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"Leud Priapians" and Renaissance Pornography Author(s): David O. Frantz Source: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 12, No. 1, The English Renaissance (Winter, 1972), pp. 157-172 Published by: Rice University Stable URL: . Accessed: 21/07/2011 14:59
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and Renaissance "Leud Pornography Priapians"

DAVID 0. FRANTZ Attacks on lewd readers indicate that there was pornography in the Renaissance. The unanimity of these attacks leads one to a corpus of Italian and English erotica which is important in and of itself, revealing in terms of certain English texts, and important in the relationship of Italy and England in the Renaissance. Gabriel Harvey (1545-1630) and Joseph Hall (1574-1656) cite writers like Poggio Bracciolini (13801459), Pietro Aretino (1492-1556), and Thomas Nashe (1567-1601) as the chief purveyors of "filth" in the Renaissance. I examine Italian pornography to provide the background for the English texts and discuss the connections between the two countries in light of Italian pornography, for pornography illuminates England's double-edged response of admiration and detestation for Italy. English jokes and epigrams and Nashe's Choise of Valentines serve as examples of English pornography. John Marston's Metamorphosis of Pigmalions Image (1598) shows how a knowledge of Renaissance pornography is essential for understanding such a poem. The implications of these findings with regard to attacks on pornography by theologians and moralists, works which claim to teach by negative exempla in presenting explicit sexual material, and the interpretation of much Renaissance painting are the issues of the conclusion. A knowledge of Renaissance pornography forces us to an awareness of the sometimes overt sexual nature of such works.

IN "The Author in prayse of his precedent writes: Marston Poem," John Come come Luxurio, crowne my head with Bayes, Which like a Paphian wantonly displayes The Salaminian titillations, Which tickle vp our leud Priapians.l In these lines, written in defense of his Metamorphosis of Pigmalions Image, Marston delineates the character of the readers who are the chief targets of his humor in the Metamorphosis. In so doing, he draws our attention to a certain kind of reader and consequently, a certain kind of literature which has hitherto largely been ignored in Renaissance studies-pornography. The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate that there was a considerable amount of pornography produced in the
1John Marston, "The Author in prayse of his precedent Poem," in The Poems of John Marston, ed. Arnold Davenport (Liverpool, 1961). All Marston references are to this edition.


" L E U D P R I A P I A NS" '

Renaissance, and that a recognition of this pornography is an important aid for reading certain Renaissance texts. Further, I think it can be demonstrated that pornography is a particularly important and revealing subject in the relationship of Italy and England in the Renaissance.2 I While histories and analyses of Renaissance literature have largely ignored Renaissance pornography, the fact remains that there is a whole body of literature which cannot be categorized satisfactorily as, say, Ovidian.3 I do not wish to bog down here over definitions of pornography; our present-day attempts to define the term have been largely self-defeating.4 Perhaps it is enough to be aware of the fact that Renaissance writers themselves did attempt to differentiate between what was bawdy and what was obscene.5 But if Renaissance writers had difficulty determining what constituted obscenity in a given work, they were nonetheless fairly well agreed as to what works constituted the corpus of salacious literature. The satirists, moralists, and theologians who are the indicators in matters of this sort, saw a literature of lust inundating England, and while we would certainly hesitate to regard some of the works which they attacked as obscene in the same
3I am presently completing a book, Festum Voluptatis: A Study of Renaissance Pornography, which will give a much fuller treatment of Italian Renaissance pornography than is presented here. A recent article by David C. McPherson, "Aretino and the Harvey-Nashe Quarrel," PMLA, LXXXIV (1969), 1551-1558, indicates this relationship as well. SHallet Smith, Elizabethan Poetry (Cambridge, Mass., 1952), p. 99, whose categories are extremely useful, is himself aware of this fact. 'See for example, Richard Gilman, "There's a Wave of Pornography/ Obscenity/ Sexual Expressions," The New York Times Magazine, CXVII No. 40, 405 (8 September 1968), 36-37, 69-82. 'Most satirists, moralists, and theologians regarded the whole corpus of bawdy literature as obscene, but some writers were more specific. Marston and Hall both differentiated between works that were bawdy and those which were obscene. In the satire cited on page 160, note that Hall distinguishes between poets who merely "glance" at sexual matters and who "leaue off" at the proper moment, and writers like Nashe (referred to by a citing of Pierce Pennilesse and a Choise of Valentines). Marston in stanza 38 of his Metamorphosis, as he avoids rendition of Pygmalion and his statue brought to life, admonishes his poetry in this manner, "Peace idle Poesie,/ Be not obscene though wanton in thy rhimes."





light, there is some literature that is palpably pornographic. Beyond the great mass of Ovidian works like Marlowe's Hero and Leander in which physical love is treated in all its sensuousness as something praiseworthy, there is a body of literature which, if it does not praise lust, at least presents it in a salacious, uncondemned manner for the pure enjoyment of it all.6 In the works of Joseph Hall and Gabriel Harvey we find remarkable agreement on which authors were considered the most obscene. Hall writes: Enuie ye Muses, at your thriuing Mate, Cupid hath crowned a new Laureat: I saw this Statue gayly tyr'd in greene, As if he had some second Phoebus beene. His Statue trim'd with the Venerean tree,
"The line between physical desire that is love and physical desire that is lust is often a thin and wavering one, and it is one which Renaissance writers struggled to delineate. Robert Burton in his Anatomy of Melanand he says that he will choly tackles the problem of classification, examine "all kinds of Love, his nature, beginning, difference, objects, how it is honest or dishonest, virtue or vice, a natural passion or a disease" (III, 10). Burton discusses all kinds of love following the division of it into Natural, Sensible, and Rational Love. Both the degree to which man is inflamed and the object of his desire seem to distinguish love from lust for Burton. If it "rage, it is no more Love, but burning Lust, a Disease, Phrensy, Madness, Hell" (III,54), and he proceeds to catalogue all of the horrors that result from lust. He admits that there is "an honest love, . . . which is natural, laqueus occultus captivans corda hominum, ut a mulieribus non possint separari, a secret snare to captivate the hearts of men, as Christopher Fonseca proves, a strong allurement, of a most attractive, occult, adamantine property, and powerful virtue, and no man living can avoid it" (111,57). He tells us that "this nuptial love is a common passion, and but in honest, for men to love in the way of marriage" (III,58), contrast to this is passion that is "immoderate, inordinate, and not to be comprehended in any bounds. It will not contain itself within the union of marriage, or apply to one object, but is a wandering, extravagant, a domineering, a boundless, an irrefragable, a destructive passion: sometimes this burning lust rageth after marriage, and then it is properly called Jealousy; sometimes before, and then it is called Heroical Melancholy" (III, 59-60). Even more than the object of passion, it is the degree of passion that determines whether the passion will be love or lust, for if it is inordinate then it follows for Burton that the end of that passion will not be an honest one; as lust "begets The point at which the passion felt rapes, incest, murders" (II,60). becomes inordinate can be defined however, only after we see the end toward which it moves. The issue is complex, and in determining what is glorified physical love and what is lust in literature we also face some hazy boundaries. All citations from Burton are from The Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. A. R. Shilleto (London, 1893).





And shrined faire within your sanctuarie. What, he, that earst to gaine the rhyming Goale The worne Recitall-post of Capitolle, Rymed in rules of Stewish ribaldry, Teaching experimental Baudery? Whiles th' itching vulgar tickled with the song, Hanged on their vnreadie Poets tongue. Take this ye patient Muses: and foule shame Shall waite vpon your once prophaned name. Take this ye muses, this so high dispight, And let all hateful lucklesse birds of night: Let Scriching Oules nest in your razed roofes, And let your floore with horned Satyres hoofe Be dinted and defiled euery morne: And let your walles be an eternall scorne: What if some Shordich furie should incite Some lust-stung letcher, must he needs indite The beastly rites of hyred Venerie, The whole worlds vniversall baud to bee? Did neuer yet no damned Libertine, Nor elder Heathen, nor new Florentine, Tho they were famous for lewd libertie, Venture vpon so shameful villanie. Our Epigrammatarians olde and late, Were wont be blam'd for too licentiate. Chast men, they did but glance at Lesbias deed, And handsomely leaue off with cleanly speed. But Artes of Whoring: stories of the Stewes, Ye Muses can ye brooke, and may refuse? Nay let the Diuell, and Saint Valentine, Be gossips to those ribald rymes of thine. (I. ix. 1-36) 7 Hall has a number of targets in this satire. The lewd reader, for one, is singled out. Hall realizes, as Marston does, that there are those who read with an "itching" to be "tickled" by the song of the poet. His condemnation is effective here partly because the phrases employed carry sexual overtones. Primarily Hall attacks the writers who pander to the expectations of such readers, and his attack is interesting in that he seems to have a definite scale of licentiousness on which he places writers. Typically, he finds the English purveyors of obscenity-Nashe in particular for his poem The Choise of Valentines-the worst. Gabriel Harvey is more inclusive. He writes:
'Joseph Hall, Virgidemiarum in The Collected Poems of Joseph Hall, ed. Arnold Davenport (Liverpool, 1949).





I will not heere decipher thy vnprinted packet of bawdye, and filthy Rymes, in the nastiest kind: there is a fitter place for that discouery of thy foulest shame, & the whole ruffianisme of thy brothell Muse, if she still prostitute her obscene ballatts, and will needes be a young Curtisan of ould knauery. Yet better a Confuter of Letters, than a counfounder of manners: and better the dogges-meate of Agrippa, or Cattesmeat of Poggius, then the swines-meate of Martial, or goates-meate of Arretine. Cannot an Italian ribald, vomit-out the infectious poyson of the world, but an Inglish horrel-lorrel must licke it vp for a restoratiue; and attempt to putrify gentle mindes, with the vilest impostumes of lewde corruption? Phy on impure Ganimeds, Hermaphrodits, Neronists, Messalinists, Dodecomechanists, Capricians, Inuentours of newe, or reuiuers of old leacheries, and the whole brood of venereous Libertines, that knowe no reason, but appetite, no Lawe, but Luste, no humanitie, but Villanye, noe divinity but Atheisme. Such riotous, and incestuous humours would be launced, not feasted: the Diuell is eloquent enough, to play his owne Oratour: his Damme an old bawde, wanteth not the broccage of a young Poet: Wanton sprites were alwayes busie, & Duke Allocer on his lustye Cocke-horse, is a whot Familiar: the sonnes of Adam, & the daughters of Eue, haue noe neede of the Serpentes carowse to set them agogg: Sodom still burneth; and although the fier from heauen spare Gomorra, yet Gomorra stil consumeth itselfe. . . . One Ouid was too-much for Roome; and one Greene too-much for London: but one Nashe more intolerable then both; not bicause his witt is anye thinge comparable, but bicause his will is more outand Will an affectionate seruant to Wisdom; as Labour is a dutifull vassal to Commodity, and Trauall a flying post to Honour; o heavens, what exploites of worth, or rather what miracles of excellency, might be atcheeued in an age of Policy, & a world of Industry. The date of idle vanityes is expired: away with these scribling paltryes: there is another Sparta in hande, that indeede requireth Spartan Temperance, Spartan Frugality, Spartan exercise, Spartan valiancye, Spartan perseuerance, Spartan inuincibility: and hath no wanton leasure for the Comedyes of Athens; nor anye bawdy howers for the songes of Priapus, or the rymes of Nashe. Had he begun to Aretinize, when Elderton begun to ballat, Gascoigne to sonnet, Turberuille to madrigal, Drant to versify, or Tarleton to extemporise; some part of his phantasticall bibble-bables, and capriragious. . . . Were Appetite a loyall subiect to Reason,




cious panges, might haue bene tollerated in a greene, and wild youth: but the winde is chaunged, & there is a busier pageant vpon the stage.8 Harvey here expresses several typical attitudes toward lewd literature. We see that as Hall does, he places the accepted stable of lascivious authors-Poggio, Martial, and Aretinoon a scale according to the degree of their salaciousness. On this scale he too finds that, just as among courtiers for the English (and Italians), there is nothing wTorsethan the "inglese italianato," so in the literary field there is nothing worse than the Englishman who licks up the Italian "vomit," who decides to Aretinize.9 From these two representative attacks we might say that Renaissance pornography consists of collections of dirty jokes and epigrams, and the salacious works of writers like Aretino and Nashe. Clearly one cannot proceed too far in this matter without reference to the Italian tradition of pornography which the English knew at least by reputation, although I think it can be demonstrated in fact as well. II Using the broadest of bases, Italian pornography of the Renaissance can be divided into two categories-learned and popular. From the earliest times in the Italian Renaissance it was not uncommon for the great humanists to engage in the writing of works which were pornographic in nature, if we apply the term as inclusively as possible. Poggio is a case
'Gabriel Harvey, Pierce's Supererogation in The Works of Gabriel Harvey, ed. A. B. Grosart (London, 1884), II, 91-96. McPherson's article (see note 2) has portrayed clearly Harvey's shifting use and view of Aretino in his quarrel with Nashe. 'We are reminded here of Roger Ascham's famous attack on Italy in The Scholemaster. To the staunchly Protestant Ascham the bawdy books of Italy were all part of a Papist plot to undermine England, for Ascham's reasoning was that bawdy books led to bawdy actions which soon corrupted men to the point that they were susceptible to corruption of their religious beliefs. However, not all things Italian were evil in the eyes of Ascham, for he granted that Castiglione's The Courtier was a book that all men should read. What we see here is England's doubleedged response to Italy in the Renaissance; on the one hand Italy provided the ideals and models for imitation by the English in so many areas, especially literature. On the other hand, Italy and things Italian, especially bawdy books, were to be shunned at all times.





in point, and one to which I shall return, but there are many others. As jesting exercises in which they demonstrated their literary skills and as part of the amusement for their famous "academies" and eating clubs,10Francesco Berni, F. M. Molza, Annibale Caro, and Francesco Bini produced works in praise of "Peaches," in praise of "Figs," a lengthy commentary on the praise of "Figs," and a poem in praise of the "French Disease." These are only a few titles in the famous tradition of the mock encomium;1l they were certainly not unknown in England, and the tradition was carried on there in such works as William Fennor's Cornucopiae: Pasqui's Nightcap: or Antidote to the Headachel2 and Sir John Harington's Metamorphosis of Ajax which lists at the outset some of the most famous mock encomia. Further, the Italian humanists wrote a good many witty, obscene epigrams and sonnets (Berni's are the most famous); a practise the English were quick to engage in. Popular pornography in Italy, works like the Dialogues of Aretino and the works of his secretaries, comprise a body of literature quite different from the works of the humanists. While Berni, Molza, and Caro all employ metaphor and double meaning in their writings, rarely mentioning or describing sexual intercourse directly or using the Italian equivalent of four-letter words. Aretino and especially the writers of his school insist upon it. At one point in his Ragionamenti, Aretino, who has employed a fantastic variety of expressions for copulation through most of the dialogue,13has Antonio say to Nanna:
?The monumental work on this subject is Michele Maylender's Storia delle Accademie D'Italia, 5 vols., (Bologna, 1926-1930). Two of the most famous clubs were instructively named the Accademia degli Ortolani in Piacenza and the Accademia dei Vignaiuoli in Rome. Some of the names taken by the members include il Semenza, il Fico, and il Carota. "Rosalie Colie's Paradoxia Epidemica (Princeton, 1966), lists a number of them. "John L. Lievsay's delightful and informative book, The Englishman's Italian Books, 1550-1700 (Philadelphia, 1969) surprisingly overlooks this work so pertinent to his final chapter. "As Francesco Flora states in his edition of Aretino's Lettere (Verona, 1960), p. lvii, "'Nei Ragionamenti e duttilita di metafore a dir il medesimo atto, una vera forma di virtuosismo comico: e trovate di spirito sempre nuove sono spesso nei paragoni anche trivali ... e una nettezza di visione a fuocco esatto, nel descrivere persone e oggetti e paesi. E son poi i gusti del pittore che immagina quadri e li dipinge con la parola."



6LE U D P R I A P I A N S "

Io te lo ho voluto dire, ed emmisi scordato: parla intesa se non dalla Sapienza Capranica con cotesto tuo "cordone nello anello", "guglia nel coliseo", "porro nello orto", "chiavistello ne l'uscio", "chiave nella serratura", "pestello nel mortaio", "rossignuolo nel nido", "piantone nel fosso", "sgonfiatoio nella animella", "stocco nella guaina"; e cosi "il piuolo", "il pastorale," "la pastinaca," "la monina," "la cotale," "il cotale", "le mele", "le carte del messale", "quel fatto", "quella novella", "il manico", "la freccia", "la carota", "la radice" e la merda che ti sia non vo' dire in gola, poi che vuoi andare su le punte dei zoccoli; ora di si al si e no al no: se non, tientelo.14 And there follows a good deal of graphic description of sexual intercourse of all kinds, especially in this Day One of the Ragionamenti which tells of the nuns' lives. While Aretino's Dialogues were certainly known in Englandl5 (they were in fact published there in 1583-1584) ,16 the work of his most commonly cited as obscene by the English, La Puttana Errante, was probably written by one of his secretaries, Nicolo Franco.17
"Pietro Aretino,I Ragionamenti in Sei Giornate ed. Giovanni Aquilechia (Bari, 1969), p. 35. The English translation of 1889, Pietro Aretino, The Ragionamenti or Dialogues of the Divine Pietro Aretino (Paris, 1889), pp. 57-58, presents the following: Speak plainly, and saycu, ca, po and fo; otherwise thou wilt be understood by nobody if it be not by the Sapienza Capranica, with thy rope in the ring, thy obelisk in the Culiseum, thy leak in the garden, thy key in the lock, thy pestle in the mortar, thy nightingale in the nest, thy dibble in the drill, thy syringe in the valve, thy stock in the scabbard, and the stake, crosier, parsnep, little monkey, the this, the that, the apples, the Missal leaves, the affair, the VERBI GRATIA, the thing, the job, the story, the handle, the dart, the carrot, the root and the shit, mayst
thou have it! .

alla libera, e di "cu', ca', po', e fo'


che non sarai

"il verbigrazia",

"quella cosa",



. I shall not say in the snout, since thou wilt

walk on the tips of thy shoes. Well, say yes for yes, and no for no, or else keep it to thyself. "One copy of the Prima Parte de Ragionamenti cited by Aquilecehia has the autograph of William Cecil, Lord Burleigh on the frontispiece. "The best information on English printing of Italian works can be found in Harry R. Hoppe, "John Wolfe, Printer and Publisher, 15791601," The Library, 4th series, XIV, 3,241-288; Harry Sellers, "Italian Books Printed in England Before 1640," The Library, 4th series, V, 2,105-128; and the notes to Aquilecchia's edition of Aretino. "The authorship is disputed, but both G. Legman in The Horn Book (New Hyde Park, New York, 1964), p. 91, and David Foxon, "Libertine Literature in England, 1660-1745," The Book Collector, XII (Summer,




La Puttana Errante is a frank dialogue between two courtesans, Madalena and Guiliana, and principally it narrates in colloquial language18 Madalena's initiation into the realm of sexual relations-of all sorts. We are shown Madalena at age eleven, spying on her masturbating cousin, her lesbian relationship with her aunt at the same age, her voyeuristic exposure to hetero-sexual relationships as she watches her cousin and his wife perform, her own beginnings in such activities, her sexual indulgence with her cousin while his wife is away, her remarkable career as a courtesan (especially her relationship with a clergyman and a young man who all enjoyed their various pleasures in a menage a trois)-and of this is described in the most graphic and detailed manner. The book ends with a listing of thirty-five different positions for enjoying sexual intercourse.19 Finally of major importance in Italy, and in a sense joining the two traditions of pornography,20 there was Poggio, the first great collector of dirty jokes, who provides an excellent transition to a short look at English pornography in the Renaissance. Poggio's jests, first published in Latin in 1450, by his own attestation "flooded all Italy, overflowed into France, Spain,
1963), 168, list Franco as the probable author. The confusion stems from the fact that Aretino gladly lent his name to the original title page, and that there was a poem of the same title written by another of Aretino's secretaries, Lorenzo Veniero. "James Cleugh, The Divine Aretino (New York, 1966), p. 70, also stresses this point. "The tradition behind the listing of posizioni in Italian pornographic works stems from the famous scandal perpetrated by Giulio Romano, Pietro Aretino, and Marcantonio Raimondi. (A romanticized account exists in Legman's The Horn Book, pp. 23, 79, 80; David Foxon, op. cit., presents the facts in a more straight-forward manner.) Briefly, Romano did a series of sixteen cartoons showing various positions of sexual intercourse on the walls in the stanze in the Vatican. These he quickly painted over, but Raimondi made a series of plates with designs taken from the cartoons, and Aretino later added a sonnet for each plate. Pope Leo X was not happy when the prints fell into his hands, and Romano and Aretino fled Rome while Raimondi went to jail for a short time. "Obviously, Poggio does not join the two traditions in any conscious or chronological sense; the two traditions can be seen together here in the sense that while the jokes are folk humor on one level and do not necessarily depend on metaphor and double-entendre, as collected by Poggio, they are the work of a humanist in their targets (especially the vices of the Church).




Germany, England, and every other country where Latin was A good many of his jests deal with lust in some understood."21 form or other, usually as it concerns cuckoldry. Poggio's jests prove the source for a good number of English jest books of course,22 and one example should suffice to demonstrate the tenor of such works: A yonge man of Bruges, that was betroughed to a fayre mayden, came on a tyme, whan her mother was out of the way; and had to do with her. Whan her mother was come in, anone she perceyved by her doughters chere, what she had done; wherfore she was sore displesed, that she sewed a diuorse, and wolde in no wyse suffre that the yonge man shulde marye her daughter. Nat longe after, the same yonge man was maryed to an other mayden of the same parysshe: and as he and his wyfe satte talkynge on a tyme of the forsayed dammusell, to whome he was betrouthed, he fell in a nyce laughyng. Wherat laughe ye, quod his wyfe? It chaunced on a tyme (quod he), that she and I dydde suche a thyng to gether, and she tolde it to her mother. Therin (quod his wyfe) she played the foole: a servante of my fathers played that game with me an hundred tymes, and yet I neuer tolde my mother. Whan he herde her saye so, he lefte his nyce laughynge.23 In the typical jest fashion the husband is made a fool as he is cuckolded retroactively in the foregoing tale. While jest books were certainly abundant in England, the works of the epigrammatists were no less in evidence, and English epigrammatists also achieve most of their humor at the expense of cuckolds, although the lust of women is also given fair play. Any number of verses in Henry Parrot's Laquei ridiculosi attest to this. We are given, for example:
"Poggio Bracciolini, The Facetiae of Giovanni Francesco Poggio Bracciolini, tr. Bernhardt J. Hurwood (New York, 1968), p. 21. Hurwood takes his information from William Shepherd, The Life of Poggio Bracciolini (Liverpool, 1837), pp. 415-416, 420-421. "Now collected and reprinted under the title Shakespeare Jest-Books, ed. W. Carew Hazlett (New York, 1964). Many sources are listed in Mary A. Scott, Elizabethan Translations from Italian (Baltimore, 1895-1899). "Mery Tales, Wittie Questions and Quicke Answers in Shakespeare Jest-Books, LXXIII; XCVII in Florence edition (1581) of Poggio; CLVI in Hurwood's translation.




Kate, for a need, deales in Astronomie, And can of times and things prognosticate; For as they vse vpon their backs to lie, And censure of the weathers changing state; So she (her body laid) can prophesie Whether it shall proue colde, hot moyst, or dry.24 The widow is often rendered the most lustful of women, the most eager to engage in Venus's warfare. Parrot pens these lines to that type: A Souldier once a Widdow would haue woo'd, But being poore and loath to be deni'd, Durst not impart how he affected stood, Which she as soone thus censur'd as espi'd: You may be valiant (sir) but seeme vnlusty, That either haue no weapon, or tis rusty.25 The degree of the widow's lust is given added emphasis here by the fact that it is a soldier, typically the most lustful of men, whom she must encourage. While jests and epigrams in the English Renaissance are clearly part of the pornography produced, their humor tends to keep them in the realm of the comic bawdy, and they remain down the list on the scale of obscenity, for they do not, after all, present long, graphic descriptions of sexual intercourse. As we have noted, it is Thomas Nashe who stands pre-eminent-even granting Harvey's bias-as the author of English obscenity. Nashe states in the preface to Nashes Lenten Stuff e26 that he styled himself the English Aretino, and I think he does so in his writing of pornography as much as in his other writing.27 If Italian models are proper in other literary and courtly endeavors, should they not also be the models for pornog"Henry Parrot, Laquei ridiculosi: or Springes for Woodcocks (London, 1613), I. 12. 'GParrot,I. 121. "Thomas Nashe, Nashes Lenten Stuffe in The Works of Thomas Nashe ed. R. B. McKerrow, reprinted and ed. F. P. Wilson (New York, 1966), III, 152. All references to Nashe are from this edition. '7G. R. Hibbard in Thomas Nashe: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge, Mass., 1962) takes note of Nashe's admiration for Aretino and desire to imitate Aretino, but he makes very little of this. I think it can be shown that Aretino was a model for Nashe on many levels, not the least of which was pornographer and mocker who has made good as a professional man of letters.




raphy?28 This would seem to be Nashe's line of reasoning, and his Choise of Valentines is certainly the most overtly pornographic poem of the English Renaissance; lust is glorified or at least displayed in a fashion meant to arouse the salacious reader's sensibilities. The poem begins as the poet tells us that he went to find his Valentine but discovered Good Iustice Dudgein-haft, and crab-tree face With bills and staues had scar'd hir from the place; And now she was compell'dfor Sanctuarie To flye unto a house of venerie. Thither went I, and bouldlie made enquire If they had hackneis to lett-out to hire, And what they crau'd by order of their trade To lett one ride a iournie on a iade. (21-28) The bawd takes him to a room where he passes by all the flowers of the fair sex on display until his Valentine appears. He exclaims to the Madame: Oh, I am rauish't; voide the chamber streight, For, I must neede's upon hir with my weight. (79-80) There follows a description of his approach to his Valentine. It begins in a manner that indicates nothing much beyond a full Ovidian treatment: I com, I com; sweete lyning be thy leaue, Softlie my fingers, up theis curtaine, heaue And make me happy stealing by degreese. First bare hir leggs, then creepe vp to hir kneese. From thence ascend unto hir mannely thigh. (A pox on lingring when I am so nighe) Smocke climbe a-pace, that I maie see my ioyes, Oh heauen, and paradize are all by toyes, Compar'dwith this sight, I now behould, Which well might keepe a man from being olde. (99-108) An Ovidian poem would not be too explicit about what the poet sees upon lifting the smock; Nashe is. He tells us he sees:
"Nashe thus offers a nice twist to the English view of Italy discussed in note 9, since he bases his imitation on things Italian which for most Englishmen constitute the negative aspects of Italy.






A prettie rysing wombe without a weame, That shone as bright as anie siluer streame; And bare out lyke the bending of an hill, At whose decline a fountain dwelleth still, That hath his mouth besett with uglie bryers Resembling much a duskie nett of wyres. (109-114) Still, all description here is done by metaphor and simile; the display is not overt-yet. The poet, upon viewing all of this tells us: Hir arme's are spread, and I am all unarm'd Lyke one with Ouids cursed hemlock charm'd, So are my limm's unwealdie for the fight, That spend their strength in thought of hir delight. What shall I doe to shewe my self a man? It will not be for ought that beawtie can. I kisse, I clap, I feele, I view at will, Yett dead he lyes not thinking good or ill. (123-130) The poet's previous "I com, I com" carries more significance now, and realizing this, the Valentine responds with a display of unadulterated lust in action: Vnhappie me, quoth shee, and wilt' not stand? Coin, lett me rubb and chafe it with my hand. Perhaps the sillie worm is labour'd sore, And wearied that it can doe no more. If it be so (as I am greate a-dread) I wish tenne thousand times, that I were dead. How ere it is; no meanes shall want in me, That maie auaile to his recouerie. Which saide, she tooke and rould it on hir thigh, And when she lookt' on't, she would weepe and sighe, And dandles it, and dance't it up and doune, Not ceasing, till she rais'd it from his swoune. And then he flue on hir as he were wood, And on hir breeche did thack, and foyne a-good; He rub'd, and prickt, and pierst her to the bones, Digging as farre as eath he might for stones. Now high, now lowe, now stryking short and thick; Now dyuing deepe he toucht hir to the quick. Now with a gird, he would his course rebate; Streite would he take him to a statlie gate, Plaie while him list; and thrust he neare so hard,




Poor pacient Grisell lyeth at hir warde, And giue's, and takes's as blythe and free as Maye, And ere-more meete's him in the midle waye. (131-154) One need hardly cite the ensuing verse describing the prolonged sexual act the poet and his Valentine enjoy (She implores him to take his time, to "die" together with her; he describes how "she itching moues hir hipps,/ And to and fro, full lightlie starts and skips"), or her final actions when the poet proves incapable of completely satisfying her lust, and she takes up her "little dilldo." Indeed it seems gratuitous for Nashe to tell us, as he does at the end of the poem, that we are dealing with "lasciuious witt" in this poem, and if indeed there are parts that are witty in the modern sense of the word, there are many parts that are simply lascivious, nothing more or less, and they exist to appeal to the licentious reader. The Choise of Valentines is one of the few unadulterated pornographic works of the English Renaissance. It purports no moral end, it does not say that it is trying to teach by negative example; it does not condemn lust. It appeals frankly to those who had, as Hall wrote, an "itching" to be "tickled" by the author. There are also other sorts of works which we would not term pornographic; they are only partially or superficially so, but they very clearly have such lascivious readers in mind. John Hynd's Eliosto Libidinoso is one such work. All of the characters in Hynd's tale seem affected by lust in one way or another, and at one point he gives us Eliosto and Cleodora together: But within a while, she being appeased, they entred their bed chamber, and having layd aside their apparell (as some men vse to doe their friends) vntill they had neede to vse them againe, they reposed their dainty bodies in the prepared bed. In which bed it might seeme that Cupid had taken vp his lodging, and yet not to rest: he came naked, and without all armor, and yet not without his dart: he was her Mars, Paris, Ganymedes, She his Venus, Helena, Polixena, Aemilia. Now he praised her faire eyes, commended her soft cheekes, her full swelling pappes; and yet not satisfied with delight, he often lifted vp the sheete, to make

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the sence of his sight partaker of those ioies, which his feeling had before possessed.29 True, this is hardly pornographic and only mildly suggestive, but given the title of his work, and the almost voyeuristic manner in which Eliosto lifts the sheet to satisfy his sight, we must suspect that Hynd was appealing to his audience's expectation of lust in action for its own sake. Granted, next to Nashe's poem, Hynd's work is mild stuff; the reader for whom it is intended is still the same. III It is against this background of Renaissance pornography and especially against the writers' knowledge of readers of that literature that I think one can most fruitfully read poems like Marston's Metamorphosis of Pigmalions Image where he skillfully engages in warfare with such readers,30 a process which he describes in The Scourge of Villanie: Another makes old Homer, Spencer cite Like my Pigmalion, where, with rare delight He cryes, O Ouid. This caus'd my idle quill, The worlds dull eares with such lewd stuffe to fill, And gull with bumbast lines, the witlesse sence Of these odde naggs; whose pates circumference Is fild with froth! 0 these same buzzing Gnats That sting my sleeping browes, these Nilus Rats, Halfe dung, that haue their life from putrid slime, These that doe praise my loose lasciuious rime:
For these same shades I seriously protest

I slubber'd vp that Chaos indigest, To fish for fooles, that stalke in goodly shape, What though in veluet cloake, yet still an Ape. Capro reads, sweares, scrubs, and sweares againe, Now by my soule an admirable straine, Strokes vp his haire, cryes passing passing good, Oh, there's a line incends his lustful blood. (SV, VI, 59-76)
2'John Hynd, Eliosto Libidinoso (London, 1606), pp. 15-16. "There has been little critical agreement on how to read this poem; most of the arguments center on the question as to whether the poem is a parody of Ovidian poems so popular at the time or whether it is merely a poor rendering which Marston later tried to explain away. Hallet Smith was one of the first to draw attention directly to the point that the "satirical purpose of the poem lies in the author's attitude toward the reader" Elizabethan Poetry, p. 239.




Marston was fishing "for fooles," mainly I think by leading the salacious reader on with enough suggestions to hope that Marston would in fact tell all: And now me thinks some wanton itching eare With lustful thoughts, and ill attention, List's to my Muse, expecting for to heare The amorous discription of that action Which Venus seekes, and euer doth require, When fitnes graunts a place to please desire. (MPI, stanza 33) Marston does not, of course, tell all, and he castigates the "leud Priapians" for wanting him to do so, but his method raises some important questions with regard to our reading of Renaissance literature and especially our view of Renaissance readers. For example, what are we to make of the works of the theologians and moralists who attack lust and pornography in such graphic terms that they themselves might be open to the charge of being obscene?31Or how indeed are we to react to works which present us with explicit material and say that they are doing so in order to teach by negative example?32 Or in a different realm of the arts, so important for pornography, how are we to view much of the painting of the Italian Renaissance which supposedly teaches, through the erotic classical myths which it portrays, great Neoplatonic or moral truths?38These are questions which I think a knowledge of Renaissance pornography at least forces us to ask, even if it may not provide immediate and easy answers.

'1See for example "A Sermon against Whoredom and Uncleannesse" in Certaine sermons appoynted by the Queenes Maiestie, to be declared and read, by all Parsons, Vicars, and Curates, euery Sunday and Holy day in their Churches: and ouerseene, for the better vnderstanding of the symple people (London, 1576); Robert Bolton, The Carnall Professor (London, 1634); and The Anathomie of Sinne (London, 1603). "Hynd's Eliosto Libidinoso is surely one such work, as is noted by Walter R. Davis, Idea and Act in Elizabethan Fiction (Princeton, 1969), p. 192. "Titian's Venuses come immediately to mind. The whole area of pornography and Renaissance art needs extensive study, especially with regard to the works of Giulio Romano at the Palazzo del Te in Mantua and the many series of the "Loves of the Gods" from Giulio through Perino del Vaga to Agostino Carracci.