John Skelton: The Critical Heritage

By Anthony S. G.Edwards | Go to book overview

[A list of Skelton’s works follows.]

(John Skelton, poet laureate and professor of theology, was priest of Diss in the county of Norfolk and skilled in both kinds of writing, verse and prose. He was much given to the daily invention of satires. Nevertheless, under the mask of laughter, he did not omit to utter truth, as did Horatius Flaccus. ( 1) He knew how to speak about various matters in a pleasant manner, so skilfully, pleasantly, deceitfully, albeit bitingly, that he seemed another Lucian ( 2) or Democritus, ( 3) as is clear from his works. But he was not in full accord with Holy Scripture, although he concealed the fact deftly. He saw many great evil deeds being carried out among the clergy, which he sometimes attacked with lively rhetoric and judicious sneers. He continuously waged war on certain babbling friars, especially the Dominicans. Under the false bishop of Norwich, Richard Nix, he kept that woman (whom he had secretly married for fear of Antichrist) under the title of concubine. When, as he was dying, he was asked about her, he replied that he had nothing on his conscience before God concerning her, since she had been kept as a true wife. Because of certain satiric verses against cardinal Wolsey he was at last compelled to seek sanctuary at Westminster to save his life; where, notwithstanding he found favour with abbot Islep.)


Notes
1
Horace (65-8 BC), the Roman poet and satirist.
2
A Greek rhetorician and satirist.
3
The Greek philosopher (c. 460-370 BC).

9.

WILLIAM BULLEIN ON SKELTON’S SATIRES ON WOLSEY

1564

From ‘A Dialogue against the Fever Pestilence’ by William Bullein (d. 1576), printed by John Kingston in 1564 (STC 4036), Bvi r-v. Bullein was a physician who wrote a number of medical tracts and who also had, as will be apparent, distinctive and idiosyncratic views on literature. The work from which this extract comes also

-55-

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