Saturday, June 10, 2017


What News at Cambridge?

Gabriel Harvey, letter to Edmund Spenser, in The Works of Spenser, Vol. VI (London: Printed for J. and R. Tonson and S. Draper, 1750), pp. 308-309:
I beseech you all this while, what News at Cambridge? Tully and Demosthenes nothing so much study'd as they were wont: Livy and Salust perhaps more, rather than less: Lucian never so much: Aristotle much named but little read: Xenophon and Plato reckoned amongst Discoursers, and conceited superficial Fellows; much verbal and sophistical Jangling; little subtle and effectual Disputing. Matchiavel a great Man: Castilio, of no small Repute: Petrarch and Boccace in every Man's Mouth: Galateo and Guazzo never so happy: but some acquainted with Unico Aretino: the French and Italian highly regarded: the Latin and Greek but lightly: The Queen Mother at the beginning or end of every Conference: All inquisitive after News; new Books, new Fashions, new Laws, new Officers, and some after new Elements, some after new Heavens and Hells too. Turkish Affairs familiarly known: Castles built in the air: Much ado, and little help: In no age so little so much made of; every one highly in his own Favour. Something made of nothing, in spight of Nature: Numbers made of Cyphers, in spight of Art. Oxen and Asses, notwithstanding the Absurdity it seem'd to Plautus, drawing in the same Yoak: the Gospel taught, not learnt; Charity cold; nothing good, but by Imputation; the Ceremonial Law in Word abrogated, the Judicial in effect disannull'd, the Moral abandon'd; the Light, the Light in every Man's Lips, but mark their Eyes, and you will say they are rather like Owls than Eagles. As of old Books, so of antient Vertue, Honesty, Fidelity, Equity, new Abridgments; every day spawns new Opinions: Heresy in Divinity, in Philosophy, in Humanity, in Manners, grounded upon hearsay; Doctors contemn'd; the Devil not so hated as the Pope; many Invectives, but no Amendment. No more ado about Caps and Surplices; Mr. Cartwright quite forgotten; the Man you wot of comfortable with a square Cap on his round Head. A number of our Preachers Sybbe to French Soldiers, at the first more than Men, in the end less than Women. Some of our pregnantest Wits of Hermogenes Metal. Old Men and Counsellors amongst Children; Children amongst Counsellors and Old Men. Every Younker speaks as politick as Bishop Gardner, or Dr. Wutton; as if every Man now-a-days having the framing of his own Horoscope, were born in Decimo Coeli domicilio, and had all the Wit, Wisdom, and Worship at command. Sed heus tu in aurem, Meministin', quod ait Varro, omnes videmus [sic, read videmur] nobis esse belli, festivi, Saperdae, cum sumus Canopi. David, Ulysses, and Solon, feign'd themselves Fools and Madmen; our Fools and Madmen feign themselves Davids, Ulysses's, and Solons. It is pity fair Weather should do any hurt; but I know what Peace and Quietness hath done with some melancholy Pickstraws. And will you needs have my Testimonial of your old Controller's new Behaviour? A busy and dizzy Head, a brazen Forehead, a leaden Brain, a wooden Wit, a copper Face, a stony Breast, a factious and elvish Heart, a Founder of Novelties, a Confounder of his own, and his Friends good Gifts; a Morning Book-worm, an Afternoon Malt-worm, a right Jugler; as full of Sleights, Wiles, Fetches, Casts of Legerdemain, Toys to mock Apes with, odd Shifts and knavish Practises, as his Skin can hold.
Some of this sounds surprisingly modern, e.g.:

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