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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Stephen Hawes

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STEPHEN HAWES (fl. 1502-1521), English poet, was probably a native of Suffolk, and, if his own statement of his age may be trusted, was born about 1474. He was educated at Oxford, and travelled in England, Scotland and France. On his return his various accomplishments, especially his "most excellent vein" in poetry, procured him a place at court, He was groom of the chamber to Henry VII. as early as 1502. He could repeat by heart the works of most of the English poets, especially the poems of John Lydgate, whom he called his master. He was still living in 1521, when it is stated in Henry VIII.'s household accounts that £6, 13s. 4d. was paid "to Mr Hawes for his play," and he died before 1530, when Thomas Field, in his "Conversation between a Lover and a Jay," wrote "Yong Steven Hawse, whose soule God pardon, Treated of love so clerkly and well." His capital work is The Passetyme of Pleasure, or the History of Graunde Amour and la Bel Pucel, conteining the knowledge of the Seven Sciences and the Course of Man's Life in this Worlde, printed by Wynkyn de Worde, 1509, but finished three years earlier. It was also printed with slightly varying titles by the same printer in 1517, by J. Wayland in 1554, by Richard Tottel and by John Waley in 1555

Tottel's edition was edited by T. Wright and reprinted by the Percy Society in 1845. The poem is a long allegory in seven-lined stanzas of man's life in this world. It is divided into sections after the manner of the Morte Arthur and borrows the machinery of romance. Its main motive is the education of the knight, Graunde Amour, based, according to Mr W. J. Courthope (Hist. of Eng. Poetry, vol. i. 382), on the Marriage of Mercury and Philology, by Martianus Capella, and the details of the description prove Hawes to have been well acquainted with medieval systems of philosophy. At the suggestion of Fame, and accompanied by her two greyhounds, Grace and Governance, Graunde Amour starts out in quest of La Bel Pucel. He first visits the Tower of Doctrine or Science where he acquaints himself with the arts of grammar, logic, rhetoric and arithmetic. After a long disputation with the lady in the Tower of Music he returns to his studies, and after sojourns at the Tower of Geometry, the Tower of Doctrine, the Castle of Chivalry, &c., he arrives at the Castle of La Bel Pucel, where he is met by Peace, Mercy, Justice, Reason and Memory. His happy marriage does not end the story, which goes on to tell of the oncoming of Age, with the concomitant evils of Avarice and Cunning. The admonition of Death brings Contrition and Conscience, and it is only when Remembraunce has delivered an epitaph chiefly dealing with the Seven Deadly Sins, and Fame has enrolled Graunde Amour's name with the knights of antiquity, that we are allowed to part with the hero. This long imaginative poem was widely read and esteemed, and certainly exercised an influence on the genius of Spenser.

The remaining works of Hawes are all of them bibliographical rarities. The Conversyon of Swerers (1509) and A Joyfull Medytacyon to all Englonde, a coronation poem (1509), was edited by David Laing for the Abbotsford Club (Edinburgh, 1865). A Compendyous Story. .. called the Example of Vertu (pr. 1512) and the Comfort of Lovers (not dated) complete the list of his extant work.

See also G. Saintsbury, The Flourishing of Romance and the Rise of Allegory (Edin. and Lond., 1897); the same writer's Hist. of English Prosody (vol. i. 1906); and an article by W. Murison in the Cambridge History of English Literature (vol. ii. 1908).

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Stephen Hawes'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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