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

XVI. Elizabethan Prose Fiction

§ 16. Anthony Munday

Nor must the Spanish romances, popularised by Anthony Munday in his English translations, be entirely forgotten. Between 1580 and 1590, he produced those versions of the Amadis and Palmerin cycles which represent modifications of the Arthurian romance. The works were viewed with disfavour by the cultured classes, on account of their preposterous plots, and the crudeness and inaccuracy of their rendering. Munday achieved a popular success, but he added little to his reputation, or to the dignity of the Elizabethan romance.

Before the last decade of the century was well advanced, a marked change came over works of fiction. By a sort of normal reaction, idealism gave way to realism, the romance to the realistic pamphlet and story, and, from Arcadia and Bohemia with their courtly amenities, the scene moved to London and its everyday life. The chief writers of this type of work were Greene, Nashe and Deloney, who, however, differ somewhat in the methods they adopt. Greene relates his own life-story, a grim narrative, which reveals, incidentally, much of the seamier side of life; and this he follows up with a series of revelations as to the tricks and knaveries of London rogues. Nashe, on the other hand, while less gloomy, is more satirical in what he has to say. He deals with follies and quackeries, rather than vices, and, while his methods are sufficiently trenchant, he has an eye to the humorous side of things: in his picaresque novel, the rogue becomes a hero. Deloney, again, has neither the grim realism of the one nor the forceful satire of the other. He is content to depict citizen life with a proper regard for the dignity of the crafts, and with a quiet sense of humour, which is by no means inconsistent with his more serious intentions.