1. During first three decades of the seventeenth century, Oxford and Cambridge witnessed important innovations. New curricula were instituted, so new chairs created to supplement Henry VIIIs original Regius Professorships (Canon Law, Civil Law, Divinity, Greek, Hebrew, and Music). Perhaps the most memorable such innovation was the creation of what is now known at Oxford as the Camden Professorship of Ancient History. The great William Camden both endowed this position in 1622 and selected its first occupant, Digory Whear [1573 - 1647]. History was for the first time introduced into the curriculum as an academic discipline, and accordingly Whear found himself in the interesting position of having to devise both a rationale for the study of history and a curriculum for its students. The fruits of his effort, De Ratione et Methodo Legendi Historias, is included elsewhere in The Philological Museum. In the course of this dissertation (I.15), Whear employs the word Sparta in the sense academic discipline. Such academic innovations did not escape the attention of humorists, so in comedies of the time we encounter such mock-academies as Shirleys Complement School, Middleton and Rowleys Roaring School, and Thomas Randolphs Drinking Academy. Very much in this tradition, Abraham Cowleys Naufragium Ioculare chronicles the foundation of another Sparta (called such at 1656), a School of Jokng.
2. In the Prologue and in other prefatory material, Cowley industriously calls attention to the unusual fact that he wrote this play as a second-year undergraduate (most academic plays were written by M. A. students, as was Cowley himself when he wrote his second one, The Guardian, two years later). But he was a prodigy who had already compiled an enviable record: he had published a slim volume of verse, Poetical Blossoms, in 1633, at the age of fifteen (there is evidence that the manuscript was already in existence two years earlier), NOTE 1 another poetry volume, Silva, in 1636, and at the Westminster School wrote pastoral comedy Loves Riddle (which was not performed, although it was printed at the same time as Naufragium Ioculare, and the two plays are always encountered bound together as a single volume). Now, as an undergraduate at Trinity College, he came forth with a Latin play carefully calculated to stand in the mainstream of the Cambrdige comic tradition.
3. The play contains several mentions of February 2, the day of its performance. But of what year? The title page of the original volume has the inscription Publice Coram Academicis Acta, in Collegio SS. et Individuae Trinitatis. 4o Nonas Feb. An. Dom. 1638. Normally, this should indicate that the play was produced on February 2, 1639 (new style), and older scholarship often interpreted it as such. But Bentley has shown that the date of performance was February 2, 1638. NOTE 2 He offered two proofs, that the book was registered with the Stationers Company on March 14, 1638 (new style), and that in a letter to Lucius Carey, Viscount Falkland, dated 12 May, 1638, Cowleys roommate Robert Creswell wrote:
The like obligation I must acknowledg in the behalf of my ingenious chamberfellow, albeit now absent. He hath been as yett a Poett in Decimo sexto, but is now enlarging that Edition: — An English Pastorall & a Latine Comedy Presented here: Wee have as yett received neither them nor himselfe… NOTE 3
So the fact of a 1638 performance is undeniable, but it raises a one minor interpretational problem. In the Prologue Cowley describes himself as a sophista iunior. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, at least at Cambridge the word sophister could be used to designate either a second or a third year undergraduate, so Cowleys phrase junior sophister agrees with the fact that he entered Trinity College on March 30, 1636, and was currently in his second year. But in the introductory epistle Ad Lectorem he applies to himself the word hornus academicus, which can be translated as this years student. The obvious interpretation of this phrase (and the one to which A. H. Nethercot inclined in his biography of the poet) NOTE 4 is that it designates a student scheduled to receive a B. A. in the current year. This interpretation is in agreement, arguably, with Cowleys broad hint in the introductory poem to the current Master of Trinity (31ff.) that he should be granted a Fellowship in the near future. But extreme skepticism deserves to be expressed that Cowley had any realistic expectation of receiving a B. A. in 1638 (in point of fact, he received his B. A. in 1639 and was appointed a Minor Fellow of Trinity in October, 1640). He may have been a literary prodigy, but he was no academic one, and the work involved in writing and producing Naufragium Ioculare, in which he also seems to have performed as an actor, NOTE 5 as well as his other literary enterprises, probably did nothing to accelerate the poets academic progress. It may also be asked whether admission to the B. A. after only two years residence was statutably permissible. The task of discovering a different interpretation of hornus academicus that agrees more plausibly with the facts of Cowleys life and with academic realities may be left to some future biographer.
4. In his biography, Nethercot (p. 61) described the situation the undergraduate Cowley found himself in when he decided to write a play:
…he had not forgotten that on his departure from Westminster he had carried with him his stillborn play, Loves Riddle. He may even have had hopes of seeing it produced at Trinity, long noted as the home of the academic drama, but if so he must have discovered soon that his pastoral did not belong to the usual type there given. As he wrote in his dedication, he immediately learned that Cambridge had certain traditions of comedy, such as the stock character of a philosopher; and that it was not wise to disregard these.
Although Cambridge and Oxford had equally rich and thriving theatrical traditions, comedy was especially at home at Cambridge, which could boast of such memorable achievements as Edward Forsetts 1581 Pedantius, Abraham Fraunces Victoria of 1583, the 1578 Hymenaeus quite likely also written by Fraunce, Robert Wards 1623 Fucus sive Histriomastix, and a number of other notable comedies. But the most famous of all, which Cowley mentions in an introductory poem and from which I shall presently argue he learned the most, was George Ruggles 1615 lampoon of lawyers, Ignoramus. It is clear that Cowley studied some of these plays, and deliberately situated himself in their tradition. First and foremost, all Cambridge comedies drew heavily on Plautus and Terence. The tragedies of such academic playwrights as Thomas Legge, William Gager, and William Alabaster (in his Roxana, probably the most successful Cambridge tragedy) were based on Seneca, with a great deal of imitation of that poets character-delineations, situations, and stagecraft. Academic playwrights employed a language that to a large extent was a cento of phrases culled from Seneca and other classical authors to create the kind of ranting rhetoric parodied by Cowley in the speeches of Bombardomachides. In much the same way, academic comedy imitates Plautus and Terence. In many comedies, such stock characters from Roman comedy as the rascal-servant, fertile in invention and a master of deception, the hapless young man in love, the crusty senex, the parasite, and the boastful soldier reappear (Naufragium Ioculares Dinon, Calliphanes Junior, Calliphanes Senior, Aemylio, and Bombardomachides are examples, respectively, of each of these stereotypes). Dramatic situations are liberally borrowed from Plautus and Terence, and plots are largely composed of swindles, practical jokes, and impersonations, and their resolutions frequently involve dramatic revelations of true identities. Thus, most obviously, in Naufragium Ioculare the ruse of misleading Bombardomachides into believing that his house is haunted comes from Plautus Mostellaria, and the final recognition in which Polyporus realizes that Aemylio is his long-lost son is a standard concluding element in Roman comedy. Cambridge comedies are also written in a racy language imitative of Plautus and Terence. Besides lifting words and phrases from their ancient models no less liberally than academic tragedians did from Seneca, writers of academic comedy assiduously imitated the linguistic peculiarities of Roman comedy, employing frequent alliteration, exclamations, and archaisms such as siet for sit, vort- for vert-, the passive infinitive -ier, and so forth. Without realizing that Plautus and Terence wrote in meter (more on this below), although they composed in prose, they wrote out their texts stichically so they would physically resemble those of their Roman predecessors.
5. Cambridge comedy had also developed its own peculiar traditions. It is not quite right to say that the philosopher was a stock character. More accurately, the traditional figure in question was a comic pedant, self-important, condescending, and constantly quoting the Classics: previous specimens of the breed include Onophrius in Fraunces Victoria and the title character in Forsetts Pedantius, to whom Cowleys Gnomicus is very much akin. Also, because English academic comedy were written in an age which believed in romantic love leading to marriage, these comedies tend to feature considerably more prominent and interesting lead female roles than did Roman comedies: thus we find characters such as Lydia in Forsetts Pedantius, Rosabella in Ruggles Ignoramus, and Eucomissa in Naufragium Ioculare. Likewise, we find clever, independent, and dynamic women of the lower social classes, such as Polla in Ignoramus and Psecas in the present play. These comedies naturally tend to devote a good deal of attention to making fun of academic institutions and customs, of the subject-matter of the university curriculum, and of the university-trained professions. And, since Classical literature was the pabulum upon which all the members of the university had been raised, in a multitude of ways the Classics are constantly on everybodys lips, often being quoted or misquoted with hilarious effect. An element of anti-Catholic and, albeit less frequently, of anti-Puritan humor also became a standard feature of Cambridge comedy, and it will be observed that Cowley includes a few specimens of both. Had he attended Oxford, where pastoral comedy tended to receive a warmer reception, Cowley may have fared better with Loves Riddle. At Cambridge, as Nethercot realized, the formula for success required writing Roman-based comedy with the requisite local spin added. Obviously, our playwright had made a careful study of some earlier Cambridge comedies and assiduously placed himself in this tradition.
6. But what ones? It is remarkable that, although most of what scholarship exists on Naufragium Ioculare has devoted to identifying the plays sources, virtually no attention has been paid to the issue of what precisely he inherited from his Cambridge comic predecessors. The story of drunkards in a house imagining they are in a storm-tossed ship can be traced back to Athenaeus Deipnosophistae II.xxxvii (and the use of this story by various Renaissance writers has been observed by scholars). Cowleys indebtedness to Plautus Mostellaria has been duly noted, his possible sources for a number of other plot elements have been suggested, and the reader may be referred to these discussions. NOTE 6 But it may be more fruitful for us to focus our attention to his debts to his Cambridge predecessors, especially to Ruggles Ignoramus, a play he mentions both in his introductory poem and in another youthful work. Ignoramus, to be sure, does not contain a pedant, and so Gnomicus must be modeled on a character from some other play. Onophrius in Fraunces Victoria seems a likely possibility since he, like Gnomicus, is cast in the role of a tutor who accompanies a young ward on a trip abroad. Elements taken from Ignoramus are much more certain, and, indeed, the discovery that Cowley has read and learned from that play serves to explain a few features of Naufragium Ioculare that would otherwise be puzzling. In the first place, the plays is probably set at Dunkirk for no better reason than that Ignoramus is set at Bordeaux, since in Naufragium Ioculare virtually no capital is made of its French locale beyond the satirical hit at the French in Gelasimus speech at 1152ff. III.iv, in which the elder Calliphanes tells his son he must marry and the reluctant boy manufactures a series of unconvincing excuses for not complying looks like a very abbreviated imitation of Ignoramus I.i. One of the more puzzling features of Naufragium Ioculare is the inclusion of an exorcist in III.ii, who briefly flits across the stage, perhaps with a bit of humorous dumb show not indicated by a stage direction, for no very obvious purpose. The idea of Bombardomachides recruiting an exorcist to chase the alleged demons out of his house would be a good one, rich in comic possibilities, had Cowley bothered to develop it. But he did not, and the only reason one can imagine for the inclusion of this minor character is that Ignoramus had contained a hilarious scene of mock-exorcism (IV.ii). In the course of this scene Ignoramus has a chamber-pot of holy water emptied over his head, and this seems to have suggested to Cowley the bit of stage business in I.vi (450f.) in which Dinon dumps a pail of water on the three drunkards. There may even be a reminisce of Ignoramus Cornelius Tacitus joke, as suggested in a note. Then too, there is the question of the relationship of the present play to William Johnsons Valetudinarium, produced only four days later at Queens College, Cambridge, discussed in the Introduction to that play. But I am scarcely certain that these observations do justice to the subject of Cowleys borrowings from other Cambridge comedies, and this may be a rewarding topic for future research.
7. As can be gathered from some of the remarks in the preceding paragraph, Naufragium Ioculare is not a play lacking in faults. Weckermann has catalogued these in a passage worth quoting in full: NOTE 7
Like many contemporary plays, Cowleys comedy has structural faults…Its main plot — the satire focusing on the three captives — and its subplot — the complications arising from the intended marriage between Eucomissa and Calliphanes — are not related in any causal or thematic way: the only link between them is furnished by the person of Aemylio, who pulls the strings in both intrigues. Moreover, the main action is bipartite: the shipwreck episode and the haunted house section (Acts I and II) are connected by the common theme of deception/delusion, but the jesting school (Acts III and IV) pushes a totally different theme to the fore. Nethercots observation that much of this middle portion is extraneous to the development of the real plot…is doubtless correct. The breach between the two parts is underlined by the former captives suddenly moving about freely — in spite of Aemylios command (in 1038) always to keep a watchful eye on them — and by the ransom being completely lost sight of — the profits from the jesting school are to serve as a substitute (999ff.) — until Polyporus arrives in Act V. That the plan Aemylio proposes in IV.3 [where a curious device of a false marriage and exchanged wives is hatched up by Aemylio, only to be dropped later without further explanation in favor of secret marriages between the real lovers] has already been mentioned; another weakness is that the circumstances of Aemylio and Aegles kidnapping and, more particularly, the role of Bombardomachides in it remain in the dark. Still, Cowley makes an effort toward the end of the play to pick up loose ends and establish some unity. The exorcist whom Bombardomachides has announced in 954ff. is once more conjured up — in words, though not in person — in 1836ff.; the haunted house motif of II.6 is briefly taken up again at V.4; and the punishment of Dinon and Aemylio in the same scene is interspersed with verbal echoes of their first encounter in I.4. Whatever the shortcomings that remain, as a spirited comedy that is at times boisterously funny and in many passages is marked by a brilliant wit Naufragium Ioculare can without doubt be reckoned among the best representatives of its genre…
The truth of the matter is that many Cambridge comedies had equally ramshackle plots or worse (the notable exceptions were mostly plays, such as Hymenaeus and Ignoramus, that were based on Classical or Continental models). Playwrights were primarily engaged in the business of writing comedies to delight an audience on a single evening, and not to withstand the scrutiny of thoughtful readers. In this sense, therefore, the anxiety Cowley expresses in his introductory epistle Ad Lectorem about having the play printed is not entirely a literary pose, and other academic poets voiced variants of the same thought. For them, therefore, a plot was often a mere framework upon which to hang farcical scenes, amusing jokes, racy dialogue, lively slapstick action, music, and all the other features that gave pleasure to academic audiences, and so in this way too Cowley resembles many of his Cambridge predecessors. Indeed, Naufragium Ioculare and Johnsons Valetudinarium were the last surviving plays in this tradition. Save for a lost one by a certain Sir Nicols performed at Trinity College in 1639/40, NOTE 8 the only later comedy performed at Cambridge before the Puritans closed down university dramatics in 1642 was Cowleys own The Guardian, acted at Trinity in March 1641 in the presence of King Charles. But that English play is a very different type of work, owing little to Plautus and Terence. Naufragium Ioculare therefore may be regarded as the conclusion of the high tradition of Cambridge comedy (David Waterhouse’s attempts to revive it in his 1700 Cleophilus and 1702 Simowere presumably nothing more than paper exercises).
8. Naufragium Ioculare was printed at London impensis Henrici Seile, in 1638, as discussed above. A photographic reproduction of this volume is available, with an Introduction by Hans-Jürgen Weckermann. NOTE 6 (Naufragium Ioculare and Valetudinarium are presented together in this volume although, oddly, Weckermann had nothing to say about their chronological proximity or their mutual resemblances). The play was included in various editions of Cowleys works issued in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries (a complete printing history is given by Bentley). NOTE 2 The only available modern text of the play is that printed by Alexander Grosart in his 1881 edition of Cowleys works. NOTE 9 Save for the incorporation of most but not quite all of the corrections called for by the 1638 volumes errata list, Grosart provided an uncritical transcript of the 1638 volume, and even its most conspicuous blunder — the identification of two successive scenes of Act II as Scena Quinta — is uncorrected. Grosart also introduced a number of new errors of his own, some typographical, others seemingly produced by misreading the original text. No critical edition of the play exists, and so generations of readers have been obliged to rely on this very imperfect version.
9. The book text features a number of typographical errors, some but scarcely all corrected in an appended list of errata. Their quantity provokes a suspicion that the printer set the text from a copy manuscript rather than Cowleys own holograph. These are easily put right, but the real editorial challenge is the texts punctuation which, if left uncorrected, would at many points impede or even destroy the comprehension of a modern reader. I am not speaking merely of the differences between contemporary conventions of punctuation and ours (which are silently modernized here), but of various features which at times comes perilously close to rendering the text unintelligible: 1.) the use of heavy punctuation (full stop or semicolon) in place of light punctuation (colon, comma), or occasionally inserted where no punctuation at all is wanted, which give the false impression that a new sentence begins; 2.) contrariwise, the use of light punctuation where heavy punctuation is wanted, which has the effect of creating what at least a modern reader would identify as a run-on sentence; 3.) use of a period at the end of sentences that are clearly questions, and, less frequently, the superfluous use of question marks at the end of declarative sentences; 4.) confusion of question mark and exclamation point; 5.) failure to apply any punctuation mark at all to indicate the end of a sentence (particularly injurious at the end of a line, since the following word would be capitalized in any event, so capitalization does not suffice to indicate the beginning of a new sentence). Correction of these five types of error is imperative to create a legible text, and, even at the expense of seeming tediously pedantic, it is equally important to record such corrections in individual textual notes, since some subjective interpretation is necessarily involved and the individual reader must therefore be given the opportunity to see the evidence of the original text. The printed text is set in lines, as if it were poetry, but (save for songs, poetic quotations, and Bombardomachides mock-Senecan iambics) it is in fact prose. Elsewhere I have explained that this feature, standard in academic comedy, appears to have been no more than a writing convention designed to give plays the physical appearance of those of Plautus and Terence (which were understood to have been written in prose until Bentley demonstrated otherwise in the eighteenth century). I see no reason for perpetuating this custom, which would only lead the unwary to look for verse where none exists.
10. The only previous English translation (more reasonably described as a modernized adaptation) is Fortune in her Wits by Charles Johnson [1679 - 1748], printed for Bernard Lintott at the Middle Temple Gate in Fleet Street, London, 1705. In his Preface Johnson stated his aims, in the following scenes I have all along confined myself to my authors sence I have frequently given it a new turn, and sometimes added and sometimes left out as I saw occasion. His changes excisions are 1.) anything even slightly off-color is suppressed; 2.) many literary and learned references, such as would be unintelligible to a lay audience, are deleted; 3.) the part played by the Joking School is much reduced by the omission of several scenes and the transfer of some material from Cowleys IV.v to III.viii (in so doing, Johnson diminished the agonic joking disputatio between Gelasimus, Morion and Aemylio to the point that it is difficult to appreciate that any contest at all is taking place, although Gerund, his equivalent of Gnomicus, is still rather mystifyingly referred to as a Moderator, and although Shallows question to Grinn in V.ii, What, I disputed to day as well as you, did I not? now makes absolutely no sense). 4.) In accordance with this programme, so much material has been cut out Act IV that Johnson evidently felt it necessary to flesh it out with a new scene between Aemylio and Dinon (numbered here as IV.iv). These shortenings and and simplifications have the cumulative effect of adapting the play to suit Drury Lane tastes, and are frankly intended for a very different audience than the inmates of Trinity College. For in his Preface Johnson went on to write I have often wonderd how this piece of Mr. Cowleys who has always been (and very justly) a particular favourite of the ladies came so long to lie conceald in a language which invidious custom (to say no worse) has generally denyd the fair sex the use of. And I thought this coud not be an unwelcome present to them… NOTE 10 Although he did not do his job unintelligently, and sometimes managed to produce strikingly effective turns of phrase, Fortune in her Wits obviously cannot be used as an accurate translation of Cowleys Latin. Nevertheless, Johnsons play seems never to have been reprinted (it is only available as a microopaque card in the Three centuries of English and American plays, 1500 - 1830 series), and it deserves an edition in its own right. I have therefore included here both my own translation of Naufragium Ioculare and Johnsons Fortune in her Wits, both accessable through the Contents page and color-coded links inserted at the beginning of each scene of the Latin text and translation. In my edition of Fortune in her Wits, I have silently imposed modern, regularized punctuation (the printer had a pervasive habit of omitting question marks and using commas to create what we would identify as run-on sentences), and have also taken the liberty of dividing Johnsons text into numbered scenes that match the ones of Cowleys Latin original. Since my universitys library lacks a machine capable of printing out copies from the microopaque format I could take away and transcribe, it was necessary for me to obtain a microfilm of the book from which this could be done. I wish to thank the Library of the University of Cambridge for supplying me with a microfilm.
NOTE 1 Arthur H. Nethercot, Abraham Cowley, The Musess Hannibal (2nd edition, New York, 1967), 22.
NOTE 2 Gerald Eades Bentley, The Jacobean and Caroline Stage (Oxford, 1956) III.181f. In the Preface to his 1705 translation published under the title Fortune in her Wits, Charles Johnson stated This play was publickly acted at Trinity College in Cambridge on the 4th of February 1638. This was written before the introduction of the new style of dating, in 1756, and so represents no feat of detective scholarship. I do not know why he got the day of the month wrong, since February 2 is mentioned in the play several times, as a kind of self-referential running joke.
NOTE 3 The full text may be read at Bentley, loc. cit., and also at Alan H. Nelson, Cambridge (Records of Early English Drama series, Toronto, 1989, II.858).
NOTE op. cit. p. 64.
NOTE 5 See the note on Prologue 8 (this conclusion had already been drawn by J. Genest, Some Account of the English Stage from the Restoration in 1660 to 1830, Bath, 1832, X.64). No cast list survives for Naufragium Ioculare, so we do not know what role he played.
In her 1935 novel The Defeated, about Cambridge on the eve of the Civil War, Rose Macaulay devotes two chapters (Part II, chs. 4 and 5) to an interesting fictional account of the plays performance, which she wrongly has taking place in November, and she makes Cowley speak the Prologue and Epilogue. In view of the humor in the Prologue about the authors stage fright, this seems improbable. Regarding Cowley, Dame Rose committed at least one more mistake: in Ch. II.4 she made him seem even more of a prodigy than he actually was, by stating his first volume of poetry appeared when he was ten years old.
NOTE 6 The principal study of the play, largely devoted to the identification of sources, is Arthur H. Nethercot, Abraham Cowley as Dramatist, Review of English Studies 4 (1928) 1 - 24; see most recently Abraham Cowley, Naufragium Ioculare, William Johnson, Valetudinarium, Prepared with an Introduction by Hans-Jürgen Weckermann (Renaissance Latin Drama in England series II.18, Hildesheim, 1991) 3f. with bibliographical references
NOTE 7 Ib. 5. I have substituted the line references of the present text.
NOTE 8 Attested only by the Trinity College Senior Bursars Accounts (Nelson I.693).
NOTE 9 Rev. Alexander B Grosart, Abraham Cowley, The Complete Works in Verse and Prose (Edinburgh, 1881, reprinted Hildesheim, 1969) I.67 - 97
NOTE 10 To understand Johnsons special concern for Latin-less female readership, it should be borne in mind that Cowley was still enormously popular in his day, and that a number of editions of his complete works were printed in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Therefore the Latin text of Naufragium Ioculare was much more easily procured by the ladies’ educated kinsmen and friends than printed texts of most similar academic plays (only George Ruggles Ignoramus and Leonard Huttens Bellum Grammaticale had roughly comparable printing histories).