EXTRACTS FROM MERES’S _PALLADIS TAMIA_, 1598
(Hyperlink to a facsimile of the original is available here).
As the Greeke tongue is made famous and eloquent by _Homer_, _Hesiod_,
_Euripedes_, _Ã†schilus_, _Sophocles_, _Pindarus_, _Phocylides_ and _Aristophanes_;
and the Latine tongue by _Virgill_, _Ovid_, _Horace_, _Silius Italicus_, _Lucanus_, _Lucretius_, _Ausonius_ and _Claudianus_:
so the English tongue is mightily enriched, and gorgeouslie invested in rare ornaments and resplendent abiliments by
sir _Philip Sidney_, _Spencer_, _Daniel_, _Drayton_, _Warner_, _Shakespeare_, _Marlow_ and _Chapman_.
* * * * *
As the soule of _Euphorbus_ was thought to live in _Pythagoras_:
so the sweete wittie soule of _Ovid_ lives in mellifluous & hony-tongued Shakespeare, witnes his _Venus_ and _Adonis_, his _Lucrece_, his sugred Sonnets among his private friends, &c.
As _Plautus_ and _Seneca_ are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latines,
so _Shakespeare_ among y^e English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage;
witnes his_G[~e]tlem[~e] of Verona_, (Two Gents we ass u me)
his _Errors_, (Comedy of presumptuously)
his _Love labors lost_,
his_Love labours wonne_, (Never found or cited outside Meres. Right)? Kinda, see this.
his _Midsummers night dreame_, &
his _Merchant of Venice_:
his _Richard the 2,
Richard the 3,
Henry the 4, (a history surely? and both parts? and Bolingbroke’s death a tragedy)?
and his _Romeo_ and _Iuliet_.
As _Epius Stolo_ said, that the Muses would speake with _Plautus_tongue, if they would speak Latin:
so I say that the Muses would speak with _Shakespeares_ fine filed phrase, if they would speake English
As _Ovid_ saith of his worke:
Iamque opus exegi, quod nec Iovis ira, nec ignis,
Nec poterit ferrum, nec edax abolere vetustas.
[I have now completed a work that neither the wrath of Jove, nor fire,
nor sword, nor the devouring of time can destroy;]
And as _Horace_ saith of his;
_Exegi monumentum Ã¦re perennius;
Regalique; situ pyramidum altius;
Quod non imber edax; Non Aquilo impotens possit diruere;
aut innumerabilis annorum feries &c fuga temporum_:
[I have created a monument more lasting than bronze,
And higher than the royal site of the pyramids,
Which neither harsh rains nor the wild North wind can wear away,
nor the countless succession of years and the flight of the seasons].
so say I severally of sir _Philip Sidneys_, _Spencers_, _Daniels_, _Draytons_,
_Shakespeares_, and _Warners workes_;
As _Pindarus_, _Anacreon_ and _Callimachus_ among the Greekes; and
_Horace_ and _Catullus_ among the Latines are the best Lyrick Poets:
so in this faculty the best among our Poets are _Spencer_ (who excelleth in
all kinds) _Daniel_, _Drayton_, _Shakespeare_, _Bretton_.
As …so these are our best for Tragedie,
the Lorde _Buckhurst_, Doctor_Leg_ of Cambridge, Doctor _Edes_ of Oxforde,
maister _Edward Ferris_, the Authour of the _Mirrour for Magistrates_, _Marlow_, _Peele_,
_Watson_, _Kid_, _Shakespeare_, _Drayton_, _Chapman_, _Decker_, and
… so the best for Comedy amongst us bee,
_Edward_ Earle of Oxforde, Doctor _Gager_ of Oxforde, Maister _Rowley
_ once a rare Scholler of learned Pembroke Hall in Cambridge,
Maister _Edwardes_ one of her Maiesties Chappell,
eloquent and wittie _John Lilly_, _Lodge_, _Gascoyne_, _Greene_,
_Shakespeare_, _Thomas Nash_, _Thomas Heywood_,
_Anthony Mundye_ our best plotter, _Chapman_, _Porter_, _Wilson_,
_Hathway_, and _Henry Chettle._
… so these are the most passionate among us to bewaile and bemoane the
perplexities of Love,
_Henrie Howard_ Earle of Surrey, sir _Thomas Wyat_the elder, sir _Francis Brian_,
sir _Philip Sidney_, sir _Walter Rawley_, sir _Edward Dyer_,
_Spencer_, _Daniel_, _Drayton_, _Shakespeare_, _Whetstone_, _Gascoyne_,
_Samuell Page_ sometimes fellowe of _Corpus Christi_ Colledge in Oxford, _Churchyard, Bretton_.
Many years later I asked David Crystal to translate the Latin used above. You will find the translations in this post.
Below is some info from Wikipedia about
His relative, John Meres, was high sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1596,
and apparently helped him in the early part of his career.
Meres rendered immense service to the history of Elizabethan literature by the publication of his Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury (1598), a commonplace book that is important as a source on the Elizabethan poets and more particularly because its list of Shakespeare’s plays is a critical source for in establishing the chronology of Shakespeare plays.
Meres’Palladis Tamia contained moral and critical reflections borrowed from various sources, and included sections on books, on philosophy, on music and painting, and a famous “Comparative Discourse of our English poets with the Greeke, Latin, and Italian poets.”
This chapter enumerates the English poets from Geoffrey Chaucer to Meres’ own day, and compares each with some classical author.
The book was reissued in 1634 as a school book, and was partially reprinted in the
Ancient Critical Essays (1811-1811) of Joseph Haslewood,
A sermon entitled Gods Arithmeticke (1597),
and two translations from the Spanish of Luís de Granada
entitled Granada’s Devotion and the Sinners’ Guide (1598) complete Meres’ list of works.
Now to my ears and mind ‘reprinted in 1634 as a school book’ suggests readers who would have known if the author had been a nom de plume instead of a devotee of Elizabethan letters.
Of course it could all be a fake, a phony, a sleuthy misdirection, and part of a greater conspiracy. See this website for the presumptory evidence.