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Coscus, Queen Elizabeth, and law in John Donne's "Satyre II".


Even though it features a sustained attack on the poet-turned-lawyer Coscus, John Donne's "Satyre II" (ca. 1595) is rarely discussed in the specific context of late Elizabethan law. This omission is noticeable in the writings of both literary and legal scholars. Many literary scholars interpret the poem through the lens of modern liberalism and its focus on the law's ability to protect individual autonomy. It has been said that Donne's satires tell "us more about the satirist than the thing satirized" and that "Satyre II" in particular tells us that Donne's "aim (or fantasy)" was "to stand clear of the religious, political, and social pressures of his world." (1) For others, Donne's legal satire is so extensive that it borders on philosophical abstraction: it is "a writerly expose of a crisis in Law in the most comprehensive sense"; its villain Coscus is "a sort of Uncreating Word," a veritable embodiment of "the protean nature of words." (2) One final, related view holds that Donne satirized lawyerly ethics--or the lack thereof--but not anything peculiar to late Elizabethan law itself. So, for example, while Geoffrey Bullough concludes that "Satyre II" "shows [Donne's] inner knowledge of the legal profession," ultimately all that this knowledge reveals is that lawyers are "dishonest" and "pretentious." (3) But surely lawyers were not the only dishonest and pretentious professionals in Elizabethan England, nor was that the only era in which lawyers were dishonest and pretentious.

More understandably, Donne's "Satyre II" has also escaped the notice of legal historians, including those who have in recent decades worked to bridge the divide between law and literature and those who have argued that it was roughly during Donne's lifetime (1572-1631) that this divide took its institutional, disciplinary, and ideological form. Even Peter Goodrich, who has written several probing studies of the early modern common-law tradition and two wonderful recent essays on legal satire and its exclusion from the practice of law, fails to take notice of Donne's satire. (4) This omission is regrettable because Donne's satire confirms one of Goodrich's central historical theses about the emergence of the modern Anglo-American common-law tradition, a tradition that denigrates the codification of law on the Roman, or civil law, model and presumes instead the legal priority of both court-made precedent and immemorial custom. According to Goodrich's thesis, this tradition emerged in the late sixteenth century by consciously, even violently, forgetting or repressing its own genealogical origins in familial dynamics--and specifically in paternal authority--in order to promote a (false) conception of the law as rational, centralized, autonomous, and artificial. (5) In order to situate "Satyre II" within Goodrich's genealogical critique of the common law, I hope to show that the poem implicates Sir Edward Coke and Queen Elizabeth in this process of repressing the genealogy of, and genealogy in, English land law. More specifically, I will argue that Coke, who had not yet published any of his Reports or Institutes but who was already in the 1590s well on the way to becoming the oracle of English common law, lurks behind the figure of Coscus, and that Elizabeth is similarly evoked by the "Lady" whom he woos and the "thrifty wench" with whom he is compared. With these specific targets in mind, I also hope to show that "Satyre II" is firmly engaged in important legal controversies from the early 1590s, specifically those concerning the calculated alignment of Coke's antiquarian legal ideology and Elizabeth's parsimonious fiscal feudalism, and it is alert to the toll this alignment took on English landholding families. The Donne who emerges from my discussion is, even in this early poem, a much more astute, sophisticated, and skeptical observer of the law, as it was being practiced and institutionalized, than literary critics and legal historians have previously allowed.


We can begin to see the specific legal context of Donne's satire by considering the following call for legal reform from earlier in the sixteenth century: "Where by the common laws of this realm, lands, tenements, and hereditaments be not devisable by testament, nor ought to be transferred from one to another, but by solemn livery and seisin, matter of record, writing sufficient made bona fide, without covin or fraud, yet nevertheless divers and sundry imaginations, subtle inventions, and practices have been used, whereby the hereditaments of this realm have been conveyed from one to another by fraudulent feoffments, fines, recoveries, and other assurances craftily made." (6) This is the preamble of the 1536 Statute of Uses (28 Hen. 8, c. 10). As we will see, Coscus does most everything that this preamble denounces, but it is important to note that the preamble, like the statute more generally, was not aimed merely at reforming the conduct of dishonest and pretentious lawyers. Instead, it was part of an ongoing controversy about English land law that would flare up again in the early 1590s. The controversy over uses and other "assurances craftily made" was fought on two fronts. The first front was political and pitted the crown against the landholding gentry. (7) A precursor to the modern trust, a use created a legal distinction between the common-law possession of an estate and the equitable interest in the estate's resources: the term use was a corruption of ad opus (for the benefit of). In practical terms, uses functioned as a sort of tax shelter, helping to prevent estates from reverting back to feudal lords, and ultimately to the crown, when a tenure arrangement expired or a tenure-holder died. For similar reasons, uses were used to guard against forfeitures. If a landholder feared that, for whatever reason, his estate was in danger of being seized by his feudal lord or by the crown, he could first convey his estate to a trusted friend (technically a feoffee) and then designate another party, usually the children or family members who would be dispossessed, as the beneficiary of the use (technically a cestui que use). What this meant was that everyone within the hierarchy of feudal landholders could benefit from a use except for the crown. Just as tax shelters are of no use to the federal government, so too uses were of no use to the crown, from whom, according to feudal theory, all estates in England had been held since the time of the Norman Conquest. So in 1536 Henry VIII (1491-1547) forced the Statute of Uses through Parliament, which abolished uses or--as it would be argued in the 1590s--severely restricted their availability. The Statute of Uses was thus a naked ploy to boost royal revenues. It drastically simplified, or literalized, the terms of land transactions: it decreed that all uses were executed, thereby transforming equitable use into common-law possession and so supposedly bringing the entirety of English land law into the clear light, or at least customary practice, of common law. The statute was strongly opposed by the landed gentry; it was a contributing economic cause to the popular, Catholic-leaning uprisings of 1536-37 now known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. As one legal historian has explained, by the time of Henry's reign, "both present and future generations [of landholders]" found themselves "in the maze of real-property law" so that they would not tolerate "any interference with the system which assured to them and their children the complicated benefits of inheritance." (8)

As this observation implies, the second front on which the legal dispute over uses was waged was familial and pitted fathers against their children or, more specifically, fathers against their firstborn sons and rightful heirs by common law. Uses allowed landowners to settle their estates in ways that were "far more sophisticated than the ancient rights of dower and primogeniture recognized by the common law." (9) Through uses, fathers could distribute the benefits of their estates more equitably--at least from the perspective of those of us who are not firstborn sons--and thus provide better educations, marriages, and livings for all their children. In fact, by distributing uses broadly and even projecting them into future generations, landowners could in effect disinherit their presumptive heirs. Thus uses figured prominently in the "constant struggle between dynasty-minded settlors, who tried to tie up family lands for generations, and heirs who wanted to sell the lands with clear title for cash." (10) Controversies about uses and similar legal devices uncannily replicated theological debates about free will and predestination. Opponents of uses envisioned the devastating social consequences and bizarre perversion of filial motives that would ensue if fathers were allowed to determine, irrevocably and at a moment's notice, the financial standing of their offspring. What firstborn son would not loathe his father under such conditions? Proponents of uses envisioned essentially the same destruction of the familial fabric of English society if fathers were not allowed to threaten firstborn sons with disinheritance and entice younger children with financial support. Why would a firstborn son obey his father if the father had no legal authority to exclude him from the family estates? If they had no chance of benefiting from the furtherance of the family's estates, what would prevent younger children from undermining both their father and oldest brother?

In light of the controversy about uses in particular and about the right to convey lands and devise estates more generally, Donne's attack on Coscus becomes much less abstract and much less generalized:
 And spying heires melting with luxurie
 Satan will not joy at their sinnes, as hee....
 In parchments then, large as his fields, he drawes
 assurances, bigge, as gloss'd civill lawes,
 so huge, that men (in our times forwardnesse)
 are Fathers of the Church for writing lesse.
 These hee writes not; nor for these written payes,
 therefore spares no length; as in those first dayes
 when Luther was profest, he did desire
 short Pater nosters, saying as a Fryer
 each day his beads, but having left those lawes,
 addes to Christs prayer, the Power and glory clause.
 But when he sells or changes land, he'impaires
 his writings, and (unwatch'd) leaves out, ses heires. (11)

This is, of course, an indictment of lawyers for being pretentious and dishonest. But Coscus does many of the things that, according to the Statute of Uses, English landholders did, or at least paid their lawyers to do. He targets heirs, specifically those "melting with luxurie." (12) He secures lands by drawing "assurances, bigge, as gloss'd civill lawes," that is, complex settlements that muddy the title to family estates with numerous specific equitable interests. His transactions are often unwritten ("hee writes not"); he is "unwatch'd" and so circumvents the crown's attempt to register all land titles and expose all concealed estates, again with an eye toward increasing the efficiency of taxation. (13) Certainly Coscus's land dealings are not "made bona fide." But the important point that literary scholars have missed is that Coscus does things that dynastic-minded landholders had also been doing for several generations.

As Annabel Patterson notes, Donne's lines refer to various forms of law--for example, civil law and sacred scripture--that were jostling for jurisdictional preeminence with the common law, with equity, and with statutory law in early modern England. (14) But Donne's allusions are significantly tailored to the social and political problems raised by uses and similar legal devices. Donne seems to have known the writings of legal and biblical humanists, such as Francois Hotman (1524-90) and Desiderius Erasmus (1468/69?-1536), who had demystified the textual history of Justinian's Corpus juris civilis and sacred scripture, respectively, thereby revealing both texts of law to be culturally-sensitive artifacts, not divinely-given decrees. More specifically, the references to the "Fathers of the Church" and to the Paternoster allow Donne to stress the primary role of fathers and of paternal authority in both the production and the consumption of law. In what might pass as a biography of Coscus (and Coke), the historian A. W. B. Simpson explains that "a young lawyer could work his way up the profession from relatively humble origins and amass an enormous fortune; this he would wish to put into land.... Naturally enough he wants there to be land on the market to purchase, but at the same time he wants to entrench his family by making sure that the land he has purchased will remain within the family in the future, and not be sold." (15) Moreover, "the lawyers and judges who moulded" early modern land law "were themselves great purchasers and settlors of land," so that "the rules worked out in the courts represented an attempt to balance the conflicting desires of their authors" first to purchase land and then to prevent their heirs from selling it. (16) Donne's lines thus implicate not only unethical lawyering, but a whole system of land law that was vexed by the conflicting desires of fathers. Even the anecdote about Luther's flip-flop on the Paternoster underscores Donne's two main points: first, supposedly immutable texts can be altered depending on the circumstances of those using them; and second, these legal texts assert and are shaped specifically by the authority that fathers claim and want to keep over their sons. The line that Erasmus and then Luther added to the Paternoster is Jesus' clearest affirmation of both his own filial piety and his submission to his father's dominion: "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen." (17) In the context of Donne's poem, it is not difficult to hear an echo of the first sentence of the common law's most sacrosanct text, Thomas Littleton's Tenures (ca. 1481): "Tenant in fee simple is he which hath lands or tenements to hold to him and his heires for ever." (18)

Donne's satire, then, emphasizes the contingencies of land law, its dependence on written (or writable) texts and unwritten assurances, and its participation in family conflict. These emphases are grasped more fully by comparing Donne's "Satyre II" with a satire on lawyers by his contemporary, Joseph Hall (1574-1656). First published in 1598, Hall's satire begins:
 Who doubts? The lawes fel down from heavens height,
 like to some gliding starre in winters night.
 Themis the Scribe of God did long agone,
 engrave them deepe in during Marble-stone,
 and cast them downe on this unruly clay,
 that men might know to rule and to obay. (19)

Who doubts, indeed? Donne did, and it is hard to believe that Hall did not doubt as well. (20) But the important point is that the bite of Hall's satire (such as it is) depends on our outrage at the degradation of the text of the law, which was perfect but is now debased: "But now their Characters depraved bin, / by them that would make gain of others sin." (21) Hall's lawyers take on the character of bad shepherds who are charged with vigilantly overseeing their "carelesse" sheep, but who fleece them instead. (22) Hall's pastoral imagery does not admit either the land-based feudal or blood-based hereditary conflict that Donne consistently underscores. Moreover, Hall sharply segregates the divine origins of law from its worldly application. In Hall's satire, law is engraved in marble, it demands obedience, and it is corrupted by humans; in Donne's, law is written on paper (or not), it is focused on property rights, and it is made by fathers. In comparison to Hall's much more general legal satire, Donne's condemnation of Coscus for leaving out "ses heires" targets the idiosyncratic, even defining, myths of the land-based Anglo-American common-law tradition. Both Littleton and Coke take pains to explain that the words "his heirs" are essential because they perpetuate the fiction--which Abraham Fraunce in 1588 recognized as at least a semantic falsehood--that the feudal manor took exactly the same shape as the hereditary family: foedum idem est quod haereditas (a fee or feudal holding is the same thing as a hereditary inheritance). (23) As H. E. Bell explains, properly disambiguating foedum from haereditas was a primary preoccupation of English law in the sixteenth century: "The process by which landholding became hereditary was gradual, and throughout medieval times there remained at the back of men's minds traces of the idea that, upon a tenant's death, land reverted to its lord." (24) The same traces of feudalism, by which land reverted back to landlords rather than being passed down to children, can be found in Donne's satire, in part because they had reemerged in the 1590s as key premises of English law and of Elizabeth's rule.


Donne did not need to have the text of the Statute of Uses at his elbow to understand that Coscus's pretentious and dishonest lawyering could also be representative of broader social antagonisms, both between the crown and landholders and between fathers and sons. With the Statute of Uses, Henry VIII had tried to end these antagonisms with one decisive blow. But with so much land, power, and dynastic influence at stake, it should not be surprising that the terms and scope of the statute were almost immediately challenged and qualified. At the turn of the century, Francis Bacon would complain that the Statute of Uses was "a law whereupon the inheritances of this realm are tossed at this day, as upon a sea, in such sort that it is hard to say which bark will sink, and which will get to the haven: that is to say, what assurances will stand good, and what will not. Neither is this any lack or default in the pilots, the grave and learned judges; but the tides and currents of received errors and unwarranted and abusive experience have been so strong, as they were not able to keep a right course according to the law." (25) During the years Donne spent studying law at Lincoln Inn there were two much-publicized legal tempests involving the Statute of Uses: Chudleigh's Case (1589-95) and the Parliament of 1593. The pilot who skillfully navigated Elizabeth's ship of state through both--at least in his own estimation and in Elizabeth's--was Edward Coke.

If Donne needed an example of someone who, though not a lawyer, "dr[ew] / assurances, bigge, as gloss'd civill lawes," he need not have looked any further than Sir Richard Chudleigh. In 1557 Sir Richard faced the possibility of having to forfeit his family lands because his eldest son Christopher, sole heir by common law, had been charged with murder and fled to France. Behaving like an anxious landholder prior to the Statute of Uses, Sir Richard decided to secure his family estates for the benefit of his other children "through a shamelessly complex layering of contingent transfers. [He] conveyed his property to various feoffees, to the use of himself and certain of his heirs--specifically, the heirs he might beget by marrying a series of six women, all of whom were already married to other men--then for ten years as he might appoint by his will--then to his feoffees' use during Christopher's life--then to the use of Christopher's male heirs." (26) Sir Richard's plan, it was thought, eluded the exact terms of Henry VIII's statute by conferring uses that were wholly contingent, or in futuro: that is, conferred to persons who were "persons not in being." (27) Thus Coke would label Chudleigh's conveyance a perpetuity because there was no foreseeable date at which his estate would be disentangled from these layers of contingent interests. (28) Donne's satire complains of "our times forewardness," and Chudleigh's conveyance was an extreme example of it: he enumerated dozens of individuals with potential equitable interest in his estate, including some children whom he had no intention of legally begetting by wives whom he could not legally marry. Consequently, the contingent interests that would prevent the crown from seizing his estate would never expire, precisely because the interested parties would never actually be born. Hester has astutely noted that Donne derides "the sheer bulk" of Coscus's legal writing as "a perverse form of phallic hyperbole and corrupt procreation." (29) Sir Richard's conveyance might be taken as another instance of such perverse, hyperbolic, and parodic procreation, but with high legal stakes. And his motives for drafting such a preposterous document were by no means indefensible. By maintaining the fiction that possession of an estate could be legally distinguished from the use of its resources in perpetuity, Sir Richard could protect the immediate interests of his younger children, who would have been cut off from their inheritance when the crown claimed his family estate by forfeiture. It turned out that Sir Richard's fear of forfeiture was unfounded: Christopher was exonerated in 1559 and returned to England. Unfortunately, Sir Richard died a year earlier, in 1558, and so was unable to resettle his estate accordingly. In the succeeding decades, and through numerous intermediaries, the competing claims of Christopher's heirs and those of his younger siblings would generate the case that was finally decided in 1595.

The precise legal point of contention in Chudleigh's Case--whether or not a contingent use, once created, could be destroyed--turned out to be a matter of complex reasoning and metaphysical speculation that Donne would have probably enjoyed but that need not detain us here. (30) Chudleigh's Case rejoined the battle between the crown and landholders (and between fathers and children) and Coke was especially aggressive in defending the crown's position. By late 1588, when the case was instigated, Coke was already a prominent figure in the English judiciary, and his prominence had increased by the time, some six years later, that Chudleigh's Case was decided. In his famous report on the case, Coke argues that Sir Richard violated the Statute of Uses because the statute abolished uses and similar assurances utterly and completely. Basing his argument on a firm understanding of legal history, Coke suggests that uses were invented by landholders because of "fear and fraud: fear in times of trouble and civil wars to save their inheritances from being forfeited; and fraud to defeat due debts, lawful actions, wards, escheats, mortmains, etc." (31) Closely following the wording of the statute's preamble, Coke predicts that if Sir Richard's conveyance were to be found valid, not only would landlords and the crown be defrauded of revenues, but heirs would be unjustly disinherited and rampant uncertainty would make even simple land transactions impractical. Waxing apocalyptic, Coke foresees the complete upheaval of English society: uses, perpetuities, and assurances have "extended themselves into many branches and are to be resembled to Nebuchadnezzar's tree, for in this tree the fowls of the air build their nests, and the nobles of this realm erect and establish their nests, and under this tree lie infinita pecora campi [numberless beasts of the field], and great part of the copyholders and farmers of the land for shelter and safety ... if this tree should be felled or subverted, it would make a great print and impression in the land." (32) Because it provided shelter and food for those beneath it, Nebuchadnezzar's tree (Daniel, 4) had traditionally been interpreted as a symbol of the monarchy. Calvin, for example, turned it into an object lesson about not resisting tyrants: that is, God and only God was responsible for striking the tree down and the poor beasts of the field found that they had been better off with a bad tree than with none at all. (33) Thus Coke's biblical imagery speaks subtly to the conflict between the crown and the gentry that had crystallized in Chudleigh's Case. Through uses, assurances, and other conveyances, England's landholding nobles were building their dynastic nests on the farthest and weakest branches of the tree of monarchy. According to Coke, if such a lopsided tree were to topple, English law would be thrown into utter disarray, there would be "a great print and impression in the land," and there would be manifold suffering among the infinita pecora campi. The moral that Coke draws is straight out of Greek tragedy: Chudleigh belonged to an "adulterous generation" of landholders who "intend to over-reach the providence of God [synonymous for Coke with the common-law custom of primogeniture], and covet to establish their lands in their blood." In reality, however, they are "the cause of the wasting and subversion of their houses." (34)

In less tragic terms, Coke hoped to align common and statutory law, or, rather, to use the weight of the Statute of Uses to assert the primacy of England's courts of common law. Already in his report on Chudleigh's Case we can see evidence of the "common law mind" that would become the hallmark of Coke's legal writings in the first decades of the seventeenth century. (35) He repeatedly claims that the goal of Henry VIII's statute had been "a plain and perfect restitution of the ancient common law." (36) From Coke's point of view, it was all one to argue that uses were bad because they were not ancient, and not ancient because they were bad. Uses could not be traced back to immemorial custom, but were rather invented in the fifteenth century to evade feudal dues. Worse, they originated in nonnative, post-Conquest legal practices. (37) This argument had clear ramifications for how law would be practiced in late Elizabethan England. Throughout his report, Coke betrays his contempt for Chancery, England's primary court of equity and the main rival to the jurisdictional supremacy of the courts of common law. Uses and similar devices typically fell within the jurisdiction of Chancery because they were often confidential, unwritten, even secret, agreements whose fairness could not be determined by consulting statutory law or ancient precedent. (38) By defending a strict interpretation of the Statute of Uses, Coke was in effect claiming for himself, and for England's courts of common law, the lucrative business of land settlement.

Coke's report on Chudleigh's Case was not published until 1600, but we know that in 1592 Coke gave an extended series of lectures on the Statute of Uses at the Inner Temple. Since Chudleigh's Case had been brewing for several years and since Coke was party to it, it is not difficult to imagine that his views on the case would have been widely known well before they were published. Moreover, Coke sometimes circulated his case reports in manuscript in order to impress potential employers and clients. He did so with his report on Shelley's Case (1581), another case that pitted a landholder against the crown and a devising father against his common-law heir. (39) It had the added flavor of opposing a recusant Catholic against a loyal Protestant. Coke's winning argument in Shelley's Case depended quite specifically on an exact semantic and grammatical construal of the common conveyancing phrase to A and his heirs. Did this phrase mean that heirs came into their estates by purchase or by inheritance? As generations of law students have learned since, Coke formulates a rule, issued on his own authority, that and his heirs was not a phrase of purchase but one of limitation: that is, it does not describe who takes the estate, but how long it is taken. To remedy the ambiguity of such terminology, Coke advises conveyancers to quite literally "leave out, ses heires" (he recommended the singular heir instead). (40) We know that Coke's report on Shelley's Case circulated before it was published in 1600 in part because other conveyancers had already begun to follow what would become known as Shelley's Rule. (41)

Chudleigh and Shelley remind us that the terms and practices of early modern land law were constantly evolving to confront new threats, less like the current collection of standardized forms with which most of us are familiar and more like computer system software. Landholders could choose what operating system to use--the common law, like Windows, controlled but did not monopolize the market--and these systems were constantly being updated to prevent new virus threats, to add desirable new features, and to compete better with other systems. Lawyers such as Coscus could exploit the flaws of the common-law system for their own and for their clients' profit, or they could find that it was just as profitable to work for the system: that is, to write security software to protect it from other hackers. The key point is that the men who profited most from the system also built it. Later gossip would suggest that Coke did not hesitate to circumvent the very legal safeguards he helped to design. For example, in his report on Chudleigh's Case, Coke denounces the "secret conditions" put onto conveyances and wills, but he would later advise his own children to keep their legal documents "secretly from any but whom necessity requires, for many a man enjoyeth his lands and inheritance quietly by secrecy only." (42) Likewise, there is a whiff of arrogance--the arrogance of a self-made patriarch and consummate craftsman--in the anecdote that John Aubrey would later relate about Coke: "Sir John Danvers, who knew [Coke], told me that he heard one say to him, reflecting on his great scraping of wealth, that his sons would spend his estate faster than he got it; he replied, they cannot take more delight in the spending of it than I did in the getting of it." (43) Not flustered by the specter of profligate heirs dissipating his considerable legacy, Coke dares them to try.

Donne could not have known either of these anecdotes, at least in the mid-1590s when he wrote that Coscus "gets land ... peecemeale" and "spends as much time / wringing each Acre, as men pulling prime." (44) In fact, it is doubtful that Donne would have begrudged Coke the opportunity to exploit his technical expertise and political connections to enrich himself, his allies, and his heirs. Certainly other prominent lawyers, judges, and legislators--including Donne's future employer, Thomas Egerton--did the same: hence their prominence. Donne's poem puts the point gnomically: "meanes blesse." (45) But Donne would have objected to the willed anachronism of Coke's idealized but uncritical feudalism. Coke's backward-looking feudalism helped to deny the forward-looking interests of others (and disguise his own); Coke's dishonesty and pretension took the form of claiming to restore English law to an original purity that utterly disregards emerging political crises. (46) Donne's poem queries the validity of such a claim: "Where are those spred woods which cloth'd heretofore / those bought lands? not built, nor burnt within dore. / Where's th'old landlords troops, and almes?" (47) If these questions are rhetorical, then Donne voices his nostalgia for the old feudal order, when landlords exchanged land tenures for military service and consumed their land's resources internally to solidify their manoral holdings (woods were burnt "within dore"). But was Donne really this nostalgic? Such a lament over the historical decline of great halls and such a paean for the harmonies of the feudal past are certainly out of line with the otherwise sophisticated understanding evidenced in "Satyre II" of how contingent circumstances and personal motives shaped the accepted canons of other forms of law, be they canon, civil, or scriptural. (48) In short, it would be odd for Donne to be channeling King Lear. If he knew anything about Chudleigh's Case, or the numerous less-famous cases like it, he knew that feudal obligations could be--in the words of the 1660 statute abolishing them--"much more burthensome grievous and prejudiciall to the kingdome then they have been beneficiall to the King." (49) He would have known that knight-service performed for one's feudal lord no longer involved knighthood or service and had become a quaint name for straightforward financial payment. If the line about "wringing each Acre" refers to socage, or plow-service, Donne must have know as well that socage likewise no longer involved plows or service and had also devolved into a mere exchange of money. Donne's questions are better read as sarcastic rebukes of lawmakers like Coke who shroud their professional and personal agendas in the ideological mists of ancient feudalism. Donne seems to recognize that English land law had evolved and was evolving--it responds to "times forewardness"--and that the legal structure of feudalism, which was founded on land tenures and dues payable within a manoral hierarchy, was fundamentally ill-equipped to provide the sophisticated means for settling estates that landholding fathers demanded. The means in "meanes blesse" can thus refer not only to mere wealth, but also to the legal devices that the Statute of Uses and Coke in his ruling on Chudleigh's Case had tried to extirpate. This meaning of meanes and Donne's logic for invoking it are expressed in The Use of Law (ca. 1630), a mercifully lucid treatise on early modern land law once attributed to Bacon: "it was reason that the law should permit [a dying landholder] to reserve to the last instant the disposition of his lands, and yet then also to give him a means to dispose it." (50)

Donne uses similar terms to similar effect in "Satyre III." There he critiques the governmental forces that restricted the "meanes" that sixteenth-century Christians could use in their search for true religion. (51) Importantly, in addition to condemning all manner of self-righteous religious ideologues, Donne also implicates the crown for loaning its tyrannical force to these ideologues. In a similar way, Donne in "Satyre II" critiques both the incipient feudal nostalgia of common-law ideologues such as Coke and implicates the crown for encouraging and profiting from such nostalgia. That is, "Satyre II" faults common-law barristers such as Coscus for drawing dissolute heirs and desperate settlors within the reach of "th'huge statute lawes." (52) And "Satyre II" implicates the makers of statutory laws in relying on the nascent feudal ideology of the common law. Donne could have seen common and statutory law--embodied in the persons of Coke and Queen Elizabeth--joining forces with each other in the Parliament of 1593.


The most obvious objection to identifying Coscus with Edward Coke--or Eduardus Cucus, as he styled himself in Latin--is that Coscus "was (alas) of late / but scarce a Poet," while Coke himself most certainly was not. (53) As John Lord Campbell asserted bluntly, Coke's "mind never opened to the contemplations of philosophy; he had no genuine taste for elegant literature." (54) Coke seems not to have enjoyed the socioliterary culture of the Inns of Court in the same way that Donne and his ilk did a generation later. They spent their time at the Inns penning satires, planning revels, and harassing the citizens of London. According to institutional lore, Coke found amusement in waging the eternal battle against bad cafeteria food by successfully suing the cook at the Inner Temple for breach of contract, thereby--on the premise that the name Coke derived from the Latin coquere (to cook or digest)--ironically vindicating his comparatively humble family name and providing another intriguing connotation for Donne's recurrent images of eating, cooking, and feasting in "Satyre II." (55)

But Coke was not without his eloquence, which in its own way verged on the poetic and even on the amatory. He demonstrated it in the Parliament of 1593, when, despite his relative inexperience, Elizabeth elected him to be Speaker of the Commons. Since Parliamentary procedure required that the Commons vote to nominate him for the position after Elizabeth had already elected him, the session opened with the Speaker-elect and queen performing a sort of procedural duet. Coke begins by delivering what was conventionally called a "disabling speech," in which he apologizes for his soon-to-be-evidenced incompetence and asks the queen to enable him to overcome it. In his version of this speech, Coke admits that he had been but a "corpus opacum, a mute bodye until your [Elizabeth's] high bright shininge wisdome ... looked on" and "allowed" him to speak. Switching metaphors, Coke calls himself "an untimely frute, not yet ripe, nay but a budd scarse fullie blossomed" and muses that Elizabeth, "amongst soe manie faire frutes," should have "plucked a shaking leafe." (56) Speaking through Lord Keeper Puckering, Elizabeth replies by assuring Coke that he would be "founde as fertile and as mature in fruite as yow agnise your self to be but greene and flourishing in leaf." (57) Suitably enabled, Coke assertively guided Parliament over the next seven weeks, at various times obtruding his antiquarian learning, weighing in on points of Parliamentary procedure, and speaking directly for the queen herself.

In his speech at the close of the session, Coke again filters the rhetoric of courtly complement through his insular common-law mind. "In the times of the West-Saxons," he declaims, "a Parliament was held by the Noble Queen Ina, by these words: I Ina. Queen of the West-Saxons, have caused all my Fatherhood, Aldermen, and wife Commons, with the Godly-men of my Kingdome, to consult of weighty matters, & c. Which words do plainly shew the parts of this Court, Still observed to this day. For in Queen Ina, is Your Majesties most Royal Person represented." (58) As so often, Coke fudges his antiquarian lore: I have not been able to trace this exact quotation, but Holinshed tells us that Queen Ina was actually King Ina (or Inas or Ine; his queen was Ethelburh). (59) Holinshed further reports that Ina abdicated his rule and lived out his life in Rome in the pursuit of holiness, but not before donating the lands that would become the first English monasteries. Ironically, in his very same speech, Coke pauses to thank Elizabeth especially for her support of two specific pieces of legislation: a bill renewing the state's hostilities against recusant Catholics, and a bill solidifying the tenuous legal standing of magnates who occupied recently-dissolved monastic lands. Given the formal exigencies of the occasion, Coke may be forgiven for transgendering Ina, but it was at best tactless to praise Elizabeth as a second Ina since her Parliament had effectively undone what Ina had done. Given the remnants of English monasticism and Catholicism littered throughout "Satyre II," it is easy to imagine that Donne--had he cared to check Coke's sources--would have found Coke's rhetoric similarly contemptible.

Turning to the topoi of classical political theory, Coke concocts an elaborate apiary simile, replete with citations of Virgilian precedents, that dominates what may be the purplest passage in his voluminous corpus: "If I may be so bold to say it, I would presume to say that which hath bene often sayd (but what is well sayd cannot be too often seyd): this sweet Councell of ours I would compare unto that sweete commonwealth of the little bees.... The little bees have but one governor whom they all serve.... They foreage abroad suckinge honey from every flower to bring to their Kinge.... Your Majestie is that princely governour and noble Queene whom we all serve.... Under her happy government we lyve uppon honey, we suck uppon every sweete flower." (60) This passage baffled Campbell. Referring to the famous 1628 document rebuking Charles I for his abuse of royal prerogative, Campbell wondered "who would suppose that this was the same individual who framed and carried the Petition of Right?" (61) How could Coke, who would in the Stuart era come to embody the common-law opposition to royal absolutism, have been this cozy with the crown?

Part of the problem is that Campbell grossly underestimated Coke's courtly abilities. Comparing Coke to Bacon, he claimed that Coke "never seems, like his great rival [Bacon], to have enjoyed Elizabeth's personal favor. His manners were not prepossessing, and out of his profession he knew little; while Francis Bacon was a polished courtier, and had taken 'all knowledge as his providence.'" (62) But the truth was almost exactly the reverse. In June 1592, Coke had been summoned to Greenwich, where he stood mute and trembling as Elizabeth made him Solicitor General. (63) Perhaps this is evidence of Coke's unprepossessing manners. Yet Coke recovered well, as this meeting seems to be behind the corpus opacum and shaking leaf conceits of his "disabling speech." So Coke already enjoyed some measure of Elizabeth's favor when the 1593 Parliament opened and would gain more of it after Parliament was dissolved. Soon thereafter, the position of Attorney General became vacant. A year of lobbying by Robert Cecil and the Earl of Essex ensued. Each wanted Elizabeth to appoint his protege. Cecil lobbied for Coke; Essex lobbied for Bacon, who had also served in the 1593 Parliament, though, pace Campbell, with far less success. (64) It took Elizabeth a year to decide on her new Attorney General. On 10 April 1594, a year to the day after he had spoken for the nation at the close of Parliament by assuring Elizabeth that "our landes our goodes and our lyves are prostrate at your feet to be commanded," Elizabeth chose Coke. (65) It was as Attorney General that he concluded his involvement in Chudleigh's Case. By contrast, Bacon famously would not attain a governmental position of real stature until after Elizabeth's death.

There may be something of the rivalry between Coke and Bacon for the post of Attorney General in Donne's description of Coscus's inept wooing:
 jollier of his state,
 then are new benefic'd ministers, he throwes
 like nets, or lime-twigs, whersoere he goes,
 his title'of Barrister, on every wench,
 and wooes in language of the Pleas, and Bench:
 "A motion, Lady." "Speake Coscus." "I'have beene
 in love, ever since tricesimo' of the Queene,
 continuall claimes I'have made, injunctions got
 to stay my rivals suit, that hee should not
 proceed." "Spare mee." "In Hillary terme I went,
 you said, If I returne next size in Lent,
 I should be in remitter of your grace;
 in th'interim my letters should take place
 of affidavits." (66)

It is often assumed that this vignette parodies certain sonnets--which themselves may be parodies--from the anonymous sequence Zepheria (1594), which had dressed up the well-worn conceits of Elizabethan Petrarchanism in the trappings of the law. (67) But there are details here that fit Coke's rise in the judicial ranks between 1592 and 1594. He was "new[ly]" favored and "joll[y]" (proud) of his position, yet, in his Parliamentary oratory, frequently presented himself as a lowly barrister. The "Pleas" and "Bench" refer to England's two most prominent common-law courts, Common Pleas and King's Bench, where Coke had made, and would continue to make, his reputation and fortune. Donne's lines most closely resemble Zepheria's Sonnet 20, in which the speaker begs his beloved to hear his "plaintive cause." (68) Donne renders a similar scene in dialogue and seems to have Coscus request not merely a hearing but a Writ of Prohibition, a judgment issued from Common Pleas or King's Bench that prevented a rival's suit from proceeding. This was an important writ, through which the jurisdiction of common-law courts encroached upon that of the courts of equity. (69) Thus Donne's emphasis is less on Coscus's pathetic desire to speak than on his tactical need to stop his "rivals suit." And in Donne's satires, the term suit most often refers to the pursuit of secular employment as it was handed out by state officials to younger, aspiring suitors such as Coke, Bacon, and, of course, Donne himself. (70)

But the most telling detail in this scene is that Coscus has been in "love, ever since tricesimo' of the Queene." Elizabeth's tricesimo was 1588, the fateful year of the Armada; the same span, roughly 1558 to 1588, frames the original events and initial litigation of Chudleigh's Case. The threat of another Armada-like invasion loomed large in the rhetoric of the 1593 Parliament. (71) This threat motivated Elizabeth's request for the triple subsidy, as well as her support for the two statutes that strengthened and expanded an earlier statute (23 Eliz. c. 1) against recusants. The Parliamentary debates over these statutes, one targeting recusant Catholics and the other sectarian Protestants, focused on problems of semantics, specifically on the potential danger of phrasing the statutes in such a way that mere associates of recusants and heretics would be caught in the government's religious dragnet, a possibility vividly imagined in Donne's "Satyre IV." According to Neale, England's common-law judges were largely responsible for making the statutes' wording ambiguous and, thus, as inclusive as possible so as to extend as far as possible the reach of "th'huge statute lawes." Just a few months after Parliament was dissolved, Donne's brother Henry would be arrested for harboring a Catholic priest. Henry died in prison shortly thereafter. As other critics have noted, in the opening lines of "Satyre II" Donne seems to allude to the year of the Armada, to the fear of Spanish invasion, and to his brother's death. (72) Together these details indicate that Donne may have had the 1593 Parliament on his mind when writing his satire. Elsewhere there are indications that he had taken special notice of Elizabeth's involvement in it.


Reading accounts of the 1593 Parliament, one is struck by the thematic correspondence between them and "Satyre II." One finds anti-Spanish hysteria, disarmed recusants and dissolved monasteries, concealed estates, abuses of the benefit of the clergy, and concerns about effective poor relief. Once Elizabeth's triple subsidy was granted, a debate began over exactly how it would be levied, and it was in this context that there even seems to have been an attempt to resolve Chudleigh's Case through Parliamentary action. Quoting Ovid, one MP predicted the onset of the Iron Age--when sons anticipate the premature deaths of their fathers--if Parliament continued to allow "our lande to skip by waie of transubstantiation, as these uses make it." (73) Against this argument, another MP insisted that abolishing uses would lead to "the overthrowe" of the gentry. Still another MP recommended the rather impractical-sounding program laid out in Leviticus and Numbers, through which "land [is] to remaine in the tribe, and in the jubilee land should be redeemed. So care of the familie is to be had." (74) This bill against perpetuities like Chudleigh's gained a second reading, but progressed no further.

But if Donne had the 1593 Parliament in mind when he wrote "Satyre II," he seems also to have recognized Queen Elizabeth's role in shaping its agenda. I have already suggested that if Coscus is Coke, then Elizabeth is his "Lady." The "thrifty wench" whom Donne describes in the second half of the poem is an even more compelling indictment of Elizabeth, specifically of her land policies:
 For as a thrifty wench scrapes kitching-stuffe,
 and barreling the droppings, and the snuffe,
 of wasting candles, which in thirty yeare
 (relique-like kept) perchance buyes wedding geare;
 peecemeale he gets lands, and spends as much time
 wringing each Acre, as men pulling prime. (75)

The long, mock-epic simile suggests that the "thrifty wench" is intended to travesty the role of the Virgilian hero who acquires dynastic lands by force and through marriage. Her ambitions may also recall the more tragic role of Dido, who, before she met Aeneas, was herself an aspiring empire builder. (76) Like Dido, the "thrifty wench" is intent on marriage: she scrapes together "kitching-stuffe" and candle stubs in order "perchance" to buy "wedding geare." The irony, of course, is that it takes her thirty years to do so. How old will she be when she actually gets married? Likely too old to have children, and to found a dynasty. And so her family, like so many of the families who figure in the controversies over uses, is destined for ruin. The term "thirty yeare" also links the "thrifty wench" with the Lady whom Coscus woos (77) and so to both Elizabeth and anxieties over a return of the Armada.

The "kitching-stuffe" that the wench thriftily "scrapes" looks back to the excreting plagiarists mentioned earlier in Donne's poem. (78) Both are examples of corporeal (non-)digestion that, as we have already seen, recurs in the ironic praise of feudalism in the poem's final section. In a similar manner, the "snuffe / of wasting candles" picks up on the image of "heires melting with luxurie" and adds to Donne's field of depleted, monastic imagery, even taking Coke's apiarian encomium to its logical conclusion. In the legal context that I have been sketching, the terms droppings and wasting seem to have an even more specific referent. Like her father, Elizabeth objected to uses because they inhibited the ability of the crown and its agents to profit from escheats, defined by Thomas Blount as "any Lands, or other profits, that casually fall to a Lord within his Mannor, by way of Forfeiture, or by the Death of his Tenant, leaving no Heir general nor special." (79) Blount's phrase "casually fall" reflects the derivation of escheats from the Latin verbs cadere or accidere, both of which can mean to "fall," "chop down," and "drop." The Use of the Law notes that in one such forfeiture, when a landholder is found guilty of a felony, "the King is to have the land for a year and a day ... with all that year to commit all manner of waste in houses, gardens, ponds, lands, and woods." (80) Donne's poem will soon ask, "Where are those spred woods?" They may have been legally wasted. Likewise, the point of Donne's earlier complaint, that "Shortly ('as the sea) [Coscus] will compasse all our land; / from Scots, to Wight; from Mount, to Dover strand," seems to be not just that Coscus is enriching himself, but that he is surveying, registering, and thus revealing, concealed estates in the hopes that they would eventually fall, by escheat, into the hands of the crown. (81)

When Coscus "gets his lands ... peecemeale," he too profits from such droppings, but it would be a mistake to think of them as merely accidental or casual. From the Reformation onward, the crown had encouraged and even institutionalized what one historian calls "fiscal feudalism," or "feudalism kept alive for no other reason than to bring revenues to the government." (82) Along with Coke's incipient common-law antiquarianism, this fiscal feudalism seems to be one of the primary targets of Donne's satire. We have seen that Donne alludes to knight-service and (perhaps) plow-service, both of which, like escheats, provided important revenue streams for the crown. Line 105 also mentions alms. (83) According to Blount, the function of the royal almoner (or eleemosynarius) in the feudal system was "carefully to collect the fragments of Meat and Victuals, and distribute them every day to the poor; charitably to visit the sick and leprous, prisoners, poor widows, needy persons, and those that have no constant abode ... he ought also to excite the King ... that his rich robes may not be given to Parasites, Maskers, Stage-players, or the like, but may go towards the increase of his Alms." (84) Such a recycler of royal excess would be welcome in "Satyre II," which, in addition to having a lot of waste in it, is largely populated by the poor, starving, and needy, who suffer because "good workes" are "out of fashion ... / like old rich wardrops." (85) In fact, the position of royal almoner in the 1590s scarcely resembled the pious office described by Blount. It was one of the highest secular offices available to England's bishops. It too changed hands in early 1595, as Richard Fletcher, an Essex man, was removed for angering Elizabeth by marrying. He was replaced by Toby Matthew, father of Donne's friend of the same name, who promptly paid off the Cecils in what Patrick Collinson calls "one of the more patently documented cases of simony in the Elizabethan Church." (86) Modern historians have shown that Elizabeth was not particularly shrewd in her fiscal feudalism: her revenues from it fell short of Henry VIII's and were far below those of Charles I, who used fiscal feudalism to finance his personal rule. Indeed, much of the feudal largesse of the 1590s ended up in the pockets of civil servants like the Cecils, who controlled the controversial Court of Wards and Liveries, which took custody of the estates of underaged heirs and often sold them on the open market. (87) Although her civil servants seem to have profited more than she did, Elizabeth, because of her office, her age, her sex, and her much-touted thriftiness, was a ready target for critics of the government's scraping up of revenues--through knight- and plow-service, through escheats, and through alms--at the expense of the landed gentry. (88)

It is possible, then, to glimpse Edward Coke and Queen Elizabeth in the satirical shadows of Donne's "Satyre II." This reading is confirmed, and perhaps prejudiced, by Donne's later legal activities. As Dennis Flynn has argued, Donne's only direct reference to Coke, in his preface to Pseudo-Martyr (1610), seems to have been included solely to embarrass Coke, to rebuff his interference in England's religious controversies, and to reject his conviction that the common law had a firm, incontestable foundation in England's feudal past. (89) As oracle of the common law, Coke would soon become the implacable judicial foe of Egerton, Lord Chancellor and champion of equity, whom Donne served for four years and whom he seems to have admired even after his clandestine marriage to Anne More in 1601 got him fired. Likewise, Coke was a Cecil man who helped to precipitate the fall of Essex, with whom Donne, like many young and ambitious men of his age, would go soldiering in 1596 and 1597. Donne seems not to have enjoyed his stint as soldier, but the alternative--the patient, meticulous, behind-the-scenes (but quite lucrative) scraping together of wealth practiced by the older generation of lawyers, judges, and civil servants--was neither attractive nor possible. Likewise, the well-documented disdain of the bright young men of the 1590s for their aging queen has been detected in Donne's own elegies and in the formal verse satires of his peers. (90) By the 1590s, Elizabeth was off the political marriage market, but her male subjects did not desist from parodying, at times quite coarsely, her sexual and financial thriftiness.

Even if Coke and Elizabeth are only famous analogs to, rather than the specific inspiration for, the characters of Donne's satire, it is important to stress that such analogs existed, and they existed in positions of power. "Satyre II"'s scorn for feudal nostalgia, its focus on intergenerational family conflict and contingent legal texts, and its emphasis on material consumption and waste, all point to the conceptual link between Coke's legal ideology and Elizabeth's fiscal policies. In the same way that Donne realized that the Ptolemaic system was no longer adequate for describing the Copernican universe, so too did he realize that feudalism, as resuscitated in the legal and political climate of late Elizabethan England, was obsolete and, so, extant only to sustain vested personal interests. As Bacon would say of the crust of feudalism in early modern English law, "Vocabula manent, res fugiunt" (the names remain, but the substance has gone). (91)

So too "Satyre II" mocks the emptiness of Coke's antiquarian ideology and Elizabeth's fiscal feudalism. The central theme of Donne's satire is not himself. Nor does he dream of standing clear of the political and social pressures of his world--this, in fact, better describes Coke's fantasy of a common law, which claimed to disregard forward-looking contingencies and the pressing immediacy of politics, and Elizabeth's fanciful fiscal feudalism, which presented as customary or accidental the various schemes her government had devised to seize estates and generate revenue. Nor is it fair to assume that the only statutes Donne cared about concerned either poetic or religious freedom. (92) English law as Donne would have learned it started not with inalienable individual rights but with (partially inalienable) land practices, arrangements, and customs--with definitions from Littleton's Tenures and illustrative cases from Christopher St. German's Doctor and Student--and with the problem of determining when lands reverted back to their feudal lords and when they were handed down within families. Given our sometimes romanticized views about Donne as a freethinking skeptic and intellectual flaneur, it may be difficult to accept that he could have taken an interest in the Statute of Uses, in the 1593 Parliament, and in Chudleigh's Case. But why couldn't he? If he was an ambitious careerist, they would have shown to him that land and land use were the foundation not only of personal wealth and political power, but of legal authority as well. If he was a playboy wit, they would have determined how readily he and his fellow profligates could melt their fortunes. (93) And if, all the while, he remained loyal to the ancient Catholic nobility from which he himself sprang, they would have highlighted the irony that this Catholic nobility was being systematically dispossessed, ostensibly in the name of a more ancient feudal order. Whatever we make of his motives, in "Satyre II" Donne seems to be keenly aware of the political, religious, and legal stakes of identifying foedum and haereditas.



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*I would like to thank Jeff Johnson, Ray Anselment, Dennis Flynn, Lorna Hutson, this journal's editor and anonymous reader, and the audience at the 2007 John Donne Society Conference for improving comments, suggestions, and criticisms.

(1) Lauritsen, 119; Strier, 289.

(2) Patterson, 1993, 173; Hester, 34-35.

(3) Bullough, 61-62. For the argument that law was largely incidental to Donne's years at the Inns of Court, see especially Marotti, 25-95. For complementary accounts of the Inns as a heady, competitive socioliterary milieu, see also Finkelpearl, 3-44; Corthell. Compare Bald, 53, for a summary of Donne's years at Lincoln's Inn: "Though he never attempted to practice the law, nor was ever called to the bar, Lincoln's Inn was of great importance in Donne's development, and he made friendships and formed associations there which persisted for most of the rest of his life." See Maule (a posthumously published article) for a strong but regrettably incomplete assertion of the need to reevaluate Donne's commitment to the law.

(4) See Goodrich, 2004 and 2005.

(5) This argument is pursued at length in Goodrich, 1995.

(6) A Collection in English, 436a.

(7) This paragraph and the next combine insights gleaned from Holdsworth; Stone, 178-83; Ives; Elton, 47-48, 228-29; Barton; Simpson, 1986, 173-241; Spring, 30-49; Coquillette, 48-59. The most lucid contemporary account of the historical development of uses and similar devices is Bacon, 1861b (ca. 1630). For a complementary literary analysis of a related early modern legal problem, see Ross.

(8) Plucknett, 1956, 44.

(9) Ives, 674. See Coke, 1979, 19a, for the author's obsession with primogeniture evident in the famous image entitled "Gradus Parentelae & Consanguinitatis" depicting "the Right Line" through which estates descend only through eldest sons.

(10) Coquillette, 129. This sense of use--as a distinction between benefiting from and owning something--seems to color these earlier lines from "Satyre II" (Donne, 8 [lines 31-33]): "But these do mee no harme, nor they which use / to out-do Dildoes, and out-usure Jewes; / to'out-drinke the sea, to'out-sweare the Letanie." Use may indicate habitual past action. But the context of the poem recalls this more technical legal meaning of use, as Donne has been attacking a poetaster and has just concluded that "For if one eate my meate, though it be knowne / the meate was mine, th'excrement is his owne" (ibid. [29-30]).

(11) Donne, 9-10 ("Satyre II," 79-80, 87-98).

(12) Bacon, 1861b, 495, explains that the Statute of Uses was passed because Parliament foresaw "that it would be mischievous that men's lands should so suddenly, upon the payment of a little money, be conveyed from them, peradventure in an alehouse or a tavern upon strainable advantages."

(13) The threat of revealing concealed estates--estates not properly registered with the crown and so, in effect, off the tax rolls--seems to be behind the earlier lines in Donne, 9 ("Satyre II," 77-78): "Shortly ('as the sea) [Coscus] will compasse all our land; From Scots, to Wight; from Mount, to Dover strand." In courts of equity, uses were deemed valid even if they were not written.

(14) Patterson, 1993, 172-73.

(15) Simpson, 1986, 208-09. On England's uniquely land- and inheritance-based legal tradition, see Kelley, 168-80.

(16) Simpson, 1986, 209.

(17) Matthew, 6:13 (emphasis added).

(18) Coke, 1979, 1a (emphasis added).

(19) Hall, 30 (book 2, satire 3, lines 1-6).

(20) To be fair to Hall, in his later, so-called biting satires, he does take up the murkier subject of land use and property law in a tone closer to Donne's (cf. especially book 4, satire 2). But Hall is almost completely focused on dissolute heirs who sell, or are conned out of, their ancestral estates. Hall talks of sons and grandparents, not of fathers as Donne does.

(21) Hall, 30 (2.3.7-8).

(22) Ibid., 32 (2.3.41).

(23) Coke, 1979, 1.a.; cf. ibid., 8.b-9.a. See also Fraunce, 54v: "So that all free land in England is holden in fee, or fedo, which is asmuch to say, as in fide or fiducia, that is, in trust and confidence, that he shalbe true to the Lorde, of whome he holdeth it, pay such rents, doe such service, and observe such conditions, as were annexed to the first donation.... This is a more likely interpretation then [that] which Littleton doth put down in his booke, who sayth that foedum, idem est quod haereditas, whith it dooth betoken in no language [cf. Coke, 1979, 1a]. This happeneth many times to them who be of great wit and learning, yet not seene in many tongues, or marke not the deduction of woordes which time dooth alter."

(24) Bell, 1.

(25) Bacon, 1861a, 395.

(26) Boyer, 121.

(27) Barton, 321.

(28) Donne, 18 ("Satyre IV," 124), uses the term perpetuity in something like this sense.

(29) Hester, 45.

(30) The case hinged on the controversial notion of the scintilla juris (spark of law) in people and estates, see Kent, 4:58.

(31) Coke, 1793, 1:121. The case was also reported (with interesting variations) in Pop. 70 and 1 And. 309; manuscript reports of it are reprinted in Baker and Milsom, 150-57. For a contemporary account of concealing lands as a means of rebellion against the crown, see Spenser, 31.

(32) Coke, 1793, 1:121. Later Coke writes that the Statute of Uses was written "to overthrow the tree of uses" and "to lop the rotten and unprofitable boughs and branches dangerous to the estate of the commonwealth and mens assurances, so the rest of the tree, which is profitable for the use of men, might the better prosper": ibid., 139.

(33) Calvin, 1:255-62.

(34) Coke, 1793, 1:139. On the socioliterary trope of "times forwardnesse" in a closely related context, see Parker, 20-55.

(35) The classic account is Pocock, 30-69; see also Tubbs, 141-72 (the quotation is taken from the title of this work).

(36) Coke, 1793, 1:124; cf. ibid., 130-31.

(37) Ibid., 123. On the origins of uses in the need of religious orders to own property while maintaining their vows of poverty, see Ives, 673-75.

(38) As Coke repeatedly notes: see Coke, 1793, 1:122, 124, 131, 139.

(39) Coke's early reputation seems to have been built on his expertise in the area of land law and conveyancing. Coke's first Reports contain "not only his choicest cases, but his choicest property cases": Plucknett, 1941-42, 205.

(40) The best account of this case is Simpson, 1995, 13-44. See also Boyer, 114-20.

(41) Boyer, 117.

(42) Quoted in James, 324.

(43) Aubrey, 67.

(44) Donne, 9 ("Satyre II," 85-86); that is, Coscus does not work the land he gains.

(45) Ibid., 10 (107).

(46) On common law as Janus-faced in this way, see Goodrich, 1994.

(47) Donne, 10 ("Satyre II," 103-05).

(48) Compare in Egerton, 223, the clear sense that laws have their own lifespan: "Human laws are born, grow, and die; they have an origin, a place, and an occasion."

(49) Tenures Abolition Act (12 Cha 2 c 24).

(50) Bacon, 1861b, 496-97 (emphasis added). Meanes may also refer to the middlemen in the feudal hierarchy: see Blount, s.v. "mean": "Mean, (Medius) Significes the middle between two extreams, and that either in time or dignity. Example of the first; his Action was mean, betwixt the Disseisin made to him and his recovery; that is, in the interim. Of the second, there is Lord, Mean or Mesne, and Tenant." Thus the mean was the feudal counterpart to the officer who stood between the crown and the suitor in the courtly patronage system.

(51) Donne, 7 ("Satyre II," 10).

(52) Ibid., 10 (112); also, note the repetition of draws in ibid., 9 (87) and 10 (111).

(53) Ibid., 8 (42-43); cf. Boyer, 35.

(54) Campbell, 1:245.

(55) Coke's motto was Prudens qui patiens (He is prudent who is patient), which, as Steve Sheppard notes, is an abbreviation of the fuller motto, Prudens qui patiens etenim durissima coquit (The prudent man is patient because he must digest the hardest things). See Coke, 2003, 1:lxxxix.

(56) Hartley, 3:64-65.

(57) Ibid., 19.

(58) Ibid., 170-71.

(59) Holinshed, 127. The same decree is attributed to Ina in Doddridge, 12-13.

(60) Hartley, 3:171. Two versions of Elizabeth's speech, both of which closely echo Coke's language at different points, are printed in Elizabeth I, 328-32.

(61) Campbell, 1:256.

(62) Ibid., 253.

(63) Cf. Coke's letter, quoted in Boyer, 217.

(64) At the opening of the session Elizabeth reminded the Commons that she had not called on them to make "more new lawes and statutes" and that she would rather that existing statutes be "abridge[d]" rather than augmented: Hartley, 3:64. This was a standard royal warning against Parliamentary big-headedness. Bacon apparently took it as an invitation to propose a systematic recension of English law, presumably to be headed by Bacon himself. (Neale, 299, deems Bacon's proposal "irrelevant" and writes he was "showing off.") To make matters worse, Bacon made his proposal quite incongruously during a long debate over the unusual triple subsidy Elizabeth had requested. Because of this proposal and later remarks, Bacon was assumed to oppose the subsidy: Neale, 309-10, describes the "strange blunder" of Bacon's speech against the subsidy; cf. ibid., 75, 109-10.

(65) Neale, 171-72.

(66) Donne, 8 ("Satyre II," 44-57).

(67) See Zepheria, D2v (Sonnet 20), F3 (Sonnets 37 and 38); see also Davies, 167 (Sonnet 8).

(68) Zepheria, D2v (Sonnet 20, line 7).

(69) The Writ of Prohibition was "directed to the ordinaries, and officers, and commissioners of the said court Christian, them commaunding to cease their plee": Natura brevium, 30; see also Gray.

(70) Donne, 9 ("Satyre II," 69); cf. ibid., 14 ("Satyre IV," 7), 22-23 ("Satyre V," 13-27).

(71) Cf. Hartley, 3:23, 66, 72, 110; Neale, 280-97.

(72) For example, Hester, 40-43.

(73) Hartley, 3:117-18, quoting Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.148.

(74) Hartley, 3:118.

(75) Donne, 9 ("Satyre II," 81-86).

(76) On Dido in late Elizabethan England, see Williams.

(77) Cf. "wench" in Donne, 8 ("Satyre II," 47).

(78) Cf. Ibid., 7-8 (25-30).

(79) Blount, s.v. "escheat" (emphasis added).

(80) Bacon, 1861b, 480 (emphasis added).

(81) Donne, 9 ("Satyre II," 77-78). On concealed estates, see Kitching: I owe this reference to a private conversation with Dennis Flynn. For a later but still revealing discussion of the problem of registering lands, see Hale.

(82) Hurstfeld, 1955, 53; see also Hurstfeld, 1973. I should note that, according to Steve Sheppard, Coke stood mute, shaking like a leaf when he met Elizabeth in June of 1592 because she had chastised him "for bringing arguments against her interests in taking estates by escheat, to which he tearfully respond[ed], assuring her of his loyalty to her": Coke, 2003, 1:xxxviii.

(83) See above p. 106.

(84) Blount, s.v. "almner" (emphasis added).

(85) Donne, 10 ("Satyre II," 110-11); this last term echoes better than the more established wardrobes the sense of accidental falling out of possession.

(86) Collinson, 47.

(87) The Cecils were successively Masters of the Court of Wards and Liveries and their job was to "survey and dispose of all and every of our Wards, Idiots, and Lunatiques, and respectively, of their Lands, Tenements, Hereditaments, Chattels, goods, properties, interests, rights, titles, Intrusions, Arrearages and Mean-rates, and all Liveries, Ouster le maines, and ancient Mannors, and all Advowsons, and presentations of Churches, Herriots, Reliefes, Coppyholds, Woods, Mines, and Quarries, of any of our Wards, and of all duties belonging, or to belong to us by reason of any Tenure": Ley, A5r.

(88) If Coscus's name is meant to recall koskinon (Greek, "sieve") it may reinforce this association. The sieve was by 1595 a familiar part of Elizabethan royal iconography, one that symbolized her powers of prudent discernment. In the words of Geoffrey Whitney's emblem, the sieve can "descrie ... the good ... from the bad" and "sifte the good, and ... discern their deedes": Whitney, 68. Considering especially its paradoxical "erotopolitics" (Montrose, 127), Elizabeth's sieve imagery may be recalled and parodied by Donne's "thrifty wench" simile. At the very least, Donne emphasizes that the production, consumption, and waste of poems, of laws, and of land is a good deal messier than Elizabeth's supposedly sieve-like sifting of good wheat from bad chaff, and his satire concludes by implying that permissiveness and arbitrariness have replaced true discernment.

(89) See Flynn, 56-60.

(90) See Guibbory; Betts.

(91) Spedding, 4:165

(92) For a survey of these statutes, see Patterson, 2006, 122-26.

(93) For this theme, see Helgerson, 63-104. It is perhaps worth noting that, although Donne was an oldest son, the considerable sum of money that he inherited from his own father did not descend via the common-law custom of primogeniture. Two areas in England, Kent and London, were recognized to have well-established inheritance customs that were, in effect, exceptions to the rule of primogeniture. In Kent it was gavelkind; in London, it was the power of devise. Thus Donne's father's will specifically states: "I will that all my goods and Chattells, plate, householde stuffe, Redie money and debtes and all other my moveable goods and Chattells whatsoever shalbe devided into three equall and indifferent partes and Portions according to the laudable use and custome of the Cittie of London"; one-third of his wealth was to "goeth withall equallie amongst all my said children equallie porcion and porcion like": quoted in Bald, 560 (emphasis added). A considerable portion of John Donne, Sr.'s, wealth was given over to provisions for poor relief; he also bequeathed several gowns to various friends. Ibid., 31-32, also argues that Donne's maternal grandfather, John Heywood, conveyed estates as security for Donne's mother's dowry: then, "when Heywood fled in 1564 he seems to have left this affairs in his son-in-law's hands," but his lands, which were "widely scattered throughout England," were eventually confiscated by the crown. The details are, of course, murky, but this seems to have been exactly the type of situation that uses had traditionally remedied, and their prohibition by the Statute of Uses may have deprived Donne of a larger inheritance: cf. ibid., 31-34.
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