1. An important initial problem confronting an editor of Gager’s poetry is one of arrangement: how best to organize this mass of miscellaneous material? The easy and obvious answer would be chronological order, the principle adopted by Gager himself in his personal notebook (A). NOTE 1 But, although such an arrangement would allow us to view Gager’s development as a poet and a personality, it would obscure as much as it is showed. The work he chose to print chiefly deals with public matters and individuals of national significance. But the bulk of his private poetry either concerns the microcosmic world of Oxford, chiefly limited to Christ Church and the circle of friends he found within it (together with an enemy or two), or even more intimately personal issues. More important is the question of personae. In his poetry Gager displays two very different faces. The “I” of the printed poems is almost always (although not quite invariably) stereotyped and essentially impersonal. That of the private poetry is very often William Gager himself, with startling individuality and immediacy. Even though Gager had a way of recycling private material as work published subsequently, the two types of poetry are sufficiently different in character that they constitute distinctly different bodies of work. Therefore the plan of the present edition is to present the published poetry in chronological sequence, and then to double back in time and do the same for the private notebook poetry.


spacer2. The years between the production of Dido and the 1592 Shrovetide trilogy did not mark a hiatus in Gager’s activities as a poet, or of his literary service to Oxford. If he wrote no plays, this was at least in part because of the general suspension of University dramatics during the war years. Rather, he shifted his attention to another arena. Evidently on the strength of his early successes as a playwright, and as Christ Church Rhetor in 1585, he rapidly attained something of the status of unofficial laureate, not only of Christ Church, but of Oxford more generally: without being given any title or position of office, he functioned as something like a poetic counterpart of the University Orator.
spacer3. The situation amidst which he made his serious debut in print has been described by Tucker Brooke: NOTE 2

The year 1584 was one of great national apprehension in England. The Prince of Orange was assassinated on July 10 by a Jesuit agent, and similar plots against Queen Elizabeth that were being discovered in likely and unlikely places threw the country into a fury of excitement over what would not be called “fifth-column”activities. The Earl of Leicester, Chancellor of Oxford University, took the lead in forming the “bond of association”and in laying plans which culminated in the famous parliamentary act of November 23, “for the security of the Queen’s person and continuance of the realm in peace.”
spacerIn August, 1584, the University of Oxford directed that one hundred pounds be allowed to Joseph Barnes, a bookseller, in order that they might have a press in the University, and this was the real beginning of the Oxford University Press. Among the earliest, and today quite the rarest, of its publications is a series of sixteen-page pamphlets, issued in 1586 and 1587, and evidently intended to maintain the national morale. As befitted a learned press, they are in Latin, and in Latin verse of admirable quality. The first two, dated 1585, deal with the case of Dr. William Parry M. P., who was executed as a traitor on March 2 of that year. One, entitled Pareus, treats the matter epically in hexameter. The other, In Guil. Parry Proditorem Odae et Epigrammata, consists of three Horatian odes from the pen of William Gager of Christ Church, the most accomplished Latin poet of this age, which occupy six pages, and the rest are filled by a series of epigrams in elegiac verse, against Parry, the Anglo-Romans, and the Pope.
spacerThe next years, 1586, brought more plots to kill the queen and more Horatian odes by Gager on the subject. Six of these, different from the three on Parry that had been printed the previous year, were published again in a sixteen-page sheet, with the title In Catilinarias Proditiones. A wide sale was apparently expected, for the imprint notes that copies can be purchased in London, at the sign of the Tiger’s Head in St. Paul’s Churchyard....Such work cannot but have been popular, and it is natural that a new issue of the odes was required before the year was out. By that time Gager had written three others, following the development of events, and these were squeezed within the limits of a sixteen-page pamphlet by printing the title on a separate leaf and beginning the text on signature A1 instead of A3.

spacer4. In February of 1585 the Welshman Dr. William Parry M. P., son of Harry ap David of Northop, Flintshire, was put on trial for planning to kill the Queen while she was riding in a park and, probably in hopes of receiving a royal pardon, pled guilty. Although he subsequently recanted his confession, he was executed on March 2. The true facts of the case are far from clear. In the course of his checkered career Parry had variously acted as a government spy in Italy, collaborated and engaged in secret correspondence with papal agents (notably the Italian Cardinal Como), and denounced a plot to kill Elizabeth, launch a Scottish invasion, and place Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. A wastrel who had squandered his fortune, Parry was an intellectually gifted but weak and vacillating personality, and the suspicion lingers that he was mentally unbalanced. In the context of international tension and impending war, the Parry episode created a sensation. It fed a public hysteria that was carefully shaped and nurtured, by the government, which issued a kind of “white paper” on the subject, NOTE 3 and in his three odes (III - V) Gager accepts and reinforces the official version.
spacer5. Here we may notice in passing a second pamphlet printed by Barnes at about the same time, the hexameter Pareus. This work is anonymous, but has been plausibly attributed to George Peele by Tucker Brooke. It begins with the lines:

Qui Phrigio quondam certantes vertice divas,
Et malum, Troiae cinerem, raptamque Lacaenam,
Auspicio luci vatis modulantis Achivi.
Nunc aliud canere adgredior.

[“I, who once wrote sportively of the goddesses holding their contest on the Phrygian mountain, of the apple, Troy’s ashes, and the abducted Spartan lass, singing under the auspices of Greece’s poet, now undertake to sing another song, I, who once wrote sportively of the goddesses holding their contest on the Phrygian mountain, of the apple, Troy’s ashes, and the abducted Spartan lass, singing under the auspices of Greece’s poet, now undertake to sing another song.”]

Brooke noted that these lines appear to summarize Peele’s Tale of Troy, not printed until 1589 but then identified by the author as “an old poem of my own.” Evidently Gager saw this work through the press for his friend. Much less probable, in his opinion, is the possibility that Peele wrote his work in English and Gager translated it for him. The quality of the Latin is scarcely up to Gager’s standard.
spacer6. Although they are fine specimens of odes of the Horatian type, there is something fundamentally unsatisfactory about Gager’s subsequent cycle on the Babingtron episode. Gager wishes to compare Babington’s plot with the conspiracy of Lucius Sergius Catiline against the Roman state in 63 B. C. Catiline was a depraved nobleman who, with the help of some other equally corrupt specimens of Rome’s jeunesse dorrée such as his lieutenants Cethegus and Lentulus, tried to mount a revolution by forming a coalition with the dregs of society under the slogan of novae res (abolition of debts combined with social revolution). His rebellion was put down by the vigilance of Cicero, one of the Consuls for that year., who delivered four spread-eagle orations on the subject. In the final stanza of the first of these odes (XVIII), Gager insinuates that those plotting against Elizabeth are recruited from a class analogous to Catiline’s depraved aristocrats, and pursues the theme elsewhere in the set. Catiline, evidently, had wanted to set Roman society on its ear for the pure fun of causing trouble; had he succeeded, no doubt, the result would have been exceedingly sanguine. Thus the propagandistic usefulness of Gager’s comparison is obvious. But if you wish to pursue the analogy, you run into an immediate difficulty. There can be no such thing as a Catilinarian conspiracy without a Catiline, and neither the feckless Babington nor any of his associates invites comparison with that very misguided, yet strong and dynamic individual endowed with an ample helping of charisma (with somewhat more plausibility, in his Pyramis Gager later employed the Catilinarian analogy about the Gunpowder Plot, which did have a single dynamic leader in the person of Sir William Catesby). Gager himself must have been aware of the weakness of his case, for he takes refuge in the broadest of generalities. With the exception of naming two conspirators at XXIII.17ff, he provides no circumstantial detail at all, in conspicuous contrast to his previous work about Parry.
spacer7. But one must hasten to add that these and the previous odes about Parry serve as admirable illustrations of one of Gager’s greatest strengths as a poet, as has been appreciated by Leicester Bradner, in the course of his remarks on Gager’s private notebook: NOTE 4

This collection includes early...miscellaneous shorter pieces addressed to friends and relatives. All these, however, would only serve to establish their author as a rather superior example of the type of minor academic versifier were it not for the presence among them of his odes. Almost alone among his contemporaries Gager cultivated the forms of the alcaic and sapphic odes and the Horatian style...In them he shows both metrical skill and versatility of style. The odes on the plots and the odes to Queen Elizabeth are vigorous and enthusiastic in their patriotism, while those to his Oxford friends often show a charming informality.

spacer8. We have already been put on notice by the choruses and other lyric portions of his plays that Gager was extremely adept at handling Latin lyric meters; he was equally successful in capturing the spirit as well as the technique both of Horace’s odes and Seneca’s choruses, and also, as we shall see in the notebook poems, of Vergilian pastoral and Catullan hendecasyllables. Both in terms of technical competence and of vigorous contents, the present works are fine imitations of Horace’s Roman odes.
spacer9. Developing events in the war with Spain soon led to a more ambitious publication. In September 22, 1586, Sir Philip Sidney received a bullet wound in the leg while leading a cavalry charge in the Netherlands. All efforts to save him having failed, he died of his wound at Antwerp on October 17. His body was returned to England on his personal ship The Black Pinnace, and his funeral was held on February 16, 1587, an affair of enormous pomp, as anyone will appreciate who has seen Thomas Lant’s cycloramic illustration of the occasion. The result of his death has been summarized by A. C.. Hamilton: NOTE 5

Sidney had greatness thrust upon him by his death. The circumstances which led to his death, the death itself, and the national orgy of grief on the occasion of his extravagant funeral in London four months later promoted the legend that he embodied all the values cherished by the age: the ideal man the perfect knight and pattern of the courtier, the mirror of princes and “the world’s delight.”

spacer10. If Sidney’s death led to a national orgy of grieving, it also led to something like a national poetry-writing contest, for it engendered a terrific amount of versification in English, Latin, and miscellaneous other languages. In this context Gager brought out a memorial Oxford anthology under the title Exequiae Illustrissimi Equitis D. Philippi Sidnaei, Gratissimae Memoriae ac Nomini Impensae, prefaced by a dedicatory epistle to the Earl of Leicester, the Chancellor, and featuring significant contributions of his own.
spacer11. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it was fashionable for both Universities to issue anthologies of poetry, mostly in Latin, honoring various notable figures on such occasions as deaths, marriages, coronations, and visitations. The style was set by the first of these, the Academiae Contabrigiensis Lachrymae Tumuli Equitis D. Philipi Sidnaei edited by Alexander Neville and published by a London printer on the day of Sir Philip’s funeral, February 14, 1587. NOTE 6 Although the subsequent similar volume issued by Oxford contains some profuse expressions of gratitude to Cambridge for this homage to an Oxford alumnus, it is not difficult to imagine that the actual University reaction was rather different. Since Oxford had been, in effect, scooped by its sister institution in a rather embarrassing way it was no doubt important to produce a volume that would stand as a fitting tribute to its dead hero. According to the dedicatory epistle, Leicester’s chaplain had taken on himself the responsibility of prodding the University into action, and had selected Gager as the editor. Reading between the lines, we can most likelysee Leicester’s own hand in the choice.
spacer12. The result is a volume considerably more substantial than the small pamphlet of odes Gager had published in his own right. It contains contributions by Gager and by a number of individuals who later supplied prefatory epigrams to his printed plays or who figure in his notebook poetry, including Richard Eedes, Thomas Smith, Matthew Gwinne, Richard Latewar, and Francis Sidney (evidently not a kinsman of Sir Philip). It also contains an epigram by the great William Camden, recently catapulted into national prominence by the appearance of the first edition of his Britannia. NOTE 7
spacer13. The endemic faults of academic Latin versification were neoclassical frigidity and an excessive enthusiasm for the display of learning and cleverness. Viewed collectively, the various University anthologies constitute a veritable museum of these qualities, and in sampling them one gains the uncomfortable impression that the writing of much of this stuff was a kind of equivalent of the construction of crosswords. But the volume of Exequiae is at least partially exempted from these remarks by the obvious depth of feeling provoked by the death of Sir Philip. Even though this anthology was produced nearly afterwards, something of the original shock, grief, and outrage is undeniably captured. But it is equally undeniable that there is a second motivation at work throughout the book: a determination not to be bested by Cambridge in the exhibition of learning and linguistic adroitness. To document this we do not have to go outside Gager’s own contributions (XXVII - XXXV), which include two extended and moving elegies on the figure of the dead Daphnis, in which Oxfordshire becomes momentarily fused with Arcadia (XXVII, XXXIV). But sandwiched in between these two fine efforts are various minor works including one of those poems written out in the shape of a physical object. This one is a pyramid, and we shall see that the conceit of constructing the verbal equivalent of an enduring monument is an idea that will recur in Gager, first in one of his poems on Sir Henry Unton (XXXVIII.180 - 3), and then again, on a far grander scale, in Pyramis. Likewise, some of the contributions by other hands are equally fine work, but one finds a certain admixture of tricks and stunts that, to the taste of a modern reader, seem stunningly inappropriate for such a sad national occasion: puns and more elaborate word plays, poems, that reproduce shapes of physical objects, and that contain anagrams or acrostics. NOTE 8 Such features, as well as the constant display of erudition for erudition’s sake, keep these University anthologies firmly in the category of literary curiosities. Save for the occasional nuggets to be mined, their chief interest in this minor literary genre is that such anthologies contain minor work by writers who made their literary reputations elsewhere: besides Gager himself, Eedes, and Gwinne, one may mention such figures as William Alabaster, George Herbert, and Robert Burton, an inveterate contributor.
spacer14. So between 1585 and 1587 Gager had been entrusted with the publication of three official or at least quasi-official — they all display the University’s seal on their title pages — University anthologies of ascending degrees of importance, all having strong propagandistic implications in the context of the mounting tensions of the war and the approaching Spanish invasion. Both Gager and Barnes the printer, therefore, had become involved in the task of orchestrating educated public opinion on matters of vital national importance. Or, if you happen to be of a more cynical cast of mind, you could say that the effort consisted of whipping up a national mood compounded of fear and loathing of Spain, the Pope, the so-called “Enterprise” meant to bring England back into the Catholic fold, and the real or supposed traitors who were fostering this effort with foreign assistance. Although historians of the Oxford University Press NOTE 9 have failed to appreciate the importance of this fact, when the University applied for and received permission to operate a press in 1584, this evidently involved an agreement that the press would issue a certain amount of such propagandistic material. Since he was Chancellor at the time, it is difficult to imagine that Leicester was not involved in the formulation of this agreement. In the dedicatory epistle to the Sidney anthology, Gager expresses his personal gratitude to the Earl for singulari illo tuo in me beneficio, quo adhuc collegii nostri alumnus sum [“your notable kindness to me, thanks to which I am to this day a son of our College.”] What this amounts to is not quite clear, but it seems to hint at some kind of patronage relationship. Possibly it indicates that Leicester agreed to give Gager financial support, or more likely excussed him from paying his fees, in exchange for his cooperation with the University press effort: he would not only furnish appropriate poetry himself, but also drum up similar fare from other talented Oxford poets, Pareus being one fruit of this effort, and a later volume, the 1589 De Caede et Interitu Gallorum Regis Henrici Tertii, Valesiorum Ultimi, Epigrammata perhaps being another.
spacer15. Gager was selected for this important task because Christ Church’s previous spokesman, Dean Mathew, had left in 1583 to become Dean of Durham Cathedral, NOTE 10 and also because he had distinguished himself as his college’s Rhetor in 1585. But other considerations probably helped recommend him for the role. It likely did not hurt that he was well connected. He had enjoyed the early support of a Christ Church canon, Robert Dorset, and latterly the friendship of Dean Mathew and such other Canons as Martin Heton and Harbert Westfaling, who was instrumental in procuring him the Rhetorship. And, of course, there was his powerful uncle, a man of national stature and, as we have seen, with influence at the University. Then too, there is the question of his relation with Sir Philip Sidney and the Sidney family generally. Here the evidence is not entirely consistent. In his dedicatory epistle to the Oxford anthology, he modestly writes nam et pro mediocri, quae mihi cum illo fuit, gratia [“for the moderate favor he had shown me”]. But Sidney was familiar with his work as a playwright, probably being present at the production of Rivales and Dido, as well as a revival of Meleager staged partially in his honor. In his Athenae Oxonienses (II col. 89 Bliss), Anthony à Wood preserves a tradition that Sidney had a high opinion of his character and learning. In the alternative dedicatory epistle to Ulysses Redux, addressed to Sir Philip’s sister Mary, Countess of Pembroke, he lays claim to some form of special relationship with the Sidneys, writing Deinde amor quidam meus, quo, non solum laudatissimum nunquamque satis laudatum em tuum Philippum Sidneium, vivum mortuumque prosecutus sum, sed totam etiam Sidneiorum gentem semper colui, omnique honore dignissimam semper iudicavi {“Then too, there is my affection, out of which I have not only been devoted to your highly praised (although never adequately praised) brother, Philip Sidney, both in life and in death, but have also always cultivated the entire Sidney family, always deeming it worthy of all honor.”] It is not fully clear what all this adds up to; certainly, there are insufficient grounds for identifying any of the Sidney family as his patrons.
spacer16. In the first of his funeral poems for Sir Henry Unton, our poet informs the reader of his former close friendship with Sir Walter Devereux, the younger brother of the Earl of Essex, the current Chancellor of the University (XXXVIII.105 - 9):

Gualterum inprimis (mihi dicere fas sit)
Quippe meo propiorem animo, quo candidiorem
Nulla tulit tellus, quo non mihi charior alter
Contigit, aut cui me fuerit devenctior alter.

[“Walter, let it be permitted for me to say, was nearer to my heart. The earth never bore a more honorable man; nobody was dearer or closer to me.”]

But a cynical reader could point out that Gager only makes this claim after Devereux’ death, and that such a friendship is scarcely documented in Gager’s notebook poetry. Gager had a way of claiming the friendship of great men, or at least with their relatives, after they were dead and unable to contradict him.
spacer17. While studying the law he also formed a friendship with Alberico Gentili, Regius Professor of Civil Law, who would later emerge as his supporter in the running battle with Dr. John Rainolds. That this friendship was struck early is indicated by an introductory poem for a book by Gentili published in 1582 (the first poem of this collection, his first published endeavor), just as Gentili would later contribute similar verse for both of his dramatic publications. Similar evidence indicated friendship with the great Aristotelian, Dr. John Case. Gager’s Oxford associations will only come to the fore when we turn to his notebook poetry. But the facts just noted suffice to suggest that by the early 1580’s Gager had formed some important connections with the powerful, which, of course in addition to his manifest talent and his equally manifest orthodoxy, may help explain why he was entrusted with this role.
spacer18. Doubtless practical considerations helped guide the selection: Gager had already had three volumes issued by Barnes, and may have supervised the printing of a fourth. Therefore he enjoyed as good or better a relationship with Barnes and his nascent press than anyone else in Oxford, and we may probably imagine that Leicester or his chaplain chose him for the task of editing the Sidney volume because he could be trusted to do the job quickly and efficiently. Additionally, as a gregarious and well-liked local figure, he could be relied on to elicit suitable contributions.
spacer19. Gager contributed two prefatory poems to Nicholas Breton’s The Pilgrimage to Paradise, Ioyned with the Countesse of Penbrooke’s Love, printed by Barnes in 1592 (XXXVI and XXXVII). If the tradition is true that Breton had at some point in his life belonged to Oriel College (the College preserves no record of his membership), NOTE 11 it is doubtful that Gager would have made his acquaintance, since Breton was twelve or thirteen years older. Gager’s friend Matthew Gwinne contributed an introductory epistle in which he refers to Breton as “my honest true friende,” and probably saw the volume through the press, and so it is likely that Gager contributed these poems to gratify Gwinne.
spacer20. In 1596 Joseph Barnes printed another memorial anthology, this time for the distinguished soldier and diplomatist Sir Henry Unton, who died of a fever while on an embassy to the King of France. This volume, entitled Funebria Nobilissimi ac Praestantissimi Equitis, D. Henrici Untoni, ad Gallos Bis Legati Regii, Ibique Nuper Fato Functi, Charissimae Memoriae, ac Desiderio, a Musis Oxoniensibus Apparata, was edited by Unton’s chaplain Robert Wright. Oxford issued this anthology because Unton had been an Oriel man. But is far from self-evident why Gager figures so conspicuously in it, contributing no less than thirteen items (XXXVIII - L), the first of which is a major effort, the longest of all the published poems. This is a rather discursive effort that contains a fair amount of material having nothing to do with Unton. Also, although a number of Gager’s printed poems reemploy material from his unpublished works, this is his only printed work that borrows copiously from a poem already in print (XXXIV). In this poem, Gager informs us that he had enjoyed no connection with Unton, had not even met the man (XXXVIII.29 - 31):

Nulla mihi, fateor, tecum, fortissime, vivo
Consuetudo fuit privato, nec oris honesti
Ultra notitiam veni.

[“I confess, bravest of men, that in life I had no personal dealings with you, nor did I have any familiarity with your honest face.”]

The following reasons he gives for indulging in this act of pietas are too general to be illuminating, and we can gain no substantial idea of why he wrote, or was invited to contribute, these poems. The only discernible link between the two men is again Gwinne, who had left the University and became Unto’s private physician (so the biography of Gwinne at Wood, A. O. II col. 415). In some of them he adopted the pose (to which he would return in the future) of a retired poet who had set aside versification as a thing of his youth, and who is responding somewhat grudgingly to the urgings of his Muse. This seems to be true enough, for, with the exception of the poems commemorating Unton, there is very little poetry written between his departure from Oxford and his employment as an administrative officer of the diocese of Ely. So the reason why he rather effusively broke his silence on this one occasion is mysterious.
spacer21. But this only an aspect of a greater mystery. We appear to have no idea where Gager was or how he earned his living between the time he left Oxford and his employment as surrogate to the Chancellor NOTE 12 of the diocese of Ely. The only surmise worth making about these years is that it is likely that, in some way, he had done something to gain practical experience with the law. For his old Oxford friend Martin Heton, recently installed as Bishop of Ely, could scarcely have appointed him to a conspicuous and important legal post if he had no visible qualifications for the job. Heton probably needed competent help. The see had lain vacant for twenty years while the government sequestered the Bishop’s salary, and, although the stewardship of previous Chancellors (including Thomas Legge of Cambridge, a playwright himself), was presumably honest and able, it is not difficult to imagine that a thorough housecleaning was in order. One of the notebook poems (CLXXXIV) was addressed to Heton after his appointment, and Tucker Brooke (“Life and Times” 427) has suggested he was drawing his friend’s attention to his need for patronage. This interpretation seems supported by the fact that the only information Gager supplies about his life at this time consists of complaints about straitened circumstances. One of his poems on death of Unton begins (XXXVIII.1 - 3):

Quid mihi vobiscum est mea cura, Camaenae,
Quid mihi vobiscum est, veris praecordia curis
Suffixo, tristemque animam per acerba trahenti?

[“What business have I with you, Muses, once my care? What business have I with you when I am transfixed with genuine cares, sadly dragging my soul through bitter circumstances?”]

Likewise, in the poem to Heton, Gager speaks of poverty (24 - 8):

spacerO defixa oculis ultima meta meis!
Hoc nixus fulcro vitam constantius imam
spacerPulvereamque fero, frigidulamque domum.
Hac fretus tabula portum contingre spero,
spacerEt senili instantis taedia ferre mei.

{“O final goal on which my eyes are fixed! Leaning on this support I can more patiently tolerate this humble, dusty life, and my freezing hovel. Relying on this plank I hope to come into port, and tolerate the tiresome aspects of old age.”]

Even bearing in mind that the tone of this poem, at least towards the beginning, is playful, and that Gager’s somewhat pawky sense of humor occasionally runs to comical exaggeration, the beginning of XXXVIII lends some corroboration to this picture. In the same way, in a poem written in 1603 (LI.30) he wrote of himself non ea vis animo est curis annisque subacto, and it is likely that he was thinking back on this unhappy period. The rather pinchpenny tone of his last will and testament perhaps suggests someone who has had a brush with poverty.
spacer22. Our poet’s next public appearance was in the Oxford anthology produced on the occasion of the death of the Queen in 1603, Oxoniensis Academiae Funebre Officium in Memoriam Honoratisssimam Serenissimae et Beatissimae Elizabethae, Nuper Angliae, Franciae, et Hiberniae Reginae. In view of all the glowing things he had written about Elisa in palmier days, one cannot help expressing disappointment about the present offerings. There are only two poems (LI, LII), one of which is largely about himself and his failing poetic powers; the other speaks of James and the frustrated Jesuits, and is not really about the Queen at all. To be sure, Gager reflects the enervated conditions at the end of Elizabeth’s reign, for she had outlived many of her contemporaries and rather outstayed her welcome. Nevertheless, when one considers all that he had said about her in the past, and also his sense of personal indebtedness to her (expressed in poem LXIX) this slender performance makes a strange contrast with the copious things he had found to say about the perfect stranger Sir Henry Unton. In fairness, however, it is worth recording that Tucker Brooke (“Life and Times” 427) suggested that the paucity of Gager’s contributions on this occasion was “[necessary], perhaps for that volume had an appalling number of different contributors.”
spacer23. A partial excuse may probably be found in the radical change that had recently occurred in his life. In Pyramis he speaks of being able to write poetry because of a temporary break in his round of duties (892 - 901):

Illi ego pyramide, hanc, Castroduni prope flumen,
Molior, ad Cantabrigiae pomaeria doctae.
Maiore susceptam animo quam viribus, et re
Pro tenui magis hac nostra quam principe dignam;
Nec curae fortasse mease, nisi maior abesset.
Tanta etenim nostris est facta vacatio rebus.
Qua prohibentie via, quo vi que inhibente superna
Quidlibet ut potius, quam quod par esset, agamus,
Iudiciali opera vacui, strepituque forensi;
Iustitium nobis, diludia, et otia fiunt.

[“I am raising this pyramid next to the river of Ely, on the border of learned Cambridge, undertaken with more will than strength, and with more tenuous resources on my part than befits a king, perhaps not my concern, save that no greater pyramid exists. For the condition of the roads and the power of heaven [i. e., bad weather], oblige me to do anything at all rather than conduct my proper business. I have been free of legal responsibilities, and of the ruckus of the courtroom. I have been given an interruption, a vacation, and time for leisure.”]

Here we have the picture of an attorney industriously beavering away in the courts on behalf of his diocese, at least in the absence of rain. So let it be conceded that in 1603 his duties robbed him of the time for versifying. But what he says in the first of his two poems in the 1603 anthology deserves to be taken seriously: evidently he was conscious of his failing powers as a poet (a self-diagnosis not contradicted by the subsequent Pyramis) and believe that the writing of inspired verse was a young man’s occupation.
spacer24. On March 6, 1613 Prince Charles visited Cambridge in the company of Pfalzgraf Frederick V, Elector Palatine of the Rhine, who was betrothed to his sister Elisabeth. According to a contemporary account, NOTE 13 after making a speech the University Orator “presented the Princes with eyther of them a written book of verses, fairly bownd in vellum filletted and guilded, with crimson strings; that to the Prin: was gratulatorie, only that to the Palat: the former part gratulatorie, the letter Epithalamia.” The manuscript presented to Prince Charles is not known to exist; Bradner speculated that it went into the Royal Library, dispersed under the Commonwealth. That given to Frederick, bearing the title Carmen Gratulans Adventum Serenissimi Principis Frederici Comitis Palatini ad Academiam Cantabrigiensem, was taken back to Germany, captured by the Spanish during the occupation of Heidelberg in 1622, and was discovered in the Vatican by Paul O. Kristeller in 1962 (ms. Palat. Lat. 1736, designated C here). For some reason this manuscript anthology was not printed, but it has been edited in modern times. NOTE 14
spacer25. As the account quoted above suggests, this manuscript falls into two halves, containing poems welcoming Frederick to Cambridge as a visitor, and poems congratulating him on his impending marriage. Gager appears in both portions. His connection with the University of Cambridge was only nominal: by the custom of incorporation whereby the recipient of a degree from one University could petition for the issuance of an equivalent from the other as a matter of courtesy, for some obscure reason he acquired a Cambridge M. A. in 1581. But the opportunity for some sort of connection certainly existed. Other than the Pyramis passage just quoted, the only picture he gives us in later life is found in the first of this final group of poems, when he represents himself as the spokesman of some Ely rustics come to urban Cambridge to join in the present festivities. But this depiction of our poet buried in the depths of East Anglia was only a literary fiction. In fact, Gager owned a house in Chesterton, a close-in suburb of Cambridge (Tucker Brooke, “Life and Times” 429, speculates that he may have acquired this house by marrying the widow Mary Tovey). A letter from one Thomas Stewarde dated October 10, 1608, described by Brooke, is addressed “To the right worshipfull Mr. Doctor Gager at the offis in Cambridge.”Al though there is evidence that Gager maintained a pew in Great St. Mary’s (probably so that he could hear sermons by distinguished preachers), his burial in All Saints’ Church strongly suggests that he was a parishioner there. NOTE 15 Doubtless he had strong professional reasons for living where he did. Although spiritual courts were convened at Ely, much secular legal business must have had to be transacted at the county seat, and it is possible that Gager maintained a private practice too. But one would hope that he took advantage of his proximity to the University and enjoyed some semblance of the academic fellowship so important in his younger days. NOTE 16 His contributions to this volume may have been solicited as a courtesy by academic friends, but also, no doubt, because the participation of a poet of such repute was accounted a genuine “catch” (although this admittedly fails to explain why he contributed to no other Cambridge anthologies, such as the recent one commemorating the death of Prince Henry). This must be the reason his epigrams are placed conspicuously near the beginnings of both halves of this one. His contributions to this anthology constitute his last known literary efforts.
spacer26. It would appear that the symbology of the pageantry surrounding Frederick’s visit and the marriage was carefully orchestrated. Thus, for example, in introducing this anthology Dust noted how often the Rhine and Thames are mentioned (as at the beginning of Gager’s poems LVI and LVII) and riverine imagery is employed, and on February 20 a masque celebrating the marriage of these two rivers by Beaumont was performed at Grey’s Inn and the Inner Temple (Nichols II.591 - 600). Likewise, in LIV Gager compared Frederick to Jason, going to Colchis and bringing back the Golden Fleece and a bride. In his commentary on his poem, Dust raised an eyebrow at the implied comparison of Princess Elizabeth to Medea (or possibly, one might think, to an especially profitable golden sheep). But surely it is no coincidence that when the happy couple made their ceremonial entrance into Heidelberg, there “entered the Palsegrave, with two more, in a ship, he himselfe resembling Jason, attended by sixe Squires, bearing shields and lances; in the ship was to be seene the Golden Fleece which Jason fetched from Colchis; and at the sterne Envy was dragged, eating her owne heart”(Nichols, ib. 619). In all of thise one can probably see the hand of Sir John Finett, James’ Master of Ceremonies, working in consultation with his Rhenish counterpart.
spacer27. The attribution to Gager of another 1612 poem can probably be excluded. Thomas Heywood’s An Apologie for Actors, published in that year, NOTE 17, is prefaced by a number of dedicatory poems, including one by John Webster. The second of these, written in Latin heaxeters, is signed Anonymus, sive Pessimus omnium Poeta. On the strength of the fact that this is a phrase taken from Catullus XLIX, imitated by Gager in poems XXVIII, LXXXIX, and XCVII, Binns suggested that our poet may have contributed these verses (in endnote 3 to his unpaginated introduction). But of course Catullus was there for all to read and imitate. This poem is not written in Gager’s usual smooth style, there is no evidence that he knew Heywood, and it seems implausible that the Chancellor of the diocese of Ely would care to join in a battle he had fought in early days which was now well in his past.
spacer28. Another suggestion deserves more serious consideration. Eleanor Rosenberg wrote of a 1592 anthology: NOTE 18

Neither these nor the remaining poems in The Phoenix Nest are signed, except by initials, and the collection as a whole has a distinctly aristocratic tone, enhanced by the proclamation on the title page that the contributors are “noblemen, worthy knights, gallant gentlemen, masters of arts, and brave scholars.”These poets have for the most part been identified with Oxford, the university of which Leicester had been chancellor, and may incude a number of his protégés, notably Dyer and Gager.

This anthology contains a number of items signed merely by the authors’ initials: evidently it represents a collection of items written by University Wits who had gravitated to London and were supporting themselves with their pens, including G[eorge] P[eele], N[icholas] B[reton], T[homas] L[odge] and, it has been suggested, Robert Greene. NOTE 19 Other poems are entirely unsigned, of which one catches the eye, an extensive untitled poem occupying pp. 44 - 46. Reasons for considering Gager’s possible authorship are that it is written in the same ABABCC rhyme-scheme employed in poems CXCI and XXXVIIa (although some stanzas feature feminine endings, never used by Gager), and that the sixth stanza begins with the couplet:

Mine eies complaine the follies of my hart:
My hart laments the errors of mine eie.

This recalls Gager’s poem CLXXXIX, a dialogue between the heart and the eye, full of mutual reproaches.
spacer29. But it seems doubtful that this piece should be credited to Gager. The poem is a lament about the ravages of love, and Gager never wrote a word of love poetry. And if we are to assume that the poem in question was written shortly prior to its inclusion in this collection, we know that in the early 1590’s his mind was filled with thoughts of God, not eros. The quality of this poem seems distinctly superior to that of Gager’s English work, and more detailed objections might be founded on differences in orthography between that of this poem and Gager’s English items preserved in his own hand. Certainty is impossible, but a case can be constructed for attribution to Gager’s friend and contemporary Richard Eedes. The poem comes to the conclusion (enunciated at the end of the penultimate stanza) that Loues triumph doth consist in constant minds, and Rollins (p. 151) has pointed out that this is the theme of a prose dialogue also included in The Phoenix Nest (p. 24 - 29) elsewhere attributed to Eedes, NOTE 20 who is known to have employed the quatrain + couplet stanza form, NOTE 21 and may have exerted some influence on Gager’s English versification. Eedes was interested in the subject of love and, besides this dialogue, wrote several vernacular poems about it. Gager never did. If this poem is by Eedes, it is not improbable that its author had seen Gager’s poetic dialogue between heart and eye and borrowed the conceit.


spacer30. At this point it is necessary to consider Gager’s private poetic notebook (British Library Additional Ms. 22583) in greater detail. It is a small quarto volume of 199 paper pages. With the exceptions noted below, it is executed in Gager’s own hand. It lacks a title page or any overt indication of authorship, which therefore can only be established by the fact that three items also appear in print (XXVI, XXVII and XXXVIIa), where they are attributed to Gager. NOTE 22 Save for one item (CLV) all the material in the manuscript is composed by Gager himself.
spacer31.Several things show that this manuscript was intended as a repository to preserve unprinted works for their author’s personal benefit. It is written in a casual hand, sometimes little better than a scrawl, quite different from the formal italic script used for fair-copies of Dido and Pyramis (mss. B and D in this edition). It is marred by occasional copying errors, and even by contemporary standards the punctuation is markedly slipshod, with much necessary pointing omitted (especially at the ends of lines).Usually the poems are entered in finished form, but occasionally lines or longer passages are crossed out, either because the author was dissatisfied with them or because of his occasional propensity for going too far in writing controversial stuff and then having second thoughts. In a couple of cases even lines written to replace rejected material are clearly unsatisfactory. These instances suggest that sometimes Gager used this notebook to set down penultimate drafts rather than completed work. With a single exception (CLXXXIV, an important poem because it was instrumental in changing the course of his life), all the datable items in the manuscript belong to the poet’s University days; if he wrote any similar impromptu or informal poetry after leaving Oxford, he did not employ this notebook to keep it.
spacer32. He would not have needed to. Naturally, part of the motivation for the keeping of this personal notebook was a writer’s normal desire to keep a record of his output; doubtless Gager had copies of all this printed works, and so did not need to enter that material into A. NOTE 23 But he had a second and highly practical reason for retaining his unprinted work. Gager was a habitual autoplagiarist: very frequently, material that appears in his unpublished poetry was subsequently recycled in a printed work, or inserted in a play. This is very understandable when you consider the position into which he had manoeuvred himself. As demonstrated below, this manuscript was begun soon after the production of Dido. This episode had taught him an important lesson: as Christ Church’s semi–official playwright, and increasingly as its semi-official laureate, there would be no telling when he might be required to produce something on short notice because of the sudden arrival of an important visitor, an unexpected death, or some similar exigency. In case his Muse did not immediately come to his assistance, he could always help himself along by employing preexisting material. An essential part of his working method, therefore, was to employ this notebook to hang on to anything that could subsequently be cannibalized. This equally explains why, with a single exception, he ceased entering material in the notebook after he left Oxford: now he had no similar need to maintain a repository of material he could adapt at short notice. And for this we must be grateful: if he had entertained any thought of showing his unpublished work to anyone else, or preserving it for posterity, it is very doubtful that he would have preserved those items which are in any way controversial, excessively personal, or that tend to show himself in a less than admirable light. Nor would he have produce such an unflinchingly honest cumulative self-portrait.
spacer33. I know nothing of the history of this manuscript prior to its ownership by Dr. Philip Bliss, Fellow of St. John’s College, Oxford, and editor of Anthony à Wood’s Athenae Oxonienses and Fasti Oxonienses. It was purchased from his estate by the British Museum in 1850. In the absence of any explicit indication of authorship, its nature long went unrecognized, and Oxford antiquarians such as Wood and Bliss did not appreciate its literary or documentary value.
spacer34. The contents may be summarized:

I. Juvenilia

Latin translation of Homer’s Battle of the Frogs and Mice (pp. 1 - 16)

Poem on the subject of Susanna together with a dedicatory poem to Robert Dorset (pp. 17 - 29)

Latin translation of Isocrates’ Precepts to Demonicus with a dedicatory poem to Dorset (pp. 30 - 40).

Latin translation of Musaeus with a dedicatory poem to William Standon (pp. 41 - 50)

II. Dramatic Works

Oedipus fragments (pp. 57 - 63)

Portions of Dido (pp. 84 - 84)

III. Occasional Poetry

Poems (mostly) in Latin, arranged chronologically (pp. 85 - 178), unnumbered in the manuscript.

English poems (pp. 179 - 185)

IV. Prose items

Latin epitaph for his uncle, Sir William Cordell (p. 186)

Encomium Eloquentiae (pp. 187 - 194)

spacer35. The possible scheme of organization suggested by this outline may be over-elaborate. The Batrachomyomachia translation, Susanna and the Praecepta Isocratis can be dated to Gager’s undergraduate years at Oxford (between 15 74 and May 1578), and his Hero and Leander was written between the time when he as admitted to the B. A. and his inception for the M. A. (i. e., between May 1578 and July 1580). It is possible, therefore, that the Oedipus fragments were written after the Hero and Leander and before Dido, so that Gager’s original plan was to write out his longer works first, and then his shorter poems, with both sections of the notebook arranged in chronological order. Only in the case of the short occasional poetry does Gager double back on himself in time.
spacer36. The whole thing is followed by a table of contents and then a couple of extra Latin poems written on an unnumbered following page.
spacer37. The pages are numbered consecutively in what seems like another hand: NOTE 23 since CLXIII is obviously an incomplete poem, at least one leaf is missing after p. 160, but this is ignored by the paginator. It is clear that Gager was responsible for the manuscript’s organization, and that he maintained it as a book rather than just as a sheaf of loose pages: many poems begin on one page and continue on another, and nobody but their author could arrange them in their proper chronological order, which could scarcely have been preserved if he had only collected a bundle of loose sheets. The missing page contained a poem to his maternal uncle, Edward Cordell, and the dedicatory inscription to the surviving lines of the poem has been crossed out. Gager very likely destroyed this page in his anger in 1590 when he discovered that he had been cut out of Cordell’s will, just as he had earlier gone back and crossed out the name of his friend Richard Brainche from titles and poems at the time they were temporarily estranged. NOTE 24
spacer38. CLXXXIV concludes near the top of the page. The remainder of p. 177 and p. 178 are filled up with more poems, some in Latin and others in English, written in another hand. The script is extremely spidery, but the letter-shapes are sufficiently different to exclude the possibility that Gager wrote these poems even during a spell of extremely bad health. On p. 179 Gager’s own handwriting resumes, and the rest of the manuscript is devoted to some English poems, and to the two prose items noted above.
spacer39. It therefore looks s if Gager had originally decided to conclude the manuscript on p. 177, and only added the remaining items after some other individual had filled up the rest of that page and the next. The material from p. 179 onwards was added subsequently, by way of appendices. This diagnosis can only be partially verified on the basis of the poetry beginning there. Most of this material is undatable by nature. Included in it are three obituary poems, two of which (CLXXXV and CLXXXVIII) are written on individuals whose death-dates cannot be ascertained. The third (CLXXXI) was written on an aunt who died in 1586. And of course the concluding prose items date from 1581 and 1585 respectively, and, although such cannot be proven, the comparative unsophistication of the English poems seems to indicate that they are relatively youthful works.
spacer40. Tucker Brooke did not live to set forth his views on the way the notebook was assembled. At one point in “Life and Times” (p. 419) he wrote that “most of the verses in English are probably early, and the handwriting rather suggests this.” This observation would seem to indicate that he had some different understanding than the one proposed here (I do not perceive any significant in Gager’s handwriting over time). The pages from 179 to the end of the manuscript are of the same size, with the same ruled margins, as the rest of the notebook, and there is an obvious desire to maintain uniformity in the appearance of the entire production, so that it would seem unlikely that they were written earlier and subsequently bound into their present place. There is an apparent difference in handwriting, but its purport is unclear, and the problems about the manuscript’s construction would better be pursued by a qualified expert on the basis of autopsy.
spacer41. A logical consequent of the manuscript’s method of organization is that it cannot have been begun prior to 1583, the date if Dido, since some of the following occasional poems were written earlier. There is a normal tendency to present the occasional poems in approximately chronological order. NOTE 25 Only in a few instances does this principle seem to be violated (LXXXIII, CXXII, and perhaps CLX — see the initial Commentary notes on these poems). In the first two cases, this is because an interest in grouping together poems with similar subject matter took precedence over chronological considerations. It would appear that Gager arranged his poems according to the year in which they were written, but was less concerned about their arrangement within individual years. Probably this is because of a tendency to enter poems in batches, rather than immediately after their composition. This principle is shown, for example, by the poems datable to 1578, in which those having to do with the Queen’s visit to Melford Hall in August (LXIX, LXXVI, LXXVII) come before those inspired by Comitia quaestiones debated the previous month (LXXX, LXXXII). Likewise, two poems for a College dinner held in September (CXXIV, CXXV) stand before three more poems inspired by Comitia quaestiones debated in July (CXXXIV - CXXXVI). Then too, CLXXXII should be grouped with some prior poems pertaining to New Years Day 1592, but occupy a somewhat later position in the notebook.
spacer42. We have seen that the manuscript cannot have been started before April of 1583, the production date of Dido. Is there any way we can ascertain the date by which Gager began it? the earlier short poems are copies in neatly, with no changes being added “on the fly.” NOTE 26 The first poem to contain some false starts with improved versions substituted marginally or between the lines, showing that Gager was still working on the poem as he copied it into the notebook, is CXXIV, written to be read at a Christ Church banquet in September 1583. It is therefore likely that Gager copied in the preceding material during summer 1583. This, incidentally, is why preference deserves to be given to the notebook version of Dido, where available, over that of Gager’s fair copy, B: this text was demonstrably written soon after the play was composed, whereas there is no way to determine when the fair copy was executed.
spacer43. With one exception, all the poems in the original part of the notebook belong to Gager’s Oxford days. The penultimate occasional poem, CLXXXIII, is an epitaph for young man who was alive as of June 19, 1593, and so this poem is the best evidence we have for the date of Gager’s departure from the University. The final poem in the original series, CLXXXIV, was written for New Year’s Day of 1600, or more likely 1601.
spacer44. We are naturally interested in assigning dates to as many poems as possible. In view of the chronological organization of the manuscript, absent any reason for thinking otherwise it is probably safe to assume that when one or more undatable poems are sandwiched between poems datable to a given year, the entire sequence can be assigned to that year.
spacer45. This notebook was designed as a repository for Gager’s literary output that was unprinted and often, for one of several reasons, unprintable, but that nevertheless might someday be mined for new work: juvenilia, nugatory stuff, pieces that look like technical exercises Christ Church poetry that would mean nothing to the outside world, and poetry too personal, self-revealing, or controversial to be publishable.
spacer46. And it is precisely this that prevents us from dismissing Gager’s private poetry, taken as a whole, as merely cotery verse. Although some (but scarcely all) the unpublished poems may be unremarkable enough taken individually, when one reads the entire series the overall impression is of a remarkable human document. For all Gager’s imitation of classical models, in general and in detail, and for all the obligatory show of erudition, rarely if ever has a poet writing in the Latin language so openly disburdened himself of his inmost feelings on such a wide variety of subjects. Within the scope of my reading, only the shorter poems by Walter Savage Landor are to any degree comparable. What rescues this body of poetry from any well-considered disparagement is its frequently palpable depth of feeling and its honesty. For the modern reader, Gager’s greatest interest is not merely technical facility, but rather his use of neo-Latin poetry as a vehicle for personal expression. These poems delineate a cumulative self-portrait; the fact that this portrait is not entirely flattering removes any suspicion that its creator is indulging in insincere posturing. Also, of course, Gager’s poetry has a certain special interest for illustrating life at Renaissance Oxford It may be suspected that future historians of Oxford and of Christ Church, and also, to a lesser extent, of the East Anglian rural gentry, will find his literary notebook a valuable source document.
spacer47. I have just said that Gager’s private poetry cannot be dismissed as mere coterie verse, but this does not disguise the fact that he belonged to a circle of Oxford literati and intellectuals centering on Christ Church and St. John’s College, including such figures as Alberico Gentili, Richard Eedes, and Martin Heton from the former and Matthew Gwinne, Richard Latewar, and John Case from the latter. J. W. Binns (Intellectual Clture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, Prenton, 1990, 165 - 171) pointed out that the membership of such literary circles can be deduced by studying the interlocking dedicatory epigrams that the men in question wrote for each other’s books. The unpublished poetry supplies a good deal of extra supporting evidence. Sometimes this is self-evident, since a number of items in this collection are addressed to other members of the circle. Further evidence is more subtle On occasion, Gager wrote poetry to our about individuals with whom he had no visible connection (Nicholas Breton, Sir Henry Unton, and Sir Horatio Pallavicin0 are three cases in point), but who were demonstrably linked to other members of his coterie. It would scarcely be surprising to learn that other individuals to or about whom he write, especially when they have no association with Christ Church, have similar connections in ways I have failed to spot. Friendship obviously played a great part in Gager’s university life. More human considerations also applied. One of the companions on Tobie Mathew’s 1583 trip to Durham described in Richard Eedes’s 1583 satiric travel poem Iter Boreale was Matthew Harrison, who, with the assistance of his wife Doll and his pet bear Furze, presided as landlord of The Bear, next to Christ Church. Eedes writes of him with humorous affection, and it would be pleasant to think that some of Gager’s literary friendships were forged over pots of Harrison’s ale.
spacer48. Some, at least, of Gager’s unpublished poems naturally fall into categories, sometimes grouped together. These will be discussed here in the order they present themselves.
spacer49. The largest category consists of a total of fifteen New Year’s poems (strenae), either written to accompany gifts or as gifts themselves. This was in accordance with the Elizabethan fashion for such exchanges (although the calendar year began on March 25, January 1 was reckoned as New Year’s Day). As Gager put it (CLXXVII.9f.),

Innumerae passim strenae mittuntur amicis,
spacerMuneribusque venit gratia ubique novis.

[“Everywhere innumerable New Year’s poems are sent to friends, and in every quarter gratitude arises for such gifts.”]

He often employed such poems as vehicles for self-promotion, either to cultivate individuals who could do him some good or to angle after some coveted honor or position. This is revealed at the very outset of the notebook poems. He was brought to Oxford as a Queen’s Scholar, largely through the efforts of Robert Dorset, one of the eight Christ Church Canons, who sat on the selection committee. NOTE 27 Thereafter, he relied on Dorset’s patronage or protection, repeatedly hailing him as a Maecenas, and, one occasion, asking for his intervention to get him out of a jam (LIX — see also LXVI, LXX, and LXXIV). When Dorset died in 1580, he was replaced by Ralph Pickover. No joy there, evidently. But two years later Gager’s friend Martin Heton was elected a Canon, and the poet lost no time in trying to make a patron out of him too (CXIII). Several such “bread and butter”poems were written under the pretext of New Year’s Day greetings, the last of which (also written to Heton) succeeded in procuring Gager what turned out to be his life’s career.
spacer50. A number of poems take their inspiration from the quaestiones set for disputation. Students of all levels were required to participate in disputes, first as disputers and then, when they had cleared that hurdle, as respondents. The system of such debates, which constituted the University’s method of examining and qualifying students, has been described in detail elsewhere NOTE 28 Since we shall be concerned chiefly with M. A. disputations — a similar requirement, called determination, was imposed on B. A.’s, but since it yielded no poetry, it need not concern us — it will prove helpful to furnish some idea of the process of receiving that degree. A man who had completed the requisite exercises and who had supplicated for the degree was licensed and called “Master of Arts” by courtesy, but was in fact still an inceptor. That is to say, he swore on his oath that he would participate in disputations in Vesperies (February) and Comitia (July) within a twelvemonth. Only when he had so done was his degree deemed to be complete. NOTE 29 It will be noticed, therefore, that an understanding of this procedure is helpful for ascertaining the dates of some poems; likewise, Gager’s poems add to the known list of disputed quaestiones and their dates. All the reader needs to keep in mind is that the dispute in question normally occurred at the first available opportunity after the individual incepted: if he did so in May, usually he would participate in these exercises in July (exceptions were granted by dispensation: for example, Richard Eedes incepted in May 1577, but for some reason did not engage in the requisite disputation until summer 1578). Clark quotes a number of such quaestiones. Most are of the sort handled by Gager, although some have an obviously humorous intent. A few are striking, for example, an foeminae sint literis instruendae? (Vesperies, 1576), utrum ludi scenici in bene instituta civitate probandi sint (Vesperies, 1584), and an uxor perversa humanitate potius quam asperitate sanetur (Comitia, 1600, which Clark (II.170) suggested might have been inspired by The Taming of a Shrew.).
spacer51. Gager liked to amuse himself by with short poetic answers to the questions that were posed during these events, on topics of moral and natural philosophy, and on , either because they happened to catch his interest or because they involved disputations in which his friends participated. Such poems are LXXXI- LXXXVII. LXXXI seems to have been inspired by a different form of disputatio. It is likely that the subject of this poem was suggested by a special quaestio for inceptors in theology. Clark (II.94 - 217) lists the known such questions, a number of which are calculated to elicit an anti-Papist answer. Cf., for example, the three quaestiones for 1581, an papa errare possit?, an Romanus pontifex sit caput ecclesiae universalis?, and an papa sit Anti-Christus?
52. While many of his New Year’s efforts and other occasional poems attest to the friendships he enjoyed with various University contemporaries, one receives the impression that others testify to attachments that lay on the other side of the borderline between friendship in homosexuality. The considering this subject, we run up against two problems. First, in Latin the language employed for friendship and affection is not as distinct from that used for love and eroticism as in English, and so the presence of a homosexual element is harder to pin down. Second, Sir Philip Sidney was the beau ideal for Gager’s generation of Oxford men, who doubtless had a terrific interest in imitating him. One way of doing this was to form especially close friendships patterned after that between Sidney and Fulke Greville — whether or not there was a homosexual element to that one need not concern us here — so that, one suspects, many Oxford men entered into such pairings merely because they were fashionable. Nevertheless, in reading some of Gager’s poems it is impossible to dismiss the impression that we are dealing with something more than normal friendship.
spacer53. This is evident in LXI, an early poem indignantly addressed to some unnamed ingrate, which would appear to memorialize a homosexual spat. For it is hard to believe that the anxieties expressed in 15 - 18 are more characteristic of a friend than of a lover:

Nil temere dicam. forsan mihi nuntius istud
Infidus retulit nostro insidiatus amori.
Nil temere redam. Forsan delusit inanis
Pectora nostra metus (nan cuncta timemus amantes.

[“Let me say nothing rashly. Possibly a faithless messenger, jealous of our friendship, told me this thing. Let me believe nothing rashly, for perhaps vain fear has deceived my heart (for we lovers fear everything).”

Later in the manuscript are found several poems addressed to Richard Brainche, evidently a kinsman (cf. LXXXVIII.23, nostrae spes altera gentis). While some of these, read individually, could be taken as expressions of straightforward friendship, CVIII looks more equivocal. Cf. 11 - 16:

Intermissus amor geminato ardore recurrit.
spacerMaior ut inecta saepe fit ignis aqua.
Audi, quicunque es nostro insidiatus amori,
spacerTurpis amor levis est, castor usque manet.
Hoc quodcunquem fuit tibi crimen, amice, remitto
spacerEt tibi signa animi pristina reddo mei.

[“Affection, after being interrupted, recurs with redoubled ardor, just as fire burns all the fiercer after you throw a bit of water on it. Listen, whoever you are who schemed against our affection, shameful love is a transitory thing, while the chaster sort endures. My friend, I forgive you your offence, whatever it was, and I in turn give you these pristine tokens of my favorable disposition.”]

Gager valued homosexual relationships only when they were Platonic, but disdained them when they contained a physical element. Evidence he had felt jilted by Brainche in favor of a physical relationship, and now was prepared to readmit him into his affections. It was probably during this period of estrangement that he crossed out Brainche’s name from the first poem addressed to him in the poetical notebook, LXXXVIII, for the name is expunged with considerable force (so too at XCII.6).
spacer54. Another poem, CII, was probably inspired by vicissitudes in Gager’s relations with Brainche. This wry lament of a cast-off lover is especially self-revealing and establishes conclusively the Platonic nature of Gager’s attachments. Cf. particularly 7f.:

Non equidem invideo, qui nunquam corpus amavi.
spacerPars nostra est animus, caetera sume tibi.

{“For my part, I am scarcely jealous, for I never loved him physically. The part that concerns me is the mind, take the rest for yourself.”]

These lines serve to underscore the importance of the contrast between shameful and chaste love established in the passage of CVIII quoted here.
spacer55. Gager’s relation with Brainche, and probably with others as well, NOTE 30 must be seen against the fact that such Platonic pairings seem to have been a sanctioned feature of Oxford life (such relationships, no doubt often quite transitory, are probably what the poet meant by iuvenilis amor in XC). To document this claim, one does not have to go outside of Gager’s own poems, one of which (CLIV) compliments two of his contemporaries, Sir Walter Devereux and Sir Thomas Clinton, for honorably maintaining such a relationship. Even the Dean of Christ Church, the precocious Tobie Mathew, was involved in such a pairing with Richard Eedes (see the commentary note on CXV.1f.). But, again, it is worth stressing that such relationships were evidently deemed acceptable or even admirably fashionable only as long as they were Platonic (cf. the enthusiastic description of such a relation, supported by a catalogue of precedents from classical mythology, at CLIV). Gager repeatedly expressed contempt and distaste for any physical expressions of homosexual love. Poem CXIV, entitled Lucius Iunius Brutus Lucio Tarquinio Collatino et Lucretiae suae, otherwise incomprehensible, makes sense when read as a commentary on such a triangle as Gager experienced with Brainche and Brainche’s overt lover. So this poem reinforces the idea that his homosexuality was emphatically Platonic.
spacer56. In the General Introduction to Gager’s plays, I showed that the heavy emphasis on the themes of chastity and marriage found in all of Gager’s plays indicates a personal obsession on the subject probably one of a highly conflicted nature. Some of the notebook poems touch on this same issue: cf., for example, LXXI - LXXII, LXXXIV, and CXXIII. When I point out that the occasional poetry attests a homosexual side to Gager’s sexuality, I trust that no modern reader will be so psychologically innocent as to imagine that these are contradictory assertions. Surely it is sufficient to argue that such Platonic relationships were a sanctioned way of helping young men cope with the unnatural environment of academic celibacy. NOTE 31 Doubtless most Oxford men who participated in such relationships went on to normal heterosexual lives after they went down from University, as did Gager himself.
spacer57. At about the same time he was undergoing his tempestuous relationship with Richard - rainche, Gager appears to have turned his attention to the possibility of writing plays. A sequence of short iambic poems (CIII - CVII) appear to be technical exercises designed to develop a facility for writing iambic senarii. This is indicated by the fact that a couple of them are later adapted for plays (CVII resurfaces in Meleager, CIII in Panniculus).
spacer58. Gager was on the whole an amiable, sweet-tempered man, and his notebook poetry attests to many more friendships than enmities: not for nothing did one contemporary, William Vaughan, call him Doctor amandus.What outbursts against individuals are documented in his poems appear to have been short-lived, and he was not one to nurse steady grudges. For this reason, it is surprising to read the venomous outbursts provoked by Christ Church politics in three poems (CXXV and CXXI, belonging to 1583, and CXXII, datable to the next year). The evident problem was not only constant internal bickering, NOTE 32 standard for all academic organizations, but that certain aulici were intent on despoiling the College. What this amounted to is evidently not known, but it is worth making a guess. We know of contemporary abuses within other Colleges, involving University men leasing out College-owned lands to various courtiers, not excluding Chancellor Leicester and his friends, on highly favorable terms, in exchange for such ecclesiastical preferments as absentee livings. NOTE 33 This was the great academic scandal of the age, and many courtiers and academics were willing to play the game. As Nicholas Bond, President of Magdalen, exclaimed, NOTE 34 “if a lease be of any valor and near expiring, it lyeth in the eye of some great man or other.”
spacer59. From some lines written and then expunged from CXXI it would seem that Gager was at first inclined to blame the situation on the current Dean, Tobie Mathew. He expresses the wish that at the last election of a Dean, in 1575, the rival candidate, Dr. William James, had been chosen, presumably because James would have done a better job of maintaining order. But Gager soon got his with, without good result. In August 1583 Mathew as installed as Dean of Durham Cathedral, and James replaced him. CXXII attests that the new Dean did not bring any improvement, and as late as 1587 Gager still felt strongly enough about the depredations of aulici to include a thoroughly inappropriate blast against them in his second long published eclogue on the death of Sir Philip Sidney (XXXIV.98 - 104).
spacer60. The wish that James had been preferred over Mathew need not have implied any dislike of the latter. Therefore there is no odor of hypocrisy in his series of poems written on the occasion of Mathew’s departure from Oxford. According to Anthony à Woods’ biography, Mathew was installed in office at the end of August 1582. One poem dated to November 1593, and two grouped with it (CXXXVIII - CL) show that Mathew as still at Oxford. A somewhat later one (CXLIX) is addressed to him as he suffers from a transitory illness, and this is followed by the elaborate Aegloga ad Matthaeum, the first of Gager’s eclogues. Mathew had gone up to Durham for installation, and then returned to Oxford to wind up his affairs. He did not resign the Deanship, or leave Oxford for good, until after the turn of the year. The poem just cited suggests that bad health may have been a reason for his delay.
spacer61. The series of poems inspired by this occasion raise an obvious question: why should Gager write so warmly to man towards whom he had not hitherto displayed any particular affection? The answer may be supplied by a question raised at CL.124 - 6:

Quis, si nympharum regina veniret Elysa,
Heroumve aliquis nostras inviserat oras,
Excipit cantu posthac vel cormine digno?

{“If Elisa, queen of the nymphs, or any of the nobility were to visit our climes, who henceforth could receive them with suitable song and verse?”]

Tucker Brooke (“Life and Times” 417) wrote “In the autumn of 1583 [Gager] came forward as the poetical spokesman of Christ Church when Tobie Matthew relinquished the deanship in order to become Dean of Durham.” This is not quite right: in these lines Gager is alluding to Mathew’s position as University Orator. But it may well have been the case that Gager imagined himself performing a similar role in the sphere of poetry, by functioning as something like a University Laureate.
spacer62. If, in a sense, Gager was taking measures to mark out a position for himself as “Christ Church’s poetical spokesman,” he was simultaneously angling for another plum. CXLIII is addressed to Harbert Westfaling, one of the Christ Church Canons. It was time for the election of the Christ Church Rhetor for the following year. Evidently Westfaling was in charge of the election, and this poem constituted his application for the position. In the course of this poem he drops some broad hints about the poetic services he has already rendered his college. But Gager faced a rival in the person of another student, William Goodwin, who waged some sort of slander campaign against him. Gager was so furious that he almost became embroiled in a fight, as is attested by CXXXIII. Although this poem stands too early in the notebook, it and a second tirade against Goodwin, CXLII, reflect the same incident. In the event, Gager was chosen for the position. An oration, Eloquentiae Encomium, delivered on January 17, 1585, shows that the selection of Gager as the speaker was a judicious one.
spacer63. The majority of Gager’s notebook poems have to do with Oxford and Christ Church. But a number have to do with his family, so it is necessary to explain what is known about his pedigree, particularly as it is relevant to the individuals who figure here. NOTE 35 We must consider three families, the Gagers, the Cordells, and the Alingtons.
spacer64. His paternal great-grandfather, Robert Gager or Gawger, of Long Melford, died in 1553. His grandfather (so Brooke thought) John Gager [d. 1585 or 1588], NOTE 36 served as collector of the King’s taxes. Little is known of his father, Gilbert. Brooke speculated that the Cordells kept his mother, Thomasina Gager, and her family at arm’’s length because he was some sort of ne’er-do-well. An alternative reason might be annoyance that she had married a social inferior out of love, rather than making a marriage calculated to advance the fortunes of this aggressively rising family, as did Sir William Cordell and his sister Jane (Sir William, who died without surviving issue, made Jane his principal heir, possibly because he approved of her own social progress).
spacer65. Gilbert married Sir William’s sister Thomasina. In Gager’s last will and testament of 1615, he makes provision for the welfare of a single brother, John. The use of the plural fratres at IV.38 suggests that there were others, NOTE 37 a surmise verified by the extant parish records of H oly Trinity Church, Long Melford (now on deposit in the Suffolk County Records Office at Bury St. Edmunds), NOTE 38 which appears to attest brothers named James [b. 1561] and Thomas, and a sister named Ann [b. 1560];
spacer66. Sir William Cordell was one of those novi homines who sprang up under the Tudors; his career has already been sketched in the General Introduction to Gager’s plays. He was a relative newcomer to Long Melford, his family come from Edmonton in Middlesex by way of London, where it left behind one branch descended from his paternal uncle Robert, a brewer. The London Cordells figure in our story only in the most tangential of ways, insofar as Robert’s son Thomas, a mercer, is known to have been partners in a business venture with Sir Horatio Palavicino.
spacer67. It is difficult to place great faith in the contemporary claim (reflected in poems *XCVI and CLV and the Dow poem upon which the latter is based) that the Cordell family had heretofore been distinguished but had fallen on hard times, so that Sir William’s rise had the effect of restoring is fortunes. In his will of 1539 Sir William Clopton describes John Cordell as his servant and as a yeoman (Howard p. 47). Nevertheless we possess an undated and unsigned grant of arms given John, describing him as a gentleman and stating “he being uncertain what sort and manner his Predecessors bore their sayd Arms, not willing to doe anything that should be praejudiciall to any Gentleman of Name and Arms, hath desired me, the sayd Clarencieux King of Armes [evidently Rober Cook] to ordayne, assigne, and set forth his Arms.” Likewise the grant of arms to his son William, this time signed by Cook, states “For as much as William Cordell, of Long Melford, in the Country of Suff., Gentleman, is descended of an Hous undefamed, bearing Armes, Nevertheless he not willing to doe any thinge that should be praejudiciall to any Gentleman...” [and then continues with the same boilerplate formulae]Either the claim to gentle ancestry is genuine, or the College of Heralds was party to a polite fiction intended to disguise a parvenu family’s humble origins; the absence of any evidence supporting the claim of erstwhile Cordell dignities is notable, and one imagines that, if any such facts were known< Sir William and his relatives would have been only too happy to publish them. NOTE 39 In any event, we may be sure that Gager was eager to accept the more flattering version.
spacer67. John Cordell married Emma, daughter to Henry Webb of Kimbolton, Co. Huntingdon, at some time prior to Easter, 1556. They had several children: the sons were, in order of birth, William [d. 1581], Francis [d. 1586], John, and Edward [d. 1590], Note 40 and two daughters, Jane [d. 1602] and Thomasina.
spacer68. As intimated above, both Sir William and Jane Cordell made good marriages. Sir William married Mary Clopton, granddaughter of the Sir William Clopton whom his father had served. James married a member of a prominent Cambridgeshire family, Richard Alington, of Lincoln’s Inn, London [d. 1562]. Edward first married Elizabeth Harrison of Norfolk, the addressee of CXCII, who was buried at Long Melford in 1586. His second marriage, to Mistress Abigail Digby, led to a revision of his will and hence to Gager’s indignant outburst in CLXXI. NOTE 41 Sir Giles Alington of Horseheath, Cambridgeshire [1501 - 86] was Master of Ordinance under Henry VIII. By his marriage, to Ursula Drury, Sir Giles had a son, Robert [d. 1552]. Robert’s grandson Giles [1572 - 1639] married Lady Dorothy Cecil, daughter of Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter. Their second daughter Elizabeth was the second wife of the financier Sir Henry Palavicino [1592 - 1615], whose birth is celebrated by Gager in CLXXII. His first wife had been a daughter of the irascible Sir Oliver Cromwell, uncle of the Protector. Old Sir Giles subsequently married Alice Middleton [d. 1563 — her mother Alice was married a second time, to Sir Thomas More). But his latter marriage he had four sons, Thomas, Richard, William, and Philip. It was the second of these, Richard, who married Gager’s aunt Jane Cordell. Richard and Jane had three daughters, Mary, Anne [15 59 - 1594], and Cordell. The second of these, a spinster of the parish of St. Botolphs, Aldersgate, London, is the addressee of CLXXXI. Other, more distant, relations appear in Gager’s writings. His translation of Musaeus’ Hero and Leanderis followed by a dedicatory poem to his second cousin, William Standen, printed as poem XCVII in this edition. NOTE 42 Also, we have seen that a poem written to his Oxford friend Richard Brainche appears to show he was some form of kinsman.
spacer69. In view of the way the Gagers were cold-shouldered by the Cordells, as described in the General Introduction to the plays , NOTE 43 it would have been very understandable if our poet had reacted with resentment. But he obviously hero–worshipped Sir William Cordell (one wonders if he had first been attracted to writing poetry precisely because his uncle had written poetry himself), NOTE 44 and it is striking that all of the poems dedicated to, or written about, relatives deal with individuals on the maternal side of the family. Poems CXXVII - CXXXII constitute an elegiac cycle in which five sons and a widow lament the death of the head of their family, and their position in the manuscript strongly suggests a dating of 1583. One might be tempted to assume that this pathetic group of poems was provoked by the death of the poet’s father. But this cannot have been the case, and they were either written as a mere literary exercise or took their inspiration elsewhere, since the Holy Trinity parish record shows that Gilbert Gager was buried on August 1, 1590.
spacer70. Evidently Gager preferred to think of himself as a scion of the prestigious and successful Cordells more than of the humble Gagers, an attitude similar to that of Sir Philip Sidney (Defense of the Earl of Leicester, III.65f. Fueillerat):

I am a Dudlei in blood that Dukes daughters son and do acknowledg though in all truth I mai justli affirm that I am my fathers style of ancient and allwaies well esteemed and welmatched gentry yet I do acknowledg I sai that my cheefest honor is to be a Dudlei...

This disposition will be readily understood by the visitor to Long Melford. For even today a visit to the town is surprisingly revealing on the subject of Uncle William. It is rather dramatically dominated by Cordell construction projects calculated both to proclaim his status and, evidently, to upstage the Cloptons. Sir William’s Melford Hall, more imposing than attractive, is readily visible from the main road, its park a virtual extension of the village green; by contrast, the Clopton seat, Kentwell (built in 1560 by a cousin of Mary Clopton Cordell) is discretely hidden. Sir William’s almshouse was designed to screen the magnificent Clopton–built church from the passerby’s sight. To be sure, the date of the Hall’s construction is not definitely known, although its architectural style strongly suggests the middle of the century, NOTE 45 and the almshouse was not put up until 1573. We may presume that Gager spent his early, impressionable years surrounded by constant and blatant reminders of his uncle’s importance, and was probably familiar with the Hall from earliest boyhood. This would have had the simultaneous effect of reminding him of his father’s relative obscurity in the scheme of things.
spacer71. This apparent identification with the Cordells is an important, possibly decisive, clue to Gager’s psychological makeup. Certainly he set great store by prestige. When he writes of the fame and prominence of the successful preacher (cf. CXXXVIII.57ff., quoting a similar passage from the Eloquentiae Encomium), one is strongly tempted to suppose he thought that a similar reward could be garnered by an outstanding playwright and poet. In such maneuverings as his attempt to establish himself as laureate of Christ Church, and even of the University of Oxford, and his campaign to win the position of Christ Church Rhetor, such prestige was the prize to be gained. We may probably assume that this was a prime inducement to develop his literary talents.
spacer72. A recent writer NOTE 46 has offered a generalization about the psychology of University poets that helps us understand Gager:

...there [emerges] a pattern of motivation that must have characterized academic literary production in the whole of the early seventeenth century. Very often this motivation will appear as a strong Realpolitik. To the modern reader in a republican society, the idea of making poetry the instrument of promotion in court and ecclesiastical circles might suggest corruption. There is no doubt that it did to some seventeenth century Puritans. But the evidence indicates that such was the practice. And the practice gave us the poetry we have.

Applied to Gager and interpreted narrowly, this observation has limited pertinence. Only a relatively small number of poems, and perhaps Pyramis, were written in the aid of self-advancement schemes. But in a wider sense, a good deal of Gager’s literary activities were very likely undertaken in a spirit of self-promotion: the essential prize was prestige, including the stature conferred by the approbation and friendship of the great, NOTE 47 rather than offices or other tangible rewards. It may not be entirely fanciful to imagine that his essential motivation was to show himself worthy of his Cordell heritage, NOTE 48 and to transcend what he may have considered his somewhat shabby Gager origins. From this same source, we might also care to think also sprang the lively sense of personal honor that kept him from indulging in physical expressions of his homoerotic impulses, and also from earning his living by his pen. From time to time suggestions have been floated that our poet had a patronage relationship with thus-and-such a grandee, and if patronage is to be regarded as having a financial aspect it is worth pointing out that (within the exception of whatever support he may have received from the Earl of Leicester, and, if he did, we have seen that he exerted himself mightily to earn whatever he got) there is no evidence that ever took a groat from anybody in exchange for his literary efforts. At least if you measure him by the Cordell yardstick, what distinguished Gager from that circle of literati known as the University Wits is his considerably higher social standing and pretensions. Although he had befriended George Peele at Christ Church and perhaps was acquainted with Nicholas Breton, it would be hard to imagine joining that circle in London, leading a similar bohemian existence, and scraping along on his talent in a milieu distinctly anticipatory of Grub Street.
spacer73. CLXXI, an ode in Sapphic stanzas, was written to Sir Horatio Palavicino, the prominent financier and scion of a great Genoan banking family, on the occasion of the birth of his firstborn (legitimate) son, Henry, in 1592. Sir Horatio was about fifty, and, as Tucker Brooke (“Life and Times” 419) observed, this poem is “deftly fitted to an old man’s vanity”at fathering a son with his young Dutch bride, Anna Hooftman. Sir Horatio’s biographer writes: NOTE 49

There are evident signs that Horatio fulfilled his obligations as a patron of the arts, thus following the family tradition. If William Gager...saw fit to write an ode to celebrate the birth of Horatio’s first son, if Thomas Newton of Chester included him in his laudatory collection Illustrium aliquot Anglicorum Encomia, it could only be because he was prepared to reward such flights of fancy.

This appraisal is probably unfair. Even during the bleak 1590’s, as far as we know, Gager did not seek to rescue himself by playing the patronage game. More likely, he wrote this poem to gratify his friend Alberico Gentili, who had served as Palavicino’s Latin secretary during a diplomatic mission to Germany in 1586 (Stone p. 38). For other occasions on which Gager apopears to have written poems for friends of his friends, cf. XXXVI, XXXVII, and CLII, and he may have contributed to Sir Henry Unton’s memorial volume for a similar reason.
spacer74. Palavicino owned an estate at Babraham in Cambridgeshire, where he unsuccessfully sought to set himsef up as the loqual squire. It is not surprising, therefore, that he and his family came into contact with Gager’s wealthier relatives. We hear of business dealings with Sir William Cordell’s cousin Thomas Cordell, a London merchant, during his German trip (ib. 141) and the infant subject of the present poem grew up to marry a daughter of Gager’s aunt Jane, as described above. Thus in looking into Gager’s family connections we catch a glimpse of the network of marriages by which the East Anglican landed genry perpetrated itself.
spacer75. Most but not all of Gager’s poems are grouped near the end of that portion of his notebook given over to occasional poetry. It is impossible to challenge or improve on Tucker Brooke’s verdict on the quality of his efforts in his native language (“Life and Times” 419):

They are somewhat archaic in style, for Gager’s taste in English verse was probably based, like Shakespeare’s, on the “Book of Songs and Sonnets” and other early anthologies, and, lunlike Shakespeare, he never laboured seriously at tis art. He did not essay the sonnet proper or blank verse...but practiced most of the six-line “Venus and Adonis” stanza hwich had been used in the Mirror for Magistrates and the choruses of Gorboduc. His English poetry is therefore “old and plain”...There are few criteria for date of comparison. Most of the verses in English are probably early, and the handwriting rather suggests this, but Gager would doubtless have gone on writing English poetry like Sackville’s and Gascogne’s to the end of his life. The longest poem, “In Praise of his Shadow,” is also the best. It would merit a place in even a brief collection of the quainter Elizabethan lyrics, but as a contribution to literature in the vernacular, Gager’s prose outshines his verse.

The gap between his Latin and English work, in terms of technical accomplishment, sophistication, and general interest, is remarkable (to a slightly lesser extent, the same can be said about Richard Eedes, hwose English work will be cited below). If all that survived was his vernacular work, we would classify him with such poetasters as, say, John Lilliat NOTE 50 or some of the less gifted contributors to The Phoenix Nest. For some reason, his Muse operated exclusively on the Latin wavelength (in candor, however, it must be acknowledged that one of his English poems, XXXVIIa, has long been misattributed to Sir Philip Sidneyh)
spacer76. Gager, we have seen, probably went down from Oxford in 1593 (CLXXIII would appear to show his presence there as of at least June 19). If we were to wonder about his reason for leaving, various possibilities occur. Departure from Oxford was the ony possible way of resolving the difficulties caused by enforced academic celibacy. But his principal motive appears to have been quite different. In the General Introduction to the plays we have seen that “I. C.” (probably Dr. John Case) miscalculated the impact of Gager’s failed hopes in the matter of an expected inheritance. For, as CLXX makes quite clear, the incident did not have the effect of embittering Gager, but rather of triggering a Christian conversion experience. The poem concludes (35 - 40):

Iudicia o domini nobis abscondita saepe,
spacerIusta tamen scepter! Quo mea verba feram?
Ad dominum mea verba fram, qui fallere nescit,
spacerVanis quidem res est fidere principibus.
Ergo humana vale, quae me ter iniqua fefellit:
spacerSola mihi posthac spes Deus unus erit.

[“Oh will of God, often obscure to us, but always just! Where am I being carried by my words? I shall address my words to the Lord, who cannot deceive us. Assuredly it is a vain thing to put one’s trust in princes. And so farewell, human affairs, which have thrice deceived me unjustly Henceforth God alone will be my sole hope.”]

Several pietistic poems written subsequently attest not only to a deepened spirituality, but also to a weariness and disgust with his former existence. Much of his previous life was now accounted the folly of youth, to be thrust aside unregretfully by a grown man. Surely, in calculating Gager’s reasons for leaving Oxford, and in reading his later protestations that the writing of poetry is a young man’s business (most notably XXXVIII and LI) were in all probability written for New Year’s Day of 1593, and both these poems and those that immediately follow, CLXXIX and CLXXX, are our best indications of Gager’s frame of mind at the time of his departure.


spacer77. In preparing this edition, the spelling of English proper names was frequently problematic: should one write, for example, Brainch, Brainche, or Branche; Edes or Eedes; Gwyn, Gwynn, Gwinn, or Gwinne; (Tobie) Mathew or Matthew? In the case of well known men, I have used the forms most familiar in the secondary literature even when these do not agree with Gager’s spellings, University or collegiate records, or with Anthony à Wood’s biographical sketches. In the case of unfamiliar individuals I have reproduced the forms employed by Gager.
spacer78. A particular difficulty is posed by the academic title Dominus (abbreviated D.). Any member of the University who had been admitted to the B. A. was entitled to the courtesy title of Sir, Latinized as Dominus. NOTE 51 But to translate, for example, Dominus Guilielmus Gagerus as “Sir William Gager” would convey entirely the wrong impression to the modern reader, since our poet was a member neither of the nobility nor of a knightly order. The translation “Master”(adopted by Tucker Brooke in his unpublished manuscript) has the demerit of blurring the distinction between Dominus and Magister (somebody who had at least incepted for the M. A. but was not yet a Doctor). Worse, when these titles are strung together, as in Dominus Doctor, Brooke’s proposed translation would produce such monstrosities as “Master Doctor” (as in Gager’s addresses to Dr. John Rainolds), or even, at least in theory, “Master Master.” In order to maintain necessary distinctions, and in the absence of a better solution, I have retained the title Dominus in English translations. But the retention of this Latin word of course does not apply to such individuals as Thomas Clinton and Walter Devereux, who belonged to the nobility and so were entitle to be called Sir or Dominus even as undergraduates, or to men who had been knighted, such as Sir William Cordell.
spacer79. Something must also be said about the peculiar nomenclature employed within Christ Church. This Oxford college, formally named The Cathedral College of Christ Church, is organized in its unique way because its chapel simultaneously serves as the cathedral of the Diocese of Oxford. Prior to a reorganization in the nineteenth century, it was governed by a chapter composed of a Dean (Decanus) and eight canons (Praebendarii) who corresponded to the Master and Senior Fellows of a more typical college. Its other members were designated students, no matter how senior or distinguished they might have been. Thus, for example, Alberico Gentili, who joined Christ Church in 1587, was Regius Professor of Civil Law and possessed both an Italian doctorate and an honorary Oxford D. C. L., but was nevertheless ranked as a student within his college. More precise details are supplied in Thomson’s Christ Church, described below.
spacer80. For the annotation of these poems it was necessary to learn a fair bit about Oxford and Christ Church in Gager’s time. Some of the most helpful studies are quoted so frequently in the Commentary that they will be cited by abbreviation. The reader curious about Renaissance Oxford will find these works illuminating (cf. also E. H. Cordeaux and D. H. Merry, Bibliography of Printed Works Relating to the University of Oxford, Oxford, 1968).
spacer81. First and foremost, this work would have been considerably more arduous if so much biographical groundwork had not already been laid by C. F. Tucker Brooke in “The Life and Times of William Gager,” cited simply as Life and Times. This posthumously published article provides a wealth of biographical information, not only about Gager, but also about his prominent relatives and those with whom he rubbed shoulders at Oxford.
spacer82. The various writings of the indefatigable seventeenth century antiquarian Anthony à Wood have proved enormously helpful. This is true in particular of his Athenae Oxonienses and Fasti Oxonienses, as edited and annotated by Philip Bliss (four volumes, London, 1813 - 20, reprinted Hildesheim, 1969). The Athenae Oxonienses provides biographical sketches of Oxford men who distinguished themselves by the pen or went on to senior ecclesiastical careers. The Fasti is an annotated record of degrees conferred, etc. taken from such sources as the University registers. The entire production is prefaced by an essay entitled The Life of Anthony à Wood, NOTE 52 an autobiography written in the third person. This is a work of considerable interest and charm, in its own way not much less self-revealing than Pepys’ diary. Although he has been disparaged as a personality in a hoghly unsympathetic D. N. B. biography, it would be difficult for anyone to read this and not develop a vigorous affection for the man and respect for his self-imposed task. Wood’s works will be abbreviated “Wood, A. O.” and “Wood, F. O.” respectively.
spacer83. The University records in question (those of subscription, matriculation, Congregation, and Convocation) NOTE 53 provide the basis for Andrew Clark’s compendious Register of the University of Oxford (five volumes, Oxford, 1887 - 89). In Volume II.i Clark furnished a description of the progress of a student’s academic career and of his curriculum, and of the officers of the University and their duties, fleshed out with many circumstantial details. The reader with the patience to plow his way through the vast amount of material supplied will be amply rewarded by a good understanding of how the contemporary Oxonian educational system worked, in theory and in practise. (Clark, chiefly concerned with academic formalities of the sort that generated University records, wrote much more about University regulations and procedures than about the intellectual content of the curriculum or methods of instruction.) Anyone annoyed with the cumbersome rules and procedures of his own institution will quickly learn that things could be, and were, far worse. Abbreviated “Clark, Register.”)
spacer84. A second, similar work is the third part of Joseph Foster’s Alumni Oxonienses (four volumes, London, 1891 - 92, repr. Nendeln, Luxumbourg, 1968), which covers the years 1500 -1714. This work gives less detailed accounts of individuals’ academic records, but includes some people who escaped Clark’s notice, and often provides information about what these men did in later life (incorrect information, in the case of Gager: in the entry at III.542 it is wrongly stated that he bacame Chacellor of the diocese of Ely in 1589, an error inherited from Wood, A. O. II.87). Abbreviated “Foster, Alumni.”)
spacer85. The essays collected in The Collegiate University, the third volume of The History of the University of Oxford (ed. James McConica, Oxford, 1986, abbreviated Collegiae University) are highly useful. Although none is devoted to the particular topic of the present volume, literature and drama, they collectively paint the background against which Gager’s works ought to be read, and provide many illuminating details.
spacer86. The only available history of Gager’s collete, the Reverend Henry L. Thompson’s Christ Church in the University of Oxford College Histories series (London, 1900, cited as “Thompson, Christ Church”) is severely dsappointing. This study has undeniable interest and entertainmetn value, and provides random shafts of illuminatoin, but is far too cursory and uncritical to stand as a definitive study. In view of the amount of antiquarian and historical research tha thas been lavished on the University of Oxford, it is a source of wonderment that Oxford’s most important collegiate establishment has not been better served by historians. I trust that, when an adequate history comes to be written, Gager’s plays, poetry, and prose will collectively constitute a useful set of source documents for the period they represent.
spacer87. Then there is always the Dictionary of National Biography, containing biographies of Gager ad a number of his contemporaries. Abbreviated, of course, “D. N. B.” The reader should be warned, thought, that its articles can be riddled with misinformation. This is certainly true of the one on Gager.
spacer88. By themselves these published resources would have been inadequate for my purposes. I have been fortunate in gaining access to important unpublished source material. The information in Clark’s Register can be supplemented and occasionally corrected by Christ Church records, consisting of the battels and buttery books. There also exists a manuscript. Bodleian ms. Wood c 8, containing an annual roster of Christ Church officers and students from the foundation of the college to the mid-seventeenth century, that occasionally contains useful supplementary information. These records have been amalgamated and annotated by the Reverend T. V. Bayne, a Christ Church librarian of the nineteenth century. I wish to record my particular gratitude to Mark Curthoys, Archivist of Christ Church, for supplying me with a facsimile of the portion of Bayne’s unpublished manuscript covering most of Gager’s years of residence. I am equally grateful to the Suffolk Records Office, Bury St. Edmunds, for allowing me to examine the parish record of Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford.
spacer89. It only remains to advise the reader that not all the poems collected here are demonstrably writtenby Gager; some are included only on strong probability. These items are specially marked with an asterisk.