1. The poems in the present collection are preserved by two sources, which for convenience will henceforth be identified as A and B: the 1589 volume Principium ac illustrium aliquot et eruditorum in Anglia virorum Encomia, Trophaea, Genethliaca, & Epithalamia a Ioanne Lelando Antiquario conscripta, nunc primum in lucem edita, edited by Thomas Newton NOTE 1 and printed at London by Thomas Orwin, and a manuscript executed by the historian and antiquarian John Stow [d. 1605], Bodleian Library ms. 464 (4), with the title Johannis Lelandi Londinensi, viri doctissimi et Britannicarum antiquitatum studiosissimi selectiora quaedam Epigrammata sive Encomiae Typis antehanc nunquam excusa. There can be no doubt that both sources reflect the text of a volume that Leland planned to publish, largely although not exclusively consisting of short poems in praise of individual great men of Leland’s time. A large number of poems self-referentially mention a libellus, and a few (notably CXX, CLXIV, CLXXXVII, CCXXIV, and CCXXXVIII) explicitly speak of a printed book. In the case of a writer whose projected publications often failed to come to fruition, it is probably unnecessary to spend much time wondering why this volume did not appear. The last datable poem in the collection would appear to be CCLXVI, written in celebration of William Cecil’s marriage in late December 1546 (it is included in both A and B), and Leland’s mental health collapsed in the following year, which may well suffice as an explanation, although another possible one will be suggested in a later context.
2. John Stow’s manuscript has been studied in considerable detail by Leicester Bradner, who wrote: NOTE 2
[Its exact nature] is not easy to determine. Although it contains more poems than the manuscript from which Newton printed it is not necessarily more authoritative. Its titles are sometimes fuller and more factual than Newton’s but also sometimes less so. The manuscript from which Stow made his copy seems to have been illegible in places, for Stow several times leaves spaces in a line of poetry and this could come only from inability to read the original. Since Leland’s own script, as evidenced by manuscripts in his hand in the Bodleian, was large and clear, it seems probable that at least one copyist intervened between Stow and Leland’s own copy.
One hastens to add that Stow’s copy has a large number of rather foolish copying errors (including an endemic tendency to write final -a where -ae is wanted), so the conclusion seems inevitable that this intermediate ms. was one of rather poor quality. The most conspicuous difference between our sources is, no doubt, that B includes twenty-seven poems not found in A. These are LXXXIV, XCI, XCVIII, CXXV, CXXXVI, CXXXVIII, CXXXIX, CXL, CXLI, CXLII, CXLVII, CLIII, CLV, CLVI, CLIX, CLX, CXC, CCXV, CCXXIII, CCXLIV, CCLX, CCLXXIII, CCLXXVIII, CCLXXIX, CCLXXX, CCLXXXI, and CDCCLXXXII. On the other hand, four poems in A have no equivalent in B: CLXI, CLXII, CLXIII, and CLXVIII. Other differences also exist: as noted by Bradner, titles are not always exactly the same, on a number of occasions A’s poems are somewhat shortened, the order in which items are presented is sometimes different), and variant readings exist of a kind that cannot have resulted from the copying process.
3. Taking all of these considerations together, we must conclude that these two textual sources represent two different recensions compiled by Leland himself. NOTE 3 But it is not so easy to form any kind of opinion that either is in any way superior to the other, or, for that matter, which one is the earlier. Textual variants represent little more than auctorial tinkering, and it seems impossible to identify corrections or improvements. It is equally impossible to determine whether B represents a version in which new material has been added or whether A represents one in which Leland has decided to cut down his collection’s overall length. If differences in the order in which the poems appear represent Leland’s own choice rather than the result of subsequent accidents of textual transmission, with pages being put out of their proper order, this too is uninformative, since the collection seems to have no principle of organization having to do with subject-matter, chronological order, or any similar consideration.
4. Bound with the Stow manuscript is a letter from Newton to Stow thanking him for the loan of it, in which he observes:
I like very well of [Leland’s] veyne and order of wryting: howbeit I have in sundrye poyntes found him to swerve from the right quantitie of syllables, & in some places to come short of his verse. But doubtless I impute it not to his ignorance (for I know he was a right learned man) but to his want of leysure to repolishe and reperuse them. Such defects as I have found herein, I have in my copy supplied: as to you at your good pleasure and leisure shall be more at large declared
Newton, in other words, observed the lacunae alluded to by Bradner (I do not think he was complaining of false quantities in Leland’s versification) and recognized the occasionally problematic nature of the Stow manuscript. He does not mention the twenty-seven poems that do not appear in his edition. We do not know why he chose not to include them.
5. From an editor’s point of view, therefore, it is far from clear to which recension precedence should be given, and therefore the choice is wholly arbitrary. My solution has been to base the present edition on A, but to include the B’s extra poems at appropriate points. Only a few deviations from this general policy require special mention. First, it is reasonably obvious that two items included in the collection are not epigram-like poems but rather texts written to be performed as masques (they would be poems LXXXVIII and XCVII, if included). In recognition of this generic difference, they are published independently in the Philological Museum, here. Second, in the case of poem CCLVI, the A text breaks off so abruptly that it is tolerably clear this is not a deliberately shortened version, and so I have given preference to the complete B text. Third, both A and B present the same short version of poem CLXIV, but B repeats the poem near the end of the ms. in a considerably longer form. This second version is given here in a special Appendix. Likewise, I take the opportunity of presenting (in Appendix II) the text of a poem printed in 1545 to mark the death of Sir Henry Dudley. Although Leland elected to publish it independently under the title Naenia in mortem splendidissimi equitis Henrici Duddelegi Somarigani, Insulani, Vervocani, in terms of subject and style it could well have been included in the present collection.
6. The bulk of this collection consists of epigrams addressed to leading lights of the time, some of which are sufficiently lengthy and elaborate that they deserve to be classified as verse epistles. Anybody who attempts to read through them all will eventually fall victim to a sense of acute tedium. While any single item read by itself, or some smaller collection, might seem quite fine, taken as a whole they are mind-numbingly repetitious, since Leland’s fund of ideas, imagery and vocabulary and poetic invention is so limited. It as if, having found one solution, he could rarely be bothered to look for another one. Thus, for example, whenever he wants to say something positive about somebody he almost invariably reaches for words having to do with brightness: candor, candidus, clarus, niveus, purpureus, splendor, splendidus, and so forth. And one hears far too much about Apollo, the Muses, Helicon, Parnassus and the whole “Aonian” (i. e., Boetian) rigamarole of Mt. Parnassus. Good writing is worthy of being preserved in cedar. A felicitous day deserved being marked with a white stone. The reader will quickly discover much more of the same kind of constant repetition.
7. And yet, if we can look past Leland’s meager inventiveness, this collection is a literary monument of considerable interest and importance. The reason can be illustrated by a couple of of poems. First, CXCVIII (INSTAURATIO BONARUM LITERARUM, “THE REVIVAL OF LEARNING”):
Ecce renascentis doctrinae gloria floret,
Linguarum floret cognitioque trium.
Migrat in Italiam Graecus thesaurus, et artes
Se reparaturum praedicat usque bonas.
Excoluit eloquii vivos Hispania fontes,
Gallia nunc studiis tota dicata nitet.
Nutrit honorifice doctos Germania multos,
Quorum sunt orbi nomina nota probe.
Ingeniorum altrix et nostra Britannia, Phraeum,
Tiptotum Viduum, Flaminiumque tulit.
Lumina doctrinae Grocinus deinde secutus,
Sellingus, Linacer, Latimarusque pius,
Dunstallus, Phaenix, Stocleius atque Coletus,
Lilius et Paceus, festa corona virum.
Omnes Italiam petierunt sidere fausto,
Et nituit Latiis Musa Britanna scholis.
Omnes inque suam patriam rediere diserti,
Secum thesauros et retulere suos,
Nempe antiquorum scripta exemplaria passim
Graecorum, aeternas quae meruere cedros.
Vivat doctorum faelix industria, per quam
Lux pulsis tenebris reddita clara nitet.
[“See how the glory of reviving learning flourishes, as does the understanding of three languages. The treasury of Greece migrates to Italy and proclaims it will repair the goodly Arts. Spain cultivates vivid fonts of eloquence, and nowadays France shines, being wholly dedicated to studies. Germany honorably nourishes many learned men whose names are well known to the world. And our England is a mother of intellects: she has produced Free, Tiptoft, Wydows, and Flemming. Then followed luminaries of learning: Glocyn, Selling, Linacre, pious Latimer, Tunstall, Phaenix, Stockley, Colet, Lily and Pace, a festive group of men. All of them went to Italy under a happy star, and the British Muse shone forth in Italian schools. And all of them returned to their homeland as erudite men, bringing their treasures with them, namely manuscript copies of the ancient Greeks, deserving of everlasting cedar. Long live the happy industry of the learned, thanks to which the light restored to us shines bright, with darkness banished.”]
And second, poem VI (COMMIGRATIO BONARUM LITERARUM IN BRITANNIAM, “THE COMING OF LEARNING INTO BRITAIN”)
Cana bonas passim cantavit fama Camaenas
Alpinas nunquam transiliisse nives,
Ut Pandionias facundia liquit Athenas,
Venit ad Italicos Musa polita lares.
Fronte tamen salva dicam nunc, audiat ipsa
Roma licet, Musas transiliisse nives.
Nam penitus toto divisis orbe Britannis
Tersa Caemaena dedit verba rotunda loqui.
Illa vetus linguis florebat Roma duabus,
At linguis gaudet terra Britanna tribus.
[“Everywhere honest report has it that the goodly Muses have never crossed over the Alpine snows, that when eloquence abandoned Pandion’s Athens the polished Muse found an Italian home. But, even if Rome herself is listening, I can solemnly aver that the Muses did cross those snows. For the Muse has taught the Britons, though separated from the rest of the world, to speak elegant words with pear-shaped tones. Ancient Rome flourished with two languages, whereas Britain rejoices in three. ”]
8. Leland had studied at St. Paul’s School under the tutelage of William Lily, John Colet’s hand-picked choice as first headmaster of that school. As such, he belonged to the first generation of Englishmen able to profit all his life from the introduction of the New Learning, and he was intensely aware that he and his similarly-educated contemporaries were living during a moment of historical significance. The epigrams in this set document the pride and excitement created by the coming of the New Learning to England. Like many of his educated contemporaries, Leland had studied abroad on the Continent, and in a number of his epigrams he displays familiarity with the works of European Humanists. Now some Englishmen (and even some English women, as Leland is not behindhand in observing in the cases of Princesses Mary and Elizabeth, the daughters of Thomas More, and Mildred Cecil) could aspire to write “clean Latin” and match the achievements of such luminaries, and others could reap a new form of prestige by serving as connoisseurs and patrons of learning. And all of this occurred under the aegis of a benevolent and supportive Henry VIII, to whom due gratitude needed to be shown.
9. So Leland presents with us with a portrait gallery NOTE 4 collectively representing a corps of dedicated English Humanists, all diligently striving to acquire expertise and eloquence in Greek and Latin, and otherwise increase their learning, with the ultimate result that England was now a fit home for the Muses. Leland is in effect documenting the rise of a new social class consisting of the educated, which was, if not the class that ran things, at least the class that kept things running: clergymen, physicians, lawyers, the host of secretaries, pursuivants, sheriffs and the like, who collectively composed a nascent civil service, as well, of course, as their counterparts in the Anglican Church. This class was a meritocracy, with membership equally open to those of high and humble social origins (being an evidently destitute orphan, Leland himself distinctly belonged to the latter category), and its distinctive badges were possession of a Humanistic education and, more particularly, Latin-English bilinguality. The existence of such a class was necessary for the good operation of Tudor society and the modern Tudor state. And in time the need for such a class came to be officially acknowledged, as was shown by the creation of forward-looking scholarship schemes and a schedule of socially-gradated tuition fees in the universities. NOTE 5 Then too, as Bradner (1940, p. 30) observed, this collection is of interest to biographers, since “Leleand’s friends were so numerous and so eminent that is verse epistles are invaluable in the light they throw on his own life and the lives of others.”
10. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that Leland’s picture of a dedicated corps of devotees of Apollo and the Muses involves one breathtaking misrepresentation, his failure to acknowledge the single most important fact of the reign of Henry VIII. This collection of epigrams represents an accretion begun during his sojourn in Paris in the 1520’s when he first began to write poetry (as acknowledged in XXVIII) and not completed, as we have seen, until late 1546. When he began writing them, an observer could plausibly think in terms of a unified class of English Humanists. But in none of these epigrams does Leland betray any awareness of Henry’s break with Rome, the very different reactions of some of his addressees to this development, and the fact that this class was ever-increasingly divided and alienated from itself by religious dissention. Quite to the contrary, Leland’s portrait gallery of contemporary Humanists features supporters and opponents of the Henrican divorce, outspoken Protestants and dyed-in-the wool Catholics, nullo discrimine. Even Thomas More is always spoken of with respect for his learning and accomplishments as a Latin poet, but his execution for treason goes unmentioned. The reason for this silence may simply be that Leland, absorbed as he was in his antiquarian studies, had scant interest in religious matters. NOTE 6 Be this as it may, it seems impossibly naive of Leland to expect that he could publish a volume of epigrams so indifferent to sectarianism and so even-handedly praising Catholic and Protestants alike. And this brings me back to the question of why this collection was never published. We have seen that the latest datable poem was written in honor of William Cecil’s marriage in late 1546, and Henry died near the end of January 1547. Possibly the expectation was that Henry’s death would lead to an era of reconciliation, so that a book like this could appear, but that Leland’s hopes were dashed by the appointment of the Protestant Edward Seymour as Protector of the Realm, creating conditions under which the chasm grew wider than ever.
11. This collection present other features of interest. One is that Leland deserves credit for being so early in appreciating the importance of Chaucer, on whom he wrote no less than three epigrams (CCX, CCXII, CCXLI). This is remarkable in an age during which, as one writer has put it: NOTE 7
When one studies reading habits of early Tudor Englishmen, one learns that those who read classical poets rarely if every read vernacular authors, or if they did, they did not acknowledge the fact.
Chaucer was in the process of becoming exempt from this generalization. The antiquarian John Twyne published an edition of Chaucer’s works in 1532, with an introduction by Leland’s good friend Sir Brian Tuke, and Leland himself wrote the first biography of Chaucer (see the note on poem CCX).
12. Another is that Leland was unusually attuned to the graphic arts. This may partially have been because his friend and patron Sir Brian Tuke was an art collector, but one suspects that the interest goes deeper. Several poems have remarks like CCLI.27ff., in which Leland expresses the rather wistful regret that he is not gifted with artistic talent:
Pingere si possem, vivisque coloribus uti,
Effigiem exprimeret dextra nostra tuam,
Splenderesque foro medio velut hesperus alter,
Signaque iustitiae conspicienda dares.
[“If I could paint and employ lifelike colors, my hand would paint your portrait and you would shine forth in the courtroom like another evening star, providing a symbol of justice for all to see.”]
Possibly the reason for his fascination with words denoting brightness, noted above, is related to his especial interest in the visual arts. In any event, he writes about works by such artists as Hans Holbein, Antonio Solaro, and Lucas Horenbout, and it is likely that other specific paintings described in his epigrams could be identified. Some of this single-couplet epigrams on art works may have been intended as inscriptions on frames. (Bradner, 1956, p. 833) observes that poem CLIX, with the difference of a single word, appears on the frame of Holbein’s painting of Melanchthon in the Landesmuseum, Hannover (the text on the replica in the Van Horne Collection, Montreal, agrees exactly with the ms. version), and the same may have been true of others as well. If I say no more about this subject, this is only because Bradner has dwelt on the subject at considerable length in his 1956 article. NOTE 8
13. “The most striking thing about Leland’s epigrams is the large number of people to whom they are addressed. Over seventy-five names can be culled from these titles.” So wrote Bradner (1956, p. 829), and it is impossible to disagree. One comes away from a reading of this collection strongly impressed by the degree to which Leland was well-connected: he could count among his friends and supporters a number of important men in the government, Church, nobility, and universities, and this in turn demonstrates the degree to which the products of the New Learning were percolating into the upper reaches of the English establishment. One is no less struck by Leland’s familiarity with Continental Humanistic scholars and writers (in the course of his epigrams he mentions Alciato, Baptista Mantuanus, Nicolas Bourbon, Budé, Brixius, Jean Chéradame, François Dubois (Sylvius), Paolo Emilio, Wolfgang Fabricius Köpfel, Erasmus, Lascaris, Jacques Lefèvre d’ Estaples, Eli Levita, Marullus, “Melitus,” Sebastian Munster, Pontanus, Beatus Rhenanus, Helius Eobanus Hessus, Pierre Rousset, Jean Ruel, Sannazaro, Lorenzo Valla, Nicolo Valla, Vida, and Vides, to whom might be added the Scotsman Hector Boetius and the naturalized Englishman Polydore Vergil). This is impressive testimony to the breadth of Leland’s reading, and the mention of so many Continental writers forms a dramatic contrast with Anglo-Latin poets of later generations, many of whom betray no familiarity at all with the works of their European contemporaries. The reason is probably that many Englishmen of the early Tudor period were obliged to go overseas to complete their education, whereas later ones could obtain a full education in English universities, so that proverbial English insularity could assert itself.
14. In most ways, the editing, translation and annotating of these poems has been a reasonably easy and straightforward task. Only in one respect is Leland very problematic: his sometimes exotic and even downright freakish handling of placenames and surnames, which makes the identification of individuals unnaturally difficult. Thus, for example, the surname Wotton is Latinized as Ododunus, and, evidently, Knyvett as Dunovedus (see the note on poem X). In result, although I have done what I could to identify all the individuals who figure in this collection with reference to such prosopographical resources as The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and published lists of the members of the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, I regret to say that there perforce remains a small handful who have eluded identification.
15. I should like to thank my Irvine colleage Linda Georgianna for advice on Leland’s Chaucer poems, and also James Carley of the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Toronto, for some valuable bibliographical references and help in identifying some of the individuals who appear in these poems. I should also like to thank Harry Vredeveld of The Ohio State University for suggesting a number of ways in which this edition could be improved.
Notes to the Introduction
NOTE 1 Thomas Newton [1555 - 1607], a Macclesfield schoolmaster and clergyman, published a number of translations, including several of philosophical dialogues by Cicero. He collected and edited the poetry of his former schoolmaster John Brownswerd, available in The Philological Museum here. But he is chiefly remembered for compiling the set of translations of Senecan tragedies published in 1581 under the title Seneca his Tenne Tragedies so admired by T. S. Eliot (he himself contributed the translation of the fragmentary Phoenissae).
NOTE 2 Leicester Bradner, “Some Unpublished Poems by John Leland,” P. M. L. A. 71 (1956) 827 - 836. In his Musae Anglicanae (New York, 1940, repr. New York, 1966) 29 - 32, Bradner discussed the collection as a whole, but not in sufficient detail to be valuable as anything other than a general introduction and appreciation. All references to Bradner in the commentary notes on individual poems are therefore to his 1956 article. For the Stow manuscript see also Oliver Harris, “Motheaten, Mouldye, and Rotten: the early custodial history and dissemination of John Leland’s manuscript remains,” Bodleian Library Record 18 (2005) 460ff., and for Leland's poems generally James W. Binns, Intellectual Culture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England: The Latin Writings of the Age (Leeds, 1990), 18 - 26.
NOTE 3 Although, speaking grosso modo, the situation is surely as I describe it, there are admittedly a small number of places where A and B share the same errors: these would seem to be V.5, XXX.6, XXXVII.19, LXI.2, LXXX title, CLXII.1, and CCLXX.6. The most efficient explanation of these mistakes is that they are copying errors introduced by Leland in the earlier recension — whichever that may be — and repeated in the later. That Leland was capable of maintaining such errors seems shown by the fact that we find the same mistake in B and a printed text at CCLXXIII.7. Bradner (op. cit. 1940) suggests that Newton may have had access to the manuscript of Leland’s works (now lost) owned by Leland’s friend John Bale, which he described in his Index Britanniae scriptorum as Lelandi Pygmaeomachia, Antiquitates, Epigrammata, Collectanea, aliaque nonnulla. Since A, just as well as B, contains items that are more or less manifestly incomplete, we must assume that it too is descended from a copy ms. rather than directly from a holograph, although the general impression is that A’s texts have suffered less corruption than B’s in the course of transmission.
NOTE 4 I use this image advisedly, because it would seem that the impulse behind the compilation of this collection of laudatory epigrams is scarcely unrelated to his assembly of a catalogue of British writers, De viris illustribus, published under the title Commentarii de scriptoribus Britannicis by Anthony Hall in 1709. But there is no redundancy between these two works: the De viris illustribus goes down to ca. 1500, the great majority of individuals who appear in these epigrams were contemporaries, so in a sense the epigrams might be considered a sequel to the other work.
NOTE 5 Schemes which, if anything, seem to have worked too well. According to Colin Burrow (Charles Martindale and A. B. Taylor, edd., Shakespeare and the Classics, Cambridge, 2004) p. 17, by the end of Elizabeth’s reign there was a actual overproduction of educated men.
NOTE 6 It is true that Leland had taken holy orders, was appointed a royal chaplain, and during his life held various church livings. But these benefices were probably Henry’s means of subsidizing his antiquarian efforts, and did not constitute a recognition of any especial enthusiasm for spiritual matters. He also wrote a pamphlet entitled Antiphilarchiae Dialogus or Antiphilarchia in Pighium responding to a Catholic attack against Henry (the subject of poem CCXXXI), but, again, his motive in writing was most likely to stay in the good graces of his principal patron.
NOTE 7 Margery H. Smith, “Some Humanist Libraries in Early Tudor Cambridge,” Sixteenth Century Journal 5 (1974), p. 18.
NOTE 8 See also Susan Foister, “Humanism and Art in the Early Tudor Period: John Leland’s Poetic Praise of Painting,” in Jonathan Woolfson (ed.), Reassessing Tudor Humanism (Basingstoke, 2002), 129 - 50.