This volume provides the first modern scholarly editions of four works on the rhetoric of counsel by Sir Thomas Elyot (1490-1546), humanist scholar and advisor to Henry VIII of England.
The Doctrinal of Princes, a translation of Isocrates’
To Nicocles, and probably the earliest English book translated directly from Greek into English, consists of a collection of aphorisms, all advising moderation, addressed to monarchs.
Pasquill the Playne, the first English pasquinade, is a comic dialogue on the ethical challenges involved in counseling a prince.
Of That Knowledge Which Maketh a Wise Man is a direct imitation of a Platonic dialogue, in which Plato’s confrontation with the Sicilian tyrant Dionysius is given dramatic form. A third dialogue,
The Defense of Good Women, is the first printed English book that argues for the moral and political equality of women to men. Included in the volume are a general introduction to Elyot’s life and political career, extensive critical introductions to each of the texts, full recordings of the variations between printed editions, and substantive notes.
Sixteenth century Elizabethan treatises on rhetoric in the vernacular are relatively rare. Guillaume Coatalen offers annotated editions of Richard Reynolds’s
The Foundacion of Rhetorike (1563), which has not been edited since the 1945 facsimile edition, and of William Medley’s unknown
Brief Discourse on Rhetoricke which survives in a single manuscript dated 1575. While Reynolds’s work is an English adaptation of Aphthonius's
Progymnasmata and a preparation for Thomas Wilson’s influential
Arte of Rhetoricke (1560), Medley’s is broader in scope and contains the only full treatment of periodic prose in English in the period. Both works are essential to understand how Elizabethan rhetoric in the vernacular evolved, in particular in aristocratic circles, and its links with Continental developments, notably German.