Contents Copyright Maria-Luisa Minio-Paluello, 2005


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It is interesting to find that Mr. Oakeshott in his book, published in 1960, commenting on this episode, uses the same words as Nashe's Autumn uses against Sol in the passage which we shall presently quote. The words are not unusual but the coincidence is interesting, remembering that Mr. Oakeshott in his book does not consider Summers Last Will and Testament in relation to his subject, or otherwise. 1 He says: "Ralegh's upstart arrogance was part of Essex' theme" 2. Also the keyword of Essex' theme (Disdain) and the words of the Earl of Oxford's insult "the Jack and an upstart"3 are found in Autumn's lines against Sol.

"O arrogance exceeding all beliefe
...this sawcy upstart Jacke
.....
And makes all starres derive their light from him,
Is a most base, insinuating slave,
The sonne of parsimony and disdaine"4 (S.L.W.&T.) (471-76)

Arrogance, low birth, key position at court, unworthiness of the favour he enjoyed; all these could be brought as charges against Ralegh by his enemies; both Oxford and Essex had done so in public, and their words cannot have found their way into Nashe's lines merely by chance.

In Winter's speech, which follows Autumn's, there is among others a curious accusation which I think can be fully explained and justified only when it is interpreted with reference to Sir Walter Ralegh; Winter says of Sol:

"Forth purest mines he suckes a gainefull drosse":(484)

Now, Ralegh had been appointed Warden of the Stannaries, the mines of tin and the smelting works of Cornwall and Devon, in 1585, when he was made Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall and Vice Admiral of the Western Counties; this monopoly had enabled him "to make a fortune for himself" 5. This opportunity lent itself to being used against him by envious "colleagues", and accusations of exploitation are evident in Winter's "suckes a gainefull drosse"6.

This interpretation is confirmed by the accusation which follows immediately after the one about the mines:

"Green Ivy-bushes at the Vintners doores
He withers, and devoureth all their sap" (485-6)

This is an obvious allusion to another of Ralegh's profitable and controversial privileges - namely his patent to licence the vending of wines throughout the country, granted to him in 1584, to which the Queen in 1588 added the benefit of tonnage and poundage (on wine)7. The accusation alludes of course to the cut in the vintners' profits because of the taxes levied by Ralegh on wine.

But there was also, in 1584, a long controversy between Ralegh and the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge about Ralegh's right to license his own vintners there; the phases of this controversy are reported in full by Oldys8. The University also could license its own vintners, and, when Ralegh began granting new licences, the old vintners would not accept the new licences: it took Ralegh a whole year to have his authority in this matter recognised by Cambridge. During that time there were several brawls between the Cambridge vintners, and Nashe who was at University there at that time must have been aware of these episodes; thus the allusion probably refers to also to those Cambridge vintners who feared loss of business on account of Ralegh's new licences.

Sol however justifies himself against these charges by saying to Summer:
"What I have done, you gave me leave to do." (508)
insisting as usual on the legality of his actions as being based on the mandate of the Sovereign. In fact the privileges in question had been granted to him directly by the Queen.

I think that the three lines:

"Foorth purest mines he suckes a gainefull drosse:
Greene Ivy-bushes at the Vintners doores
He withers, and devoureth all their sap."(484-6)

are very important and ought to be considered fundamental to the demonstration of the hypothesis that the character of Sol is a personal allusion to Sir Walter Ralegh. This allusion refers to mines and vintners - (two subjects which would not normally be regarded as a pair), in three consecutive lines which are in an emphatic position (the last three lines of Winter's speech), in an episode where

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1. Summers Last Will and Testament does not even appear among Nashe's works in the list included in "Time Chart" at the end of Mr. Oakeshott's book (pp.224 - 25).

2. The Queen and the poet, cit., p. 31

3. Sir Robert NAUNTON, op. cit., p. 43

4. The italics in this and the previous quotations are mine.

5. M. C. Bradbrook, op. cit., p.4 and p.30

6. Theories about the properties of the rays of the sun (heat and fire) to purify metals under the surface of the earth can be found in Renaissance pseudo scientific works. Grosart, in his notes to his edition of Nashe quotes passages to this effect (Vol. VI, p.221 - mines": ... "heate ... cleaneth mettels and destroyeth the ruste thereoff and other filth ..."; and " ...fire hath vertue and kinde nature of purging and cleaning; for fire purgeth and cleaneth oft sinder ad ruste and emendeth mettell ...". The twist given by Nashe to the "kinde nature" by turning it into a source of gain can only be explained by considering Ralegh's profitable office.

7. OLDYS, op. cit., p. 59 and p.113

8.Life of Ralegh cit., p.60


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