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The Triumph of Time: The Fortunate Readers of Robert Greene’s Pandosto

  • Lori Humphrey Newcomb
Part of the Early Modern Literature in History book series (EMLH)

Abstract

Nowadays, we recognize literary evaluations as cultural constructs, as products of particular and contingent histories and we attempt to strip away these accumulations without hoping to restore an originary artifact. But if we wish to trace the evaluative history of an early modern text, what evidence do we have of its earlier fortunes and how can we read that evidence except through our current evaluative conditionings? Unlike historians of modern literature who can draw on rich authorial, critical and publication archives, we are reduced to ingeniously interpreting evidence so thin and contradictory as to seem unreliable. To pick a famous example of these difficulties, Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia was republished steadily through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But that apparently unambiguous publication history is complicated by anecdotal estimations of Arcadias value, which, as compilers of literary allusions found long ago, rose and fell like ‘tennis balls tossed by the racket of the higher powers’: late-Elizabethan adulation yielded to Jacobean ambivalence, Caroline nostalgia and Augustan scorn.2

Keywords

Tennis Ball Love Story Popular Fiction Female Servant Popular Text 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Robert Greene, Pandosto. The Triumph of Time, in Paul Salzman, ed., An Anthology of Elizabethan Prose Fiction (Oxford, 1987), p. 182 (here-after cited as Elizabethan).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Kay notes that the tennis-ball image was echoed by both John Webster’s Bosola and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. See Dennis Kay, ed., Sir Philip Sidney: An Anthology of Modern Criticism (Oxford, 1987), pp. 18, 32, hereafter cited as Kay.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Salzman’s edition assumes the existence of a lost first edition of the text from c. 1585 (Salzman, Elizabethan, xvii, xxvii), a theory first advanced by Alexander Rodger in ‘Roger Ward’s Shrewsbury Stock: An Inventory of 1585’, The Library, 5th ser., 13 (1958): 247–68. If this is true, Greene wrote Pandosto around the time of his other more courtly romances and when Sidney was revising the Arcadia — and before Thomas Underdowne’s 1587 Englishing of Heliodorus’ Aethiopica. If Sidney’s Old Arcadia was the innovator in prose imitations of Heliodorus, the Hellenistic author had apparently already been naturalized to the stage: in a 1582 polemic, Plays Confuted in Five Actions, Stephen Gosson lists ‘the Oethiopian historie’ among the foreign works ‘thoroughly ransackt to furnish the Playe houses in London’.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 8.
    It is, of course, Hero and Leander who are unfortunate and Dorastus and Fawnia who are fortunate. I thank Peter Lindenbaum for calling my attention to this conjunction and many others. The new titles affiliate these familiar texts with more fashionable high-keyed works ranging from William Davenant’s tragedy, The Unfortunate Lovers (1638) to Aphra Behn’s novellas, The Unfortunate Happy Lady and The Fortunate Bride (1696).Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Greene’s later works became infamous after his ignominious death in 1592, but there was nothing like Sidney’s posthumous canonization. For Sidney’s author-function in seventeenth-century culture, see Arthur F. Marotti, Manuscript, Print and the English Renaissance Lyric (Ithaca, NY, 1995) andGoogle Scholar
  6. Wendy Wall, The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in Early Modern English Renaissance (Ithaca, NY, 1993).Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Charles Mish, ‘Best Sellers in Seventeenth-Century Fiction’, PBSA 47 (1953), p. 373. The number of editions of Pandosto published during the century was exceeded only by Aesop’s Fables, Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress and Bernard’s Isle of Man, three didactic works whose audiences were broader than the market for fiction more specifically written for entertainment. Mish supported the view that the popular fictions of the seventeenth century were antiquated fairy tales, foisted by cheap publishers on a captive audience of naive citizens who deserved their marginal status. He spoke of the chivalric romance circulating to ‘ever more culturally immature readers’ (‘English Short Fiction in the Seventeenth Century’, Studies in Short Fiction 6 [1969], p. 323). Similarly, even Louis B. Wright, the champion of ‘middle-class culture’, accepted the view that the popularization of romance amounted to descent: see Middle-Class Culture in Elizabethan England (1935; reprint edn, Ithaca, NY, 1958), p. 376.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie (1589; reprint edn, Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1970 [reissue of Edward Arber’s 1906 edition], p. 216). Puttenham’s examples seem to recognize antanaclasis only in homonymic puns, but most classical and modern definitions of antanaclasis would seem to include the kinds of repetition I have cited here.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    For one response to criticism’s hostility to textual reduction, see John Osburn, ‘The Dramaturgy of the Tabloid: Climax and Novelty in a Theory of Condensed Forms’, Theatre Journal 46:2 (1994): 507–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 16.
    On the denial of materiality, see Roger Chartier, The Order of Books (Stanford, CA, 1994). I discuss servant readers in ‘The Romance of Service’ (see note 6).Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    See John Clark Jordan’s classic biography, Robert Greene (New York, 1915) andGoogle Scholar
  12. Richard Helgerson, Elizabethan Prodigals (Berkeley, 1976).Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    Jonson, Bartholomew Fair, ed. G. R. Hibbard (London, 1977), IV.iii.65–6.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    W. J. Paylor, ed., The Overburian Characters (1936; reprint edn, New York, 1977), p. 43. Overbury’s remark and others like it, have been accepted by literary historians as testimony that romances were read almost exclusively by lower-class women. See Louis B. Wright, ‘The Reading of Renaissance English Women’, Studies in Philology 28:3 (1931): 147–50; Henry Thomas, Spanish and Portuguese Romances of Chivalry (1920, reprint edn, New York, 1969), pp. 292–4; Caroline Lucas, Writing for Women: The Example of Woman as Reader in Elizabethan Romance (Milton Keynes, 1989). Relatively few of the characters involve women, although Overbury’s literary game of ‘newes’ apparently included Lady Southwell and Anne Clifford (Sackville): see TheConceited Newesof Sir Thomas Overbury and His Friends, ed. James E. Savage (Gainesville, FL, 1968), p. xl.Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    My argument here is indebted to recent work on the voyeuristic Elizabethan text, including Wall; Juliet Fleming, ‘The Ladies’ Man and the Age of Elizabeth’, in Sexuality and Gender in Early Modern Europe, ed. James Grantham Turner (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 158–81; andGoogle Scholar
  16. Constance C. Relihan, Fashioning Authority: The Development of Elizabethan Novelistic Discourse (Kent, OH, 1994).Google Scholar
  17. 25.
    This phrase, from D. F. McKenzie, ‘Printers of the Mind: Some Notes on Bibliographical Theories and Printing-House Practices’, Studies in Bibliography 22 (1969): 1–75, is quoted in Margreta De Grazia and Peter Stallybrass, ‘The Materiality of the Shakespeare Text’, Shakespeare Quarterly 44 (1993): 255–83.Google Scholar
  18. 26.
    The Stationers’ Company ordinance of 1598 fixed the maximum retail price of printed books, based on the number of signatures and the typeface chosen, with exceptions allowed for dense or complicated work (Francis Johnson, ‘Notes on English Retail Book-prices, 1550–1640’, The Library 5th ser., 5 [1950], p. 84). These variables corresponded to the capital costs (paper) and the labour costs (presswork and composition). The price for most works of about 1/2 d per sheet remained stable until about 1635, while prices for most other goods doubled over that period (p. 93). As long as Pandosto remained a straightforward quarto fitted neatly into seven signatures, its unbound cost could not vary much. Although Johnson postulates that English booksellers sometimes charged lower prices for reprints, his own examples of prices for Greene titles do not bear out that theory (pp. 94, 103). The various options for binding, always at extra charge, would have offered buyers scope for distinguishing themselves by income, but few editions of Pandosto retain original bindings.Google Scholar
  19. 27.
    Paul Morgan, ‘Fraunces Wolfreston and “Hor Bouks”: A Seventeenth-Century Woman Book-Collector’, The Library, 6th ser., 11 (1989), p. 214.Google Scholar
  20. 28.
    Tessa Watt, Cheap Print and Popular Piety, 1550–1640 (Cambridge, 1991).Google Scholar
  21. 29.
    On the culture of consumption, see Neil McKendrick, John Brewer and J. H. Plumb, The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England (Bloomington, IN, 1982), especially McKendrick’s chapter on the commercialization of fashion; Colin Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism (Oxford, 1987); and Lorna Weatherill, Consumer Behaviour and Material Culture in Britain, 1660–1760 (London, 1988).Google Scholar
  22. 31.
    The first phrase is the title of Chapter 4 in Bridget Hill, Women and Work in Eighteenth-Century England (Oxford, 1989), pp. 47–68; the second is from Susan Cahn, Industry of Devotion: The Transformation of Womans Work in England, 1500–1660 (New York, 1987), p. 4.Google Scholar
  23. 32.
    This 1767 remark is quoted in J. Jean Hecht, The Domestic Servant Class in Eighteenth-Century England (London, 1956), p. 178; also see pp. 4–5 and passim. Changes in agricultural service from a life-cycle interval to a permanent class are detailed in Ann Kussmaul, Servants in Husbandry in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1981), pp. 3,16–18.Google Scholar
  24. 35.
    Samuel Richardson, Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady, abr. and ed. George Sherburn (Boston, 1962), xxi. Subsequent references cited parenthetically.Google Scholar
  25. 36.
    Jonathan Swift, Gullivers Travels and Other Writings, ed. Louis A. Landa (Boston, 1960), p. 44. Subsequent references cited parenthetically.Google Scholar
  26. 37.
    An exhaustive survey of Richardson’s printing career may be found in T. C. Duncan Eaves and Ben D. Kimpel, Samuel Richardson: A Biography (Oxford, 1971).Google Scholar
  27. 38.
    Richardson, Clarissa, p. 261. Clarissa uses the same word, highly significant in this metafictional context, writing that Lovelace, ‘I have too much reason to believe, formed a plot to fire the house, to frighten me, almost naked, into his arms’ (p. 278). Those commentators on Greene who have noted this late reference have completely missed its ironies (René Pruvost, Robert Greene et ses romans [Paris, 1938], p. 284; Caroline Lucas, Writing for Women: The Example of Woman as Reader in Elizabethan Romance [Milton Keynes, 1989], p. 51).Google Scholar
  28. 41.
    On self-advertisement, see Amussen, 159. On exploitation, see Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500–1800 (abr. edn, New York, 1979), p. 381; andGoogle Scholar
  29. Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos, Adolescence and Youth in Early Modern England (New Haven, CT, 1994), p. 202. Bridget Hill comments that ‘What has been called “the eroticism of inequality” may in part explain the frequency with which masters are found seducing their dependent menials’; she excerpts conduct books for female servants advising ‘circumspection’ in dealings with male employers and fellow employees (Women and Work, pp. 146, 137, 234–5).Google Scholar
  30. 45.
    In Bickerstaff’s underacknowledged source, Charles Johnson’s The Village Opera (1729), the analogous character alludes to ‘Reason and Honour.’ See Peter A. Tasch, The Dramatic Cobbler: The Life and Works of Isaac Bickerstaff (Lewisburg, PN, 1971), p. 48.Google Scholar
  31. 47.
    See Dennis Bartholomeusz, ‘The Winters Talein Performance in England and America, 1611–1976 (Cambridge, 1982), pp. 28–41. For careful discussion of the nature of eighteenth-century adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, particularly in its shifting of gender ideologies, see Jean I. Marsden, The Re-Imagined Text: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Eighteenth-Century Literary Theory (Lexington, KY, 1995), pp. 77–86.Google Scholar
  32. 48.
    Arthur H. Scouten, The London Stage, 1660–1800, Part 3: 1729–1747 (Carbondale, IL, 1962), Vol. I, p. cxxxi.Google Scholar
  33. 49.
    Stanley Wells, ed., ‘Perymedes the BlacksmithandPandostoby Robert Greene: A Critical Edition (1961. Repr. edn, New York, 1988), p. 187.Google Scholar
  34. 50.
    Scouten, Vol. I, pp. 457, 471. Such links can be extended endlessly, given the smallness of the theatrical community. Macnamara Morgan mounted another play at Covent Garden in 1754, with most of the actors from The Sheep-Shearing; called Philoclea, it was based on Arcadia and was crushingly reviewed. See George Winchester Stone, Jr., The London Stage, 1660–1800, Part IV: 1747–1776 (Carbondale, IL, 1962), Vol. I, pp. 404–5.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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  • Lori Humphrey Newcomb

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