-1598, by the same authors. 7. 'Earl Goodwin and his Three Sons,' part ii. April 1598, by the same authors. 8. 'Black Batman of the North,' part i. May 1598, by the same authors. 9. 'Black Batman of the North,' part ii. June 1598, by Chettle and Wilson. 10. ' Richard Cordelion's Funeral,' June 1598, by Monday, Drayton, Wilson, and Chettle. 11. 'The Conquest of Brute with the first finding of the Bath,' July 1598, by Day and Chettle. 12. 'Hot Anffer soon Cold,' August 1598, by Henry Porter, Chettle, and Ben Jonson. 13. 'Catiline's Conspiracy,' August 1598, by Wilson and Chettle. 14. 'The Spencers,' March 1598-9, by Chettle and Porter. 15. 'Troilus and Cressida,' April 1599, by Chettle and Dekker. 16. 'Agamemnon,' June 1599, by Chettle and Dekker. This may be the preceding play under another title. 17. 'The Stepmother's Tragedy,' July 1599, by Chettle and Dekker. 18. 'Robert the Second,' September 1599, by Dekker, Chettle, and Ben Jonson. 19. 'The Orphan's Tragedy,' November 1599, by Day, Hanghton and Chettle. 20. 'Patient Grisel,' December 1599, by Dekker, Haughton, and Chettle. 21. 'The Arcadian Virgin,' December 1599, by Chettle and Haughton. 22. 'The Seven Wise Masters,'March 1599-1600, by Dekker, Chettle, Haughton, and Day. 23. 'The Golden Ass and Cupid and Psyche,' April 1600, by Dekker, Day, and Chettle. 24. 'The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green,' May 1600, by Chett& and Day. 25. ' Sebastian, King of Portugal,' April 1601, by Chettle and Dekker. 26. 'The First Part of Cardinal Wolsey,' October 1601, by Chettle, Monday, Drayton, and Wentworth Smith. Some entries in the diary refer to a play called 'The Rising of Cardinal Wokey,' which is doubtless to be identified with 'The First Part of Cardinal Wolsey.' 27. 'The Second Part of Cardinal Wolsey,' 1602, probably by the same authors. 28. 'Too good to be True,' November 1601, by Chettle, Hathwaye, and Wentworth Smith. 29. 'The Proud Woman of Antwerp,' January 1601-2, by Day and Haughton. On 15 May 1602, Chettle was paid twenty shillings for 'mending' this play' 30. 'Love parts Friendship,' May 1602, by Chettle and Wentworth Smith. 31. 'Femelanco,' September 1602, by Chettle and Robinson. 32. 'Lady Jane,' part i. October 1602, by Chettle, Dekker, Heywood, Wentworth Smith, and Webster. Dekker received an advance of five shillings for 'The Second Part of Lady Jane, but there is no entry to show whether Chettle was concerned in the second part. 33. 'Christmas comes but once a Year, November 1602, by Heywood, Webster, Dekker, and Chettle. 34. 'London Florentine,' part i. December 1602, by Heywood and Chettle. The second part was written wholly by Chettle. 35. 'Jane Shore,' May 1603, by' Chettle and Day. In the diary, under date 9 May 1603, is an entry recording the advance of forty shillings ' unto harey Chettell and John Daye, in eameste of a playe wherein Shore's wiffe is writen;' and from an undated entry we learn that Chettle received forty shillings to his own use 'in earnest of the Booke of Shoare.' Both entries undoubtedly refer to the same play. Only four out of these thirty-six plays found their way into print. 'The First Part of Robin Hood' (No. 1) was published anonymously in 1601, 4to, b.L, under the title of 'The Downfall of Robert, Earle of Huntingon;' and the second part (No. 2) appeared in the same year under the title of 'The Death of Robert, Earle of Huntington,' 4to, b.l. Both plays were reprinted in Collier's ' Supplement to Dodsley's Old Plays,' 1828, and are included in the eighth volume of Hazlitt's 'Dodsley.' They are well written, and contain some pleasing pictures of greenwood life. 'The Pleasant Comedie of Patient Grissill' (No. 20), one of the most charming of old plays, was printed in 1603, 4to ; it was reprinted by the Shakespeare Society in 1841. 'The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green ' (No. 24) was printed in 1659, 4to, and reprinted in Mr. A. H. Bullen's edition of 'The Works of John Day,' 1880. It is highly probable that 'The Famous History of Sir Thomas Wyat . . . written by Thomas Dickers and John Webster,' 4to, 1607 (2nd edit. 1612), is a corrupt copy of ' Lady Jane' (No. 32). In January 1598-9 Chettle spent some time in the Marshalsea prison, and Henslowe advanced thirty shillmgs to 'paye his charges' during his confinement. He was never free from pecuniary troubles, and was constantly needing Henslowe's aid. In February 1601-1602, on receipt of three pounds, he signed a bond to write exclusively for the Earl of Nottingham's players.

Chettle published in 1603 'Englande's Mourning Garment.' The title-page of the first edition has neither the author's name nor the date of publication ; but the address to the reader, immediately before the colophon, bears the signature 'Hen. Chettle,' and internal evidence shows that the tract must have been printed very soon after the death of Queen Elizabeth. A second edition, which differs in no important respect from the first edition, is dated 1603. The book appears to have been received with applause, for, besides these two authorised editions (which were published by Thomas Millington), a pirated edition was issued by Matthew Lawe, who was fined for his offence and was compelled to recall the unauthorised copies. 'Englande's Mourning Garment' is interesting to modern readers as containing a copy of verses in which Chettle alludes to the chief contemporary poets under fictitious names. One stanza is supposed to refer to Shakespeare, who (under the title of 'Silver-tonged Melicert') is entreated to 'remember our Elizabeth, and sing her rape done by that Tarquin, Death.' Chettle died not later than 1607, for in Dekker's 'Knight's Conjuring,' published in that year, he is mentioned as newly arrived at the limbo of the poets. From Dekker's description it may be gathered that Chettle was a man of a mil habit of body. A 'Mary Chettle, the daughter of Henry Chettle,' who died in September 1695, and was buried in the church of St. John's, New Windsor, is conjectured to have been the daughter of the dramatist. Ritson ascribes to Chettle : 1. 'The Pope's Pitifull Lamentation for the death of his deere darling Don Joan of Austria ... translated after the French printed copy by H. C., 1578. 2. 'A doleful ditty or sorrowful sonet of the Lord Darly, &c., licensed Mar. 24, 1579.' 3. 'The Forest of Fancy ... by H. C.,' 1579. But it is highly improbable that Chettle had begun to write at so early a date.

[Arber's Transcipt of Stat. Reg. ii. 81; Ames' Typogr. Antiq. (Herbert), ii. 1113; Gabriel Harvey's Works, ed. Grosart, ii. 322; Nashe's Works, ed. Grosart, iii. 194; The Tragedy of Hoffman, ed. H. B[arrett] L[eonard]; Kind Heart's Dream, ed. Edw. F. Rimbault; A Knight's Conjuring, ed. Rimbault, p. 100; Collier's Bibl. Cat. i. 130-1; Henslowe's Diary; Ingleby's Shakespeare Allusion Books, pt. i. pp. vii-xxi; Corser's Collectanea.]

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