Page:Notes and Queries - Series 11 - Volume 11.djvu/346

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NOTES AND QUERIES. [ii s. XL MAY i, 1915.


The composition, of these Characters may best be described by calling them specimens of literary joiner's work. Let me take as an example ' A Fair and Happy Milkmaid,' which is the most frequently quoted, and is, indeed, described by Rimbault as " the best of Overbury's Characters." A fifth, at least, of this is Sidney's. I quote from the 4 Milk- maid ' * :

"All her excellencies stand in her so silently, as if they had stolne upon her without her know- ledge.... She doth not, with lying long abed, poile both her complexion and conditions ; nature hath taught her too immoderate sleepe is rust to the soule. . . .She doth all things with so sweet a grace, it seems ignorance will not suffer her to doe ill, being her mind is to doe well. She dares goe alone. . . .yet, to say truth, she is never alone, for she is still accompanied with old songs, honest thoughts, and prayers."

And from Sidney's ' Arcadia :

" Philoclea so bashfxil, as though her excellencies had stolen into her before she was aware."

Book I. (Routledge, p. 13).

"... .telling them it was a shame for them to mar their complexions, yea and conditions too, with lying long abed." Book II. (p. 151).

" ... .doing all things with so pretty a grace that it seemed ignorance could not make him do .amiss, because he had a heart to do well."

Book I. (p. 82).

" They are never alone that are accompanied with noble thoughts." Book I. (p. 68).

The Character of ' A Noble arid Retired Housekeeper ' is a not less remarkable performance. Certainly nearly all its material is second-hand, and one is inclined to suspect that it contains not a single original reflection. In this case the author leads off with Florio's ' Montaigne ' :

" A NOBLE AXD RETIRED HOUSE-KEEPER. Is one whose bounty is limited by reason, not ostenta- tion: and to make it last, he deales it discreetly as we sow the jurroiv. not by the sacke, but by the handfull. His word and his meaning never shake hands and part, but alway goe together. He can survay good and love it, and loves to doe it himself, for its own sake, not for thanks. . . .in his face and gesture is painted The God of Hospi- tality. His great houses beare in their front more durance then state ; unlesse this add the greater state to them that they promise to out-last much of our new phantasticall building. His heart never grows old, no more than his memory.... His thoughts have a high aime, though their dwelling bee in the vale of an humble heart. The adamant serves not for all seas, but his doth : for he hath as it were put a gird about the whole world, and sounded all her quick-sandes. He hath this hand over Fortune, that her injuries, how


  • For the Characters I have used Dr. E. F.

Bimbault'e edition of ' Thomas Overbury's Works' (Reeves & Turner, 1890); for Sidney's 4 Arcadia,' Routledge's edition ; and for Webster, Hazlitt's edition (Reeves & Turner, 1897) in 4 vols.


violent or sudden soever, they do not daunt him ; for whether his time call him to live or die, he can do both nobly : if to fall, his descent is brest to brest with vertue ; and even then like the sunne near his set, hee shewes unto the world his deerest countenance."

I have quoted almost the whole of this Character, omitting only two sentences and part of a third. I will now quote from Florio's ' Montaigne,' and next from Sidney's ' Arcadia.'

Florio's ' Montaigne,' book iii. chap. vi. :

"... .Whosoever will reape any commodity by it [liberality] must sow with his hand and not poure out of the sacke . . . . come must be dis- creetly scattered, and not lavishly dispersed."

Sidney's * Arcadia,' book i. : -

[Of Argalus] " His word ever led by his thought, and always followed by his deed."

(Routledge, p. 22.)

" Clitophon. .. .being. .. .one that can survey good and love it." (Routledge, p. 22.)

" Daiaphantus, who loved doing well for its own sake, not for thanks . . . . " (P. 33.)

" ....about which [i.e., Kalander's house] they might see.... all such necessary additions to a great house as might well show Kalander knew that provision is the foundation of hospitality. The house itself .... not affecting so much any extraordinary kind of fineness as an honourable representing of a firm stateliness .... more lasting than beautiful, but that the consideration of the exceeding lastingness made the eye believe it M T as exceeding beautiful." (P. 9.)

" Having found in him . . . .high-erected thought seated in a heart of courtesy." (P. 10.)

Note how skilfully the last sentence of the Character is pieced together from three different fragments of Sidney's work :

[Philianax's letter to Basilius.] " Lastly, whether your time call you to live or die, do both like a prince." (P. 16.)

"Wisdom and virtue.... do lead so direct a way of proceeding, as either prosperity must ensue ; or if the wickedness of the world should oppress it, it can never be said that evil happeneth to him who falls accompanied with virtue."

(P. 16.)

" By and by, even when the sun, like a noble heart, began to show his greatest countenance in his lowest estate " (P. 83. )

I have described these Characters as " specimens of literary joiner's work." Now this description equally fits very many of the speeches in Webster's plays, and probably almost the whole of his poem ' A Monumental Column.' The proportion of borrowed material is there equally amazing, and there are repeated instances of the same method of dovetailing together in a single speech or verse fragments borrowed from different portions of the works of other writers. What seems still more significant is that most of the borrowings are from