JOHN Lyly was the author of eight plays, with a possible but doubtful and in any case slight share in a ninth, The Maydes Metamorphosis. The conclusions I have reached about their dates of composition and production are tabulated on the opposite page: for the grounds of the order I assign I must refer the reader to the discussion of 'Date' in the introductory matter prefixed to each. Here I have only to note, generally, that my investigation leads me to affirm the order of their first SYSTEMation, and of Blount Sixe Court Comedies, as that also of their composition; with the single exception of Endimion, which must, I feel convinced, have been produced after Gallathea and perhaps after the earlier version of Loves Metamorphosis, but before Midas.
The importance of lyly's dramatic work is greater from the point of view of the drama's development than in regard to its absolute literary merit, though I am far from thinking that it has received its merited recognition even in this latter respect. These eight plays are chiefly remarkable because they appear on the very threshold of self-conscious fully-developed dramatic art in England. For some two hundred years before this point the history of our drama is the history of religious and moral education by stage-representation, using as its chief instrument allegorical personification. The dramatic work of this period is covered by the general name of Moralities or Moral-Plays; stretching from the first introduction of abstract personages--Truth, Justice, Mercy and the like--into the Miracle-Plays to amplify, explain, or point the lesson of the sacred narrative represented, on to their appearance as a separate species designed to convey doctrinal or practical teaching as distinct from historical, and then through the various stages of treatment of God's dealings with the human race as a whole (e. g. The Castell of Perseverance, Everyman), inculcation of warnings or exhortations in regard to a part of