Journal of the Northern Renaissance

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‘With diligent studie, but sportingly’: How Gabriel Harvey read his Castiglione

Chris Stamatakis

[1] Gabriel Harvey’s reputation as a pedantic, humourless polymath is nearly as familiar to modern readers as are his habits of assiduous marginal annotation. This unflattering caricature – to some extent the legacy of Thomas Nashe’s pamphlet war with Harvey, a paper feud typically regarded as an ‘assault of wit on pedantry’ – finds its origins even earlier among the poetic and dramatic satires levelled against Harvey the Cambridge academic (Tribble 1993: 122). The Latin university comedy, Pedantius, performed at Trinity College, Cambridge, on 6 February 1581, lampooned Harvey as the titular anti-hero who, at a moment of pecuniary crisis, memorably promises to sell all those books that he has ‘enriched with marginal annotations like precious gems or stars’ (Wilson 1948: 346; see IV.iv.2197–2201 in Smith (ed.) 1905: 62). In a similar vein, Harvey has, on doubtful grounds, been proposed as a model (if not the source) behind Shakespeare’s tediously pedantic schoolmaster, Holofornes, in Love’s Labour’s Lost (Lamb 1986: 53). In 1578, even Harvey’s close friend and epistolary comrade, Edmund Spenser, felt compelled to prescribe the bookish scholar a dose of jest literature – Till Eulenspiegel, Scoggin, Skelton and the Spanish rogue novel Lazarillo de Tormes – perhaps in an attempt to remedy his dour disposition.[1] Earlier still, during his time as a young fellow of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, in 1573, Harvey’s advancement to the degree of Master of Arts was blocked by, among others, Thomas Neville, who perceived conviviality lacking in him, not least in his failure to ‘take a part in the usual Yuletide merry-making’ (Pincombe 2001: 87–8). Indeed, for all the admiration of his copious scholarly marginalia, his brand of pragmatic humanism, his reputation as the leading ‘polyhistor’ of his generation ‘“interested” in the whole spectrum of the humane arts’, and his system of politically-oriented annotations, modern critics too ‘have also frequently echoed Nashe’s attacks on Harvey, condemning his repetitious, “euphuistic” style’, among other solecisms (Pincombe 2001: 85; Scott-Warren 2004). Even recent literary history, then, has tended to find in Harvey’s temperament something programmatic, dry, cumbersome, tedious.

[2] Yet close study of Harvey’s annotations brings to light a rather different individual who challenges this unfavourable reputation. His personal copy of Baldassare Castiglione’s seminal handbook of courtly behaviour, Il Libro del Cortegiano (The Book of the Courtier), reveals an unexpected dimension to his reading habits and a (surprising) literary interest in the art of jesting and readerly pleasure. Castiglione’s Cortegiano, first published in 1528, is routinely hailed as the most famous of the early modern handbooks on courtly manners. It takes the form of a series of dialogues over four successive evenings in March 1507, between a cast of courtiers resident at the Montefeltro court in Urbino, discussing such topics as the standardization of Italian vernaculars, the imitation of classical models, the rival merits of art, sculpture and painting, and the qualities that make for an ideal courtier. Not insignificantly, the work also assesses competing theories of humour, laughter and jesting, and these interests seem to have appealed especially to Harvey when encountering the Italian text.

[3] The specific volume owned by Harvey, an octavo of Il Cortegiano published in Venice by Gabriele Giolito de’ Ferrari in 1541 (hereafter C.), has remained untraced since the early twentieth century. Virginia Stern considered its ‘whereabouts unknown’ (Stern 1979: 205), and, more recently and more starkly, Peter Burke declared it ‘lost’ (Burke 1995: 171).[2] Its marginalia, almost all in Italian, languished unstudied even before the book’s disappearance. The volume survives, however, in University College London’s Special Collections, housed at The National Archives in Kew (shelfmark SR Castiglione 1541 (2)).[3] In itself, this volume marks an important addition to Harvey’s reconstructed library, since it confirms his ownership of a single work in three different languages – uniquely so among all the known acquisitions in his prodigious collection. Moreover, Harvey’s copy contains, besides his signatures both on the title-page and after the colophon, a series of intriguing marginalia that reveal new aspects of his reading and annotative practice.

Fig. 1, Harvey, Title-page

Fig. 1 Harvey’s signature and initials decorating the first of two title-pages in his copy of Il Cortegiano (title-page, SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)


[4] Harvey’s importance to ‘the history of the book, and within this the history of reading’ is so accepted as to require no special pleading (Richards 2008: 303). In a by now familiar paradigm, Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton have shown how a single reader (Harvey) could read texts, or even just a single text, in different ways as circumstances required, perhaps in his capacity as a professional reader or ‘facilitator’ (Jardine and Grafton 1990). Harvey’s marginalia in C. offer compelling evidence of yet another, perhaps unexpected, set of readerly procedures in his interpretative armoury beyond those now most closely associated with him. On this occasion, rather than reading his Castiglione to generate ‘knowledge transactions’ (Jardine and Sherman 1994: 114–16), or to glean political lessons or precepts for military and diplomatic ends (notwithstanding Castiglione’s discussions of courtly skill both in arms and letters), Harvey appears to have approached Il Cortegiano with an eye for literary playfulness and humorous appreciation. Recent developments in the history of reading have drawn attention not only to the consumption of ‘recreational’ books in early modern England, but also to modes of reading that go beyond a fragmentary ‘digest’ of authoritative texts for quotable commonplaces (Brayman Hackel 2005: 3; Mack 2005: 3). His annotations in Il Cortegiano suggest that there is room to reconsider the interpretative habits of even such a well-documented reader as Harvey in line with these emergent research interests.

[5] The evidence from his annotations in Il Cortegiano corroborates other recent attempts to rehabilitate Harvey. Jennifer Richards has analysed Harvey’s interest in debate, dialogue and jesting (Richards 2003), to reveal a Harvey who is ‘more playful, more self-mocking, and far more anti-Scholastic than his critics, contemporary and modern, have allowed’ (Richards 2009: 666). In a similar vein, Michael Pincombe has drawn attention to Harvey’s playful, ‘courtly flirtatiousness’ in his ‘Pleasant and pitthy familiar discourse, of the Earthquake in Aprill last’, from the Three proper, and wittie, familiar letters of 1580, and in particular the ludicrous tale of the worms and moles, laced with ‘some goodly plausible [J]est’, which underpins his account (Pincombe 2001: 95; Harvey and Spenser 1580: sig. B4v). Considered collectively, Harvey’s annotations in C. suggest a close engagement with wordplay; with the operations of witty language, as exemplified by the speakers in Castiglione’s dialogue itself; and, beyond that, Harvey’s interest in what might be called an affective reading strategy oriented in humour and jests – that is, an interest in how readers are moved in the act of reading and, particularly, how pleasure is instilled in an audience.

Date and context
[6] Unusually, even by his standards of encyclopaedic and polyglot reading, Harvey owned and copiously annotated Castiglione in three editions, each in a different language. Besides this Italian edition of Castiglione (C.), Harvey owned and annotated both Thomas Hoby’s 1561 English translation (now in the Newberry Library, Chicago) and also the 1571 Latin rendition by Bartholomew Clerke, to whom Harvey dedicated his 1577 treatise Rhetor. Harvey’s dated inscription in the Hoby text (‘X. gabrielharvey. 1572’) and his cross-referencing to Clerke’s Latin version in the margins of this English translation (Hoby 1561: sig. A2v) suggest that Harvey purchased or even began annotating both texts ‘by 1572’ (Stern 1979: 205–6, 246).

[7] Unfortunately, Harvey’s Italian copy C. is undated, but palaeographic and circumstantial evidence suggests that his initial encounter with this text can likewise be placed in the 1570s, most probably 1572–79. The marginalia in C., written in a consistent italic hand and uniform ink, appear to have been entered within a short space of time, rather than over a period of reading and re-reading as witnessed in other volumes, not least his copy of Hoby’s English translation which yields not only different inks and chirographies but also distinct dates, including ‘1572’ (sig. Yy3v) and ‘1580’ (sig. Zz5v) (Ruutz-Rees 1910: 612–13). In its spacing and curvature, Harvey’s hand in C. seems to mark a development away from his very early italic of ‘the 1560s and early 1570s’, in which letter formations were ‘angular and pinched’, yet it falls short of the more rounded, darker hand that characterises his later script from ‘about 1579’ onwards when Harvey ‘apparently adopted a more permanent type of black ink’ (Stern 1979: 138–9). On chirographic grounds, then, his reading of the Italian Cortegiano seems to predate 1579.

[8] Harvey actively cultivated an interest in Italian literature over the 1570s. Beyond his early facility in Latin and Greek, he seems to have turned his attention to the study of Italian and French around 1578 (Stern 1979: 156). Harvey densely annotated his copy of William Thomas’ The historye of Italye (1561, first published 1549), which he described, in a marginal comment at the beginning of ‘The Table’, as a ‘necessarie Introduction to Machiavel, Guicciardin, Jovius’ (Stern 1979: 237). And he owned a copy of the same author’s Principal rules of the Italian grammer with a dictionarie for the better vnderstandyng of Boccace, Petrarcha, and Dante (1550). This latter manual seems to have been crucial in his learning of Italian in the late 1570s or early 1580s, since he pairs it with John Florio’s First Fruites (1578) as a foundational linguistic aid. Annotating his copy of Florio, perhaps for the first time in 1580, Harvey pinpoints Florio and Thomas as his chief guides:

Me Florio et Tomaso contesti inspirabunt, nobis linguis flagrantem. (sig. A3r)

[Florio and [William] Thomas in close connection will intensely inspire me with their [scil. our] language (Stern 1979: 156–7)].

[9] Another marginal aside in the same work hails Florio as a linguistic trailblazer, this time in the company of John Eliot, a French teacher and a reader-translator working in John Wolfe’s printing house. Harvey extols the pair as

mie new London companions for Italian, & French. Two of the best for both (sig. Ee1v).

On the same page he announces a foray into Stefano Guazzo’s writings:

Now to the 4. books of Guazzo, the sweetest & daintiest of Italian Dialogues. (Jardine and Grafton 1990: 49–50).

Collectively, such marginal comments suggest a concerted engagement with Italian language-learning and literary dialogues by 1580, although the dating of Harvey’s hand in C. and his encounters with Hoby’s English translation and Clerke’s Latin version ‘by 1572’ (Stern 1979: 245–6) may suggest that he was already closely acquainted with Castiglione’s Italian original as early as 1572.

[10] Harvey had already read many Italian works ‘too difficult for a beginner’ long before engaging with elementary Italian textbooks in 1579 and thereafter (Bourland 1940: 88). Indeed, Harvey’s reading of Il Cortegiano may have been partially motivated by a desire to learn the language: Florio suggested that readers wishing to learn ‘a little Italian’ consult ‘Castilions courtier, or Guazzo his dialogues’ (Florio 1591: sig. A4v). To be sure, Harvey ‘studied Castiglione and Guazzo with considerable care, evidently intent on learning the arts of courtierly manners and sprezzatura’ (Stern 1979: 17). Yet he may also have read them, in conjunction, in order to learn the language itself: having acquired Hoby’s English Courtyer in 1572, Harvey returned to it on several occasions over the next decade, in 1581 entering a cross-reference to Guazzo’s Civil conversatione, which he owned and annotated in both the original Italian and George Pettie’s English translation. In other quarters, the trilingual edition of Castiglione published in London in 1588, placing Hoby’s English in parallel with the original Italian and a French translation by Gabriel Chappuys, was ‘clearly designed for readers who wanted to study Italian as well as good behaviour’ (Burke 1995: 61; see also Richards 2001: 481).

[11] Harvey’s own trilingual cohort of texts, in Italian, English and Latin, may corroborate the suggestion that his study of Castiglione was linked to an enterprise of linguistic improvement in European vernaculars. Harvey’s copy of Scipio Lentulo’s An Italian Grammer (Grantham 1575), which he purchased in 1579, contains marginalia that suggest just such a use for his Cortegiano. In the bottom margin of page 44, beside the printed explanation that ‘Per il che … is vsed but thus, Il perche’, Harvey cites an example from Castiglione to illustrate the idiom:

Castiglione del Cortegiano. L. 1. Perilche conoscendo io questa (Bourland 1940: 93).

In the first instance, then, Il Cortegiano may well have served Harvey as a linguistic, much more than a moral or philosophical, guide.

[12] In a letter of April 1580, addressed to Spenser, Harvey comments on Castiglione’s contemporary reception. He reports that Italian and French were being pursued to the detriment of Greek and Latin at Cambridge: Tully and Demosthenes are ‘nothing so much studyed as they were wonte’ and ‘Matchiauell’ has become a ‘great man: Castilio of no small reputation: Petrarch, and Boccace in euery mans mouth: Galateo and Guazzo neuer so happy’ (Grosart (ed.) 1884–85: 1.69; Bourland 1940: 86–7). Yet despite bemoaning this vogue, Harvey seems to have been a keen devourer of these European vernaculars himself. As Warren Boutcher has demonstrated, despite Harvey’s famous letters of complaint to Spenser, the importance to a pragmatic humanist like Harvey of ‘a “ready” or conversational … skill in Latin and the modern languages’ was undeniable, and Harvey’s library clearly attests the ‘burgeoning role of modern languages in the 1570s and 1580s as part of an alternative humanistic curriculum geared for social and political success’ (Boutcher 1997: 51–2). Crucially, among the works most enthusiastically embraced by Harvey as possible aids in learning Italian were three pre-eminent authorities celebrating the art of conversation: Castiglione’s Cortegiano, Giovanni Della Casa’s Galateo and Guazzo’s Civil conversatione, all of which Harvey himself alludes to in his Gratulationes Valdinenses (Harvey 1578: sig. K4r). Of these three luminaries, Guazzo perhaps most extensively illustrated the ‘underlying motif that courtesy is ultimately an art of words’ (Grogan 2009: 146). In a marginal gloss in his copy of Guazzo (now British Library, shelfmark C.60.a.1(1)), Harvey himself called it a ‘Thesoro della lingua, discorso, e Conuersatione Italiana’ (sig. ††6r), a copious storehouse of Italian linguistic resources. Harvey’s acquisition of Italian, then, appears closely bound up with his interest in artful, witty conversation.

[13] Further corroborating evidence comes from a draft letter to Spenser, which Harvey composed between 1578 and 1580. Again, he records how his Cambridge contemporaries had grown dissatisfied with the traditional curriculum of classical reading, and were seeking out modish conduct manuals and continental arts of conversation:

schollars in ower age ar rather nowe Aristippi then Diogenes: and rather active then contemplative philosophers: covetinge above alle thinges under heaven to appeare sumwhat more then schollars if themselves wiste howe … And nowe of late forsoothe to helpe countenaunce owte the matter they have gotten Philbertes Philosopher of the Courte, the Italian Archebysshopies brave Galat[e]o, Castiglioes fine Cortegiano, Bengalassoes Civil Instructions to his Nephewe Seignor Princisca Ganzar: Guatzoes newe Discourses of curteous behaviour, Jouios and Rassellis Emblemes in Italian. (Harvey’s Letter-Book, BL, MS Sloane 93, fols. 42v–43r).

In Harvey’s account, these conversation manuals ranged from Della Casa’s Galateo (1564), to ‘Bengalassoes Civil Instructions’ (namely, Simon Robson’s Courte of ciuill courtesie, masquerading as a continental conduct book and appearing under the attributed name of Bengalassa del Mont. Prisacchi), to Paolo Giovio’s Ragionamento (1556). Most likely, such works were read with a view, ultimately, to employment at city or court. Conveniently, Harvey mentions to Spenser neither his own immersion in these very works in the late 1570s, nor his close engagement, in the form of marginal annotation, with such studies on the art of sociable repartee.

[14] Indeed, among the most heavily-scrawled items in all of Harvey’s library is his copy of Lodovico Domenichi’s Facetie, motti, et burle, di diversi signori et persone private (1571, revised and expanded from the first edition of 1548), an Italian collection of jests, short miscellaneous observations and anecdotes.[4] The work is bound together with another Venetian octavo published in the same year, Lodovico Guicciardini’s Detti et fatti piacevoli, et gravi, itself a collection of witty sayings in the facetiae genre. Jesting was ‘an essential component of an orator’s or courtier’s repertoire of rhetorical strategies’ found in early modern rhetorical handbooks, courtesy manuals, and facetiae or ‘jest collections’ (Holcomb 2001: 3). More particularly, facetiae formed an integral component of continental humanist programmes, especially those indebted to Cicero as a theorist of jests (Woodbridge 2001: 127–8). As a body of writing probably initiated by Poggio Bracciolini’s Facetie (c. 1470/1), the first to appropriate the term ‘facetiae’ from Cicero, collections of facetiae were received in England relatively swiftly: at the end of his translation of Aesop, Caxton provides eleven stories from ‘Poge [Poggio] the Florentyn’ (Caxton 1484: sigs. r5v–s6v). Among Harvey’s volumes of facetiae, both Domenichi’s Facetie and Guicciardini’s Detti et fatti piacevoli are inundated with Harvey’s annotations, filling every available margin. Moreover, both works corroborate his Italophile leanings in the 1570s or early 1580s, particularly in connection with Italian repositories of jests and witty exempla.

Ragionare delle facetie: Bibbiena, Eutrapelus and reading for jests
[15] While decorated much less copiously than his Domenichi or his Guicciardini or indeed his Livy, and while devoid of the astronomical symbols and acronyms that litter his more heavily-annotated volumes, Harvey’s copy of Il Cortegiano helps to recalibrate some of the modern critical assumptions about his reading habits. Admittedly, a few of Harvey’s marginal notes in C. are pedestrian, summative descriptions of subject matter, such as his comment on the universal desire for novelty, ‘Gli huomini sempre cupidi di no[v]ità’ (C., sig. A2v). Others, in keeping with humanist philological commentary, identify literary sources, as when he recognises Castiglione’s indebtedness to Cicero’s Orator – ‘proemio de L’oratore di Cicerone’ (sig. A6r). Castiglione’s text itself invites readers to note classical authorities and to mark sententiae in this way: Hoby’s epistle to Lord Hastings, prefacing his English translation, presents the work as a repository or ‘storehouse of most necessary implements for the con[v]ersacion, [u]se, and training [u]p of mans life with Courtly demeaners’ (Hoby 1561: sig. A3v). Yet many of Harvey’s annotations in C. go beyond mere summarizing or source-hunting. They seem to conform to Stern’s description of the second and third types of annotation found in his library – namely, ‘critical and supplementary comments on ideas in the text’ and ‘personal reflections, introspections, and precepts’ (Stern 1979: 141–4). Not an insubstantial number of Harvey’s annotations and (no less importantly) underlinings in C. are directed to the art of conversational humour – to identifying and mastering spoken and even written jests.

[16] As with some other works in his library, Harvey stops annotating C. half-way through. Of Il Cortegiano’s four books, Books 3 and 4 are devoid of marginalia, with the notable exception of the final page of text in Book 4, at the end of which Harvey has inserted ‘Il fine’ with a flourish, and, beneath the colophon, signed himself in ornately Italianate style as ‘Gabriel Arveio’, as if transformed into the perfect continental courtier by the end of his reading.[5] Perhaps an indication of depleting interest in the work, or distraction by other (more important) reading commitments, Harvey’s decision to cease annotating after Book 2 may rather imply that he had marked all he wanted to from the Italian in that second book, and felt no need to continue beyond it. Following on from the precepts of Book 1, Book 2 is devoted to the theory and practice of applying humour to social interactions and tailoring one’s language to particular occasions: due attention is paid to the pragmatic ideals of discrettio (discretion) and giudicio (judgement) as virtues essential for social decorum.

Fig. 2 Harvey’s florid, Italianate signature beneath the colophon (sig. BB8r, SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

Fig. 2 Harvey’s florid, Italianate signature beneath the colophon (sig. BB8r, SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)


[17] This particular book’s appeal to a pragmatic humanist like Harvey is self-evident, although its discussion of humour and verbal play at first sight seems out of keeping with his other reading interests. David Norbrook has identified Il Cortegiano’s didactic and moral import as the source of its attraction to mid-century readers and Protestant humanists: Castiglione’s work included ‘enough didactic matter to attract mid-century humanists’, while its ‘anti-ecclesiastical satire’ would have increased its appeal to Protestants (Norbrook 1984: 49). Yet Harvey’s interest in the work lies, instead, in its linguistic resources and its model for a type of discourse untroubled by moral considerations; its debates on the role of humour and the practice of jesting; and its illustrations of witty style. Corroborating these interests, one of Harvey’s scribblings in his copy of Hoby’s Courtyer implies the kind of comic intent that is hard to reconcile with Harvey’s academic standing (at the time of acquisition) as a Cambridge Fellow: adjoining the precept ‘To be portly and amiable in countenance [u]nto whoso beehouldeth him’, listed under Hoby’s ‘breef rehersall of the chiefe conditions and qualities in a Courtier’ at the end of the volume, is an arrow pointing towards a crudely sketched image of the same (sig. Yy4r) (Ruutz-Rees 1910: 609).

[18] ‘Marginalia rarely speak directly to the questions we most want answered,’ cautions William Sherman, ‘and often reveal a different side of a reader we thought we knew’ (Sherman 2008: 15). Marking texts for their wit and humour, despite critical presuppositions about Harvey’s methods, was central to his reading of Castiglione, both in the Italian original and Hoby’s English translation. Carl Grindley’s taxonomy of reader responses, cited by Sherman, might offer us a useful model for locating Harvey’s reading habits in his Cortegiano. Besides ‘Narrative’ aids, ‘Ethical Pointers’ and ‘Polemical Responses’, Grindley ventures a fourth category, ‘Literary Responses’, which includes the subcategory ‘Humour and Irony’ (Grindley 2001). It is within this last species of the genus that Harvey’s annotative reading of Castiglione can be most consistently located.

[19] When approaching Castiglione’s text, English humanists in the second half of the sixteenth century were evidently comfortable with a type of ‘diligent’ reading tailored to the work’s moral precepts. Roger Ascham’s posthumous Scholemaster articulated a model for reading ‘Conto Baldesær Castiglione in his booke, Cortegiane’ (by which he actually means Hoby’s English translation). This reading strategy sought ‘To [j]oyne learnyng with cumlie exercises’, such that the book be ‘advisedlie read, and diligentlie followed’ (Ascham 1570: sig. 20v). Harvey, however, seems to have adopted an approach no less ‘diligent’ but rather more in keeping with Philip Sidney’s recommendations for reading the memorable exempla of Sacro Bosco and Valerius Maximus. In his copy of Johannes de Sacro Bosco’s thirteenth-century astronomical textbook, Textus de Sphaera (published 1527), Harvey entered a note on the recommended method for reading the work:

To be read with diligent studie, but sportingly, as he [Sidney] termed it (sig. a2r) (Stern 1979: 79).

Harvey’s marginal note apparently recalls a conversation with Sidney, relating to ‘Sacrobosco, & Valerius’ as texts ‘[b]ie him specially commended to the Earle of Essex, Sir Edward Dennie, & divers gentlemen of the Court’ to be read in this jointly ‘diligent’ and ‘sporting’ fashion.

[20] That Harvey read his Castiglione in this way, too, is suggested by the testimony of his marginalia, whether cursory notes or longer pronouncements on his reading strategies. One such comment entered in the margins of his Italian Cortegiano directly invokes this mode of reading. Citing the very text ‘commended’ by Sidney – Valerius Maximus’ Dictorum factorumque memorabilium exempla (1544) which Harvey owned and annotated – Harvey writes, towards the start of Book 2,

Locus communis lepid[e], facet[e], et sals[e] dictor[um] in [V]alerio Maximo (C., sig. K8r).

When reading his Castiglione, then, no less than his Valerius Maximus, Harvey was evidently alert to the commonplaces, the locus communis, of verbal elegance – of things said charmingly, gracefully and wittily (‘lepid[e], facet[e], et sals[e] dictor[um]’) – which he might mark, glean, or copy in the margins of his text.

[21] This attention to what is witty or pleasingly humorous is found elsewhere in Harvey’s responses to Castiglione, as in his annotations on Hoby’s English translation. At the end of his copy of Hoby, Harvey lists the principal requirements of the courtier:

Above all things, it importeth a Courtier, to be gracefull & lo[v]elie in countenance, & beha[v]iour; fine & discreet in discourse, & interteinment; skilfull & expert in Letters, & Armes; acti[v]e & gallant in e[v]erie Courtlie Exercise; nimble & speedie of boddie & mind; resolute, industrious, & valorous in action; as profound & in[v]incible in execution, as is possible: & withall e[v]er generously bould, wittily pleasant, & full of life in all his sayings, & doings. […]
                      G.H. 1580.
(sig. Zz5v – Ruutz-Rees 1910: 634–5).

For this sedulous reader of Livy, the expected watchwords are here. The phrases ‘expert in Letters, & Armes’, ‘acti[v]e & gallant in … Exercise’, ‘valorous in action’, and ‘in[v]incible in execution’ all befit Harvey’s Ramist disposition – what has been described as a mentality geared to pragmatic training for public position (Jardine 1986).

[22] Yet, buried among these phrases, his attention to other courtierly virtues such as being ‘discreet in discourse & interteinment’ or being ‘generously bould, wittily pleasant, & full of life in all his sayings’ perhaps comes as more of a surprise. Harvey’s interest in the Ciceronian virtue of ‘discretion’ found in De officiis, ‘the skill of adjusting according to context or person’, has already been well documented (Richards 2009: 669), and Harvey’s fusion here of what is ‘discreet’ with what is courtly and amusing produces a hybrid that is striking in itself. Yet this affective interest in sources of humour, in what is ‘wittily’ pleasant – a term, along with its cognates pleasure and pleasurable, that will be seen to recur – is palpable throughout the traces that survive of his reading. Elsewhere in his copy of Hoby’s Courtyer, Harvey inscribes the marginal caption,

The Art of Jesting: pleasurable, & gratious (sig. R3r)

and remarks on the importance of actively deploying such ingenious sayings in the world, following Hoby’s examples of Aristippus and Diogenes:

Salsorum dictorum, usus in mundo maximus, et ingeniosissimus (sig. T3r).

[23] Again, a few pages later in Book 2, Harvey praises Aretino’s use of jests. Their excellence lies not simply in their ability to challenge expectations, but also in their sociability and discretion. This crucial skill of not only giving pleasure but also avoiding insult invokes an Aristotelian principle of moderation, whereby the witty speaker’s sociable discourse entertains without causing offence:

In derriving mens opinions, and frustrating the most probable expectation; Unico Aretino superexcellent … Without any offence, & with many delights (sig. Y2r).

The sentiment resonates with Harvey’s annotations on ‘civility’ that pepper the narrow margins of his sextodecimo copy of Guazzo’s Civil conversatione. There, likewise, civility is understood as a series of gestures which revolve around verbal competence in the art of jesting. Running up the inner margin, alongside the table of contents, is Harvey’s remark on a proverb that addresses the underlying rules of urbane repartee:


Play with me, & hurt me not:
[J]est with me, & shame me not.

A notable rule of Ci[v]ilitie.

(Harvey’s copy of Guazzo, Civil conversatione, sig. ††2r).

In both his Guazzo and his English Courtyer, then, Harvey’s annotations suggest a concerted strategy of marking the text so as to draw out inert rules or precepts for jesting which can then be enacted in the realm of social performance. This programme tallies closely with Harvey’s celebration of a particular ‘goal-oriented’ method of reading, as articulated in his Cambridge lectures on rhetoric, Rhetor, published in 1577. There, as Jennifer Richards has argued, the ‘rhetorical analysis and practice’ promoted by Harvey was designed to create readers who cultivated ‘“the light of divine nature” [naturae diuinae lumen] or eloquence through reading, writing, and conversing’, actively redeploying the fruits of their reading (Richards 2008: 311).

[24] Harvey’s annotations in his Italian text of Castiglione are no less oriented towards the social applications of artful jesting. In the margins of C., Harvey painstakingly marks each ‘Giuoco’ (game, or jest) proposed by the speakers in the preliminary stages of Book 1. This incipient interest in jesting is developed more fully in the margins surrounding the sporting passages in Book 2, particularly those sections devoted to the theory and execution of jesting (sections 43–93). Attesting this interest in giuochi, Harvey fills the lower margin of one page in Book 2 with an extensive bibliographic reference to Giovanni Paolo Cardelli’s jest-centric work, De’ giuocchi Discorso (1563), for which Stern gives no record of Harvey’s ownership but which he was clearly sufficiently familiar with to give its full title verbatim (C., sig. K8r).

Fig. 3 Harvey’s cross-reference to Cardelli’s De’ giuocchi Discorso (1563), and a marginal cue (‘Bibiena’) identifying Bernardo Bibbiena’s contributions to the discussion of humour in Book 2 (sig. K8r (bottom half), SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

Fig. 3 Harvey’s cross-reference to Cardelli’s De’ giuocchi Discorso (1563), and a marginal cue (‘Bibiena’) identifying Bernardo Bibbiena’s contributions to the discussion of humour in Book 2 (sig. K8r (bottom half), SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)


[25] Out of the speakers in this second book of Il Cortegiano, Harvey engages most closely with the jokes of Bernardo Bibbiena. The Florentine Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena, the lowest-born of Castiglione’s speakers, proves to be an ‘expert manipulator of words’ in Book 2 (Cavallo 2000: 404). Harvey keenly notes his name, ‘Bibbiena’, in the margin at the appropriate cue (sigs. A2v, K8r) and zealously underscores his punch-lines (as on sig. L4v). Notably, Harvey is as much an inveterate underliner as a marginal annotator in his Cortegiano. The variety of witty exempla offered by Book 2 evidently piqued his curiosity most. Page after page, he underlines jokes and humorous exchanges: salacious double entendres, as in the dual meaning of ‘una d[on]na d’assai’ denoting either a virtuous or meretricious woman (sig. L1v); scatological jests employing a figure described by Castiglione as ‘bischizzi’ whereby a letter or syllable is manipulated, as in the play on ‘lingua latina’ and ‘lingua latrina’ (sig. L8r); bathetic re-use of Virgil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Ars Amatoria (sig. L8v); and regional or occupational satire, be it at the expense of the Sienese (sig. L4v) or lawyers, physicians and theologians (sigs. M3v–M4r). But most obviously, he is drawn to puns – relentlessly so. Ever keen to identify praiseworthy models of style, he underlines homographic puns, such as that on ‘Alessandro Papa VI’, where ‘vi’ signifies both ‘the sixth’ and the ablative of ‘vis’, mischievously suggesting that Alessandro had become Pope through the use of force (sig. L2v); or phonetic puns, as in the ambiguous Italian phrase ‘ha[v]er letto’, which as Hoby notes in his version ‘is interpreted both to ha[v]e a bed and to ha[v]e read’ (C., sig. L7v; Hoby 1561: sig. T3r); and equivocating puns or antanaclasis, as in the phrase ‘tre c[on]ti’, which plays on the ambiguity between three ‘causes’ for going to Bologna and three ‘Counts’ (sig. M2r), among other instances of paronomasia in Castiglione’s work.

[26] Throughout, Harvey’s interest lies both in the process of badinage and also in the practical applications of sociable discourse. At the point when Bibbiena launches into an exposition of jokes as ‘a form of recreation, a release from worldly concerns through laughter’, but also as a device ‘to comment on contemporary society rather than merely escape from it’ (Cavallo 2000: 404), Harvey pointedly underlines the key-word, ‘facetie’ (jests, witticisms), in this discussion of how to deploy jests in practice (‘ragionare delle facetie’, C., sig. K8r). In addition, Harvey’s interest lies also, it seems, in what might be considered the physiology of reader response – how pleasure or mirth is generated in one’s audience. Shortly afterwards, in the margin of sig. L7r, Harvey has added a bracket drawing attention to an entire section of text devoted to short jests whose force lies in their ambiguity or equivocation (‘facetie … che stanno in un bre[v]e detto, quelle sono acutissime, che nascono della ambiguita’). Harvey’s curiosity here seems centred on not only the practical effects such humour can have in social contexts, but also the pleasurable effects that such puns might induce in their listeners.

[27] It is just this brand of urbane wordplay that Henry Peacham, in the 1593 edition of The Garden of Eloquence (first published 1577), labels asteismus, or in its Latin cognate, ‘urbanitas’. Peacham notes how the ‘wittie [j]esting in ci[v]ill maner, and gracing of speech with some merie conceipt’ might arise from equivocation ‘when a word ha[v]ing two significations, is exprest in the one, and [u]nderstood in the other’. This device of asteismus, if ‘discreetely [u]sed with the due obser[v]ation of circumstances’, Peacham argues, ‘ministreth grace, and pleasure, and mirth to the hearer’ (Peacham 1593: sigs. G1r-v). Comparably, the humanist and rhetorical theorist Thomas Wilson likewise discusses the emotive reach of well-deployed language in his 1553 Arte of rhetorique, the 1567 edition of which Harvey owned and extensively annotated. In Wilson’s terms, the ‘turning of a word … doth often moue the hearer’, where ‘[w]ordes doubtfully spok[en]’ are especially known to ‘ge[v]e oft[en] [j]ust occasi[on] of muche laughter’ (Wilson 1553: sigs. t4v, v1r). Harvey’s annotations suggest the same interest in vernacular eloquence shown by these treatises, which likewise attend to both the practical instrumentality and the affective power of witty turns of phrase.

[28] The variety of illustrations annotated or underlined by Harvey in his Castiglione indicates an engagement not only with individual examples but also with the theory of jesting, or the mechanics of witty language, that underpin them. In particular, the virtuosity of Bibbiena’s word-games seems to elicit Harvey’s attention. On the very page in which Bibbiena celebrates those double entendres that induce wonder rather than mere laughter in their audience – ‘che piu presto mo[v]ano mara[v]iglia, che riso’ (Book 2, section 58) – Harvey underlines the wordplays on ‘ha[v]er letto’ (‘to have a bed’ / ‘to have read’) and ‘mattonato’ / ‘matto nato’ (a ‘brick-work floor’, or a ‘born fool’). Strikingly, Hoby reproduces Castiglione’s Italian text for both these wordplays, rather than attempting to render the joke in English. Conceding that the force of the puns works only in their original language, Hoby prints the following defence in the margin: ‘These two examples are put in Italian, bicause they ha[v]e no grace in the English tunge by reason of the doubtfulnesse of the woordes that may be taken two sundry wayes: yet is the Englishe as plentifull of these [j]estes as any other tunge’ (Hoby 1561: sig. T3r). Such jokes, so context-specific and (for Hoby) untranslatable that their usefulness to a pragmatist like Harvey would appear to be minimal, suggest that Harvey’s fascination with these puns derives not from the individual examples themselves, since the opportunities for applying them or putting them into practice would seem to be few and far between. Rather, his interest surely lies in the theory or rules of jesting that underpin these disparate illustrations – in the idea behind the puns, and in the model of a flexible idiom that can turn innocuous phrases into something pleasing.

[29] That his enthusiasm for doubtful language, puns, homophones and witty reapplications of phrases centre on the principles or the mechanics of humorous exchanges is corroborated by Harvey’s marginalia elsewhere. In his copy of Thomaso Porcacchi’s Motti Diversi Raccolti per Thomaso Porcacchi; Et aggiuntoui alle Facetie di M. Lodouico Domenichi (1574), another short treatise of witty jests that is appended to the Domenichi text, Harvey pens the following instruction vertically in the right-hand margin:

Make most of such Examples, as may ser[v]e for Mines of In[v]ention; Mirrours of Elocution; & fountains of pleasant de[v]ises. The finest platforms. (sig. Ee1r) (Stern 1979: 209, 230–1).

As ‘mines’, ‘fountains’ and ‘platforms’, these ‘Examples’ are merely the starting points for ‘In[v]ention’, rather than the end-products. Their potency, or use, lies in their role as models of ‘Elocution’.

[30] This sustained interest in both the theory and pragmatics of jesting tallies well with one of Harvey’s most recurrent personae, ‘Eutrapelus’. This textual alter-ego of Harvey’s, inhabiting many of his annotated margins, seems principally concerned with witty discourse and a conversational method of sporting interchange. The name ‘Eutrapelus’, recalling the ideal of ‘learned insolence’ or ‘wittiness’ embodied by the Aristotelian virtue of Εὐτραπελία (eutrapelia, literally, ‘turning well’), designates that persona ‘who is clever and ingenious with words … the eloquent orator, teacher of rhetoric, persuasive man in speech (and in writing) and one who engages in witty jesting and very often irony’. As Stern notes, Harvey’s Eutrapelus invokes Aristotle’s model of ‘pleasantness in conversation’, and also gestures towards the recondite English noun ‘eutrapely’, invoking an ideal of ‘courteous, civil conversation, or urbanity’ (Stern 1979: 177). In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle celebrates ‘witty or versatile’ speakers, eutrapeloi (εὐτράπελοι), and speakers ‘full of good turns’, eutropoi (εὔτροποι), whose speech achieves a type of moderate, civilized amusement (Rackham (ed.) 1934: 246–9, citing IV.8 (1128a10–b5)). Beyond Aristotle, Harvey’s choice of Eutrapelus as a persona may also directly recall Erasmus’ jest collection, Convivium fabulosum (‘Feast of fables’), first published in 1524. Among the aptronymic jest-tellers in Erasmus’ colloquy are Gelasinus (‘jocular’), Asteus (‘urbane’), Philogelos (‘laughter-loving’), Lerochares (‘joker’) and, as master of ceremonies, Eutrapelus (‘witty’) (Thompson (ed.) 1997: 571–89 (584)).

[31] While Eutrapelus does not make an appearance in Harvey’s annotations in C., the persona is clearly at home in his other Italian volumes. Another repository of Italianate wittiness found in Harvey’s library, the aforementioned Detti et fatti (1571) of Lodovico Guicciardini, contains an extensive marginal description in Harvey’s hand of the ‘pragmatic metamorphosis’ associated with Eutrapelus:

Eutrapeli Pragmatica Metamorphosis. Iu[v]at, in iocis haurire salem terrae, et lucem mundi. [u]trunque sapidissimum, et splendidissimum. Alii seria praetendunt: solus Eutrapelus seria exequitur perpetrat egregia. Magna in par[v]a mutat Eutrapelus: par[v]a in magna. Arcana metamorphosis Eutrapeli. Aliorum seria, in iocos con[v]ertenda: Tui ipsius Ioci, in Seria. Alienis addatur hyperbolicῶs, aut ironicῶs: Tuis detrahatur: (Harvey’s marginal comment, sig. **2v)

The pragmatic metamorphosis of Eutrapelus. It is helpful to draw the salt of the earth and the light of the world[, which are (respectively) very savoury and very splendid,] into jests […]. Others present serious discourses but only Eutrapelus works at serious matters and effects serious results. Eutrapelus is able to convert great matters into small ones, small into great ones. This is Eutrapelus’s secret metamorphosis: serious matters of others being converted into jests, your own jests into serious discussions. Hyperbole [scil. or irony] is added to the remarks of others and removed from yours (Stern 1979: 177)].

The metamorphosis in question is partly the reifying of precept, and partly the witty transformation of a speaker’s words. The art of jesting and the art of praxis are fused into a single enterprise. Here, as in Harvey’s annotations on Castiglione, the focus is, perhaps surprisingly, on pithy repartee. Yet the underlying goal remains the same as in the rest of Harvey’s annotative oeuvre – namely, a pragmatic application of theoretical ideals, as suggested by the litany of dynamic verbs and verb forms (‘perpetrat’, ‘mutat’, ‘convertenda’). Harvey’s remarks would seem, then, to fit squarely within that tradition of jesting as both ‘a form of recreation’ and a device for ‘pragmatic’ application, a tradition reaching from Cicero and Quintilian to their sixteenth-century imitators (Holcomb 2001: 15).

A pragmatic and affective style
[32] Harvey’s marginalia in his Italian books, his Cortegiano not least among them, reveal an ongoing interest in the arts of witty conversation. More precisely, they attest an important shift in Harvey’s habits of thought: a move from a Ramist conception of ‘ars bene disserendi’ (the art of discussing a topic under the auspices of Ramus’ dialectic) to what has been called a ‘method of sprezzatura’ tailored to sociable conversation (the practice of witty dialogue) (Prewitt 1999: 21). In the margins of C., Harvey keenly notes Il Cortegiano’s ideal of conversational practice:

Propone che ad ogniun sia lecito di contradire. (sig. B6v).

This annotation, adjoining Federico Fregoso’s plea in the main text that each interlocutor in the dialogue be allowed to say the opposite of any other (‘contradire’), confirms Harvey’s interest in the dynamics of conversation, and perhaps behind that the practice of arguing in utramque partem.

[33] Marginalia in his other Italianate texts hint at something similar. Towards the end of Book 2 in Hoby’s Courtyer, Harvey offers a note of reflective summary that gestures to the ideal, if not also etymology, of the aforementioned eutrapelia (Εὐτραπελία):

Men laugh at nothing more then at shreud turnes (sig. Aa4r) (Ruutz-Rees 1910: 610, 638).

Hoby’s English translation elicits from Harvey further annotations that address these underlying processes and principles of repartee. Analysing this shrewd turn-taking, Harvey muses:

Scitum est, respondere ad Idem; et ex eadem pharetra … Suis quemque telis confligere, Ingenii est (sig. V2v) (Ruutz-Rees 1910: 611)

[It is a shrewd thing, to respond to the same person; and (to answer back with arrows) from the same quiver … It is ingenious to fight someone with their own weapons].

Advocating a pattern of dialogue founded on antistrephon, whereby a participant’s words are re-used to argue the opposite, Harvey conceives of conversation in resolutely pragmatic terms. Little regard is paid to any underlying moral import. More emphatically still, in his copy of Guazzo’s Civil conversatione, annotated in perhaps 1582, Harvey identifies the essential quality of the urbane courtier’s idiolect:

Discorso delli discorsi: pieno di varietà, acutezza, e sententiosa bre[v]ità, con molta piace[v]olezza. (sig. Ff3r).

In short, the ideal discourse for the courtier is one full of variety, sharp wit or ‘acutezza’ – perhaps here directly recalling Castiglione’s ideal of ‘acutezza recondita’, or in Hoby’s translation ‘co[v]ered subtilty’ (Hoby 1561: sig. F1r) – and concise, pithy axioms that bring pleasure (‘piacevolezza’) to one’s auditors. Repeatedly, Harvey’s reading of Italian dialogues is grounded in questions of affect (the ways in which jests prompt laughter or work on their audiences) no less than in questions of use (the practical ends to which readers subsequently apply their reading).

[34] Jardine and Grafton have discussed an underlying tension in Harvey’s reading. Harvey shows, on the one hand, a desire to glean a text’s axioms, ‘to find advice on tactics and strategems’; on the other, he seems no less fascinated by a text’s stylistic effects, betraying a ‘very evident attraction to the stylistic and affective’. Given this tension, Harvey appears to have read texts ‘not simply to reflect, boil down and imitate’ them, but also ‘to savour, speculate and admire’ (Jardine and Grafton 1990: 59, 69). The surviving traces show that Harvey’s reading of Castiglione adhered to these latter principles of savouring and admiring in particular. The evidence even suggests that Harvey read (dare one say it?) for pleasure, finding in Castiglione’s text not only something that was utile (useful) but also, on the other side of the Horatian dyad, something dulce (sweet).[6] Rather than serving as a utilitarian handbook or instructional guide, and far from offering a mere repository of moral wisdom, Il Cortegiano provoked in Harvey a fascination with verbal texture, and with pragmatic styles that could be studied and enjoyed without reference to a work’s moral bearings.

[35] In his Ciceronian scholarship of the 1570s, Harvey treats this severance of style from moral substance with apparent suspicion. He certainly questioned that brand of fashionable Italian Ciceronianism characterised by an over-reliance on Cicero’s style, a superficial attention to linguistic imitation and a privileging of words over subject matter. In his Ciceronianus (1577), Harvey charts his move away from this sort of outward imitation of Cicero towards a position based on ‘the Ciceronianuses of the Northern humanists Johannes Sturm, Johann Thomas Freigius, and Erasmus, as well as that of Ramus’. Collectively, these treatises ‘propounded the idea of imitating not just Cicero’s refined prose style, but his wisdom and statesmanship as well’ (Prewitt 1999: 22). Yet in reading Castiglione, Harvey appears content to study the causes and effects of elocutio independently of a speaker’s wisdom or moral standing. Writing in 1573 to Arthur Capel, who had matriculated from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1571, Harvey reveals his habit of circulating books to cherished friends. The letter in question also sheds light on his practice of gleaning examples of eloquence from these works, among them Clerke’s Latin translation of Il Cortegiano:

Now, if your leisure wil serv you … to read over the Courtier in Lattin (whitch I would wish, and wil you to do for sundri causis) … send on for it, and make your ful account not to fail of it … I wuld have gentlemen to be conversant and occupied in thos books esspecially, whereof thai mai have most use and practis, ether for writing or speaking, eloquently or wittely, now or hereafter. (Harvey’s Letter-Book, fols. 90v–91r; Scott (ed.) 1884: 167–8).

Harvey appears very content to hive off moral considerations from linguistic skill (‘use and practis’).

[36] This urge to separate ethical from linguistic virtues is witnessed elsewhere in his marginalia. In Book 1 of Hoby’s English Courtyer, alongside the phrase ‘those studyes shall make him copyous, and … bould to speake [u]ppon a good grounde wyth e[v]erye manne’, Harvey writes in the margin,

ye fundamental ground of confidence

 { Art

 (sig. H4r).

Deploying a (Ramist) bracket to separate out these distinct qualities, Harvey identifies a linguistic ars independent of a moral ideal. Harvey repeats this distinction towards the end of the work too. In the margin beside the list of the courtier’s chief characteristics – firstly, what Hoby calls ‘vertues of the minde’ and, secondly, the art of being ‘more then indifferentlye well seene in learninge, in the Latin and greeke tunges’ – Harvey ventures the following schema:


 { ethica

(sig. Yy4v)

Harvey represents, in parvo, an uneasy tension in Castiglione’s work – a tension centring on what Peter Burke has called a ‘concern with the aesthetics as well as the ethics of behaviour – with the tradition of Ovid as well as the tradition of Aristotle’ (Burke 1995: 30).

[37] However, for all his emphasis on linguistic wit, Harvey’s encounter with Castiglione is certainly not out of keeping with the pragmatic aims of his other reading. As Jennifer Richards remarks, where Cicero’s De Oratore ventured a model of ‘an eloquent but practical man’, Castiglione ran the risk of eulogising merely ‘an impractical and pleasing artist’, a figure ostensibly at odds with Harvey’s avowed pragmatism (Richards 2001: 465). Yet in Harvey’s hands, Castiglione proffers a model of utilitas, or usefulness. Harvey’s parting judgement, on the final blank page of his copy of Hoby’s Courtyer, hails the work’s applicability to the political concerns of the here and now:

Castilios Courtier, ye right Gentlemans book … with continual Experience in ye pregnant affaires of the world. (sig. Zz6r) (Ruutz-Rees 1910: 631–2).

In blunter terms still, two of Harvey’s marginal notes early in Book 1 of his Italian copy announce the general potency of ‘use’ (‘di quanta forza sia l’uso’) and the specific ‘usefulness’ of this work – ‘[U]tilità di quest’opera’ (C., sig. A6v). Harvey’s linguistic, stylistic interests complement, rather than displace, his overriding pragmatic, utilitarian constitution.

[38] Unsurprisingly, Harvey’s marginalia in Castiglione, as with the other books in Harvey’s library that deal with ‘training in gentlemanly manners’, seem at least in part ‘oriented toward possible service at court’ (Stern 1979: 158–61). For instance, in his copy of Guicciardini’s Detti et fatti (1571), one of Harvey’s annotations recommends combining the virtues of urbane wittiness and political expediency:

Multi [u]rbani, non pragmatici: multi pragmatici, non [u]rbani. Da mihi [u]rban[um] pragmaticum: tam politic[um], quam facet[um]: solum combinatorem salium, et stratagemat[um]: ad Optim[um], qui esse potest, praesent[em] [u]sum. (sig. **3r)

[Many are urbane, not skilled in civil affairs: many skilled in civil affairs but not urbane. Give me the urbane man skilled in civil affairs, as much politically oriented as elegant: the only combination of cunning wit and stratagems, one who is capable of being of best use at that moment (Stern 1979: 161)].

Urbanity and pragmatism are redefined as complementary properties, an inseparable pair. Such annotations reveal the breadth of Harvey’s pragmatism, since he seems no less interested in the praxis of jesting than in more political, legal, or military types of praxis that are most commonly associated with his reading interests. On such evidence, Harvey’s pragmatic humanism can be stretched to incorporate the practice of applying jests and laughter to social occasions.

[39] This fusion of discursive elegance and civil pragmatism is even more forcefully presented elsewhere. In his copy of Domenichi’s Facetie, Harvey identifies irony as an instrument that cannot exist in the abstract, but which – in keeping with the Harveian goal of ‘use’ or application – reaches fulfilment only when reified in social practice:

Maiorum omnium praesens remedium, Ironia. Bonorum omnium praesens machina, Entelechia. Mundi etiam vanitas exigit (sig. Z7r)

[Irony, the remedy at hand for all major things [scil. matters of importance]. The device at hand for all good things, Entelechy. Worldly vanity […] demands it [scil. too] (Stern 1979: 183)].

While Harvey’s analysis of the art of conversation might be conducted in a seemingly unanchored realm of stylistic enquiry, his understanding of witty discourse as a weapon in the orator’s armoury is firmly grounded in ‘entelechy’ – the actualising of an abstract potentiality. Later in his Domenichi, even the disembodied persona, Eutrapelus, is reconceived of as something more material than a mere literary figment:

Totus est spiritus, et mera industria Eutrapelus: et tamen ludus, iocusque prae ipso Enteleche. (sig. Cc3v)

[Eutrapelus is all spirit and pure industry and nevertheless sport and jest precede accomplishment itself (Stern 1979: 183)].

Admittedly, a ‘ludus’ or ‘iocus’, the Latinate equivalents of Castiglione’s ‘giuoco’ (game or jest), might be analysed in the abstract. Yet it comes to have value or meaning only when put into practice. In the same spirit, verbal entertainment and political expediency become inseparable in Harvey’s copy of Guazzo. In the margins around the introductory table of contents, Harvey has penned a succinct axiom indebted to Della Casa’s Galateo: ‘He that can skill to interteine men; with a small aduenture may make a great gaine. Galateo’ (sig. ††5r). For Harvey, the pleasure of jesting is always to be considered for its pragmatic applications.

Implications for Harvey’s reading
[40] Harvey’s reading of Il Cortegiano for its humour, its rhetoric of pleasure and its models of witty pragmatism finds occasional parallels in the interpretative strategies of other early readers. One reader (an untraceable ‘E.H.’) has inserted a facetious comment in the margin of Hoby’s English translation in the tri-lingual edition (now British Library, shelfmark G.13759). Perhaps recalling Bibbiena’s examples of salacious punning, this reader supplements Castiglione’s description of how the lover should keep a picture of his beloved ‘shutte fast within his hart’ with the marginal coda, ‘& codpeece’ (Hoby 1588: sig. Oo7r). Yet, unlike such incidental quips, Harvey’s close grappling with Castiglione’s motifs of jesting appears unusually sustained, especially given his extensive cross-references to other studies treating the same topic.

[41] Harvey’s engagement with, not to mention enjoyment of, Castiglione’s jesting becomes all the more pronounced when contrasted with the reading habits of another early owner of Il Cortegiano in the original Italian. Lord Henry Howard (1540–1614), Earl of Northampton, son of the executed Earl of Surrey and brother to the executed Thomas, fourth Duke of Norfolk, likewise owned and annotated a 1541 octavo of Il Cortegiano printed in Venice (although, in his case, the Aldine text, rather than the Giolito edition used by Harvey). Howard’s annotations in his Cortegiano seem to ‘date from early in his career’ (Andersson 2009: 68). The comparison between Harvey’s and Howard’s reading habits is particularly revealing since, almost identically to Harvey, Howard ‘went through the first and most of the second book, not only underlining many passages but writing summaries in the margin, generally in Italian’ (Burke 1995: 79).

[42] However, Howard’s interpretative biases differ strikingly from Harvey’s. As with his annotations on the younger Seneca (in Muret’s edition), Howard seems to have read his Castiglione from a position of righteous indignation and social hauteur. Among the passages most heavily annotated are those sections devoted to envy and backbiting, reflecting Howard’s anxieties about unwarranted iniuria (injustice, insult). The mottoes and apothegms in Latin, Greek and Italian penned by Howard on the title-page of his Cortegiano in an elegant italic reaffirm his suspicions about the dangers of rhetorical craft and dissembling. Quite unlike Harvey, Howard reads the text with an eye to its moral, even ‘moralizing’, qualities (Burke 1995: 80). In his copy of Il Cortegiano, Howard’s markings are characterised by an ‘anti-courtly emphasis on “true” nobility, the degree to which a person’s speech must be taken seriously, and a rather personal obsession with envy’. It is here, in their contrasting responses to rhetorical craft, that Harvey and Howard differ most in their reading. Where Harvey celebrates the manipulation of language for comic effect, by contrast Howard, with an anti-courtly disdain that seems at odds with the tenor of the work, underlines the phrase ‘cioè, di nascondere l’arte’ (the art of hiding art) in Castiglione’s discussion of sprezzatura, and he dismissively marks ‘nearly every other reference to deception and lies in the book’ (Andersson 2009: 69, 71). In this context, Harvey’s reading of the very same passages in his Castiglione, without any regard for moralizing precepts and with a primary focus instead on a pragmatic style, appears more in keeping with Castiglione’s discussion of the practice of jesting.

[43] If nothing else, the annotations in Harvey’s Cortegiano confirm his versatility as a reader. As elsewhere, Harvey read his Castiglione not in isolation, but within a framework of other, related texts. Harvey’s fondness for linking disparate texts, for parallel citation and for a ‘centrifugal mode of reading’ is well documented (Jardine and Grafton 1990: 48). What is particularly striking about Harvey’s intertextual, collational reading of Castiglione is that it transforms his interpretation of those intertexts. Evidence for this process lies in Harvey’s longest annotation in C., adjacent to Bibbiena’s first joke in Book 2. In a marginal flurry that spills over from the top margin into the right-hand margin, Harvey gestures, in a centrifugal fashion, to a host of works connected to Il Cortegiano:

De jocis, et faceti[i]s conferendi, lib.2. de Oratore: Quinctiliani cap.4.lib.6. de Risu: M. Secretary Wylsons Rhetoric; Of delighting the Hearers, and pro[v]oking them to Lawghter: et[c] Io[v]iani Pontani de Sermone urbano, et faceto libri sex, præsertim tertius: Iocor[um] [v]eter[um], ac recenti[um]; Adriani Barlandi; Libri tres. (C., sig. K8r)

[Of jokes, and jests, one should compare Bk. 2 of De Oratore: Quintilian Bk. 6, ch. 4 [ch. 3 in modern editions], ‘of Laughter’; M[aster] Secretary Wilson’s Rhetoric, ‘Of delighting the Hearers, and prouoking them to Lawghter’: etc. Giovanni Pontano’s six books On urbane and humorous speech, especially the third book; Hadrianus Barlandus, three books of Jokes Ancient and Modern].

Fig. 4 Harvey’s polyglot annotation, cross-referencing a range of classical and early modern authorities on jesting (sig. K8r (top half), SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

Fig. 4 Harvey’s polyglot annotation, cross-referencing a range of classical and early modern authorities on jesting (sig. K8r (top half), SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)


This annotation directly links Castiglione’s work to jesting material in Cicero, Quintilian, Thomas Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorique (1553), Hadrianus Barlandus’ Iocorum veterum ac recentium (1529) and Giovanni Pontano’s De Sermone (1520). Pontano’s first three books offer a theoretical discussion of urbane humour, the last three venturing concrete examples and practical applications of jesting: thus the very design of De Sermone would appeal to Harvey’s pragmatic sensibilities. A foundational text for the art of witty disposition (facetudo), Pontano’s De Sermone further confirms Harvey’s interest in a tradition of Ciceronian urbanitas.

[44] Most importantly, Harvey’s marginal annotation here links his reading of Castiglione to his reading of Quintilian. In his copy of Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria (now British Library, shelfmark C.60.l.11), which he first encountered in 1567 but reread thoroughly in 1579, Harvey has added marginal cross-references that match, almost verbatim, those found on sig. K8r of his Cortegiano. These marginalia in his Quintilian even replicate the layout and position on the page of the marginal notes in his Cortegiano. For instance, a note at the foot of sig. v6r in this Quintilian matches (and slightly expands) the bibliographic reference to Giovanni Paolo Cardelli’s De’ giuocchi Discorso to be found at the bottom of sig. K8r in C. Furthermore, the side-margins on both these pages venture exactly the same comments on Valerius Maximus’ Dictorum factorumque memorabilium exempla (the aforementioned phrase beginning ‘Locus communis lepid[e], facet[e], et sals[e] dictor[um]…’). The striking similarity in phrasing, hand, ink and layout suggests that Harvey entered these marginalia at the same time in both volumes.

[45] In particular, one note in Harvey’s Quintilian explicitly looks across to Book 2 of Il Cortegiano (‘jl secondo libro del Cortegiano’). This marginal comment directly mirrors the lengthy note written in his Cortegiano quoted above (in paragraph [43]), and it likewise identifies a skill in jests as a requisite for the orator:

De jocis, et faceti[i]s, conferendi Lib: 2. de Oratore: [i]l secondo libro del Cortegiano del conte Castiglione: Jo[v]iani Pontani de Sermone urbano, et faceto libri sex: præsertim tertius: M. Secretary Wylsons Rhetoric: of delighting the Hearers, and stirring them to Lawghter: The di[v]ision of pleasaunt beha[v]iour: Pleasaunt sport made by delightfull, and li[v]ely rehearsing of A whole matter: Sport moo[v]id by telling owld merry Tales, or straunge Historyes. fol. 69. 70, 71. 72. 73. &[c]. Jocor[um] [v]eter[um], ac recenti[um] libri tres Adriani Barlandi. (Harvey’s copy of Quintilian 1542: sig. v6r).

These mirroring cross-references, written in a similar hand and ink, serve several functions. Beyond identifying common sources or auctoritates, the matching marginalia show Harvey at pains, especially in the longer note in his Quintilian, to list with care the various affective facets of jesting. Indeed, on the facing page, he even celebrates the literary pleasure derived from the jests of Cicero and Thomas More: ‘Tully as pleasurable, and as full of his conceytid jestes, and merrimentes, when he floorisshed; as owr S[ir] Thomas More’ (Quintilian 1542: sig. v5v). Harvey’s extensive summary above describes the relevant section of Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorike and notes with care the importance of ‘delighting the Hearers’, ‘stirring … to Lawghter’ and provoking ‘pleasaunt sport … by delightfull, and li[v]ely rehearsing’. In his attention to the ways in which sport is ‘moo[v]id’, Harvey nods towards a reading method attuned not so much to teaching, but to the two other elements of the affective triad: delighting and moving.

[46] Perhaps most revealingly, this pair of marginal notes in Harvey’s Cortegiano and Quintilian suggests an important facet of Harvey’s reading practice. After the printed ‘FINIS’ in his Quintilian, Harvey pens another signature and the following note:

Relegi ab [i]nitio: Mense Septembri. Anno. 1579. unàq[ue] Ciceronis Oratorem ad M. Brutum, cum Quintiliani Oratore compara[v]i (sig. T7r)

[I reread [Quintilian] from the beginning in September 1579, and I compared Cicero’s Orator ad M. Brutum together with Quintilian’s Orator].

Grafton and Jardine have offered one model for Harvey’s reading of Quintilian in 1579, in which the text is read in conjunction with Cicero’s Topica. They describe Harvey’s habit of linking passages in Quintilian or Cicero ‘with a verbatim quotation of that passage in the Ramus Dialectica’. As such, this cross-fertilization reveals that ‘Harvey’s intensive study of Quintilian and Cicero takes place via – that is, literally by way of – Ramus’. In short, through that particular nexus of texts – Quintilian, Cicero and Ramus – dialectic was ‘certainly the focus of his attention’ (Grafton and Jardine 1986: 186–8).

[47] Yet, to judge by the long marginal cross-references to authorities on jesting found in both C. and Quintilian above, Harvey could read texts in ways that did not rely on Ramus. Harvey seems to be reading his Quintilian and Cicero in a rather different way when those texts are subtended through his study of Castiglione, rather than Ramus. Ramist dialectic now gives way to a fascination with the art of humorous dialogue. Harvey’s other marginalia again corroborate the pattern, revealing how Cicero and Quintilian were interpreted differently when inflected through (or ‘via’, in Grafton’s and Jardine’s term) Castiglione. In his 1567 copy of Thomas Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorike, Harvey’s marginalia locate Wilson’s text in the company of other authorities on jesting:

One of mie best for the art of jesting: next Tullie, Quintilian, the Courtier in Italian, the fourth of mensa philosoph. Of all, the shortest, & most familiar, owr Wilson (sig. I5r).

Here, the Courtier (notably, the Courtier in Italian) is positioned in a familiar matrix of Cicero and Quintilian, all of which intertexts are oriented to or read in the light of ‘the art of jesting’.

[48] Harvey’s reading of Castiglione in parallel with Cicero is recorded even more explicitly elsewhere. In another marginal note penned towards the end of Book 2 in his copy of the English Courtyer, Harvey opines:

Hitherto of the three sorts of Jestes. In quibus nisi fuisset Cicero Orator, non fuisset Castilio Aulicus (sig. Aa2r) (Ruutz-Rees 1910: 623–4)

[In which [scil. jests], had it not been for Cicero’s Orator, Castiglione’s Courtier would not have existed].

Even when a line of literary influence between texts is so clearly pronounced as here, there is a sense that the intertextual relations between the works are still fluid and malleable. Quintilian and Cicero, singly or in partnership, can be reinterpreted as authorities on jesting when considered through the lens of Castiglione. As Jardine and Grafton note of Harvey’s interlayered readings, at times it is ‘by no means clear which text sits at the centre of the reader’s field of vision and attention’ (Jardine and Grafton 1990: 46).

[49] Another well-documented feature of Harvey’s annotative practice is the likelihood that he read, as a professional facilitator, with or for other readers. As evidence of early modern scholar-secretaries being employed expressly for their reading, Jardine and Grafton cite Harvey’s joint reading, with Sidney, of three books from the 1555 Basle folio edition of Livy, between October 1576 and February 1577 (Jardine and Grafton 1990: 34–7). Harvey may have read his Castiglione in a similar way. In his volume of commendatory Latin verses, Gratulationes Valdinenses (1578), dedicated to Queen Elizabeth and notable members of her court, Harvey offers a tantalising suggestion that that co-reader of Castiglione, if one ever existed, may have been Sidney too.

[50] The evidence for this possibility is suggested in the fourth of the collection’s four books of poetry. Harvey hails Sidney as the embodiment of Castiglione’s courtierly ideal. More strikingly, and speaking on terms of great familiarity with his dedicatee (Sidney) at this point in the collection, Harvey repeatedly gestures towards his own annotative practice in his reading of Castiglione. In the first instance, he reflects on his own skills of abridgement and compression, as in,

En tibi, more meo paucis astricta Camænis,
Quæ tres tam longis exhibuêre logis
(Harvey 1578: sig. K4r)

[Look, I present you, compressed in a few verses, as is my way, what they [Castiglione, Della Casa and Guazzo] displayed in three longish treatises (Jameson 1938: n.p.)]


Omnia vis paucis? (sig. L1v)

[You want all in little space? (Jameson 1938: n.p.)].

In addition, he parades his intertextual, cross-referenced assimilation of disparate sources:

Castilio primas; Casa vendicet ipse secundas;
Tertia pars Guati[i] est: quarta futura mea est (sig. K4r)

[Let Castiglione claim the first prize, Casa the second; the third belongs to Guazzo, the fourth will be mine (Jameson 1938: n.p.)].


[51] In this fourth book of Gratulationes Valdinenses, Harvey’s Latin poems to Sidney themselves resemble a compilation of precepts gleaned from his multilingual reading of Castiglione. Indeed, in a declaration of striking appropriation and personalisation, Harvey’s poem entitled ‘G. Haruei[i] Castilio, si[v]e Aulicus’ (‘G. Harvey’s Castiglione, or Courtier’) exhorts his readers to imprint ‘these few precepts’ in their minds (‘Imprimat … dogmata pauca’), as if he were offering a digest or epitome of the whole work. In keeping with Harvey’s interpretative biases noted above, many of these precepts centre on the arts of jesting and dissimulatio:

Principem & ingenuis implicet [u]sq[ue] iocis.

Siquid inest stolidi, fac cautiùs arte tegatur (sig. L1r)

[Let him ever engage his prince in native jests … Whatever is doltish, see that it is carefully covered with art (Jameson 1938: n.p.)].

In this way, Book 4 of Gratulationes Valdinenses both attests to the fruits of Harvey’s reading of Castiglione and also reflects, knowingly, on the strategies of reading and annotating that he employed to harvest those fruits.

[52] Elsewhere, Harvey conjures a striking image of reading with a companion. In his Letter-Book, a passage of doggerel verse (which has not yet received critical attention) suggests this practice of joint reading in relation, specifically, to encounters with sixteenth-century Italian texts:

Machiavell, Aretine, and whome you will,
That ar any waye renownid for extraordinary skill;
Ether with myne owne familiar aloane,
Or when twoe of us, like dogges, strive for a boane,
I reade and reade till I flinge them away
(Harvey’s Letter-Book, fol. 66v; Scott (ed.) 1884: 135).

A comparable model for this dialogic tussle is ventured a few years later, when a small ‘interpretive community’ (to borrow Stanley Fish’s phrase) begins analysing Italian texts, expressly Il Cortegiano this time. In the last decades of the sixteenth century, Castiglione’s magnum opus became the imagined subject of collective, dialogic interpretation, as recorded (irony of ironies) by Harvey’s perennial antagonist, Thomas Nashe. In the dedication ‘To the right worshipful Charles Blount’, prefacing Nashe’s 1589 The Anatomie of Absurditie, Nashe records an interpretative dispute over Castiglione, taking the form of an exchange very close to the ‘open’ dialogue of Il Cortegiano itself. As described by Virginia Cox, the ‘open dialogue’ in the early modern period airs different viewpoints without presupposing a final consensus, and without needing to reach a definite conclusion (Cox 1992: 99–113). Nashe’s account runs as follows:

not long since lighting in company with manie extraordinarie Gentlemen, of most excellent parts, it was my chance (amongst other talke which was generally tra[v]ersed amongst [u]s) to moo[v]e di[v]ers Questions, as touching the se[v]erall qualities required in Castalions Courtier: one came in with that of O[v]id, Semper amabilis esto, another stood more stricktly on the necessitie of that affabilitie, which our Latinists entitle facétius, & we more familiarlie describe by the name of discoursing: the third came in with his carpet de[v]ises […] The fourth as an enemie to their faction, confuted all these as effeminate follies, and would needes maintaine, that the onely ad[j]uncts of a Courtier, were schollership and courage, returning picked curiositie to paultry Scri[v]eners and such like, affabilitie to Aristippus and his crue […] This discourse thus continued, at length they fell by a [j]arring gradation, to the particuler demonstrations of theyr generall assertions. (Nashe 1589: sig. ¶4r).

Resolution is here suspended; disagreement reigns as to the courtier’s principal merits. Yet in this open, unresolved debate, the evidence of Harvey’s marginalia in C. suggests that scholars can begin to position him, at least, among those who firmly embraced affable ‘discoursing’ – Nashe’s definition of ‘facétius’, that etymological sibling of the word ‘facetie’ pointedly underlined by Harvey in C. at the moment when Bibbiena begins his exposition of jokes (sig. K8r).

[53] In his encounters with and annotations on Il Cortegiano, Harvey proffers valuable evidence not only of his varied reading methods (a paradigm made familiar by Jardine and Grafton), nor just of his dual interest in stylistic and pragmatic effects (another well-trodden commonplace). Crucially, Harvey’s annotations also suggest that he read with a keen eye for affect – for the ways in which readers can be moved, and moved unexpectedly or in ways perhaps unforeseen by the predetermined reading strategies that critics tend to associate with him. On such evidence, Harvey might be placed among the company of other early modern intellectuals drawn to an analysis of readerly affect (Cockcroft 2003; Paster, Rowe and Floyd-Wilson 2004: 23–42). Harvey is attuned not only to the end-product of the reading experience (the ways in which readers go on to apply a text through some kind of action), but also to what happens, perhaps spontaneously, during the reading experience itself (for instance, the ways in which laughter is provoked when reading a pun).

[54] Finally, Harvey’s annotations in his Castiglione and related works offer tantalising glimpses of an interest in the physiology of reader response. This attention to the ways in which pleasure is induced in one’s audience may, at the broadest level, recall classical and early modern theories of rhetorical animation – of listeners or readers being moved to pleasure, and admiration, through language. For instance, in the Institutio Oratoria (8.3.5–6), Quintilian pays special attention to the admiratio and delectatio induced in an audience, and discusses the ways in which listeners might be transported with admiration (‘nonnunquam admiratione auferuntur’) (Butler (ed.) 1920–22: 3.212). More specifically, Harvey may be taking his lead from Castiglione’s discussion of the maraviglia (awed admiration) that is rhetorically nurtured in an audience, and which, in Quintilian’s model, is a prerequisite for moving or persuading that audience. Castiglione addresses maraviglia in the context of artful sprezzatura in Book 1 (section 26), amongst other places, and helps to establish ‘marvel or wonder’ as both ‘the basic response the courtier seeks to arouse in everyone about him’ and a quality ‘essential for his social success’ (Rebhorn 1978: 47–51 (47)).

[55] Intriguingly, Harvey directs his attention not simply to spoken but also to written jests. His marginalia contemplate not just the practical application of witty discourse in sociable settings – wit that is displayed viva voce in a courtly environment – but also a private literary activity, in which readers are prompted to respond in some way to the written word before them. As noted earlier, Harvey’s letter to Arthur Capel from 1573 advocated the ‘Courtier in Lattin’ as a text for young men ‘to be conversant and occupied in’ so as to hone their ‘use and practis, ether for writing or speaking’, where the work’s usefulness is measured through both its oral and written application. In Harvey’s copy of the Italian text, too, the arts of writing and speaking are again seen to overlap. In the following phrase from Castiglione’s prefatory letter to Miguel de Sylva, Castiglione defends his decision not to adopt a Boccaccian idiom:

mio n[on] do[v]e[v]a; perche la forza e [v]era regola del parlar bene consiste più nell’uso, che in altro, et sempre è [v]itio usar parole, che non siano in consuetudine

[And in the tunge, I ought not in mine ad[v]ise, bicause the force or rule of speach doeth consist more in [u]se, then in anye thinge els: and it is alwayes a vice to [u]se woordes that are not in commune speach (Hoby 1561: sig. C1r)].

Alongside this sentence, Harvey has written in the margin,

In che consis[te] la forza e la regola d[i] scri[v]ere bene (C., sig. A4r).

Fig. 5 Harvey’s annotation substituting the printed text’s ‘parlar bene’ with ‘scri[v]ere bene’ (sig. A4r, SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

Fig. 5 Harvey’s annotation substituting the printed text’s ‘parlar bene’ with ‘scri[v]ere bene’ (sig. A4r, SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

Unsurprisingly, the pragmatically-minded Harvey is drawn to this section of text in which Castiglione identifies ‘uso’ (use) as the prime consideration for eloquence. What is more striking is that Harvey’s marginal comment substitutes Castiglione’s parlar (speaking) with scrivere (writing), as he seeks to determine wherein lie the force and rule of good writing. Harvey effects a bridge between a spoken and a lettered rhetoric, converting Castiglione’s interest in the best practice for speaking to an interest in written discourse too.

[56] This porous division between speech and writing in Harvey’s mindset tallies well with Count Lodovico da Canossa’s claim a little later in Il Cortegiano (Book 1, section 29). He argues that ‘wrytyng is nothinge elles, but a maner of speache, that remaineth stil after a man hath spoken, or (as it were) an Image, or rather the life of the woordes’ (Hoby 1561: sig. E4v). Harvey seems attuned to the ways in which eloquence is instrumental on both hearers and readers. By contrast Thomas Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorique, for instance, conceives of a distinctly aural audience, as he analyses the ways of ‘delityng’ and ‘stirring’ one’s ‘hearers’ (Wilson 1553: sig. t2r). Harvey’s comments in his Castiglione, then, mark an important addition to the vast corpus of marginalia in his hand. Not only do they nod towards an unexpected interest in the theory, art and pragmatics of jesting, but they also venture valuable evidence of his study into the methods, process and practice of reading itself – a fitting subject of enquiry for this most sedulous and versatile of readers.

University College London


* I am grateful to Professor Lisa Jardine, Dr Matthew Symonds and Dr Alexander Samson for advice and suggestions on this paper, an abridged version of which was delivered at the Early Modern Exchanges Seminar, ‘Gabriel Harvey: Renaissance Reader’, at University College London, 29 May 2013. I should also like to thank both the anonymous reader who reviewed this piece and who suggested several improvements, and Dr Marigold Norbye who kindly offered expertise on some points of Latin translation. Except where otherwise noted, all translations are my own. Square brackets indicate either expansions of scribal contractions, or my own additions and corrections to Stern’s translations from the Latin. The digital images were taken by the author, and permission to reproduce them here kindly granted by UCL Library Services, Special Collections.

[1] The marginalia in Harvey’s copy of Thomas Murner’s A merye jeste list the four works ‘given me at London of M[aster] Spensar XX. Decembris 1[5]78, on condition [I] shoold bestowe the reading of them over, before the first of January’ (Murner c. 1528: sig. M4v) as Murner’s A merye jeste, Andrew Borde’s Jests of Scoggin (c. 1566), the Merie Tales … by Master Skelton (1567), and David Rowland’s The Pleasaunt Historie of Lazarillo (c. 1576). Harvey directly references ‘Scoggins Crowe’ in a marginal comment in his copy of Domenichi and Guicciardini (Wilson 1948: 360). For the reception of Lazarillo in England, see Samson 2013).[back to text]

[2] Stern mistakenly assumes that the volume hails from the Aldine press. Rather, it is the octavo issued by Gabriele Giolito (Castiglione 1541).[back to text]

[3] The copy was presented in 1921 by the Egyptologist and Coptic scholar Sir Herbert Thompson, whose association with University College London dates to the 1890s. Thompson’s book acquisitions point towards an ongoing engagement with language learning, and, besides ‘the classics’, his interests included ‘Italian authors’ (Simpson 2004).[back to text]

[4] An excellent digital resource for Harvey’s Domenichi, and the Guicciardini with which it is bound, is available through Annotated Books Online (a digital humanities project co-ordinated by Arnoud Visser), offering high-resolution images of Harvey’s copious, multi-directional marginalia: see <> [accessed 7/07/13]. For the related project, Gabriel Harvey’s Livy Online, co-ordinated by the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL), see <>.[back to text]

[5] Harvey’s Italianate signature here might be compared not only with the ‘gabriel harueio’ that graces the title-page of his Guicciardini (bound together with his Domenichi), but also with Thomas Hoby’s self-styling at the end of his 1544 copy of La comedia di Dante Aligieri (Venice: Francesco Marcolini). As Jonathan Woolfson notes, ‘[s]omething of the playfulness and role-playing element of the Cortegiano is perhaps captured in the way Hoby chose to inscribe his name in his copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, now in St John’s College, Cambridge: “Thomaso Hoby Inglese”’ (Woolfson 2009: 414).[back to text]

[6] Harvey is alert to the combination of these qualities: in the margins of his Quintilian (Quintilian 1542: sig. B8r), in the chapter on ornament (‘De ornatu’, 8.3), Harvey pens and underlines ‘Vtile Dulci’, perhaps directly recalling Horace’s phrase ‘qui miscuit utile dulci’ from the Ars Poetica (l. 343).[back to text]


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