BMCR 2010.12.25

Herrick, Fanshawe and the Politics of Intertextuality: Classical Literature and Seventeenth-century Royalism

, Herrick, Fanshawe and the Politics of Intertextuality: Classical Literature and Seventeenth-century Royalism. Farnham/Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010. vi, 196. ISBN 9780754656142. £50.00.


This review should, perhaps, start with a caveat. This is not, sensu stricto, a classics book, nor is the author, Syrithe Pugh, a practicing classicist but rather a specialist in English literature. Her interest here is not to explicate classical texts themselves so much as to demonstrate how intertextuality with Ovid, Lucan and Vergil gives poetic expression to, nuances, and distinguishes between the political sentiments of two factions within the royalist camp during the English civil war. This book will therefore be of most interest to scholars and students of classical reception, though others will also find value in Pugh’s literary analyses of the classical intertexts themselves.

Neither Herrick nor Fanshawe is a household name for the non-specialist, and certainly not acommon reference point for classical Nachleben (unlike, say, Milton or Dryden). Pugh does a thorough job of establishing their classical interests and credentials, but a specialist audience is assumed throughout, and this book is not intended as an introduction to the mannered and courtly world of Caroline lyric. Robert Herrick composed a volume of lyric poetry titled the Hesperides, which he dedicated to Charles, the crown prince and future Charles II, in 1648. In the same year, Richard Fanshawe likewise dedicated his own volume to Prince Charles, a re-issue of a translation of Guarini’s Il Pastor Fido, supplemented by several new poems, both translations and originals. Here the similarities end; Herrick’s poetry is charming and escapist, Fanshawe’s overtly political and didactic. Fanshawe spent the war under arms with the royalist forces, while Herrick spent it first as a vicar in Devonshire, and then as an exile in London. More important, however, the two men espoused markedly different views of the nature and justification for monarchy: Herrick believed in the “transcendental nature and justification of the king’s authority” (7), while Fanshawe believed that kingly authority derived from virtuous conduct reliant on humanistic counsel.

Classical allusion – and this is the central tenet of Pugh’s argument— – serves in these authors as a medium for the articulation of political views. Furthermore, these allusions not only reflect the nuances of each author’s political position within the royalist cause but also demonstrate the fundamental role of classical reception in framing his political thought. Thus, for example, Herrick sees his poetry as an escape, in which he constructs an idealized space, removed from the parliamentary forces ruling England, wherein the royal family can eternally exercise their divine authority over contented subjects. For the more pragmatic Fanshawe, “the voices of various classical and modern authors are drawn into dialogue, and induced to debate their competing political ideas,” (7), resulting in a “multivocal counsel in which extreme views…are moderated through disagreement” (8).

Part I focuses on Herrick’s use of Ovid in the Hesperides, and argues that Herrick develops an intertextual engagement not only with individual Ovidian poems (though these certainly abound), but more systematically with the entire Ovidian corpus: allusion to Ovid is “systematic, strategic, and meaningfully fore-grounded as an act of self-presentation ….The Hesperides invokes Ovid’s whole career from the perspective of its final phase, his exile” (19, developed in 39). Each of the three chapters is devoted to a facet of this presence: chapter 1 treats the amatory elegies, chapter 2 the Metamorphoses and the Fasti, and chapter 3 the exilic poetry. This idea of an intertextual engagement with a poetic career from a fixed point in time is a productive one for Pugh. In Chapter 1, for instance, Pugh discusses how Herrick establishes himself as an anti-parliamentarian through allusion to the amatory elegies, placed in sharp contrast to the Puritanism of the parliamentarians. This move, especially when seen through Ovid’s exilic eye, allows Herrick to claim for himself Ovid’s “oppositional stance” (34) as well as Ovidian cultus, which Herrick throughout associates with the Stuart court, while blithely ignoring the fact that Ovid’s “opponent” is the emperor Augustus, a representative of a form of monarchy.

Perhaps the most successful reading comes in chapter 3, when Pugh points out that Herrick invokes Ovid’s exile while in fact undertaking a voyage in the opposite direction from the Roman poet. Ovid moves from the urbane center of Rome to the hinterland in Tomis, while Herrick, ejected from his post as vicar of Dean Abbey in Devonshire, goes back to parliamentarian London, which to him seems as rough and remote as Tomis did to Ovid, precisely because the King is no longer resident in the city. Herrick plots not only the geographical positions of the various parties, but also charts the quality of each place on the basis of the presence (real or literary) of the King and of the court. The allusions to the Tristia further develop Ovid’s idea of poetry substituting for an absent friend into a more systemic or cosmic application, so that the countryside becomes a place of sadness and exile, as well as an idyllic location where poetry can reconstitute the court, the King, and even dead poets of antiquity.

Part II treats a selection of Fanshawe’s supplements to his translation of Il Pastor Fido, and moves between focusing on individual poems (chapter 5 on the “Ode on the Proclamation”, 7 on the Spenserian “A Canto of the Progresse of Learning”, and 8 on the Maius Lucanizans, a commendatory poem on May’s continuation of Lucan), and thematic concerns (4 and 6 on humanistic counsel). In many ways, Part II is more accessible than Part I, perhaps because its intricacies stem from the deployment of allusion within single poems rather than across an entire poetic career and an already complex poetry book. The tighter focus also entails fewer quotations and, therefore, more comfortable reading. A goodly portion of the material here, however, derives not from classical authors, but rather from earlier English precedents, such as the de iure Scotum of George Buchanan (chapter 4), or Spenser’s Mutabilitie Cantos (chapter 7), and while Roman material is often the ultimate source of much of this earlier material, there is rather less here of the literary engagement characterizing Part I. The common theme is the tempering of Fanshawe’s various models into an eirenic and moderate body of advice to the crown prince, with intertextuality appropriately seen as a medium through which multiple voices can be made to speak to one purpose.

Classicists, however, will find much of interest in chapter 8, where Pugh explores the complex web of intertexts in Fanshawe’s Maius Lucanizans, commendatory poem for Thomas May’s 1640’s Supplementum Lucani (1640). This supplement, a Latin translation of May’s own English continuation of Lucan’s Pharsalia, as well as May’s own translation of Lucan’s poem itself, brought the epic up to the death of Caesar, and thereby also marked May’s growing parliamentarian tendencies. This choice of model is therefore surprising for a royalist author like Fanshawe, but, as Pugh argues, “Fanshawe’s Maius Lucanizans is intertextually more sophisticated, weaving in memories of other passages, in Virgil, in Lucan, and in May’s Supplementum ” (155). Thus Fanshawe’s Latin, while mimicking the imagery and stark nihilism of Lucan and May, also echoes crucial points in the Aeneid, and offers pius Aeneas as a “kind of compromise between the dangerously individualistic ambition which characterizes Turnus, Achilles, and Lucan’s Caesar on the one hand, and the political ideal of constitutional republicanism on the other…” (159). Although the movement between Lucan, Vergil, Fanshawe, and the various versions of May makes for a dizzying read, Pugh skillfully manages to keep all these balls in the air. Indeed, the chapter functions well as a summation for the whole book, and showcases the prominence of the classics in constructing a new role for the king and a new space for royalism.

Some readers, however, may wish for greater attention to the poetics and theory of the time. There is, on the whole, very little discussion or explanation of the poetry books as a whole and of their architecture, or of the ways in which individual poems relate to each other. This may be felt more acutely by non-specialists, but especially with Herrick one looks in vain for discussion of how an allusion to the Fasti, say, might inform an allusion to the Ars Amatoria in an adjacent poem. Is there, for instance, more structural patterning at work? Or is the placement of the poems, or alternatively of the allusions, random or insignificant? As it stands, one sorely misses a structural consideration of Herrick’s systematic deployment of Ovid. For Fanshawe, on the other hand, there is little engagement with the theoretical question suggested by the book structure: does intertextuality function in the same way in original poetry as it does in translations, and how do the two types of poetry interact in the same book?

Overall, this is a well-produced and well-edited volume. A few quibbles: P. accepts almost without comment the interpretation of Ovid’s carmen et error ( T. 2.1.207) as referring to the Ars Amatoria (21); on p. 25, the translation of Ovid Am.3.4.25-6 omits translation of pauci, quod sinit alter, amant; ancient references are throughout given in Roman numerals (e.g., Am. III.iv.9-11), a practice which is increasingly falling out of favour; notes 8-11 on pp. 31-4 simply say “noted by Pollard” without further references, but Pollard is not listed in the bibliography; on p. 47, it is not clear how “embracing and amplifying the pagan origins of the festivals [Herrick] treats” constitutes a defiance of pagan origins, as P. argues; it is misleading to suggest that project of the Fasti was “to preserve and teach ancient forms of worship” (51); the allusion in H-278 ‘to his household gods’ (p. 63) may be as much to Vergil’s Aeneid as to Ovid’s Tomis; p. 101 ‘quen’ in the Aeneid quotation should be quem; on p. 143, mortale cannot be an ablative of any gender; the assassination of Caesar took place in the Curia of Pompey on the Campus Martius, and not on the Capitol (p. 155); on p. 164 n. 19, there may be more obvious proponents of the Harvard School of Virgilian criticism to add to Watkins; and on p. 165, the quotation from Aen. 4.166 should read “pronuba Iuno”, not “pronupta Iuno”.

This is, in the end, an interesting and compelling survey of intertextuality and its classical dimensions in royalist poetry, and its main argument, that intertextual strategies can reflect political stances, will convince most readers. And while the author does not directly engage the question of how this reception causes us to reread classical texts, that is not, to be fair, her specific concern, and her book certainly opens the door for classicists to mine this rich vein of material. The literature of the English Republic has not always been a mainstay of Reception Studies, especially in the genre of lyric. Pugh’s efforts, it is to be hoped, will go some way towards rectifying the oversight.