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Saturday morning quotes 7.18: Last tear

November 10, 2018


We return with just a few final words supplementary to our seven-part series on John Dowland’s Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares, and we add a bit more commentary on the most substantial piece of evidence revealing a glimpse of the character of the man himself,  Dowland’s 1595 letter to Robert Cecil.

In a previous post, we mentioned Fretworks Editions’ 400th anniversary publication of Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares, edited by Lynda Sayce and David Pinto (2004).  A copy of this excellent edition was bequeathed to us by our much lamented correspondent, the late Edward Doughtie (1935 – 2014), author of the important critical compilation of texts from the golden age of English lute songs, Lyrics from English Airs, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1970.  Tucked in amongst the other arcana Ed kindly shared with us is an unassuming envelope containing a crystal clear photograph of Dowland’s 1595 letter, taken some 50 years ago.

As briefly as possible on this very busy Saturday, we share a few of David Pinto’s prefatory remarks from his modern edition of Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares, as well as images from the letter, posted below.

Flogging away at the theme of a distinctly modern reformist tendency toward the secularization of the past, we refer again to remarks made by the ensemble Phantasm’s director Lawrence Dreyfus in the notes to his recording:

“Dowland dedicated Lachrimae to Anne of Denmark – Queen of England and Scotland – whom he praises as an ideal amalgam of three pagan goddesses: Juno, Pallas Athena and Venus. Having invoked a female trinity, Dowland can scarcely have intended a reference to Christianity.”

The dedicatory remarks to which Dreyfus refers are from Dowland’s original 1604 publication, reproduced by David Pinto in his own introduction:

“Triply blest, with you as queen, the Scots-English-Irish: You [who are] sister and wife, also mother, of a king.  Jointly you hold three realms, three godheads in one: Juno in might, in thought Pallas, in form Venus.”

As Pinto elucidates, Dowland, in his 1604 dedication to Queen Anne, was addressing a fellow Catholic recusant:

“In 1598 [Dowland] accepted possibly easier-going medium-term service to a Lutheran, the Danish King Christian IV; but Lachrimæ, appearing soon after the death of Elizabeth I, betrays his longer-term ambition.  By no coincidence, its dedication was to a fellow-convert: Christian’s sister Anna, otherwise Anne of Denmark, the new queen consort in England.”

– Pinto, p. iv

The use of imagery from classical mythology was actually more than a mere fancy—Dowland had insider knowledge of courtly entertainments, and the Queen had quite recently played the part of Pallas Athena in a masque:

“The same ‘conceit’ was served to Anne by Emilia Lanier in Salve Deus Rex Iudæorum (dated 1611; issued late 1610), stanzas 2-3.  Hyperbole of this sort was her lot, so long as artists’ hopes lived that as  ‘Ori-Anna’ she would prove more bountiful than her predecessor ‘Oriana’.  Dowland’s compliment was still timely: a few months before publication, Anne enacted the part of Pallas in Samuel Daniel’s masque The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, presented in the Great Hall at Hampton Court, 8th January 1604.  Lucy Harrington, Countess of Bedford, the dedicatee of Dowland’s Second Booke (1600), the queen’s great favourite on her first coming into England, was its rectrix chori.”

– Pinto, p. ix

As for the religious nature of Dowland’s sequence of seven pavans from Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares, Pinto observes:

“The traditional fourfold ‘passions’ were grief, fear, hope and joy.  Any irregular, baroque sevenfold extrapolation on that basis must be Dowland’s own.  The only concerns that can have shaped it were personal: his, or those of his dedicatee, Queen Anne.  The only valid means to convey either of those publicly (if by preference we restrict evidence to the verifiable) was in religion.  Queen and subject alike encountered opposition to their faith in England.  Anne’s recusancy, public[ly] report[ed] in London after her coronation, possibly emboldened Dowland to seek access to her in 1603.  In his resulting musical offering, the dedicatory preface and musical layout show that the cycle of Tears was that part addressed to her personally: his audience with her confirms its aptness.”

– Pinto, p. ix

On to Dowland’s letter to Cecil, Pinto astutely observes that, while Dowland showed every outward sign of remorse for having fallen in with enemies of Queen Elizabeth, he did not in fact deny his religion.

“Admissions that he made in 1595 from Germany, writing back with reckless frankness to the guarantor of his travel, Robert Cecil (later 1st Earl of Salisbury), also deserve scrutiny.  To Cecil, the greatest enemy of a new catholic missionary zeal that England held, he was prepared or even obliged to concede himself a thing illegal there: a youthful convert to Rome of fifteen years standing, held unemployable by his own queen by being — in his own words — ‘a catholic at home’ whom she had tartly declared ‘a man to serve any prince in the world, but I was an obstinate papist’. He promised Cecil conformity to English law and severance from the sect of the Jesuits (or any exiled faction that plotted regime-change in England), but significantly did not otherwise renounce his recusant status.  There is every sign that he still looked for sympathetic or co-religionist English patrons.  Certainly, he panicked while in Italy (on the unlicensed excursion that was bound to alienate Cecil), and forewent chances of a position in Rome as the implications of exile sunk in.”

– Pinto, p. iv

For much more contextual detail and astute critical commentary on Dowland’s letter, we refer our readers to  John Dowland, Letter to Robert Cecil (1595), A critical hypertext edition by David Pinto, The Philological Museum.  We leave you today with a reproduction of Edward Doughtie’s photo of the letter, written in Dowland’s own hand.




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