Download PDF by George Saintsbury: A History of Elizabethan Literature
By George Saintsbury
This Elibron Classics booklet is a facsimile reprint of a 1910 variation by means of Macmillan and Co., constrained, London.
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Tottel and The Mirror for Magistrates (which was, considering its constant accretions, a sort of miscellany) have been already noticed. They were followed by not a few others. The first in date wasTheParadiseof Dainty Devices(1576), edited by R. Edwards, a dramatist of industry if not of genius,and containing a certain amount of interestingwork. It was very popular, going through nine or ten editions in thirty years, but with a few scattered exceptions it does not yield much to the historian of English poetry.
As has been observedalready,the unpretending writers noticed above, if they have little harmony or balance of phrase, are seldom confused or breathless. Sidneywas one of the first writers of great popularity and influence (for the Arcadia was very widely read) to introduce what may be called the sentence-and-paragraph-heap, in which clauseis linked on to clausetill not merely the grammaticalbut the philosophical integer is hopelesslylost sight of in a tangle of jointings and appendices. It is not that he could not do better; but that he seems to have taken no trouble not to do worse.
Other excellent" is perhapsthe only doubtful phrasein the extract or in the letter, . 32 EARLY ELIZABETHAN PROSE CHAP. more English (except for being composedof good English words in straightforward order) than it is any literary language framedto a greatextenton the classics,showsitself in him. One might translate passageafter passageof Ascham, keeping almost the whole order of the words, into very good sound Latin prose; and, indeed, his great secret in the Sthwlrnastcr (the perpetual translation and retranslationof English into the learnedlanguages, and especiallyLatin) is exactly what would form such a style.
A History of Elizabethan Literature by George Saintsbury