Markham (?1568-1637) was, Caroline Lucas says, a middle-class writer who used the title of the Arcadia to attract attention (Caroline Lucas, Writing for Women: The Example of Woman as Reader in Elizabethan Romance, Milton Keynes, 1989, p. 51). His origins were not, in fact, particularly middle-class: Sir John Harington was his father’s cousin, as was Sir Griffin Markham, who conspired to make Arabella Stuart queen in 1603, and whose father had been standard-bearer to Queen Elizabeth’s Gentlemen Pensioners. He may, however, have been regarded as somewhat déclassé as a result of his very public career as a writer on many subjects, particularly agriculture and horsemanship. He was notorious (see DNB) for plagiarizing his own work as well as that of others.
The English Arcadia is attentive to Sidney’s style, but its story ranges further from Arcadia than do most of the continuations. As Paul Salzman points out, it is more pastoral and yet more bitter; evil is present even in Markham’s ‘innocent’ Tempe (Paul Salzman, English Prose Fiction 1558-1700: A Critical History, Oxford, 1985, pp. 126-30). Musidorus and Pamela are dead, and a Demagoras figure (identical in nature, if not apparently in fact, with Parthenia’s persecutor) attempts to rape their daughter Melidora (pp. 54-5). Helen (see the final extract below) is, as in Beling and Weamys (Nos 47 and 61), married to Amphialus, but he wrongly suspects her of infidelity.
Markham’s work may date from around 1597, since in his preface he speaks of not having published it ‘any time this halfe-score yeares’. The Second and Last Part of the First Booke of the English Arcadia followed in 1613, but there were no further books.
(a) ‘To the Reader’, sigs A2-A2v.