Journal of the Northern Renaissance

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Legacies: Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde as Testamentary Fiction


Alex Davis

[1] My concern is with imagined inheritances rather than actual wills or bequests. The title-page of Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde (first published in 1590) reads: ‘Rosalynde. Euphues golden Legacie, found after his death in his Cell at Silexedra. Beqveathed to Philautvs Sonnes, noursed vp with their Father in England. Fetcht from the Canaries by T. L. Gent.’ The reference here is to John Lyly’s fictions, The Anatomy of Wit (1578) and its sequel Euphues and His England (1580). These relate the adventures of the Athenian Euphues and his Italian friend Philautus, concluding in Euphues’ retreat from the world to a life of contemplation on the fictional ‘Mount of Silixsedra’ (1580: sig. Ll4r). The pretence is that Rosalynde represents Euphues’ bequest, left to his friend’s sons for their moral improvement, and discovered by Lodge on his travels. In this way, Rosalynde hopes to position Thomas Lodge as the rightful inheritor of Lyly’s literary achievement. At the same time, as I hope to show, this gesture of imaginary association masks the text’s relationship to a medieval literary inheritance in ways that speak to the cultural dynamics underpinning the ‘new poetry’ of the 1580s and 90s, and indeed to the idea of an English literary Renaissance generally.


[2] Rosalynde’s fictional frame narrative is not maintained with perfect consistency. The dedication to Lord Hundson frankly admits that Lodge himself wrote the text ‘to beguile the time with labour’ during a sea voyage to the Azores and the Canary Islands (1592: sig. A2r). Nonetheless, it is developed in some detail. In particular, we find it elaborated in Euphues’ ‘Scedule’, which Lodge introduced between the dedicatory epistles and the narrative proper in the 1592 edition of his text:

The Scedule annexed to Euphues Testament, the tenour of his Legacie, the token of his Loue.

The vehemency of my sicknes (Philautus) hath made mee doubtfull of life, yet must I die in counsailing thee like Socrates, because I loue thee. Thou hast sons by Camilla, as I heare, who being yong in yeres haue green thoughts: & nobly born, haue great minds: bend them in their youth like the willow, least thou bewayle them in their age for their wilfulnes. I haue bequeathed them a Golden legacie, because I greatly loue thee. Let them read it as Archelaus did Cassender, to profit by it: and in reading let them meditate: for I haue approued it the best methode. They shall find Loue anatomized by Euphues, with as liuely colours as Apelles table: roses to whip him when he is wanton, reasons to withstand him when he is wilie. Here may they read that vertue is the King of labours, opinion the Mistres of fooles: that vnitie is the pride of Nature, & contention the ouerthrow of Families: here is Elleborus bitter in taste, but beneficial in triall. I haue nothing to sende thee and Camilla but this counsel, that in stead of worldly goods, you leaue your sons vertue and glorie: for better were they to bee partakers of your honours then lords of your mannors. I feele death that summoneth me to my graue, and my soule desirous of his God. Farewell Philautus, and let the tenor of my counsaile be applyed to thy childrens comfort.

Euphues dying to liue.

If any man find this scrowle, send it to Philautus in England. (1592: sig. A3v)

Lodge’s ‘scedule’ presents us with a resonant example of early modern culture’s engagement with the idea of the manuscript. This alleged transcript of a ‘scrowle’ is positioned as the source, as that which is anterior to print. The tradition of claiming a documentary origin for a fictional narrative was an old one. Here, though, the device is newly energised by the advent of print culture and its subsequent refashionings of what a handwritten document might signify, and the manoeuvre opens out onto a long history of future paratextual gestures, crisply summed up for modern readers by Umberto Eco’s insouciant epigraph to The Name of the Rose: ‘naturally, a manuscript’ (1998). But it is the way in which the ‘scedule’ develops a metaphor about literary production that is of particular interest to me here. Its insertion into the second edition of the text makes unmistakeable Lodge’s desire to ground his narrative in the conflation of an idea of literary influence with that of an actual inheritance. A ‘scedule’, here, means the codicil to a will; whilst a codicil, etymologically, is a little book (Swinburne 1590: sig. C8r). Lodge’s little book, Rosalynde, is a testamentary fiction: a narrative about legacies and bequests, but also one that uses the idea of inheritance to imagine itself as an object of transmission.

[3] We might think of the metaphor as constituting a subset of a larger genealogical topos. Neil Rhodes points out that it was customary to imagine proverbial wisdom of the kind offered by Euphues being handed down from father to son (Rhodes 2006: 162), and the familial metaphor is also a common way of thinking about literary influence, as in Thomas Hoccleve’s description of Chaucer as a ‘fadir reverent’ (Spearing 1985: 92). It is a motif that has been the object of critical scrutiny ever since Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence openly recast questions of literary inheritance as a drama of Oedipal succession (Bloom 1975; and see also Brooks 2005 and Guy-Bray 2009). These are discussions that frequently conflate the status of a child with that of a legatee – as the previous sentence does. The logic seems straightforward, yet the relationship is only a conventional one. As Thomas Hobbes notes, with his characteristic trenchancy: ‘the word Heire does not of it selfe imply the Children, or nearest Kindred of a man; but whomsoever a man shall any way declare, he would have to succeed him in his estate’ (1651: 100). Possession, in the English legal tradition, is marked by alienability, the power to give away; and alienability is specifically the freedom to violate succession (Baker 2007: 259-65).

[4] On the face of things, the ‘scedule’ works to insert Rosalynde into a generational scheme: framing Lodge’s narrative as a tale about fathers and sons and instituting an idea of the text as a comprehensively masculine possession – strikingly so, perhaps, in a cultural environment that often liked to play with the idea that to write fiction was to produce ‘ladies’ text’ (Fleming 1993), and given the prominence of women in the narrative proper. But the specific idea of the legacy has other, more complex and ambiguous functions. In the first place, it supplements the declaration of relatedness as such with an interest in the nature of the inheritance that is passed between the generations. Secondly, though, it threatens to undermine the biological metaphor for literary influence even as it evokes it. For stories about legacies are, typically, stories of contestation. They present us with scenarios in which the intersection between blood relationships and property relations is unclear, controvertible, and therefore – however provisionally – denaturalised. Certainly, in the ‘scedule’, Euphues is not an actual father, even if by offering advice and bequeathing a legacy he is performing roles that Rosalynde will identify as paternal. The actuating force behind the bequest is Euphues ‘loue’ for his friend, not that of Philautus for his sons; never mind Camilla’s. With the focus on the legacy as an instrument of transmission, we are entering a zone in which questions of generation and authority may become fruitfully muddied. Primogeniture never slips from view completely. Still: who, we might wonder, is the imagined as the dominant agent in terms of shaping the text: the parent, or the testator? Legacies can multiply points of origin, even whilst they attempt to contain writing within a social logic of property relations and genealogical succession.

[5] There are any number of texts from the late sixteenth century that engage with this testamentary theme, an index of the prominence of the will as an instrument of social organisation in this period. One thinks of the mock bequest to the city of London in Isabella Whitney’s Sweet Nosegay (1573); or of a text such as Greenes Groats-worth of Wit (1592), in which the miserly Gorinius bequeaths to his son Roberto an old groat; or Thomas Nashe’s Summer’s Last Will and Testament (1600) George Gascoigne’s account of the adventures of ‘Dan Bartholmew of Bathe’ contains a versified ‘Last Wyll and Testament’ (1575: sig. F7r), whilst Lyly’s Euphues opens by providing the most important information about his protagonist: ‘There dwelt in Athens a young gentleman of great patrimonie’ (1578: sig. B1r). The motif even produced recognised subgenres, such as the mother’s legacy and the mock testament (Wall 1993: 283-310; Hutson 1989: 127-151). But Rosalynde presents us with as intense and complex an exploration of the idea of the legacy as is to be found anywhere in Elizabethan literature. Precariously poised between triumphant authorisation and the parodic self-dispersals of the mock testament, this is a text that deserves to be considered as far more than just the source for As You Like It. And, precisely because of the way it constitutes itself as a meditation on its own antecedents, it bears a richly suggestive relationship to the cultural dynamics that underpinned the literary achievements of the English Renaissance.


[6] In one sense, Lodge’s fiction about the provenance of his own fiction represents a shrewd attempt to capitalise on the success of Lyly’s writing. The Anatomy of Wit was over a decade old by the time Rosalynde was published, but Lyly remained a commanding presence in the late sixteenth-century literary landscape, with numerous editions of the Euphues narratives appearing throughout the 1580s (and indeed into the next century). Lodge was not alone in hoping to ride on Lyly’s coattails. Before him, Robert Greene had produced Euphues His Censure to Philautus (1587) and Menaphon, subtitled Camillas Alarum to Slumbering Euphues, in His Melancholie Cell at Silexedra (1589). (For Greene’s role as a possible collaborator in Rosalynde, see Lodge 1997: 18-19.) Thomas Nashe’s first publication, The Anatomy of Absurdity (1589), announced its Lylyian antecedents in its title, whilst Euphues and Philautus actually appear as characters in the second Part of Barnaby Riche’s Don Simonides (1584: sigs. M3r, R1v). In the Elizabethan literary marketplace, Lyly’s writing constituted a recognisable brand, energetically parasitised by his contemporaries and successors.

[7] Commercial exploitation need not preclude authentic admiration, of course; nor more complex and ambivalent motives. In the case of Rosalynde, the ‘scedule’ acts to claim Lyly, or Lyly’s creation, as the ostensible author of Lodge’s fiction. One can scarcely conceive of a more self-cancelling device for signalling deference to another writer. Yet there are oddities and dissonances here that hint at a degree of resistance to Lyly’s success. Perhaps the first thing to note is that what is at stake in this narrative is a mere fiction of literary relatedness: scholars have on the whole resisted the suggestion that Lodge’s writing reflects the influence of Lyly’s style in any very deep way. For N. Burton Paradise, Lodge ‘was never a pure Euphuist’ (1998: 97), whilst Nancy R. Lindheim has argued that Euphuism as Lyly practised it is in fact ‘curiously incompatible’ with the romance mode of a tale like Rosalynde (1975: 10). Then there is the suggestion that Philautus has had children with Camilla. In Euphues and His England, he is actually rejected by her. Instead, in his final letter Philautus writes to Euphues about the financial arrangements for his ‘ioynter’ with a different woman, Frauncis (1580: sig. Kk4r). As Lyly winds up his narrative the readers are told they can imagine that Philautus is ‘newly married’ (1580: sig. Ll4r). It is of course possible that Lodge simply made a mistake. But it is also conceivable that he is taking advantage of the fact that Lyly never positively says who Philautus marries in order to rewrite – even if only in a very minor way – and assume control over Lyly’s work.

[8] The more one reflects upon the ‘scedule’, in fact, the more it discloses oddities that seem inconsistent with a straightforward desire to signal Rosalynde’s affiliation with Lyly’s work. Clearly that is part of what is going on here; but it is not the only thing. Much is unexplained, or puzzling. The ‘scedule’ is a codicil – but to what document? We never find out. It bequeaths a golden legacy – but how? This is a will without executors or any means of reliably communicating itself to its beneficiaries (‘If any man find this scrowle, send it to Philautus in England’). The document’s ‘reproduction’ by Lodge presumably means that it never reached Philautus; our ability to read Rosalynde is therefore grounded in the failure of a testamentary act. Then there is the self-proclaimed emptiness of the bequest. ‘I haue nothing to send thee and Camilla,’ Euphues writes, ‘but this counsel, that in stead of worldly goods, you leaue your sons vertue and glorie.’ In one sense, this focus on the more substantial legacy of wisdom in place of money, land or property seems admirable. In another, there is something curiously self-defeating here. Euphues has nothing to leave but advice about what to leave. Philautus’ sons are at least bequeathed a material object, the ‘scrowle’ that contains the narrative of Rosalynde; this too, however, understands itself only as a delivery system for ‘counsel’. [1] And, finally, if the aim of the testamentary motif is to imply a connection between literary relations and blood relations, the ‘scedule’ if anything undermines the association even as it suggests it, since it is the amicitia relationship between Euphues and Philautus that  produces the bequest.

[9] Part of the wit of Lodge’s prefatory mock-document, then, lies in its disorienting character. Rosalynde is using the testamentary fiction to problematise questions of literary ancestry, even whilst it sketches out its imagined family tree. And these paratextual complexities find their echo in the narrative proper. Actual filiation replaces imagined relatedness, but the intimations of uncertainty are remarkably similar. Rosalynde opens with the death of Sir John of Bordeaux and the distribution of his worldly goods among his three sons. Salaynde, the eldest, is to receive ‘fourteene ploughlands’ and Fernandine, the middle son, twelve. But to Rosader, the youngest son and his father’s favourite, are bequeathed ‘my Horse, my Armour, and my Launce with sixteene ploughlands’ (1592: sig. A4v). It is this expression of paternal preference, with its assumption that it is the junior son who deserves to inherit his father’s chivalric identity and the largest share of his worldly goods, that sets Lodge’s narrative in motion. An infuriated Saladyne determines to ignore Sir John’s wishes. He arrogates his brothers’ legacies to himself and raises Rosader as his ‘foote boy’ (1592: sig. B3v). It is only after some two or three years that Rosader will fully realise what has been done to him, and decide to claim what is rightfully his.

[10] These opening pages are managed in such as way as to echo not merely the general theme of Lodge’s prefatory frame (fathers, sons and inheritance), but also much of its specific detail. No sooner do we start reading the tale proper than Sir John of Bordeaux’s dying wishes are written up in a versified ‘Scedule’ (1592: sig. B2r), written in a ‘scroule’ (1592: sig. B1v), declaring that the best legacy he can leave is one of paternal wisdom:

My sonnes, behold what portion,
I leauue you goods, but they are quickly loste,
I leaue you aduise, to schoole you how to liue. … (1592: sig. B2r)

Furthermore, just as Euphues claims that his legacy will offer a hostile anatomy of Love, so too the dying Sir John enters into a long discourse on the same theme: ‘But aboue al, & with that he fetcht a deep sigh, beware of Loue …’ (1592: sig. B1r). Two dead fathers (one real; the other, Euphues, a would-be father figure), two sets of sons, two warnings against love, two scrolls containing two schedules: there is a peculiar quality of excess and repetition in the way Rosalynde pursues the motif of the legacy.

[11] In one sense, this compulsive ventriloquising of the voice of paternal authority acts to contain the potentially scandalous, ‘prodigal’ status of imaginative writing in the late sixteenth century (Helgerson 1976). In another, though, the effect is less to emphasise an important idea than to subvert it. This is the will imagined primarily as an instrument of control, as a means of bridling the desires of unruly sons. ‘Bend them in their youth like the willow,’ Lodge’s Euphues writes, ‘least thou bewayle them in their age for their wilfulness.’ Yet all this comes to nothing. As Saladyne says to himself, ‘sicke mens willes that are parole, and haue neither hand nor seale, are like the lawes of a Cittie written in dust, which are broken with the blast of euery winde’ (1592: sig. B3r – Saladyne is referring here to the purely verbal, or ‘nuncupative’ will, common in sixteenth-century England). Rosalynde is an extended demonstration of the uncontainable wilfulness of its characters: firstly through Saladyne’s flouting of his father’s wishes; then in his own failure to break his brother’s spirit; and then repeatedly in the text’s exploration of the helpless subjection of all and sundry to the dominant ‘will’ in the narrative that follows, which is that of Love. From the deathbed of Sir John, we follow Rosader into the forest of Arden, where he features as the male lead in a pastoral romance centred upon Rosalynde, the disguised daughter of his outlawed king of France, Gerismond. Lovesickness and erotic confusions abound, until all is resolved in a whirl of family reunions and reconciliations, combined with multiple marriages. It is in this strand of the narrative that we read that  ‘Loue willing to make [Rosader] as amourous as hee was valiaunt, presented him with the sight of Rosalynd [sic]’ (1592: sig. C2r); that Montanus sings that his sheep ‘are turnd to thoughts, whom froward will / Guydes in the restles Laborynth of Loue’ (1592: sig. E3r); and that, towards the end of the text, the shepherdess Phoebe has cause to reflect that ‘he that wrests against the will of Venus, seeks to quench fire with oyle, & to thrust out one thorn by putting in another.’ (1592: sig. N3v). The testamentary designs of Euphues and Sir John are as nothing when compared to the suasive force of love. Is Euphues’ inheritance a golden legacy, we might therefore wonder, or a leaden one?


[12] Legacies were important to Lodge. The second son of a Lord Mayor of London who had been bankrupted in the final year of his mayoralty, Lodge was excluded from his father’s will. When his mother died, her bequest to him was made conditional upon his good behaviour (the document is quoted in Tenney 1935: 70-71). He eventually ceded the lands she left to him to his elder brother William in exchange for ready money (Lodge seems to have been regularly in debt), and then in the 1590s engaged in a series of lawsuits in which he alleged assault against William and attempted to reclaim his inheritance. He left no will himself; there remains only the notice of a concession granted to his widow to administer his goods, rights and credits (Tenney 1935: 191, n. 1).[2]  In Lodge’s writing, meanwhile, legacies frequently operate as narrative turning points or signal passages of heightened emotional intensity. The early Alarum Against Vsurers presents us with a young gentleman whose liabilities are so excessive that his father disowns him, ‘dispossessing the ryghte heyre of what hee maye’ (1584: sig. C4r). The son is imprisoned, but released by his creditor, who trains him up to ensnare further heirs into debt (Lodge’s works swarm with predatory loansharks). In the relatively late Looking Glasse For London, written in collaboration with Robert Greene, Thrasibulus is cheated out of his inheritance by a usurer (1594: sig. D1r). And it is notable how often legacies appear as uncertain or contested in Lodge’s writing. Revealingly, the verse epistle ‘To his deere friend H. L.’ in A Fig For Momus advises a father to ‘Spend on thy sonne, to get instruction, / That he may liue by art, when wealth is gone’, as if simply assuming the exhaustion of the patrimony by one or other party (1595: sig. H1v). In his prose fictions, Robert Second Duke of Normandy turns on the question of whether or nor Robert will turn out to be the rightful heir of his noble father, or a vicious son of the devil, whilst The Life and Death of William Long Beard contains a prominent episode in which a ‘bill of debt’ drawn up to support a poor tradesman’s family after his death is first torn to shreds by his false friend, and then reconstituted by the protagonist (1593: sigs. A3r-B2v).

[13] In Rosalynde this capacity of the idea of the legacy to organise a narrative reaches its highest pitch of complexity and force. It would be misleading to suggest that Lodge’s testamentary fiction exerts its influence evenly, or with equal consequence, over every aspect of his text. Rosalynde, the eponymous heroine, necessarily enjoys a modified relationship to these paradigms of patrilineal transmission, even whilst the text lays due emphasis upon her position as her father’s daughter and the true heir to the kingdom of France. ‘Consider Rosalynde,’ she muses, ‘[Rosader’s] fortunes, and thy present estate, thou art poore and without patrymony, and yet the daughter of a Prince, he a yonger brother, and voyd of such possessions as eyther might maintaine thy dignities or reuenge thy fathers iniuries’ (1592: sig. C4v). But there are good reasons for thinking that the testamentary game initiated by the text’s self-description as a legacy represents a kind of deep structure underpinning Lodge’s textual production. The sense of organised repetition, as of Chinese boxes, that we have already noted in Lodge’s handling of the theme is extended once we realise that the narrative produces a metaphorical framework that can be used to describe its development from a different point of origin from the Lylyian one. Rosalynde may or may not be significantly indebted to Lyly’s famous Euphuistic style; may or may not wish to position itself as an authentic act of hommage to its Elizabethan literary precursor. But what all this careful hinting at shades of ambivalence serves to divert our attention from is the fact that Rosalynde is, as we say, related – quite definitively related – to an entirely different literary text.

[14] The anonymous fourteenth-century romance The Tale of Gamelyn was never printed during Lodge’s lifetime, but survives in a number of manuscripts of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It relates the adventures of the youngest of the three sons of ‘Iohan of Boundys’. As he approaches death, Sir John divides his patrimony. His eldest son, also John, is to receive five ploughs worth of land; the middle son also gets five. But Gamelyn, the youngest, is to inherit everything else of Sir John’s ‘londes’ (1893: ll. 53-64). From this familiar starting point, the narrative progresses through the theft of his inheritance by his older brother, Gamelyn’s attempts to claim what is rightfully his, his escape to the greenwood and eventual triumph. Although Lodge innovates dramatically in making Rosalynde the eventual focal point for his narrative (strikingly, the medieval text contains no women at all, bar a brief reference to the hero’s marriage at the end), it is The Tale of Gamelyn that provides the narrative skeleton of inheritance and dispossession that Lodge so insistently fleshes out in his sixteenth-century version of the tale. It is therefore The Tale of Gamelyn that constitutes the source, the ‘scroule’ or discovered manuscript, that underpins Lodge’s fiction. And yet, for all Lodge’s concern to signal his indebtedness to Lyly’s work, this deeper relation is never once mentioned in his text. Such acknowledgements of it as there are, are almost entirely tacit. Lodge’s self-presentation in his dedication ‘To the Gentlemen Readers’ as a plain soldier, armed with his ‘curtlaxe’ (1592: sig. A3r) may in a sense represent a reworking of the figure of the rudely physical Gamelyn: the episode in which Gamelyn assaults his brother’s dinner guests with a ‘staf’ (1893: l. 499) is reconfigured in Rosalynde as an attack with a ‘pollaxe’ (1592: sig. F3r), so has Lodge imagined himself armed with his own version of Gamelyn’s most distinctive weapon. But these are, plainly, the very subtlest of connections.

[15] That Lodge’s narrative is adapted out of a medieval original is well known (it is mentioned in any modern edition of As You Like It). But this fact has not hitherto been thought through in terms of the testamentary logic of his framing device. Rosalynde is not just about an inheritance that has been neglected and disavowed; it performs a parallel act of disavowal itself. Not only does it fail to acknowledge its relationship of literary inheritance with The Tale of Gamelyn, it seeks to disguise it through a fantasised frame narrative, with its elaborate claim of inheritance from another, more glamorous (but in truth far less closely related) text. Entirely privately, then – privately since Gamelyn was never printed and there is no reason to think that any of Lodge’s readers need have been aware of the relationship – and with whatever degree of silent irony or self-laceration, Lodge’s text implicitly nominates itself as the wicked son of its own narrative paradigm: the child, or the heir, who refuses to acknowledge his heritage.[3] It is Lodge, here, just as much as his own Saladyne, who has wilfully determined to ‘make … hauocke’ of the legacies of the past (1592: sig. B2v). Through its testamentary fiction, Rosalynde both conceals and confesses its own creative bad faith.


[16] Another way of putting this might be to say that, for Thomas Lodge, legacies figure as a central device for thinking about the way in which the past surrenders itself, or is appropriated, in order to shape what comes after it (‘dying to liue’, as Euphues puts it). Yet for all its prevalence, the metaphor was not an inevitable one. On the contrary: Lodge’s positioning of Rosalynde within a testamentary fiction represents a significant divergence from another of his sources.

[17] The figure of ‘Rosalind’ is first mentioned in Edmund Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender (1579), a text every bit as concerned with questions of literary authority, and the relationship between the Elizabethan author and the medieval literary past, as Lodge’s is (Hadfield 2009). [4]  But while he borrows the name, Lodge substantially reworks the language that Spenser uses to think through these issues. Legacies are not absent from The Shepheardes Calender. In one of its most famous moments, E.K’s preface says that the volume aims ‘to restore, as to theyr rightfull heritage such good and natural English words, as haue ben long time out of vse and almost clere disherited’ (1579: sig. ¶2v). It is evident, however, that Spenser handles the motif of the legacy in a very different way from Lodge. In the first place, he advocates a project of restoration, rather than positioning the child as the recipient of others’ goods. Secondly, the world of inheritance is a first and foremost a maternal and female one for Spenser. His concern is with the restoration of the ‘Mother tonge’ to her ancient position. One’s ‘native speech’, which Spenser hopes to dignify, is ‘sucked’ with one’s ‘Nources milk’. Ignorant critics allege that ‘we speak no English, but gibbrish, or rather such, as in old time Euanders mother spake’ (1579: sig. ¶2v). From this point of view, The Shepheardes Calender might be understood as a recuperative cross-fertilisation of the mother’s legacy genre with the narrative imperatives of chivalric romance: the child labours to restore the possessions of the ‘disherited’ mother, the damsel in distress.[5]

[18] Elsewhere in the text, however, legacies are viewed with distance, and even outright irony. In the May eclogue, Piers distinguishes between ‘shepheards’ and ‘men of the laye’, since ‘with them it sits to care for the heire, / Enaunter [lest] their heritage doe impaire’ (1579: sig. E1v). E. K.’s note underlines the point: ‘in diuision of the lande of Canaan, to the tribe of Leuie no portion of heritage should be allotted, for GOD himselfe was their inheritaunce’ (1579: sig. F1v). The widowed mother of the kid in the ensuing tale wants to see her hapless son ‘succeede in thy fathers stead’ (1579: sig. E3r). And so he does, in one sense: both end up dead. If this reads like a cynical joke, so too might the collection’s other prominent mention of a legacy. In the gloss to the March eclogue, we read of Flora, ‘the Goddesse of flowres, but indeed (as saith Tacitus) a famous harlot, which with the abuse of her body hauing gotten great riches, made the people of Rome her heyre: who in remembraunce of so great beneficence, appointed a yearely feste for the memorial of her’ (1579: sig. C2v). In fact, Spenser’s favoured metaphor for cultural transmission in The Shepheardes Calender is pedagogy, not inheritance. This is particularly the case whenever he discusses ‘Tityrus’, his pastoral alias for Geoffrey Chaucer. In the June eclogue, Rosalind’s admirer Colin Clout laments that ‘the God of shepheards Tityrus is dead, / Who taught me homely, as I can, to make’ (1579: sig. F4r); in E.K.’s dedicatory epistle, John Lydgate is presented as the ‘scoller’ of his ‘maister’ Chaucer (1579: sig. ¶2r); and the volume’s epilogue aspires (following in Tityrus’ footsteps) ‘to teach the ruder shepheard how to feed his sheepe’ (1579: sig. N4r).

[19] It is worth remembering that Lodge would most likely have understood Gamelyn to be, not some minor anonymous romance, but a work by Chaucer himself (modern scholarship has rejected the attribution). The text survives in twenty-five manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales, in which it follows the unfinished Cook’s Tale, and is sometimes overtly ascribed to the Cook, as a second Cook’s Tale. Chaucer’s reputation had been, more-or-less since his death, constructed as that of a literary ‘father figure’: the father of Lydgate and Hoccleve, the father of English poetry: the first author to be celebrated as such in the English tradition (Lerer 1993). Chaucer’s entry into the networks of mechanical reproduction in the early modern period only produced an intensification of this idea (Bishop 2007): it is in this period that we get things like Thomas Speght’s 1598 edition of Chaucer’s Workes, in which Chaucer appears in portrait, hung about with armorial shields and placed above his son’s tomb (Chaucer 1598: ‘The true portraiture of GEFFREY CHAUCER’). For the sixteenth century, Chaucer was a significant representative of patrilineal values. By concealing its inheritance from Gamelyn, Rosalynde also significantly repudiates the image of Chaucer the father, even as it looks back to the moment as which the idea of lineal succession was adopted as the model for writing in the vernacular.

[20] In this sense, Rosalynde represents a double rejection of the revered ‘maister’ or teacher celebrated under the name of Tityrus in the Shepheardes Calender: he is banished from the scene of literary production that Lodge’s narrative imagines for itself, even whilst the image of the literary father is reinstated. We should therefore understand Rosalynde’s relationship to The Tale of Gamelyn, understood as Chaucerian writing, to be transacted in part through Lodge’s remodelling of this second literary progenitor, Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender. The text is imagined the point of intersection for multiple agents, with Lyly’s Euphues figuring only as the ostensible point of origin. Once we begin to probe Rosalynde’s actual literary affiliations, we are presented with a complex economy of revisions and adjustments, of apparent checks and balances produced as if in order to keep in play its investments in certain ideas both of gender and of literary authority. The figure of Rosalind is taken from The Sheheardes Calender, and, as Clare Kinney (1998) explains, developed from the silent object of lyric praise into an active interlocutor in poetic debates. At the same time, though, Spenser’s most significant literary progenitor (Tityrus/Chaucer) is erased; as are the maternal legacies E.K. imagines (indeed maternal figures in general disappear: barring Camilla, mothers are conspicuous only by their absence in Rosalynde); also any competing metaphors for imagining literary production, such as pedagogy. In their place, the supposedly Chaucerian narrative of the Tale of Gamelyn – adapted in order to provide a home for the new tale featuring Rosalind-as-protagonist – provides the narrative paradigm through which these all revisionary movements must now, it seems, be viewed. The superimposition of Euphues’ ‘scedule’ only serves to intensify one’s sense of the sheer intertextual density that undergirds Lodge’s text, and of the powerful emotional energies it might channel. The legacy, as the legal instrument that conventionally should but technically need not track biological relation, provides the perfect model for thinking about these complex movements of literary authority between past and present. After all, Euphues isn’t really a father; he just sounds like one.


[21] I want, then, to argue for Lodge’s Rosalynde as in some sense an exemplary text. It is certainly a strikingly unusual one in many ways; no other piece of writing from this period engages with the idea of the legacy at this level of intensity and commitment. But this very closeness of focus, coupled with the complexity of the way in which it positions Lodge’s text in relation to so many other profoundly significant works of literature from this period (The Shepheardes Calender, Euphues, and, later, Shakespeare’s As You Like It), means that Rosalynde can provide us with a model for thinking through the distinctive cultural achievements of the late sixteenth century – just as the testamentary motif helps Rosalynde think through its own antecedents. The 1580s and 1590s were a period of self-conscious novelty in literary production: the era in which, to quote Edmund Spenser, the ‘new poet’ enters onto the literary scene. This novelty has generally been understood as the paradoxical expression of a profound emulative impulse, one that decisively turned away from medieval models of composition and towards the ancient world as a source of inspiration. How might Rosalynde, as a text that problematises declarations of indebtedness, speak to the idea of a cultural ‘Renaissance’ – particularly, perhaps, to the idea of a belatedly Northern, anxiously English one?

[22] Lodge’s fiction strikingly confirms the sense, articulated in a number of recent works of criticism, that the medieval was a vigorous presence in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English culture, whatever writers of the period might have claimed to be the case. Important studies by James Simpson (2002), Gordon McMullan, David Matthews (2007) and Jennifer Summit (2008), have all in their different ways tried to argue that the old story, in which the Renaissance is understood as a simple rejection of medieval culture in favour of antique models, is no longer tenable. Just so: Rosalynde doesn’t simply reject Gamelyn; it rewrites it too. In its suppression of its Chaucerian antecedent, with the feigned legacy masking a very real debt to a medieval source, it seems almost the perfect image of the structures of bad faith implied by these studies. But there is more. Rosalynde also suggests that the cultural work that went into producing the new poetry of the late sixteenth century was not transacted purely along a temporal circuit. There is another, equally prominent process at work here, articulating itself in geographical terms; one that draws a line of connection from Spenser, through Lodge, out towards Shakespeare’s adaptation of his romance in As You Like It and the subsequent literary histories that attempt to understand the cultural significance of English Renaissance literature.

[23] In The Shepheardes Calender, Spenser’s efforts on behalf of writing in the vernacular have a paradoxical effect, in which the quest for authenticity via a return to older models of literary production results in a proliferating strangeness. Even as E. K. praises Spenser and exhorts Gabriel Harvey to release his English poems from ‘hateful darkness’ (1579: sig. ¶3v), his glosses are obliged to confess not just the antiquity but also the ‘straunge’ (the word is repeated) character of Spenser’s poetic diction (1579: sigs. D2r, F1r, G1r). This, then, is what it means for language to be ‘disherited’ and for Englishmen ‘in their own mother tonge straungers to be counted and alienes’ (1579: sig. ¶2v): to be foreign to oneself. (And this too in the context of anxieties regarding the queen’s marriage to a dubious ‘straunger’, the Duc d’Alençon (Spencer 1999: xii)).

[24] In Lodge, this dynamic is, if anything, intensified, to the point of suggesting a buried logic that connects the two movements, the temporal and the geographic. Precisely because they aim at transformation, both the return to older literary models and their disavowal open out onto the prospect of an imagined foreignness, such as interferes with any attempt to imagine literary relations as premised upon simple consanguinity. Consider how Euphues’s ‘schedule’ positions Lodge’s text as an exotic inheritance, as a foreign import. It derives from the Azores, or the Canaries. As the supposed legacy of a modern Greek, bequeathed to his Italian friend who has settled in Elizabethan London with his English wife, it recapitulates the key staging points in the narrative of translatio studii that provided such a convenient roadmap for thinking about the legacies of antiquity for writers of Lodge’s generation and afterwards – Athens, Rome, London. But it does so in emphatically contemporary terms (Lyly’s tales, the ones referenced by Lodge, are utterly up-to-date), and in relation to a medieval as much as a classical history.

[25] It is not certain under what exact circumstances Lodge sailed to the Azores and Canaries, but it seems likely he did so as part of Elizabethan efforts to disrupt Spanish trade in the Atlantic through piracy (Monterrey 2007). Rosalynde is therefore located at the intersection of two parallel projects. It is the product of, on the one hand, a literary climate in which humanistically-trained authors were searching for the forms that would allow English to achieve recognition as a medium of cultivated expression (thus, The Shepheardes Calender expresses the desire that ‘our vse might be equal to the learned of other nations’ (1579: sig. ¶3r)); and on the other, the political context of England’s ambition to assert her significance on an international stage against her continental rivals. And yet, should we expect the meeting of these two streams of influence to produce a simple declaration of authentic Englishness, we would be disappointed. For Rosalynde is, quite emphatically, foreign. Formally, Rosalynde presents itself as a document; but Rosalynde is also insistent on its nature as a work of art. The text repeatedly suggests through inset headings that human utterance and thought can attain the status of a formal object, shaped and bounded by inherited patterns of use. We read of ‘Saladynes meditation with himselfe’ (1592: sig. B2v); of ‘Rosalynds passion’ (1592: sig. C4r) and her ‘Madrigall’ (1592: sig. D1r); of ‘Alindas Oration to her father’ (1592: sig. D2r) and of ‘Saladynes discourse to Rosader vnknowne’ (1592: sig. K2v). Notably, though, the forms of art that the text incorporates are more often than not identified as alien ones: a ‘Madrigall’ or ‘passion’, an ‘Eglog’ (1592: C1v) or a ‘Sonnetto’ (1592: G3r). Rosalynde laughs at the ‘Sonettoes, Canzones, Madrigales, roundes and roundelaies’ of poeticising lovers (1592: sig. H4r); whilst the Englishman, Adam Spenser, can only rise to a mere ‘speech’ (1592: sig. F4r). One poem ends with an extended quotation from Terence’s Eunuchus in Latin (1592: sig. E4r); another is signed off with the words ‘Rosader en esperance’ (1592: sig. H4r). There is even a short poem entirely in French (1592: sig. M1r), borrowed from Philippe Desportes, who provides a source for a number of other ‘sonnets’ translated by Lodge (Prescott 1978: 143-4). Although basically a prose narrative in English, Lodge’s text is centrally concerned to exhibit its polyglot, linguistically miscellaneous influences. This is more than just an engagement with processes of grafting and assimilation or translation, although Rosalynde certainly attests to the absolute centrality of these activities to Elizabethan literary culture. On some level this text’s deepest fantasy about itself is one of imagined foreignness and self-alienation, for it is by rejecting its native inheritance in favour of a mock-continental substitute that it puts itself in the position of the wicked son ‘Saladyne’: nominally, the ultimate outsider and arch-enemy of Christendom itself.

[26] In his Discourse of English Poetry, William Webbe had written: ‘that there be as sharpe and quicke wittes in England, as euer were among the peerelesse Grecians, or renowmed Romaines, it were a note of no witte at all in me to deny. And is our speeche so course, or our phrase so harshe, that Poetry cannot therein finde a vayne whereby it may appeare like it selfe?’ (1586: sig. A4v). As a product of the same moment, Rosalynde’s testamentary fiction suggests that a dominant cultural process in the period is the fantasised exoticisation of vernacular writing. In order for English ‘Poetry’ securely to emerge as ‘it selfe’, it must first disguise itself as something other. Literary-cultural dominance is to be secured, not by taking possession of a stable, inherited identity, but through a process of self-estrangement. It is, notably, the same dynamic that governs the transvestite plot of the narrative proper, in which Rosalynde’s disguise as the page Ganymede is central to shaping and securing Rosader’s love and therefore also to his advancement to the position of heir to the king of France.


[27] ‘I writ this book,’ Lodge claims in his dedication, ‘rough, as hatcht in the stormes of the Ocean, and feathered in the surges of many perilous seas’ (1592: sig. A2r). It is, as Joan Pong Linton comments, a delightful image, figuring ‘the metamorphosis of sea surges into feathered bird, a spontaneous transformation of voyage into story’ (1998: 49-50). Here, just as much as in Euphues’s ‘scedule’, we are alerted to the fact that Rosalynde’s business is translation, whether literal or metaphorical. It is one reason why Shakespeare might have been drawn to the tale as a source: it is in a sense already primed for further revision. (On allusions to Lodge in Shakespeare, see Elam 1996: 163 and Shakespeare 2006: 81-3.) Certainly he retains Lodge’s testamentary emphasis: from its very first line, the play is saturated with inheritance motifs. Indeed, As You Like It in a sense completes the process, begun by Lodge, of exploiting the legacy as metaphor. Everybody notices the extent to which the play rehearses and toys with existing aesthetic forms: pastoral, love poetry, satire. In As You Like It, then, everything is inherited. Orlando’s poetry may be laughably second hand, but Orlando himself is a borrowing. Even gender, we are eventually made aware, is just another inherited array of conventions, there to be inhabited and manipulated, as one likes it.

[28] But Lodge’s manoeuvrings also offer a precedent for Shakespeare’s own careful blending of native and foreign. Much recent writing on the play has tended to focus on its connection to Shakespeare’s Warwickshire roots. Jonathan Bate, for example, is emphatic: ‘Thomas Lodge’s elegant prose romance is located in the Ardennes forest in France. When Shakespeare dramatized the tale and called it As You Like it, he domesticated the setting’ (2008: 37). Bate even suggests that Shakespeare himself might have played the part of the countryman William, born in the Forest of Arden (1997: 7). This is maybe to overstate the case. Orlando is still the son of one Rowland de Boys, and his name still derives from perhaps the most famous work of contemporary Italian literature, Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. Like Rosalynde, As You Like It remains deliberately poised between the native and the exotic, producing a pastoral world in which one can never quite be sure if one is in ‘Arden’ or ‘Ardennes’. Yet the sense of a developing fantasy of authentic national identity in these exchanges may not be completely wide of the mark, either. From the process of literary renaissance as mingled domestication and estrangement, the medieval will eventually re-emerge, subtly repositioned: o longer simply the temporally alienated Other, if it ever was that, but also now (after so much imagined exoticism) native in a new way, the bedrock site of a kind of Ur-Englishness, awaiting its future recovery. In this way, then, the ‘new poetry’ of the English Renaissance eventually lays the ground for the antiquarianisms of the eighteenth century.

University of St Andrews


[1] Actual early modern wills do not, on the whole, look like Euphues’. See for example the documents collected in Honigmann and Brock 1993: these are mostly brisk, detailed and hard-headedly financial, and none features a moralising supplement such as we find in Rosalynde. For one that does, see ‘The Advice and Counsel of Dr. Harris to his Family, annexed to a Will made by him, Anno Christi 1636’ in Clarke 1662: 322. Harris addresses his wife, then his children. His advice is mainly religious, but also notes hereditary character flaws and infirmities endemic to the family and provides guidance on career, marriage, children.[back to text]

[2] For this account of Lodge’s life, I have relied upon Tenney 1935, Halasz 2004 and Walker 1933-34. Pleasingly, Alice Walker’s own testamentary arrangements are recounted in Laurie Maguire’s discussion of the life and achievements of this pioneering textual scholar (2005: 327-50). But for an account of how Maguire’s summary of Walker’s will erases from view her relationship with Janet Ruth Bacon, see Guy-Bray 2009: 19-20. Guy-Bray produces an attack on how the testamentary motif can underpin the ‘reproductive metaphor’, with its various biologistic, heteronormative and teleological imperatives.[back to text]

[3] By using this description, I am alluding not only to the narrative pattern Lodge is adapting, but also to Stephen Greenblatt’s invocation of the ‘wicked son’ of the Passover Seder in the context of his readings of early modern culture. Greenblatt’s recent work matches Lodge’s in the self-consciousness and power with which it invokes the figure of the father in order to articulate a relationship between past and present. See Stephen Greenblatt and Catherine Gallagher 2001: 136-62, and Greenblatt 2001.[back to text]

[4] I have used ‘Rosalind’ for Spenser’s character, and ‘Rosalynde’ for Lodge’s, reflecting the dominant spelling in each text, although this is not wholly consistent in either case.[back to text]

[5] The ‘mother’s legacy’ texts discussed by Wendy Wall postdate The Shepheardes Calender. However, the form was an old one: there exists, for example, a fifteenth-century ‘Northren Mothers Blessing’. This poem was first printed in a volume dedicated to Spenser, and is advertised as having been written ‘nine yeares before the death of G. Chaucer’ (I. S. 1597: sig. E3r).[back to text]


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