Preface

The Complete Works of Thomas Watson (1556 - 1592) was originally published, in 1996, by the Edwin Mellen Press (of Lewiston, Queenston, and Lampeter), as vol. 13 of the Studies in Renaissance Literature series. In the intervening period, enough new research has been done on Watson to warrant a revised and updated edition. Most notably, Ibrahim Alhiyari has managed to solve the vexed question of Watson’s family origins. This has the effect of putting an end to a lot of speculation on the subject (and, incidentally, vitiates the title of my original edition, since it is now known that he was born in 1555, not 1556). And an article by Albert Chatterley has provided a much fuller and more accurate picture of the scandal within the household of Sir William Cornwallis. The first sentence of my original Introduction was “It is impossible to write a satisfactorily connected life of Thomas Watson.” This is now considerably less true than it was in 1996. Then too, in the interim I have learned more about various subjects (for example, that pompa was the contemporary Latin word for “masque”) and I am convinced of the likelihood of Alhiyari’s assessment that Watson’s Antigone is a “retranslation” of Naogeorgus’ Latin edition rather than an independent translation from the Greek. Antigone has been reedited into a form which differs from the printed text but, I am convinced, more accurately reflects the way it was performed on the stage. Then too, Albert Chatterley has published several works on Watson; NOTE 1 most important for my purposes, his article about the authorship of The Honorable Enterteinement at Elvetham has convinced me that Watson’s contribution to that exercise was sufficient to warrant the inclusion of that entire work. Hester Lees-Jeffries has very recently published a fine edition of Watson’s translation of Bernard Palissy’s first dialogue, which relieves me of the necessity of including one here (it is, after all, not an original literary work). NOTE 2 Although Chatterley’s examination of the Star Chamber investigation of the Cornwallis affair establishes that Thomas Swift’s actions were considerably more sinister than had previously been appreciated, I do not think this requires any recalibration of Watson’s role in this episode: we only need think that Watson was misled into imagining Swift’s intentions were honorable. The cumulative effect of such changes as these is that the picture of Watson I was able to supply in my original edition now comes into sharper focus. Another reason for an electronic edition is that Watson dealt so much in intertextual cross-references between his works that hypertext supplies an ideal medium for presenting them.
spacer2. Having said this, since it presented a justification for an edition of Watson’s works, I think it worth repeating, in slightly modified form, the Preface of the first edition. Thomas Watson is the only important Elizabethan University Wit whose works remain uncollected and to an alarming extent unedited. This despite the fact that he was an intellectually lively and engaging writer, and an important figure for the development of the English sonnet cycle and madrigal. When editions of far more minor figures abound, it is cause for astonishment that he remains comparatively neglected.
spacer3. Later we shall see that Watson was held in high esteem by his contemporaries. But, as was the case with many Elizabethan writers, by the 1620’s a near-total curtain of oblivion descended over him and his works. Until 1870 interest in him was limited to a handful of antiquarians and savants. NOTE 3 Even nowadays, the situation remains far from satisfactory. Much of the effort expended on Watson by modern scholarship has been biographical rather than literary, often conducted in the hope of gleaning nuggets about his friend Marlowe (this observation certainly applies to his most important biographer, Mark Eccles — it is highly symptomatic that he gave a book largely about Watson the title Marlowe in London). Interest in his literary works is still distinctly limited, and, absent a comprehensive edition of Watson’s works, individual items in the Watsonian canon have often been studied in isolation, a method productive of mistakes and misunderstandings that would be impossible for writers familiar with the full range of his output: what Shakespearian would dare do the same? The most spectacular misunderstaking about Watson is the attempt by a recent writer to portray him as a minor villain of the age, a sadistic practical joker, governmental spy, and devotee of the black arts. His literary output serves to present a cumulative portrait of Watson as first and foremost a philosophical moralist and apostle of Continental culture, and elements in his writing alleged to support the abovementioned charges could only be cited as evidence by someone who has heard about them second-hand but has not actually taken the trouble to read them. The resason for such ignorance is, no doubt, because Watson elected to write a number of his works in Latin, and the task of reading — let alone editing and translating — his Latin works is daunting for most contemporary English scholars.
spacer4. In 1870 Edward Arber took an important first step by reprinting three genuine Watson works and the spurious sonnet cycle The Tears of Fancie, and collecting much of Watson’s minor poetry, in a volume in the English Reprints series. NOTE 4 No less than four versions of the Ἑκατομπαθία are currently available. One is a photographic reproduction, and the other three do not purport to be much more than transcriptions of the printed text. No lucid description of the rather different autograph manuscript version exists in print, and the work cries out for detailed annotation. NOTE 5 A modern text exists for Amyntas, but in a volume in which considerably more attention was lavished on Abraham Fraunce’s contemporary translation than on the original Latin text. Frederick Ives Carpenter edited the lyrics of The first sett of Italian madrigalls Englished. Otherwise, the reader curious about Watson’s literary activities quickly lands in the microfilm room. If one is ignorant of Latin, tant pis, for no modern and fully reliable translation of the Latin works has been published. NOTE 6 This is especially regrettable because there is no discontinuity between Watson’s English and Latin writings: they comprise a single body of work. The one scholar of the twentieth century who has carried on a sustained program of Watsonian research (almost exclusively focused on biographical research and the Ἑκατομπαθία), Cesare G. Gecioni, published all his findings in Italian. An otherwise depressing picture is considerably brightened by two American doctoral dissertations. William M. Murphy’s 1943 Harvard dissertation, Thomas Watson’s Hecatompathia or Passionate Century of Love, 1582, and Harry H. Boyle’s 1967 U. C. L. A. one, Thomas Watson, Neo-Latinist, NOTE 7 to both of which I am considerably indebted. It is regrettable that their authors did not publish them. Had they done so, Watsonian studies would stand on a far more advanced footing today.
spacer5. Watson was both a polyglot and a polymath, and so, I am sure, I shall fail to imitate Jeeves in giving uniform satisfaction regarding every department of letters and branch of learning which must be handled. Unquestionably, my training as a classical philologist imparts a visible bias, although I can offer the justification that Humanistic neoclassicism was the dominant element in Watson’s art, and so it is very unlikely that any but a classicist editor could do him justice. I am nonetheless uncomfortably aware how the great Latinist Richard Bentley made a spectacle of himself when he tried his hand at editing English poetry. But I have consoled myself with the reflection that when English scholars try to handle Latin texts, the results are often considerably more baleful. My hope is that in placing his complete works on the published record I will increase the quality and tempo of Watsonian studies. If such further research is facilitated, I shall be well content.
spacer6. A word of thanks must be given to the various libraries which have supplied me with microfilms and photographic copies of manuscripts and rare books: the Beinecke Library of Yale University, the Bodleian Library (Oxford), the British Library (London), and the Houghton Library of Harvard University. My greatest gratitude, however, is reserved for the Huntington Library of San Marino, California, for giving me free run of their rich rare book and manuscript holdings. I also must express my thanks to Nina Green for calling my attention to the new biographical work published since the appearance of my first edition, and to Mr. Albert Chatterley for offering a number of valuable suggestions for the correction and improvement of this edition.

 

Notes

spacerNOTE 1 Albert Chatterley, Thomas Watson, Italian Madrigals Englished (1590) (Musica Britannica 74, London, 1999); “Thomas Watson and the ‘Elvetham Entertainment,’” Notes and Queries for March 2000, pp. 37 - 40; article “Thomas Watson,” for New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd edition, London - Washington, 2001); “Thomas Watson: Works, Contemporary References, and Reprint,” Notes and Queries for September 2001, pp. 239 - 49; Thomas Watson, English Poems (Norwich, 2003); “Two Sixteenth Century Families at the Court of Star Chamber,” Norfolk Archaeology lxiv (i) (2003) pp. 119 - 128; “Thomas Watson,” Marlowe Society Newsletter for Autumn 2004, pp. 24 - 7; Thomas Watson, Latin Poems (Norwich, 2005); “Thomas Watson, Poet and Musician?” Musical Times for Autumn 2007, pp. 79 - 91.

spacerNOTE 2 Hester Lees-Jeffries, “An Elizabethan Translation of Bernard Palissy’s ‘On Waters and Fountains,’” Studies in the Hsitory of Gardens & Designed Landscapes 30 (2010) pp. 1 - 56. Those with authenticated library privileges may read her edition here.

spacerNOTE 3 Cesare G. Cecione, Thomas Watson e la Tradizione Petrarchista (Milan, 1969) 51 - 71, has provided a history of what was known and written about Watson prior to Arbor’s pioneering publication of some of his works.

spacerNOTE 4 Edward Arber, Thomas Watson, Poems (London, 1870). Arber was evidently unaware that Watson’s sonnet cycle, the Ἑκατομπαθία, had already been reprinted by the Spenser Society, in the previous year.

spacerNOTE 5 According to its Preface, the most recent uncritical transcript, published as Hekatompathia, 1592 (a cura di Cesare G. Cecioni, vol. 20 of the series Pubblicazioni della Facolta di Lettere e Filosofia, Catania, 1964) was intended to be the first of a two-volume edition: its author announced his intention to produce a companion volume with Italian translation and textual and critical annotation. This second volume never appeared.

spacerNOTE 6 Abraham Fraunce’s translation of Amyntas and Watson’s own dumbed-down translation of Meliboeus, are unreliable by modern standards of translational accuracy.

spacerNOTE 7 A third important dissertation, Mark Eccles’ Watson and Marlowe (diss. Harvard, 1933), was printed in revised form in the following year under the title Christopher Marlowe in London.