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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas

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Of the several generally recognized theories of the
interpretation of myth: the historical, or euhemeristic;
the physical, or cosmographical; the allegorical; and
the allegorical-theological, the writers of the seven-
teenth century seem to have been chiefly occupied
with the latter two, and it is interesting that each of
these theories finds respective support from two of the
most eminent literary figures who lived at the turn of
the century. Sir Francis Bacon in De sapientia veterum
(1608; translated in 1619 by Sir Arthur Gorges as The
Wisdome of the Ancients
) interprets allegorically some
thirty-one classical myths, treating them as “elegant
and instructive fables.” Sir Walter Raleigh declares in
his History of the World (1614) that “Jubal, Tubal, and
Tubal-Cain were Mercury, Vulcan, and Apollo, in-
ventors of pasturage, smithing, and music. The dragon
which kept the golden apples was the serpent that
beguiled Eve. Nimrod's tower was the attempt of the
giants against heaven” (C. M. Gayley, Classic Myths
..., Waltham, Mass. [1939], pp. 439-40).

Among writers who introduced other varieties and
combinations of interpretations during the period
George Chapman (d. 1634) is one of the most perplex-
ing and eccentric. He was both a belated Elizabethan
and a harbinger of the later sophistications of the
seventeenth century. As Douglas Bush says, Chapman
was “at once an orthodox and a notably individual
exemplar of Renaissance humanism. His contempt for
the unlettered crowd and his faith in culture and poetry
are proclaimed with more than normal fervor” (Bush,
a, p. 223). Notwithstanding his “completion” of
Marlowe's Hero and Leander, he is nearer to John
Donne, Ben Jonson, and Fulke Greville than to
Marlowe and Spenser. As early as 1595 Chapman
defends a deliberate obscurity of composition and style
on moral and ethical grounds. In a dedicatory epistle
to his friend Matthew Roydon, the learned mathe-
matician, he wrote,

The profane multitude I hate, and only consecrate my
strange poems to those searching spirits whom learning hath
made noble, and nobility sacred... varying in some rare
fiction from popular custom, even for the pure sakes of
ornament and utility....
But that Poesy should be as pervial as oratory and plain-
ness her special ornament, were the plain way to barbarism,
and to make the ass run proud of his ears, to take away
strength from lions, and give camels horns.

The argument continues with an illustration from the
art of painting, that was to become one of the most
popular conventions of the seventeenth century:

It serves not a skilful painter's turn to draw the figure of
a face only to make known who it represents; but he must
limn, give lustre, shadow, and heightening; which though
ignorants will esteem spiced, and too curious, yet such as
have the judicial perspective will see it hath motion, spirit,
and life...

(Poems, ed. Swinburne [1875], pp. 21-22).

Chapman published one of the most extraordinarily
mythological poems of the period, the Andromeda
(1614), which allegorically portrays the Earl
of Somerset as Perseus and the Countess of Essex as
Andromeda. The scandals in which this couple were
involved stand in great contrast to their virtues in the
poem as extolled by the author, who rallies to defend
them against “the monstrous beast, the ravenous mul-
titude.” It is with no surprise that we learn that the
poem was not well received, or that Chapman was
impelled shortly to publish a prose tract in “justifica-
tion” of the work, which concludes with a dialogue
in verse between Pheme (Rumor) and Theodines
(divinely-inspired Chapman himself).

Our special interest in the Andromeda lies, however,
in the indebtedness that even so learned and enthusi-
astic a classical scholar as Chapman owed to the
mythographers and to other continental sources, an-


cient and recent. Thanks to the original and extensive
researches of M. Schoell (1926) it is clear that much
of the poem derives in part from Natalis Comes, in
part from Xylander's Plutarch, and in part from
Pausanias by way of Ficino (Schoell, pp. 3, 14, 32, 40,
195, 234-35; it is shown that the prose Argument,
prefixed to the poem, is an exact translation of passages
in Comes' Mythologiae. See also Phyllis Bartlett's edi-
tion of Chapman's poems, Introduction, p. 10, and
Notes, p. 462). In this eclecticism, coupled with his
fervid dedication to the Homeric ideals and to the
principles of Renaissance Platonism, Chapman is a
strikingly representative, as well as an oddly individual,
transitional figure.

In pursuing our examination of typical attitudes
toward myth, we should bear in mind that the full
impact of Renaissance influence took effect consid-
erably later in England than in Italy or France, with
the result that many motifs, themes, and forms of
expression which had been vigorous and popular in
continental Europe for decades became naturalized in
England more slowly and gradually.

Rosemund Tuve, in her study of Elizabethan and
Metaphysical Imagery
(1947), observed that because of
their long inheritance and continuous practice, Eliza-
bethan writers and their audience could accommodate
readily even to extremes of indulgence in allegorical,
metaphorical, and symbolic imagery. She pointed out
that both writers and readers had long been accus-
tomed to “allegorizing” myth, that is, to considering
myths, not as toys nor as part of history, but as sets of
symbols embodying universally meaningful notions—
an attitude that became “related to rooted habits of
thought” (p. 161). This habit of easy comprehension
of double meanings, or even of more complex rela-
tionships, persists at least to the beginning of the “age
of reason,” and attests to the vigor of the mythological
tradition in England.

In some respects the seventeenth century differed
greatly from the Renaissance, of course, and these
differences were ultimately to have the effect of
dampening the enthusiasm for mythology that had
earlier amounted almost to rapture. Yet the roots of
Renaissance culture were deep, and the death of the
gods was far from a sudden expiration. If John Milton,
the Puritan, felt occasionally uncomfortable in the
presence of the pagan deities with which his Christian
poetry abounds, yet his expert use of mythological
themes, motifs, and personages certainly does not suffer
by comparison with that of Spenser. It seems clear that
it was owing, in part, to the survival of Spenserianism,
through such writers as Michael Drayton, Giles
Fletcher (1585-1623) and his brother Phineas (1582-
1650)—both sons of Giles Fletcher, the elder (1548-
1611)—and William Browne of Tavistock, author of
Britannia's Pastorals (1613-16), that the use of myth
for natural and moral allegory continued for some years
to find a congenial audience. Certain non-Spenserians
as well, like Ben Jonson and his “sons”; the meta-
physical poets; and the later Andrew Marvell (e.g., his
Daphnis and Chloe) illustrate the persistence and vari-
ety of the allegorical-mythological strain.

Drayton's treatment, which owes much to the Eliza-
bethan decorative and pastoral mode, continues for
some time as an attractive fashion, in contrast to
Chapman's muscular, recondite, and obscure style; but
toward and beyond the middle of the century the
difference between the later poets and translators and
their Elizabethan prototypes becomes more apparent
and more influential.

Nevertheless, the Elizabethan character is still strong
in poems like Shakerley Marmion's Legend of Cupid
and Psyche
(1637) and in Sir Richard Fanshawe's
translation, The Fourth Book of Virgil's Aeneid on the
Loves of Dido and Aeneas
(1648). Bush comments
particularly upon the value and significance of the
latter work and cites an enthusiastic passage from an
essay on Fanshawe by J. W. Mackail in praise of the
translation and its civilizing influence (Bush, a, p. 246).

But before such a “civilized” objective could be
completely achieved many things were to happen that
would effectively postpone the advent of neo-classicism
in England. Within the year King Charles was exe-
cuted, and shortly thereafter John Milton was to give
up his muse for the mighty pen of controversial prose.

In the meantime certain forces continued to operate
effectively in England after they had lost some of their
momentum in continental Europe. One of these was
the remarkable popularity of the emblem book. An-
other was the progressive transit of ideas which related
poetry to the graphic and plastic arts. This phenome-
non stemmed mainly from dogmatic treatises like those
of Armenini and Lomazzo. As Jean Seznec has shown,
the influence of these writers was important in estab-
lishing the notion that artists should consult learned
authorities on the subject of mythological repre-
sentation (pp. 257-58). Before pursuing this point let
us look into the vogue of the emblem book.

In the encyclopedic Anatomy of Melancholy (1621)
Robert Burton devotes a section to the pangs and
effects of love. Having anatomized all the symptoms,
and having cited dozens of examples of infatuated
lovers in literature all the way from Homer to Spenser,
the author concludes with the following paragraph:

The major part of lovers are carried headlong like so many
brute beasts, reason counsels one way, thy friends, fortunes,
shame, disgrace, danger, and an ocean of cares that will
certainly follow; yet this furious lust precipitates, counter-


poiseth, weighs down on the other; though it be their utter
undoing, perpetual infamy, loss, yet they will do it, and
become at last insensati, void of sense; degenerate into dogs,
hogs, asses, brutes; as Jupiter into a Bull, Apuleius an Ass,
Lycaon a Wolf, Tereus a Lap-wing, Callisto a Bear, Elpenor
and Gryllus into Swine by Circe. For what else may we
think those ingenious Poets to have shadowed in their witty
fictions and Poems, but that a man once given over to his
lust (as Fulgentius interprets that of Apuleius, Alciat. of
Tereus) is no better than a beast

(The Anatomy of Melan-
The Third Partition, Sec. II, Subsec. I, p. 177).

Burton's reference to “Alciat.” directs our attention
to that ubiquitous and durable form of expression, the
emblem book, that is often a deliberate combination
of the literary and the figurative, the moral and the
decorative, the aristocratic and the homely, the
“pervial” and the obscure, the secular and the sacred.
Relatively a latecomer in the Renaissance, its pioneer
author was Andrea Alciati, a learned jurist, whose
Emblematum liber was published at least as early as
1531 and frequently thereafter. It became the inspira-
tion and chief source for a host of emblem writers and
collectors throughout Europe.

The connection of Spenser (the “new poet” of the
English Renaissance) with this development is found
in van der Noodt's Theatre for Worldlings (1569) con-
taining translated canzoni of Petrarch illustrated by
woodcuts, but still more abundantly in the Shepheardes
with its numerous emblems, devices, and
mottoes. Contemporary readers of the Faerie Queene
could easily recognize characteristics of the genre in
detailed descriptive attributes of many an allegorical
personage which were related in one way or another
to the emblem literature. The first English anthology
of emblems was Geoffrey Whitney's A Choice of Em-
(1586), which contains a wide variety of em-
blematic material and was evidently widely popular.

In 1605 William Camden, a much respected histo-
rian and courtier of both Queen Elizabeth and King
James, inserts a passage in his learned Remaines...
concerning Britaine
that takes the trouble to distinguish
between the impresa and the emblem (this is quoted
in full by Chew, pp. 275-76). And Francis Quarles,
whose Emblemes appeared in 1635 and in innumerable
editions thereafter, stated that “An emblem is but a
silent parable”—an unsatisfactory definition because it
both oversimplifies and confuses. Mario Praz has pro-
vided what is perhaps the most accurate and useful
definition of this complicated species: “An emblem is
a symbolic figure accompanied by a motto, an explica-
tion in verse, and sometimes a prose commentary”
(“Embleme,” Enciclopedia Italiana, 18, 861, quoted by
Chew, p. 395).

It is generally agreed that Henry Peacham's Minerva
Britanna or a Garden of Heroical Devices
(1612) is the
most representative of the emblem books in English,
although the later publications of Wither and Quarles
enjoyed a longer popularity. In other respects Peacham
deserves our attention, and especially for his treatises
on drawing and painting, Graphice (1606) and the
Gentleman's Exercise (1612), comprising material sub-
sequently included in the Compleat Gentleman (1st ed.
1622). It is worth noting that Peacham composed other
emblem books: Basilicon doron and Emblemata varia,
several manuscripts of which are extant in the British
Museum. In the Minerva Peacham rather wistfully
regrets that his own countrymen have not been very
fertile in the production of emblem books.

Peacham's teaching in the Compleat Gentleman is
consistent with Elizabethan and Renaissance doctrine
generally as seen in various courtesy books, but he
devotes special attention to the arts, including drawing
and painting, architecture, music, sculpture, and
heraldry, as well as to the criticism of poetry. In the
latter his indebtedness to Scaliger is very evident. For
our purpose, the importance of Peacham is his recog-
nition of the interrelationship between poetry and the
other arts, with considerable attention to mythology.
In his chapter “Of Poetry” he naturally devotes most
attention to Vergil, whom he calls the “King of Latine
Poets,” and to Ovid, whom he declares to be next in
rank because of “the sweetnesse and smooth current
of his stile, every where seasoned with profound and
antique learning... every where embellished with
excellent and wise Sentences.” Peacham raises an eye-
brow slightly when he refers to the “wanton” passages;
but he adds, “Concerning his bookes Amorum and De
arte amandi,
the wit with the truely ingenuous and
learned will beare out the wantonnesse: for with the
weeds there are delicate flowers in those walkes of
Venus” (Compleat Gentleman, p. 88).

Thus we see in Peacham a popular illustration of
the two main streams of influence in the handling of
mythology: the literary and the figurative; and we note
that the taste for pictorial representation of the myths
of the gods, so evident in the sixteenth century, con-
tinues into the next.

The kind of tapestry portrayals in which Spenser
delighted were repeated quite as elaborately by
Drayton, who provided, in addition, an extensive de-
scription of mythological scenes as rendered by a
painter upon wall panels. Just as Christopher Sly in
the Taming of the Shrew had been regaled by the
servants with a showing of pictures representing Venus
and Adonis, Jupiter and Io, and Apollo and Daphne,
so the reader of Drayton's Barons' Wars (1603) is
treated to a gallery of similar paintings, to which the
poet devotes a whole series of seven-line stanzas of


vivid Ovidian description (Works, ed. Hebel, II,
110-13). In his own marginal notes on the passage
Drayton expounds the mythological figures, events, and
settings, making use of technical terms from the arts—
terms that were relatively new in England: landskip,
cornice, pilaster.
He notes that “a steady and pure Light
giveth much grace to Painting” (ibid., p. 113).

That such descriptions were not mere figments of
the imagination is shown in a variety of ways; for
example, a number of extant inventories testify to the
abundance and gorgeousness of this kind of decoration,
both in the Elizabethan and in the Stuart periods. The
inventory of Leicester House, 1588, lists over 150 items
of tapestry. Although the inventories do not list all
titles of tapestries or paintings in detail, there can be
no mistaking items like “Cupid and Venus,” “Diana
bathyng hirselfe with hir nymphes,” and “A picture
of Diana and Acteon.” An inventory of the Earl of
Somerset's effects, made in 1615, lists, along with other
rich furnishings, tapestry, hangings representing the
wars of Troy, two of “Roman Story, thirteen feet
deep,” and besides a variety of paintings of biblical
subjects, the following familiar, and obviously Ovidian
themes: “Venus and Cupid,” “Bacchus, Ceres, and
Venus,” and “Venus and Adonis.”

During the first half of the century there was a
considerable amount of activity in the importation of
works of art from abroad, many of them certainly of
mythological subjects. Courtiers like Arundel, Salis-
bury, and Buckingham vied with each other and even
with King James and King Charles in the splendor of
their collections. The royal galleries at Hampton Court,
Richmond, Nonesuch, and Whitehall were so magnifi-
cent as to call forth admiration by a number of visitors
from the continent (W. B. Rye, England as Seen by
..., pp. 200, 242-43).

At the same time that Inigo Jones was introducing
Palladian architecture into England, he was designing
elaborate mythological settings for the masques for Ben
Jonson, Chapman, and their fellows. It was to Jones
that Chapman dedicated his translation of Musaeus
(1616). The Stuart taste for courtly display, ceremonies,
and “triumphs,” with their frequent figures from myth,
was no less lively than that of the Elizabethans.

Sir Henry Wotton, during his ambassadorship to
Venice, which extended over a period of twenty years,
collected Italian paintings for Salisbury and Bucking-
ham, and for James I and Charles I. Logan Pearsall
Smith wrote of Wotton that he was “the most accom-
plished connoisseur of the time—a time when there
was in England a truer love of beauty, and a juster
appreciation of art, than there had been before, or
indeed, than there has ever been since” (Life and
Letters of Sir Henry Wotton,
I, 194-95).

Against such a background Andrew Marvell's poem
The Gallery becomes perhaps more meaningful, espe-
cially in the light of its pictorial and emblematic quali-
ties. Here the gallery is the lover's soul, with the great
arras hangings laid away, and only the portrait of his
mistress Clora remaining in his mind. The poem pro-
ceeds with two pairs of contrasting (portrait) stanzas:
the first, of the murthress with tormenting instruments
versus Aurora in the dawn; the second, the enchantress
vexing her lover's ghost versus the picture of Venus
in her pearly boat. There follow two stanzas, in the
first of which the poet declares that besides the pictures
already described there are a thousand more, either
to please or torment, indeed a “num'rous Colony” of
a collection “choicer far/ then or Whitehall's or
Mantua's were.” This is an allusion to Charles I's great
collection at Whitehall to which was added that of
the Duke of Mantua, which was finally dispersed by
act of Parliament in July, 1650 (Social England, IV,
107). In the conclusion the poet declares that of all
these wonderful pictures the one “at the Entrance,”
which portrays Clora as her lover first saw her, pleases
him the most, for its simple, pastoral charm:

A tender Shepherdess, whose Hair
Hangs loosely playing in the Air,
Transplanting Flow'rs from the green Hill,
To crown her Head, and Bosome fill.

Another current of influence from the continent
found its way into the stream of ideas—a variation on
the conventional Ut pictura theme which relates the
painter to the poet. This notion continued to flourish
in England for a considerable period of time after the
translation of Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo's Trattato
dell'arte della pittura
by an odd scholar of Oxford,
Richard Haydocke, student of Physic, which was pub-
lished in 1598. Nicholas Hilliard, the miniaturist, read
and applauded the work which appears to have in-
spired his own treatise on the art of limning (published
by the Walpole Society, ed. Norman [1912], I, 1-50).

From the point of view of this survey it is significant
that several seventeenth-century writers on painting
helped themselves to Haydocke's translation, usually
without acknowledgment, and promulgated its notions,
dogmas, and conventions to their succeeding audiences.
Perhaps the most flagrant of these plagiarists was
Alexander Browne, a mid-century painter, engraver,
and teacher of London, one of whose pupils was Mrs.
Samuel Pepys. He published in 1660 The Whole Art
of Drawing.
This was followed in 1669, by Ars Pictoria:
or an Academy treating of Drawing, Painting, Limning,
A second edition, “corrected and enlarged,”
was printed in 1675. The whole book is a complex of
borrowings from Haydocke's translation. It is practi-


cally a verbatim reprint, except that Browne has tried
to conceal his pilferings by juggling the order of the
chapters; but the attempt at deception would be
immediately discovered by any reader familiar with
Haydocke's Lomazzo.

Lomazzo devotes almost a whole book (VII) to the
iconography of the gods. As Seznec has shown,
Lomazzo owes practically all of his text in this section
to Vincenzo Cartari's Genealogia, which he reproduces
in abridged form (p. 258). This is another instance of
the indirect influence of the mythographers in succes-
sive periods, and further testimony of the relatively
late inflow of continental commentary on literature and
the arts into England. Lomazzo's advice to painters
that they should read the poets for information and
inspiration is emphasized in Haydocke's book, espe-
cially in the sections on “The Passions of the Mind”
and “Actions and Gestures.” Here the author calls
attention to the poets, who in similes and examples
deal with men or animals in vigorous action, such, he
says, “as we may find in Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Horace,
Catullus, etc., all of which the worthy Ariosto hath
imitated in that his incomparable Furioso.” On this
passage Haydocke comments, in a note printed in the
margin, as follows: “Our English Painters may reade
Sir Philip Sidney, Spencer [sic], Daniel, etc.”

This theme is taken up again in another work which
looks backward to the sixteenth and forward to the
eighteenth century—The Painting of the Ancients by
Franciscus Junius (François du Jon) the Huguenot
scholar who lived in England for a considerable num-
ber of years, and for whom the Junius Manuscript is
named. He was librarian of the Earl of Arundel, whose
magnificent collection of art was intact at the time.
In 1637 Junius published, in Amsterdam, De pictura
This work was declared by Roland Fréart,
Sieur de Chambray, to be so valuable that it would
have rendered unnecessary the writing of his own book
(Idée de la perfection de la peinture, 1662) if the
painters for whom he wrote had been able to read
Latin. The same impediment had deprived the
Countess of Arundel of enjoying the work, so Junius
tells us, and she commanded an English translation,
which Junius made and published in London in 1683.
Junius owes something to Haydocke's Lomazzo for his
plan and chapter organization, and in Book III, Chap-
ter VI he pays respect to Spenser and Sidney by quota-
tion, and indeed, here and elsewhere, he is under
marked obligations to E. K.'s commentary on the
Shepheardes Calender.

Other contributions to this collocation of ideas would
include Sir William Sanderson's Graphice (1668), the
anonymous treatise called The Excellency of the Pen
and Pencil
(1668), and the exceedingly popular Poly
graphice of William Salmon, which went through eight
editions between 1672 and 1701. The eighth edition
of this omnium gatherum consists of 475 pages of text,
embellished with twenty-five copper-plate engravings
of a kind usual in manuals of drawing and painting,
all preceded by an engraved portrait of Salmon himself
and a fulsome dedicatory epistle addressed to Sir
Godfrey Kneller. In a preface Salmon says “In this
Eighth Edition we have inserted above five hundred
several additions of singular use to the matter in hand
...,” and he points particularly to chapters on the
portrayal of abstract figures and allegorical personages
according to ancient authority; for example Book iv,
Ch. xv shows “How the Ancients depicted Neptune,
and the Sea Gods,” and there are over fifteen sections
on similar topics. He says that these “various depictings
of the Ancients, according to the Customs of several
Nations, [are] drawn from the best, most experienced
Authors, whether English, Italian or Latin: together
with the Original Advancement and Perfection of these
Arts.” It is no surprise to find that the author has helped
himself freely to the words of his predecessors (there
are five or six pages lifted bodily from Franciscus
Junius), and that so derivative and miscellaneous a text
is mainly useful in showing, first, the wide diffusion
of the combined pictorial and literary ideas in the
allegorical tradition; secondly, the extraordinary
multiplicity and variety of sources; and lastly, the
apparent demand by a wide public for such composite
treatises. On this last point it is worth remarking that
in examining examples of these handbooks of the
seventeenth century, one is struck by the evident at-
tention with which many of them were read by their
original or other owners, who frequently inscribed
heavy underscorings or elaborate marginalia, often
pictorial as well as written.

In mentioning his foreign sources Salmon restricts
himself to the authors who wrote in Latin or Italian,
omitting the French.

The influence of French manual writers upon the
English can be illustrated by such books as Roland
Fréart's Parallèle de l'architecture antique avec la
(Paris, 1650), translated by John Evelyn in
1664; and, more importantly, the Latin treatise of
Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy (1611-65), and the work
of Roger de Piles, who translated du Fresnoy's De arte
into French (Paris, 1684), and was in turn
translated by John Dryden. The latter's English version
was first published in 1695. Towards the end of the
eighteenth century du Fresnoy's work was again trans-
lated by William Mason, with annotations by Sir Joshua
Reynolds and a catalogue of eminent painters by
Thomas Gray.

In de Piles's “Observations” on du Fresnoy's text,


included as a kind of appendix, the translator urges
the painter to furnish himself sufficiently with good
reading, for “Learning is necessary to animate his
Genius and to complete it.” The list of recommended
reading includes Homer, Vergil, Ovid, Philostratus,
Plutarch, and Pausanias. Lack of proficiency in the
ancient tongues is no excuse, for “translations being
made of the best authors, there is not any Painter who
is not capable, in some sort, of understanding those
books of Humanity which are comprehended under the
name of belles Lettres” (1716 ed., p. 111). Especially
commended are Spenser's Faerie Queene, the Paradise
of Milton, Fairfax's translation of Tasso, and the
History of Polybius, by Sir Henry Shere (p. 112). The
mythographers, like Boccaccio, Cartari, and Natalis
Comes are not neglected, for we find (p. 113) “The
Mythology of the Gods,” “The Images of the Gods,”
and “The Iconology.” De Piles commends two other
of his compatriots: André Félibien and Roland Fréart.
Regarding the latter author's Parallèle, he recommends
the Preface rather than the book itself. He says of
Félibien's treatises on history, architecture, and paint-
ing, that their foundations are “wonderfully solid” (p.
115). Finally, he completes this “Library of a Painter”
with three works which, as we have already seen, were
widely used by handbook writers, emblem book
writers, and painters, namely, those of Armenini,
Lomazzo, and Franciscus Junius.

As can be observed in the researches of Franck L.
Schoell and Charles W. Lemmi, the works of Chapman,
Bacon, and a number of their contemporaries relied
heavily upon the manuals of Renaissance mythogra-
phers for their handling of myth, allegory, and symbol.
Information on these and other widely used secondary
source manuals has been extended more recently by
De Witt T. Starnes and Ernest William Talbert in their
book, Classical Myth and Legend in Renaissance
(1955). Beginning with the Elucidarius of
the Dutch scholar Herman Torrentinus (1498) the au-
thors trace the enormous popularity of this work
through its various versions, especially the Diction-
by the Stephanus brothers, Robert and Charles.
Of this there were at least nine editions before 1600;
and throughout the seventeenth century the book
appeared to be “especially cherished by English poets
and dramatists.” Ultimately it became the basis of
Louis Moreri's encyclopedic Grand Dictionnaire
published in Lyons in 1674. This is only
one of a number of dictionaries, lexicons, and other
manuals whose effect on literary history has been
established by Starnes and Talbert. The particular
bearing of such works of reference has been treated
in separate chapters of their work, relating respectively
to the minor Elizabethan writers, to Spenser, Shake
speare, Ben Jonson, Thomas Heywood, and John
Milton. There is an important appendix devoted to the
second edition of George Sandys' translation of Ovid's
Metamorphoses (1632).

The full title of this last-named work is Ovid's Meta-
morphoses Englished Mythologiz'd and Represented in
figures by G. S.
Bush calls Sandys' commentary “the
greatest repository of allegorized myth in English,” and
mentions its attraction for John Keats (Bush, a, pp.
254-55). A hint of its prodigious range can be given
in a partial list of authorities whom Sandys cites. They
include Plato, Plutarch, Raphael Regius, Jacobus
Micyllus, Muretus, Stephanus, Hyginus, Diodorus,
Saint Augustine, Macrobius, Fulgentius, Lactantius,
Vives, Comes, Copernicus, Galileo, Tycho Brahe, and
Francis Bacon.

We have already noticed Bacon's redaction of myths
in his Wisdom of Ancients. Two brief references to
his preface to that work will show Bacon's main view
of mythological interpretation. He believes that from
the beginning there lay beneath the fables of the an-
cient poets “a mystery and an allegory”; and he con-
cedes that perhaps his reverence for the primitive times
may have carried him too far. Yet he is convinced of
the truth that:

In some of these fables, as well as in the very frame and
texture of the story as in the propriety of the names by
which the persons that figure in its are distinguished, I find
a conformity and a connexion with the thing signified, so
close and so evident, that one cannot help believing such
a significance to have been designed and meditated from
the first, and purposely shadowed out....

After giving several illustrations of this point he pro-
ceeds next to an argument from the very absurdity of
mythical narrative itself, which points to the need for
mythological interpretation:

... for a fable that is probable may be thought to have
been composed merely for pleasure, in imitation of history.
But when a story is told which could never have entered
any man's head either to conceive or relate on its own
account, we must presume that it had some further reach.

He gives as an instance the myth of Jupiter and Metis:

Jupiter took Metis to wife: as soon as he saw that she was
with child, he ate her up; whereupon he grew to be with
child himself; and so brought forth out of his head Pallas
in armour! Surely I think no man had ever a dream so
monstrous and extravagant, and out of all natural ways of

Following some further reflections upon “all kinds of
fables, and enigmas, and parables, and similitudes,”
Bacon reaches the conclusion that the wisdom of the
primitive ages was either great or lucky:


... great, if they knew what they were doing and invented
the figure to shadow the meaning; lucky, if without meaning
or intending it they fell upon matter which gives occasion
to such worthy contemplations. My own pains, if there be
any help in them, I shall think well bestowed either way:
I shall be throwing light either upon antiquity or upon
nature itself...

(The Wisdome of the Ancients, Works, VI,

There can be small doubt that Bacon's treatment of
myth was attractive to his seventeenth-century readers,
many of whom would have been familiar also with the
commentary of Sandys that testified to the great man's

Although the variegated literary and pictorial forms
of expression continued more or less sporadically for
some years, it is apparent that significant artistic use
of mythology is gradually on the wane after the last
and greatest of its English exponents, John Milton,
completed his work.

From this point onwards in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries mythological literature is treated
facetiously, and consists mainly of innumerable and
unedifying examples of mock-heroics, burlesques, po-
litical satires, or other kinds of travesty.

Bush explains the eclipse of a serious concern with
mythology at this time as resulting from a number of
causes, including the rise of Puritanism, the new philos-
ophies which had their seeds in Bacon and Descartes,
and an increasingly skeptical rationalism manifested
by a “cool Anglicanism and a cooler Deism;” and he
concludes that “our great classical age is the age of
sterility” as regards the importance of its use of clas-
sical mythology, whatever its other undeniable virtues
may be.” He clinches this observation with the remark,
“Milton is a poet; Dryden is a man of letters” (Bush,
a, p. 309).

Doctor Johnson was impatient with Milton's use of
myth (see his Life of Milton, especially the strictures
on the mythological allusions in Lycidas); and Joseph
Addison condemned mythology generally and Milton's
use of it in particular, allowing its use only for mock-
heroic poems like the Rape of the Lock (Spectator, No.
297). In alluding to Thomas Tickell's poem “The Pros-
pect of Peace” (1712) Addison announced in the Spec-
No. 523, “I was particularly well pleased to find
that the Author had not amused himself with Fables
out of the Pagan Theology, and that when he hints
of any thing of this nature, he alludes to it only as
a fable.” And later in the same issue he declares:

When we are at School it is necessary for us to be
acquainted with the System of Pagan Theology, and may
be allowed to enliven a Theme, or point an Epigram with
an Heathen God; but when we would write a manly
Panegyrick, that should carry in it all the Colours of Truth,
nothing can be more ridiculous than to have recourse to
our Jupiter's and Juno's

(Spectator, ed. Donald F. Bond, II,

These views may be taken to represent an era that
was preoccupied with common sense, reason, universal
truth, and reality. There was small room in that milieu
for the “heathen gods”; consequently they remained
almost completely neglected until their restoration in
the romantic revival.


Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. A. R.
Shilleto (London, 1920). Douglas Bush, (a) Mythology and
the Renaissance Tradition in English Poetry,
rev. ed. (New
York, 1963); idem, (b) Mythology and the Romantic Tradition
in English Poetry
(Cambridge, Mass., 1937); both of these
volumes contain excellent bibliographies. George Chapman,
Poems, ed. Phyllis B. Bartlett (New York, 1941). Samuel C.
Chew, The Pilgrimage of Life (New Haven, 1962). Michael
Drayton, Complete Works, eds. J. W. Hebel, K. Tillotson,
and B. Newdigate, 5 vols. (Oxford, 1931-41). Rosemary
Freeman, English Emblem Books (London, 1948). Frederick
Hard, “Ideas from Bacon and Wotton in William Sander-
son's Graphice,Studies in Philology, 36 (1939), 227-34;
idem, “Some Interrelationships Between the Literary and
Plastic Arts in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century
England,” College Art Journal, 10 (1951), 233-43. Charles
W. Lemmi, The Classic Deities in Bacon (Baltimore, 1933).
Henry Peacham, The Compleat Gentleman, facsimile of 1634
ed. by G. S. Gordon (Oxford, 1906). Mario Praz, Studies
in Seventeenth Century Imagery
(Rome, 1964); contains an
extensive bibliography. Franck L. Schoell, Études sur
l'humanisme continental en Angleterre
(Paris, 1926). Jean
Seznec, The Survival of the Pagan Gods (New York, 1953).
J. E. Spingarn, Seventeenth Century Critical Essays, 3 vols.
(Oxford, 1908-09). De W. T. Starnes and E. W. Talbert,
Classical Myth and Legend in Renaissance Dictionaries
(Chapel Hill, 1955). Rosemond Tuve, Allegorical Imagery
(Princeton, 1966); idem, Elizabethan and Metaphysical
(Chicago, 1947). Enid Welsford, The Court Masque
(Cambridge, 1927).


[See also Baconianism; Iconography; Metaphor; Myth;
Renaissance Humanism; Symbol and Symbolism; Ut pictura