William Scott’s The Model of Poesy is a newly recovered work of late Elizabethan poetics. Among its most significant contributions to our understanding of the nature of literary theory at the end of the sixteenth century is its explicit debt to contemporary logic. It uses the normative tools of late humanist pedagogy and philosophy to construct a clear, well ordered and rule-based poetics, filling a gap in the field which had been explicitly if playfully acknowledged by other theorists of English poesy. This article establishes Scott’s logical techniques, discussing analogues and, where possible, sources for his approach, focusing particularly on evidence for the influence of contemporary neo-Aristotelianism, as well as the mainstream logical teaching associated with figures like Philipp Melanchthon and John Seton. The essay argues that Scott’s logic conditioned his literary theory in productive ways, forcing him to think about the nature of artistic skill and prompting him to articulate a compelling account of poetic creativity. The Model emerges from a particular phase of intellectual and literary culture at the turn of the seventeenth century. If we pay careful attention to its mediation of that culture, it promises to enlarge our understanding of the literary world inhabited by Jonson, Shakespeare, and Scott’s peers at the Inns of Court.
William Scott’s The Model of Poesy, a manuscript treatise on poetics almost certainly composed in 1599, has recently been made available to scholars in an edition by Gavin Alexander.1 Dedicated to Sir Henry Lee and long remaining in the possession of his heirs, the Model did not exercise any influence on other theorists or practitioners of literature. It does, however, shed much light on questions important to the literary history of its late-Elizabethan cultural moment. Particularly instructive to our understanding of Elizabethan poetics are the methodological choices Scott makes in presenting the discipline he seeks to ‘model’. Scott provides a synthetic account of poetics, drawing with careful discernment on both English and continental thinking on the subject from the century that was drawing to a close as he wrote. The order and arrangement of the synthesis are themselves significant, and make an argument about poetics. For example, one key debate with which Scott engages concerns the status of poetics as an art—a point of contention with those who preferred to stress natura, ingenium, furor, and other terms commonly placed in contradistinction to ars.2 From this debate arise questions about the structure that such an art or discipline might have, and about the ways in which that structure first trains and then operates within the artist. Scott’s metalanguage for dealing with these questions is primarily that of logic, the subject which, along with rhetoric, dominated the arts course at the early modern universities. Scott’s logic is not especially sophisticated; it is a pragmatic, well-informed fusion of Aristotle and his various early modern followers in a textbook tradition characterized more by homogeneity than variety (whatever the vitriol which occasionally inflected debates between the different possible approaches). Scott’s intellectual framework helps to account for what might be the Model’s most important contribution to our understanding of the landscape of early modern English literary theory: the clarity and sound-headedness of Scott’s logic give us a confidently normative Elizabethan poetics to set alongside the relative eccentricities, partialities and extravagances of other theorists, including Gascoigne, Sidney, Webbe, Puttenham and Harington.
The introduction and commentary in Alexander’s edition furnish some of the materials needed to understand the logical doctrines which inform Scott’s text.3 The purpose of this article is to add some detail to these contributions, to suggest a more particular narrative of intellectual history into which the Model might fit, and to pursue some of the directions in which Scott’s work should point us. His text raises several important questions. How does a logically ordered doctrinal poetics relate to poetic practice? How comprehensive can or should an art of poetry be? How far is poetry a rule-bound activity? These are questions that Scott is able to formulate thanks to his philosophical and methodological framework. Bernard Weinberg long ago showed how developments in poetic theory in cinquecento Italy were driven not only by innovations in contemporary literary practice and by academic allegiance to one or other of the leading classical authorities, but by different understandings of the ‘methodological and logical bases’ from which inquiry proceeded.4 Debates about the nature of poetry were couched in the terms of the universities and academies: they were debates about poetry’s genus, object, and end; its formal, material, efficient and final causes; or its place among the other arts of language, including grammar, rhetoric, dialectic and sophistic. Such terms are not the mere clothing of already formulated ideas, but structures of thought that made certain kinds of theory possible. What appears, in Scott’s case, to have been a fairly standard late sixteenth-century undergraduate education (even if no record exists of its precise location and date) enabled him to ask questions about contemporary and past literature somewhat different from those of George Puttenham (whose formal education predated Scott’s by some forty years), and to cast in the form of an ars poetica what had been in Sir Philip Sidney’s hands the subject of an apologia.5 Scott’s work thereby fills a gap in our map of sixteenth-century poetics—in many ways, a gap in the very middle of the map—and while it is important not to reify the constellation of individual works of literary theory or criticism into a single body of thought, Scott’s manuscript should make us look at that constellation anew.
I. Scott’s logic: sources, analogues and doctrines
It was a commonplace of sixteenth-century learning that logic was a necessary tool for the arts and sciences. In a still-popular formula, the leading logic textbook of the later middle ages had deemed logic the ‘art of arts’, not for its prestige but because it establishes the definitions and rules that function as artistic precepts and regulates the holistic coherence of each body of instrumental knowledge.6 One Italian logician, who will feature heavily in the following pages, called logic the maker of instruments (‘instrumentorum fabricatrix’); another writes that no one who lacks logic can understand either the theorems of science or the skill of orators and poets (‘oratorum et poetarum artificium’).7 Logic was held to provide that ‘order’ without which the study of the arts would be chaotic and fruitless; ordo was described by one contemporary Aristotelian as a thread in a labyrinth (‘filum in laberyntho’), an image adopted by Scott when he writes of the ‘clew of discipline’ (5.5).8 The process of outlining the principal logical doctrines on which Scott relied will rarely involve the positive identification of individual sources; instead, we must be content to talk of traditions of thought and practice available to Scott in the late 1590s, exemplified by certain central figures. Such an approach is both necessary and appropriate, since Scott, like any educated man of his time, would probably have been familiar to differing degrees with a range of logicians rather than drawing on just one authority: it seems to have been typical for students to avail themselves of a number of textbooks of varying levels of difficulty, ensuring an appropriate balance between comprehension of the whole field and deeper knowledge of its more useful tools for thinking and disputation.9 Having established the outlines of Scott’s logic, the end of the article will consider its theoretical and practical implications for Scott’s poetics and for our sense of the field of Elizabethan literary criticism.
After the dedicatory epistle to Sir Henry Lee, Scott presents a justification of his approach to poetics. Perhaps the deepest assumption that subtends the whole Model is found in the third word of the treatise, ‘doctrine’, which implies first that poesy is teachable and second—obviously, but more contentiously—that it is learnable:
Because all doctrine is but the orderly leading of the mind to the knowledge of something convenient and possible for us to know which before we knew not, and the way wherein we are to be led by this clew of discipline is the space between ignorance and science, we are therefore to make this passage by certain degrees and steps, of necessity first taking that which is nearest our understanding and which giveth light to that that ensueth. (5.2-8)
For Scott, that first step must be the definition of poetry; everything specific one might then say about the art is simply an articulation and elaboration of ‘the extent of the definition’ (5.20-1). The rationality of Scott’s procedure is especially important because the thing he will define and describe is an ‘art’, and an art is ‘an instrument of reason, consisting in the prescribing certain sufficient rules how to work to some good end’ (6.39-40), or a ‘frame and body of rules compacted and digested by reason out of observation and experience’ (7.12-13): this is poetry’s genus, and rationality is central to it. In laying out how he will define poesy more fully, Scott articulates his sense of obedience to precepts laid out for him by logic:
But because the definition and so the thing may be better understood and allowed, we will (as the logicians will us) clear the purport and truth of these three parts thereof: first of the general or genus (as they call that part which answers to the matter in bodily things); then of the difference or separating part, which (as the form) gives name and proper being to the matter; lastly of the end which in every instrument ought to be expressed, as being the hinge whereon the difference dependeth. (6.30-7)
Definition by genus and differentia is a basic feature of Aristotelian thought; the addition of the finis or final cause rests on a finer point of logic which we shall consider below. For Scott, poesy’s logical differentia consists in imitating using language, which Scott later glosses as ‘feigning and representing in style’ (11.8); and its finis or final cause is ‘with delight to teach and to move us to good’ (6.4). Conceptually, this is a fusion of Aristotelian mimesis and Horatian profit and delight familiar from Sidney and others. References to the overall end of imitative writing recur throughout the Model (12.35-6, 16.15, 30.13-33, 48.1, 64.3, 69.8-10, 70.25-8, 82.31-2) since all activities falling within the art, whatever their specific occasions and goals, are hierarchically subordinated to its ethical purpose. This principle of subalternation is familiar from Sidney’s Defence, which refers to the ‘ending end of all earthly learning’; but Scott is far more explicit about the logical framework that gives philosophical justification to such a view of the conceptual structure of ethical action.10 References to differentiae proliferate too throughout the text, as it pursues finer levels of detail in its attempt to map out, in a hierarchical and relentlessly logical fashion, the particular natures of the different literary kinds (17.10-29.34) and their particular rules (68.27-82.6): for example, having written about tragedy and comedy in general terms, Scott announces that ‘now by the more restrained subjects and ends we will see the mutual differences and properties of these personating kinds’ (78.6-8).
Scott refers vaguely to a definitional procedure which he is obliged to follow at the behest of ‘the logicians’, but we can be more specific than that by attending closely to his methodological choices. In fact, while one might call Scott’s treatise deeply methodical, it would be better to call it deeply ordered, because ‘method’ is not a word that Scott employs. This is a significant omission, which provides good circumstantial evidence for the particular flavour of Scott’s logical training.11 Scott was writing at the end of a century that had witnessed a veritable rage for method.12 In northern Europe, the term entered the logical textbook tradition in the 1530s and 1540s through such influential writers as Johannes Sturm and Philipp Melanchthon, but was particularly strongly associated with the French pedagogic reformer Petrus Ramus.13 In the latter part of the century, some thinkers tried to place more scrupulous philological and logical limitations on the use of the term ‘method’, which had in some cases degenerated into ‘a catch-all word […] used whenever an author feels under pressure to provide some attempt at system’.14 Most important among these advocates of precision was the Paduan Aristotelian Jacopo Zabarella. In his De methodis (1578), Zabarella defined methodus in its broad sense as ‘a logical habit […] that serves us in obtaining knowledge of things’—in short, any rationally structured way of learning or discovery.15 But methodus in its strict sense should, he argued, denote the procedure for discovering or making known things never known before, using tools of demonstration and definition to arrive at scientia; and it should be distinguished from ordo, which simply arranges already known things (‘the parts of a science’) so that they can be taught.16 The order of teaching (ordo doctrinae) is defined as ‘an instrumental habit by means of which we are able so to dispose the parts of any discipline that the discipline may be learned as optimally and easily as can be’.17 Whether or not Scott knew Zabarella’s work directly, his terminology closely resembles this particular part of the conceptual and lexical field of late sixteenth-century logic: having begun the Model by equating ‘doctrine’ with ‘the orderly leading of the mind’ (5.2), and promised to ‘proceed orderly’ (5.24) within it, Scott neatly contrives that ordo, in a quotation from Horace, has and is the last word in the treatise (83.5). It seems likely, then, that Scott was at least distantly aware of contemporary debates about the use of logic in the arts; only by attending to this context, and by understanding how Scott follows and how he departs from it, can we listen out more keenly for the subtleties of his thinking about poetics. More important than the ultimately unprovable matter of his debts to this or that specific logician is Scott’s relation to the whole world of late sixteenth-century logic that figures like Zabarella can open up for us. Despite this caveat, it is worth noting that by 1599 Zabarella enjoyed a significant reception in northern Europe, thanks to figures like Giulio Pace and Johann Ludwig Hawenreuter, and in England, particularly among Oxford scholars like Griffith Powell and John Case.18
The pedagogical revolution characterized by the prominence of method in sixteenth-century thought had its origins in a philological realisation, when in 1508 Niccolò Leoniceno resolved long-standing ambiguities in the interpretation of Galen’s Ars medica. Galen’s methodological preface had long been thought to describe different methods of scientific demonstration, but Leoniceno established that Galen was in fact talking about ordines doctrinae.19 What had for Leoniceno been a philological triumph quickly became a commonplace; and accounts of ordo doctrinae proliferated in mid-century Italian texts well before Zabarella gave added prominence to the term. Benedetto Varchi (1503-1565), for instance, a Paduan philosopher and man of letters, wrote short trattati ‘Del metodo’ and ‘Degli ordini delle dottrine cioè in che modo si debbano insegnare l’arti e le scienze’, as well as on the necessary prolegomena or precognizioni which should be deployed as prefaces to aid teaching.20 Such questions of teaching and learning were considered part of the discipline of logic, understood by Zabarella as an instrumental habit whose whole nature consists in ordering concepts (‘in conceptibus ordinandis’) and which helps us to acquire other disciplines and habits.21
Trained in the humanist tradition of pedagogical methodology that Leoniceno helped to instigate, Scott quite properly chooses to teach the art of poetry using the so-called ordo resolutivus or resolutive order, identified by Galen as ‘a course of teaching beginning from the notion of an end, from which notion all arts are composed methodically’.22 Zabarella and others specify that only this order is appropriate to the teaching of the arts.23 The resolutive order was distinguished from two others: the compositive, which proceeds from the first and most universal principles to proximate and more specific ones in a given area of knowledge, and is used for teaching the sciences; and the definitive, which starts from the definition and explains its constituent parts. The fact that Scott begins by glossing his own definition does not mean that he is following the definitive order, which Zabarella himself had rejected. As Zabarella explains, simply to begin a doctrinal treatise in this way does not constitute ordo definitivus, since all orders of whatever kind ‘commence with a definition, as in truth they ought to commence’; he, like Scott (5.21-3), adduces the authority of Plato and Aristotle for this.24 Zabarella encourages us to think of the initial definition of the science or art as a kind of proem and not strictly speaking part of the treatment (tractatio) of the discipline.25 In the case of the Model it is impossible to say exactly how Scott understands the relationship between his opening pages of definition and the substantive body of doctrine, since the lacuna in the manuscript (13.2-3) has obliterated the transition between the two. The discussion resumes in the midst of explaining exactly how imitation can effect the end of delighting in order to teach and move, noting the ‘delightful satisfaction’ (13.7) that can be produced by imitation, the ‘delight of harmony’ (13.15) created by verse, and the ultimate intention ‘to make men in love with, and so possessed of, piety and virtue’ (16.15-16); but the missing pages make it impossible to determine the full extent and drift of Scott’s argument. Despite this difficulty, in the body of the treatise we can see the resolutive order at work. The ‘perfect poet and artist’ (17.21-2)—the hypothetical figure who might put the Model into practice, like the ideal of eloquence described in Cicero’s Orator—has a choice of genres in which to work, in which ‘the differences of poets, or rather poems, will best be showed by the manner of handling and the particular end, evermore alterable according to the subject or argument’ (18.19-21). Since in any genre ‘every work is directed and overruled by the end’ (30.13-14), the overall ‘end of this instrument or faculty’ (30.26) remains the most important guiding principle for the artist, after which more local choices about more particular ends present themselves. Rules for writing in any genre (30.13-68.26) are thus followed by more specific rules for particular genres (68.27-82.6). As the ordo resolutivus demanded, this means that the most specific observations and rules—on matters like scansion and word-choice—come towards the end of each section, and towards the end of the Model as a whole; in writing a poem, by contrast, one would begin with such specifics, using what are aptly called principia.
Clearly, then, Scott fulfils his undertaking to ‘proceed orderly’ (5.24). As Alexander has observed, one of his models for so doing was provided by Gian Paulo Lomazzo’s Trattato dell’arte de la pittura, a seminal work of mannerist art theory distinguished by its clarity of structure and philosophical savoir-faire.26 The Trattato was plainly fashionable in certain English circles in the 1590s. John Case, the pre-eminent neo-Aristotelian logician of his day and a keen promulgator of Zabarella in England, praised its ‘notable images of Natural and Morall Philosophie’, and was pleasantly surprised that a work on so practical an art as painting could offer such philosophical riches.27 Case wrote this in an epistolary preface to the English translation executed by his Oxford colleague Richard Haydock in 1598. In a different context, we find John Marston using Haydock’s translation in The Malcontent in 1604; Marston had been at Oxford in the early 1590s and later studied at the Middle Temple, an educational trajectory that may well have paralleled Scott’s own.28 Making use of the evidently widely known Trattato (in the original Italian), Scott closely echoes Lomazzo’s identification of the definition of an art as the ‘universal’ from which the order of teaching must proceed, which ‘consists of the first, most general principles and is the foundation (as they speak) whereon we raise the whole frame of knowledge’ (5.16-18): Lomazzo undertakes ‘to beginne with the definition of Painting, which is the first, most generall, and immediate principle’ of the art.29 In execution, however, Lomazzo has a far fuzzier sense of the order of teaching than some contemporary logicians would have approved, or than Scott himself deploys. Lomazzo sees the order of teaching as a simple progress from universals to particulars, that is, from the definition to the parts of the art (proportion, motion, colour, light, perspective), which are all understood as differentiae that distinguish painting from other arts.30 Unlike Scott, however, he omits the final cause from his definition, and so does not proceed using a logically determined ordo resolutivus.31 He does mention painting’s purpose, and calls the art ‘an Instrument, whereby greate matters may be performed’, but notes that ‘it would require an infinite discourse to speake of the end thereof’. This neglect is not lazy, but concomitant with his potentially radical claim that painting ‘is in the number of those things which are to bee desired for their owne sakes’.32 This wresting of an art from the total ethical structure of human purposiveness is a route down which Scott cannot, or will not, follow his Italian interlocutor.
Scott’s emphatic promotion of the sense of finality absent from Lomazzo is a consequence of—and simultaneously has far-reaching consequences for—the way he conceives of poetics. He begins his treatise with a definition based on the art’s final cause, that cause being ‘the hinge whereon the difference dependeth’; and the sense of purposiveness which this logical procedure carries with it is regularly reiterated throughout the text. Indeed, the end of poesy is understood as performing a logically determined regulative role that sustains and structures the art as a whole. Having described the definition as the ‘foundation’ of the art, Scott understands ‘the whole doctrine’ as ‘no more but the rearing, fit coupling, and distinguishing all the parts from this groundwork, as you would say the extent of the definition’ (5.18-21). This understanding may owe something to Aristotle’s brief explanation of the concept of an art’s extent or limit in his Politics: he teaches that each art is limitless (apeiron) in its pursuit of its designated end, but that the end functions as a limit (peras) to the means.33 The structure that an art possesses, as a rationally derived and justified set of precepts, competences and techniques, is determined by its final cause.
Scott would have encountered arguments for the centrality of finality to an art in numerous contemporary works. He directly cites (72.14-15) Jean Bodin’s Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem (1566), and may well have had some acquaintance with the same author’s important political treatise in either its French or Latin versions—Les six livres de la republique (1576) and De republica libri sex (1586)—in which he would have read that in teaching the arts one must first consider the end and then seek the means to attain it; the definition of the art is identified with that end (‘rei propositæ finis’) and is an essential foundation for all that follows.34 One finds in this vein many contemporary variations on a standard set of terms and concepts. The influential pre-Zabarellan Aristotelian Jakob Schegk writes that every art is defined by the choice (proairesis) of a particular good and end.35 Fabio Pace, a doctor and Galenic commentator educated at Padua, and the brother of Giulio Pace (translator of Aristotle’s Organon), notes that the end is the principle by which the arts are constituted (‘principium artium constituendarum’).36 And Fortunatus Crellius, one of several northern humanists heavily influenced by Zabarella, writes that the differentiae of instruments are derived from their ends, in which their whole essence consists (‘tota eorum essentia in fine consistat’).37 Such are ‘the logicians’ to whom Scott vaguely alludes; the point is not that he knew these specific writers directly but that he was making use of a widely disseminated commonplace in a broadly Aristotelian tradition of thinking about artistic instrumentality. Zabarella himself notes that ‘the nature of every instrument consists in [its] end and utility’, an end which must therefore be included in the instrument’s definition; he repeatedly restates variations of this point, both in De methodis and in De natura logicae.38 Zabarella supports his arguments on this matter by appealing to a number of classical authorities, of which the most important are book six of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and book seven of his Metaphysics. The former contains both the canonical definition of an art as a productive habit aided by right reason (hexis meta logou alēthous poiētikē) and the observation that anyone who makes anything has an end in view beyond the artefact so made.39 The latter contains a difficult passage on generation and production interpreted by Zabarella and many of his predecessors in the Averroist tradition as a description of the resolutive and compositive orders; Aristotle describes the process whereby a form (eidos) in the soul is treated as an end to be realized in the world.40
To understand Scott’s insistence that an art’s or instrument’s differentia ‘dependeth’ on its final cause—that, in Zabarella’s words, ‘cuiusque instrumenti natura, et differentia propria a fine sumitur’—one may turn to Zabarella’s account of the general definition of methodus which, like the definition of any instrument, requires more than just a genus and difference.41 As Zabarella explains, following Aristotle’s account of definition in the Posterior Analytics, this is because method is, logically speaking, an ‘accident’, and ‘the definition of an accident is not perfect […] unless it expresses the external cause upon which the accident depends [pendet]’.42 The distinction being made here rests on the ‘categories’ or ‘predicaments’, Aristotle’s group of the ten most general genera to which all sayable things (legomena) in the world can be referred: substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, position, state, action, and affection.43 A substance is a self-sufficient thing, and may be primary (like ‘Philip Sidney’) or secondary (like ‘man’); secondary substances can be defined. The nine non-substantial categories are understood as ‘accidents’, because they cannot exist in and of themselves but must inhere in a substance. In any definition, the genus must fall under one of the ten categories. The task of a definition is, for Aristotle, to state something’s necessary causes.44 In the case of a substance like ‘man’ or ‘animal’, the material and formal causes are adequate to provide a definition by genus and difference: man’s genus or matter is ‘animal’, his difference or form ‘rational’. In the case of one of the nine non-substantial categories, the cause on which the accident ‘depends’ is external.45 Aristotle’s example for the latter is an eclipse of the moon, which cannot be defined fully without including the external cause of the event, that is, the obstruction of the moon by the earth.46 This cause functions as a middle term that unites the terms ‘eclipse’ and ‘moon’. In such a definition, any of the four causes (material, formal, efficient, final) might be used, depending on what one is defining. It is this doctrine that loomed in the background when Scott came to define poesy, which is not a substance but must inhere in a substance (that is, in a particular poet). Specifically, poesy falls within the accidental category ‘quality’, which includes habits and dispositions.47 Within the genus ‘habit’ falls the species ‘art’; within the genus ‘art’, in turn, falls the species ‘poesy’. Since poesy, qua art, teaches ‘how to work to some good end’ or enacts that end by making, final causality inheres in its genus and thus must provide the middle term between genus and difference.
The assumptions and reasoning witnessed here are a good example of the way in which different parts of the Aristotelian corpus were synthesized for practical use in early modern intellectual culture: an understanding of the nature of art primarily derived from book six of the Nicomachean Ethics is viewed through the logical prism of the Categories and Analytics to arrive at a doctrine which is logically watertight, cognitively familiar and practically useful. Other writers at the time also refer to art’s status as a logical accident: contemporary with the Model, for example, is William Vaughan’s statement that ‘Nature is an essence, & Art an accident, therefore nature is better then Art’.48 More importantly, one of Scott’s principal sources, Lomazzo, notes that the genus of painting ‘is a species of quality called Arte’, but says that it would be absurd for him to explain ‘what maner of thing Qualitie is, and howe many kindes thereof there be; to teach him what Habitus and Dispositio, what forma and figura is; and how painting by diverse considerations is comprehended under that species of Qualitie (which appertaineth rather to a Logician or a Philosopher then to a Painter)’.49 Lomazzo’s rhetorical occultatio suits a text that is consistently worried about the limitations of theory for the practising artist: if the demand that ordo doctrinae begin with the most general principles were fulfilled to the letter, a large amount of time would be wasted in generalities too broad to be of any pedagogical use. Scott is not quite as explicit as Lomazzo about poesy’s status as a quality, but it undoubtedly informs his deep concern with habit. The effort taken by these writers to define their art, and to locate its genus among the subalternate genera of quality, habit and art, has far-reaching consequences for the questions that can subsequently be asked about painting and poetics. Alternative approaches to definition and order were available to Scott, approaches that lead to quite different kinds of treatment. The Ramist logician Dudley Fenner blithely sweeps aside the categorical wrangling and philosophic depth of Aristotelian accounts of definition in favour of something robust, simple and practical:
Concerning the definition of Logike […] it is sufficient for me that in my definition there is a true generall, an art, and a true full difference by which it differeth from all other artes: namely that it is of reasoning. […] For there is no reason why the ende of any thing shoulde come into the definition any more then the efficient cause, when as the difference is before full and sufficient.50
In a similarly no-nonsense vein, Ramist treatments of the arts are typically shorn of all superfluous detail, often to the point of self-defeating taciturnity, and are ruthlessly focused on the subject in hand. In the case of poetics, the few Ramist tracts deem all questions of poetic invention and arrangement to fall under the jurisdiction of rhetoric, logic and ethics, and limit their discussion to questions of versification.51 Scott’s engagement with a different set of logical practices helps him to range more widely and think more deeply.
Besides the ever-contentious Ramism and the new Aristotelian thinking represented by figures like Case, there was in Scott’s England a good deal of mainstream logical teaching which covered the basic Aristotelian doctrines in a way fitted to the needs of the undergraduate or private student. John Seton’s Latin Dialectica (1545) and Thomas Wilson’s vernacular The Rule of Reason (1551) were the most frequently printed English authorities, remaining popular throughout the century; when John Whitgift bought logic texts for his students in the 1570s, it was to Seton that he most frequently turned.52 Both Seton and Wilson relied on continental precursors, including the humanistic theory of logical invention advanced by Rudolph Agricola and, more importantly, the comprehensive logic textbook penned by Philipp Melanchthon.53 Perceptions of the depth and breadth of Melanchthon’s influence on English culture have been growing in recent scholarship, notably in relation to Philip Sidney and his circle.54 As in the case of Zabarella, absolute evidence of Scott’s direct debt to Melanchthon or one of his many followers is unlikely to be found, and it would be wrong to suggest that Scott turned to him or any other logician for precise instructions on how to write a treatise; but lexical and conceptual similarities are strongly suggestive of some degree of influence. If we are willing to distinguish the different logical registers within his text, Scott offers us a fine example not of methodological obedience to one easily identifiable authority but of precisely that fusion of contemporary discourses and approaches we should expect from a well-read non-specialist of the period.
Melanchthon’s logic, even more than Zabarella’s, focuses on questions of order and teaching: in a passage directly translated by Wilson in The Rule of Reason, Melanchthon defines dialectic as the art of teaching ‘truly, orderly & plainly’ (‘ars seu via, recte, ordine, et perspicue docendi’), by defining, dividing, connecting true arguments, and refuting false ones.55 Melanchthon writes that it is the function of arts in general to teach the order and mode of making things (‘ordinem et modum fabricandi’), and of dialectic in particular to teach the mode and form of teaching (‘modum et formam docendi’).56 Melanchthon’s alignment of ordo, forma and modus is shared by Scott’s Model, whose orderliness we have already discussed and whose title is derived from the Latin modulus or modellus, the classical and post-classical diminutive forms of modus: what Scott offers us is at once an order of poetic precepts, the form of the art, and a way of writing.
Later in Melanchthon’s logic textbook is a discussion of the nature of art—included within his treatment of the category ‘quality’, for reasons we have already established—that would exercise far-reaching influence on the pedagogy of the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries; by the time of the Model this account had been widely disseminated, and may help to explain the complexity of Scott’s own understanding of ars. Qualitas in general is understood as the forma by which a substance becomes efficax—that is, able to act in and on the world. The three kinds of quality—hexis or habitus, dunamis or potentia, and pathē or passio—are the sources of all human actions.57 Art, along with science, prudence and faith, is understood as a species of intellectual habitus, otherwise known as notitia. One commentator on Melanchthon’s logic describes notitia habitualis as an image imprinted in the mind just as images made with a signet-ring are preserved in wax (‘impressa imago certae parti cerebri, ac retenta, ut in cera retinentur imagines factae sigillis’).58 There is, then, a tendency to understand a habitus as a forma which is not merely an airy abstraction but something structured like an image: such an understanding may underwrite Scott’s selection of the image of the model for his treatise. Melanchthon’s discussion of ars itself begins by noting Aristotle’s stress on making and crafting, but quickly moves on to discuss the Stoic definition of art preserved for posterity by Quintilian in Latin and Lucian in Greek; Melanchthon prefers the Greek version, finding the Latin obscure. While Aristotle defines technē as a reasoned hexis concerned with making, the Stoics define it as a system of apprehensions or perceptions (sustema enkatalēpseōn) exercised together toward some useful end (telos) in life; Melanchthon translates this as ‘ordo certarum propositionum, exercitatione cognitarum, ad finem utilem in vita’.59 He speaks particularly favourably of this definition’s reminder ‘de fine artium’. Melanchthon’s treatment of ars is innovative in aligning hexis with sustema; in introducing the concept of system into mainstream humanist pedagogy; and in equating it with the Latin term ordo. Scott himself does not use the term ‘system’, but it is clear that the Stoic definition popularised by Melanchthon stands somewhere behind his notion of a ‘frame and body of rules compacted and digested by reason out of observation and experience, behoveful to some particular good end in our civil life’ (7.12-14). Scott attributes this gloss to ‘Aristotle and the stream that follow him’ (7.11). This easy elision of Aristotle and the Stoics is telling, and gives rise to a syncretic complexity in Scott’s account which will be further discussed below; when Scott set about writing the Model in 1599, it was already a source of some difficulty and debate.
Much of the new work in logic written in northern Europe around the turn of the seventeenth century is characterized by a fusion of Melanchthonian (or ‘Philippist’), Zabarellan, and Ramist strains. In 1600 William Vaughan deemed Zabarella ‘the chiefe of the late Philosophers’, and many in England, Germany and the Netherlands—areas in which the excellence of Melanchthon had long been established—concurred.60 A good example of the kind of fusion that emerged is furnished by the German philosopher Bartholomäus Keckermann, who was the first writer to deploy the term systema—popularized by Melanchthon—as the title of a book, and thereby inaugurated a significant trend.61 Such systemata were only one part of Keckermann’s output. His work on logic, for instance, is deliberately tripartite: he published his Praecognitorum logicorum tractatus III in 1599, a full Systema logicae in 1600, and a Gymnasium logicum in 1605, each of which went through several editions.62 The role of the praecognita was to furnish students with the necessary foreknowledge and orientation in the field to tackle the substance of the discipline in the systema, before using the gymnasium to hone their skill in practice. Keckermann’s main source for the notion of the praecognita was none other than Zabarella, who had written specifically on the praecognita necessary for scientific knowledge, and who referred frequently and more generally to the necessity of foreknowledge to all kinds of discovery and learning, a principle articulated in the influential opening of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics.63 Zabarella writes that ‘the first beginning-principle’ necessary when learning an art is ‘the prior knowledge of the end [praecognitio finis]’.64 While Keckermann’s work appeared too late to have been known to Scott, something analogous to Keckermann’s fusion of Zabarella and Melanchthon may well be at work in the Model, where the opening explanation of the art’s genus, difference and end constitutes a kind of praecognita poetices before the substance of the art begins in earnest. Indeed, several decades later the Dutch scholar Gerardus Joannes Vossius explicitly applied the method of praecognita and systema to poetics in his introductory De artis poeticae natura ac constitutione liber and comprehensive Poeticarum institutionum libri III (1647), always maintaining a distinction between what belongs properly to the art and what is merely propaedeutic.65
For our present purposes, one of the most significant results of the emerging fusion of Zabarellan neo-Aristotelianism and Philippism at the turn of the seventeenth century was a keen awareness of the richness of, and problems with, the elision of habitual and systematic understandings of art effected by Melanchthon. Zabarella himself had begun his De natura logicae by inquiring into the genus of logic, a question that had provoked many answers in the preceding centuries, inculcating a confusion that, he felt, hampered the knowledge and practice of the subject.66 He carefully rebuts arguments that logic is a scientia, intellectus, sapientia, prudentia, ars or facultas, preferring the term instrumentum which had been advanced by some ancient commentators on Aristotle.67 The problem that Zabarella confronts is the result of the multivocality of classical thinking about technē, which included several other strands beyond the habitual and systematic understandings which we have already encountered. One such strand is represented by the Greek term dunamis (capacity or power), commonly rendered in Latin as facultas. Bartolomeo Lombardi, for example, defines poetica as the ‘facultas’ of discovering whatever may be imitated in agreeable language for the improvement of life, following Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric as the dunamis of discovering the possible means of persuasion about any subject.68 Similarly, Aristotle states that the purpose of his Topics and Sophistical Refutations is to discover a dunamis for reasoning about particular problems in generally accepted terms.69 However, the Topics opens by promising us not a dunamis but a methodos which must be possessed by the dialectician; the verb denoting this possession is cognate with hexis.70 In the Rhetoric, too, hexis is uneasily juxtaposed with dunamis when Aristotle notes that most people have some habitual ability to argue and persuade, a hexis which can itself be systematized; so here hexis seems to precede the dunamis which his treatise seeks.71 These terms crowd around each other despite Aristotle’s distinction of hexis and dunamis in the Nicomachean Ethics as two different states of the soul.72 Besides hexis, systema and dunamis, Aristotle also allows us to think of technē as an eidos or form in the soul of an artificer: a physician has an eidos of health in mind and seeks to realise that form in his patient.73 In the Physics Aristotle explains that things which exist or come to exist naturally do so because they contain an inherent principle or archē of movement and a generative form or morphē which enables them to beget more of their own kind; in contrast, artificial things are created by an archē located in an external agent.74 This strand of ancient thought is particularly relevant to the concept of the model on which Scott draws. In his Lezione on Michelangelo’s sonnet ‘Non ha l’ottimo artista alcun concetto’, Benedetto Varchi deployed Aristotle’s Metaphysics in stating that art is the ‘forma’ or ‘modello’ of the artefact contained in the ‘anima’ or ‘fantasia’ of the artist.75 It is not certain that Scott had precisely this tradition in mind in selecting his title, but it is nevertheless part of the conceptual archaeology of his term.
The multilayered complexity of ancient thinking on technē was acknowledged in the classical world itself and by a range of early modern writers.76 By the end of the sixteenth century, it is common to find a keen awareness of the need to handle these terms precisely. As Giovanni Papuli explains, a key distinction was between terms like facultas and habitus, which stood for ‘psychological matrices’ in individual minds, and disciplina as the objective representation of the knowledge produced by such faculties.77 In 1598, a young Vossius noted that poetica is not an art but a composite faculty—a kind of cocktail (‘facultatum quidam quasi cinnus’)—and that rhetoric can be understood either as an art composed of precepts for embellishing speech or as an oratorical faculty.78 In 1599, Keckermann distinguished between logic as a faculty of understanding and reasoning, a system of logical precepts, and a habit or art in the mind, acquired by precept and practice.79 When Scott set to work in the same year, there was a well-established and still lively philosophical interest in questions about the nature of the arts and the best ways to teach them. The process of defining one’s art as one sets out a piece of doctrine according to procedures dictated by ‘the logicians’ demands chaste precision and clarity; at stake was the accuracy—and hence the utility—of attempts to represent states of creative ability so that they might be transmitted to others. In the event, Scott’s own account is caught between several approaches: his apparent resolve to lay down a positive doctrine and exclude alternative possibilities masks a more subtle, if occasionally confused, attempt to deal with the plurality of notions about art by offering a pluralist solution.
II. Scott’s logic: poetic implications
Scott’s treatise begins by defining poesy as an art, that is, an instrument that prescribes rules for working or making (6.2-4, 6.38-41, 7.10-13); already, as we have seen, this involves some confusion or synthesis of Aristotelian and Stoic notions of technē, but leans more heavily, if silently, on the Stoic. The word ‘habit’ is distinguished by Scott from the ‘art’ itself: the ‘active habit’ is the product of the art’s training of a pre-existing ‘disposition’ or ‘disposed nature’ (8.9-12, 8.30-1, 10.21-4). As the treatise progresses, he also makes copious references to the concept of ‘faculty’, sometimes referring simply to a branch of knowledge (9.23, 13.27, 16.15, 30.1, 30.6, 38.29) but often to something analogous to dunamis (9.1-2, 9.9, 14.10, 17.35, 38.21, 58.34, 65.18, 82.37); one can rarely distinguish precisely between the two senses. At one point, Scott refers to ‘the end of this instrument or faculty’ (30.26) and thus seems to undermine any clear distinctions between the mental state of capacity and the objective expression of that state as tool of the mind. Such a fluid movement between these terms, even in the midst of an apparent search for precision, is not limited to Scott. Ben Jonson, borrowing from Jacobus Pontanus, writes that poesy is the poet’s ‘skill or craft of making; the very fiction itself, the reason, or form of the work’, and ‘the habit or the art’; he refers elsewhere to the ‘habit’ and ‘faculty’ of writing.80 Further complicating this apparent imprecision or catholicity is the background of claims, both ancient and modern, for the special status of poesy as the one art that by nature defies all attempts at logical definition and orderly teaching, one version of which can again be drawn from Jonson: ‘whereas all other arts consist of doctrine and precepts, the poet must be able by nature, and instinct to pour out the treasure of his mind’.81 Scott pours scorn on those who argue that ‘poesy is only a divine fury […] and therefore not possibly to be comprehended under the straits of art’ (7.18-20), insisting on the role of ‘our reasonable nature’ (7.36-7) in bringing poems forth, and advocating art’s role in realising what is only latent even in the poet who is ‘born so’ (8.7). The result of this difficult balancing act between inborn talent and the extrinsic ministrations of art is to place a special pressure on the treatise’s representation—that is, its capacity to provide an accurate model—of poetic skill.
Juan Luis Vives, on whom Scott (like Jonson) draws, articulates this predicament with urgent clarity.82 Vives understands arts as instrumental collations of the various ‘praecepta’ which have been formed from small improvements in human affairs worked out by man’s ‘ingenii acumen’.83 In his De causis corruptarum artium, he gives a detailed account of the human fallibility which undermines the creation, transmission and reception of the arts. Aristotle, who is accorded rare praise for having given the arts form and shape, is nevertheless ranked among authors who in presenting precepts have failed to look reality in the face (‘non in ipsam veritatis faciem direxerint obtutum’). Vives singles out the Rhetoric and Poetics for relying too heavily on received ideas rather than pursuing the thing itself; the poetic treatises of Horace and Vida are similarly criticized.84 Not only are such works false to reality, but they are further undermined by lapses of logic, as authors fail properly to induct universal rules from particulars or deduct guidance in particular cases from universal rules, and pay inadequate attention to the finis of each art and so undermine its whole structure.85 Such flaws have practical as well as theoretical consequences: Vives writes that however diligently one reads the entire Aristotelian Organon, no one feels himself to possess an instrument (‘Nemo […] sentiat se instrumentum habere’) for readily inventing arguments.86
Vives pointedly reveals that the metaphorical notion of instrumenta is a falsifying reification of the arts unless cognitively consonant with lived experience. Nevertheless, his rather physical and spatial notion of possession—as if one could hold one’s sense of logical, rhetorical or poetic skill in one’s hand—is a useful analogue to a common phenomenon in the Model, as Scott tries to marry logical clarity with representational accuracy. Vives himself is not averse to such metaphor, and in discussing rhetoric writes that prudence must be an omnipresent adviser and director (‘consultatrix et rectrix’) of the orator; Scott, similarly, demands that prudence be ‘an unseparable companion of the poet’s’ (30.3).87 Mindful, perhaps, of the danger of constructing his ordered system without proper regard to practice, Scott frequently directs our attention towards the process of composition as experienced by the poet. In fact, he gives two overlapping versions of how creativity occurs. In one, poets form in their minds a reasonable apprehension of virtue or some other object, with which they proceed to fall in love (15.29-17.9). In the other, more technical account, poets consider their end or purpose, both particular and general (30.13-28), select appropriate matter (31.19-32.23), arrange it (32.24-27), and beautify it (32.27-41). In both accounts there is a strong sense of process: ‘we must first see’ (31.20); ‘when we are thus far proceeded’ (32.24-5); ‘now we must seek’ (32.34-5). The rules of poesy are experienced both as sources of deontic constraint and as guidelines in the moment-to-moment effort to create; moreover, they are experienced both temporally and spatially, as things that one observes (29.35-6).
Among these observanda is the precept with which Scott’s logic dictates that he is most concerned—the end: ‘by knowing and observing the end we gather what are the most convenient means to produce it’ (30.14-15). Writing a poem, then, is a spatialized mental act of seeing one’s goal far off in the distance and finding a route towards it. Here one might detect a slight variance from the notion of the teaching and practice of the arts outlined by Zabarella, who writes that the aim of teaching an ‘operative’ discipline is to discover from its end the principia for bringing that end about: what for Zabarella is an element of learning the art is for Scott an integral part of the art as practised.88 For Zabarella, logic helps one to the knowledge from which what he calls operatio may proceed, not resolutively but compositively, working towards the end rather than starting from it; logic is used for transmitting knowledge of an art but does not tell us what to do in practice.89 Scott, in contrast, seems to want to argue that writing involves a cognitively challenging process of simultaneous resolution and composition.
This complex account of the creative process does not mean that Scott has abandoned the logic that got him to this point; instead, it places a special burden on the poet to act rationally even in the midst of a viscerally immersive experience. Writers of the period sometimes refer to the arts of language, including logic, rhetoric, grammar and poetics, as ‘organic habits’, referring not to any notion of corporeality but to their instrumental value as organs of human use; but one might see in Scott an attempt to marry the instrumental with the animate and sensate, to offer a working model which is at once the habit, system, faculty and form of poetry.90 He attempts something akin to Cicero’s Orator, which describes an ideal that has never existed but can be grasped in the mind, like the mental image realised by a sculptor, or Plato’s ideas.91 Melanchthon glossed this passage by aligning such ideas with what Aristotle would deem logical ‘demonstrationes et definitiones’—not souls and forms fallen from heaven (‘animas aut formas coelo delapsas’) but perfect notitiae verified by logic (‘iuxta dialecticam’).92 It is possible that this passage may lie behind Scott’s rejection of the notion that poesy is ‘poured down from heaven’ (7.25) or that poems ‘should drop out of [poets’] pens as certain creatures do from the middle region of the air, being moulded in heaven first’ (9.40-10.1). Melanchthon’s understanding of the Orator is consonant with his account of ars, where the katalēpseis that make up a systema are understood as ‘propositiones certas et firmas, seu demonstrationes’.93 These texts established an analogy between the perfect state of creative ability that artists would ideally possess, the forms and ideas realised in their works, and the logically determined precepts used in making.
Scott’s logic, then, commits him to a certain model of the mind, and propels him towards thoughtful and innovative accounts of creativity. While Scott draws extensively on Aristotle’s Poetics, an equally profound Aristotelianism—embodying an implicit poetics of its own—emerges from his use of the whole logical, metaphysical and ethical matrix of Aristotle’s works and his early modern interlocutors. Through such engagement, Scott offered Henry Lee, and offers us, an Elizabethan poetics that makes good a longstanding lack in English criticism. Sidney had written that students of poesy ‘should seek to know what they do and how they do, and especially look themselves in an unflattering glass of reason’, complaining that English writers have made insufficient use of ‘artificial rules’; but he wrote a defence rather than a treatise.94 Puttenham explicitly eschewed ‘scholarly methods of discipline’.95 Harington avowedly omits ‘curious definitions of a Poet and Poesie’ and ‘subtill distinctions of their sundrie kinds’.96 Scott’s response to this need is careful and earnest but not, remarkably, dry or insensitive. The implications of the Model’s portrayal of the dynamic habits of the poet for our understanding of literary culture at the turn of the seventeenth century—the culture of Jonson, Shakespeare, Marston and the Inns of Court in particular—offer an exciting prospect for future research.