1. It is well known that the Oxford Aristotelian John Case wrote in defense of music against Puritan attack: in his unsigned 1586 The Praise if Musicke: Wherein besides the antiquitie, dignitie, delectation and use thereof in civill matters, is also declared the sober and lawfull use of the same in the congregation and Church of God which may be read here, in his 1588 Apologia Musices tam Vocalis quam Instrumentalis et Mixtae (in introducing this latter work I have presented arguments that The Praise of Musicke was also written by Case), and also in his commentary on Book VIII of Aristotle’s Politics in his 1588 Sphaera Civitatis (VIII.iii). As I wrote in introducing the Apologia Musices,
At the time he wrote, Sir Philip Sidney’s memory was still honored at Oxford. The Apologia Musices contains one passage (vii.10) in which Case seems to be deliberately echoing Sidney’s argument that poetry, and most specifically drama, is morally improving, and it is not unlikely that his intention was, in his own academic and philosophical way, to frame a parallel argument in support of music.
2. But before there was Case there was Gwinne. In 1582, as a means of finding him financial aid, the Oxford authorities appointed Matthew Gwinne of St. John’s College to a Lecturership in Music, although, as he candidly acknowledges, this was a subject of which he was entirely ignorant. As part of his duties Gwinne (a future Professor of Physick at Gresham College, royal physician, author of such works as the 1603 tragedy Nero, and co-editor of the works of Sidney), was obliged to give a Latin inaugural lecture, and delivered the present one on what he admits was very short notice.
3. The oration begins with a wryly self-deprecatory confession of his ignorance of music and utter unsuitability for the Lecturership upon which he was embarking. But then he abruptly shifts into a spirited defense of music against two of its severest critics. The first is Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim’s 1531 De Incertitudine et Vanitate Scientiarum (a contemporary English translation is available here), which he vigorously attacks, although at one point in § 4 he does admit that Agrippa wrote this work only as a literary exercise (stylo exercendi gratia); in another of his works, Book II of De Occulta Philosophia, Agrippa wrote in music’s praise, a passage repeatedly cited approvingly by Case in the Apologia Musices. The second was a more recent and more serious attack on music, poetry and drama by the Puritannical Stephan Gosson in his 1579 The Schoole of Abuse. This is the work dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney, which is often thought to have provoked the writing of the Defense of Poetry, probably written the year before the delivery of the present lecture. NOTE 1 In this short oration, Gwinne manages to make a number of points as a means of upholding music’s dignity: that it is venerably ancient; that it was approved by the gods, kings, heroes and philosophers of the Greeks and Romans; that it has great powers to improve the condition of human life; and that among these powers is a capacity to be morally improving. There can be no doubt that Case read and learned from Gwinne’s oration when writing both In Praise of Musicke and the Apologia Musices.
4. A number of of Gwinne’s arguments and illustrative exempla reappear in Case’s two works, sometimes in almost the same words (some of these parallels, it will be seen, occur in both of Case’s works):
Echoes in In Praise of Musicke
Praise ch. 2: Who was more accepted of Periander King of Corinth than Arion? of Hieron King of Sicil than Simonides? of Perdicchas than Menalippides? of Alexander the great than Timotheus and Zenophontus who could make him both giue an alarum, and sound retrait at their pleasures? Who in better fauor with Agamemnon than Demodochus to whom hee committed his wife Clitemnestra for the time of his long and unfortunat voiage? with Themistocles than Exicles whom he made his daily and housholde guest? with M. Antonius than Anaxenor to whom he gaue the tribute of four Cities? with Iulius Caesar than Hermogenes? with Nero than Ferionus?
Gwinne § 5: Ut principibus contemptam elevat, quam Caesar in Hermogene, Nero in Terpino, Antonius in Anaxenore, Demetius in Lamia, ut principum delicias, adamavit.
Ibid: quam Agamemnon Clytamnestrae, ut pudicitiae custodem, adiunxit, ut mendicantium vectigal aspernatur.
Praise ch. 2: If euery mans wil were a rule in such cases there is no doubt but that some the whole corpse and body of sciences would quite be extinguished.
Gwinne § 5: Etsi et in eo quod musicam oppugnat, ipsam ἐγκυκλοπαιδείαν, ut Plato loquitur, vel turpiter, si temere, vel impie, si consulto oppugnat.
Praise ch. 4: Touching the first effects of musick we read that Agamemnon going to the war of Troy left behind him Demodocus, an excellent musician, skilfull in Modo Dorio, to keep chast his wife Clitemnestra, whom he nicely had in suspition of wantonnes and leuity with Aegistus.
Gwinne: vide supra.
Praise ch. 4: To this purpose serueth also that which is recorded of a certaine yong man of Taurominum, which Boetius reporteth, was incited with the sounde of Modus Phrygius, to set a fier an house, wherein a harlot was intertained.
Gwnne § 6: Taurominatum iuvenem ad aedes meretricis inflammandas modo excitarit Phrygio, a comburendis aedibus spondeo retraxerit.
Praise ch. 4: But a most manifest proof hereof is that, which is saide of Alexander the great, who sitting at a banquet amongst his friends, was neuertheles by the excelent skil of Timotheus a famous musician so inflamed with the fury of Modus Orthius, or as som say of Dorius, that he called for his spear and target as if he would presently haue addressed himselfe to war. Neither is this a more apparent proof for this part than that which folowed is for the next. The same Timotheus seeing Alexander thus incensed, only with the changing of a note, pacified this moode of his, and as it were with a more mild sound mollified and asswaged his former violence.
Gwinne § 6: Tanta virtus, ut Alexandrum ad arma provocarit, ab armis revocarit.
Praise ch. 4: By the help of musicke Ismenias a Theban musician, restored men sicke of an ague, to their former health.
Gwinne § 5: Ut rerumpublicarum pestem execratur, quam Homerus Graecis, Terpander Lacedaemoniis, Ismenias valetudinariis, ut pestis medicinam, applicuit.
Echoes in Apologia Musices
Apologia i.4: At ex diis Apollo, Mercurius, Minerva, ex heroibus Hercules, Achilles, Alexander, ex imperatoribus Epaminondas, Themistocles, Augustus, ex philosophis Socrates, Solon, Plato eandem ut suae vel divinitatis vel nobilitatis vel gravitatis ornamentum coluerunt. Verum ut morum corruptricem demum reiicitis. At Aristoteles et Plato eandem pueris et adolescentibus ut virtutis magistram audiendam proposuerunt. Aeterum ut rerum publicarum pestem execramini. At Homerus Graecis, Solon Lacedaemoniis, Ismenias valetudinariis ut pestis medicinam eandem applicuit. Postremo ut sanctis legibus reiectam elevatis. At Lycurgus Laecedaemoni, Minos Cretae, Pan Arcadiae ut retinendam suasit, si absit revocandam praecipit et promulgavit.
Gwinne § 5: quam ex diis Apollo, Mercurius, Minerva, ex semideis Musae, Linus, Orpheus, ex heroibus Hercules, Achilles, Alexander, ex imperatoribus Epaminondas, Augustus, Nero, ex philosophis Socrates, Solon, Menedemus, ut suae vel dignitatis, vel nobilitatis, vel gravitatis ornamentum sunt amplexi. Ut morum corruptricem detestatur, quam Aristoteles et Plato adolescentibus, ut virtutis magistram, colendam praecipiunt . . . Ut rerumpublicarum pestem execratur, quam Homerus Graecis, Terpander Lacedaemoniis, Ismenias valetudinariis, ut pestis medicinam, applicuit . . . Denique ut legibus in exilium eiiciendam traducit,; quam Lycurgus Lacedaemoni, Minos Cretae, Pan Arcadiae ut retinendam si adesset, revocandam si abesset, promulgavit.
Apologia iv.6: Si historias ad hanc rem probandam desideres, passim et ubique leges quod musica Alexandrum ad arma modo concitatiori provocarit, ab armis remissiori et molliori retraxerit, quod Taurominitanum iuvenem ad aedes meretricis inflammandas incitarit Phrygio, a comburendis aedibus spondeo retraxerit, quod in Achille ferociam, furorem in Hercule, in Clytemnestra mollem animi libidinem compresserit.
Gwinne § 6: tanta virtus, ut Alexandrum ad arma provocarit, ab armis revocarit, Taurominatum iuvenem ad aedes meretricis inflammandas modo excitarit Phrygio, a comburendis aedibus spondeo retraxerit: tanta utilitas, ut in Achille ferociam, in Alexandro fervorem, in Clytemnestra libidinem compresserit.
5. The Latin text of Gwinne’s oration is taken from John Ward, The Lives of the Professors of Gresham College (London, 1740, repr. New York - London, 1967), Appendices pp. 81 - 87.
NOTE 1 The best evidence for the date of Sidney’s Defense appears to be the fact that it is verbally echoed and otherwise imitated in the Pomps and Themes that accompany Thomas Watson’s translation of Sophocles’ Antigone (printed 1581).