restricted access Richard Edwards. An unsigned review of The Life and Times of Richard Edwards, by Leicester Bradner
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[ 235 Richard Edwards1 An unsigned review of The Life and Times of Richard Edwards, by Leicester Bradner New Haven: Yale UP; London: Milford, 1927. Pp. [v] + 144. The Times Literary Supplement, 1336 (8 Sept 1927) 604 Whenever we feel inclined to quarrel with The Oxford Book of English Verse, it is wise to inspect the other works of one of those very minor poets from whom Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch has taken one or two poems. About the major poets, and what selections should be made, no two persons will ever agree. But when we read the whole work of one of those obscure people from whom Quiller-Couch has taken one poem, we find that he is almost always right. He was right about Southwell, who wrote nothing better, at any rate, than “The Burning Babe”; and he was right about Edwards (or Edwardes) from whom he took “Amantium Irae.”2 Edwards wrote no other poem so good. But it is agreeable to have a book about Edwards which includes all of Edwards’s poetry. It is only to be regretted that Dr. Bradner (this book is his dissertation for the doctorate) did not include a text of the play, Damon and Pithias, for then we should have had Edwards complete in onevolume.3 Hehaswrittenaninterestingbook,ratherscrappy,butEdwards is a scrappy personality: and he has made several interesting observations by the way. Richard Edwards was a successful man. He was born, according to Dr. Bradner,in1524(not1523,thedategivenbyAnthonyàWoodandcopied into the Oxford Book), probably in Somerset.4 We learn nothing of him until he went up to Oxford and was entered at Corpus. If his tutor was one Etherage, reputed to be a skilled musician and composer, that was probably important for Edwards’s later career.5 He distinguished himself very early, for he succeeded in obtaining appointment as one of the first Students of ChristChurch.Muchofhishistoryisconjecture;buthehadthelaterfelicity of becoming a member of Lincoln’s Inn;6 and, in the comprehensive manner of his age, very likely took holy orders as well. By 1557 he was a member of the Chapel Royal, so that he must already have distinguished himself as a musician:andin1561hereceivedthehighdistinctionofbeingmadeMaster 1927 236 ] of the Children.7 The Mastership was a position requiring varied accomplishments .ItmeantanhonourablepositionatCourt,andthereforeimplied social gifts. It required a man who could manage and teach children, who had considerable knowledge of music, and who had some knack of stagemanagement and invention. He had, in fact, to devise entertainments for the Queen and train the boys to perform them. Edwards seems to have been perfectly fitted for the post, and to have enjoyed favour under both Queens. In 1564 he produced his Damon and Pithias. Historically, Edwards is more important (and certainly better known) as dramatist than as lyric poet. He was one of the first of Elizabethan vernacular dramatists. He belongs not so much to the University tradition as to the Inns of Court tradition, that maintained by Sackville and Norton.8 BothDamonandPithiasandPalamonandArcite(thelatteracuriousinstance of a play, never published, the manuscripts of which have vanished) were enormously successful. At the performance of the latter play, during her visit to Oxford, Queen Elizabeth was apparently ravished with joy.9 And Edwards probably wrote other plays which also gave pleasure at Court. Dr. Bradner discusses Damon and Pithias with knowledge, acumen, and some sense of humour and proportion. One of his most interesting remarks istheattributionofadefinitetheoryof“comicrelief”tooneJohannesAerius, the tutor of Grimald, whom Edwards probably knew.10 Aerius seems to have affirmeda theoryoftragi-comedy, or, infact, melodrama,andsays,asquoted by Dr. Bradner: just as the first act yields to tragic sorrow in order that the subject-matter may keep its title, so the fifth and last adapts itself to delight and joy; likewise , in order that variety may be opposed to satiety, in all the other intermediate acts sad and cheerful incidents are inserted in turn. (1543.)11 [54] This was more or less the practice of Edwards; and as Dr. Bradner observes, is interestingasanacademicstatementofdramatictheoryprecedingtheSidney controversy.12 Dr. Bradner does not pretend that Damon and Pithias has any literary merit. But he points out with much cogency the real dramatic merit of Edwards’s piece. We regret all the more not having the text of the play in this book, though there are already several editions, for Dr. Bradner has here provided an excellent introduction to it. In discussing Edwards’s poetry Dr. Bradner makes one point of great value. Between 1547 (the death of Surrey) and...


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