Two volumes, 4to., bound together, Droomme: ff. , wanting the blank leaves **4 and ??2; with a border of type-ornaments to title-page, and a large woodcut of Hell on D8r, some minor worming and rust-stains in gatherings Q-R8; Phisicke: ff. , 191, 193-342, , wanting Ee8 and the terminal blank, titlepage worn and laid down; good copies bound together in nineteenth-century half black morocco and marbled boards, edges stained black; late seventeenth–early eighteenth century manuscript notes and ownership inscriptions to endpapers (see below); bookplate of Robert S. Pirie.
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First editions, both very rare. George Gascoigne published The Droomme of Doomes Day in May 1576, the last major work from an enormously prolific period since February 1575 that saw the publication of Posies, A Glasse of Government, the Noble Art of Venerie, and A Steele Glas, as well as the writing of a masque to be performed at Kenilworth during Queen Elizabeth’s progress. He was ill when The Droomme went to the press, as the errata leaf notes, and died in October the following year.
The Droomme of Doomes Day is a collection of three disparate works: ‘The viewe of worldly vanities’ is a loose translation of De Contemptu Mundi by Pope Innocent III, a diatribe against all the situations that might draw one away from God; ‘The Shame of Sinne’, is Puritan or Calvanistic in tone; and ‘The Needles Eye’ promises to establish ‘the right rewls of a chrystian lyfe’. ‘The viewe of wordly vanities’ is of particular note, for the manner in which Gascoigne luxuriates in the poetry of his translation, even as the text condemns worldliness:
Men rove and roame about, by high waies, and by pathes, they clyme the hilles, and passe over the mountaynes, they flye over the rockes, and cowrce over the Alpes, go thorough caves, and enter into dreadfull dennes. They rifle up the bowels of the earth, and the bottom of the sea. They mark the tydes of the floodes, and wander in the woodes and wildernesse … They melt and sta[m]pe mettalls, they grave and polish stones, cut and carve woodes, weave and warp webbs, make and weare garments, buyld houses, plant orchardes, till feildes, dresse viniards, heat fornaces, and set milles on worke … They thinck and muse, they councell and ordaine, they stryve and complayne … With innumerable other such things, to heape up riches, and multiply gaynes … and behold all these are but a labour & vexation of the mynde.
It has traditionally been claimed that the Droomme was written by Gascoigne in an attempt to distance himself from his profligate reputation, and in particular from A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (1573), which was denounced as lascivious and was taken to have been written with the intention of ‘scandalising some worthie personages’. It is likely however to have had more a practical motive, that of securing patronage from its dedicatee, the wealthy, and very Protestant, Earl of Bedford. ‘Even though he could work very quickly, to have the Droomme ready for publication in May 1576, Gascoigne must either have had substantial amounts of the translation done already, or have worked on it intermittently alongside not only the Steele Glas and Complaynte of Phylomene, but also his best courtly opportunities to date.’ It was, in other words, ‘a long-planned exercise to consolidate links with a particular patron, rather than the spontaneous expression of repentence which Prouty and others have assumed it to be’ (ibid.).
In the ‘Epistle Dedicatorie’, addressed to Bedford, Gascoigne reproaches himself for his frivolous early works (‘giltie of much time mispent ... in penning and endyghting sundrie toyes and trifles’) and promises to apply himself to serious and moral matters in the future. He also explains how he came upon the idea for the translation: ‘tossyng and retossyng in my small Lybrarie, amongst some books which had not felte my fyngers endes in xv. yeares … I chaunched to light upon a small volume scarce comely covered, and wel worse handled’. This was probably a useful fiction, the ‘anonymity’ of his source text disguising the presentation of a papal text to a Protestant patron.
The Droomme of Doomes Day, by the ‘English Petrarch’, is found here bound appropriately enough with Phisicke against Fortune, the first translation into English of Petrarch’s De Remediis utriusque Fortunae. De Remediis is a series of 254 dialogues in which Reason advises equanimity in the face of good and bad fortune, against the arguments of Joy, Hope, Sorrow and Fear. The most popular of Petrarch’s Latin works in the early modern period, it is almost an ‘encyclopaedic catalogue of the things that human beings have been known to desire (nice clothes, academic degrees, popularity) or dread (poverty, an unchaste wife, getting robbed)’ (Boswell and Braden, Petrarch’s English Laurels). A partial translation into Middle English circulated during the fifteenth century and Catherine of Aragon pressured Thomas Wyatt to make a translation but he demurred on account of its length. Twynne, who took on the task, would have known Gascoigne and the other Inns of Court poets of the day (Googe and Turbeville). He was also a skilled astrologer and a friend of John Dee.
Provenance: manuscript notes on the endpapers record this copy’s colourful history. A note dated ‘London May 4:5 : 1713’, states that ‘Dis Book [was] bout in Fanches Streat in Cornwel near the Si[g]n of the Buck tarvan [tavern].’ Fairly swiftly after that it was in the possession of one ‘John Dafforne, leveng in boston in Newengland’, who later pawned the book to Mrs Patience Copp (née Short, m. 1694), who ran a tavern in Boston with her husband, and then as a widow, until about 1723. Presumably at Copp’s request, another local, Roger Faulkner, has inscribed the work with a two-page diatribe against Dafforne, condemning him for this transaction. ‘This Unparrallel’d Book Ought to be as precious in the Eyes of men as the most fine gold or Silver’, but ‘the principall Owner exposed [it] for the filthy Lucre of money’. Later notes pasted onto the front endpaper record ownerhip by several members of the Salter family, also of Boston.
Both works are scarce, the Gascoigne extremely so. Only the present copy and one other (Borowitz, 1978), appear in auctions records in the last eighty years.
STC 11641 and 19809; Pforzheimer 400.