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

VIII. The New English Poetry

§ 16. Thomas Howell

Thomas Howell, the author of The Arbor of Amitie (1568), Newe Sonets, and pretie Pamphlets (1568) and the better known Devises (1581), is a poet of greater variety than either Googe or Turbervile. Two points of detail should secure his memory from oblivion: first, that his Devises contains a poem beginning Goe learned booke, and unto Pallas sing, believed to contain the earliest extant reference in literature to Sidney’s Arcadia, which Howell must have seen in manuscript; and, next, that A Dreame, in the same volume, is written in the fourteen-lined stanza, possibly of Scots origin, which was used, later, by Montgomerie and is best known through The Jolly Beggars of Burns. For the rest, Howell, of whose life little is known beyond that he was born possibly at Dunster in Somerset, educated possibly at Oxford, and was certainly gentleman-retainer in the related families of the earls of Pembroke and of Shrewsbury, was a close student of Tottel’s Miscellany and reproduced, in all sincerity, but with no spark of genius, the thoughts and the characteristics of the school of Wyatt and Surrey. He knew his Petrarch, and he knew his Chaucer; and he devoted himself to repeating in the approved style of the time the approved truths about the sorrows of love, the uncertainty of fortune and the briefness of life. To Howell, as to his contemporaries, the fourteen-syllabled line offered irresistible attractions; but he wins interest by the variety of metres he attempts, and by giving, perhaps, a foretaste of the flexibility which was shortly to constitute one of the greatest charms of lyrical poetry.