124:  Bad Imprintings

The master’s daughters had taken two books from the book-box.

From one they read some bawdy verses that made the maidservants merry.

After casting that aside, they busied theirselves with the other book.  A tale of old kings.  It seemed dull to me, though they’d heard it were scandalous.

Then they sayt they would wait for their brother to come from school, for they thought he might find some scandal in its Latin words.

I sat upon the book of verses, and saw a name that remembered me of my days in the book room of our Earl’s house at Titchfield.

W. Shakespeare.

An upcreeping ear-licker that sought money from our young Earl

He’d offered him two poems that were lascivious and lustful.  Or so my uncle Gib sayt.

And when my uncle was ill-humoured he would set his mark upon the stack of papers wherein those poems lay, saying, “A salute to Snakes-Purr.”

I never troubled to read them.  So, curious to know what this fellow could do, I knocked the book to the floor to peruse at leisure.

I’d scarce nosed it open when some words flew off the page and impressed theirselves so deep in mine eyes I fear I shall never be rid of them.

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her (though I know she lies),
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unskilful in the world’s false forgeries.

I’d heard those words before.  Or some very like.  In a sonnet writ by my uncle Gib as a compliment to our friend Nero.

When my friend swears his tale is made of truth,
Then tells me of his tail, I know he lies,
For his verse shows he’s no untutored youth,
Unskilful in poetick forgeries.

That’s all I remember.  I could make neither head nor tail of the rest.

I should say neither tale nor tail, for my uncle then addressed the matter of true tales and imagined tales.  Or tails.  And how a poet’s false imaginings might make a tale (or tail) of truest truth.

“Do you tell me,” arrkst Nero, twisting to look behind him, “that my tail, which none has ever seen, is truer than the tail all see on you?”

“It’s a platonick conceit,” sayt my uncle.  “Deep-brained.”

“Deep-arsed, more like,” sayt Nero.  “And when our Earl next fails to see the lie of your tail and treads on it, you’ll know it’s true.” 

My uncle was offended.  And I thought no more of that sonnet until I saw its forgery before me.

A rusty-furred black cat. lying on his side.
Nero, probably born without a tail, but whose dramatic tales explain its loss in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, little of his verse has survived, but there’s an example recorded by Gib here.

I turned a page, and more words came at me.

Two loves I have, of comfort and despair,
That like two spirits do suggest me still:
My better angel is a man (right fair),
My worser spirit a woman (coloured ill).

I’d read that before.  Another of my uncle’s platonick conceits, this time upon his divided soul.

Two cats am I, of sweetness and of spite,
Each in my motley coat displays his hue.
My worser spirit is a cat full white,
My better angel hath a coat of blue.

I was so mazed I laid me down ’neath the table to gather my wits.

A miniature painting of Gib, who is white with blue-grey dapples, and green eyes - enhanced by the green background of the painting.
Tricks’ Uncle Gib.

I knew my uncle had wished to see his play imprinted, but this book of verses was none of his doing.

And did he not leave all his papers to me, his niece and executrix?

I looked for Linkin, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Out with his law cat friends, no doubt, boasting of their great learning and advices.

Then we heared at the door not the schoolboy but the master.  The girls seized the books and put them in the box.

Linkin hasted in behind him.

I ran to Linkin and sayt, “I have need of your advice.  Two of my uncle’s sonnets are writ anew and imprinted.  Is this a felony?  Can the knave be punished?”

“Hear this,” sayt Linkin, scant of breath.  “The Earl of Essex has come from Ireland, clean contrary to what Queen Puss commanded.  Some say our Earl is with him.”

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorNowadays five of the 20 poems in The Passionate Pilgrim are attributed to Shakespeare: the sonnets which upset Tricks, and three from the recently printed play Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Why was Shakespeare’s name on the cover of  The Passionate Pilgrim?  Well, in 1599 he was probably better known as a writer of amorous verse than as a playwright.  The best-selling Venus and Adonis (1593) had its 5th and 6th printings in 1599.  The printer of  The Passionate Pilgrim may have hoped his name would help sales. 

Unfortunately the first-mentioned of Gib’s sonnets hasn’t survived in full, but the second one is here.

The other book taken from the book-box, “a tale of old kings” was indeed scandalous, and would become more so.  The First Part of the Life and Raigne of King Henrie IIII by John Hayward (c1564-1627), lawyer and historian, was published in February 1599 with a brief dedication in Latin to the Earl of Essex.  The book dealt with the downfall of Richard II, who was deposed by Henry IV.  It sold well.  

Deposition of a monarch was a sensitive topic.  Essex instigated the removal of the dedication from unsold copies.  That made the book even more popular.  A second printing, without the dedication but with a defense by John Hayward of his work, was seized and burnt.


27 thoughts on “124:  Bad Imprintings

  1. April Munday February 15, 2018 / 2:07 am

    I can see why Henry IV was so scandalous. I hadn’t realised that it was published in the 200th anniversary year of Richard II’s deposition.

    On a legal note, I’m not sure that Tricks will have much joy with her copyright case.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 15, 2018 / 8:10 am

      Like the Earl of Essex, Tricks’ may have to resort to direct action to right her perceived wrongs.

      Apparently, Hayward’s book represents a breakthrough in English historical writing. It’s said that rather than being a straight chronicle of events, it attempted to explore the characters of the people involved. It’s in EEBO (Early English Books Online) but I haven’t had time to look at it yet.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday February 15, 2018 / 11:11 am

      Well, I’m looking forward to seeing Tricks get the better of Shakespeare.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. chattykerry February 15, 2018 / 2:37 am

    How fascinating, Denise? Not only is your writing excellent but what a history lesson. I am going to try to think of a way to incorporate deep brained and deep arsed in a conversation!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Rachel McAlpine February 15, 2018 / 8:41 am

    Well I am outraged and on a mission to get justice for Gib by any means. How come the world did not know of this plagiarism already? Are you going to start a petition?

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 15, 2018 / 9:07 am

      The world does know Shakespeare was a plagiarist: identifying his “sources” is a well-established scholarly pursuit. But I think few would believe he could stoop so low as to steal from a cat.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel McAlpine February 15, 2018 / 12:36 pm

      And of course cats’ legal rights do not cover intellectual property, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 15, 2018 / 5:11 pm

      Not now, not then. And back then, as I understand it, once any writer had sold their work to a printer or to a company of players, they ceased to retain any rights over it. It became the purchaser’s property.

      And as writers often circulated their work in manuscript copies, an unscrupulous person could sell it/print it without their knowledge and consent.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. SRA February 15, 2018 / 10:38 am

    Medieval plagiarism (Gasp!) and what could be worse than plagiarizing from defenseless cats! Can’t wait to read if the perpetrator was brought to book. “An upcreeping earlicker” had me rolling on the floor laughing 😀 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 15, 2018 / 5:38 pm

      I fear that’s the reason why so few cats have blogs nowadays. Word of Shakespeare’s wickedness must have got around, and seeing that the internet makes such wickedness all too easy, most cats have given up on literary ambition.

      Liked by 1 person

    • SRA February 15, 2018 / 5:46 pm

      I agree. You think it would help if we told the cats that Shakespeare isn’t around anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. dornahainds February 15, 2018 / 12:19 pm

    Such Scandalous of lost royaltys.. 😎🥀😎🥀😎🥀

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 15, 2018 / 5:14 pm

      Not to mention missing out on the fame that went with a popular publication…


  6. Robyn Haynes February 17, 2018 / 3:23 pm

    I’m intrigued by the ‘scandalous’ contents of the Passionate Pilgrim, but even more because it differs from its contemporaries by being analytical

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 17, 2018 / 8:33 pm

      Do you mean Hayward’s book The First Part of the Reign of King Henry IV? I don’t know that it’s analytical so much as that it brings personalities to the fore. (I still haven’t had a look at it, but I will.)

      According to Hayward’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, he adopted this from the Roman historian Tacitus – someone else I don’t know much about.

      I think the Earl of Essex admired Tacitus’ writing, which could be why Hayward originally dedicated the book to him.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes February 18, 2018 / 1:46 pm

      I see I have misread. I will try to find that book to set things right. I studied Tacitus when cocky was an egg.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 18, 2018 / 3:07 pm

      Easily enough done, Robyn. We studied Cicero at school way back when, but never touched on Tacitus. I doubt he’d be to Tricks’ taste, but she may well have more to say about John Hayward.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. colonialist February 20, 2018 / 10:09 am

    And should these verse versions be put to the test
    Then know that methinks the cats’ ones are the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Travel Past & Present March 6, 2018 / 10:42 am

    Your blogs are an enjoyable and painless way to absorb history. For many historical “events” we do not know the absolute truth and never will, so speculation is justified and often fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 8, 2018 / 4:11 am

      Thanks! I’m ambivalent about speculation, even though I engage in it myself! Since starting this blog I’ve often been surprised by how one person’s speculation can appear in someone else’s work as a fact. That bugs me.


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