Эссе: The Life of Alexander Barclay

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... To students of literature the name of Alexander Barclay is linked with his Ship of Fools-a translation, or rather a derivation, from the Narrenschiff of Sebastian Brant. Brant's poem had such universal appeal that it was translated into several languages, and was popular throughout Europe in the sixteenth century. Barclay was fortunate in his original, and his rendition came at an opportune time. But the reputation of Barclay does not rest upon the Ship of Fools alone. He was industrious in literary work and the list of his writings includes many books. Among them are the Introductory to Write and Pronounce Frenche, a translation of Sallust, the Myrrour of Good Manners, and the five Eclogues. Besides the foregoing, he is the author of many works that have not survived. Such a writer must have had considerable fame in his own day. That he was known at court is shown by the fact that he was considered a suitable poet to devise "Histories and Convenient Raisons" for the Field of the Cloth of Gold. John Bale, a contemporary, in spite of a bitter personal prejudice, speaks of him as "poeta ac rhetor insignis." If he were so well known as all this would imply, it seems curious that the facts of his life should be so uncertain. The date and place of his birth are unknown, his nationality is a matter of dispute, and the surviving details of his career are few. His biographers have collected the scattered facts of his life, drawn conclusions from them, and deduced others on the theory that in his works Barclay reproduces his own experience. Such to a certain extent, is the character of the most elaborate discussion that has yet appeared-the sketch prefixed by Jamieson to his edition of the Ship of Fools.1 Koelbing in the latest criticism of Barclay, the section devoted to him in the Cambridge History of English Literature,2 follows rather closely the work of his predecessor. But further light is thrown upon Barclay's career by the Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII3 which was published subsequent to Jamieson's work, and was apparently unknown to Koelbing. It is barely mentioned by Jusserand4 in his history of English Literature. Gardiner, in his introduction to the Letters and Papers, calls attention to the letters concerning Barclay as a source of biographical material, but apparently no attempt has been made to reconstruct the details of Barclay's life in the light of this new information....