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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

XIV. Elizabethan Criticism

§ 10. The Harvey Nashe controversy

The illiberal, and, to some tastes, at any rate, rather wearisome, “flyting” between Harvey and Nashe over the dead body of Greene necessarily contains a large number of passages which are critical after a fashion—indeed, the names of most writers of the strictly Elizabethan period will be found with critical epithets or phrases attached to them. But the whole is so thoroughly subdued to the general tone of wrangling that any pure critical spirit is, necessarily, absent. Nashe, with his usual faculty of hard hitting, says to his foe, “You will never leave your old tricks of drawing Master Spenser into every piebald thing you do.” But the fact is that both merely use other men of letters as offensive or defensive weapons for their own purposes.

A few, but only a few, fragments of criticism strictly or approximately Elizabethan may now be noticed. These are The Excellency of the English Tongue by Richard Carew (1595–6?), a piece in which patriotism reinforces itself with a good amount of knowledge; the critical prefatory matter of Chapman’s Iliad (or, rather, its first instalments in 1598), which contains a vigorous onslaught on Scaliger for his “soulblind impalsied diminuation” of Homer; Drayton’s interesting prosodic note (1603) on his own change of metre, etc., when he rehandled Mortimeriados into The Barons Wars (his still more interesting verse epistle to Reynolds is much later); Meres’s famous catalogue of contemporary wits (1598), known to everyone for its references to Shakespeare, but in no part or respect discovering much critical ability; passages of William Vaughan (1600), Edmund Bolton and a few others. But the last of all strictly Elizabethan discussion of matters literary, and almost the most valuable part of it, is the notable duel between Thomas Campion and Samuel Daniel on the question of rime.