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George Gascoigne

George Gascoigne

Gillian Austen
Volume: 24
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 254
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  • Book Info
    George Gascoigne
    Book Description:

    `A long overdue, comprehensive and fresh account of the life and works of one of England's most talented and versatile writers.... A lucid, informative and stimulating biographical study. This will be a valuable work for all Renaissance scholars.' RICHARD C. MCCOY, Professor of English, City University of New York. George Gascoigne was one of the most inventive and influential of the early Elizabethan poets. He found favour with Elizabeth I and was admired by Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare and their generation; his many innovations, and his importance to the later Elizabethans, gave him a uniquely significant role in the early years of the English literary renaissance. Yet his witty manuscript works for the Queen, his courtly performances and most of his anonymous printed books were soon forgotten or misattributed. It was the publications which bear his name - largely moralistic, or presented as moralistic - that had most impact on his modern reputation as the first of the Elizabethan Prodigals. This study, the first monograph to include Gascoigne's illustrations, looks at all of his extant work. In particular, it addresses the full range of self-presentations which Gascoigne cultivated in order to manoeuvre within the system of patronage, including the figure of the Reformed Prodigal. This approach produces a new model for understanding Gascoigne's career, revealing his significance at a key transitional moment in the English literary renaissance. Dr GILLIAN AUSTEN is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of English, University of Bristol.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-643-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-ix)
    (pp. x-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Gillian Austen
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvii)
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
    (pp. 1-21)

    In 1565, George Gascoigne, a gentleman of Gray’s Inn, rode out of London to visit a friend.² Gascoigne was a tall, fit man who would have sat well on his horse: highly intelligent and quick-witted, he had a gift for extemporisation and liked to compose poetry as he rode along. The journey took a whole day; he spent the next day with his friend, and then rode back to London on the third day. By the time he returned to Gray’s Inn, he says he had composed a total of 258³ lines of verse in a variety of metres, forming...

  10. Chapter 1 1555–69: THE GRAY’S INN YEARS
    (pp. 22-62)

    George Gascoigne, the elder son of minor gentry in rural Bedfordshire, came to Gray’s Inn direct from Cambridge, where he later claimed to have been tutored by Stephen Nevynson, a noted advocate of the Reformed religion.² Gascoigne would have been about twenty-one years old when he was admitted to Gray’s Inn.³ He arrived in an exceptionally turbulent London: Queen Mary had survived both Wyatt’s Rebellion in 1553 and the rebellion of the subsequent summer, but the fires at Smithfield were now at their most fierce.⁴ Gascoigne represented Bedford Borough in the 1557–8 Parliament, and was present when Mary’s death...

  11. Chapter 2 1572/3: THE MOVE INTO PRINT
    (pp. 63-83)

    George Gascoigne’s career reached its nadir in 1570, when he was imprisoned in Bedford Gaol for debt, showing all the signs of what Prouty calls ‘financial ruin’.² But within two years Gascoigne can be seen to be applying himself to all possible opportunities for advancement. By the Spring of 1572/3, he had decided to go to Holland to serve in the wars, presumably to escape his creditors and renew his fortune.³ At about the same time, he decided to collate and anonymously publish his early work, and to pursue at least two opportunities to gain patronage by his writing.


  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 84-133)

    The year 1575 is conventionally (following Prouty’s biography) accepted as a turning point in Gascoigne’s career, marking his moral reformation and repentance of his profligate ways. This alleged conversion followed his return to England from the wars in Holland, when Gascoigne apparently found that the anonymously published A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (1572/3) had caused a scandal during his absence. But this account originates with Gascoigne himself, in the prefatory material to the revised edition, the Posies (1575). There, he found it expedient to present A Hundreth as the product of his youth, offering instead a new and expurgated edition, as...

    (pp. 134-195)

    George Gascoigne presented his manuscript of The Tale of Hemetes the Heremyte, with the English original translated into Latin, Italian and French, to Queen Elizabeth as a New Year gift in 1576.² His quest for preferment had met with notable success during the year and it was an unmistakeable sign of favour that he had been invited to join in the conventional giving of New Year gifts at court. The Hemetes manuscript is of considerable interest as an artefact, for each translation is accompanied by an emblematic illustration, and transcribed in an appropriate script: the English original in secretary hand,...

  15. Chapter 5 1 January 1577: NEW YEAR GIFTS
    (pp. 196-215)

    On 1 January 1577, Gascoigne presented his last known literary productions: the Grief of Joye, another manuscript work prepared for the Queen’s New Year gift, and a set of emblematic letters addressed to prominent courtiers, of which only the letter to Sir Nicholas Bacon survives.² This was the second time Gascoigne had joined in the exchange of New Year gifts at court, but he now had a successful intelligence mission behind him; he had proved his usefulness and this would have been well known to Elizabeth through Burghley and Walsingham. The Grief of Joye is characterised by Gascoigne’s confidence in...

    (pp. 216-218)

    George Gascoigne was by far the most inventive and influential writer of his generation, eclipsing Googe, Turberville and Churchyard and introducing many of the genres, motifs and models which were so valuable to the later Elizabethans. Although his quest for preferment meant that every work had its pragmatic agenda, opportunism does not preclude serious literary ambition or experimentation. Indeed, Gascoigne often exploits the particular conditions of an opportunity to shape his poetic invention: one thinks of the masque for Lord Montague, the devises in the Chase at Kenilworth Castle, the fictive courtly performance in the Griefe of Joye and, above...

    (pp. 219-230)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 231-236)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 237-239)