5.0.1. Gascoigne and Oxford. A comparison of styles.


The Tale of Hemetes the Heremite (1575-76) by George Gascoigne, alias Tam Marti quam Mercutio


The Adventures of Master F. I. (1572-73) by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, alias Meritum petere grave,
alias G. T.


The reasons for the ascription of The Adentures of Master F. I. and Divers excellent Devises of sundry Gentlemen (Poems 17-63) to the poet Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, with regard to content and structure have been discussed in detail in the INTRODUCTION (5.0)
Sometimes we require more than clinical scrutiny before we make our minds up and to this purpose we shall put the literary taste buds of our readers to the test. We shall place, from each author, a dedication poem , a letter (or rather three letters rolled into one) and a piece of prose, side by side.
Gascoigne’s narration- The Tale of Hemetes the Heremite - is probably his best prose work. The extract from Oxford’s novella is a free paraphrase on Ariost’s Cinque Canti, Canto II, 7-23. Both works are written in the picaresque narrative style: Gascoigne’s fiction was presented during the Royal Entertainments in Kenilworth (July 1575).
It is up to the reader to decide whether or not one and the same author wrote both The Tale of Hemetes and The Adventures of Master F. I.
Other than refreshing Gascoigne’s old fashioned orthography we have not undertaken any alterations.


Behold (good Queen) a poet with a spear

(strange sights well marked are understood the better),

A soldier armed, with pencil in his ear,

With pen to fight and sword to write a letter,


His gown half off, his blade not fully bound,

In doubtful dooms, which way were best to take,

With humble heart and knees that kiss the ground,

Presents himself to you for duty’s sake.


And thus he says, no danger (I protest)

Shall ever let this loyal heart I bear

To serve you so as may become me best

In field, in town, in court, or anywhere.


Then peerless prince, employ this willing man

In your affairs to do the best he can.


Tam Marti quam Mercutio.

When first I thee beheld in colours black and white,
Thy face in form well framed with favour blooming still:
My burning breast in cares did choose his chief delight,
With pen to paint thy praise, contrary to my skill:
Whose worthiness compar'd with this my rude devise,
I blush and am abashed, this work to enterprise.

But when I call to mind thy sundry gifts of grace,
Full fraught with manners meek in happy quiet mind:
My hasty hand forthwith doth scribble on apace,
Least willing heart might think, it meant to come behind:
Thus do both hand and heart these careful metres use,
Twixt hope and trembling fear, my duty to excuse.


Wherefore accept these lines, and banish dark disdain,
Be sure they come from one that loveth thee in chief:
And guerdon me thy friend in like with love again,
So shalt thou well be sure to yield me such relief,
As only may redress my sorrows and my smart:
For proof whereof I pledge (dear Dame) to thee my heart.

Meritum petere grave.


To the Queen's most excellent Majesty.


Well, worthy Queen, and my most gracious Sovereign, it hath been written in authority, and observed by experience, "That thunder oftentimes bruseth the bones, without blemishing of the flesh; or (as some have held opinion) that hath been seen to break the sword, without hurt done to the scabbard." The which as yet is a rare and strange adventure: so in my judgement that deserveth deeply to be considered; and being once well weighed, it requireth also to be well remembered. The chances which happen unto man are infinite, and full of wonderful variety; yet are there none of them, in my judgement, so sleight or ridiculous, but that they carry with them some presage or forewarning : and, being thriftily used, may become as profitable to the willing mind, as the dry time is to the Bees’ hive; much more then are the accidents to be marked, which in themselves bewray that they are sent from above, as manifest tokens of God's wrath or will.

And because I know your Majesty to be as deep in judgement as you are gracious in favourable construction, I will, by your Highness leave, presume to allegorise this adage in such simple sort as my slender capacity is able, referring both my trifling travail, and mine unseemly self, to the doom which my duty bodeth, and the grace which your Sovereignty will vouchsafe.

Thunder then, say I, is an apparent token of God's wrath and displeasure, not only because it hath been by poetical inventions so expounded, but because we see by experience, that it never (or very seldom) bringeth good effects with it; whereas all other sudden changes in the air or planets are either of themselves comfortable and profitable, or else they are some mitigation of greater extremities. The parching sunshine drieth up and cleareth all unwholesome mists and vapours. The great dashes of rain allay the extremities of heat upon the face of the earth. The frost seasoneth the ground. The snow comforteth both grass and corn. And the hail (which of the rest is most vehement) doth draw down gross humours concealed in the air, which otherwise might grow to greater inconvenience. Only thunder with lightning his messenger do beat down corn, grass, and fruit, consume the foison of the earth, and many times do destroy our habitations and resting places : whereby we may plainly perceive, that it is a type or perfect token of God's wrath and indignation conceived against us.

Well it were high time that I should shorten this tedious preamble, and return to paraphrase upon my adage according to my promise, since I may sooner minister matter to make your Majesty smile at my folly, then set down such reasons as are worthy the attentive reading of so learned a Princess.

Shall we then take this text grossly or literally as it standeth, saying, that thunder bruiseth the bones, without blemish seen on the flesh ? or breaketh the sword, and hurteth not the scabbard? God forbid —

"But thunder (being as I have said) the wrath of God, doth often punish the soul of man when his body seemeth to flourish in greatest prosperity, yet secretly cracketh the skies of his conscience, when he triumpheth most to the outward eye of the world it breaketh the blade of his rash determinations, though it leave the scabbard of dissimulation whole and untouched; for truly, my good Sovereign, I comp the thoughts of man to be foul, how fair soever his pretences are, not unlike the filthiness of his flesh and entrails, which are cleanly covered with a fine film of comely skin."

And this allegorical exposition of thunder have I prettily piked out of mine own youthful pranks; finding, by dear experience, that God, seeing the crookedness of my waves, hath bruised my bones, though not blemished my flesh; and broken my sword, not touching the scabbard. He hath overwhelmed my privy thoughts with continual regret, though outwardly I march amongst the ranks of delightful darlings. He hath bruised my bones with the scourge of repentance, though my body bear the show of a wanton and wavering worldling. And he hath broken the blade of my heady will, though the scabbard of my wishing remain whole and at liberty. But since the judgments of the Almighty are not moveable, since time past cannot be called again, since had I wist is a simple sign of discrete government, I am forced in these extremities to take comforted in one other observation which we find in worldly occurents; for we see that one self same sunshine doth both harden the clay and dissolve the wax, whereby I am encouraged to gather, that as God (by his wrath justly conceived) hath stroken me, so (by his mercy pitifully inclined) he may, when it pleaseth him, graciously recomfort me, and the same sun which shineth in his justice to correct stubborn offenders, may also glister in his grace to forgive the penitent sinner.

These things (liege Lady) I am bold thus rudely to draw in sequence before the skilful eyes of your learned Majesty, finding my youth misspent, my substance impaired, my credit acrazed [weakened], my talent hidden, my follies laughed at, my ruin unpitied, and my truth unemployed. All which extremities, as they have of long time astonished mine understanding, so have they of late openly called me to God's gates; and your Majesty being of God, godly and (on earth) our Sovereign by God appointed, I presume likewise to knock at the gates of your gracious goodness, hoping that your Highness will set me on work though it were noon and past before I sought service.

For (most gracious Lady) although I have over-long loitered, although I have garishly gadded, although I tilled the soil of fancy, and reaped the fruit of folly, I may not yet always wander wildly, nor finally conclude to despair cowardly;I may not (like a babe) for one trifle taken from me throw away the rest which might have heaped my contention, I may not so much marvel at other men's good haps, that in the mean while I forget mine own defects.

"For as fencers, before they be made masters, must challenge and abide all comers, so magnanimity and true fortitude must be content to abide all frowns of fortune, before they attain to the height of her wheel; and more commendable is he, which (in poverty) striveth that no man excel him for virtues, then he (which in prosperity) grudgeth at another man's advancement."

And will your Majesty give me leave a little to play with myself, or arrogantly to tumble out of mine own mouth a speech, that with much more modesty might have been delivered by others. I will say then, that I find in myself some sufficiency to serve your Highness, which causeth me thus presumptuously to present you with these rude lines, having turned the eloquent tale of Hemetes the Heremite (wherewith I saw your learned judgment greatly pleased at Woodstock) into Latin, Italian, and French; not that I think any of the same translations any wise comparable with the first invention; for if your Highness compare mine ignorance with th’author’s skill, or have regard to my rude phrases compare with his well polished stile, you shall find my sentences as much disordered as arrows shot out of ploughs; and my themes as unaptly prosecuted as hares hunted with oxen; for my Latin is rusty, mine Italian musty, and my French forgrown. I mean, my Latin over long yeared, my Italian to lately learned, and my French altogether out of fashion.

But yet such Italian as I have learned in London, and such Latin as I forgot at Cambridge, such French as I borrowed in Holland, and such English as I stale in Westmorland; even such, and no better (my worthy Sovereign) have I here poured forth before you; most humbly beseeching your Majesty, that you will vouchsafe graciously to look into your loyal subject, and behold me (comely Queen) not as I have been, but as I am; or rather, not as I am, but as I would be; for I spare not here to protest, that I have no will to be, but as I should be.

Behold here (learned Princess) not Gascoigne the idle poet, writing trifles of the Green Knight; but Gascoigne the satirical writer, meditating each Muse that may express his reformation. Forget, most excellent Lady, the poesies which I have scattered in the world, and I vow to write volumes of profitable poems, wherewith your Majesty may be pleased. Only employ me, good Queen, and I trust to be proved as diligent as Clearchus, as resolute as Mutius, and as faithful as Curtius. Your Majesty shall ever find me with a pen in my right hand, and a sharp sword girt to my left side, in utramque paratum; as glad to go forwards when any occasion of your service may drive me, as willing to attend your person in any calling that you shall pleas to appoint me. My vaunting vain being now prettily well breathed, and my arrogant speeches almost spent, let me most humbly beseech your Highness that you vouchsafe to pardon my boldness, and deign to accept this my simple New year's gift.

Some news may it seem unto your Majesty, that a poor Gentleman of England, without travel or instructions (Latin except) should any way be able to deal with so many strange languages. More news should it be to my friends, if they heard that any virtue had advanced me to your service. But most gladsome news should I think them, if I might understand that your noble and worthy mind had but only vouchsafed to peruse these rude lines.

For my comfort and satisfaction herein, I chiefly crave that if your Majesty do any way mislike this my bold attempt, you will yet vouchsafe to keep it from my knowledge; "for it is one especial comfort a man to be void of understanding when the success of his occurrents is contrary to his desire."

I am your Majesty’s loyal subject, born to inherit the freedom of your dominions, and therewithal have been (more than ones) recomforted with the pleasant sound of your cheerful voice. So that your Highness hath vouchsafed to know me, and that (with the rest) emboldened this enterprise; wherein I presume, by contemplation, right humbly to kissed the delicacy of your imperial hands, beseeching the Almighty to bless you with many prosperous new years, and to enable me for your service according to my desires, this first of January, 1576 and ever,

Your Majesty’s loyal and deeply

affectionate subject,

G. Gascoigne.

The Printer [A. B.] to the Reader.


It hath been an old saying that while two dogs do strive for a bone the third may come and carry it away. And this proverb may (as I fear) be well verified in me which take in hand the imprinting of this poetical posy. For the case seemeth doubtful, and I will disclose my conjecture:

Master H. W. in the beginning of this work hath in his letter written to the Readers cunningly discharged himself of any such misliking as the graver sort of grayhaired judgers might perhaps conceive in the publication of these pleasant Pamphlets.

And next unto that learned preamble, the letter of G. T. (by whom as seemeth, the first copy hereof was unto the same H. W. delivered) doth with no less clerkly cunning seek to persuade the readers that he also would by no means have it published.

Now I fear very much -- all these words notwithstanding -- that these two gentlemen were of one assent compact to have it imprinted, and yet, finding by experience that nothing is so wellhandled nowadays but that some malicious minds may either take occasion to mislike it themselves or else find means to make it odious unto others, they have therefore each of them politicly prevented the danger of misreport, and suffered me the poor Printer to run away with the palm of so perilous a victory.

Notwithstanding, having well perused the work, I find nothing therein amiss to my judgment, unless it be two or three wanton places passed over in the discourse of an amorous enterprise. The which for as much as the words are cleanly, (although the thing meant be somewhat natural), I have thought good also to let them pass as they came to me, and the rather because (as Master H. W. hath well alleged in his letter to the Reader) the well-minded man may reap some commodity out of the most frivolous works that are written. And as the venomous spider wilt suck poison out of the most wholesome herb, and the industrious Bee can gather honey out of the most stinking weed, even so the discrete reader may take a happy example by the most lascivious histories, although the captious and harebrain'd heads can neither be encouraged by the good nor forewarned by the bad. And thus much I have thought good to say in excuse of some savours which may perchance smell unpleasantly to some noses in some part of this poetical posy.

Now it hath with this fault a greater commodity than common posies have ben accustomed to present, and that is this: you shall not be constrained to smell of the flowers therein contained all at once, neither yet to take them up in such order as they are sorted. But you may take any one flower by itself, and if that smell not so pleasantly as you would wish, I doubt not yet but you may find some other which may supply the defects thereof.

As thus: he which would have good moral lessons clerkly handled, let him smell to the Tragedy translated out of Euripides. He that would laugh at a pretty conceit closely conveyed, let him peruse the comedy translated out of Ariosto. He that would take example by the unlawful affections of a lover bestowed upon an unconstant dame, let them read the report in verse made by Dan Bartholmew of Bath, or the discourse in prose of the adventures passed by master F. I. (whom the reader may name Freeman Iones), for the better understanding of the same. He that would see any particular pang of love lively displayed, may here approve every Pamphlet by the title, and so remain contented. As also divers godly hymns and Psalms may in like manner be found in this record.

To conclude, the work is so universal as, either in one place or other, any man's mind may therewith be satisfied. The which I adventure (under pretext of this promise) to present unto all indifferent eyes as followeth.


H. W. to the Reader.

In August last passed, my familiar friend Master G. T. bestowed upon me the reading of a written Book wherein he had collected divers discourses & verses invented upon sundry occasions by sundry gentlemen, in mine opinion right commendable for their capacity. And herewithal my said friend charged me that I should use them only for mine own particular commodity, and eftsoons safely deliver the original copy to him again; wherein I must confess myself but half a merchant, for the copy unto him I have safely redelivered.

But the work (for I thought it worthy to be published) I have entreated my friend A.B. to imprint: as one that thought better to please a number by common commodity then to feed the humor of any private person by needless singularity. This I have adventured for thy contentation, learned Reader. And further have presumed of myself to christen it by the name of A hundred sundry Flowers: In which poetical posy are set forth many trifling fantasies, humoral passions, and strange affects of a lover.

And therein (although the wiser sort would turn over the leaf as a thing altogether fruitless) yet I myself have reaped this commodity, to sit and smile at the fond devises of such as have enchained themselves in the golden fetters of fantasy, and having bewrayed themselves to the whole world, do yet conjecture that they walk unseen in a net. Some other things you may also find in this Book which are as void of vanity as the first are lame for government.

And I must confess that (what to laugh at the one, & what to learn by the other) I have contrary to the charge of my said friend G. T. procured for these trifles this day of publication. Whereat if the authors only repine, and the number of other learned minds be thankful, I may then boast to have gained a bushel of good will in exchange for one pint of peevish choler.

But if it fall out contrary to expectation that the readers judgments agree not with mine opinion in their commendations, I may then (unless their courtesies supply my want of discretion), with loss of some labor, accompt also the loss of my familiar friends; in doubt whereof, I cover all our names, and refer you to the well written letter of my friend G. T. next following, whereby you may more at large consider of these occasions.

And so I commend the praise of other mens travails, together with the pardon of mine own rashness, unto the well willing minds of discrete readers. From my lodging near the Strande the 20th of Ianuary, 1572 [= 1573].


The letter of G. T. to his very friend H. W. concerning this work.

Remembering the late conference passed between us in my lodging, and how you seemed to esteem some Pamphlets which I did there show unto you far above their worth in skill, I did straightway conclude the same your judgment to proceed of two especial causes: One (and principal), the stedfast good will which you have ever hitherto sithens our first familiarity borne towards me. Another (of no less weight), the exceeding zeal and favor that you bear to good letters. The which (I agree with you) do no less bloom and appear in pleasant ditties or compendious Sonnets devised by green youthful capacities than they do fruitfully flourish unto perfection in the riper works of grave and grayhaired writers.For as in the last, the younger sort may make a mirror of perfect life, so in the first, the most frosty bearded Philosopher may take just occasion of honest recreation not altogether without wholesome lessons tending to the reformation of manners. For who doubteth but that Poets in their most feigned fables and imaginations have metaphorically set forth unto us the right rewards of virtues and the due punishments for vices?

Marry, indeed, I may not compare Pamphlets unto Poems, neither yet may justly advant for our native countrymen that they have in their verses hitherto (translations excepted) delivered unto us any such notable volume as have been by Poets of antiquity left unto the posterity. And the more pity that amongst so many toward wits no one hath been hitherto encouraged to follow the trace of that worthy and famous Knight Sir Geoffrey Chaucer and, after many pretty devises spent in youth for the obtaining a worthless victory, might consume and consummate his age in describing the right pathway to perfect felicity with the due preservation of the same. The which, although some may judge over grave a subject to be handled in style metrical, yet for that I have found in the verses of eloquent Latinists, learned Greeks, & pleasant Italians, sundry directions whereby a man may be guided toward th'attaining of that unspeakable treasure, I have thus far lamented, that our countrymen have chosen rather to win a passover praise by the wanton penning of a few loving lays than to gain immortal fame by the clerkly handling of so profitable a Theme. For if quickness of invention, proper vocables, apt Epithets, and store of monosyllables may help a pleasant brain to be crowned with Laurel, I doubt not but both our countrymen & country language might be enthronized among the old foreleaders unto the mount Helicon.

But now let me return to my first purpose, for I have wandered somewhat beside the path, and yet not clean out of the way. I have thought good (I say) to present you with this written book, wherein you shall find a number of Sonnets, lays, letters, Ballads, Rondelets, verlays and verses, the works of your friend and mine, Master F. I., and divers others, the which when I had with long travail confusedly gathered together, I thought it then Opere precium to reduce them into some good order. The which I have done, according to my barren skill, in this written Book, commending it unto you to read and to peruse, and desiring you, as I only do adventure thus to participate the sight thereof unto your former good will, even so that you will by no means make the same common: but after your own recreation taken therein that you will safely redeliver unto me the original copy. For otherwise I shall not only provoke all the authors to be offended with me, but further shall lose the opportunity of a greater matter, half and more granted unto me already, by the willing consent of one of them.

And to be plain with you, my friend, he hath written, which as far as I can learn did never yet come to the reading or perusing of any man but himself, two notable works. The one called the Sundry lots of love. The other of his own invention entitled The climbing of an Eagles nest. These things (and especially the later) doth seem by the name to be a work worthy the reading. And the rather I judge so because his fantasy is so occupied in the same, as that contrary to his wonted use, he hath hitherto withheld it from sight of any of his familiars until it be finished, you may guess him by his Nature. And therefore I require your secrecy herein, least if he hear the contrary, we shall not be able by any means to procure these other at his hands.

So fare you well, from my Chamber this tenth of August, 1572.

Yours or not his own.
G. T.


The Tale of Hemetes the Heremite, pronounced before the Queen's Majesty at Woodstock, 1575.


He speaketh to two Knights that fought there.

No more, most valiant Knights, violence must give place to virtue. And the doubtful hazard you be in, by a most noble helped must be ended. Thus the immortal gods by unmoveable destiny have decreed. Therefore cease your fight, and follow me. So shall you hear that you would little believe; and shall have with me, that will most behove you.


He speaketh to a Lady present

And you, fair Lady, fall into this fellowship; where it shall appear Sibylla said true, and your infortunes shall have end.


He speaketh to her Majesty.

Most excellent Princess, fore-pointed from above with your presence to please, and your virtue to profit, more then you are aware of; how much you are bound to the immortal gods, and mortal men be bound to you, our present ease will partly prove. But, before you understand the worth of your virtue, it may please you to hear the variableness of our adventures. Not long since, in the country of Cambaya, which is situate near the mouth of the riche river Indus, a mighty Duke bare dominion, called Occanon, who had heir to his estate but one only daughter, named Gandina. This Lady then, more fair than fortunate, lived most dear to her father, and most beloved of his people. But to prove that beauty is not ever a benefit, nor high estates be always the happiest, it happened within a while, Gandina, sought by many that were great, and served by many that were worthy, had more competitors of her beauty, than did either well content her, or prove it commodious unto her; for Love, which is not led by order, nor chooseth by appointment, limed her affection unmovably with the liking of a Knight (of estate but mean, but of value very great) called Contarenus, who exceedingly loved her. So the desires of many other was somewhat for her glory, but nothing for her gain.

 In small process of time (the secret tires of their fancies discovered) the smoke of their desires bewrayed this matter to her father long before they would. The Duke, dissembling what he saw, determining to disappoint that he most misliked, neither made challenged to the Knight, nor charged his daughter for any love was betwixt them; but deviced away (as he thought) most sure, but (as it proved) most sorrowful, to set these lovers in sunder. By the work of an enchantress (most cunning in her kind) he caused Contarenus to be caught up and carried in the air from the coast of Cambaya to the very bounds of the Ocean Sea; which cost Occanon twenty thousand crowns, a dear price of repentance. But it is no novelty Princes to make their wills very costly, and sometime to pay dear for their own displeasure.

Contarenus, thus strangely divided wear this punishment with patience, which necessity did put on, and destiny wold put of. And, ere seven years came about, she truly assured him he should have for his reward the height of his desire. But first he should fight with the hardiest Knight, and see the worthiest Lady in the whole world. Now (the whilest) she told him he must take the guard of a blind heremite, who should recover his sight and he his satisfaction both at one time. So she left him on the earth, and toke her way again into the air.

Gandina now lacking long that she looked for, (the sight and service of her Knight) fell soon into those diseases that accompany such desire, as she was accumbered with mistrust, curiosity, and exceeding unrest. At last (as Princes do few things so privily but they have partakers of their council, and heirs to crowns lack never servants of hope, which be curious to please them) the device and dealing of Occanon came to the ears of his daughter; the which being told her, "And is it even so," quoth Gandina. "Care Kings for no right? and right cares for no kingdom. It is neither the court of Occanon, nor the country of Cambaya, that I can account of, if Contarenus be gone. Farewell, unhappy country, and most cruel father, that turns me to this fortune to follow my faith : which neither greatness of estate, nor hazard of mine adventures, shall make me forsake. But if I lose not my life, I will find Contarenus, if he be in the world." This said, she pursued her most hard determination: and taking only a damsel with her, in simple habit, with such things as were necessary, she straight conveyed herself most closely from the borders of Cambaya; and with toil too long to tell, passed perils past belief, till at last she arrived at the grotto of Sibylla, where by chance she met a most noble Knight cleped [called] Loricus, by love likewise drawn thither, to learn what should betide him.

This Loricus loved a Lady that was matchless in such manner as was strange; for, after much device and diligence to attain to that favour that she would be pleased, he might but love her without looking for reward. Seeing no glimpse of her liking his utmost devotion, to find surely out her fancy which she carried most closely, he made a strange assay: with all semblant [demeanour] that might be, he showed to set by her but little, that was so sought for all; and the better to colour the passion he was not able to conquer, he made show of choice of a new Mistress that lived every day in her eye (a piece surely of price, but far from such a pearl as his heart only esteemed); and to this idol he seemed to offer all his love, and his service, leaving no manner of observance that to love appertaineth, as wearing her colour on his back, and her picture in his bosom; keeping her company before all other, and continuing most at her commandment : which espied by the Lady that indeed was like no more (for whatsoever man may think might become or content) though she cared not for his choice, she showed scorn of his change; and disclosed by jealousy that love cold not discover. Which Loricus perceiving he fell by and by to consider it was the want of his worth that made his service unacceptable, and no impossibility in her will, to receive them to serve her, that merited the honour of such favour. Therefore he left his own country, and betook himself altogether to travel and to arms, desiring with most endeavour but to deserve that reputation, as this great and noble Mistress wold but think him worthy to be hers though she would never be none of his. So thinking no toil too tough, nor no attempt to hard to attain to renown, he wandered through the world, till by painful ways he came to Sibylla’s grotto, where he met Gandina.

There these two lovers having occasion to unfold all their fortunes, the Lady seeking to knew the end of her travel, and the Knight some advise for the ease of his hope. They both received this answer of Sibylla, "That as they were now coupled by fortune, they should never part fellowship till they had found out a place where men were most strong, and women most fair, the country most fertile, the people most wealthy, the government most just, and the Princes most worthy : so should the Lady see that would content her, so should the Knight here that would comfort him."

Now, most dear and best deserving Lady, it falls to my purpose and your praise to say somewhat of myself. Old though you see me here, and wrinkled, cast into a corner, yet ones have I been otherwise a Knight known and accepted of with the best in the world, and living in a court of most fame, amongst a swarm of Knights and Ladies of great worth and great virtue, where beauty had the base, and desire sought the goal, it chanced me to love a Lady, to be beloved of Love himself if he could have but seen her. But as she was such as did excel, so was she the wonderful of condition, without disdain to be desired, but most dainty to be dealt with; for touch her, and she would turn to twenty divers shapes; yet to none but to content me as me thought, that though still to touch her was a heaven. And so it seemed by my hold that was most loath to let her go, till she liked, alas! at the last to put on the shape of a Tigress, so terrible to behold as I durst hold her no longer : and being so escaped, I could never more set eye on her.

Madame, thus began my pain; but you heard not yet my punishment. Being shifted from the sight of that I sought above all things in the world, and then little delighting to look on anything else, I toke by and by a pilgrimage to Paphos in Cyprus, trusting to here of my Mistress there where Venus most was honoured : whither when I was come, as I began to step in at the doors of her temple, I was suddenly striken blind.

Astonished at my mischance, and understanding no cause, I fell on my knees, and said, "O fairst of the goddess, and farthest from cruelty, what hath been my fault that you are thus offended ?" "Thy folly and presumption," quoth Venus' chaplain (as I guess). "From my youth up," quoth I, "I have been an honourer of virtue, a delighter in learning, and a servant of love." "But it is no parted affection," quoth he, "that Venus will be honoured with. Books and beauty make no match; and it is a whole man, or no man, that this goddess will have serve her." And therewithal taking me by the shoulders, he thrust me outer of the temple.

So with sighs and sorrow I sat down in the porch, making intercession to Apollo, the peculiar god I honoured, to have compassion of mine estate. Now faithful prayers being heard ere they be ended, Mercury comes unto me, and bids me be of good comfort. "The gods," quoth he, "be just, though women be angry; the goddess be all found to have this fault, Diana with Acteon, Pallas with Arachne, Juno with Tiresias, were angry without measure; so is Venus now with thee. The cause, with the remedy, shall be told thee at Delphos, whither straight I must carry thee :" which he had no sooner spoken, but by and by I was set in the temple of Apollo; where, first demanding my fault, the oracle made me answer, "Thy fear and not thy faith." "And what," quoth I, "may be my remedy ?" "The best beside the beautifullest," the oracle straight answered.

And with this, Apollo his priest toke me by the hand, recounting unto me the whole course of my life, whom I loved, and how I lost her. And when I told him of the faithfulness of my service, and faultlessness of my meaning, of the variableness of her condition, and at last of the fearfulness of her appearance; "Ah, good Hemetes," quoth he, "it is not the kind of women to be cruel, it is but their countenance. And touching their variableness, who will not apply himself thereto, shall not much pleas them, nor long hold them; neither is it to be found fault with. Nature itself loveth variety, so it be without deceit. Now for thy faultlessness, it sufficeth not : the servant of Venus must not only have faith, but also lack fear. Fear lost thee thy Mistress, and thy boldness to enter into Venus's temple being unacceptable, made her strike thee blind. But Apollo bids me tell thee, 'The gods will receive whom women forsake; and eyes shut from delight have minds more open to understanding.' This punishment shall be thy profit. Venus can bar thee but from her felicity of love; but for thy devotion thou bearest to Apollo, he giveth thee this gift, to be able to decipher the destiny of everyone in love; and better to advise them than the best of her darlings. And further now doth promise thee, in revolution of years thou shalt recover thy sight. But this shall not betide thee, till at one time and in one place, in a country of most peas, two of the most valiant Knights shall fight, two of the most constant lovers shall meet, and the most virtuous lady in the world shall be there to look on. And when thine eyes may behold that thy heart delighteth in, a Lady in whom inhabiteth the most virtue, learning, and beauty, that ever was in creature, then shall they be opened, and that shall be thy warrant. All Apollo saieth is sooth, the whilst it is determined thou shalt dwell in an Hermitage, where nothing that longs to nature's use shall be lacking unto thee."

So suddenly I was shifted to this hill hard by, where I have wintered many a year, far from the woes and wrongs the world besides is full of. And now, best Lady and most beautiful, so termed of the oracle, and so thought of in the world, what the enchantress told Contarenus, Sibylla showed Gandina and Loricus, and what Apollo said to me, by your most happy coming is verified. The most hardy Knights Contarenus and Loricus here have fought, the most constant lovers Loricus and Gandina here be met, and I, poor Hemetes, as this Knight knoweth, full long blind, have received again my sight. All which happened by the grace of your virtue, with the best so much honoured, and we are now most bound to. And so I present these noble persons to pleas you with their service, and myself to serve you with my prayers : and leaving the lovers to their delight, must leave Loricus this advise : Knight, persecute thy purpose, it is noble; learning by me not to fear, and of thyself to take pain, remembering nothing notable is won without difficulty. Hercules had by his labour his renown, and his ruin by his love. Loricus, thine end will be reward, at least most reputation which noblest women must esteem. But I fear I have to long tired your most noble ears; and therefore only now I beseech your Majesty with your happy presence to honour my poor home, whither I mean straight to guide you.


This tale ended, he led her to his Hermitage; where when he was come he used these words following, and so did leave her.


"Here, most noble Lady, have I now brought you to this most simple Hermitage, where as you shall see small cunning but of nature, and no cost but of goodwill. Mine hour approacheth for my horizons; which, according to my vow, I must never break. I must here leave your Majesty, promising to pray (as for my soul), that whosoever wish you best, may never wish in vain."


[The Adventures of Master F. I. / The Tale of Suspicion]


When Dame Ellinor, for compassion, distilled into tears and drew towards the window, leaving the other Gentlewomen about his bed, who being no less sorry for his grief, yet for that they were none of them so touched in their secret thoughts, they had bolder sprits and freer speech to recomfort him. Amongst the rest, the Lady Frances (who indeed loved him deeply and could best conjecture the cause of his conceits) said unto him: "Good Trust," quoth she, "if any help of Physic may cure your malady, I would not have you hurt yourself with these doubts which you seem to retain. If choice of Diet may help, behold us here (your cooks) ready to minister all things needful. If company may drive away your annoy, we mean not to leave you solitary. If grief of mind be cause of your infirmity, we all here will offer our devoir to turn it into joy. If mishap have given you cause to fear or dread any thing, remember Hope, which never faileth to recomfort an afflicted mind. And good Trust," quoth she, distraining his hand right heartily, "let this simple proof of our poor good wills be so accepted of you as that it may work thereby the effect of our desires."

F. I. (as one in a trance) had marked very little of her courteous talk, and yet gave her thanks, and so held his peace. Whereat the Ladies being all amazed, there became a silence in the chamber on all sides. Dame Ellinor, fearing thereby that she might the more easily be espied, and having now dried up her tears, returned to F. I., recomforting him by all possible means of common courtesy, promising that since in her sickness he had not only stanched her bleeding, but also by his gentle company and sundry devices of honest pastime had driven away the pensiveness of her mind, she thought herself bound with like willingness to do her best in any thing that might restore his health; and taking him by the hand, said further: "Good servant, if thou bear indeed any true affection to thy poor Mistress, start upon thy feet again and let her enjoy thine accustomed service to her comfort; for sure," quoth she, "I will never leave to visit this chamber once in a day until I may have thee down with me."

F. I., hearing the hearty words of his Mistress and perceiving the earnest manner of her pronunciation, began to receive unspeakable comfort in the same, and said, "Mistress, your exceeding courtesy were able to revive a man half dead, and to me it is both great comfort and it doth also gald my remembrance with a continual smart of mine own unworthiness: but as I would desire no longer life than till I might be able to deserve some part of your bounty, so I will endeavor myself to live, were it but only unto that end that I might merit some part of your favor with acceptable service, and requite some deal the courtesy of all these other fair Ladies, who have so far above my deserts deigned to do me good."

Thus said, the Ladies tarried not long before they were called to Evensong, when his Mistress taking his hand, kissed it saying: "Farewell, good servant, and I pray thee suffer not the malice of thy sickness to overcome the gentleness of thy good heart."

F. I., ravished with joy, suffered them all to depart and was not able to pronounce one word. After their departure, he gan cast in his mind the exceeding courtesy used towards him by them all: but above all other the bounty of his Mistress, and therewithal took a sound and firm opinion that it was not possible for her to counterfeit so deeply (as indeed I believe that she then did not). Whereby he suddenly felt his heart greatly eased, and began in himself thus to reason: "Was ever man of so wretched a heart? I am the most bounden to love," quoth he, "of all them that ever professed his service, I enjoy one the fairest that ever was found, and I find her the kindest that ever was heard of: yet in mine own wicked heart I could villainously conceive that of her, which being compared with the rest of her virtues is not possible to harbor in so noble a mind. Hereby I have brought my self without cause into this feebleness, and good reason that for so high an offence I should be punished with great infirmity. What shall I then do? yield to the same? No, but according to my late protestation I will recomfort this languishing mind of mine, to the end I may live but only to do penance for this so notable a crime so rashly committed."

And thus saying, he start from his bed, and gan to walk towards the window: but the venomous serpent which (as before I rehearsed) had stung him could not be content that these medicines applied by the mouth of his gentle Mistress should so soon restore him to guerison. And although in deed they were such Mithridate to F. I. as that they had now expelled the rancor of the poison, yet that ugly hellish monster had left behind her in the most secret of his bosom (even between the mind and the man) one of her familiars named Suspect, which gan work in the weak spirits of F. I. effects of no less peril than before he had conceived: his head swelling with these troublesome toys and his heart swimming in the tempests of tossing fantasy: he felt his legs so feeble, that he was constrained to lie down on his bed again, and repeating in his own remembrance every word that his Mistress had spoken unto him, he gan to dread that she had brought the willow branch to beat him with in token that he was of her forsaken: for so lovers do most commonly expound the willow garland. And this to think, did cut his heart in twain.


A wonderful change: and here a little to stay you, I will describe (for I think you have not read it in Ariosto) the beginning, the fall, the return, and the being of this hellish bird, who indeed may well be counted a very limb of the Devil.

Many years since, one of the most dreadful dastards in the world, and one of them that first devised to wear his beard at length -- lest the barber might do him a good turn sooner than he looked for it, and yet not so soon as he deserved -- had builded for his security a pile on the highest and most inaccessible mount of all his Territories. The which, being fortified with strong walls and environed with deep ditches, had no place of entry but one only door so straight and narrow as might by any possibility receive the body of one living man, from which he ascended up a ladder & so creeping thorough a marvelous straight hole attained to his lodging, the which was so dark & obscure as scarcely either sun or air could enter into it. Thus he devised to lodge in safety, and for the more surety gan trust none other letting down this ladder but only his wife, and at the foot thereof kept always by daylight a fierce mastiff close enkenneled which never saw nor heard the face or voice of any other creature but only of them two; him by night he trusted with the scout of this pretty passage, having nevertheless between him and this dog a double door with treble locks, quadruple bars: and before all a portcullis of Iron. Neither yet could he be so hardy as to sleep until he had caused a guard of servants (whom he kept abroad for that purpose) to search all the corners adjoining to his fortress, and then between fearful sweat and shivering cold, with one eye open and the other closed, he stole sometimes a broken sleep divided with many terrible dreams.

In this sort the wretch lived all too long, until at last his wife, being not able any longer to support this hellish life, grew so hardy as with his own knife to dispatch his carcass out of this earthly purgatory.

The which being done his soul (and good reason) was quickly conveyed by Charon unto hell. There, Radamanthus, judge of that bench, commanded him quickly to be thrust into a boiling pool. And being therein plunged very often, he never shrieked or cried, "I scald," as his other companions there cried, but seemed so lightly to esteem it that the judge thought meet to condemn him unto the most terrible place, where are such torments as neither pen can write, tongue express, or thought conceive. But the miser even there seemed to smile and to make small account of his punishment. Radamanthus, hereof informed, sent for him and demanded the cause why he made so light of his durance.

He answered that whiles he lived on earth he was so continually afflicted and oppressed with suspicion as that now only to think that he was out of those meditations was sufficient armor to defend him from all other torments.

Radamanthus astonied hereat, gan call together the Senators of that kingdom, and propounded this question: how & by what punishment they might devise to touch him according to his deserts?

And hereupon fell great disputation. At last -- being considered that he had already been plunged in the most unspeakable torments & thereat little or nothing had changed countenance, therewithal that no soul was sent unto them to be relieved of his smart but rather to be punished for his former delights -- it was concluded by the general council that he should be eftsoons sent into the world & restored to the same body wherein he first had his residence, so to remain for perpetuity and never to depart nor to perish.

Thus this body and soul being once again united, and now eftsoons with the same pestilence infected, he became of a suspicious man Suspicion itself.

And now the wretch, remembering the treason of his wife who had so willingly dispatched him once before, gan utterly abhor her and fled her company, searching in all countries some place of better assurance. And when he had in vain trod on the most part of the earth, he embarked himself to find some unknown Island wherein he might frame some new habitation, and finding none so commodious as he desired, he fortuned (sailing along by the shore) to espy a rock more than six hundred Cubits high, which hung so suspiciously over the seas as though it would threaten to fall at every little blast. This did Suspicion imagine to be a fit foundation whereon he might build his second Bower. He forsook his boat and traveled by land to espy what entry or access might be made unto the same, and found from land no manner of entry or access unless it were that some courteous bird of the air would be Ambassador, or convey some Engines as whilom the Eagle did carry Ganymedes into heaven.

He then returned to Seas, and approaching near to his rock, found a small stream of fresh water issuing out of the same into the Seas -- the which, although it were so little and so straight as might unethes receive a boat of bigness to carry one living creature at once, yet in his conceit he thought it more large and spacious than that broad way called of our forefathers Via appia, or than that other named Flaminia -- he abandoned his bark and, putting off his clothes, adventured (for he was now assured not to drown) to wade and swim against the stream of this unknown brook, the which (a wondrous thing to tell, and scarcely to be believed) came down from the very top and height of this rock. And by the way he found six straight & dangerous places where the water seemed to stay his course, passing under six straight and low bridges, and hard by every of those places a pile raised up in manner of a Bulwark, the which were hollow in such sort as lodgings and other places necessary might in them commodiously be devised by such one as could endure the hellishness of the place.

Passing by these, he attained with much pain unto the top of the Rock, the which he found hollowed as the rest, and far more fit for his security than otherwise apt for any commodity. There gan Suspicion determine to nestle him self, and having now placed six chosen porters, (to wit, Dread, Mistrust, Wrath, Desperation, Frenzy, and Fury) at these six strange Bulwarks, he lodged himself in the seven all alone, for he trusted no company, but ever mistrusting that his wife should eftsoons find him out, therein he shrieketh continually like to a screech owl to keep the watch waking, never content to sleep by day or by night, but, to be sure that he should not oversleep himself, gan stuff his couch with Porcupines quills to the end that when heavy sleep overcame him and he thereby should be constrained to charge his pallet with more heavy burden, those plumes might then prick through and so awake him. His garments were steel upon Iron, and that Iron upon Iron, and Iron again, and the more he was armed, the less he trusted to be out of danger. He chopped and changed continually now this, now that, new keys, new locks, ditches new scoured, and walls newly fortified, and thus always uncontented liveth this wretched hellhound Suspicion in this hellish dungeon of habitation, from whence he never removeth his foot but only in the dead & silent nights when he may be assured that all creatures (but himself) are whelmed in sound sleep. And then with stealing steps he stalketh about the earth, infecting, tormenting, and vexing all kinds of people with some part of his afflictions, but especially such as either do sit in chair of greatest dignity and estimation, or else such as have achieved some dear and rare emprise.

Those above all others he continually galdeth with fresh wounds of dread, lest they might lose and forgo the rooms whereunto with such long travail and good haps they had attained, and by this means percase he had crept into the bosom of F. I. who (as is before declared) did erst swim in the deepest seas of earthly delights.



The Complete Works of George Gascoigne, ed. John W. Cunliffe, I-II. Cambridge 1907-1910. vol. II: [The Tale of Hemetes the Hermyte] (1575).



Felix E. Schelling, The Life andWritings of George Gascoigne. Boston, Halle 1893.

Gabriel Heaton, Writing and Reading Royal Entertainments: From George Gascoigne toBen Jonson. Oxford 2010.