3.1.1. Harvey, Gratulationes Valdinenses

Gabriel Harvey, Gratulationes Valdinenses, 1578

(translated by Thomas Hugh Jameson) [1]

In July 1578 Queen Elizabeth visits Audley End. Because of her adherence to the Anglican faith she had been excommunicated by the Pope, meaning that England was under a constant danger of being attacked by Catholic Spain. Elizabeth sought an alliance with France but France was weakened by political and religious turmoil. Although the French King's financially poorly situated brother, Hercule-François Duke of Alençon (“Monsieur”), was of Catholic faith, he was a supporter of “Les Malcontents” - a Huguenot (protestant) movement, making him a likely marriage candidate for Elizabeth. Due to the untimely death of the Duke of Alençon in 1584, we will never know if Elizabeth's intentions to marry him were serious or if they were a charade, born of political expediency. However, we do know that in 1578 England was seriously divided into those who favoured the “French marriage” and those who were against it. Those opposed to it included the Earl of Leicester, Sir Francis Walsingham, Sir Christopher Hatton, Philip Sidney. Those who supported the French marriage included Lord Treasurer Burghley, the Earl of Sussex,the Earl of Oxford. Those who were inclined to a puritan way of thinking were afraid of a return to Catholicism, the supporters of the French marriage hoped for better trading relations with France, and most important; they hoped that Spain would be reluctant to invade an England with a strong French ally.

Thus was the situation in England when the honour of addressing the Queen and her quarrelsome Peers, in Latin, with the hope of his bringing the opposing parties closer to some form of consensus, was bestowed on the ambitious and talented young academic GABRIEL HARVEY (c.1550-1630), a man whose ambition it was to become the Cicero of England. The structure of his address was that he spoke to each of the dignitaries individually, Baron Burghley, the Earl of Leicester, the Earl of Oxford, the Knight Christopher Hatton and Lord Philip Sidney. Harvey was a patriot and traditionalist furthermore the Earl of Leicester, a foremost opponent of the French marriage was his sponsor. Gabriel Harvey was an expert in the art of rhetoric (it was no coincidence that he taught the subject to the students of Cambridge University); although he spoke out in favour of a war with Spain he attacked the Earl of Oxford and the Franco-Italian style of writing in a manner that looked as if he were praising the man. He compared the Earl of Oxford to Achilles, recommending that he adopt Pallas Athena (sometimes called Bellona) as his patron saint.


Apostrophe to the Earl of Oxford

This is my "Hail"; thus, thus it pleased me to say Welcome to you and the other nobles, though your splendid fame asks, great Earl, a more grandiloquent poet than I [2]. Your virtue does not creep the earth, nor is it confined to a song; it wondrously penetrates the aetherial orbs! Up and away! with that mind and that fire, noble heart, you will surpass yourself, surpass others; your great glory will everywhere spread beyond the frozen ocean! [3] England will discover in you its hereditary Achilles [4]. Go, Mars will see you in safety and Hermes attend you; aegis-sounding Pallas will be by [5] and will instruct your heart and spirit, while long since did Phoebus Apollo cultivate your mind with the arts [6]. Your British metres have been widely sung [7] [Britannica metra / Sunt cantata satis], while your Epistle [8] testifies how much you excel in letters, being more courtly than Castiglione himself, more polished. I have seen your many Latin things [9], and more English are extant; of French and Italian muses, the manners of many peoples, their arts and laws you have drunk deeply [10]. Not in vain was Sturmius [11] himself known to you, nor so many Frenchmen and polished Italians, nor Germans. But, O celebrated one, put away your feeble pen, your bloodless books, your impractical writings! Now is need of swords! [12] Steel must be sharpened! Everywhere men talk of camps, everywhere of dire arms! You must even deal in missiles! Now war is everywhere, everywhere are the Furies, and everywhere reigns Enyo [13]. Take no thought of Peace; all the equipage of Mars comes at your bidding. Suppose Hannibal to be standing at the British gates; suppose even now, now, Don John of Austria is about to come over [14], guarded by a huge phalanx!

Fated events are not known to man, for the Thunderer's counsels are not plain; what if suddenly a powerful enemy should invade our borders? if the Turk should arm his immense cohorts against us? What if the terrible trumpet should now resound the Taratantara? You are being observed as to whether you would care to fight boldly. I feel it; our whole country believes it; your blood boils in your breast, virtue dwells in your brow, Mars keeps your mouth, Minerva is in your right hand, Bellona reigns in your body [15], and Martial ardor, your eyes flash, your glance shoots arrows [vultus tela vibrat] [16]: who wouldn't swear you Achilles reborn? Up, great Earl, you must feel that hope of courage. It befits a man to keep the horrid arms of Mars busy even in peace; " 'Tis wise to accustom oneself", and "Use is worth everything". You, O you can be most mighty! Though there be no war, still warlike praise is a thing of great nobility [17]; the name of Leader suits the great. It is wise to watch for effects and to see what threatens beforehand …

It was that I might not seem to have talked and said nothing, and that my "Hail" might be somewhat more congenial to you, that I chose material to suit such ardor as yours. Would that the land would salute you in the same tones; how, great-hearted Hero, you ought to save yourself for war and return safe to mother Peace! That is the care of men in command; that agrees with Nobility. The stars hate the inactive; they station the brave on the throne of glory and crown them with honor. Proceed, proceed with sense alert, noble heart; Heaven itself will attend your ventures, and Aether will smile and applaud them; great Iupiter will give you all happiness! O, think before dismissing lightly such praise. And now once more, noble one, Farewell; none more loved, none dearer is present. Each and all say you joy.

When addressing Sir Christopher Hatton, Harvey takes the very convenient opportunity to reveal the identities of “Foelix Infortunatus” (happy but without fortune = Christopher Hatton) and “Fortunatus Infoelix” (not happy though he has fortune =the hero of The Adventures of Master F. I. =Alexander the Great). Gabriel Harvey considers “Foelix Infortunatis” to be the epitome of an autonomous character.

With his address to Sir Christopher Hatton and the reference to the reverse mirror image of his poetical nom de plume “Fortunatus Infoelix” Harvey is actually aiming his remarks at the Earl of Oxford, (alias Master Fortunatus Infoelix), whom John Lyly and Thomas Watson compared to Alexander the Great. (See 6. Introduction to Shake-speaere’s Early Works.) The words of Harvey's “loquacious muse” were intended as a warning to the aristocratic author not to be a second Alexander.

To the most honorable and brave Sir Christopher Hatton, Knight of the Bath and Counsellor of Her Royal Majesty. On his Motto Foelix Infortunatus [18].

No one ever was mor happy than you, great-souled Hatton, nor ever anyone was more fortuned, whose virtue our most blessed of sovereigns thus embellishes, loves, adorns, marvels at, and crowns with honor; whos magnificent endowments, whose manly heart, whose stout courage all of Britain celebrates; on whom the propitious stars wish all their influence; on whom wind and air gently breathe, and whomall lucky omens follow.

Whence, then, that „Happy without Fortune“ on your arms? Whence came your emblem? Hatton is happy, and also he is a fortuned man, unless perchance that man seems to you not to be happy whom Fortune favors as a noble goddess. But why, famed Hatton, do you disagree with Aristotle? (…)

Now it dawns me: Happy without Fortune because he relies on his nobility alone [19] and has all his possessions within himself, and, putting trust in only himself, nor fearing Chance, he looks down upon all apart from and outside himself – everywhere a prudent satellite of virtue and high comeliness: not a servant of this one or that one or of some other, nor knowing, finally, like some mere slave of Fortune, how to yield – ever of an upright and lofty mind, and always prepared! Is that nothing? What if his venture do fail of success and if his conclusions answer not to his efforts? and if there is many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip?

Shall he now be referred to as Without Fortune? But in that way any happy man could sometimes be called Happy without Fortune. Nothing is happy from every point of view: not man, not earth, not what covers all, the sky. (…)

I know only one thing: Happy you appear to me and you appear to many others, wise one, and likewise Fortuned! may the Olympians make your good stars let you always be as you are now in peace or in war! Whether Mars or Venus shall dominate, hardly anyone will be thought either mor Fortuned or more Happy.

Each will pray for himself the white omen of Hatton.

Second Epilogue

I had finished, but my loquacious muse refuses to end: „Alexander the Great,“ she says to me, „was Fortuned but he was not Happy [20]; he was not happy in himself though he ruled personally as a victor over the whole earth.“

„How so, pray?“ I ask.

„Wasn’t he drunken and furious (she said) among his friends? Wasn’t he an adulterer, a murderer, a fierce brigand, a wild Giant, a proud hater of gods and men? a private foe of heaven and earth? Suppose him happy; then why is not that god, too, happy whom Fortune made to be the master and king of hell, giving him more spacious dominion than the whole earth? He was great, but he was a great rogue, and a robber, and a devaster of the earth and a consummate tyrant!

She finished and fled; I breathless persued her flight, until finally she dropped from her bosom, as if unaware, a fair scroll (at least it seemed to me following after that it dropped from thence), which as she saw me pick up, she laughed and hastened inside with flying foot.

On the scroll (may I be allowed to tell you the truth, Fortunate One), inscribed in letters of brightest gold, was a song, not seen before by man, never read before, perhaps worthy your eyes also (for in no way seemed it written by the hand of mortal: it should please for ist novelty, if less for ist merit); read if you like, or if you do not like, reprove with angry speech the Muse who dropped it: she crafty one has deceived her son before.

And now farewell, wise hero, destroy Thalia’s scroll [21] with your noble hand if it is displeasing to you.

The Muse’s Song on the picture of Alexander the Great. A ruler with greatest fortunes but the least happy [maxime omnium Fortunati, minime Foelicis].

'Unus Pellaeo iuveni non sufficit orbis' [Juvenal, Satire X]
“But one earth is not enough for the youth of Pella [22].”

The earth finds him great and he finds the earth small:
both ideas too wonderful, this not to suffice one youth
which is enough for more than a thousand sages, too much!
Speak, you Kings and Queens, you Leaders and Tyrants!
was not a single earth quite sufficient for one man?
True, there are some men so puffed by nature and mind [23]
that you’d think them a thousand beings, a thousand men.
A single Alexander now strikes me as a thousand tyrants,
now as a thousand mortals, now as a thousand leaders.
Someone of the ancients thought there were a thousand
worlds; let this Millevir have all thousand for himself.
Let each finger guide its own world; let each hair guide
its; let the head sustain a thousand others; let him
place a thousand on his shoulders, a thousand on his arms
and on his foot: will you not have then a Great Porter [24]?
Who would not do honor to such a man with such a name?
‚You are Great, I perceive; but you are a Great porter [25].’
There wasn’t a greater Fortunatus, if I am any judge,
while he ruled as a mighty victor throughout the world,
while he swayed ungovernable people, while he subjugated
enemies, while, Great in name, he did the greatest deeds.
But there was no one more Infoelix, if I am any judge,
while he lay prostrate, overwhelmed by his own power,
while he died a youth, while he dragged self and all
to ruin, while raging he departed to the furies of hell,
while after his decease no Homer grew up after him, who
would prefer him, Great as he was, to the great Aeacides [26].
Speak out, mortals, who had greater fortunes than he?
And yet that he was scarcely happy, who will deny?


Gabrielis Harveii Gratulationum Valdinensium libri quatuor ... Londini : Ex officina typographica Henrici Binnemani, Anno. M.D.LXXVIII [1578] Mense Septembri.

The Gratulationes Valdinenses, ed. by Thomas Hugh Jameson. Yale University 1938 (pp. 125-147.)


[1] Thomas Hugh Jameson, The Gratulationes Valdinenses. Yale University 1938 (pp. 125-147.)

[2] “a more grandiloquent poet than I”: Right at the beginning of his address, Harvey compares himself to the Earl of Oxford, saying that the Earl is the better poet. He was being sardonic as will become obvious as the speech continues.

[3] “your great glory will everywhere spread beyond the frozen ocean!”: On 30 May 1578 Martin Frobisher (c.1534-1594) set sail with a fleet of 15 ships on an Arctic expedition. The goals of the expedition were to find the elusive “Northern Passage”- which would enable a direct sea passage to India to mine gold in north America and to establish a colony near the gold mine. The gold turned out to be iron pyrite (fool's gold) and the “Northern Passage” remained elusive. With that, the Earl of Oxford's investment of £3,000 was lost forever. When the Gratulationes was printed in September 1578, Frobisher's expedition had still not returned and nothing was known of its fate.

[4] “hereditary Achilles”: this term sounds as if praise is intended, however it is referring to the fact that The Earl of Oxford's office of Lord Great Chamberlain is, in fact, a hereditary position and has nothing to to with merit, military or otherwise.

[5] “aegis-sounding Pallas will be by”: The Earl's breast should be filled by the spirit of the spear-shaking Pallas Athene, the Goddess of the arts, the sciences and battle.  The Aegis is a golden goat's fleece, that Athene used to create thunder, lightning and darkness whenever she shook it.

[6] “while long since did Phoebus Apollo cultivate your mind with the arts”: For a long time, Gabriel Harvey has been wanting to say, that the Earl of Oxford excelled in the arts.

[7] “Your British metres have been widely sung”: Britannica metra / Sunt cantata satis. An astonishing statement referring to songs written by the Earl of Oxford in 1578. - We all know “My Mind to me a Kingdom is” und “If Women Could Be Fair and Never Fond” (Psalmes, Sonets, & Songs, 1588), whereby the Earl of Oxford's lyrics are set to the music of William Byrd, but no earlier songs are known. However there is a definite possibility that “When griping grief the heart doth wound” (See 5.2.2 Poems, 78) were set to music by an anonymous musician during the seventies. In “A crown of bays shall that man wear” (5.2.2 Poems, 72) there is an indication that the refrain can be sung by a choir: “And all that present be, / with doleful tunes help then, / And sing.” 

[8] “your Epistle”: Dedication in Latin to Bartholomew Clerke's Translation of Castigloine’s Libro del Cortegiano, January 1572 (See 5.3 Letters, No. 3.)

[9] “many Latin things”: There are no other known works in Latin from the Earl of Oxford. The stilted poem of dedication: “VERAM vera docent: sunt falsa dorsala vero” (found between the pages of a bible belonging to Anne Cecil) was commissioned by Lord Burghley.

[10] “of French and Italian muses, the manners of many peoples, their arts and laws you have drunk deeply”: A reference to Oxford’s travels through France and Italy in 1575/76.

[11] “Sturmius”: Johannes Sturmius (1507-1589) was a humanitarian education reformist. Always maintaining a regular exchange of ideas with the English court, he was the founder and head master of a grammar school in Straßburg. The Earl of Oxford visited him during his stay in that town, between the end of March and 26 April 1575.

[12] “O celebrated one, put away your feeble pen, your bloodless books, your impractical writings! Now is need of swords!”: “calamum, Memorande, pusillum, / ex[s]anguesque libros, usuque carentia scripta / abijce: nunc gladijs opus est”. Even though this statement seems to be preposterously impudent, he merely wishes to remind the Earl of the role of the aristocracy as dictated by tradition.

[13] “and everywhere reigns Enyo”: In Greek mythology, Enyo is the goddess of close quarter fighting. In Roman mythology she is called: “Bellona.”

[14] “Don John of Austria is about to come over”: Juan d’Austria or Don John (1547-1578), half brother of King Philip II of Spain. His greatest achievement was the defeat of the Turks at Lepanto in 1571. As of 1577 he was Governor of the Netherlands, Elizabeth feared that he would marry Mary Queen of Scots and mobilise a large army to free her from her incarceration. She also feared that he would effectively tyrannise the Netherlands. From a letter from the French ambassador Mauvissière (23 September 1577) we know that, in order to prevent a Catholic alliance between France and Spain, Oxford was prepared to go to war against Don Juan d’Austria and Henri de Lorraine, Duke of Guise. As it turned out Don Juan d' Austria defeated the uprising of the Dutch troupes, without the help of Henri de Lorraine, in the battle of Glemboux (31 January 1578). On 1 August 1578 Hercule-François d’Alencon (Elizabeth's French suitor) fought in the battle of Mecheln on the side of the States-General of the Netherlands and managed to save the Netherlands from the worst. However at the time of Harvey's address the outcome of the battle was unknown, meaning that England still had to reckon with an invasion from Don Juan, or even Spain. Once again England had luck on her side; Don Juan died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1578.

We meet Don Juan again in two of Shakespeare’s plays. Once as the “Neapolitan Prince” in The Merchant of Venice and again as “John the Bastard” in Much Ado about Nothing.

[15] “Minerva is in your right hand, Bellona reigns in your body”: Minerva is the Roman equivalent of the Greek Goddess Pallas Athene who brandishes a spear in her left hand. Harvey means that the Earl of Oxford should brandish the spear of Minerva in his right hand, whilst Bellona causes the English Achill to be aglow with enthusiasm.

As early as 1573, Phaer and Twyne offered the following translation of Vergil’s Aeneis: “and from the ground, wee wondred all, / three times alone she leapt, and thrise her sheeld and speare she shooke.”  - In The Shepheardes Calendar (1579 = January 1580) Edmund Spenser puts the following words into the mouth of the poet Cuddie (=Earl of Oxford): “O, if my temples were distained with wine, / And girt in girlands of wild Yvie twine, / How I could rear the Muse on stately stage, / And teach her tread aloft in buskin fine, / With queint Bellona in her order.” Spenser (alias E.K. [Edmundus Kedemon]) explains the term “queint” as follows: “Queint) strange Bellona; the goddess of battle, that is Pallas, which may therefore well be called queint for that (as Lucian saith) when Iupiter her father was in travail of her, he caused his son Vulcan with his axe to hew his head. Out which leaped forth lustily a valiant damsel armed at all points, whom seeing Vulcan so fair & comely, lightly leaping to her, proffered her some courtesy, which the Lady disdaining, shaked her speare at him, and threatened his sauciness. Therefore such strangeness is well applied to her.” (See 2. Is SHAKE-SPEARE A PSEUDONYM?)

[16] “your glance shoots arrows”: “vultus tela vibrat.” – Bernard M. Ward (The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford 1550-1604, London 1928) translated: “Your countenance is shaking spears” (telum is defined as 1. bullet, 2. dart, spear, 3. weapon, javelin.) It would almost appear as if Harvey and his friend Edmund Spenser had forced the name “Shake-speare” on the Earl of Oxford.

[17]warlike praise is a thing of great nobility”: In the margin of his personal copy of Gascoigne’s Posies, 1576, (the second edition of A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres, 1573, edited by “Meritum petere grave”) Harvey wrote: “Meritum petere, vile: capere, generosum” etc.: “to beg for the fruits of one's labour is contemptible, to take it by force is noble. It is far more manly and worthwhile to demonstrate an industrious nature than to sing its praises.” (See 5.0 Introduction.) - Harvey had every opportunity to discover just who was behind the pseudonym: “Meritum petere grave” (It is painful to demand for that which one has earned); with this remark Harvey delivers his first critiscism of the Earl of Oxford's “unwarlike” behaviour.

[18]On his Motto Foelix Infortunatus”: Christopher Hatton Esquire, Gentleman of Privy Chamber and Captain of the Guard was promoted to the position of Vice-Chamberlain in November and, shortly thereafter, dubbed as a Knight of the realm. Towards the beginning of 1578, Gabriel Harvey makes the following side note in his personal copy of Gascoigne’s Posies, on the subject of “Fortunatus Infoelix” (just after the introductory poem to “Jocasta” to be precise) : “lately the posie of Sir Christopher Hatton.” (See 5.2.1 Poems, No.2)  Perhaps Hatton's actual posie had slipped his mind, or perhaps he wished to say  “Now there's cheek for you this was Hatton's posie until recently.” Regardless of what happened, Harvey was familiar with The Adventures of Master F.I. (and when only from the second edition) and he'd had time to think about the two mirror imaging posies.

[19] “he relies on his nobility alone”: His genuine nobility.

[20] “Alexander the Great, she says to me, was Fortuned but he was not Happy”: “Fortunatus erat, sed non erat, inquit, Magnus Alexander Foelix.” – Harvey, rather facetiously pretends to apologize for his remarks, claiming that his “loquacious muse” is responsible for them.

[21] “Thalia’s scroll”: Thalia is the muse of Comedy. She laments the demoise of comedy in Edmund Spenser's The Teares of the Muses (1591).

[22] “the youth of Pella”: Pella was the birthplace of Philip II. and of Alexander, his son. – Harvey adopts a sentence from Iuvenal as his motto. He quotes the words of the classical poet to excuse his own impertinence.

[23] “there are some men so puffed by nature and mind”: This jibe was aimed at the Earl of Oxford; it blends in well with Harvey's mocking persiflage in his Mirror of Tuscanism (1580): “For life Magnificoe’s, not a beck but glorious in show” (See: 3.1.2 Three proper & wittie familiar Letters.)

[24] “will you not have then a Great Porter”: In Latin: “Bajulus non tibe Magnus erit?”. - A deliberate double entendre, artfully aimed at the “Lord Great Chamberlain”; “bajulus” means bearer of burdens, but the “Grand Bajulus” was the preceptor of the Roman emperor, i.e.a great pedagogue.

“At Constantinople, the person who had charge of the imperial children used to be called the bajulus, from baios, a child. The word was subsequently attached to the Venetian consul at Constantinople, and the Venetian ambassador was called the balio, a word afterwards extended to any superintendent or magistrate. In France the bailli was a superintendent of the royal domains and commander of the troops.” (E. Cobham Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, London 1894).

In surprising conformity with the term  “Bajulus Magnus” Harvey calls the Earl “The old Ass” in 1593, or “the godfather of writers, the superintendent of the press, the muster-master of innumerable bands, the General of the great field”. (See: The Old Ass.) 

[25] “but you are a Great porter”: „Magnus at es bajulus“ – we should translate: you are Great but a porter.

[26] “the great Aeacides”:  A patronymic from Aeacus, given to various of his descendants, as Peleus, Telamon, Phocus, the sons of Aeacus; Achilles, the grandson of Aeacus; and Pyrrhus, the great-grandson of Aeacus.