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

XVII. The Marprelate Controversy

§ 13. The dramatic and literary replies

Meanwhile, there had been a renewed outburst of anti-Martinist pamphlets, this time in prose. The first of the new series, A Countercuffe given to Martin Junior, published under the pseudonym of Pasquill, on or about 8 August, was a direct answer to Theses Martinianae and, at the same time, served as a kind of introductory epistle to the tracts that followed, being but four pages in length. Pasquill announces that he is preparing two books for publication, The Owles Almanack and The Lives of the Saints. The latter is to consist of scandalous tales relating to prominent puritans, to collect which the author has “posted very diligently all over the Realme.” Whether he ever thus turned the tables upon Martin, we do not know; but one promise made in this tract was certainly fulfilled. Before the conclusion, Martin Junior is warned to expect shortly a commentary upon his epilogue, with epitaphs for his father’s hearse. This refers to Martins Months Minde, and it is worth noticing that the writer claims no responsibility for it as he does for the other two.

Martins Months Minde, by far the cleverest and most amusing of the anti-Martinist tracts, in all probability saw light soon after A Countercuffe. Its title refers to the old practice of holding a commemoration service, known as a “month’s mind,” four weeks after a funeral. The fresh vein of humour opened by Martin in Theses Martinianae is here further worked out by a writer of the opposite side. After discussing the various rumours to account for old Martin’s disappearance, the tract proceeds to give “a true account” of his death, describing his treatment by the physicians, his dying speech to his sons, the terrible diseases that led to his death, his will and, lastly, the revelations of a post-mortem examination of his corpse. The whole is rounded off by a number of epitaphs in English and Latin by his friends and acquaintances. All this is retailed with much humour and a little coarseness, and is prefaced by two dedicatory epistles, the first of which is addressed to Pasquine of England and signed Marphoreus.

The tracts just mentioned do not refer to the capture of Martin’s press or to the printing of The Protestation, and it is probable, therefore, that they preceded both these events. Pappe with a Hatchet and The Returne of Pasquill, the two that follow, were almost finished before The Protestation came into circulation, each containing, in a postcript, a brief reference to its appearance. An approximate date is fixed for all three tracts by the postscript of The Returne, dated “20 Octobris,” in which the author states that “olde Martins Protestation” came into his hands “yesternight late.” Of the two anti-Martinist tracts, Pappe with a Hatchet was, probably, the earlier, since an answer to it by Gabriel Harvey, which we shall notice later, was concluded before 5 November. This worthless production is the only hitherto undisputed contribution by John Lyly to the controversy. It essays to imitate the style which Martin had adopted; but the frequent ejaculations with which it is besprinkled do nothing to relieve the tediousness of the whole. For the rest, it is a compound of sheer nonsense and frank obscenity and must have disgusted more with the cause it upheld than it ever converted from Martinism. The Returne of Pasquill was superior in every way to Lyly’s work, but, even so, it cannot rank very high. Pasquill, returning from abroad, meets Marphoreus on the Royal Exchange, and they discuss the inexhaustible topic of Martinism together. A description of a puritan service at Ashford, Kent, leads us to suppose that the author of A Countercuffe may, indeed, have carried out his intention of posting over England for news of the Martinists, and we have further references to the two books containing his experiences already promised. The tract concludes with a brief reply to The Protestation, containing, it is interesting to observe, a eulogy on Bancroft.