Professional Imaginative Writing in England, 1670-1740: Hackney for Bread

By Brean S. Hammond | Go to book overview

4
The Mock-Heroic Moment in the 1690s

In January 1692 the poet and dramatist John Crowne published his Anglicized version of Boileau Le Lutrin, under the title Daeneids. His Dedication of the poem to that ubiquitous patron and gentleman of letters the Earl of Mulgrave captures a sense of the split between amateur and professional writers that in the last chapter we saw distancing Dryden from Rochester. Crowne regrets that Mulgrave has not been his patron previously because not to have his seal of approval is to be wanting in the world's eyes: 'Your Fortune, and, most Men believe, Your Inclinations, fixes You on the top of Ease and Pleasure, therefore you wou'd never have written one Line, if it had cost you any pains, yet have you perform'd Masteries, which we who make Poetry the whole Business of our Lives, cou'd never equal.'1 Within a very short time, Crowne had published as an offshoot to Daeneids a love-episode between one of the choristers of Notre-Dame and a society lady. Basing itself on the Dido and Aeneas episode in Virgil Aeneid, it has a claim to importance as the first proper mock-heroic poem in English: The History of the Famous and Passionate Love, between a Fair Noble Parisian Lady and a Beautiful Young Singing-Man ( 1692).

This chapter explores the epic and mock-epic writing of the 1690s from the perspective of the emergent professionalization of writing. Throughout the later seventeenth century, and into the eighteenth, there is a growing imperative to mediate classical texts to English readers through translation and imitation. This phenomenon represents an awareness on the part of market-conscious

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1
John Crowne, Daeneids; or, The Noble Labours of the Great Dean of Notre- Dame in Paris, for the Erecting in his Quire a Throne for his Glory, and the Eclipsing the Pride of an Imperious, Usurping Chanter. An Heroique POEM in Four Canto's, Containing a True History, and shews the Folly, Foppery, Luxury, Laziness, Pride, Ambition and Contention of the Romish Clergy ( London, 1692), fo. 1r-v.

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