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LYLY, JOHN


neglect academical studies, yet not so much but that he took the degrees in arts, that of master being com pleated 1575." After he left Oxford, where he had already the reputation of “a noted wit,” Lyly seems to have attached himself to Lord Burghley. “This noble man,” he writes in the “Glasse for Europe,” in the second part of Euphues (1580), “I found so ready being but a stranger to do me good, that neyther I ought to forget him, neyther cease to pray for him, that as he hath the wisdom of Nestor, so he may have the age, that having the policies of Ulysses he may have his honor, worthy to lyve long, by Whom so many lyve in quiet, and not unworthy to be advanced by whose care so many have been preferred.” Two years later we possess a letter of Lyly to the treasurer, dated July 1582, in which the writer protests against some accusation of dishonesty which had brought him into trouble with his patron, and demands a personal interview for the purpose of clearing his character. What the further relations beween them were we have no means of knowing, but it is clear that neither from Burghley nor from the queen did Lyly ever receive any substantial patronage. In 1578 he began his literary career by the composition of Euphues, or the Anatomy of Wit, which was licensed to Gabriel Cawood on the 2nd of December, 1578, and published in the spring of 1579. In the same year the author was incorporated M.A. at Cambridge, and possibly saw his hopes of court advancement dashed by the appointment in July of Edmund Tylney to the office of master of the revels, a post at which, as he reminds the queen some years later, he had all along been encouraged to “aim his courses.” Euphues and his England appeared in 1580, and, like the first part of the book, won immediate popularity. For a time Lyly was the most successful and fashionable of English writers. He was hailed as the author of “a new English,” as a “raffineur de l'Anglois”; and, as Edmund Blount, the editor of his plays, tells us in 1632, “that beautie in court which could not parley Euphuism was as little regarded as she which nowe there speakes not French.” After the publication of Euphues, however, Lyly seems to have entirely deserted the novel form himself, which passed into the hands of his imitators, and to have thrown himself almost exclusively into play-writing, probably with a view to the mastership of revels whenever a vacancy should occur. Eight plays by him were probably acted before the queen by the children of the Chapel Royal and the children of St Paul's between the years 1584 and 1589, one or two of them being repeated before a popular audience at the Blackfriars Theatre. Their brisk lively dialogue, classical colour and frequent allusions to persons and events of the day maintained that popularity with the court which Euphues had won. Lyly sat in parliament as member for Hindon in 1589, for Aylesbury in 1593, for Appleby in 1597 and for Aylesbury a second time in 1601. In 1589 Lyly published a tract in the Martin Marprelate controversy, called Pappe with an hatchet, alias a figge for my Godsonne; Or Crack me this nut; Or a Countrie Cuffe, &c.[1] About the same time we may probably date his first petition to Queen Elizabeth. The two petitions, transcripts of which are extant among the Harleian MSS., are undated, but in the first of them he speaks of having been ten years hanging about the court in hope of preferment, and in the second he extends the period to thirteen years. It may be conjectured with great probability that the ten years date from 1579, when Edmund Tylney was appointed master of the revels with a tacit understanding that Lyly was to have the next reversion of the post. “I was entertained your Majestie's servaunt by your own gratious favor, ” he says, “strengthened with conditions that I should ayme all my courses at the Revells (I dare not say with a promise, but with a hopeful Item to the Revercion) for which these ten yeres I have attended with an unwearied patience." But in 1589 or 1590 the mastership of the revels was as far off as ever-Tylney in fact held the post for thirty-one years-and that Lyly's petition brought him no compensation in other directions may be inferred from the second petition of 1593. “Thirteen yeres your highnes servant but yet nothing. Twenty freinds that though they saye they will be sure, I finde them sure to be slowe. A thousand hopes, but all nothing; a hundred promises but yet nothing. Thus casting up the inventory of my friends, hopes, promises and tymes, the snmma totalis amounteth to just nothing.” What may have been Lyly's subsequent fortunes at court we do not know. Edmund Blount says vaguely that Elizabeth “graced and rewarded” him, but of this there is no other evidence. After 1590 his works steadily declined in influence and reputation; other stars were in possession of the horizon; and so far as we know he died poor and neglected in the early part of James I.'s reign. He was buried in London at St Bartholomew the Less on the 20th of November, 1606. He was married, and we hear of two sons and a daughter.

Comedies.-In 1632 Edmund Blount published “Six Court Comedies,” including Endymion (1591), Sappho and Phao (1584), Alexander and Campaspe (1584), Midas (1592), Mother Bombie (1594) and Gallathea (1592). To these should be added the Woman in the Moone (Lyly's earliest play, to judge from a passage in the prologue and therefore earlier than 1584, the date of Alexander and Campaspe), and Love's Metamorphosis, first printed in 1601. Of these, all but the last are in prose. A Warning for Faire Women (1599) and The Maid's Metamorphosis (1600) have been- attributed to Lyly, but on altogether insufficient grounds. The first editions of all these plays were issued between 1584 and 1601, and the majority of them between 1584 and 1592, in what were Lyly's most successful and popular years. His importance as a dramatist has been very differently estimated. Lyly's dialogue is still a long way removed from the dialogue of Shakespeare. But at the same time it is a great advance in rapidity and resource upon anything which had gone before it; it represents an important step in English dramatic art. His nimbleness, and the wit which struggles with his pedantry, found their full development in the dialogue of Twelfth Night and Much Ado about Nothing, just as “Marlowe's mighty line” led up to and was eclipsed by the majesty and music of Shakespearian passion. One or two of the songs introduced into his plays are justly famous and show a real lyrical gift. Nor in estimating his dramatic position and his effect upon his time must it be forgotten that his classical and mythological plots, flavourless and dull as they would be to a modern audience, were charged with interest to those courtly hearers who saw in Midas Philip II., Elizabeth in Cynthia and perhaps Leicester's unwelcome marriage with Lady Sheffield in the love affair between Endymion and Tellus which brings the former under Cynthia's displeasure. As a matter of fact his reputation and popularity as a play-writer were considerable. Gabriel Harvey dreaded lest Lyly should make a play upon their quarrel; Meres, as is Well known, places him among “the best for comedy”; and Ben Jonson names him among those foremost rivals who were “outshone” and outsung by Shakespeare.

Euphues.-It was not, however, as a dramatist, but as the author of Euphues, that Lyly made most mark upon the Elizabethan world. His plays amused the court circle, but the “ new English ” of his novel threatened to permanently change he course of English style. The plot of Euphues is extremely simple. The hero, whose name may very possibly have been suggested by a passage in Ascham's Schoolmaster, is introduced to us as still in bondage to the follies of youth, “ preferring fancy before friends, and this present humour before honour to come.” His travels bring him to Naples, where he falls in love with Lucilla, the governor's light-minded daughter. Lucilla is already pledged to Euphues's friend Philautus, but Euphues's passion betrays his friendship, and the oldilover finds himself thrown over by both friend and mistress. Euphues himself, however, is very soon forsaken for a more attractive suitor. He and Philautus make up their quarrel, and Euphues writes his friend “a cooling card,” to be “applied to all lovers,” which is so severe upon the fair sex that Lyly feels it necessary to balance it by a sort of apology addressed “to the grave matrons

  1. The evidence for his authorship may be found in Gabriel Harvey's Pierce's Supererogation (written November 1589, published 1593), in Nash's Have with you to Saffron Walden (1596), and in various allusions in Lyly's own plays. See Fairholt's Dramatic Works of John Lilly, i. 20.