John Skelton: The Critical Heritage

By Anthony S. G.Edwards | Go to book overview
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From Hippolyte Taine’s ‘Histoire de la littérature anglaise’ (1863), first translated into English in 1871 as ‘The History of English Literature’. This extract is from this translation, p. 139.

Taine (1828-93) was a French philosopher, critic and historian. One footnote has been deleted from this selection.

At the end of all this mouldy talk, and amid the disgust which they have conceived for each other, a clown, a tavern Triboulet, ( 1) composer of little jeering and macaronic verses, Skelton makes his appearance, a virulent pamphleteer, who, jumbling together French, English, Latin phrases, with slang, and fashionable words, invented words, intermingled with short rhymes, fabricates a sort of literary mud, with which he bespatters Wolsey and the bishops. Style, metre, rhyme, language, art of every kind, is at an end; beneath the vain parade of official style there is only a heap of rubbish. Yet, as he says

[Quotes ‘Colin Clout’, lines 53-8.]

It is full of political animus, sensual liveliness, English and popular instincts; it lives. It is a coarse life, still elementary, swarming with ignoble vermin, like that which appears in a great decomposing body. It is life, nevertheless, with its two great features which it is destined to display: the hatred of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which is the Reformation; the return to the senses and to natural life, which is the Renaissance.

The court fool in Victor Hugo’s drama of ‘Le Roi s’amuse’.


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John Skelton: The Critical Heritage
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