These five warm, arch, teasing, fond, pretentious, brainy, loosely-cohering letters document a difficult friendship – and Spenser became a great poet of friendship; they document the nervous ambition of two enormously ambitious young men, on behalf of themselves, their generation, and their nation; and they complement The Shepheardes Calender in meditating on the place of poetry in an author’s life, in a friendship, and in a nation. The letters were published in a single carelessly produced volume, the collection split into two unequal parts, each with its own title page. The first part, entitled Three Proper, and wittie, familiar Letters, begins with a commendatory letter to the reader by ‘A Welwiller of the Two Authours’; the commendatory letter is followed by a letter of Spenser to Harvey, then a long letter of Harvey to Spenser, the first half of which is given over to a treatise on the causes and meaning of earthquakes, and then another letter from Harvey to Spenser, this one more directly a response to Spenser’s first. The second portion of the volume consists of Two Other, very commendable Letters, one from Spenser, and one from Harvey. Confusingly, these ‘other’ letters appear to have been composed prior to the three that are printed in the first section of the volume: three composed after the publication of The Shepheardes Calender, followed by two composed before that publication.

However commendable, proper (i.e., elegant, OED), and wittie (i.e. clever, but also, specifically, intellectual, OED,) these are not the sort of formal letters described in Renaissance epistolary manuals or in the medieval treatises on the ars dictaminis (art of letter-writing) from which those manuals descend. 1 This is not to say, however, that the swaggering looseness of these letters was without formal precedent: they are familiar, (i.e. intimate) and the familiar letter was itself a genre. 2 Cicero’s Epistolae ad Familiares and his Epistolae Ad Atticum are the earliest surviving collections of such letters to friends, and the most influential. Dating from 68 to 43 B.C., they cover subjects from politics and the law to the more personal details of friendship. Petrarch revived the genre with a collection of letters composed between 1325 and 1366; in the sixteenth century, Erasmus and Roger Ascham sustained the tradition by publishing their own collections of familiar letters. In his De conscribendis epistolis (On the Writing of Letters) of 1522, Erasmus lists the kinds of letters and the list includes the familiar along with the persuasive, encomiastic, and judicial as recognizable epistolary forms.

Ascham was a fervent proponent of the familiar letter, which may be why Harvey refers to him several times in his letters to Spenser. 3 In The Scholemaster (1568), his treatise on tutorial education, Ascham recommends Jacob Sturm’s selection of Cicero’s epistles as the first models of Latin prose to which a student should be exposed. 4 There is a certain fitness to Ascham’s choice of the familiar letter, with its informal intimacy, as a composition primer for private tuition. The familiar letter does not displace the oration or moral essay in Ascham’s predominantly Ciceronian curriculum, but its emergence as the core literary achievement of that Cicero who constitutes an ideal political type for the Aschamite student foreshadows an important development in the history of Elizabethan self-cultivation, the sublimation of persuasion into manners. 5 And epistolary familiarity proved quite marketable. Cicero’s Ad Familiares appeared in five London editions during the 1570s, and Ascham, for his part, became identified in print with the letter-writing Cicero: in 1576 and again in 1578, Francis Coldock published collections of Ascham’s Latin epistles ( Familiarium epistolarum libri tres ). Also in 1576, translations of several of Ascham’s epistles appeared alongside translations of familiar letters by Cicero and other ancients and by such modern practitioners as Paulus Manutius, Conrad Celtis, Christoph Hegendorf, and Walter Haddon in Abraham Fleming’s massive anthology, A Panoplie of Epistles 6. The Spenser-Harvey Letters catch a wave of epistolary printing.


Yet in one crucial sense, these Letters are unfamiliar, since, as a collection, they represent both sides of a correspondence, publicizing two linked privacies. Such collections are rare, although not unprecedented; they are anticipated by the twelfth-century exchange between Abelard and Héloïse and the dossier of controversial letters between herself and Gontier Col concerning the Roman de la Rose. 7 The familiarity of the correspondence between Spenser and Harvey is far more relaxed than in either of these antecedents. Deeply embedded in the particularities of occasion and place, these five letters crackle with gossip; they are constrained by the mechanics of mail delivery (4.62-5) and jolted -- once, quite literally -- by event. (We see no reason to suppose that these are not revisions of letters composed and sent on or about the occasions at which they claim to have been composed.) Only Spenser's Epithalamion a poem intricately involved with the time and location of its occasion, can challenge the Letters for momentary and situated responsiveness. The environment is, above all, social, the correspondence representing itself as part of a group solidarity that aspires to national consequence. Having praised the first letter in the volume, a letter by Spenser, the Welwiller especially commends the next two, by Harvey: ‘But shewe me, or Immerito, two Englyshe Letters in Printe, in all pointes equall to the other [i.e., the second] twoo, both for the matter it selfe, and also for the manner of handling, and saye, wee never sawe good Englishe Letter in our lives’ ( Preface 14-17). This stakes a large claim for Harvey and for the importance of the Cambridge perspective he represents. Exemplary as are these two witty letter-writers --and Harvey, perhaps, in particular—neither is the only member of their circle with such skills, according to the Welwiller. He tells us that the unnamed friend who secured the manuscript from which this collection has been printed is also a gifted correspondent ‘that himselfe hathe written manye of the same stampe bothe to Courtiers and others, and some of them discoursing uppon matter of great waight and importance, wherein he is said, to be fully as sufficient and hable, as in these schollerly pointes of Learning’ (18-21). The Welwiller thus advertises a complex discursive transformation of the social world: he suggests that the letters printed in 1581 represent those of an emergent epistolary class, sufficient and able to engage a range of audiences above and beyond itself; he insinuates that the press can give access to the manners of the epistolary class, can reveal how the members of that class reach to social circles beyond themselves, and can expose a set of concerns of great weight and importance, concerns that are likely to remain inaccessible to such as will not buy a book of epistles and, admiring and aspiring, attend to the new epistolary flows. These letters respond to place, event, and social possibility, but the letters are, above all, corresponsive, the authors bright with attention to each other’s phrasing, relentlessly inventive in their demands for details of the other’s doings, and almost comically persistent in courting each other’s esteem and affection. The reader’s arm’s-length experience of this intense corresponsiveness heightens the general formal effect of the familiar letter, the mild frustration of being excluded from a privacy at once flaunted and radically impenetrable. 8 Compounding this effect, Spenser will make a show of his own frustration at the exchange of mere letters. In Letter 4, he pleads with Harvey to respond both to an earlier letter and to the current one, into which he has introduced some poems: ‘I hope, you will vouchsafe mee an answeare of the largest size, or else I tell you true, you shall bee verye deepe in my debte: notwythstandyng, thys other sweete, but shorte letter, and fine, but fewe Verses. But I woulde rather I might yet see youre owne good selfe, and receive a Reciprocall farewell from your owne sweete mouth’ (113-18). 9 The coy refrain of unsatisfying replacement obtrudes at every turn: the letters make persistent reference to intimacies of person for which a letter can only substitute; the recipient is repeatedly instructed to intercede for the author; at the outset, the printed book makes reference to its substitution for manuscript copies which are themselves substitutes for autograph originals.

And proper names (the literal substitute for the propria persona) are almost constantly displaced by substitutes of all kinds. As in The Shepheardes Calender, the proper name gives way to pen-name and persona, but the Letters here supplement those substitutes with honorific, mock honorific, and endearment. The correspondents name a few admired poets and teachers, but they unname even more others -- a faithfull friende (Preface 4), A Welwiller of the two Authours ( Preface 0.2.3), some yl-willers (4.16), His Honoure (1.12, 4.247), his excellent Lordship (4.16; ‘so weightie a Personage’ himself counterpoised to a ‘private Personage unknowne’ 4.19-20 and 16-7), Meum Corculum (‘my sweetheart’ 1.79 and 3.592), altera Rosalindula (‘another little Rosalind’ 3.596), Maister E.K. (4. 58, and cf. 1.90), and, with hilarious archness, M. Cuddie, alias you know who (3.305). These latter unnamed figures from The Shepheardes Calender populate the pseudonymous verbal realm of one of the correspondents, Master Collin Cloute (3.320), a.k.a. Master Collinshead (3.292), Immerito ( Preface 5 and 14, 1.86, 2.542, 4.260, 4.26), M. Immerito (2.1, 2.428, 2.529-30, 3.1, 3.18, 5.2), Signor Immerito, (2.2 and 3.477), Messer Immerito (3.284, 3.467-8), Il fecondo, e famoso Poeta, Messer Immerito (3.146-7), as well as his beloved, Domina Immerito (3.598) herself also saluted as mea bellissima Collina Clouta (3.599). The other correspondent also has his pastoral pseudonym -- Master Hobbinoll (3.321), Hobbinolus (3.598) – but he is (un)named primarily by initialism, as Master G.H. (1.1, 5.235), Maister G.H. Fellow of Trinitie Hall in Cambridge (4.0.2-3), and even Ornatissimum virum, multis iamdiu nominibus clarissimum, G. H. (4.119-20), although this flow of inflation has its matching ebb in Good Master G. (4.1, 4.33), Master H. (1.2, 2.60, 2.134, 2.212, 2.221, 4.259), G.H. (5.198, 5.13), and, at the very end of the last-written letter, the terse G. (3.608). Among the corespondents’ dubious jokes is bashfulness: referring to the authors and translator of epigrams included in the fifth letter (‘Master Doctor Norton’, ‘Doctor Gouldingam’, and ‘Olde Maister Wythipol’), G.H. ‘now blusheth, to see the first Letters of his name, stand so neere their Names’ It may be that G.H.’s modesty is falser than Immerito’s: his enemies would eventually have it so, and it is undeniably the case that the fifth letter will thrice let slip (in Latin) the surname ‘ Harveie’. As a matter of editorial convenience and efficiency – and in keeping with our practice in the apparatus to the Calender and to other works in this edition—we refer to the two correspondents as ‘Spenser’ and ‘Harvey’, and we treat other persons, dates, and places similarly, but our practice entails a slight misrepresentation, the illumination of a social penumbra, artfully and imperfectly obscured. Such nominal chiaroscuro is endemic to early modern public discourse, exclusive neither to the familiarity of the Letters, to the pastoral reserve of The Shepheardes Calender, nor to the dark conceits ( Letter to Ralegh, 3) of The Faerie Queene, but Rambuss is no doubt correct in suggesting that the Letters maintain a slightly distinctive atmosphere of the covert (Rambuss 1993: 16-18, 55). Sometimes ‘only’ the reader is excluded by a correspondent’s ‘ You know my meaning’ (3.605-6), but sometimes the recipient is made to join in the general reader's exclusion. Thus, when Spenser boasts, ‘ As for the twoo worthy Gentlemen, Master Sidney, and Master Dyer , they have me, I thanke them, in some use of familiarity: of whom, and to whome, what speache passeth for youre credite and estimation, I leave your selfe to conceive, having alwayes so well conceived of my unfained affection, and zeale towardes you’ (4.35-40), Harvey responds in kind, ‘ I am at this instant, very busilye, and hotly employed in certaine greate and serious affayres: whereof, notwithstanding (for all youre vowed, and long experimented secrecie) you are not like to heare a worde more at the moste, till I my selfe see a World more at the leaste’ (5.18-22). The secrecy is lent sparkle by mock disclosure –‘I am so farre from hyding mine owne matters from you, that loe, I muste needes be revealing my friendes secreates’; yet he reveals only that the friend ‘is now’ – only ‘now’? – ‘an honest Countrey Gentleman, sometimes a Scholler’ (3.382-5). Mock disclosure yields to mock scruple: ‘The parties shall bee namelesse; saving that the Gentlewomans true, or counterfaite Christen name, must necessarily be bewrayed,’ at which point he offers the verse epistle ‘To my good Mistresse Anne,’ a sustained play on the analytical force of proper naming, on the value, that is, of what the Letters insistently withhold. For Rambuss, this obscurity has a shimmer meant to show its authors to very good advantage, but other tonalities attend as well. Harvey concludes the third letter three times, and the first conclusion follows immediately from the poem to the un-nameless Mistress Anne:

God helpe us, you and I are wisely employed, (are wee not?) when our Pen and Inke, and Time, and Wit, and all runneth away in this goodly yonkerly veine: as if the world had nothing else for us to do: or we were borne to be the only Nonproficients and Nihilagents of the world. Cuiusmodi tu nugis, atque næniis, nisi unâ mecum . . . jam tandem aliquando valedicas [May you now finally say farewell to such trifles and ditties -- unless you compose them with me].
(3.437-41, 444)

A gap opens in this display of mock exasperation over the nullity of ‘mere rhetoric’. What speaks from that gap is the genuine exasperation of a young man who, seeking to make his own, given name for himself, fears that the world indeed has nothing else for him to do and will consign him to permanent unemployed nihilagency. Thus apprehensive, he speaks loudly, for himself and perhaps for an entire, restive epistolary class.

Harvey’s Letters

The reader who encounters these five letters here in the Oxford Spenser may be predisposed to think of the volume as ‘Spenser’s’ or, perhaps, as a balanced collaboration between Spenser and a dear and respected friend, yet it is worth observing that the bulk of the volume—three of the five letters, including the long disquisition on the cause of earthquakes in Letter 2—is Harvey’s. This observation leads to the question of whether the volume might not have been Harvey’s idea in the first place.

Any theory of its origins must accommodate evidence recorded in Harvey’s manuscript Letter-Book (BL Ms. Sloane 93). On fol. 48v, interrupting the sequence of surrounding pages, is a much revised draft for a presentation page dated August 1580, in which ‘Benevolo’ commends a collection of poems and letters to Edward Dyer. 11 At the end of that page are two versions of a short table of contents, the first of which includes ‘My Epistle to Imerito’; in the second version of the table of contents, the Epistle to Immerito is replaced by ‘My Letter to Benevolo’ – although this is likely simply a change in title. What seems to be a draft of this letter dated 1579 appears elsewhere in the volume in which Harvey castigates ‘his very unfrendly frende’ (35v) for preparing a collection of Harvey’s English poems, ‘my fine Verlayes’, for publication. He jeers at the meddlesome friend for over-estimating both the cultural value of poetry and the prestige that will accrue to Harvey when his poems appear in print, although he concludes the letter in accents of affectionate insistence –‘mi best belovid Immerito, retourne it [i.e. the letter] me back againe for a token, fast inclosid in thye verye next letters all to be torne and halfied in as manye and as small peeces and filters as ar the motes in the Sonne’ (fol. 37) – this presumably to forestall Immerito’s unauthorized publication of the letter. Whether this letter indeed attests to Immerito’s attempt at unauthorized publication or advances a fiction of that attempt cannot easily be determined. 12 Letter-Book Fiction or fact, the suggestion that Spenser was pushing Harvey into print is inverted in the Letters, where Harvey is represented as pushing Spenser. In the fourth of the Letters, dated 7 October 1579, Spenser indicates that Harvey has been advising him on the publication of the Calender; Spenser professes misgivings over the publication and implies that he expects Harvey to overrule his bashful reluctance (4.6.12). A corner is finally turned in Letters 1, dated after the publication of the Calender, where Spenser at last volunteers, unprompted, an intention ‘to sette forth a Booke . . ., whyche I entitle, Epithalamion Thamesis’ (‘Epithalamium for the Thames’), and adds that ‘my Dreames, and dying Pellicane, being fully finished . . . [are] presentlye to bee imprinted.’ Some reluctance persists -- he announces his intention still to withhold ‘my Stemmata Dudleiana’ (‘Genealogy of the Dudleys’) – but the Letters narrate G.H.’s successful campaign to bring Immerito’s poetry to light.

A similar suggestion, that one or another solicitous friend drives one or another reluctant author into print, is also proffered in The Shepheardes Calender itself, where E.K. expresses the hope that Immerito will ‘put forth divers other excellent works of his, which slepe in silence’ ( Epistle 157-8) and encourages Harvey ‘to pluck out of the hateful darknesse, those so many excellent English poemes of yours, which lye hid’ (184-5). In Harvey’s case, the hint of bashfulness is surely a pleasant fiction, for Harvey had energetically pursued print publication. His orations on rhetorical education had appeared in 1577, and these had been anticipated by verse publications in 1575 – a commendatory poem for George Gascoigne’s Posies and a long elegy for Peter Ramus. In a gloss to the September eclogue, E.K. mentions two works that Harvey had published in 1578 (with Henry Bynneman, who would also publish the Letters ), a long elegy for Sir Thomas Smith, Smithus, vel Lachrymae Musarum (‘Smith, or the Tears of the Muses’), and the Gratulationes Valdinenses (‘The Walden Festivities'), an expanded version of a manuscript collection presented to Leicester, Burleigh, Oxford, Hatton, Sidney, and the queen on the occasion of her summer progress to Audley End in Essex. And Richard Day had registered Harvey’s Anticosmopolita, a Latin epic poem celebrating Elizabeth, on 30 June 1579, this latter suggesting Harvey’s (or Day’s) over-eager commitment to publication, since Harvey had not finished the poem– and apparently never did. The reticence attributed to Harvey in the Calender and espoused in the Letter-book seems meant to solicit more mirth than credence. Self-effacement was by no means Harvey’s natural posture: reflecting on his former self in his Foure Letters of 1592, he would take pains to back away from self-aggrandizements of his young adulthood, observing that he was then ‘yong in yeares, fresh in courage, greene in experience, and . . . somewhat overweeninge in conceit” (C2). The volume that takes shape in the Letter-Book elaborates Harvey’s comic bashfulness by giving it teeth. The draft letter of protest in the Letter-Book is followed by a mock-legal ‘obligation’ in Latin between ‘G.H.’ and ‘E.S. de London’ (37v) and the obligation is followed by an English ‘Condicion of this obligation’ addressed to ‘Magnifico Segnior Immerito’. In an interesting later revision, ‘Immerito’ is crossed out and replaced with ‘Benivolo’ and this revision very likely coincides both with the change of the table of contents on 48v and in the slightly cramped insertion of a salutation, at the beginning of the letter, to ‘Magnifico Signor Benevolo’. Like Bennett, we believe that the Letter-Book reflects an original plan for a volume in which Harvey would have addressed letter, obligation, and condition to Immerito, but that this original plan evolved somewhat as The Shepheardes Calender moved through the press and into circulation. The front matter of the Calender had featured three characters, Harvey, Immerito, and E.K., and the revisions recorded in the Letter-book pursue a new plan on similar lines, featuring G.H., E.S., and Benevolo.

The Three Proper, and wittie, familiar Letters, the first volume of the bipartite Letters, seems to reflect the planning at this stage. As the ‘Welwiller’ (an English translation of the Italian Benevolo ) ‘of the two Authours’ makes clear in his prefatory epistle ‘to the Curteous Buyer’, the volume offers a plainly lop-sided correspondence: the Welwiller describes Immerito’s contribution as ‘a good familiar and sensible Letter’, but he goes on to describe Harvey’s letters as ‘two of the rarest, and finest Treaties . . . that ever I read in this tongue.’ The Three Letters is very much a Harvey volume: the Welwiller contributes about 50 lines to the volume; Immerito, about 100 lines; and Harvey, just shy of 1300. The Welwiller reports that Harvey has a substantial oeuvre of comparably weighty correspondence and that he looks forward to their print publication or, at least, to their more substantial circulation in manuscript; Immerito similarly urges publication, although he concentrates on other works by Harvey –‘at least imparte some your olde, or newe, Latine, or Englishe, Eloquent and Gallant Poesies to vs’ – and he devotes much of the rest of his short letter to remarks on Harvey’s prosody. He is not entirely selfless: he advertises soon-to-be-published work (which was not soon published), ‘The Dying Pellicane’ and a volume of Dreames; he muses over whether to publish the Stemmata Dudleiana; and he asks Harvey’s opinion of ‘my Faery Queene’, to which Spenser expects to be turning his attention ‘forthwith’. 13 This is serious self-promotion, yet he concludes by protesting that all his own poetic activity is no more than an attempt to catch up with Harvey: ‘ Veruntamen te sequor solùm’ (‘Nonetheless I’m merely following you’; ‘Nonetheless I’m following you alone’; 1.98, a slogan repeated from 4.). Spenser’s letter seems perfectly pitched to introduce the third letter of the volume, which contains Harvey’s own reflections on prosody and a collection of poems by Harvey and his younger brother, John, but the sequence on poetry is disrupted by the earthquake of 6 April 1580, which occasions a long letter largely concerned with Harvey’s experience of that event, his chic geological theory on the causes of seismic activity, and a long conclusion on academic politics and intellectual trends at Cambridge. The volume presents Harvey as a man of letters and of science.

The second volume presents a pair of learned, literary friends; its Two Other Letters are of almost equal length. The first, by Immerito, frets over an impending verse publication – the Calender surely -- and over the tactics of dedicating such publications to the likes of Leicester or Sidney; he broaches the topic of prosodic rules; and he concludes his letter with two poems, the first in English and the long second one, a verse epistle that bids Harvey farewell as he sets out on some grand impending journey, in Latin. G.H. responds with a detailed prosodic commentary on Immerito’s English poem; proceeds to a discussion of his own efforts to master and teach apodemica, the art of travel; and concludes with a small collection of poems on the ephemerality of all earthly things save virtue. Two of those concluding poems are in Latin, and two are English translations, the second of which is the work of G.H. himself. This second volume effectively reorients the publication planned in the Letter-book and, to some extent, realized in the first volume: instead of ‘Benevolo and Immerito present Gabriel Harvey,’ the paired volumes give us something like the volume we know today as ‘the Spenser-Harvey Letters,’ the correspondence of two university friends, introduced by ‘A Welwiller.’ ‘A Welwiller of the Two Authours,’ to quote precisely, although, as so often in English, the precise meaning of that ‘of’ must remain uncertain. How much did Spenser and Harvey share in authoring this benevolent introducer – and how much did they share in the conception and reconception of the volume that the Welwiller introduces? Our reconstruction of how the Letters developed stops short of individuating an “author” of the plan at any stage. Of course, the Letter-Book is in Harvey’s hand, and the volume as first sketched was to have been a miscellaneous collection of work that would be identified (if not denominated) as Harvey’s, but the interest and urging of Immerito was part of the volume’s fore-conceit and there is no reason to suppose that Harvey had not imagined what Spenser would make of this undertaking or that he had not consulted him; neither can we exclude the possibility that the publication had been Spenser’s idea in the first place.

The correspondence on poetics

The obvious difference between the plan described in the Letter-Book and the collection that issued from Bynneman’s press is that Bynneman published the Letters of two university men, and the change in plans entailed an important shift in tone. Harvey’s elaborate protestations that the publication of his poems–‘a pigg of myne owne sowe’ (35v)–will brand him with the ‘odious infamye’ of being ‘reckonid in the Beaderoule of Inglish Rimers’ (36) subside considerably in the Letters as published; it seems no longer to serve Harvey’s purpose to pose as one of the misomousoi Although he continues to disparage rhymes as nugis, atque næniis (‘trifles and mere ditties’ 3.441), the making of verses becomes the object of serious discussion between these university men, sustained across the letters, albeit interrupted by the letter and treatise on the earthquake. Indeed, the familiarity publicized in the Letters is not only epistolary, but poetic. Like the contemporary Calender, the dual volume alludes to communities of poet-critics whose enthusiastic and slightly competitive connoisseurship serves both as a social bond and as an instrument of national-cultural bootstrapping – shepheardes in the one book; Universitie men and (as we shall see) an ‘Areopagos’ in the other. For all its familiar jocularity and aggressiveness, the discussion is technical (as this section of the introduction must be), and although the techniques that Spenser and Harvey bring under discussion were intended to affiliate English poetry with a vanguard classicism, they imagined a bold break with vernacular tradition. Elizabethan critical engagements with poetic genre, with figure, and with topical invention are well-known, but in the Letters Harvey and Spenser largely concern themselves with poetic metre. Although the Letters constitute one of the few sustained discussions of English metre in the sixteenth century, the discussion has been scanted by most literary historians since it pursues principles to govern a literary future that simply never came to pass. 14 Spenser and Harvey had set out to compose English poems in classical quantitative metres, metres whose lines were understood to have been given shape, not by syllable count, accentual pattern, or some combination of the two, but by the patterned duration of their constituent syllables. The two classicizing innovators distinguished between this ‘versification,’ for which they sought to provide a set of rules, and a vernacular tradition of stress-syllabic ‘rhyming,’ that they sought (and failed) to displace ( Letters 1.35-6, 3.11 and 451-2, and 4.55). 15 They were not alone in this undertaking. There had been Italian experiments in quantitative prosody as early as the 1440s and although Roger Ascham seems to have believed that English poets had preceded their Italian brethren in these efforts, the earliest English experiments date from a century later than the Italian ones. By the middle of the 16th century the movement was broadly Western European; by the end of the century, it was pan-European. In England the heyday of production comes between the late 1570s and the early years of the next century. 16 All the practitioners were aware of the willfulness of the undertaking, that they were attempting to impose, with only minimal adaptation, a set of metrical rules devised for languages very different from the vernaculars, and that this imposition would transform vernacular poetry into something that would seem strange and, to use Spenser’s and Harvey’s preferred term, ‘artificial’. Such artificiality was, indeed, a desideratum, as Harvey’s oblique self-congratulation makes clear:

I cannot choose, but thanke and honour the good Aungell, (whether it were Gabriell or some other) that put so good a motion into the heads of those two excellent Gentlemen M. Sidney, and M. Dyer . . . as to helpe forwarde our new famous enterprise for the Exchanging of Barbarous and Balductum [i.e. trashy] Rymes with Artificial Verses.
(3.6-8 and 10-11) 17
The artificiality of this enterprise had been anticipated in the second century B.C.E. when Latin poets began to apply quantitative Greek metres to their vernacular in a willful attempt to replace a native tradition of stress-based Latin verse. The fit was imperfect, since the pronunciation of early and classical Latin was not entirely hospitable to the rules of Greek prosody, but because Latin vowels had discriminable differences of duration, the Greek quantitative metres could be imposed on the language. 18 Quantitative Latin verse sometimes involved a series of lines each with the same basic structure (so-called stichic verse, as in the classical dactylic hexameter, trochaic tetrameter, or iambic trimeter); sometimes a sequence of couplets, the odd and even numbered of which have specified and differentiated structures (as in the elegiac couplet or epode); and sometimes a sequence of lines in more complicated stanzaic forms. Regularity is manifest within these line units in three chief ways:
  • by regulation of line length (rules governing either the total duration or the syllable count of a line), 19
  • by constrained patterning of syllable quantity (rules governing the structure of the foot or metron), and
  • by the constrained location of word and phrasal breaks (for example, rules governing the placement of caesurae).
Most traditional names for quantitative metres refer only to one or two of the three regulatory forms listed above. For example, the name, ‘dactylic hexameter’, designates the dominant (but not exclusive) syllabic pattern of the Latin epic line – the dactylic foot, consisting of a long syllable followed by two short ones (ˉ ˘ ˘) – and the total duration of the line – six feet, all but one of which consists of 4 morae, the equivalent of four short syllables; but the name fails to capture various qualifying rules governing substitution – the fact that spondaic feet may be substituted for the first four dactyls, and that the final foot is either a spondee or a trochee – and pause – the fact that word and phrasal breaks customarily appear in certain positions in the line and are customarily banned from other positions. Some names, like iambic trimeter, betray origins in a different metrical system: in this case, ‘trimeter’ designates three metrons, the minimal Greek unit of syllable patterning; the iambic metron consists of either two iambs or, by an allowable substitution, a spondee and an iamb. Latin poets developed a freer interpretation of the form, allowing many more possible substitutions – Harvey speaks of the ‘licentious Iambicke ' (5.67) – and although Latin grammarians seem to have thought of the form as comprising six iambic feet rather than three metrons, they preserved the Greek terminology notwithstanding. The confusing habit of casually borrowing prosodic terms persists: because our academic traditions for discussing English poetry are indebted to Latin and Greek prosody, we still often speak of the stressed syllables in English poems as ‘long’. Not surprisingly, a conceptual muddle often shadows such terminological muddle: as we shall see, Spenser and Harvey, like many of their fellow quantitative practitioners will occasionally treat stressed syllables as if they were inevitably to be understood, for the purposes of ‘versifying,’ as long, this despite their awareness that, in Latin poetry – and especially in the hexameter -- quantitative length and stress-accent frequently fail to coincide. 20

‘Quantity’ is a prosodic measure of duration: short syllables are understood to be half the length of long syllables. 21 The basic rules governing the quantity of syllables are that

  • Syllables containing long vowels or diphthongs are long.
  • Syllables containing short vowels followed by so-called ‘double consonants’ (like x ) or by two consonants are long, although they can be either short or long when the paired consonants are a plosive ( or ‘mute’) followed by a liquid.
  • Virtually all other syllables are short.
This cautious ‘virtually’ is meant to provide for a few more subtleties: rules governing syllable length in compound words, rules governing the length of syllables before initial i or v, rules dictating the quantity of certain affixes, rules deriving quantities from those of a word’s lemma or etymological ancestor, and so forth. But more challenging than these subtleties is the fundamental difficulty of the first rule, that syllables containing long vowels are long. As it happens, the phonemic distinction between long and short vowels collapsed around the beginning of the third century C.E., at which point the fit of Greek metres to Latin became egregiously artificial (Attridge 1980 21-2, 75): the post-classical reader of Latin poetry could no longer hear most aspects of the metrical pattern in what had become a natural reading of classical Roman verse. 22 This situation persisted: even Erasmus, urging the restoration of many features of classical pronunciation, recognized that his rules for pronouncing Latin properly would obscure the metrical pattern, while Ramus came to the conclusion that the distinctions between long and short syllables ‘ sunt intelligentiae & mentis, non prolationis & linguae’ (were matters of the intellect and mind and not of pronunciation and speech; De Veris Sonis Literarum & syllabarum, fol. 53v, cited Attridge 1980: 80; see also 78-9). For the scholarly post-classical reader, quantitative poetry offered the special, artificial sweetness of largely unheard melodies.

The patterning of syllable quantities was not entirely inaudible to the post-classical reader. According to the second rule of quantity the presence of initial consonant clusters dictated that the previous syllable acquire ‘length by position’ and the constitutive clustering was both audible to the hearer and visible to the reader (if the orthography of the text could be relied on). But the vowels in syllables not ‘long by position’ were relatively mysterious; for the reader who wished to recognize the inaudible constituents of quantitative prosodic form, the length of vowels in such syllables – their ‘natural’ length – simply had to be learned. That said, although ‘natural’ Latin vowel length was not something one could hear, one could learn vowel quantity from grammars and dictionaries, and could infer them from poems; but the aspiring English versifier could depend neither on English grammars and dictionaries nor on a tradition of English quantitative poetry. Vowel length had either to be discovered in some previously unspecified feature of the written or spoken language or to be somehow systematically imposed upon the language – which is to say that, in the case of English, ‘length by nature’ had to be constructed, “artificially”. Spenser urges that they settle the matter:

I would hartily wish, you would either send me the Rules and Precepts of Arte, which you observe in Quantities, or else followe mine, that M. Philip Sidney gave me, being the very same which M. Drant devised, but enlarged with M. Sidneys s own judgement, and augmented with my Observations, that we might both accorde and agree in one: leaste we overthrowe one an other, and be overthrown of the rest.
Harvey responds with a courtesy that may have a hint of acid: ‘I would gladly be acquainted with M. Drants Prosodye, and I beseeche you, commende me to good M. Sidneys judgement, and gentle M. Immeritos Observations’ (3:17-20). Like Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, he intends to counter the masterful Authority that Spenser has marshalled with the womanly cunning of Experience, although not yet:
Mine owne Rules and Precepts of Arte, I beleeve wil fal out not greatly repugnant, though peradventure somewhat different: and yet am I not so resolute, but I can be content to reserve the Coppying out and publishing therof, until I have a little better consulted with my pillowe, and taken some farther advize of Madame Sperienza.
Harvey is not alone in withholding his rules. Ascham has a good deal to say about the new famous enterprise, and much praise for its earliest English practitioners, but he offers nothing in the way of rules for the determination of quantity and only a few lines of exemplary verse. Drant published nothing on the subject before his death in 1578, and Sidney’s rules survive in a manuscript of the Old Arcadia (Sidney and Ringler 1962). Two years after the publication of the Letters, Richard Stanyhurst would offer a number of the rules and precepts of his art in the preface to his translation of the first four books of the Aeneid, but there is no evidence that Spenser or Harvey were aware of them. 24 The early English versifiers were feeling their way, and Harvey and Spenser evidently find the uncertainty of their procedures exhilarating, if perhaps also faintly ridiculous.

But not so ridiculous as to scare off the two university men of the Letters, who seem to think that contemporary readers will wish to join them in the prosodic weeds. Harvey may not wish to formulate and publicize his rules at this juncture (3.43-4) and will eventually repudiate any rule but custom, ‘the vulgare, and naturall Mother Prosodye’ (3.572), but he is quick to object to Spenser’s inconsistencies of practice (3.109-12, responding to a quatrain in Spenser’s first letter, 1:39-42), keen to challenge what he takes to be emerging differences in their approach and proud to offer ‘ Particular Examples’ of his own verses and those of his younger brother for critical inspection. 25 The Letters include 11 samples of English quantitative poems, of which Spenser contributes only three: the first letter contains the quatrain in elegiacs that provokes Harvey’s criticism and a distich in dactylic hexameter, while Letter 4 includes a senarius. Harvey offers three longer poems in dactylic hexameter in Letter 3, and this letter also includes several poems by John Harvey -- three translated from Ovid’s Latin, of which two are in English dactylic hexameter, the other in elegiacs; one translation from Petrarch into hexameters; and one conversion of emblems from the Shepheardes Calender, also in hexameters. 26 That dactylic hexameters dominate is not surprising: this is the metre that Ennius had imitated from Homer and that became the staple of Latin epic, and it is tempting to regard Spenser’s interests in the form as indicating epic aspirations of the sort to which the Shepheardes Calender attests, yet the hexameter was, in fact, a metre of quite various application, having been used in Latin lyric, satire, and gnomic verse; it was also the metre adopted for the earliest continental experiments in vernacular quantitative poetry by Dati and Alberti and the metre most frequently adopted for earlier English quantitative efforts. In Lilly’s Latin Grammar, probably the most widely used textbook in sixteenth-century English grammar schools, the hexameter is the metre given first and most sustained treatment. (Spenser’s choices, not only the hexameter, but also the senarius, suggest an interest in the six-foot line, an interest that reasserts itself in the design of the Faerie Queene stanza, with its eight lines of stress-syllabic pentameter and ninth line of stress-syllabic hexameter. The alternation of quantitative hexameter and quantitative pentameter in the classical elegiac, one of the forms that Spenser also attempts in the Letters, dimly adumbrates the key variation that would distinguish the prosody of Spenser’s epic, with its stanza of accentual-syllabic pentameters concluding with an accentual-syllabic hexameter.)

If the discussions in the Letters (1.18-35; 3.28-56, 109-12, 446-588; 4.70-80; 5.56-122) over how to assign quantity expose the main difficulty attending on the ‘new famous enterprise’ of quantitative composition in English, the compositions themselves instance the crucial dodge available to the English versifier who seeks to make the quantitative system work, the exploitation of orthographic variability to enable words to serve a range of metrical exigencies. 27 Harvey scruples over this, urges that they not ‘goe a Tittle farther, either for the Prosody, or the Orthography, . . . than we are licenced and authorized by the ordinarie use, and custome, and proprietie, and Idiome, and, as it were, Majestie of our speach: whiche I accounte the only infallible, and soveraigne Rule of all Rules’ (3.518-23). Yet his cultural nationalism is by no means a simply conservative one, for his allegiance to speech leads him to argue for a reformed orthography that will strictly reflect pronunciation: in deference to their common monosyllabic pronunciation, he urges adoption of the spellings ‘ heavn, seavn, a leavn [for ‘eleven’]’ (3.528). 28 And he goes on approvingly to invoke the practice adopted by Ascham in Toxophilus whose spelling, ‘ ‘Yrne, commonly written Yron’ reflects what he takes to be its proper pronunciation, a pronunciation appropriate to the disyllabic final foot of Ascham’s hexameter:

Up to the pap his string did he pull, his shafte to the harde yrne.

Harvey’s call for Aschamite orthographic reform responds to remarks in Letter 1 in which Spenser worries the fact that English orthography often fails to represent pronunciation – his chosen example is Heauen, which seems extraordinarily elongated (and perhaps disyllabic) on the page but is tersely monosyllabic in normal pronunciation (1.23-31). Spenser, apparently more deeply imbued with Erasmian principle and grammar-school propriety, feels obliged to respect the claims of its spelling and, therefore, to treat Heauen as a diastole, unusually lengthened, at least for the purposes of verse. Unfortunately, he is unclear in his own nationalist outburst, ‘why a Gods name may not we, as else the Greekes, have the kingdome of oure owne Language, and measure our Accentes, by the sounde, reserving the Quantitie to the Verse?’ (1.32-5), which seems simply to assert the limited prerogative of reciting English quantitative verse according to normal English pronunciation, while leaving the quantitative patterning unvoiced and implicit, ‘ intelligentiae & mentis’. 30

Here is where Spenser and Harvey differ. When Harvey responds by asserting the authoritative majesty of speech – and then changes his figurative register by referring to speech as ‘the vulgare, and naturall Mother Prosodye, . . . the onely supreame Foundresse, and Reformer of Position, Dipthong, Orthographie, or whatsoeuer else’ -- he is also insisting that the new versification should offer patternings not merely intelligentiae, but sensuous. Not only the syllabification of normal speech, but also its stress patterns shape Harvey’s scansion (3.557-62). The stress-pattern of ‘These be my’ underwrites Harvey’s versification: that ‘be’ and ‘my’ are unstressed is warrant enough to his treating them as ‘naturally’ short. In the passage on orthographic reform, Harvey pairs orthography and prosody three times, and that pairing constitutes the core of his quantitative poetics: English poets need an orthography that reflects speech so that they can compose verses whose literal patterns conform to patterns of (undistorted) recitation. Although he will adjust the spelling of ‘bonny’ in his copy of the Letters, so that the first syllable might not be seized upon as ‘long by position’, his last word on the rules of quantitative practice is that ‘Position neither maketh shorte, nor long in oure Tongue, but so farre as we can get [the] good leave’ of vulgar Mother Prosody, that is, of speech (3.579-80). Since his quarrel with Nashe in the early 1590s, Harvey has had a reputation for pedantry, but his firm principle, that speech should regulate quantity, is appreciably less hair-splitting and academic than that of Spenser, who protects a disparity between unheard quantity and the accentual ‘kingdome of oure owne [spoken] Language’. At the high point of his objections to Spenser’s prosody, Harvey casts his correspondent more as a schoolboy than as a pedant: ‘it is not, either Position, or Dipthong, or Diastole, or anye like Grammer Schoole Device, that doeth, or can indeede, either make long or short, or encrease, or diminish the number of Sillables, but onely the common allowed, and received Prosodye’ (3.558-62). 31

Leycester House and Trinitie Hall: Addressing the Letters

The familiarity of these correspondents is spiced not only with disagreement but also with competition. In the earliest of these letters, Spenser expresses some surprise that Harvey is ‘continuing your old habit of Versifying in English’ while at Cambridge, ‘whych glorie I had now thought shoulde have bene onely ours heere at London, and the Court’ (4.65-7). His surprise in learning that Harvey is still composing quantitative poems has a comic aspect that can hardly be described as delicate. We learn that versifying had been one of the instruments of their intimate familiarity, a hobby that he and Harvey had once pursued in bed together, but in this earliest of the published letters, Spenser suggests that quantitative practice now has a more glamorous social currency, which glory especially suits him as he insinuates himself into a discriminating urban and courtly elite – erudite, but distinctly non-academic. Even as he flatters Harvey and fusses over him, the letter bubbles with Spenser’s self-promotion: he reports that he has been in the queen’s company; that he speaks well of Harvey to Sidney and Dyer ‘with whom I have some use of familiarity’; that these notables have formed a kind of literary court, an Areopagus – the name having been taken facetiously from the grave court of ex-archons that met at the Hill of Ares in Athens and had particular jurisdiction over cases of murder and arson and general jurisdiction over Athenian education, morals, and the probity of magistrates. Spenser reports that the Areopagus, which may well have included Fulke Greville and perhaps others along with Sidney and Dyer, has legislated new rules for versifying, and that they have recruited Spenser to their faction (4.36-47). To be sure, Spenser asks Harvey’s counsel, and concedes that he should have paid greater heed to his friend’s earlier advocacy of quantitative practice (4.55-6), but he does so in the accents of someone who aspires to run with a faster crowd. 32 Ingratiation and loyalty persist, but they are somewhat tainted: ‘beware,’ he jokes, ‘least in time I overtake you’ (4.74-5).

Both of these men were fervently pursuing advancement, and both were eager to flatter Sidney and Dyer, ‘the two very Diamondes of hir Majesties Courte for many speciall and rare qualities’ (3.8-10). Flattery was nothing new to Harvey -- the Gratulationes Valdinensis of 1578 contain a fulsome poem in praise of Sidney – and it is hardly flattery to suggest that Sidney could do a great deal more by the example of his own versifying than Ascham had done by mere advocacy (3.13-17). Harvey’s praise of Sidney was based in experience, for he had tutored Sidney in Livy a few years earlier. Yet Harvey’s resistance to aspects of Spenser’s prosody is tinged with disapproval of Spenser’s over-eagerness to align himself with glamorous authority. Harvey plays up the natural vulgarity of his own principles and raises the temperature of his counter-arguments by interpolating a satiric quantitative poem that mocks an unnamed courtly pretender; introducing this ‘Mirror of Tuscanism’ Harvey takes his correspondent into insinuating confidence: ‘you know these fellows as you know yourself’ (3.150-1). 33 The ice thins beneath his satiric tread when he assesses his own achievement by asking Spenser if the poem lacks anything at all ‘but a good patterne before his eyes, as it might be some delicate, and choyce elegant Poesie of good M. Sidneys, or M. Dyers, (ower very Castor, and Pollux for such and many greater matters)’ (3.187-90), for elegance and delicacy are under critical scrutiny. Harvey indulges in some defiant needling when he challenges Spenser to consult, not the judgement of the Sidneian Areopagus, but his own homely good sense: ‘I pray thee, and conjure thee by all thy amorous Regardes, and Exorcismes of Love, call a Parliament of thy Sensible, and Intelligible powers together, and tell me, in Tom Trothes earnest, what Il fecondo, e famoso Poeta, Messer Immerito, sayth to this bolde Satyricall Libell’ (3.144-6). Helgerson alleges that the jurisdictional dispute between an aristocratic Areopagus and the humbler parliament of good sense stages a large cultural-historical struggle between ‘common-law tradition’ and ‘usurpation and tyranny’, but the ideological tensions are also personal ones, having to do with the correspondents' careers as clients. 34

Spenser claims to be established in the Leicester circle: he dates his first letter carelessly – he is off by ten days – but he is careful to indicate that he writes from Leicester House. He writes, not only of his familiarity with Sidney and Dyer, but of his recruitment ‘to employ my time, my body, my minde, to his Honours’ – Leicester’s – ‘service’ abroad (4.246-7). 35 Reporting on his own service to Leicester, his correspondent adopts a less ardently subservient, more swaggering tone. Harvey is preparing to instruct Leicester in the ancient literary antecedents of apodemica, the art of travel: ‘I am studying all this fortnight, to reade him suche a Lecture in Homers Odysses, and Virgils Æneads, that I dare undertake he shall not neede any further instruction, in Maister Turlers Travayler, or Maister Zuingers Methodus Apodemica’ (5.173-6). But Harvey’s swagger might have concealed doubts: he had had Leicester’s support for the renewal of his fellowship at Pembroke in 1578, the year in which Leicester’s influence was perhaps at its height, and although he had devoted one of the four books of his Gratulationes of the same year to Leicester, Leicester had not come to his aid in his suit for a prebend at Litchfield in 1579, nor, apparently, was he encouraging when Harvey’s epic Anticosmopolita ‘attended’ on Leicester at court around the same time (2.561-4). Although Harvey may be teasing Spenser into a more cautious relation to the Areopagus out of jealousy, prudence would not have been misplaced. On the one hand there was the matter of the tactics of dedication: in letter 4, Spenser notes Gosson’s gaffe in dedicating the School of Abuse to Sidney, who ‘scorned’ the work, the gesture, or both, and he muses over whether he will cause offense in dedicating the Calendar to Leicester. 36 (Spenser defers, nervously to Harvey's judgment in the matter: ‘If these, and the like doubtes, maye be of importaunce in your seeming, to frustrate any parte of your advice, I beeseeche you, without the leaste selfe love of your own purpose, councell me for the beste: and the rather doe it faithfullye, and carefully, for that, in all things I attribute so muche to your judgement, that I am evermore content to adnihilate mine owne determinations, in respecte thereof’; 4.22-7). On the other hand, Leicesterian endorsement might not be a reliable asset. The Letters -- the earlier ones (4 and 5) from October 1579 and the later ones (1 through 3) from April of 1580 -- date from months in which relations between the Leicester circle and the Crown were unusually tense (W. MacCaffrey 1993: 202-3). In August of 1579 the queen learned of Leicester’s marriage to Lettice Knollys a year earlier and banished Leicester from court; her annoyance had other causes, since his opposition to her proposed marriage to the Duc d’Alençon had become impossible to ignore. Sidney, for his part, was also in bad odor: he had quarreled with the Earl of Oxford at the end of August and been chided for his insubordination by the queen herself; worse, Sidney, sharing his uncle’s opposition to the Alençon match, had composed a carefully reasoned open Letter to the Queen, probably late in the summer, laying out the case against the marriage 38 Whether or not the Letter to the Queen had gone into circulation by October, it would not have required a very deep ‘use of familiarity’ with Sidney for Spenser to have sensed the nervousness of Sidney’s and his uncle’s political circumstances. Leicesterian service was not to be counted on. In his letter of 15-16 October, Spenser speaks of preparations for a journey on Leicester’s behalf, and the accompanying farewell epistle plays up the Odysseyan arduousness of the anticipated trip; in his response to this letter Harvey bluntly responds ‘that you shall not, I saye, bee gone over Sea, for al your saying, neither the next, nor the nexte weeke’ (5.163-6). 39 Uncertainty persists in the April letters: ‘Little newes is here stirred: but that olde greate matter still depending’ (1.11-12). To be Leicester’s client and Sidney’s literary associate were to be prized, but they hardly settled a young man’s future, as Harvey had no doubt come to recognize. Spenser would mourn Leicester and Sidney in poems published a decade later, and Leicester’s silhouette may be discerned in the Arthur of The Faerie Queene, but we can also see loosenings of affiliation in the short run as well. Besides the poems in the Letters, no other quantitative verses by Spenser’s survive, and, like Harvey’s Anticosmopolita, Spenser’s Stemmata Dudleiana – the Genealogy of the Dudleys – never saw print.

Joking in letter 3, ostensibly the last composed, Harvey claims to have changed patrons, although he concedes that he is still making overtures to Leicester:

I am lately become a marvellous great straunger at myne olde Mistresse Poetries, being newly entertayned, and dayly employed in our Emperour Justinians service (saving that I have alreadie addressed a certaine pleasurable, and Morall Politique Naturall mixte devise, to his most Honourable Lordshippe, in the same kynde, whereunto my next Letter, if you please mee well, may perchaunce make you privie)

He is recycling Spenser’s remark from letter 1, “But if happly you dwell altogither in Justinians Courte, and give your selfe to be devoured of secreate Studies . . . ” (1.6-8). If Spenser’s contributions to the Letters are written, literally and figuratively, from Leicester House, Harvey writes from Justinian’s court. Although Harvey did not receive the doctorate in civil and canon law until 1586, he began his search for a dwelling in Justinian’s court no later than the early 1570s, when he came under the influence and academic patronage of Thomas Smith -- who was not only an orthographic reformer, but had held the first Regius professorship in civil law. 40 In a letter to Smith of 1573 Harvey expresses his gratitude for Smith’s efforts to help him secure the fellowship at Pembroke College that enabled him to move from Christ’s; at Christ’s, he suggests, he was likely to have been drawn into the study of divinity, whereas at Pembroke he felt at liberty to pursue law. 41 When Harvey’s fellowship expired in 1578, the year after Smith’s death, he sought not only its renewal but an exemption from studies in divinity so that he could continue his legal studies, but he was refused this dispensation; letter 4 is therefore addressed to ‘Maister G. H. Fellow of Trinitie Hall in Cambridge’ (4.title). Trinity Hall was at that time the center of civil legal studies at Cambridge; a doctorate in civil law conferred gentility and could serve not only as a means to a career as an advocate or judge, but could also assist an ambitious scholar in academic advancement. 42

The News from Cambridge

Harvey addresses Leicesterian Westminster not only from the Justinian’s court of Trinity Hall, but also, in letter 2, from ‘a gentleman’s house in Essex’, an elsewhere that turns out not to be very far from Cambridge, geographically and figuratively. This letter has been much quoted for Harvey's long report on intellectual fashion at Cambridge, yet most of the letter is given over to his reflections on the earthquake of 6 April 1580. The earthquake had elicited a number of treatises, many of them interpreting it as a judgment on England, as a warning, or as a sign of events to come. Harvey frames the response of his companions as a dialogue between superstition and science. A sociable group is at cards when the earth shakes; the women in the company are frightened, but the men are deliberate; once it is confirmed to have been sensed in a nearby town, the women dispose themselves to prayer, but one of the gentlemen remarks that 'here be some present, that are able cunningly, and clearkly to argue the case. . . . Nowe, I praye you, Master H ., what say you Philosophers, quoth he, to this suddayne Earthquake? May there not be some sensible Naturall cause thereof?' (2.57-8, 60-2). Harvey gives a simple explanation, and pauses at the brink of technicality: 'but the Termes of Arte, and verye Natures of things themselves so utterly unknowen, as they are to most heere, it were a peece of woorke to laye open the Reason to every ones Capacitie' (75-8) He is egged on, however, by one of the women, on whom he confers the pseudonym 'Mystresse Inquisitiva' (81): 'I beseech you, learned Syr, try our wittes a little, and let us heare a peece of your deepe Universitie Cunning.' Harvey pauses again and, as he puts it, 'doctorally proceeded.' This is not inadvertent self-mockery; Harvey puts similar jokes in others’ mouths, as when the other gentlewoman, dubbed ‘Madame Incredula ', interrupts one of Harvey’s extended periods: ‘No more Ands, or Ifs, for Gods sake, quoth the Madame, and this be your great Doctorly learning. Wee have even Enoughe alreadie for our Money.’ The mutual teasing is strategic: in its tone of serio ludere, the letter insists that the discursive spirit of the university can be made welcome in a gentleman’s house.

Harvey's account is based on orthodox Aristotelean meteorology, the Meteorologica being that portion of the Aristotle corpus concerned not only with weather but with hydrology and geology. For all its academic orthodoxy, Harvey’s naturalism is polemical, pitched against what the pieties of such men as Arthur Golding, whose Discourse Upon the Late Earthquake urged that ‘this miracle proceeded not of the course of any naturall causes, but of Gods only determinate purpose, who maketh even the verye foundations and pillers of the earthe to shake, the mountaines to melte lyke wax, and the seas to dry vp and to becom as a drie field, when he listeth to shewe the greatenesse of his glorious power’ (B2v). (He perversely asks Spenser to send him a sheaf of the trashiest publications, and wishes that some university man might systematically confute them all; 427-33.) Harvey’s counter-argument has substantial debts to Seneca the Younger, whose treatment of earthquakes in book 6 of the Natural Questions models Harvey’s chic anti-supernaturalism: ‘it will help also to keep in mind that gods cause none of these things and that neither heaven nor earth is overturned by the wrath of divinities. These phenomena have causes of their own; they do not range on command but are disturbed by certain defects, just as our bodies are’ ( Illud quoque proderit praesumere animo nihil horum deos facere nec ira numinum aut caelum converti aut terram; suas ista causas habent nec ex imperio saeviunt sed quibusdam vitiis, ut corpora nastra turbantur, et tunc, cum facere videntur, iniuriam accipiunt; Nat Quaest VI.3.1). 43 Harvey’s earth is a macrocosm, shaken by a fever that

we schollers call grossely, and homely, Terræ motus, a mooving, or sturring of the Earth; you Gentlewomen, that be learned, somewhat more finely, and daintily, Terræ motus, a feare, and agony of the Earth. . . . Nowe here, (and it please you) lyeth the poynt, and quidditie of the controversie, whether our Motus, or your Metus, be the better, and more consonant to the Principles and Maximes of Philosophy?

The insistence that the earth does not quake with fear prepares for the second stage of Harvey’s argument, the argument against theological inference from the earthquake. Here Harvey is indebted less to Seneca than to Giovanni and Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, both of whom had mounted cases against prognostication, seeking, as Harvey does in the letter, to replace wonder with understanding, divination with etiology. Harvey does not deny that there may be earthquakes that are caused supernaturally, by immediate divine intervention, but he insists both that some earthquakes have no immediate supernatural cause and that, moreover, there is no discernible distinction between earthquakes thus differently caused (2.314-31). Harvey not only makes his case, but demonstrates how well he has made it by recording the accurate précis offered by his attentive host. He concludes his persuasive triumph in an unusually gentle satiric vein, observing that 'an auncient learned common Lawyer that had been Graduate, and fellow of a Colledge in Cambridge, in Queene Maries dayes . . . tooke upon him, to knit up the matter, and as he said, determine the controversie'. Harvey responds to this tribute by posing a difficult last question that compels the lawyer to propose that the company repair to supper: a triumph of youth and skeptical discredit over age and tremulous credulity; a triumph, too, of the academic over the professional, the 'civilian' over the common lawyer.

According to Greene, Lyly, and Nashe, the Letters landed Harvey in the Fleet and although Harvey denies the allegation, the Letters certainly caused him a good deal of trouble; a dozen years later he recalls his ill-judged posturing with regret. 44 If their reports be true, the offense would have had to lie in something less diffuse than the trendy skepticism of Harvey's science, in something more like a personal affront. The 'Pleasant and pitthy familiar discourse, of the Earthquake ' is only a prelude to the sharp rhetorical eruption at the end of letter 2, where Harvey asks, on behalf of his fellow graduate, 'what Newes al this while at Cambridge?' (2.569); he answers in a far more reckless vein than that in which he conversed with Mistress Inquisitiva, Madame Incredula, and the lawyer-alumnus. In the survey of Cambridge intellectual life and ecclesiology that follows are remarks that could possibly have sent a man to prison; Nashe alleges that Sir James Croft complained to the Privy Council of Harvey's letter (responding, presumably, to 2.644-53), although Harvey had explained the portrait there of a composite knave – of brazen forehead, leaden brain, wooden wit, copper face, stony breast, and factious heart – was a rendering of Andrew Perne, who had recently blocked Harvey's bid for the position of University Orator. 45 The actionable moments punctuate pages of satiric prosopography that bubble with a disdain so exuberant and, sometimes, so general, that it occasionally spatters even Spenser and Harvey themselves. 'What Newes?', Harvey has asked himself on Spenser's behalf (2.569), yet at the center of his report is an implied criticism of a mania for 'Newes, newe Bookes, newe Fashions, newe Lawes . . .' (2.592-3)

He begins with a survey of fashionable and unfashionable reading at the university. Crucial classical texts of ethics and rhetorical texts are being neglected (reports the erstwhile professor of rhetoric), while ancient historians and modern chroniclers are popular, and the quirky and insinuating satirist Lucian even more popular. Modern literature is preferred to ancient – and modern Italian literature, in particular: the (differently) scandalous work of Machiavelli and Aretino, of course, but also, and especially, the literature of courtesy. (When Harvey remarks that his fellow scholars are more alert to the superficialities of social distinction than to the distinction between learning and ignorance, one feels that he is again measuring Spenser's current courtly engagements with his own persistent academic ones.) Harvey works the satirist's durable topos of deploring the momentous and transient, and this seems tellingly at odds with the irreverent anti-traditionality of his science: he is a young fuddy-duddy, a conservative radical, and it is therefore not surprising that his secular naturalism partners a fastidious spirituality. Some of the religious satire is bland -- 'The Gospell taughte, not learned' -- but some is sharp -- 'the Ceremoniall Lawe, in worde abrogated' and the vehemence is at once distinctively Cantabridgean and Leicesterian, an urgent insistence on sustained Reform. If his conspectus takes in a backsliding into ceremony – especially that of the conformable Perne, 'with his square Cappe on his rounde heade' -- it is just as disdainful of cheap fervor -- 'the Lighte, the Lighte in euery mannes Lippes, but marke me their eyes' [607-8]. He is especially alert to humbug: 'the Divell not so hated, as the Pope’ [613-4]). That academics are all talk might be a flabby charge, but when Harvey considers his peers' talk of church discipline, his version of the charge has both sting and rue: ' 'Nonresidents never better bayted, but not one fewer.' Harvey hardly developed a reputation as an advocate for church discipline, so this may simply be a personal matter -- Perne was one of the many of the university's nonresident holders of benefices -- but the criticism is stiffened by an idealized notion of what a reformed university should be, that it should be a place of rigor and a haven for conviction.

He doesn't dare name the names of contemporaries, Perne or Croft, but he recalls the fervent anti-ceremonialist Cartwright, noting that he is 'nighe forgotten' by the rest of their academic cohort and notes that his peers, 'euery yonker' of them, model themselves instead on the likes of Nicholas Wotton and Stephen Gardiner. This is an odd turn in Harvey's generational portrait, yet it comes in the midst of plainly climactic rhetorical gestures, arpeggios of invective and evasive, emphatically confiding retreats into esoteric Latin. He contemplates a university swarming with

dubble faced Jani, and chaungeable Camelions: ouer-manye Clawbackes, and Pickethanks: Reedes shaken of euerie Wind: Jackes of bothe sides: Aspen leaves: painted Sheathes, and Sepulchres: Asses in Lions skins: Dunglecockes: slipperye Eles: Dormise: I blush to thinke of some, that weene themselves as fledge as the beste, being, God wot, as kallowe as the rest: euery yonker to speake of as politique, and as great a Commonwealths man as Bishoppe Gardner, or Doctor Wutton at the least: as if euerie man nowe adayes . . . had al the Wit, Wisedome, and Worshippe in the world at commaundement. Sed heus in aurem: Meministi quod ait Varro? Omnes videmur nobis esse belli, festivi, saperdæ, cùm sumus Canopi [But hark in your ear; you remember what Varro says? 'To ourselves we seem spruce and charming perch, when we are really rancid Egyptian anchovies]: David, Vlisses, and Solon, fayned themselves fooles and madmen: our fooles and madmen faine themselves Davids, Ulisses, and Solons
It is useful to recall how Gardner and Wotton might have been remembered. Both had been doctors of civil and canon law -- Gardiner had taught civil law at Trinity Hall and became master of the college at the age of thirty -- and both went on to ecclesiastical positions that were largely overshadowed (in Gardiner's case) or eclipsed (in Wotton's) by diplomatic careers: great Commonwealths-men, scholars eminently politic . Harvey sees their dubitable achievements parodied by young fools who suppose themselves Davids, Ulysses, and Solons. Addressing the friend who had, a few months earlier, composed a Latin epistle in which he compared himself, launched on a diplomatic mission for Leicester, to Ulysses, he archly observes, ‘you know these fellows as you know yourself’ -- and of course Harvey could have said no such thing without a share of self-recognition. This is satire in a convex mirror, comparable to that of Spenser' moral eclogues. The younker's aspiring travels and the shepherd's forsakings are familiar topoi of pastoral, but they may be discovered both in the biographies of Spenser and Harvey and in Harvey's satiric prosopography. With friends like Harvey, a poet might find it slightly difficult to treat such topoi as mere commonplaces.

In the familiar discourse of the earthquake earlier in letter 2, Harvey specifies that his interlocutors are ‘ shrewde wittie new marryed Gentlewomen’; ‘ new marryed’ is an odd detail. The condescension in Harvey’s manner is almost tedious enough to obstruct reflection on this detail, but it deserves brief notice. Like the ‘Legend of Friendship’, the Letters volume is a book not only of friends but of newlyweds. Between the earlier two letters and the later three, Spenser seems to have married. In letter 1, Spenser tells Harvey that his, Spenser’s, sweetheart wonders why he, Harvey, hasn’t responded to her letters. (Warning Harvey that he should be careful in his interactions with her, since she is mortally charming, Spenser is somewhat less annoying in his gallantry than Harvey.) Harvey’s response in letter 3 is heavily queer: he promises to write, sends endearments, and, referring to himself as ‘your little Hobbinol’ and turning to close the letter, salutes his friend as ‘Lady Immerito, the most beautiful Ms Colina Clouta’ – the joke, such as it is, being that love has feminized what friendship had pastoralized. But new marriage seems not to have signified only as feminization.

Harvey signs the earliest of his letters ‘Trinitie Hall, stil in my Gallerie. 23. Octob. 1579. In haste.’ These are the familiar letters of men in their late twenties, steadily balked, but crammed with plans and opinions: ‘stil . . . In haste.’ The earth has moved, lives are in flux, newly married Gentlewomen ask intellectuals to reveal the latest, the most disruptively incredulous developments in scientific thought. 46 The new-married, freshly experienced, witty, and knowing personify the familiar spirit of these letters, in which the correspondents will themselves and their culture past the brink of constraint.

Perhaps English poetry can be converted from rhyming to versification; perhaps Roman law, so explicitly theoretical and jurisprudential, will continue the expansion of influence begun under Henry VIII, securing a place of equality or even superiority to mere common law. (Perhaps, as Harvey advocated, Spenser would give up on The Faerie Queene and concentrate on drama, pursuing comedy and social satire rather than elvish epideictic.) ‘ Quid quaeris ?’, Harvey somewhat flirtatiously asks at 3.595-6; ‘what do you want’ from me, from the world? That the young men predict the future very badly, that their convictions are so misplaced is hardly surprising; what is striking is how much expectation they can muster.

' Uti spero, brevi ' – ‘I hope shortly to . . .’ is their watchword (5.194), but they are in a hurry for futures that would take their time. ‘I am at this instant, very busilye, and hotly employed in certaine greate and serious affayres: whereof, notwithstanding (for all youre vowed, and long experimented secrecie) you are not like to heare a worde more at the moste, till I my selfe see a World more at the leaste’, Harvey writes (5.20-4). And Spenser: ‘Nowe, my Dreames, and dying Pellicane, being fully finished (as I partelye signified in my laste Letters) and presentlye to bee imprinted, I wil in hande forthwith with my Faery Queene ' – none of which appeared for a decade. 47 ‘I minde shortely at convenient leysure’ – Spenser’s variation on ‘stil. . . In haste’ – ‘I minde shortely at convenient leysure to sette forth a Booke in this kinde, whyche I entitle, Epithalamion Thamesis’ – a work that appeared much transformed, in 1596, as canto xi of the fourth book of The Faerie Queene, the Legend of Friendship. ‘ Ibimus ergo statim’ (‘we will therefore set out at once’), Spenser writes in the valedictory epistle of letter 4, anticipating a sea voyage in Leicester’s service in the fall of 1579. That trip was cancelled, soon replaced by Spenser's posting in Ireland as the secretary to Lord Grey. The Letters may not have seen print before Grey and Spenser shipped for Dublin on the Handmaid .

A Note on the Scansions

We propose speculative scansions of Spenser's and the two Harveys's English quantitative poems in the commentary on the letters. Where possible we have marked caesural position, but have not assigned them in the case of all lines. We note many, but not all, of the inconsistencies in their procedures. It may be observed that most of the inconsistencies may be explained by recourse to Harvey's 'Rule of Rules', that despite those rules adapted from Latin prosody, 'we are not to goe a Tittle farther . . . than we are licenced and authorized by the ordinarie use, and custome, and proprietie, and Idiome, and, as it were, Majestie of our speach' (3.518-23).


1On the epistle and, particularly, the familiar letter as formal genres, see Henderson 1983; Henderson 2002; Constable 1976; Barnes 2013: 1-3, 6-7.
2On early modern familiarity, and its classical antecedents, see Eden 2012, especially chapters 2 and 3, on Petrarch and Erasmus respectively.
3See Letters Letters 3.16, 480, 529; and 5.95. On the social function of the familiar letter in late medieval and early modern Europe, see Bray 2003, 67-70, 159-64.
4Ascham 1970: 183. Sturm’s selection of 120 letters by Cicero, most taken from the ad Familares and ad Atticum, first appeared in 1541. The collection especially recommended itself to teachers like Ascham, for Sturm had arranged the letters he selected by increasing difficulty. For Ascham, Cicero was crucial to more than the early stages of Latin tuition; he remained central to the ideal reading curriculum, and the familiar letters central to the recommended Ciceronian texts. Having mastered Latin translation, the student is to maintain those skills by returning, every two or three days, to translating from ‘some Epistle ad Atticum, some notable common place out of his Orations, or some other part of Tullie’ (239). When Ascham proposes his distinctive pedagogical exercise of double translation from Latin to English and then, a few hours later, from the translated English back into Latin, he alleges that using, as the objects of the exercise, only Cicero’s De Senectute, the first of Cicero’s letters to his brother and his long letter to Lentulus would bring a student ‘to a better knowledge in the Latin tongue’ (245) than most students could acquire in four or five years of conventional grammar-school education.
5Harvey’s complex relation to Ascham, and his resistance to Ascham’s commitment to Cicero as the central object of a student’s imitative attention, is plain from Harvey’s Ciceronianus (delivered at Cambridge in in 1576 and printed in 1577), but Harvey’s critical engagement with Ascham in no way compromised his own interest in the familiar letter as an ancient form of compelling modern importance. For Harvey’s reading of Ascham’s Scholemaster, see H. S. Wilson 1954: 173-4.That Harvey had The Scholemaster ready to hand is plain both from his reflections on English quantitative versification in Letters 3 and 5 and on the wary craft of judicious travel and cultural appropriation in Letter 5.
6In the same year, Ralph Newberry, the publisher of Flemming’s Panoplie, also published Edward Hellowes’s translation of the familiar letters of Antonio de Guevara.
7For a penetrating account of the contribution of the epistle to a culture of erudite debate in late fourteenth-century Île-de-France, see chapter 2 of Cayley 2006.
8On the ostentatious display of privacy in Spenser, see Rambuss 1993.
9He takes his cue from Harvey’s equally flirtatious promise in the even earlier Letters 5 to ‘bestowe the sweetest Farewell upon your sweetmouthed Mastershippe, that so unsweete a Tong, and so sowre a paire of Lippes can affoorde’ (167-9).
11In the margin of the line that names ‘Benevolo’ are written the initials ‘J.W.’, which Bennett 1931 takes to indicate that Benevolo is John Wood, the nephew of Sir Thomas Smith; Albright discredits the inference, arguing (by reference to fol. 35v of the same manuscript, 93) that Benevolo was one of Harvey’s nicknames for Spenser himself.
12Although Stern 1979 regards Harvey as having been genuinely alarmed by Spenser’s undertaking and imagines him to have been relieved that the volume did not in fact appear, Bennett 1931 and Albright 1932 believe that Harvey drafted the letter as a comic preface to a collection that Harvey was putting together himself, the prefatory page of which Harvey drafted on 48v.
13On the unpublished work, see Celovsky and Black 2010: 351, 353, 355-7.
14As theorists of English prosody they are immediately preceded by George Gascoigne, who published “Certayne notes of Instruction concerning the making of verse or ryme in English,” as part of his Posies of 1575. Gascoigne is a theorist of accentual-syllabic verse, however; he shows no awareness of the early stages of an English quantitative movement.
15These terms and their cognates are often contrasted, with rhyme (or rhythm the denigrated term in the pairing, although verse is not always used in the technical sense of ‘poetry in quantitative metres’. See, for example, Gascoigne’s ‘note you that commonly now a dayes in English rimes (for I dare not cal them English verses) we vse none other order but a foote of two sillables, wherof the first is depressed or made short, and the second is eleuate or made long’ (Smith 1904: 1.50). Like many writers on prosody before and since, Gascoigne confuses the unwary reader by borrowing terms from one prosodic tradition to describe quite different phenomena in another tradition. Describing stress-patterning Gascoigne uses both ‘depressed’ and ‘elevate’, which seem appropriate enough, but offers terms used to describe quantity, ‘short’ and ‘long’, as if they were transparent synonyms for ‘depressed’ and ‘elevate’. For critical evaluations of traditional prosodic terms, see Duffell 2008, Chapter 1.
16Allen 1973: 335-7, 339-40; Attridge 1980: 126-27. For Ascham’s error (“first in spying out”), see Ascham 1970: 293.
17See also 1.36, 3. 30: 64 and 589.
18Attridge 1980: 17. It might be observed that Latin seems to have had dynamic, or stress-based, accent, and that Latin poets developed rules governing the correspondence of accent and metrical ictus (the first long syllable in a metrical foot). Classical Greek had melodic accent, with no correspondence rules; later, around 300 C.E., Greek developed dynamic accent at which time its poets developed correspondence rules; Allen 1973:166-7; Palmer 1954: 214. For the distinction between melodic and dynamic accent, see Duffell 2008:18; Allen 1973:74-86.
19The regulation of line length takes two forms: either by fixing the total ‘quantity’ of the line in imitation of Greek Ionic verse or by fixing the total syllable count in imitation of Greek Aeolic verse. Aeolic verse is still understood to be quantitative, in that certain subunits within the line manifest fixed quantity.
20Whereas there is a high degree of coincidence between word-accent and metrical ictus in the last two feet of the hexameter, non-coincidence is frequent earlier in the line, especially in the third and fourth feet. See Allen 1973: 110-112, 337-40; Attridge 1980: 14-17.
21Two qualifications are in order here. First, one should use the terms short and long advisedly, aware that many prosodists prefer the terms ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ to describe prosodic contrast at the syllabic level, reserving ‘short’ and ‘long’ to characterize contrast at both the syllabic and vocalic level. The second qualification is signaled by the characterization of quantity as a prosodic ' measure. Experimental phonology confirms that no modern languages exhibit merely binary syllable durations; doubtless the same was true of ancient languages. Ancient grammarians divided over the precise nature of quantity. A sizable group, the so-called rhythmici, analyzed syllables into constituents to which they assigned a differentiated range of time-values; when they summed the constituent values of many syllables understood to be metrically short, those syllables 'proved' to be phonologically longer than syllables understood to be metrically long. The rhythmici therefore claimed that quantitative prosodic analysis should recognize, not just two, but a discriminated range of syllabic durations. On the claims of the rhythmici see the work of Zirin 1970: 42-54, cited in Attridge 1980: 8.
22While the general rule in both the ancient and early modern schoolroom was that the proper way to read Latin verse aloud was according to normal prose accent, scanning, that is, of reading with stress on the first heavy syllable of each foot, so as to bring out the quantitative pattern, was also practiced, sometimes with magisterial endorsement, sometimes not; Allen 1973:340-6; Attridge 1980: 32-40.
24To this may be added Certaine observations for Latine and English versifying (1589) by H.B., only one leaf of which which survives. H.B. shares Spenser’s sense that native quantitative practice was in need of explicit regulation, since the ‘many young gentlemen [who] are greatly delited with English versifying . . . knowe no better rules to be directed by in making their Poems and songs than the uncertaine & variable judgement of the eare’ (A2v, cited Attridge 1980: 139. On Stanyhurst’s rules, see Loewenstein 2017.
25At Letters 3.43-48, Harvey insists that rules and precepts take ‘their original and offspring’ from ‘ Particular Examples’. On our prosodic assessment of the English quantitative verses included in the Letters, see our 'Note on the Scansions' below.
26It may be observed that Sidney attempted a greater variety of classical forms: in addition to hexameters and elegiacs, he essayed anacreontics, phaleaceans, asclepiads, sapphics, and aristophanics.
27Consider the line from Harvey’s hexameter poem on the ‘trinity’ of Virtue, Fame, and Wealth: ‘These be my three bonny lasses, these be my three bonny Ladyes’ ( Letters 3.85). Read with normal speech-stress and normal syntactic pause, the line is neatly symmetrical, with each of its two half-lines made up of two stress-syllabic dactyls (/xx), followed by a spondee ( // ). But Harvey will have wanted warrant to regard this as a quantitative hexameter and not just as a stress-syllabic one. The last syllable of the last foot, ‘Ladyes’, need not be scanned too rigorously, since the disyllabic last foot of the Latin hexameter can be either spondaic or trochaic. The spondaic third foot, ‘lasses’, is also easy to scan: the double- s and the consonant cluster of s - th make both syllables long ‘by position’. What remains is to confirm the dactylic character of the first and second feet, repeated as the third and fourth feet: ‘These be my three bonny . . . these be my three bonny . . .’. ‘These’ is long ‘by position’ and the orthography of ‘three’ makes that vowel long. The naturally un stressed character of ‘be my’ may make it seem fitting to treat both syllables as quantitatively short, but no rule could be invoked to ratify the testimony of the ear. Moreover, the double (or perhaps triple) consonant of ‘three’ would seem to dictate that ‘my’ be treated as ‘long by position’, yet, happily, a classical rule could be invoked in this instance: when a mute consonant is followed by a liquid, the previous syllable need not be regarded as lengthened by position, (whether one regards ‘three’ as derived from Greek τρία or the cluster to be equivalent to Greek θρ, the cluster could be regarded as a mute-liquid pairing). In a cultural condition in which natural vowel length could not be determined, there was no obstacle to treating ‘These be my’ as dactylic. (In all three other instances in which Harvey uses ‘be’ in one of the quantitative poems in Letter 3 and in both of the two other instances in which he uses ‘my’, the words function as short syllables.) But there was an obvious obstacle to treating ‘three bonny’ as a dactyl, for the double consonant in ‘bonny’ seemed unarguably to make its first syllable long by position. Yet in this particular matter the English versifier had an advantage over the Latin one. Whereas Latin orthography was relatively stable, a considerable range of spelling was allowable in English and spellings could be adjusted to control quantity by position. In Harvey’s own copy, we find that he has hand-corrected the spelling to read ‘three bony lasses, . . . three bony Ladyes’. ‘Bony’ is an unquestionably eccentric spelling, albeit allowable, and Harvey claims a privilege from the very irregularity of English orthography. (Although there is a considerable range of allowable spellings in printed books prior to the eighteenth-century, identifiable norms developed (and changed) from moment to moment; see Basu and Loewenstein 2019. ‘Bonny’ was already a normal spelling for the word that means ‘lovely’, and ‘bony’ the customary spelling for the word that means ‘with prominent or abundant bones’.) Harvey is inconsistent, however. He fails to correct another instance of ‘bonny’ in his next poem, although in this third instance ‘bonny’ again completes an obviously dactylic foot: either he is neglecting consistently to correct his own book, or he is suddenly wary of suggesting, by his ‘corrected’ orthography, that he is indicating a different word, ‘bone-y’.
28The case for a reformed orthography was familiar. Spenser is likely to have been exposed to it at Merchant Taylors school, since the master, Richard Mulcaster, had been an advocate. John Cheke, one of the early advocates of quantitative versifying in English had also promoted orthographic reform.
29None of the surviving printed editions preserve this reading; all of them read ‘yron’. Harvey’s quotation may reflect a MS tradition or it may be a misremembering based on his conviction that Ascham would not have allowed the final foot of a hexameter to be spelled in such a way as to suggest a possible trisyllabic proununciation. Ascham may not have been a very fastidious versifier: he seems not to have noticed that ‘did’ is long by position. (He may regard the h of ‘he’ as non-consonantal, distinguishing it from the h of ‘his’ -- or he may not have accepted the relevance to English versifying of any rule of length by position. His line may indeed be organized by stress-syllabic rather than strictly quantitative feet.)
30Weiner offers useful discriminations on the meaning of accent in such contexts; 1982: 6, 19. His treatment of the prosodic thinking of Elizabethan quantitative poets is the best complement to that of Attridge.
31The genial disagreement here would persist within the wider community of poets who lent their efforts and prestige to the quantitative movement. In his Aeneid and the pages with which he prefaces it, Stanyhurst takes Spenser’s classicizing position to an extreme: Attridge observes that while Stanyhurst is fussy about caesural placement, elision, and the coincidence of accent and ictus in the final feet of the hexameter, his “work is remarkable for . . . its disregard for any aural embodiment of quantity” (Attridge 1980: 167). Sidney, on the other hand, will end up in Harvey’s camp. He understands quantitative verse as ‘more fit for Musick, both the words and tune observing quantitie’ (Apologie, 1595, L2r) and the rules of quantity recorded in the manuscripts for the Old Arcadia show a strong will ‘to base quantity on the phonetic character of syllables’ (Attridge 1980: 176). Puttenham will also fall in the Harvey-Sidney tradition; see Weiner 1982: 10-12.
32Campana makes a similar assessment in Handbook 2010: 184.
33Harvey’s teasing is leavened with self-mockery. During the entertainments for Elizabeth at Audley End in the summer of 1578, the queen had observed that Harvey looked like an Italian, provoking him to compose a poem ‘ De vultu Itali’ (On the Italian Visage), which he included in his Gratulationes Waldenensis . But this sort of satire inevitably has labile reference. John Lyly informed the Earl of Oxford that the poem was directed at him . Although Lyly's insinuation was intended to damage Harvey, it may have back-fired, for Lyly soon lost favor with Oxford.
34Helgerson 1992: 27-8, glossing Letters 3.446-57. Helgerson’s assessment of the cultural politics of the quantitative enterprise (25-34) remains unrivalled.
35This would have been at least the second such embassy; Spenser is believed to have delivered letters between Leicester and his brother-in-law, Henry Sidney, in July 1577.
36For Spenser’s decision to shift the dedication of the Calender from Leicester to Sidney, see Rambuss 1993: 16-17. Hadfield invites us to consider the possibilities that Spenser had always intended to dedicate the poem to Sidney and that the discussion in the Letters concerning whether or not to dedicate the poem to Leicester is merely disingenuous (2012: 128-30). Hadfield goes on to propose that the very discussion of patronage in the Letters might have annoyed Leicester, inadvertently putting paid to the apprehensions of the October letter (151).
38The date of composition of Sidney’s Letter to the Queen remains contested. Van Dorsten and Duncan-Jones established the orthodoxy that Sidney composed the Letter between November 1579 and October 1580 ( Miscellaneous Prose, 33-4), but Adams is confident that the letter was composed prior to the queen’s interview with Simier (Adams, ‘Robert Dudley’ ODNB ). Beal 2002 offers a useful summary of opinions in the matter.
39The response smacks of sour grapes: Harvey had tried and failed to secure similar service a few months earlier – ‘any kynde of travayle (either at home or abroade, by speaking, wrytinge, or doinge, on way or other) that maye anywayes seem avaylable either towards strengtheninge of his Lordshippes estate or the advauncyng of his most Honorable name’; Dudley Papers (Longleat), II, fol. 202, quoted in Rosenberg 1955: 331; Tenison 1936: 152. That Harvey regarded himself as having awakened to great pragmatism may be gleaned from 3.298-304.
40Harvey had at least an indirect connection to Smith from the late 60s; Stern 1979: 13-5.
41He writes to Smith in 1573 asking for his assistance in securing the renewal of his fellowship, alerting Smith to the fact that there is another fellowship available at Christ’s, but making it clear that he would prefer to remain at Pembroke. He alludes enviously to the arrangement by which his friend William Lewin had managed to pursue his legal studies, having received a benefice without spiritual duties in lieu of his fellowship.
42See O’Day 2000: 154, 158.
43Passanante 2008 is no doubt correct that Lucretius stands behind Seneca, although Seneca is the more proximate source of Harvey’s earthquake lore and of the skeptical naturalism that informs it. Passanante’s discussion of Harvey’s debt to Ramus, both his rhetoric and his skepticism, is especially useful.
44 Greene was the first to allege in print that Harvey was jailed for the Letters, in A Quip for an Upstart Courtier (1592: E4r); Greene’s allegation was anticipated by Lyly’s less pointed suggestion that a satiric portrait of Oxford in one of Harvey’s poems from Letter 3 made Harvey’s ‘eares quake for feare of clipping’ ( Pap with an Hatchet, 1589: B3r). Even as he rues his earlier incaution, Harvey contested both Greene’s allegation and Lyly’s insinuation, lending specificity to the latter by insisting that the satire on Oxford didn’t earn him a second imprisonment in the Fleet (Four Letters, 1592: C3v-C4r). Nashe entered the fray the next year, lampooning Harvey’s denials with some of the century’s most breathtaking satiric prose ( Strange News, 1593: G3v-G4r).
45On Croft’s misapprehension and Harvey’s unfortunate clarification see Nashe, Have With You To Saffron-Walden (1596: Mev) Perne may also have been the target of an earlier insult, at 2.618-9.
46To suppose Harvey's condescension to the gentlewomen to be cross-cut with appreciation for their curiosity and their sustained engagement, however imperfect, with Harvey's science, puts me in slight disagreement with Barnes 2013: 3-5.
47The Dreames were quite possibly to have been a new edition of the translations Spenser had prepared a decade earlier for Theatre; see Introduction to Complaints.