Selected Writings of Fulke Greville 9781472554178, 9781472513397

The work of Fulke Greville (1554-1628) is a distinctive blend of poetic sensibility, intellectual power and the experien

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Selected Writings of Fulke Greville
 9781472554178, 9781472513397

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INTRODUCTION In the old chapter house, now the vestry, of St Mary's church in Warwick there stands the very large tomb of Fulke Greville. The inscription round its sides reads: 'Fulke Greville, Servant of Queen Elizabeth, Counsellor to King James, Friend to Sir Philip Sidney'. The inscription was of Greville's own composition and it may seem brief to the point of baldness and appear to provide an inadequate summary of the life of one who lived for seventy-four years, from 1554 to 1628, was a great landowner, a distinguished courtier and statesman, and a writer whose works have never been forgotten, though the absence till recently of good modern editions and failure to appreciate their real nature has prevented their being widely read. In fact the inscription is in its way eloquent and its three terms direct us at once to the areas of Greville's life where his intellectual energies and his personal emotions were most engaged. He went to court as a young man, full of ambition to serve his country and to make his mark in the world in some active and perhaps spectacular way. He chafed as many others did at the restrictions which Elizabeth imposed on her courtiers and when he could not get her permission to leave the country to take part in various enterprises abroad he attempted to leave without her knowledge. On one occasion he and Sidney stole away to Plymouth to join Drake with the intention of sailing with him to the West Indies. But Elizabeth firmly curbed such gestures of independence and in the end Greville resigned himself to the situation and set about making himself useful in the directions which were open to him. He represented his home county of Warwickshire in five parliaments between 1586 and 1621 (his family seat was at AIcester) , and he became Treasurer of the Navy in 1598. He came to exercise considerable influence at court and it was said of him that he had the longest time without rub of any of Queen Elizabeth's favourites. His own comments on Queen Elizabeth and her policies in his writings leave no doubt that he genuinely admired and esteemed her and in the end he willingly and proudly became her 'servant'.

CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE 1554 Fulke Greville born at Beauchamp's Court, Alcester, Warwickshire. Philip Sidney born. 1564 Greville enters Shrewsbury School. Sidney enters on the same day. Shakespeare born, Stratford-upon-Avon. 1568 Greville enters Jesus College, Cambridge. 1575 He probably makes his first appearance at Court, together with Sidney. 1577 Greville sent by the Queen, with Sidney, on a mission to Germany and the Netherlands. 1578 Greville volunteers for service in the Netherlands wars but is stopped by the Queen on the point of embarkation. 1580 He is given command of a ship guarding the Irish coast against an expected Spanish landing. Sidney writes his Apology for Poetry. 1581 Greville sits in Parliament as member for Southampton but the election is later declared invalid. 1583 Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher, famous for his forward-looking, unconventional thought, visits England. Sidney marries Frances Walsingham. 1584 Greville elected as M.P. for Heydon in Yorkshire. Greville and Sidney entertain Bruno to supper on Ash Wednesday. An account of the evening is given in Bruno's La Gena de le Generi. 1585 Greville and Sidney attempt to join Drake on an expedition to the West Indies but are prevented by the Queen. Sidney appointed Governor of Flushing in the Netherlands. 1586 Greville elected to represent Warwickshire in Parliament. (He continues to sit for Warwickshire in successive Parliaments till 1601 and again in 1621.) Sidney dies of wounds in the Netherlands in October. 1587 Greville serves under Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV) in France.