English Literature

A History of Elizabethan Literature by George Saintsbury

By George Saintsbury

This Elibron Classics e-book is a facsimile reprint of a 1910 variation via Macmillan and Co., constrained, London.

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As usual, we shall try to discussit with less reference to what has been said about it than to itself. Euphues (properly divided into two parts, " Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit," and " Euphues and his England," the sceneof the first lying in Naples) is a kind of love story; the action, however,being next to nothing, and subordinated to an infinite amount of moral and courtly discourse. Oddly enough, the unfavourable sentence of Hallam, that it is "a very dull story," and the favourable sentence of Kingsley, that it is "a brave, righteous, and pious book," are both quite true, and, indeed, any one can see that there is nothing incompatible in them.

Now it is done only for you, only to you ; if you keep it to yourself, or commendit to such friends who will weigh errors in the balanceof good will, I hope, for the father's sake,it will be pardoned,perchancemade much of, though in itself it have deformities. For indeed for severereyesit is not, being but a trifle, and that triflingly handled. Your dear self can bestwitness the manner,being done in loose sheetsof paper, most of it in your presence,the rest by sheets sent unto you as fast as they were done.

That Sidney-a young man, and a man of fashion at the time when Lyly's oddities were fashionable-should have to a great extent (for his resistanceis by no meansabsolute)resistedthe temptation to imitate them, is very creditable. But the influence of EupJntcswas at least as strong for many years as the influence of the Arcadia and the Apii/i'^v ; and the chief thing that can be said for Sidney is that he did not wholly follow Lyly to do evil. Nor is his positive excellence in prose to be compared for a moment with his positive excellence in poetry.

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