Philobiblon: Literary fame

Monday, September 20, 2004

Literary fame

A convergence of two items about Shakespeare has left me musing this morning on the nature of literary fame. The first was in Today in Literature (that link will only work for a couple of days) and the second was further English Garner browsing: "Sketch of English Literature, Painting, and Music up to September 1598,", by Francis Meres.(Vol II pp. 94-106).

It starts with the ancients, and tries to match them up with the moderns, so:
"As Greece had three poets of great antiquity, Orpheus, Linus and Musaeus, and Italy, other three ancient poets Livius Andronicus, Ennius and Plautus: so hath England three ancient poets: CHAUCER, GOWER and LYDGATE." (Fair enough - but then Meres already had a couple of centuries perspective.)

Then he gets to his contemporaries, and Homer, Hesiod, Euripides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Pindarus, Phyocylides and Aristophanes; and Virgil, Ovid, Horace, Silius Italicus, Lucanus, Lucretius, Ausonius and Claudianus, "so the English tongue is mightily enriched, and gorgeously invested in rare ornaments and resplendent habilments by SIR PHILIP SYDNEY, SPENSER, DANIEL, DRAYTON, WARNER, SHAKESPEARE, MARLOW, and CHAPMAN."

Several "who?"s in that one.


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