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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

IV. Thomas Heywood

§ 5. His non-dramatic works

After Heywood had been an actor and a playwright for twelve years or more—possibly at an earlier date—he bethought himself of turning his proved ability as a writer, and the studies which he cannot have allowed to lie fallow since his Cambridge days, to what the age would deem a more strictly literary account. Beginning with a translation of Sallust (1608), he produced a long series of compositions, of which as complete as possible a list will be furnished elsewhere, but which in no instance, with the exception of the Apology for Actors, and, perhaps, the historical narrative entitled England’ Elizabeth (to be noticed below in connection with the play which he based upon it), have any special interest for a generation not so much addicted to useless learning as was the author’ own. We therefore set aside his two long poetical productions, Troicus Britannicus, or Great Britain’ Troy, which tells its tale ab ovo down to the pedigree of king James I, and the didactic Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels, equal at all events to the ornate promise of its title-page. On a similar encyclopaedic pattern he composed Nine Books of Women, reprinted after his death under the still more ambitious title The General History of Women. Posterity would probably consent to burn these compilations, if from their ashes could be produced the Lives of all the Poets, with which the author had made some progress and which began with “the first before Homer”—and may have ended with Shakespeare. The Lives and Acts of Nine of the most Worthy Women (three Jews, three Gentiles and three Christians) savours, it must be confessed, more entirely of the bookmaker. In addition, Heywood was an indefatigable translator and paraphraser, and one of his lengthiest publications, Pleasant Dialogues and Drammas (of which the date of publication is 1637), consists, mainly, of versions of Erasmus, Textor and Lucian in heroic verse, and of Ovid in blank, together with a long (and disagreeable) dialogue reproduced from the Maechden-Pflicht of Vader Cats (1618). To these pieces are added a series of prologues and epilogues, with as many epitaphs, elegies, epigrams, acrostics and anagrams thrown in as a last search of the author’ cupboards can have produced. This piece of bookmaking has scant interest for the literary student except in so far as it helps to illustrate the extraordinary influence of the Colloquies of Erasmus, which continued for more than a century after their original appearance, and which, as has been pointed out by the editor of the Pleasant Dialogues, is distinctly noticeable in the English drama of the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages.