Thomas Preston (writer)

Last updated

Thomas Preston
Born1537
Simpson, Buckinghamshire, England
Died1 June 1598
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
NationalityEnglish

Thomas Preston (1537–1598) was an English master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and possibly a dramatist.

Contents

Life

Preston was born at Simpson, Buckinghamshire, in 1537, and was educated at Eton and at King's College, Cambridge, where he was elected scholar, 16 August 1553, and fellow, 18 September 1556. He graduated B.A. in 1557 and M.A. in 1561. [1] When Queen Elizabeth visited Cambridge in August 1564, he attracted the royal favour by his performance of a part in the tragedy of Dido, [2] and by disputing in philosophy with Thomas Cartwright in the royal presence. [3] He also addressed the queen in a Latin oration on her departure, when she invited him to kiss her hand, and gave him a pension of 20l. a year, with the title of "her scholar." [4] He served as proctor in the university in 1565. In 1572 he was directed by the authorities of his college to study civil law, and four years later proceeded to the degree of LL.D. In 1581 he resigned his fellowship. He seems to have joined the College of Advocates. In 1584 he was appointed master of Trinity Hall, and he served as vice-chancellor of the university in 1589–90.

Preston died on 1 June 1598, and was buried in the chapel of Trinity Hall. A monumental brass near the altar, placed there by his wife Alice, bears a Latin inscription [5] and a full-length effigy of him in the habit of a Cambridge doctor of laws.

Works

Cambyses

Title page of an early edition of Cambyses, showing the division of roles among actors. Thomas Preston - Cambyses, King of Persia (title page).jpg
Title page of an early edition of Cambyses, showing the division of roles among actors.

Preston was a pioneer of the English drama, and published in 1569 A lamentable tragedy mixed ful of pleaſant mirth,conteyning the life of CAMBISES King of PERCIA, from the beginning of his kingdome vnto his death, his one good deed of execution, after that many wicked deeds and tirannous murders, committed by and through him, and laſt of all, his odious death by Gods Juſtice appointed, Doon in ſuch order as foloweth. By Thomas Preston. There are two undated editions: one by John Allde, who obtained a license for its publication in 1569, and another by Edward Allde. [6] It was reprinted in Hawkins's Origin of the English Drama (i. 143) and in Dodsley's Old English Drama (ed. Hazlitt, iv. 157 sq.). A reference to the death of Bishop Bonner in September 1569 shows that the piece was produced after that date.

The play illustrates the transition from the morality play to historical drama. The dramatis personae include allegorical figures (e.g. Cruelty, Small Ability) [7] as well as historical personages (such as the title character, Cambyses II of Persia). The plot, characterisation, and language are rugged and uncouth. Murder and bloodshed abound. The play is largely written in rhyming fourteener couplets, with some irregular heroic verse (as in the speeches of the comic character Ambidexter). The bombastic grandiloquence of the piece became proverbial, and Shakespeare is believed to allude to it when he makes Falstaff say "I must speak in passion, and I will do it in King Cambyses' vein" ( Henry IV, Part 1 , ii.4).

Preston's authorship

Critics objecting to the style of Cambyses have doubted whether the playwright may not have been a different Thomas Preston. M. Channing Linthicum lists some of these possibilities:

Those who dislike to think of Cambyses as even a puerile attempt of the Latin scholar Thomas Preston, may entertain Chambers' suggestion that it may have been composed by a popular writer of the same name. He mentions, (Elizabethan Stage, III, 469), a "quarterly waiter at Court" under Edward VI, and a choirmaster at Windsor. A "gentleman waiter" of this name was detailed to the service of the Princess of Castile in 1514 (see Letters & Papers of Henry VIII , I, ii, entry 2656 [6]); a Thomas Preston was rewarded by Princess Mary Tudor, 1537 (see Madden, Privy Purse Expenses of Princess Mary, 59); in 1544, Thomas Preston—presumably the same person—was granted, as the King's "servant" a tenement "called le Crystofer in St Botulphs parishe without Aldrychgate" (see Letters & Papers of Henry VIII, XIX, i, p. 644); "le messuage called le White Beare" was said in 1548, to have been "lately in tenure of Thomas Preston" (see Cal. Pat. Rolls , July 25, 1548, m. 34). None of these—if they were different persons—is termed writer or "player," but the references show that the name was not uncommon in London, and the subject needs to be investigated. [8]

On the other hand, Émile Legouis has noted, "The marked and yet artless bad taste of the style has thrown doubt on the authorship, yet the play shows signs of having been written by a humanist, for Herodotus is followed step by step, and there are many mythological reminiscences." [9] But it has since been argued that the Herodotean account may have been mediated by a chronicle such as Johann Carion's Chronica; [10] a more recent refinement of this theory suggests that Preston used Richard Taverner's 1539 The Garden of Wysedom, which drew on Carion. [11]

Ballads

Preston (or the author of Cambyses) also wrote a broadside ballad entitled A Lamentation from Rome how the Pope doth bewayle the Rebelles in England cannot prevayle. To the tune of "Rowe well, ye mariners" (London by William Griffith, 1570; reprinted in Collier's Old Ballads, edited for the Percy Society, and in the Borderer's Table Book by Moses Aaron Richardson, vii. 154). [12] This ballad is written "in the person of a fly who happens to be lodged in the pope's nose when news comes about the Catholic uprising in the north of England" and describes the pope raging and hurling furniture, to the fly's terror. [13] Another ballad, titled A Ballad from the Countrie, sent to showe how we should Fast this Lente is extant and dated 1589. [14] Both the surviving ballads, as well as Cambyses, are subscribed at the end "Quod Thomas Preston". [14]

A third ballad by Preston, not now extant, A geliflower of swete marygolde, wherein the frutes of tyranny you may beholde, was licensed for publication to William Griffith, 1569–70. [15]

Latin works

Besides the orations connected to the queen's 1564 Cambridge visit, Preston contributed Latin verses to the university collection on the restitution of Martin Bucer and Paul Fagius (1560), and to Nicholas Carr's Latin translation of seven orations of Demosthenes (London, 1571).

Notes

  1. "Preston, Thomas (PRSN553T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. See further "Early English Tragedy: Introduction of intermedii" in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature (1907–1921), vol. 5.
  3. Siobhan Keenan in Archer, Goldring, and Knight (eds.), The Progresses, Pageants, and Entertainments of Queen Elizabeth I (Oxford 2007), p. 92.
  4. John Strype, Annals.
  5. See C.H. Cooper and T. Cooper, Athenae Cantabrigienses (1861), vol. II, p. 248.
  6. Cf. John Payne Collier, Registers , Shakespeare Society, i. 205.
  7. See further Karl P. Wentersdorf, "The Allegorical Role of the Vice in Preston's Cambises," Modern Language Studies 11:2 (1981), pp. 54–69.
  8. M. Channing Linthicum, "The Date of Cambyses," PMLA, Vol. 49, No. 3. (Sep., 1934), pp. 959–961, p. 960 n. 2
  9. Émile Legouis, A History of English Literature, vol. 1 (London: Dent, 1926), p. 156.
  10. Don Cameron Allen, "A Source for Cambises," Modern Language Notes 49 (1934), pp. 384–387.
  11. Irving Ribner, The English History Play in the Age of Shakespeare (2005), p. 52; Google Books.
  12. Collier, i. 210.
  13. Bruce R. Smith, The Acoustic World of Early Modern England: Attending to the O-Factor (University of Chicago Press, 1999), pp. 189f. Cf. Arundell Esdaile, Autolycus' Pack and Other Light Wares (London: Grafton & Co., 1940), p. 19, where the ballad's first several lines are quoted.
  14. 1 2 E.K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, vol. 3, p. 469.
  15. Collier, i. 222.

Related Research Articles

English Renaissance theatre theatre of England between 1562 and 1642

English Renaissance theatre, also known as Renaissance English theatre and Elizabethan theatre, refers to the theatre of England between 1562 and 1642.

John Bale

John Bale was an English churchman, historian and controversialist, and Bishop of Ossory. He wrote the oldest known historical verse drama in English, and developed and published a very extensive list of the works of British authors down to his own time, just as the monastic libraries were being dispersed. His unhappy disposition and habit of quarrelling earned him the nickname "bilious Bale".

Thomas Cartwright (theologian)

Thomas Cartwright was an English Puritan churchman.

Robert Dodsley

Robert Dodsley was an English bookseller, poet, playwright, and miscellaneous writer.

This article contains information about the literary events and publications of 1569.

Roger Ascham English scholar and didactic writer

Roger Ascham was an English scholar and didactic writer, famous for his prose style, his promotion of the vernacular, and his theories of education. He served in the administrations of Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I, having earlier acted as Elizabeth's tutor in Greek and Latin between 1548 and 1550.

William Haughton was an English playwright in the age of English Renaissance theatre.

Cambyses may refer to two ancient rulers or works of literature:

City comedy, also known as citizen comedy, is a genre of comedy in the English early modern theatre.

Jasper Heywood was an English Jesuit priest. He is known as the English translator of three Latin plays of Seneca, the Troas (1559), the Thyestes (1560) and Hercules Furens (1561).

William Alabaster 16th and 17th-century English poet, playwright, and religious writer

William Alabaster was an English poet, playwright, and religious writer.

Thomas Preston may refer to:

George Lillo

George Lillo was an English playwright and tragedian. He was also a jeweller in London. He produced his first stage work, Silvia, or The Country Burial, in 1730, and a year later his most famous play, The London Merchant. He wrote at least six more plays before his death in 1739, including The Christian Hero (1735), Fatal Curiosity (1737) and Marina (1738).

<i>The Spanish Tragedy</i> play by Thomas Kyd

The Spanish Tragedy, or Hieronimo is Mad Again is an Elizabethan tragedy written by Thomas Kyd between 1582 and 1592. Highly popular and influential in its time, The Spanish Tragedy established a new genre in English theatre, the revenge play or revenge tragedy. The play contains several violent murders and includes as one of its characters a personification of Revenge. The Spanish Tragedy is often considered to be the first mature Elizabethan drama, a claim disputed with Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine, and has been parodied by many Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights, including Marlowe, William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson.

Elizabethan literature

Elizabethan literature refers to bodies of work produced during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603), and is one of the most splendid ages of English literature.

Lust's Dominion, or The Lascivious Queen is an English Renaissance stage play, a tragedy written perhaps around 1600, probably by Thomas Dekker in collaboration with others and first published in 1657.

William Ponsonby (publisher)

William Ponsonby was a prominent London publisher of the Elizabethan era. Active in the 1577–1603 period, Ponsonby published the works of Edmund Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney, and other members of the Sidney circle; he has been called "the leading literary publisher of Elizabethan times."

Andrew Wise, or Wyse or Wythes, was a London publisher of the Elizabethan era who issued first editions of five Shakespearean plays. "No other London stationer invested in Shakespeare as assiduously as Wise did, at least while Shakespeare was still alive."

Edward Allde was an English printer in London during the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. He was responsible for a number of significant texts in English Renaissance drama, including some of the early editions of plays by William Shakespeare.

<i>Horestes</i>

Horestes is a late Tudor morality play by the English dramatist John Pickering. It was first published in 1567 and was most likely performed by Lord Rich's men as part of the Christmas revels at court that year. The play's full title is A new interlude of Vice containing the history of Horestes with the cruel revengement of his father's death upon his one natural mother. It has been proposed that John Pickering is likely to be the same person as lawyer and politician Sir John Puckering.

References

Editions of Cambyses

Academic offices
Preceded by
Henry Harvey
Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge
1585–1598
Succeeded by
John Cowell