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In 1577 Hooker became a Fellow of his College, and two years later was appointed to read the public Hebrew lecture in the University. The period of his residence at Oxford was probably the happiest of his life. The quiet, regular life of a Fellow was well adapted to one of his retiring disposition; he had ample opportunities of gratifying to the full his love of study; and he could enjoy the company of men of similar tastes to himself. But less happy days were at hand. He took orders in 1581, and in the same year was appointed to preach one of the sermons at Paul's Cross in London. This visit of Hooker's to London is a striking instance of important results arising from trivial causes. He arrived at London very tired, and afraid that he would not be able to preach, but the careful attentions of the woman in whose house he lodged restored him, and he was able to perform his duty. Seeing that his constitution was feeble, the woman persuaded him that he ought to marry a wise who would attend to his comforts. He assented, and asked her to find him such a wife. She provided for him her daughter Joan, “who had neither beauty nor portion," and who proved lacking in the yet more essential qualities of good temper and love to her husband. After his marriage, Hooker settled with his wife in the living of Drayton-Beauchamp, near Aylesbury, where for about a year he led a very miserable life, owing to the shrewishness of his wife, who tyrannised over her meek-spirited husband in the most merciless manner. While in this wretched situation he was visited by his old pupils Sandys and Cranmer. The former, pitying his distress, spoke about it to his father, then Archbishop of York, at whose recommendation Hooker was in 1585 appointed Master of the Temple. In his new office Hooker found another source of vexation. The afternoon lecturer at the Temple, Walter Travers, defended the Presbyterian form of Church government, Hooker defended Episcopacy; so that, as Hooker preached in the forenoon and Travers in the afternoon, “the pulpit spoke pure Canterbury in the morning and Geneva in the afternoon." From verbal controversy the advocates of the opposing systems proceeded to a paper war, of which Hooker 65
Hooker's Appearance. soon became heartily tired, and wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, asking to be removed to some quiet place in the country. His request was granted, and in 1591 he obtained the living of Buscombe, near Salisbury. There he elaborated the first four books of his “Ecclesiastical Polity,” which were published in 1594. In the following year he removed to the living of Bishopsgate, near Canterbury, where he died in 1600. The fifth book of the “Ecclesiastical Polity” was published in 1597, the three remaining books being issued posthumously. The latter were suspected by some to have been tampered with by the Presbyterians, but there is no certain evidence of this.
Walton has given a graphic description of Hooker's appearance and disposition: “An obscure harmless man; a man in poor clothes, his loins usually girt in a coarse gown or canonical coat; of a mean stature and stooping, and yet more lowly in the thoughts of his soul : his body worn out, not with age, but study and holy mortifications; his face full of heat pimples, begot by his unactivity and sedentary life. And to this true characteristic of his person let me add this of his disposition and behaviour: God and nature blessed him with so blessed a bashfulness, that as in his younger days his pupils might easily look him out of countenance, so neither then, nor in his age, did he ever willingly look any man in the face: and was of so mild and humble a nature, that his poor parish-clerk and he did never talk but with both their hats on, or both off, at the same time: and to this may be added, that though he was not purblind, yet he was short or weak-sighted; and where he fixed his eyes at the beginning of the sermon, there they continued till it was ended.” The circumstances of his marriage alone would suffice to prove that Hooker was not a man of much worldly wisdom, and that he was ill fitted for an active life. From Walton's account we gather that he was a timorous, sickly man, finding his only pleasure in study, and content to be "put upon” by any one. It is seldom that men of this kind are distinguished by remarkable talents; Hooker's genius and eloquence as a writer contrast strangely with his feebleness and incapacity in the ordinary affairs of life.
The object of the “Ecclesiastical Polity” is to delend the Episcopalian form of Church government. This is done without any partisan heat, with far-reaching scholarship, and with a studious desire to do justice to opponents. The sonorous roll of the sentences is well adapted to the dignity of the subject, and makes the work attractive to many who care little for the arguments it contains, but who read it for purely literary
It is very seldom that a work of controversial theology (for so Hooker's may be called) can, like the “Ecclesiastical Polity," claim a permanent place in literature. Such works may be interesting to the historian of the history of opinion or to the theological student, but they are “caviare to the general.”
Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), one of those dashing, adventurous courtiers who surrounded the throne of Elizabeth, and who by their half-exploring, half-piratical voyages did much to make the name of England terrible on the seas and to advance its prosperity, found time, in the course of his chequered career, to acquire a rich store of book knowledge and to cultivate his naturally fine literary taste. If he had devoted a larger portion of his time to literature, and had chosen themes of more enduring interest, he would probably have occupied a place next to Hooker as the greatest prose-writer of the Elizabethan era. Raleigh's principal work is his “History of the World,” composed during his long imprisonment in the Tower by King James. Though only a fragment, it is a gigantic fragment, comprising the history of the world from the creation to about a century and a half before the birth of Christ, a period of nearly four thousand years. A considerable part of the work is rather theological and philosophical than historical, dealing with such topics as the being and attributes of God, the origin of government, the personages of Scripture as compared with the personages of heathen mythology, &c. The finest passage by far in the work is the conclusion :
" It is therefore death alone that can suddenly inake man to know himself. He tells the proud and insolent that they are but abjects, and humbles them at the instant; makes them cry, complain, and repent; yea, even to hate their forepassed 67
John Lyly. happiness. He takes the account of the rich, and proves him a beggar; a naked beggar that hath interest in nothing but in the gravel that fills his mouth. He holds a glass before the eyes of the most beautiful, and makes them see therein their deformity and rottenness, and they acknowledge it.
“O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised: thou hast drawn together all the far-stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and ambition of man, and covered it all over with those two narrow words, Hic jacet."
This magnificent apostrophe to death has been universally admired; but his disappointment would be great who began to read the “History of the World” expecting to find it all of the same texture as this familiar passage. proportion of it is bald and dry enough. Raleigh's other chief works are his “Discovery of the Large, Rich, and Beautiful Empire of Guiana,” and his “Advice to his Son." The former, which contains passages showing considerable descriptive power, was very unjustly described by Hume as “full of the grossest and most palpable lies that were ever attempted to be imposed on the credulity of mankind." Hume ought to have observed that all the more marvellous particulars are related by Raleigh solely upon the authority of Spanish writers. The character of Raleigh's “Advice to his Son” was very well given by Carlyle: “Worldly wise, sharp, far-seeing. The motto, Nothing like getting on.'”
The last prose-writer of the Elizabethan era that we shall mention deserves notice rather, perhaps, as a curious literary phenomenon than on account of his instrinsic merits. John Lyly (1554-1606), "the only rare poet of that time, the witty, comical, facetiously quick and unparalleled," as he was described, adopted, by the publication of his “Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit" (1579), a species of writing which at once found favour among fashionable circles, who loved elaborate phraseology and playing upon words. The first part was
followed in 1580 by a second, called “Euphues and his England.” The work describes the travels of Euphues, a young Athenian, first in Naples and afterwards in England, and contains discourses on education, friendship, love, and such-like subjects. In many ways it is a pleasing book : “as brave, righteous, and pious a book,” said Charles Kingsley, “as any man need desire to look into.” But it is also full of affectation; sense is sacrificed to sound, similitudes and parallels of all sorts are lugged in whether or not they are relevant to the matter in hand. Alluding to Lyly's use of comparisons ransacked from every quarter, Drayton compliments Sidney as the author that
“Did first reduce
Of everything that they do hear or see." Like More's “ Utopia,” Lyly's “Euphues” gave a new word to the language. “Euphuism," by which is generally meant an affected mode of writing, full of verbal ingenuities, forced comparisons, and painful elaboration of style, was common among the court circles of Elizabeth's time, having, it is thought, been imported from Italy by travelled scholars.1 Lyly can scarcely claim to have originated the style ; he merely gave it literary form, and linked it to matter of considerable permanent value. Euphuism was ridiculed by Shakespeare in “Love's Labour's Lost," in which he good-humouredly laughs at the affected love-phraseology then current; and Scott, in his character of Sir Piercie Shafton, endeavoured to reproduce the forgotten dialect, with, however, very slender success.
Besides his prose works, Lyly wrote several plays, being, indeed, one of the most distinguished of the pre-Shakespearean group of dramatists. As in Greece, so in England, the drama
According to Professor F. Landmann, in his essay “ Euphuismus" (Giessen, 1880), Euphuism was simply an adaptation of the alto estilo of Guevara, a Spanish writer, all of whose books were translated in English in Queen Elizabeth's time; and Lyly adapted his “Euphues" from Guevara.