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Tottels Miscellany

english, surrey, poems, poetry, italian and wyatt

TOTTEL'S MISCELLANY. The worlc which commonly goes by this name was pub lished under the title (Songes and Sonettes, written by the ryght honorable Lorde Henry Haward [i.e., Howard] late Earle of Surrey, and other,' by the stationer Richard Tottel. on 5 June 1557. Its popularity was such that a second edition was issued in the following month and six others followed within the cen tury. Tottel's method, too, was imitated by other editors and publishers and doubtless stim ulated the vogue of what are now usually called the Elizabethan anthologies. In the address of °the Printer to the Reader,* he alludes to the verse of well-known Latin and Italian poets, adding: "That our tong is able in that kynde to do as praiseworthy as the rest, the honorable stile of the noble earle of • Surrey, and the weightinesse of the depe-witted sir Thomas Wyat the elders verse, with severall graces in sondry good- Eng lishe writers, doe show abundantly.* This pas sage indicates the real significance of ,the vol ume: namely, the effort which it represents to beautify English poetry and to show that the art of the Italians could be rivaled by the new courtly or cultivated school of British poet& Compare, to the same effect, a passage in a work called

volume, being followed by poems attributed to Nicholas Grimald (who has been suspected of acting as Tottel's editor) and by those referred to "Uncertain Authors.* A number of the poems in this last group can be identified, one of them, indeed, being a now familiar lyric of Chaucer's; but the.majority remain anonymous, nor is any of these comparable to the best work of Wyatt and Surrey. The elements of famili arity and of novelty in the collection are per haps best illustrated by the metrical form of the various poems. One finds, for example, the old "rhyme royal* stanza of Chaucer, and the loose, sometimes doggerel aseptenary,* or seven foot line, which had been popular from the Middle English period; but side by side with these occur specimens of Italian forms not pre .viously naturalized in English. Of these last the most noteworthy are certain poems in the great Italian form, the terza rima, and a considerable number of sonnets — the first in English poetry. Wyatt's sonnets, largely versions of Italian and French poems, follow the recognized continen tal types; while the younger poet, Surrey. seems to have undertalcen to modify the form in the direction of English taste. with the re suiting type of sonnet, in three quatrains and a couplet, which was to be the favorite in the Elizabethan age and the form chosen by Shake speare. Outside the work of these two poets, the contents of the miscellany are of slight in trinsic value; but its historical importance is so marked that because of its publication in 1557 it is customary to date from that year the beginnings of modern English poetry.

A convenient modern edition of Tottel's Mis cellany is that in Arber's Reprints.' For accounts of the poetry of Wyatt and Sur rey consult Courthope's 'History of English Poetry' and Padelford's 16th Century Lyrics' •Belles Lettres Series).