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BOOKS AND AUTHORS
Polonius. What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet, II. ii. 189-190
Slender. I had rather than forty shillings I had my Book of Songs and Sonnets here. How now, Simple! where have you been? I must wait on myself, must I? You have not the Book of Riddles about you, have you?
Simple. Book of Riddles ! why, did you not lend it to Alice Shortcake upon All-Hallowmas last, a fortnight afore Michaelmas ?
The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1. i. 205-212
To the right honourable Henry Wriothesly,
The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with happiness.
Your lordship's in all duty,
Dedication of The Rape of Lucrece 1594
Most gracious and dread Sovereign,
...Thirteen years your Highness's servant, but yet nothing. Twenty friends that though they say they will be sure, I find them sure too slow. A thousand hopes, but all nothing. A hundred promises, but yet nothing. Thus casting up an inventory of my friends, hopes, promises and times, the sum total amounteth to just nothing. My last will is shorter than mine invention. But three legacies I bequeath, Patience to my creditors, Melancholy without measure to my friends, and Beggary without shame to my family...
The last and the least, that if I be born to have nothing, I may have protection to pay nothing, which suit is like his, who having followed the court ten years, for recompense of his service committed a robbery, and took it out in a pardon.
John Lyly to Queen Elizabeth 1598
Portrait of a poet
I espied afar off a certain kind of an overworn gentleman attired in velvet and satin, but it was somewhat dropped and greasy, and boots on his legs, whose soles waxed thin and seemed to complain of their master, which treading thrift under his feet had brought them unto that consumption. He walked not as other men in the common beaten way, but came compassing circumeirca, as if we had been devils, and he would draw a circle about us, and at every third step he looked back as if he were afraid of a bailey or a sergeant....
A poet is a waste-good and an unthrift, that he is born to make the taverns rich and himself a beggar. If he have forty pound in his purse together, he puts it not to usury, neither buys land nor merchandise with it, but a month's commodity of wenches and capons. Ten pound a supper, why 'tis nothing, if his plough goes and his ink-horn be clear. Take one of them with twenty thousand pounds and hang him. He is a king of his pleasure, and counts all other boors and peasants that, though they have money at command, yet know not like him how to domineer with it to any purpose as they should. But to speak plainly, I think him an honest man, if he would but live within his compass, and generally no man's foe but his own.
ROBERT GREENE, A Quip for an Upstart Courtier 1592
An author's complaint
I tossed my imagination a thousand ways, to see if I could find any means to relieve my estate : but all my thoughts consorted to this conclusion, that the world was uncharitable, and I ordained to be miserable. Thereby I grew to consider how many base men that wanted those parts which I had, enjoyed content at will, and had wealth at command: I called to mind a cobbler, that was worth five hundred pound, an hostler that had built a goodly inn, and might dispend forty pound yearly by his land, a carman in a leather pilch, that had whipped out a thousand pound out of his horse tail: and have I more wit than all these (thought I to myself)? am I better born? am I better brought up? yea, and better favoured? and yet am I a beggar? What is the cause? how am I crossed? or whence is this curse?
Even from hence, that men that should employ such as I am, are enamoured of their own wits, and think whatever they do is excellent, though it be never so scurvy: that learning (of the ignorant) is rated after the value of the ink and paper: and a scrivener better paid for an obligation, than a scholar for the best poem he can make; that every gross-brained idiot is suffered to come into print, who if he set forth a pamphlet of the praise of pudding-pricks, or write a treatise of Tom Thumme, or the exploits of Untrusse, it is bought up thick and threefold, when better things lie dead. How then can we choose but be needy, when there are so many drones amongst us? or ever prove rich, that toil a whole year for fair looks?
Gentle Sir Philip Sidney, thou knewest what belonged to a scholar, thou knewest what pains, what toil, what travail, conduct to perfection: well couldst thou give every virtue his encouragement, every art his due, every writer his desert: 'cause none more virtuous, witty, or learned than thyself. But thou art dead in thy grave, and hast left too few successors of thy glory, too few to cherish the sons of the Muses, or water those budding hopes with their plenty, which thy bounty erst planted.
Believe me, gentlemen, for some cross mishaps have taught me experience, there is not that strict observation of honour, which hath been heretofore. Men of great calling take it of merit, to have their names eternized by poets; and whatsoever pamphlet or dedication encounters them, they put it up their