Lilly, John

, another dramatic writer, of lesi fame and merit, was born in the Wilds of Kent, about 1553, according to the computation of Wood, who says, “he became a student in Magdalen-college in the beginning of 1569, aged sixteen or thereabouts, and was afterwards one of the demies or clerks of that house.” He took the degree of B.A.April 27, 1573, and of M. A. in 1575. On some disgust, he removed to Cambridge; and thence went to court, where he was taken notice of by queen Elizabeth, and hoped to have been preferred to the post of master of the revels, but after many years of anxious attendance, was disappointed, and was forced to write to the | queen fot some little grant to support him in his old age. Of his two letters, or petitions, to her, many copies are preserved in manuscript. In what year he died is unknown; but Wood says, he was alive in 1597. His attachment to the dramatic Muses produced nine dramatic pieces, none of which, however, have preserved their reputation in our times. Even Phillips, in his “Theatrum,” calls them “old-fashioned tragedies and comedies.” Besides these, Lilly has been celebrated for his attempt, which was a very unhappy one, to reform and purify the English language. For this purpose he wrote a book entitled “Euphues,” which met with a degree of success very unusual, and certainly not less unmerited, being almost immediately and universally followed; at least, if we may give credit to the words of Mr. Blount, who published six of Lilly’s plays together, in one volume in twelves. In a preface to that book he says, “our nation are in his debt for a new English, which he taught them * Euphues and his England ' began first that language all our ladies were his scholars and that beauty at court, which could not parley Euphuisme, that is to say, who was unable to converse in that pure and reformed English, which he had formed his work to be the standard of, was as little regarded as she which now there speaks not French.

According to Mr. Blount, Lilly was deserving of the highest encomiums. He styles him, in his title-page, “the only rare poet of that time, the witty, comical, facetiously quick and unparalleled John Lilly” and in his epistle dedicatory, says, “that hep sate at Apollo’s table that Apollo gave him a wreath of his own bayes without snatching, and the lyre he played on had no borrowed strings.” If, indeed, what has been said with regard to his reformation of the English language had been true, he certainly would have had a claim to the highest hor ours from his countrymen; but those eulogiums are far from well founded, since his injudicious attempts at improvement produced only the most ridiculous affectation. The style of his Euphues exhibits the absurdest excess of pedantry, to which nothing but the most deplorable bad taste could have given even a temporary approbation. Lilly was the author of a famous pamphlet against Martin Mar-prelate and his party, well known to collectors, entitled “Pap with a Hatchet, alias a fig for my godson, &c.” published about 1589, and attributed to Nashe, but was certainly | Lilly’s. His prose work, or rather his two prose works intended to reform the English language, were entitled “Euphues and his England,” Lond. 1580, and “Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit,1581. Some differences of opinion as to the times of publishing these, may be found in our authorities. 1

1

Ath. Ox. vol. I. Biog. Brit Warton’s Hist of Poetry. Phillips’s Theatrum Poetarum, edit. 1800, by Sir E. Bridges. Censura Literaria, vol. I. Ellis’s Specimens, vol. II.