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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

§ 15. The Harvey Nashe Greene controversy

The Theologicall Discourse is mainly interesting for its “Epistle to the Reader,” which contained a passage apparently vilifying the littérateurs of the day under the name of the “make plaies and make bates” of London. This roused Greene, in his Quip for an Upstart Courtier (1592), to retaliate by some comments upon the Harvey family in general. The poet soon afterwards died; but Gabriel Harvey’s pride had been seriously wounded and he would not allow the matter to rest there. His reply, heaping contempt and imputations upon the memory of the dead man, was answered by Nashe, and the dispute continued with unabated vigour for some five years, when, at last, a stop was put to it by the authorities. That Richard Harvey, whose words had led to this fiery quarrel, should be the same man who had just published Plaine Percevall the Peace-maker of England, is somewhat hard to credit, but so we are definitely assured by Nashe. After Martins Months Minde, this is the most readable of the answers to Martin. Its style is original, shows faint traces of Euphuism, and is embroidered with homely proverbs and parenthetical anecdotes in the manner of Sam Weller. Plaine Percevall himself figures as a countryman of common-sense, an unsophisticated “man in the street,” who, amazed at “this surpernaturall art of wrangling,” bids all “be husht and quiet a Godsname.”

The entry of the Harveys is an indication of the widespread interest taken in the controversy, and certain tracts noted in the Stationers’ register, together with the list of “hageling and profane” pamphleteers given in Martin Junior, shows us that there were many other writers, not necessarily supporting either side, who felt compelled to record their opinions upon the vexed topic of the day. The tracts of two only have survived, and both voice the same desire for peace and quiet that Plaine Percevall had expressed. Their titles are A Myrror for Martinists by Thomas Turswell and A Friendly Admonition to Martin Marprelate by Leonard Wright; they were entered at Stationers’ Hall on 22 December, 1589, and 19 January, 1590, respectively.

The last shot fired on the Marprelate battlefied was An Almond for a Parrat which, begun as a reply to The Protestation, was delayed for some reason and did not appear until the following spring. Its literary merits are small, but it is much more closely reasoned and well-informed than any other anti-Martinist production, and its author seems to have been at pains to collect much information about Penry, whom he declares to be “Martin,” Udall, Wiggington and other famous puritans. Though An Almond for a Parrat is a companion to Pappe with a Hatchet, written in the same ejaculatory, swashbuckling style and replete with similar ribald stories, nevertheless, the attribution of it to Lyly does not find favour.