The Rhetoric of Place in Ben Jonson's 'Chorographical' Entertainments and Masques
CHARLES E. SMITH JEWISH DAY SCHOOL, ROCKVILLE, MD
- Chorography, the systematic description of a region's topographical features, its inhabitants, their histories, laws and customs, has been the subject of several recent studies of early modern ideology and hegemony. In his groundbreaking book Forms of Nationhood, Richard Helgerson argues that the 'chorographical enterprise' initiated by John Leland has unforeseen ideological effects; that the individual and national identities Leland, William Camden, John Speed, Michael Drayton and others forge through chorographic description undermine dynastic and absolutist claims (Helgerson 1992, ch. 3). Following Helgerson's lead, Howard Marchitello finds in chorographic texts 'a kind of unintentional character [ . . . ] that locates their potentially subversive qualities within their very discursive forms' (Marchitello 1994, 29). In what follows I attempt to qualify these views by examining Ben Jonson's use of Camden's Britannia (1586) to compose what I will term his 'chorographical' entertainments and masques. That Jonson employs the Britannia to write his masques to the extent that we will see he does, and that the 1637 edition of Camden's book is posthumously dedicated to James I alone reveal that Camden's brand of chorography poses less of a threat to royal hegemony than Helgerson contends. The Roman Britain onto which the Britannia opens must have appealed to James, who styled his reign as a pax Augustus. As conducive to James's imperial program as this ancient subtext, I submit, is the means by which Camden 'recovers' it.
- My argument, like Helgerson's, has its basis in chorography's most distinguishing feature, its reliance on place as a structuring device. By Helgerson's account, the places through which chorographers perambulate in themselves undermine royal authority. English chronicle histories, a discursive form organised by time, naturally tell the stories of kings and queens – 'England is its monarchs' in books such as these. In chorographic descriptions, by contrast, '[l]oyalty to England means loyalty to the land; to its counties, cities, towns, villages, manors, and wards; even to its uninhabited geographical features' (Helgerson 1992, 133). More troublesome still are the 'particularities' to which chorographic places are given; the 'local difference, local identity, and local representation' that increasingly delimit dynastic claims in parliament do so in chorography as well. In his brief analysis of John Stow's chorographic Survey of London (1598), however, Steven Mullaney suggests that chorographic places in fact extend royal authority, implicitly attributing the discursively and socially orthodox ends to which Stow's text works to its rhetorical quality (Mullaney 1988, 15-8). Inasmuch as the actual places through which Stow perambulates double as loci communes, they serve as sites rich not only in cultural significance, but also in the traces of royal as well as civic and ecclesiastical power inscribed through ritual ceremonies. The course taken by Stow, as Mullaney notes, 'is largely the one taken by Elizabeth in her coronal procession' (Mullaney 1988, 16). Camden's Britannia, to which Stow is manifestly indebted, presents his reader with a similar phenomenon. My concern here however is not so much with the rhetorical places through which Camden perambulates as with the method that lies behind these places, and the educational institution that, in turn, informs this method. By examining the rhetorical method both Camden and Jonson use to represent the land of Britain, I hope to show how the chorographic enterprise, as an extension of a state-sponsored educational program, intentionally works toward ideologically conservative ends.
- Recent work on the Tudor educational project has underscored the importance of rhetorical method to humanist pedagogy. Mary Crane has argued that the so-called 'notebook method,' which involves 'the twin discursive practices of "gathering" [ . . . notable] textual fragments and "framing" or forming, arranging, and assimilating them created for English humanists a central mode of transaction with classical antiquity and provided an influential model for authorial practice and for authoritative self-fashioning' (Crane 1993, 3). Of particular importance to my argument is the discursive practice of gathering, which derives from the first (and by many accounts) most important part of ancient rhetoric, inventio. In ancient rhetorical practice, invention entails the process by which argumentative subject matter is 'discovered' (L. inveniere = 'to come upon, find') under various topoi or commonplaces, i.e., 'definition,' 'genus,' 'species,' and topics specific to particular modes of discourse, i.e., law, and medicine. Sixteenth-century English humanists deployed invention as a strategy for discursively controlling not only a vast and otherwise intractable classical corpus, but also middle-class students. By approaching the 'whole' of the classical corpus through its 'parts,' humanist educators were able to encourage their students to avoid the dangerous contents inherent to this body of literature – i.e., pagan beliefs and republican ideologies – in the process of gathering ethically improving fragments. The aphoristic materials with which humanists filled their notebooks afford a non-threatening form of social mobility insofar as the content of these stylistic 'gems' accord with the doxa, the space occupied by shared beliefs and values. Grounded in and controlled by the doxic wisdom they extract from classical texts, humanists present themselves as self-regulating supplements to royal power.
- As Crane and others stress, humanists do not entirely succeed in realising their ambitious goals. In his study of early modern style production, Richard Halpern has shown how the notebook method fails to neutralise completely the dangerous contents on which it is brought to bear. In their desire to achieve stylistic perfection, humanist gatherers often overlook illicit subject matter. Moreover, the rhetorical decoding of texts via the notebook method tends to disable older ideological operations even as it enables new ones (Halpern 1991, ch. 1). The uses to which gathered material are put also contribute to the erosion of dominant values. The practice of arguing in utramque partem, i.e., on both sides of a given question, using materials selected from commonplace headings breeds the scepticism that threatens to undermine the consensus humanists seek to create (Altman 1978, ch. 2). That the authoritative discourses and subjects humanists produce in their classrooms reinforce the status quo, however, is indicated not only by the success enjoyed by such humanists as William Cecil, who uses these very techniques as political tools (Altman 1978, 31-43; Crane 1993, ch. 5). Throughout her reign, Elizabeth I deploys 'gathering' as an authoritative gesture (Crane 1988). And as we will see, particularly in his early chorographical entertainments and masques, Jonson compliments James by presenting him as a rhetorical 'discoverer' who, like Camden, and like Jonson himself, is capable of penetrating all available knowledge with a 'light scientiall' (Jonson 1946, VII:177). It is as an agent of royal power that Camden turns the rhetorical techne he has used in his classrooms at Westminster to fashion authoritative subjects as well as subject matter to control discursively the land of Britain itself.
- The Britannia is not exactly a straightforward prose description of Britain. In 'The Author To the Reader,' Camden repeatedly refers to his book as an 'argument,' and indeed his text unmistakably bears the marks of humanist rhetorical practice. 'Truly it was my project and purpose,' writes Camden,
- to seeke, rake out, and free from darknesse such places as Caesar, Tacitus, Ptolomee, Antonine the Emperour [ . . . ] & other antique writers have specified and TIME hath overcast with mist [ . . . ] In searching and seeking after these as I wil not a vouch uncertainties so I doe not conceale probabilities. That I have not found out every one although I have sought after them with painfull and chargeable inquiery let it be no imputation to me, as it is not to a Spadiard that worketh in Mines, who while he findeth and followeth the maine vaines, seeth not the hidden small fillets [ . . . ] As it is the commendation of a good Huntsman to finde game in a wide wood, so it is no imputation if he hath not caught all, and likewise to mee, some things are to be left to the inquisitive diligence of others (Camden 1610, Sig. Æ5r).
Innovative though Camden's project is, the metaphors he uses to describe his method recall early humanist gathering. Thomas Wilson, for example, in his Rule of Reason (1555), uses both the hunting and mining metaphors to help students of logic visualize the process by which they are to search topoi for dialectical subject matter (Wilson 1972, 89-90). The 'main veins' Camden quarries hearken back to Aristotelian lines of argument, and while the 'places' which facilitate Camden's inquiry reveal how far the classical locus communis has evolved, they nonetheless possess a rhetorical value. An extension of Britain as represented by ancient writers, the land of Britain itself becomes subject to the discursive control that Camden exercises over that classical subtext using rhetorical invention. The language Camden uses elsewhere suggests that the control he exercises over the land of Britain is not restricted to ancient cities and towns. 'In describing of this county', he writes at the outset of his account of Essex, 'first I will speake of the memorable places by Ley and the Tamis, afterwards of those that be further within, and upon the Sea-cost' (Camden 1610, 439). Here Camden speaks of the rivers that propel him from county to county as though they were Ciceronian flumen orationis. As a rhetor is carried on the current of his 'theme' from memorable place to memorable place, so Camden traverses a naturally occurring copia.
- The discursive materials that Camden gathers also bear the marks of humanist rhetorical method. Camden brings his invention to bear on a staggering array of sources that, at first glance, appear to be anything but commonplace:
- I have studiously read over our owne countrie writers, old and new; all Greeke and Latine authors which have once made mention of Britaine. I have had conference with learned men in other parts of Christendome: I have beene diligent in the Records of this Realme: I have looked into most Libraries, Registers, and memorials of Churches, Cities, and Corporations, I have poored vpon many an old Rowle, and Evidence: and produced their testimonie (as beyond all exception) when the cause required, in their very owne words (although barbarous they be) that the honor of veritie might in no wise be impeached (Camden 1610, Sig. Æ4r-v).
Even this material Camden gathers here differs significantly from that which we encounter in Camden's Remaines Concerning Britain (1605), which features such standard subject headings as 'Wise Speeches' and 'Poems'. Yet, as Camden's use of the word 'testimony' reveals, he has not ventured so far as to leave the space of the doxa altogether. Both Aristotle and Cicero cite 'testimony' as an extrinsic topos, and both refer to arguments based in this topic as 'atechnic' or 'nonartistic' (Aristotle 1991, 37; Cicero 1959-60, 2.27.116-2.29.129). 'I call atechnic those [pistei or 'proofs'],' explains Aristotle, 'that are not provided by "us" [i.e., the potential speaker] but are pre-existing: for example, witnesses, testimony of slaves taken under torture, contracts and such like' (Aristotle 1991, 37). Humanists are ambivalent about the rhetorical value of testimony. In his educational handbook Positions, for example, Richard Mulcaster states that while logic 'placeth them ['testimonies'] in the outmost of her argumentes, though their stuffe be worth praise', rhetoric 'takes [ . . . ] [them] for a principall proofe' (Mulcaster 1971, 13). That Camden views testimony from a rhetorical standpoint there can be little doubt. In gathering from extrinsic topoi, Camden works not at the periphery of the doxa but rather at its very centre, recording historical and genealogical as well as topographical 'factoids' unmediated by the filter of any previous authority.
- In his rabid attack on the Britannia, Ralph Brooke contends that Camden relies too much on testimony, paying short shrift to 'artificial' argumentation; that is, reasoning based in artificial method (Brooke 1723, 12-3). But Camden's argument is not entirely inartificial. As early English humanists have used the notebook method to edit dangerous alterities from the classical corpus, so Camden carves away the 'fables' with which, to his mind, Britain's historical record has been contaminated; namely, the myths of Brutus and Arthur. Where historical facts about ancient Britain cannot be found to fill the gaps left in the historical record, Camden conjectures. Again Camden turns to inventio, only here he consults more conventional topoi. Camden's proof that the Gauls first inhabited Britain, for example, consists of materials collected under the topics 'Manners', 'Customes', and 'Language'. Even this material, however, differs significantly from that which we encounter in Camden's Remaines Concerning Britain (1605), which features such standard subject headings as 'Wise Speeches' and 'Poems'. Yet, here again, Camden strives to extend the realm of the doxa in an effort to make it inclusive of material that, if not generally received as fact, should be given serious consideration. The result, Camden clearly hopes, is a locus communis in the sense of a universal, impartial truth. Not everyone accepted Camden's 'truth' as universal. Brooke's Discoverie is not the ranting of a disgruntled herald but a concerted effort on the part of several members of the Essex faction – the text is dedicated to the Earl of Essex – to discredit Camden. That Camden is not entirely unsuccessful, however, is indicated by the repeated use Jonson makes of the Britannia to write his entertainments and masques, most notably the first entertainment he composes for James, Londinium Arch.
- At first glance, Londinium Arch seems to confirm Helgerson's view of the ideological effects of chorographic places. The civic and ecclesiastical authority of London visually delimits royal authority as the King's Chamber huddles beneath the panoramic view of London on which the arch terminates. Moreover, the language Genius loci uses to elucidate this view – 'Now London reare / Thy forehead high, and on it strive to weare / Thy choicest gems' (Jonson 1946, VII:91) – implicates the very method I have argued that Camden uses to control discursively the land he represents. Camden's 'memorable places' find their visual counterparts in the 'choicest gems', the principle sites that crown Stephen Harrison's woodcut of the 'Arch at Fenchurch'. But Jonson's compliment hinges on the very inversion that seems to undermine James's authority: 'though this citie (for the state, and magnificence)', Jonson explains, 'might (by Hyperbole) be said to touch the starres, and reach up to heauen, yet was it farre inferior to the master thereof, who was his Maiestie' (Jonson 1946, VII:83).
- A similar dialectic of authority plays out between Camden and James in the chorographic subtext of Londinium Arch. The surface of the entertainment appears to be only generally indebted to early humanist gathering. Genius loci's speeches are laced with pithy sayings such as might be found in any schoolboy's notebook: '"Zeale when it rests, / Leaues to be zeale"'; '"Ioy bred, and borne but in the tongue, is weake"'; '"In a prince it is / no little vertue, to know who are his"' (Jonson 1946, VII:92-4). Beneath this conventionally aphoristic veil, however, lies Camden's Britannia. Jonson pays special tribute to his old schoolmaster in his gloss on the CAMERA REGIA. Monarchia Britannica, the allegorical figure seated in the top of the King's Chamber, is 'here placed,' Jonson explains, 'as in the proper seate of the empire: for, so the glorie and light of our kingdome M. CAMDEN, speaking of London, saith, shee is, totius Britanniæ Epitome, Britanniciq[ue] Imperij sedes, Regumq[ue] Angliæ Camera, Tantum inter omneis eminet, quantum (ut ait ille) inter viburna Cupressus' (Jonson 1946, VII:84). The chorographical aspect of Londinium Arch is also registered in notes against Genius' speeches, wherein Jonson's invention, in Camdenesque fashion, dwells upon arcane and seemingly irrelevant facts pertaining to ancient cultural practices. To his concession that Brutus' 'plough first gave thee [the City of London] infant bounds,' Jonson adds: 'Here is [ . . . ] an ancient rite alluded to in the building of Cities, which was, to give them their bounds with a plough, according to Virg. Æn. Li. 10. Interea. Aeneas vrbem designat Aratro. And Isidore, lib. 15. cap. 2. Urbs vocata ab orbe, quod antiquæ civitates in orbem fiebant; vel ab urbo parte aratri, quo muri designabatur, vnde est illud. Optauitque locum regno & concludere sulco' (Jonson 1946, VII:92). Significantly, the 'place' with which Jonson authenticates Genius' walking 'auspicious rounds in every furrow' turned up by Brutus' plough 'respects that of Camd. Brit. 368. Speaking of the Citie, Quicunque autem condiderit, vitali, genio, constructam fuisse ipsius fortuna docuit' (Jonson 1946, VII:92).
- The chorographic subtext of Londinium Arch does not work entirely to James's advantage. In a note against Genius' mention of Brutus as the founder of Britain, Jonson concedes to the myth of Brutus, but only grants him existence in the realm of poetry:
- Rather then the Citie should want a Founder, we choose to follow the received storie of Brute, whether fabulous, or true, and not altogether vnwarranted in Poetrie: since it is a favor of Antiquitie to few Cities, to let them know their first Authors. Besides, a learned Poet of our time, in a most elegant worke of his Con. Tam. & Isis, celebrating London, hath this verse of her: Æmula Maternæ tolens sua lumina Troiæ (Jonson 1946, VII:92).
The learned poet to whom Jonson refers is Camden, whose poem celebrates the marriage of the rivers Thames and Isis in Oxfordshire. Camden does much to discredit the myth – a point to which we will return. Thus, in adopting Camden's antimythological stance, Jonson risks impinging on royal authority. Brutus is one of the cornerstones of Stuart dynastic propaganda. The advice James tenders Prince Henry in Basilikon Doron regarding the division of the kingdom attests to the stock the king placed in this mythical superhero:
- And in case it please God to provide you to all these Kingdomes, make your eldest son Isaac, leaving him all your kingdoms; and provide the rest with private possessions: Otherwayes by deviding your kingdoms, yee shall leave the seed of division and discord among your posteritie; as befel to this Ile, by the division and assignement thereof, the three sonnes of Brutus, Locrine, Albanact, and Camber (James I 1918, 37).
Although Brutus serves as a counterexample in James's advice to his son, James clearly regards Brutus as more than a poetic fiction. The risk Jonson runs in adopting Camden's antimythological stance is minimal, however, especially given not only his own ambivalence, relegating his comments to notes, but also Camden's. 'For mine owne part', writes Camden, in sharp contrast to the uncompromisingly sceptical Polydore Vergil, 'let Brutus be taken for the father, and founder of the British nation; I will not be of a contrarie minde' (Camden 1610, 8).
- Jonson's chorographical invention appreciably enhances James's royal authority in other key respects. To return to the King's Chamber, in choosing this 'place' from Camden Jonson alludes to a golden age that is of particular interest to the king. As Camden explains, London does not take on this appellation until after the Duke of Normandy had quelled the threat posed by the Danes:
- Yet were they [the citizens of London] not a little terrified still by them [the Danes] until they lovingly received and saluted as their King, William Duke of Normandy; whom Gods destined to be borne for the good of England against those spoilers. Presently then the windes were laid, the clouds dispersed, and golden daies indeed shone upon it [the city of London]: Since when it never susteined any great calamity to speake of: but through the special favour and indulgence of Princes obteined verie large and great Immunities, began to be called The King's Chamber (Camden 1610, 427).
In this instance, far from undermining Stuart authority, chorographic particularities decidedly enhance it. Jonson's allusion to London under the rule of William the Conqueror is particularly apt, for James laid claim to the English throne through his Norman ancestor. Moreover, from Camden's Camera Regia, the 'proper seat of empire,' James acquires the status of an imperial ruler.
- Jonson marshals not only the content of the Britannia, but also the authority Camden acquires in composing his book to the task of complimenting James. An implicit comparison of Camden with James as rhetorical 'discoverers' runs throughout Londinium Arch. The 'whole frame' of the arch, reports Jonson, 'was covered with a curtaine of silke, painted like a thicke cloud, and at the approach of the K[ing] was instantly to be drawne. The Allegorie being, that those clouds were gathered vpon the face of the Citie, through their long want of his most wished sight: but now, as the rising of the Sunne, all mists were dispersed and fled' (Jonson 1946, VII:90). In the context of the Britannia, this allegory takes on a new dimension. The cloud that obscures the arch recalls the 'darkness' and 'mists' that Camden, the 'glorie and light of our kingdome', initially encounters in his search for the same ancient Britain James 'discovers' here. In conferring Camden's scholarly persona onto James, Jonson hardly delimits the King's authority. Whereas Camden's 'discovery' is laborious and finally incomplete, James's is instantaneous and absolute. Jonson's Thames, whose iambic meanderings recall those of Camden's Thamesis, reaffirms James's superiority as a perfect orator:
- To what vaine end should I contend to show
My weaker powers, when seas of pompe o'reflow
The cities face: and cover all the shore
With sands more rich than TAGUS wealthy ore?
When in the flood of ioy, that comes with him,
He drownes the world; yet makes it live and swimme,
And Spring with gladnesse: not my fishes heere,
Though they be dumbe, but doe expresse the cheere
Of these bright streames (Jonson 1946, VII:93).
Although James does not appear to be sole source of the 'flood of joy', Jonson's compliment nonetheless works to its desired end. By contrast to Jonson's Thames and even to the Tagus, the Spanish river famous for the gold it was thought to produce, James, who is himself figured as a flumen orationis, flows with uncommon force. If Camden is capable of investing an inarticulate land with a voice, as Helgerson submits, so too is James. So powerful are the king's copious streams, that even the Thames's fish are capable of expressing joy.
- What exactly James thought of Londinium Arch is not known. But the success of the strategy Jonson brings to bear on representing James can be measured by the extent to which he relies on it in years to come. Of particular interest to us is a masque we might least suspect of being indebted to Camden. In response to Queen Anne's request 'to have them [the masquers] Blackmores at first' (Jonson 1946, VII:169), Jonson cast the Queen and her ladies as the daughters of the Ethiopian river Niger who, having heard the praises sung by certain poets to white 'Beauties' of 'other Empires [e.g., Great Britain] sprung', become dissatisfied with their dark complexion. Hearing their jealous complaints the moon goddess Æthiopia comes to their aid, providing them with the riddle that leads them to Britain, where James, with 'light scientiall', 'blanches them'(Jonson 1946, VII:177). Steeped in Hermetic and Neoplatonic symbolism, Blackness seems far removed from the earthly prose of the Britannia. But Æthiopia's riddle, which Jonson silently borrows from Camden, indicates otherwise. In his plea to Oceanus for help in finding Britain, Niger relates his attempts at reasoning his daughters out of the 'strange error' into which they had fallen in their jealousy of white women:
- Till they confirm'd at length
By miracle, what I, with so much strength of argument resisted [ . . . ]
For in the Lake, where their first spring they gain'd,
As they sate, cooling their soft Limmes, one night,
Appear'd a face, all circumfus'd with light;
(And sure they saw't for Æthiopes never dreame)
Wherein they might decipher through the streame,
That they a Land must forthwith seeke,
Whose termination (of the Greeke)
Sounds TANIA; where bright Sol, that heat
Their blouds, doth never rise, or set,
But in his journey passeth by,
And leaues that Clymat of the sky,
To comfort of a greater Light,
Who formes all beauty, with his sight.
In search of this, have we three Princedomes past,
That speake out Tania, in their accents last;
Blacke Mauritania, first; and secondly,
Swarth Lusitania; next, we did descry
Rich Aquitania: and, yet, cannot find
The place vnto these longing Nymphes design'd.
Instruct, and ayde me, great OCEANUS,
What land is this, that now appears to us? (Jonson 1946, VII:174-5).
Niger's daughters' itinerary closely resembles that of the ancient Greek explorers, who, by Camden's account, gave Britain its true name upon first discovering it:
- For what time the most ancient Greeks (and these were they that first gave the Iland that name) sailing along the shore, as Eratosthenes saith, either as rovers, or as merchants, travelled unto nations most remote and disioyned far asunder, and learned either from the inhabitants themselves, or els of the Gauls, who spake the same tongue, that this nation was called Brith and Brithon; then they unto the word BRITH added TANIA: which, as we find in the Greek Glossaries, betokenth in Greek, a region [ . . . ] which they have written false Bretania. But Lucretius and Caesar, the first Latines that made mention thereof, more truly Britannia. That this is so, I doe the more firmely beleeve, because that besides our Britaine, a man shall not find, over the face of the whole earth above three countries of any account and largnesse, which end in the termination TANIA: and those verily lying in this west part of the world, namely MAURITANIA, LUSITANIA, and AQUITANIA. Which names, I doubt not but discovered and surveied these lands. For, of Mauri they framed Mauritannia, as one would say, the country of Mauri, which the home-bred people of that land, as Strabo witnesseth, called Numidia: of Lusus the sonne of Liber, Lusitania, as it were the Land of Lusus: and Aquitania, perhaps ab aquis, that is, waters, as Ivo Carnotensis is of opinion, being a region seated upon waters: in which sense, as Plinie writeth, it was before time named Armorica, that is, coasting upon the sea [ . . . ] Neither is it a strange and new thing, that a denomination should be compounded, of a forren and a Greek work, put together (Camden 1610, 27).
In employing rhetorical invention as a means of etymological derivation, Camden follows both Classical as well as medieval dialecticians, including both Cicero and Quintilian. Camden's account of how Britain acquired its name consists of a double 'discovery', as it were, wherein the invention of Britain's true name appears not as a fabrication on the part of Camden but as the invention of the ancient Greek explorers. The rhetorical aspect of Camden's etymology is heightened by its poetic rendering in Blackness, wherein the suffix '-tania' serves Niger and his daughters as the commonplace under which they eventually discover Britain.
- The invention Jonson appropriates from Camden is not an ideologically neutral device. In tracing the name of Britain back to the ancient Greeks, Camden silently deals the myth of Brutus a serious blow. The course that Camden's Greeks take to Britain is almost identical to that taken by Brutus after exiling himself from Troy in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain (Monmouth 1966, i.11-16). Just as Æthiopia foretells Niger's daughters' journey to Britain, so Diana prophesies the land to which Brutus travels. Brutus re-supplies his ships in Mauritania. In Aquitaine he and his men fight a pitched battle with King Goffar and the Poitevins before cutting his losses and setting sail for the promised land. Upon his arrival, Brutus names Britain after himself. While Camden is clearly indebted to Monmouth for his etymology of the name Britannia – he has only added one place to Brutus' itinerary and substituted ancient Greek explorers for the mythical Trojan counterpart – he quietly strikes the medieval historian's imaginative interpolation from Britain's historical record.
- By adopting Camden's etymological derivation, however, Jonson does not necessarily compromise James's authority. Michael Drayton features Brutus prominently in his chorographical poem, the Poly-Olbion (1612-22), following Monmouth instead of Camden in his account of how Britain comes by its name (Drayton 1933, IV, Song I). But here Brutus serves to support not the dynastic claims of the Stuarts but rather the so-called Cambro-Britains' own 'national' identity. Like Monmouth, and, according to the myth, like Brutus himself, Drayton is a Welshman.
- Any risk that Jonson takes by following Camden here is precluded by the affinities between Camden's project and that which James had undertaken just prior to the performance of Blackness. On 24 October, 1604, James proclaimed himself 'King of Great Britain, Ireland and France'. Camden's and James's Britains become coterminous in Æthiopia's penultimate speech:
- BRITANIA, which the triple world admires,
This Isle hath now recovered for her name;
Where raigne those beauties, that with so much fame
The sacred MUSES sonnes have honored,
And from bright HESPERUS to EOUS spred.
With that great name BRITANIA, this blest Isle
Hath wonne her ancient dignitie, and stile,
A world, divided from the world, and tri'd
The abstract of it, in his generall pride.
For were the world, with all his wealth, a ring,
BRITANIA (whose new name makes all tongues sing)
Might be a Diament worthy to inchase it (Jonson 1946, VII:177).
Camden's invention is subsumed by James's as the 'recovered' name becomes a 'new' name. Once again the Britain in which James finds himself is tailored to fit his political program, conferring upon him not only the imperial status he desires, but also the stoic remove that is the signature of his pacific policy.
- Jonson continues to set his masques in the Britain of the Britannia with similar effects. The Haddington Masque (1608), for example opens on 'a red cliffe, [ . . . ] from whence, (as I have beene, not fabulously, informed) the honourable family of the RADCLIFFES first tooke their name (a clivo rubro) [ . . . ] as I have observ'd out of M. CAMBDEN' (VII:250). Love Freed From Ignorance and Folly features a riddle similar to that which serves as the lynch-pin on which Blackness turns. But by 1611 it is clear that James would not reach the lofty goals he had set for himself in the early years of his reign, and Jonson abandons his strategy for complimenting the king. Jonson does not abandon the Britannia altogether, however, and the last masque in which he makes extensive use of Camden's book, For the Honour of Wales, deserves brief consideration.
- Wales had its genesis in the failure of one of Jonson's best known masques, Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue. Performed in honour of the creation of Charles Prince of Wales, Pleasure opens on the mountain Atlas, which terminates on the head of a man replete with moving eyes. Out of the grove situated at the base of the mountain emerge Comus and his revellers, who, after dancing the first antimasque, are dispersed by Hercules. A band of Pygmies besiege Hercules before he is finally able to usher in Dædalus. Atlas opens to reveal the masquers seated in his beamy bosom.
- Although one of Jonson's most sophisticated performances, Pleasure failed to live up to its name. Apparently bored with the long speeches, James blurted out in the midst of the performance: 'Why don't they dance? What did they make me come here for? Devil take you all, dance.' The Duke of Buckingham immediately set about to remedy the situation by dancing to everyone's satisfaction. Jonson followed suit, producing a new antimasque featuring the antics of bumbling Welshmen under the new title, For the Honour of Wales. Perhaps out of sheer desperation for lack of time, Jonson turned to Camden. Evan in particular has an intimate knowledge of the Britannia. In the first song he sings in praise of his nation, he even adopts Camden's antimythological stance:
- 'Is not come here to tauke of Brut,
Nor tell long Pedegree of Prince Camber,
- from whence the Welse do's take his root;
Nor sing the deeds of old Saint Davy,
- whose linage would fill aull this Chamber;
But harke yow me now, for a liddell tales
- the ursip of which would fill a Navy.
- s'all make a gread deale to the credit of Wales (Jonson 1946, VII:504-6).
Moreover, Evan repeatedly draws place names from the Britannia in his effort to 'reinvent' Jonson's delicately calibrated invention so as to produce a 'properly naturall devise' (VII:507), one befitting, in an extremely literal and crude way, the creation of Charles the Prince of Wales. The Welshman's invention, like Camden's, consists primarily of etymologies. They rename not only Atlas (opting finally for Craig Eriry), but also the masquers sitting within him. Robert Carr's name is phonetically identical to 'caer', the Welsh word for 'city'; he is thus 'plaine Welse, Caerleon, Caermardin, Cardiffe'. The Scottish courtier Abercromby also finds a phonetically similar substitute:
- JEN. And Abercromy, is aull one as Abermarlys.
EV. Or Abertau.
HO. Or Aber du gledhaw.
RH. Or Aberhodney.
JEN. Or Aber gevenny.
HO. Or Aberconway.
EV. Aberconway is very like Abercromy, a liddle hard s'ifte has pit 'em aull into Wales (Jonson 1946, VII:503).
The Welshmen's method is conspicuously similar to Camden's, proceeding primarily by sound. Compare this invention with, for example, Camden's defence of his conjectural etymology of the name of the city 'Methlin':
- For, of Methlin, by the propriety of the British tongue, is made Vethlin, like as of Caer-Marden, is come Caer Verdin, and of Ar-mon, Arvon, Neither doth Methlin, more jarre & disagree in sound from Mediolanum, than either Millano in Italie, Le Million in Xantoigne, or Methlin in Low Countries, which cities no man doubteth were all in times past knowen by the name of Mediolanum (Camden 1610, 650).
In Wales, the repetition of the prefix 'aber', the Welsh word for 'mouth' (each of the towns mentioned is situated near a river's mouth) recalls the repetition of the termination 'tania' in Blackness. But the tenor of the iteration has changed. The solemn, almost magical rhythm of Æthiopia's riddle has given way to comic bungling. By substituting earthy chorography for stylised choreography, Jonson seems only to enhance the inertia to which James objects in Pleasure. But this is precisely the type of coarse humour that James enjoyed. And if Jonson is criticising Abercromby for having danced his way into royal favour, he is also poking fun at himself as well as at Camden.
- We might dismiss Jonson's Wales altogether as mere parody were it not for the last speech, wherein Griffeth, in solemn terms, describes an obedient and affectionate nation capable of obediently serving its English king:
- it is hop'd your Madestee will not interpret the honour, merits, love and affection of so noble a portion of your people, by the povertie of these who have so imperfectly uttered it: Yow will rather for their sak[e]s, who are to come in the name of Wales, my Lord the prince, and the others, pardon what is past, and remember the Cynrie has alwaies been fruitfull of loyall hearts to your Majestie; a very garden and seed-plot of honest mindes and men: What lights of learning hath Wales sent forth for your Schooles? What industrious Studients of your Lawes? what able Ministers of your Justice? whence hath the Crowne in all times better servitors, more liberall of their lives and fortunes? where hath your Court or Councell (for the present) more noble ornaments or better aydes? I am glad to see it and to speake it, and though the Nation be sayd to be unconquer'd, and most loving liberty, yet it was never mutinous (and please your Majestie;) but stout, valiant, courteous, hospitable, temperate, ingenious, capable of all good Arts, most lovingly constant, charitable, great Antiquaries, Religious preservers of their Gentry, and Genealogie, as they are zealous and knowing in Religion (Jonson 1946, VII:509-10).
The ending of this antimasque compares interestingly with the ending of The Irish Masque (1614). 'Uncivilised outlanders' are brought to order within the framework of the masque here much as they are in Irish. But the differences between these two endings are instructive. The civilising power that tames the wiled Irish manifestly originates from James, who, as sun-king, pierces the mantles of the masquers with his rays to give rise to a bright and colourful spring in the form of lavishly dressed English masquers. In Wales, by contrast, the civilising power that renders Wales loyal and obedient originates not from James himself but rather is generated by the land itself. Indeed, the Wales that Griffeth describes has the same power that Cicero ascribes to rhetorical commonplaces (Cicero 1959-60, 2.34.146). Behind this notion of the commonplace, as Terry Comito has observed, is the belief in the 'sacred potency' of certain natural places in the world at large (Comito 1978, 53). A 'seed-plot of honest minds and men,' Griffeth's Wales comes to resemble a rhetorical topos, a human copia, as it were. Like the land onto which the Britannia opens, Griffeth's Wales is a naturally occurring rhetorical device. The civilising power of this commonplace is further revealed in Griffeth's own language. The longer he dwells on his subject, the more correct his English becomes. By the end of the speech, he utters King's English. The same power that civilises Griffeth also regulates the inhabitants of Wales. The people of Wales shine by their own light, but their autonomy hardly seems threatening. Indeed, Griffeth need not apologise, for the nation he describes automatically subjects itself to James.
- By questioning Helgerson's view of chorography as essentially inimical to dynastic and absolutist claims, I do not mean to suggest that we view this body of work as mere propaganda for the Stuart sate. Claire McEarchern's study of Drayton's Polyolbion reveals how 'ambidextrius' chorography, as a discursive form, can be, serving to articulate and define national as well as local identities (1996, ch. 4). Jonson's and Camden's chorography also negotiates a complex interaction between individual, regional and national authorities. Yet the extent to which acquiesces to James's political programme cannot be overlooked. The inhabited rhetorical device onto which the Britannia opens provides Jonson with the stuff of some of his most elaborate compliments. In the form of a naturally occurring copia, the land as represented by both Camden and Jonson acquiesces almost magically to James, who, in this rhetoricised landscape, acquires the status of a god. A perfect orator, James not only effortlessly discovers the ancient subtext Camden had so laboriously unearthed, but animates its inhabitants with his own sovereign logos. Even when guided by their own light, as Jonson's Welshmen are, they exemplify the self-regulated, obedient subjects humanists endeavour to create in their classrooms.
- To the extent that rhetoric enables Camden and Jonson to render the land they represent compliant with royal authority, it contributes significantly to the chorographic enterprise. But the relationship between rhetoric and chorography is more complicated still when viewed against the backdrop of the failure of rhetoric to achieve humanist educators' goals. One of the more serious problems, as Halpern has shown, is the intense preoccupation, particularly among university wits, with style production. During the course of the sixteenth century, Francis Bacon complains, the
- affectionate study of eloquence and copie of speech [ . . . ] grew speedily to an excess; for men began to hunt more after words than matter; and more after the choiceness of the phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of the clauses, and the varying and illustration of their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgement (Bacon 1968, 3.283).
That humanists should become so obsessed with style is almost a forgone conclusion given the emphasis ancient orators place on inventio as applied to the third part of rhetoric, elocutio. Cicero devotes a disproportionately large space in De Oratore to elocutio, stressing its importance with regard to the social effectiveness of oratorical disputation. The preoccupation with style is to have serious consequences for humanist educational objectives, contributing significantly to the erosion of dominant values and promoting a general distrust of rhetoric as an educational tool.
- The deepening crisis prompts a variety of responses. In his Novum Organon, Bacon endeavors to transform inventio into a tool for scientific inquiry – his method of induction, as Lisa Jardine has shown, derives from humanist rhetorical techniques (Jardine 1974, chs. 1-3). Thomas Hobbes, who believed that the civil war was caused in part by the study of ancient oration (Hobbes 1844, VI:168), undertakes a similar manoeuvre when, in his Leviathan, he seeks 'to develop a language commensurate with [a] new scientific notion of politics, a logic of invention that would do what the humanists' prudential rhetoric had failed to do: bridge the gap between intention and action, between the cause and effect of persuasion' (Kahn 1985, 153-4).
- Camden and Jonson mount yet another type of rescue mission through chorographic description. In his 'Address to the Reader,' which is written in response to Brooke's Discoverie of 1594, Camden distances himself from the type of style production Bacon critiques:
- Verily I acknowledge it, neither have I waied every word in Goldsmith's scales, as Varro commanded, neither purposed I to picke flowres out of the gardens of Eloquence. But why should they obiect this, when as Cicero the father of Eloquence deneith that this kinde of argument can [ . . . ] be flourished out, and as Pomponius Mela said, is incapable of all Eloquent speech (Camden 1610, Sig. Æ4r).
Unlike Varro and Henry Peacham, to whose Garden of Eloquence (1598) Camden alludes, Camden is concerned not with words, but with matter. In this respect, Jonson followed in his master's footsteps. While Griffeth's civility can be measured by his newfound eloquence, his is a 'plain style.' Like Camden, Jonson is committed to a form of invention capable of serving as a serious scholarly tool, and more. Mary Crane concludes her study of the Tudor educational project by stating that in the beginning of the seventeenth century humanist rhetorical techne loses its social efficacy (Crane 1993, 198). But the rhetoricised landscapes in which James repeatedly finds himself in Jonson's entertainments and masques suggest otherwise. For the Honour of Wales clearly demonstrates Jonson's faith in the capability of rhetorical techne to afford a viable means of social control. This performance in particular suggests that, in the hands of Jonson at least, chorography and rhetoric enjoy a mutually constitutive relationship; that while rhetoric affords chorography a culturally sanctioned representational mode, chorography provides rhetoric with much needed subject matter.
- But much suggests that the dialectic between chorography and rhetoric is a more widespread and enduring phenomenon than I have outlined here. Although beyond the limits of this study, it is interesting to note the persistent appearance of rhetorical commonplaces in eighteenth-century topographical poetry. As John Guillory has shown in his genealogical analysis of this genre, rhetoric plays a much different role here from what it does in the Renaissance. No longer an instrument for assimilating classical literature, the notebook method becomes a tool for 'normalising the linguistically heterogeneous works of English literature' (Guillory 1991, 17). The product of this labour, the anthology, property which, like the enclosed fields in which it finds its analogue, figures prominently in the formation of bourgeois cultural identity. In view of this outcome, it is tempting to think about how rhetoric might have begun to work to similar ends in Camden's great commonplace book of Britain. But, as Jonson's masques and the dedication to the 1637 edition of the Britannia attest, the land Camden represents is James's.
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© Copyright Thomas Worden 1998.
Renaissance Forum 1998. ISSN 1362-1149. Volume 3, Number 2, 1998.
Technical Editor: Andrew Butler. Updated
12 May 1999.