spacer1. Three fragments of an Armada epic found in Book III of Samuel Gott’s Christian utopian novel Nova Solyma purport to be selections from a student composition; these selections are read by the student’s teacher to two gentleman scholars from Cambridge who happen to be visiting this New Jerusalem. We give here the Latin fragments of the epic, an English translation by Walter Begley, and an introduction to the novel itself and its author.
spacer2. Samuel Gott was born to a Puritan family on 20 January 1613. NOTE 1 His father, also Samuel Gott, a dealer in iron and ironware, was well-to-do, one of the London inhabitants from whom King Charles I tried to raise £200,000 in 1640. His son Samuel attended Merchant Taylors’ School in London, and in 1629 entered St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge, then directed by Richard Sibbes, a Puritan theologian. Gott graduated in 1632 and returned to London, where in 1640 he was admitted to the Bar. Whether he practiced law is unclear. On the death of his father in 1641 or 1642, during the Civil War, Gott moved to Sussex and married Joan Farnden (or Farrenden), the daughter of a prominent local family. Gott was a member of Parliament from 1645 - 1648; in the latter year he, along with others who were reluctant to take extreme measures against the king, was purged from Parliament. After the king was executed in 1649 and England became a commonwealth, Gott seems to have retired from public life. In 1650 he published under his own name An Essay of the True Happines of Man. In Two Books, having recently, in 1648, anonymously published his magnum opus, Nova Solyma, with a reissue in 1649. Jones suggested that the 1648 issue was for distribution to friends. In any case the book did not attain wide circulation; only ten to twelve copies are known to exist. At the restoration, Gott was returned to King Charles II’s first Parliament, but by 1663 he had returned to Sussex, where he published, again anonymously, The Divine History of the Genesis of the World Explicated & Illustrated (1670). He died December 1671.
spacer3. Gott’s family and education are the sources of the strong commitment to Puritanism which is clearly visible in his essays and in his Nova Solyma, a Christian romance with strong utopian features. Avoiding the political discussions of More’s Utopia or Barclay’s Argenis (a political romance), Gott concentrates on the educational and social policies of his Christian utopia. Two gentleman scholars from Cambridge, Eugenius and Politian, travel to Nova Solyma, the New Jerusalem, which has been refounded by Jews who have converted to Christianity. During the year of their stay, they are introduced to all the institutions of this Christian utopia, and at the same time they manage to fall in love with the daughters of Jacob, the nobleman with whom they lodge. Many adventures follow, most told in flashback: capture by pirates and robbers, sea battles, sudden recognitions, sad love affairs. Gott’s talent as a short story writer is displayed in the tale of Philippina, Antonia, and Joseph (the Englishmen’s guide). Philippina was the only child of the Duke of Palermo, unica filia, non vulgaris formae vel indolis, quaeque in seipsa plus dotis habebat quam a patre sperari poterat (p. 245); “a girl of remarkable beauty and talent, and in every way surpassing even a father’s high ideal” (trans. Begley). She is rescued from a runaway horse by Joseph and promptly falls in love with him, but since Joseph is under the power of a heavenly and divine love which possesses him body and soul, her feelings are not reciprocated. She disguises herself as a youth and follows Joseph to Syria as his page, calling herself Philander. There Antonia, a wealthy widow, falls in love with Philander/Philippina, but is plunged in despair at her rejection. Soon messengers arrive from the Duke seeking his daughter. Joseph begins to suspect that Philander is really Philippina. Mentioning this to the messengers, he goes to Philander’s lodging, where the girl through an open window confesses the truth and her hopeless love. While Joseph and the messengers are rushing through the door, she stabs herself and dies. At this news, Antonia drinks poison. Joseph survives to become a leading man in Nova Solyma. (For a less tragic version of this story, see Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona.)
spacer4. Other short narratives enliven the novel. These include adventures of Alcimus and his father (Joseph’s tutor) while prisoners of Sicilian bandits: they are poisoned, threatened with death by the bandit chief, rescued by soldiers, wander as a beggars, and finally are recognized for who they are. The emotional problems of the two protagonists, Eugenius and Politian, are carefully described. They have left Cambridge on their grand tour without informing their fathers; their host Jacob is horrified at this and sends word to England about the two wanderers. The two are (seemingly) rivals in love for Jacob’s daughter, whom they had seen and admired on their first day in Nova Solyma. Their dilemma is solved by their discovery that in fact Jacob’s daughters are twins; they have each unwittingly fallen in love with different women. Eugenius and Politian marry these twin daughters and remain in Nova Solyma. The novel is also adorned with Latin poems. Gott was a skillful writer of Latin verse in many meters, Sapphics, Alcaics, various Pindaric schemes. His longest production was the hexameter Armada epic discussed here.
spacer5. Unfortunately for the modern reader and despite Gott’s talent for lively narrative, a great part of his novel consists of long, tedious lectures on the creation and evolution of the world, the argument from design, the definition of sin, the colleges of Nova Solyma, the prizes awarded there for literature, all of which must have a strong moral component. As an example of epic poetry which meets classical literary standards but which at the same time exemplifies Christian values, Gott composed a short Christian epic about the Spanish Armada using themes from Homer and Vergil: personifications, the council of the gods (here Christ and his angels), divine messengers, storms, and so on. This we present here with Begley’s translation. The first fragment describes Mars’ mission to King Philip of Spain and its successful result. After reading this fragment the teacher then comments on the student’s efforts to present the heathen gods as demons inspiring evil acts and nectar (the gods’ food) as arrogance and cruelty, the food for wicked minds; in short the student has inverted the meaning of the old epic furniture. (We have not included the teacher’s lengthy comments in this paper.) The second fragment contains the council of Christ and his angels. The teacher then comments on the novelty of the angelic names. The final fragment describes the sea battle between the Spanish and the English, with Christ’s command to Terror to scatter the Spanish. Then the teacher comments on the student’s use of personification.
spacer6. The most obvious parallel for the Armada epic is John Milton’s Latin poem on the Gunpowder Plot, In Quintum Novembris. Both are of similar length (Milton 226 lines, Gott 249). Both have the same supernatural machinery. The action of both begins with the flight of a god or demon to arouse their villain to action: in Milton the Lord of the Underworld flies to Rome where he addresses the sleeping Pope and arouses him to destroy King James and his Parliament; in Gott Mars flies over Italy to Spain, where he rouses the worried King Philip to send a fleet against the English enemy. In both poems the demon makes logical, if specious, arguments urging his course of action. In both poems God or Christ stirs up a normally undesirable force to defend England: in Milton, God summons Fama (Rumor; the instigator in Vergil’s Aeneid IV) to spread word of the danger among the English; in Gott, when the English sailor are beginning to wilt, Christ summons Terror to dismay and defeat the Spanish fleet. Neither poem contains any detail about the historical event in question.
spacer7. Milton gives us the names of Satan’s four horses, Typhlonta, Melanchaetem, Siopen, Phrica (Blind, Black-Maned, Silent, Long-Haired; all accusative case); he lists the areas over which Satan flies: Ausonia, Appeninus, Sabini, Hetruria, Tibris; his similes include names, most famously lines 64 - 67:

Qualiter exululat Bromius, Bromiique caterva,
Orgia cantantes in Echionio Aracyntho,
Dum tremit attonitus vitreis Asopus in undis,
Et procul ipse cava responsat rupe Cithaeron.

Gott is never so creative, but he does invent significant names for the angels who defend England: Zatheus, Syntheus, Architheus, Ergotheus, (God’s Majesty, God’s Ally, God’s Capitan, God’s Work) and the rest. Both use personification liberally: Milton has Phonos (Murder), Prodotes (Betrayal), Dolos (Deceit), Fama (Rumor), among others. Gott has Terror, who lives in a tower in the Arctic, Metus (Fear), Horror, Prodigia (Signs), and Discrimina (Dangers). Both indulge in epic similes: Milton compares a religious procession in Rome to the riot of Bacchus (quoted above), dawn to Aurora leaving the bed of Tithonus, and the power of Rumor to the thousand eyes of Argus; Gott compares King Philip’s declaration of war to lightning starting a forest fire, the angelic throng to a flight of sonorous swans, the attacking Spanish ships to a ravening wolf attacking a herd of cattle, Terror’s laugh to the roar of the sea or thunder clouds.
spacer8. Gott also shares with Milton the occasional error. Milton twice uses the word Brīto, Brītonis with a short first vowel (Mansus 84, Frangam Saxonicās Brĭtŏnum sub Marte phalanges, and Epitaphium Damonis 165, Et tandem Armoricōs Brĭtŏnum sub lege colonos), as does Gott at 100 Occurrit Brĭtonum tellus, qua littore flexo. This would be an easy mistake, since Brĭtannus has a short first vowel. Milton also has the odd form Belgia for Belgium or Belgica at Elegia Tertia 12, Flevit et amissos Belgia tota duces. Gott uses the same form at 61 una tuos excussit Belgia fraenos. Either Gott used these forms which he had read in Milton—he could have read the poem; In Quintum Novembris was written in 1626; both were students at Cambridge from 1628 to 1632—or some Latin textbook which both boys used at school contained these forms.
spacer9. Nova Solyma slumbered in obscurity until 1902, when Walter Begley published an excellent, if tendentious, translation inspired by his hypothesis that this work was a youthful production by John Milton. Begley supported this hypothesis by plausible arguments from features of Milton’s language, thought, and imagery which are also found in Nova Solyma. In particular Begley noted the parallels between In Quintum Novembris and Gott’s Armada epic, but he was also able to cite many other parallels between the Gott’s Latin and Milton’s English usages in Paradise Lost and other poems. Unfortunately for Begley, only a few years later, Stephen Jones discovered printer’s records and other evidence which showed the novel to be the work of our obscure author — a wonderful example of a beautiful hypothesis murdered by a cruel fact. The similarities between the two authors are due to the their common experiences: both received a thorough classical education in a Puritan environment with perhaps the same textbooks, both left Cambridge in the same year (1632), both were active in English political life (Milton much more than Gott), and both remained devoutly Puritan throughout their lives. Despite the failure of his hypothesis, Begley’s translation, notes, and appendices comprise a sensitive study, not only of Nova Solyma, but also of contemporary Neo-Latin literature. In particular Begley’s concluding “Bibliography of Romance from the Renaissance to the End of the Seventeenth Century” (vol. II pp. 355ff.) is a listing with description of many relatively unknown works, such as Janus Nicias Erythraeus’ (/Gian Vittorio Rossi’s) Eudemia, Jacob Bidermann’s Utopia, Puteanus’s Comus, and others.
spacer10. Although the interpretation Begley placed on the facts he observed was soon exploded, the facts themselves remain and require explanation. Surely these poetic fragments were written by Gott himself. Either he actually wrote a Milton-imitating Armada epic, of which he subsequently chose to print these extracts, or such an epic never existed and these “fragments”were concocted to serve their present purpose. Speaking in favor of this second possibility, perhaps, is the fact that the tutor’s discussion of these poetic extracts implies an Armada epic written in at least three Books (he introduces lines 99ff. with the words in alium libellum transivit, and quotes lines 182ff. ex alio libro), and, even making every allowance for mythologizing padding similar to that we read in the quoted fragments, a modern reader might have a little difficulty in imagining how the events of Armada could present enough narrative material to fill three or more Books. A lengthy and tediously verbose treatment of the subject would provide a striking contrast to the terse brevity of Gott’s model In Quintum Novembris. All in all, it seems likelier that the “fragments“ were invented for their present purpose. The pseudo-Lucan extract included in Petronius’ Satyricon, recited by Eumolpus to illustrate his remarks on poetry, would serve as an instructive parallel and, conceivably, may have served as Gott’s inspiration (except, of course, that Gott had no intent to satirize Milton, as Petronius did Lucan).
spacer11. In any event, Gott composed at least some of an Armada epic written in a deliberately Miltonic style. Dana Sutton has shown NOTE 3 that In Quintum Novembris was the last of a series of Latin Gunpowder Plot poems that, by Milton’s time, had become a distinct literary tradition (other examples are Michael Wallace’s In Serenissimi Regis Iacobi Britanniae Magnae, Galliarum, Hiberniae etc. Monarchae ab Immanissima Papanae Factionis Hominum Coniuratione Liberationem Faelicissimam Carmen Epichartikon (1606) Francis Herring’s Pietas Pontifica (1606), Thomas Campion’s De Pulverea Coniuratione (undated), and Phineas Fletcher’s Locustae. NOTE 4 All of these works feature variants of the same narrative pattern: Satan, aggrieved that the Catholic cause is failing in England, convenes such a council, at which he sets in motion his scheme for destroying English Protestantism by enlisting the Gunpowder Plotters. Often operating through the agency of other Hellish beings, including the Catholic Church, he enlists human agents to carry out his plan, which is in the end baffled by divine intervention. This formula was adapted from one that had already been applied to other historical situations: the anonymous Pareus printed at Oxford in 1585 (almost certainly written by George Peele) had been written about William Parry’s abortive attempt to assassinate Elizabeth, and Book I of William Alabaster’s unfinished epic about Elizabeth’s career, the Elisaeis. NOTE 5
spacer12. Peele invented a highly effective formula, inspired by Canto IV of Tasso’s Gerusalleme Liberata. In introducing Pareus, Sutton wrote:

The source of this formula can be located in the infernal council at the beginning of Canto IV of Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata. NOTE 6 Tasso, doubtless with Dante in mind, was responsible for creating a hybrid Pluto-Satan, described in Edward Fairfax’ 1600 translation as The ancient foe to man and mortal seed. This Pluto, an inveterate enemy of Christianity, is distraught by the French presence in Palestine and convokes a council of his followers. But he himself hatches no scheme for their ruination: he only intervenes when he is summoned by the Syrian wizard Hidroart, who seeks his counsel. Peele modified Tasso’s dramatic situation to suit local English requirements, by converting Pluto into an enemy of Protestantism. The tale he tells invites a kind of Manichean world-view, with a sharp division of the forces of Catholic darkness and Protestant light engaged in a perpetual struggle. At the same time, he attributes to Satan a fertility of invention and a dynamism absent from his Italian model: this new Satan-Pluto devises his own scheme for England’s subjugation and, through the agency of his lieutenant Deception, actively recruits human agents to execute his plan. The ploy of having Pluto or one of his henchmen appear to someone in a dream has no basis in Tasso. Its inspiration comes from quite a different source. In Book VII of the Aeneid, Aeneas’ great enemy Juno commands the Fury Allecto to fly to Italy and fill the hearts of Turnus and his mother Amata with hatred of the Trojans, and Allecto appears to the sleeping Turnus to rouse him to action: hence the war between the Trojan immigrants and the native forces of Italy. Peele adapted this narrative move to the present situation. In so doing, he introduced into English literature a new kind of Satan who would eventually come to full flower in Milton’s Paradise Lost, an intellectual schemer, shrewdly manipulative with his use of rhetoric, a kind of Machiavelli writ large.

spacer13. Although Gott’s primary intention was to write a Miltonizing epic, he may also have read some or all of the other items belonging to this tradition. NOTE 7 Pareus and Alabster’s Elisaeis illustrate the useful flexibility of this narrative formula: it could readily be adapted to suit a large variety of historical situations. The idea of applying it to the defeat of the Armada may have been suggested by these precedents. Indeed, Alabaster’s Elisaeis was originally projected to be a Great National Epic occupying an Aeneid-imitating twelve Books, and the Armada episode may well have been intended to serve as its grand climax (this over-ambitious project collapsed under its own weight, and anyway it never progressed beyond Book I because its author abruptly converted to Catholicism and fled to Rome). In any event, with the partial exception of Campion’s De Pulverea Coniuratione, which rather unsuccessfully tries to be a mythologizing epic and an accurate historical account at the same time, these poems are not factual narratives, but rather theological meditations on the divine and infernal machinery driving the historical events they describe. As such (and also as exercises in political propaganda, for they instruct the reader in what to think and feel about the events in question) they are successful in achieving their aim, but their success comes at a high cost. The passage at lines 182ff., describing the terrifying effect of the fireships sent agains the Armada while riding at anchor off Calais, illustrates the cardinal problem inherent in writing highly mythologized history: so much of the action is being stage-managed by agents both supernal and infernal that nothing much is left for human agency to achieve. Man, considered as a thinking and acting being, is squeezed out of the picture (this is the particular rock against which Campion’s effort founders, he never can find a satisfactory balance between supernatural and human agency).
spacer14. Gott’s Armada poem contains one major surprise: after the example of In Quintum Novembris and the other literary items enumerated here, one would expect that it would have likewise begun with Satan himself, or at lest some satanic archdemon such as Milton’s Summanus, convening a hellish council at which he delivered a harangue expressing his grievances against Protestant England for inflicting damage on the principal agency of his earthly empire, the Roman Catholic Church. The words with which the poem is introduced show that it at least putatively commenced with a council and a harangue, but in this case the speaker, who initiates the action of the epic, is Jupiter rather than Satan, the council occurs on Olympus rather than in the Underworld, and his chosen lieutenant is Mars, who then flies to Spain and pays a nocturnal visit to Philip II and plants the idea of launching the Armada against England. The character who initiates the action, Jupiter, may be unexpected, but his motivation was a similar resentment that Christianity, at least in its reformed condition, has dethroned himself and his fellow Olympians from their erstwhile supremacy (the reader may have been told that the Catholic Church had done no such thing, but rather had retained them in disguised form). The substitution of the Olympian gods for the normal demonic crew is facilitated by the Protestant attitude, exemplified by the remarks of the speaker who recites this poem, that the ancient gods of the Greeks and Romans and demons are essentially identical. After this unanticipated beginning, the rest of the epic adhered to the terms of the established formula.
spacer15. In the Latin we have transcribed Gott’s spelling and punctuation as closely as possible given the state of our Early English Books copy of the original. It is occasionally hard to tell a comma from a period. We print et instead of & for the reader’s convenience and omit diacritical marks to facilitate scansion of an electronic text. We reproduce Begley’s translation exactly.


spacerNOTE 1 Gott is not in the D. N. B. or the O. D. N. B. The basic biographical research was done by Jones 1910. Further elaboration in Davis 1981 and by Morrish 2003. On English Puritanism see Collinson 1988.

spacerNOTE 2 Bromius is a cult-name of Bacchus or Dionysus. For the following line cf. Vergil, Eclogue ii.24.

spacerNOTE 3 Sutton 1997. See also the introduction to the Philological Museum edition of In Quintum Novembris.

spacerNOTE 4 For Wallace’s poem cf. Estelle Haan, “Milton’s In Quintum Novembris and the Anglo-Latin Gunpowder Epic, Part II,”Humanistica Lovaniensia 42 (1993) 368 - 401. For Herring’s, cf. Estelle Haan, “Milton’s In Quintum Novembris and the Anglo-Latin Gunpowder Epic” Humanistica Lovaniensia 41 (1992) 221 - 95. For Fletcher’s, cf. Estelle Haan, Phineas Fletcher. Locustae vel Pietas Iesuitica. With Introduction, Translation and Commentary (Supplementa Humanistica Lovaniensia 9, 1996). For a somewhat similar Scottish example, see Alexander Yule’s 1606 Descriptio Horrendi Parricidii.

spacerNOTE 5 Edited by Michael O’Connor, “The ‘Elisaeis’ of William Alabaster,” Studies in Philology monograph 76 (1979).

spacerNOTE 6 The impact of this portion of Tasso’s epic on English literature was all the greater because in 1584 Scipio Gentili published at London a partial Latin translation of Gerusalemme Liberata containing Canto IV. The reader will appreciate that a chain is being described, with Tasso at one end and the Satan of Paradise Lost on the other.

spacerNOTE 7 The consideration that the items by Alabaster and Campion were not printed is not decisive. Plenty of literature still circulated in manuscript, and in fact of all the items mentioned here, only these two had any visible influence on the writing of In Quintum Novembris. These were both works with Cambridge associations — Albaster was a Cambridge man and the single surviving manuscript of De Pulverea Coniuratione is preserved in the library of Emmanuel College — if Milton read them, there is no reason that his university contemporary Gott could not have done so too.


Begley, Rev Walter, Nova Solyma, the Ideal City: or Jerusalem Regained (New York: Scribner, 1902)

Collinson, Patrick, The Birthpangs of Protestant England (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1988)

Davis, J. C., Utopia and the Ideal Society: A Study of English Utopian Writing 1516-1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981) 140 - 167

[Gott, Samuel], Novae Solymae Libri Sex (London: Legatus, 1648, some copies are dated 1649); pp. 145 - 160 are relevant

Jones, Stephen K., “The Authorship of Nova Solyma,The Library 3rd Series, No. 3:1 (July 1910) 225 - 238

Milton, John, The Poetical Works of John Milton, ed. Helen Darbishire (London: Oxford University Press, 1958)

Morrish, Jennifer, “Virtue and Genre in Samuel Gott’s Nova Solyma,” Humanistica Lovaniensia 52 (2003) 237 - 317. Further discussion of Gott in the following:

— “Fiction, Morality, and an Old Wives' Tale in Gott’s Nova Solyma,” Humanistica Lovaniensia 54 (2005), 285 - 320

Sutton, Dana F., “Milton’s in Quintum Novembris, Anno Aetatis 17 (1626): Choices and Intentions,” in Jon Mikalson and Gareth L. Schmeling (edd.) Qui Miscuit Utile Dulci (Festschrift for Paul Lachlan MacKendrick on his 85th birthday, Chicago: Bolchazzi - Carducci, 1997) 349 - 375