The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2246  Thursday, 27 November 2003

From:           Tom Pendleton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 26 Nov 2003 12:07:58 -0500
Subject: 14.2239 Shakespeare and Education Query
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.2239 Shakespeare and Education Query

I suspect the letter in question may be Francis Beaumont's unpublished
verses that he sent to Ben Jonson around 1615.  They're reprinted in the
Riverside Shakespeare on page 1971:

            . . . here I would let slippe
    (If I had any in mee) schollershippe,
    And from all Learninge keepe these lines as [cl]eere
    as Shakespeares best are, which our heires shall heare
    Preachers apte to their auditors to showe
    how farre sometimes a mortall man may goe
    by the dimme light of Nature,. . .

In spite of the element of condescension to the unlearned Shakespeare,
this does amount to a considerable compliment.

Carew did write in the form of a letter to "W.C." a passage claiming
that various English writers (mostly contemporary) had achieved
excellence comparable to the Greeks and Romans.  Shakespeare and Marlowe
are cited as equivalent to Catullus.  But Shakespeare here is just one
of many, and it is Sidney who is "the miracle of our age." According to
the Shakspere Allusion Book, Carew wrote this c. 1595-96, so it seems to
have been published separately as The Excellencie of the English tongue.
Camden inserted Carew's words in the second edition of his Remaines
(1614). In his first edition (1605), Camden had a comparable passage
listing poets "whom succeeding ages may admire."  He lists twelve, with
Shakespeare last, as well as "other most pregnant witts of these our
times."  Again Shakespeare as one of many, which perhaps is not the
sufficiently high praise that the original query was looking for.

Tom Pendleton

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