JOHN SKELTON, also known as JOHN SHELTON (c. 1463 – 21 June 1529),
possibly born in
* 1 Education
Skelton is said to have been educated at Oxford , though it is
documented that he studied at Cambridge . He could be the "one
Scheklton" mentioned by William Cole as taking his M.A. degree at
Cambridge in 1484, but this is unconfirmed. In 1490,
The laureateship referred to was a degree in rhetoric . As well as
Oxford, in 1493 Skelton received the same honour at Cambridge, and
In the last decade of the 15th century he was appointed tutor to
Prince Henry (afterwards King Henry VIII of
Skelton frequently signed himself "regius orator" and poet-laureate ,
but there is no record of any emoluments paid in connection with these
dignities, although the Abbé du Resnel , author of "Recherches sur
les poètes couronnez," asserts that he had seen a patent
(1513–1514) in which Skelton was appointed poet-laureate to Henry
VIII. As rector of
During the rest of the century he figured in the popular imagination as an incorrigible practical joker. His sarcastic wit made him enemies, among them: Sir Christopher Garnesche or Garneys , Alexander Barclay , William Lilly and the French scholar, Robert Gaguin (c. 1425–1502). With Garneys he engaged in a regular "flyting ," undertaken, he says, at the king's command, but Skelton's four poems read as if the abuse in them were dictated by genuine anger. Earlier in his career he found a friend and patron in Cardinal Wolsey, and the dedication to the cardinal of his Replycacion is couched in the most flattering terms. But in 1522, when Wolsey in his capacity of Papal legate dissolved convocation at St Paul\'s , Skelton put in circulation the couplet:
Gentle Paul, laie doune thy sweard
For Peter of
In Colyn Cloute he incidentally attacked Wolsey in a general satire
on the clergy. Speke, Parrot and Why Come Ye nat to Courte? are direct
and fierce invectives against the cardinal who is said to have more
than once imprisoned the author. To avoid another arrest Skelton took
In his Garlande of Laurell Skelton gives a long list of his works,
only a few of which are extant. The garland in question was worked for
him in silks, gold and pearls by the ladies of the Countess of Surrey
Sheriff Hutton Castle
Skelton, falling into a dream at Harwich , sees a stately ship in the harbour called the Bowge of Court, the owner of which is the "Dame Saunce Pere." Her merchandise is Favour; the helmsman Fortune; and the poet, who figures as Drede (modesty), finds on board F'avell (the flatterer), Suspect, Harvy Hafter (the clever thief), Dysdayne, Ryotte, Dyssymuler and Subtylte. These figures explain themselves in turn, until at last Drede, who finds they are secretly his enemies, is about to save his life by jumping overboard, when he wakes with a start. Both poems are written in the seven-lined Rhyme Royal , a Continental verse-form first used in English by Chaucer, but it is in an irregular metre of his own—known as "Skeltonics" —that his most characteristic work was accomplished.
The Boke of Phyllyp Sparowe, the lament of Jane Scroop, a schoolgirl
By the end of the 16th century he was a "rude rayling rimer" (Puttenham , Arte of English Poesie), and at the hands of Pope and Warton he fared even worse. His own criticism is a just one:
For though my ryme be ragged, Tattered and jagged, Rudely rayne beaten, Rusty and moughte eaten, It hath in it some pyth.
Colyn Cloute represents the average country man who gives his opinions on the state of the church. It is an indictment of the sins of the clergy before the Reformation . He exposes their greed and ignorance, the ostentation of the bishops and the common practice of simony , taking care to explain the accusations do not include all and that he writes in defence of the church. He repeatedly, indirectly hits at Wolsey in this satire. Speke, Parrot has only been preserved in a fragmentary form, and is very obscure. It was apparently composed at different times, but in the latter part of the composition he openly attacks Wolsey. In Why Come Ye nat to Courte? there is no attempt at disguise. The wonder is not that Skelton had to seek sanctuary, but that he had any opportunity of doing so. He rails at Wolsey's ostentation, at his almost royal authority, his overbearing manner to suitors high and low, and taunts him with his mean extraction. This scathing invective was not allowed to be printed in the cardinal's lifetime, but no doubt widely circulated in manuscript and by repetition. The charge of coarseness regularly brought against Skelton is based chiefly on The Tunnynge of Elynoare Rummynge, a realistic description in the same metre of the drunken women who gathered at a well-known ale-house kept by Elynour Rummynge at Leatherhead , not far from the royal palace of Nonsuch .
"Skelton Laureate against the Scottes" is a fierce song of triumph celebrating the victory of Flodden . "Jemmy is ded And closed in led, That was theyr owne Kynge," says the poem; but there was an earlier version written before the news of James IV 's death had reached London. This, the earliest singly printed ballad in the language, was entitled A Ballade of the Scottysshe Kynge, and was rescued in 1878 from the wooden covers of a copy of Huon de Bordeaux . "Howe the douty Duke of Albany , lyke a cowarde knight" deals with the Campaign of 1523, and contains a panegyric of Henry VIII. To this is attached an envoi to Wolsey, but it surely was misplaced, for both satires on the cardinal are of earlier date.
Skelton also wrote three plays, only one of which survives. Magnificence is one of the best examples of the morality play . It deals with the same topic as his satires - the evils of ambition. The play's moral, namely "how suddenly worldly wealth doth decay," was a favourite with him. Thomas Warton in his History of English Poetry described another piece titled Nigramansir, printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1504. It deals with simony and the love of money in the church; but no copy is known to exist, and suspicion has been cast on Warton's statement.
Illustration of Skelton's hold on public imagination is supplied from
the stage. A play (1600) called Scogan and Shelton, by Richard
William Rankins , is mentioned by Henslowe . In Anthony
Munday 's Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntingdon , Skelton acts the
Very few of Skelton productions are dated; their titles are here necessarily abbreviated. De Worde printed the Bowge of Court twice. Divers Batettys and dyties salacious devysed by Master Shelton Laureat, and Shelton Laureate agaynste a comely Coystroune have no date or printer's name, but are evidently from the press of Richard Pynson , who also printed Replycacion against certain yang scalers, dedicated to Wolsey. The Garlande or Chapelet of Laurell was printed by Richard Faukes (1523); Magnificence, A goodly interlude, probably by John Rastell about 1533, reprinted (1821) for the Roxburghe Club . Hereafter foloweth the Boke of Phyllyp Sparowe was printed by Richard Kele (1550?), Robert Toy , Antony Kitson (1560?), Abraham Veale (1570?), John Walley , John Wyght (1560?). Hereafter foloweth certaine bokes compyled by mayster Shelton ... including "Speke, Parrot", "Ware the Hawke", "Elynoure Rumpiynge and others", was printed by Richard Lant (1550?), John King and Thomas March (1565?), and by John Day (1560). Hereafter foloweth a title boke called Colyn Cloute and Hereafter ... Why Come Ye nat to Courte? were printed by Richard Kele (1550?) and in numerous subsequent editions. Pithy, plesaunt and profitable workes of maister Shelton, Poete Laureate. Nowe collected and newly published was printed in 1568, and reprinted in 1736. A scarce reprint of Filnour Rummin by Samuel Rand appeared in 1624.
Five of Skelton's "Tudor Portraits", including The Tunnying of
Elynour Rummyng were set to music by
Ralph Vaughan Williams
See The Poetical Works of John Shelton; with Notes and some account of the author and his writings, by the Rev. Alexander Dyce (2 vols., 1843). A selection of his works was edited by WH Williams (London, 1902). See also Zur Charakteristik John Skeltons by Dr Arthur Koelbing (Stuttgart, 1904); F Brie, "Skelton Studien" in Englische Studien, vol. 38 (Heilbronn, 1877, etc.); A Rey, Skelton's Satirical Poems... (Berne, 1899); A Thummel, Studien über John Skelton (Leipzig-Reudnitz, 1905); G Saintsbury , Hist. of Eng. Prosody (vol. i, 1906); and A Kolbing in the Cambridge History of English Literature (vol. iii, 1909).
John Skelton's lineage is difficult to prove. Some scholars have thought he may have been related to Sir John Shelton and his children, who also came from Norfolk. Sir John's daughter, Mary Shelton , was a mistress of Henry VIII\'s during the reign of her cousin, Anne Boleyn . Mary Shelton was the main editor and contributor to the Devonshire MS , a collection of poems written by various members of the court.
It is said that several of Skelton's works were inspired by women who
were to become mothers to two of Henry VIII\'s six wives . Elizabeth
Boleyn (Howard), Countess of Wiltshire and Ormonde, was said to be so
beautiful that Skelton compared her to
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* ^ Ward, A.W.; Waller, A.R., eds. (1907–21). "Phyllyp Sparowe"
The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. Volume III.
Renascence and Reformation. – via Bartleby.com.
* ^ A B C D E F G H I "John Skelton". britannica.com. Encyclopædia
Britannica, Inc. p. 185. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
* ^ "Skelton, John (SKLN493J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database.
University of Cambridge.
* ^ A B "
* This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Skelton, John". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. * "John Skelton". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2017-01-26. * Edwards, Anthony, ed. (1981), John Skelton: The Critical Heritage, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415134019 * Kinsman, Robert S. (1963). "The Voices of Dissonance: Pattern in Skelton\'s "Colyn Cloute"". The Huntington Library Quarterly. XXVI, Number 4 * Lindvall, Terry (2015). God Mocks: A History of Religious Satire from the Hebrew Prophets to Stephen Colbert. NYU Press. pp. 69–71. ISBN 9781479883820 * Norton, Elizabeth (2009). Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love. Amberley Publishing Limited. pp. 9–10. ISBN 9781445606781 – via Books.google.com. * Skelton, John (1992). Brownlow, F.W., ed. The Book of the Laurel. University of Delaware Press. pp. 32–33. ISBN 978-0874133721 – via Books.google.com * Walker, Greg (2002). John Skelton and the Politics of the 1520s. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521521390 – via Books.google.com * Ward, A.W.; Waller, A.R., eds. (1907–21). "Phyllyp Sparowe" The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. Volume III. Renascence and Reformation. – via Bartleby.com * Weir, Alison (2011). Mary Boleyn: Mistress of Kings. Random House Publishing Group