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Notes on Henry Chettle.

IT is now sixty years since Harold Jenkins published his Life and Work of Henry Chettle (1934), which remains the standard biography and an indispensable tool for students of Chettle. These notes are designed to collate, consolidate, and develop such subsequent work as revises our knowledge and understanding of the writer. If he emerges as a more disreputable figure, he is also more diverse and vital, and an important mediator between drama and print.

1. Early Writings

Chettle, as Jenkins notes, was apprenticed to Thomas East in 1577. It is significant for Chettle that East printed Lyly's Euphues in 1578; a diluted version of the Euphuistic manner stayed with Chettle for many years. At the time of Euphues or soon after, three works attributed to 'H.C.' were published: The Pope's Pitiful Lamentation for the Death of his Dear Darling Don John of Austria (?1578; STC 12355); the broadside A Doleful Ditty or Sorrowful Sonnet of the Lord Darley (c.?1579; STC 4270.5); and a miscellany of verse, fictional epistles, and short narratives called The Forest of Fancy (1579; STC 4211). Jenkins is sceptical as to whether the writer is Chettle. Celeste Turner Wright has considerably strengthened the case for these works constituting Chettle's literary apprenticeship.(1) She notes that the stationer John Charlewood, who licensed The Pope's Pitiful Lamentation, also held the copy for early work by Anthony Munday. Chettle and Munday were friends, and Wright sees Charlewood playing a paternal role in helping the young writers. Further, Thomas Gosson, who issued A Doleful Ditty, also published, amongst a few other Danter printings, Chettle's Pierce Plainness (1595). Two corroborative points may be footnoted to her argument. 'John of Austria' finds a kind of echo in Chettle's Tragedy of Hoffman, where a closely associated pair of lords are called John, Duke of Saxony and Duke of Austria. And curiously, Chettle later comments on an error that is almost identical to the error of 'Joan' for 'John' in the title-page of The Pope's Pitiful Lamentation. In his epistle attached to Munday's translation of II Primaleon (1596) Chettle denounced authors who blame their errors on compositors. He illustrated the kind of error he means by citing an attorney's oral deposition as evidence that such mistakes as 'Iohn for Ione, & Walter for Winefride' are pre-compositorial. The first example is almost exactly the same error as on the title-page of H.C.'s work in reverse.

2. Chettle and Danter

In 1591 Chettle went into partnership with the disreputable printers William Hoskins and John Danter. The partnership dissolved within a few months, but Chettle continued to work for Danter for a number of years, until 1596 at least. The evidence Jenkins cites for this may be strengthened. In 1592 Chettle publicized Nashe's Strange News in his Kind-Heart's Dream. In the guise of Greene's ghost he calls on Nashe, addressed as Pierce Penniless, to revenge himself on Gabriel Harvey for Harvey's attack on Greene and Nashe in Four Letters. Even as Chettle wrote, parts of Nashe's work were going through Danter's press.(2) Danter later printed Chettle's own Pierce Plainness. Thanks to the work of H. R. Hoppe, C. T. Wright, Sidney Thomas, and J. A. Lavin we now know more about Danter's printing activities and can identify his part in a number of books whose imprints do not bear his name.(3) The printing of Greene's Groatsworth of Wit, which Chettle later confessed to having transcribed to supply printer's copy, was shared between Danter and John Wolfe, with Danter printing the second half of the book, sheets D-F; a similar arrangement was reached with Chettle's Kind-Heart's Dream, where Danter took on sheets E-H. Though Cuthbert Burby issued The Repentance of Robert Greene, Danter printed it.

The Groatsworth and the Repentance have a common origin not in the publisher but in the printer and his accomplice. Chettle had a formal interest in one copy and Danter in the other. After preparing the Groatsworth, Chettle entered it in the Stationers' Register to William Wright. The Repentance was entered to Danter himself. Chettle was probably connected with this work also. It has manifestly been edited, and there are indications that the editor was Chettle.(4)

Chettle was probably Danter's reader, and an intermediary between Danter and the authors, as well as working as compositor, patcher of texts, publicist, and epistle-writer. Danter's links with Chettle fostered a culture of opportunism flowing from the writer's pen to the stationer's shop. Its more innocent side was literary journalism; its darker aspect was literary fraud. With Chettle's help, Danter seems to have played an active role in securing literary manuscripts, even though he must have known that there was little prospect of him issuing many of them. There is probably some connection between this practice and Danter's comparatively frequent resort to 'irregular' imprints where there is a discrepancy between the copyholder indicated in the imprint and the stationer to whom the title was entered in the Stationers' Register.(5)

A hitherto unsuspected example of Chettle's doings may possibly be found in Greene's Funerals. Danter issued this work in 1594 as by 'R.B.'. Its editor, R. B. McKerrow, dismisses Barnabe Rich as possible author, and points to 'strong objections' to his being Richard Barnfield. He concludes: 'Danter, in his preface, says that the verses were published without the author's knowledge. May he not have got hold of one or two unfinished pieces of Barnfield's never intended for publication, and eked them out by the addition of a few fragments of rubbish written by some one whom he had about the place, or even by himself?'(6) Chettle was 'about the place', and he had a vested interest in matters concerning Greene. But Chettle's ties with Danter bear more significantly upon two allegations against Chettle: that he actually forged Greene's Groatsworth of Wit and that he contributed to the pirated 'bad quarto' text of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

3. The Authorship of 'Greene's Groatsworth of Wit'

Warren Austin's computer-aided study of the authorship of the Groatsworth shows, conclusively in the author's view, that Chettle forged the pamphlet.(7) There are points at which Austin's methodology might be improved, as his reviewers pointed out.(8) Some of Austin's findings need to be discounted because they fail to allow for the kind of intervention Chettle might innocently make as the text's scribe; I include here the incidence of parentheses, the spelling of 'O(h)', and the distribution of 'semi-indifferent' variables such as 'ye'/'you' and '-ever'/'-soever'. Nevertheless, and despite the reviewers' caution, these limitations do not invalidate Austin's sane and thorough study as a whole. There remains a hard core of impressive evidence for Chettle's authorship of the Groatsworth. The best of it, in aggregate, still provides ample evidence of Chettle's hand and leaves little scope for Greene's. Chettle's contribution cannot be confined to scribal sophistication, or even editorial overlay. In every capacity that Austin was able to analyse, he showed that Chettle is more likely than Greene to have originated the diction and syntax of the Groatsworth. Nor can Chettle's presence be confined to certain sections of the pamphlet; it is ubiquitous. The letter to the playwrights is of special interest here, and Austin gives it separate consideration. Though the passage is short, it contains an unexpected hoard of features that point to Chettle's authorship. Here least of all could one argue that Chettle is incorporating a Greene fragment.(9)

I give a more detailed resume of Austin's findings and consider the context of Chettle's forgery elsewhere.(10) It may be noted briefly here that:

(a) There is no reliable testimony of the pamphlet's authorship independent of Chettle's own assertions;

(b) Chettle testifies that two of the calumniated dramatists, clearly Marlowe and Shakespeare, believed that Chettle forged the work;

(c) Nashe's comments on the Groatsworth do nothing to exculpate Chettle, and indeed hint at a forgery;

(d) Chettle elsewhere passed himself off as Thomas Nashe, signing a printed epistle 'T.N.' (a fault he later blamed, implausibly, on the printer), and colluded in Munday's invention of 'Lazarus Pyott';

(e) Chettle's claim in Kind-Heart's Dream that he wrote 'not a worde' of the Groatsworth cannot by any reasonable reckoning be true;

(f) Close examination of passages where, exceptionally, there are characteristics and reminiscences of Greene's writing are better explained as conscious imitation than as genuine Greene;

(g) Chettle would have had access to two other 'repentance' works by Greene, the autobiographical The Repentance of Robert Greene and the fictional The Cony-Catcher's Repentance. Both had been entered in the Stationers' Register to Danter. The former was eventually issued by Cuthbert Burby; the latter, significantly, seems never to have reached print.

4. Chettle and the Ballad-mongers

In Kind-Heart's Dream Chettle attacks the purveyors of scurrilous and bawdy ballads, speaking through the figure of Anthony Now-now. Jenkins doubts that Now-now glances at Anthony Munday in the manner of Jonson's Antonio Balladino, but this kind of allusion would be typical of the pamphlet. Nashe is invoked as Young Juvenal, and the figure of Tarleton evidently also, as in Harvey's Four Letters, alludes to Nashe. Kind-Heart's Dream is Chettle's assertion of himself as a writer in relation to the other writers of his day. These include Greene, Nashe, Harvey, Shakespeare, Marlowe, and the defenders and detractors of the theatre. The work is intensely topical.

Furthermore, the attack on ballad-mongers extends a controversy in which Chettle had already participated on Munday's behalf. Chettle's letter prefixed to Munday's translation of II Gerileon of England (1592) defends Munday's version by demeaning the reputation of the rival translator's publisher, identified by Turner as Abel Jeffes.(11) Jeffes is criticized as a ballad-seller who employs 'a whole Armie of runnagates' to distribute the 'ribauld songs' with which he infects 'the Youth of this flourishing Commonwealth', degrading the excellent science of printing with 'odious and lasciuious ribauldrie'.(12) As Turner/Wright insists, in Kind-Heart's Dream Chettle is therefore returning to battle with Jeffes.(13) If so, it is almost inescapable that in Anthony Now-now Chettle both speaks for and gently mocks his older friend. Wright claims further that Chettle once again mocked Munday in 1596, in his epistle to Munday's II Primaleon.(14) He there castigates a rival translator identified as Lazarus Pyott, who is, it transpires, none other than Munday himself.(15)

1 C. T. Wright, 'Young Anthony Mundy Again', SP 56 (1959), 150-68.

2 See C. Nicholl, A Cup of News: The Life of Thomas Nashe (London, 1984), 140-1.

3 H. R. Hoppe, The Bad Quarto of 'Romeo and Juliet' (New York, 1948); C. T. Wright, 'Mundy and Chettle in Grub Street', Boston University Studies in English, 5 (1961), 129-38, esp. p. 134; S. Thomas, 'The Printing of Greenes Groatsworth of Witte and Kind-Hearts Dreame', Studies in Bibliography, 19 (1966), 196-7; J. A. Lavin, 'John Danter's Ornamental Stock', ibid. 23 (1970), 21-44. On Danter see also R. B. McKerrow, A Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers in England, Scotland and Ireland, and of English Books, 1557-1630 (London, 1910), and STC iii (1991), 49.

4 J. Jowett, 'Johannes Factotum: Henry Chettle and Greene's Groatsworth of Wit', forthcoming in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America.

5 For discussion of this phenomenon, see W. W. Greg, Some Aspects and Problems of London Publishing Between 1550 and 1650 (Oxford, 1956), 45-6.

6 B.R. and R.B., Greenes Newes both from Heauen and Hell, 1593, and Greenes Funeralls, 1594, ed. R. B. McKerrow (London, 1911), pp. ix-x.

7 W. B. Austin, A Computer-Aided Technique for Stylistic Discrimination: The Authorship of 'Greene's Groatsworth of Wit' (Washington, DC, 1969).

8 R. L. Widmann, in Shakespeare Quarterly, 23 (1972), 214-15; T. R. Waldo, in Computing and the Humanities, 7 (1972), 109-10; also R. L. Widmann, 'Recent Scholarship in Literary and Linguistic Studies', in Computing and the Humanities, 7 (1972), 3-27, at p. 17. See also R. Proudfoot, in Shakespeare Survey 26 (Cambridge, 1973), 177-84, at p. 182.

9 I mention here two further studies that I have not examined except in abstracts and to which I am unable to attach any great significance. Austin's findings were independently confirmed by B. Kreifelts, in Eine statistische Stilanalyse zur Klarung von Autorenschaftfragen, durchgefuhrt am Beispiel von Greens Groatsworth of Wit (diss.: Cologne, 1972), abstracted in Shakespeare Newsletter, 24 (1974), 49 (see also p. 47). The Repentance was subsequently tested by N. Bolz, in Ein statistische computerunterstutzte Echtheitsprufung von The Repentance of Robert Greene (Frankfurt, 1978), abstracted in Shakespeare Newsletter, 29 (1979), 43. Bolz found some slight evidence indicating Greene's authorship, but his study convinced him that the Repentance was written by neither Greene nor Chettle. Bolz's evidence as abstracted in Shakespeare Newsletter does not adequately support the conclusion that he draws from it.

10 J. Jowett, 'Johannes Factotum'.

11 C. Turner, Anthony Mundy: An Elizabethan Man of Letters (Berkeley, Calif., 1928), 95. 'C. Turner' is the same critic as C. T. Wright.

12 Jenkins, Henry Chettle, 14.

13 Turner, Anthony Mundy, 95-8; Wright, 'Mundy and Chettle', 134-5.

14 Wright, 'Mundy and Chettle', 136.

15 C. T. Wright, '"Lazarus Pyott" and Other Inventions of Anthony Mundy', PQ 42 (1963), 532-41.
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Title Annotation:part 1
Author:Jowett, John
Publication:The Review of English Studies
Date:Aug 1, 1994
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