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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction

By Thomas Lodge (1558–1625)

SOME of the most exquisite strains in English poetry were sounded by the minor Elizabethan lyrists. Their song has a quality that keeps it in the world’s remembrance; in its cadences is an unpremeditated music both rare and beautiful. Thomas Lodge is one of these singers: a man of varied literary and other activity, a few of whose lyrics are among the loveliest in that Golden Age of English poetry.

His father was Sir Thomas Lodge, Lord Mayor of London; and the son was born about 1558, either in London or at the family’s country seat in Essex. Thomas was educated at the Merchant Taylors’ School, and went up to Oxford about 1573; entering Trinity College as a servitor, and taking a B. A. presumably in 1577. Then he tried law study at Lincoln’s Inn, and gave it up for literature. Lodge wrote promising verse at Oxford, and on returning to London mingled in a society that included well-known men of letters like Greene, Daniel, Drayton, Lyly, and Watson. Lodge’s selection of literature cost him dear, for his family disinherited him. As a result he was apparently in considerable financial difficulty at different times during his career. He made several sea voyages, visiting the Canaries and South America: no doubt this experience furnished him with literary material. He tried the military profession too; traveled a good deal on the Continent; turned Romanist in middle life; and after writing verse until 1596, forsook the Muses for medicine, and got an M. D. at Oxford in 1602. He had a successful practice among fellow religionists, and did not cease entirely from the cultivation of letters; for several books of scholarly translation were published during the years he was addressed as Dr. Lodge. Indeed, he continued to publish up to 1620. His death fell in 1625 at London.

Lodge’s first literary work of any consequence was an answer to an attack upon the drama by Gosson. Dramatic work seems always to have tempted Lodge, and he essayed play-writing several times; the drama written in conjunction with Greene, ‘A Looking-Glass for London and England’ (1594) winning vogue. But this was not his true field. His genuine literary triumphs were gained in the prose romance and in poetry. The finest production in the former kind is ‘Rosalynde, Euphues Golden Legacie’ (1590), a slow-moving, richly decorated fantasy of much beauty; it is ornate and affected, in the Euphuistic manner made fashionable by Lyly, but is full of languid grace and charm, and contains moreover some of the author’s most pleasing lyrics. Its atmosphere is the gentle chivalry of Sir Philip Sidney. Shakespeare drew his ‘As You Like It’ directly from this dainty prose pastoral; and one who reads the latter with the lovely comedy in mind will see that even in diction, Shakespeare owes not a little to Lodge. Later, Lodge plainly imitated Lyly in ‘Euphues Shadow, The Battaile of the Sences’ (1592). Lodge’s chief volume of verse was ‘Phyllis’ (1593); which contained some forty sonnets and short pieces, together with a longer narrative poem. The same year a collection appeared called ‘The Phœnix Nest,’ which included a number of Lodge’s lyrics not in ‘Phyllis.’ In 1595 was published ‘A Fig for Momus,’ made up of eclogues, satires, and miscellaneous pieces. Various contemporary collections of poetry, such as ‘England’s Parnassus’ and ‘England’s Helicon,’ reprinted his best poems; a proof that Lodge’s work did not fall still-born in his own day. Yet he was only moderately esteemed by his contemporaries. Although he was, in an age of almost universal borrowing and imitation, one who owed much to the classical writers and to French and Italian models and to his fellow Englishmen, yet in his poetry both music and manner are all his own, and very true and sweet. He improved what he borrowed. He had a touch at once individual and lovely. The bulk of his literary work is of small account. A few little songs and madrigals—mere sugared trifles—outweigh everything else, and are his permanent legacy to after times.