Ruggle, George (DNB00)

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RUGGLE, GEORGE (1575–1622), author of ‘Ignoramus,’ baptised on 3 Nov. 1575 at Lavenham, Suffolk, was fifth and youngest son of Thomas Ruggle, stated to be a clothier, and Marjory, his wife (d. February 1612–13). The family seems to have originally sprung from Rugeley in Staffordshire. After spending some time at Lavenham grammar school, George matriculated as a pensioner from St. John's College, Cambridge, 2 June 1589. On 11 May 1593 he was admitted to a scholarship at Trinity College, in the same university, and graduated B.A. soon afterwards, and M.A. in 1597. He was elected fellow of Clare Hall in 1598. A good classic, he proved a highly efficient tutor. Nicholas Ferrar was, according to his biographer, sent to Clare College partly on account of the reputation acquired by Ruggle for his ‘exquisite skill in all polite learning.’ In 1604 he was appointed one of the two taxors of the university, and in August 1605, when James I visited Oxford, he was admitted M.A. there.

In 1611–12 academic circles at Cambridge were excited by a dispute as to precedence between the mayor of the town and the vice-chancellor of the university. The quarrel was settled in 1612 by the privy council in favour of the vice-chancellor; but Ruggle and his academic friends resented the pettifogging shifts to which the counsel for the mayor, Francis Brakin, the recorder of the town, was driven during the protracted arguments. Ruggle resolved to ridicule him in a Latin comedy. An Italian comedy entitled ‘Trappolaria’ by Giambattista Porta (first published at Bergamo in 1596), and itself based on the ‘Pseudolus’ of Plautus, suggested the form of Ruggle's Latin comedy, which he christened ‘Ignoramus.’ It was no slavish imitation. Ruggle laid his scene at Bordeaux instead of Naples, as in ‘Trappolaria;’ he changed the names of Porta's characters, and added seven new ones; of the fifty-five scenes of ‘Ignoramus,’ while twenty-one are borrowed from the Italian, and sixteen are partial imitations, eighteen are original. Ruggle's hero, the lawyer Ignoramus, satirises the recorder Brakin. Miles Goldesborough, a member of the Cambridge corporation, aided the writer with details about local legal notabilities, and he derived the law-Latin phrases with which the play mockingly abounds from William West's ‘Symboleography’ (1590) and ‘The Interpreter’ of John Cowell (1607). The work was completed before March 1615, and on the second night of James I's visit to the university (8 March) the play was performed in Clare Hall in the royal presence. The actors were drawn from many colleges, Mr. Parkinson of Clare filling the title rôle. Spencer Compton of Queens' (afterwards Earl of Northampton) played Vince, a page. John Chamberlain [q. v.], the letter-writer, reported that ‘the thing was full of mirth and variety, with many excellent actors, but more than half marred with extreme length.’ The performance is said to have lasted six hours. James thoroughly appreciated Ruggle's wit and learning, and on 13 May paid a second visit to Cambridge to witness a second performance, when Davus Dromo (Mr. Lake) spoke a new prologue in laudem autoris.

The lawyers in London resented Ruggle's sharp satire. Chamberlain, writing on 20 May 1615 of the king's second visit ‘to Cambridge to see the play of “Ignoramus,”’ related that the piece ‘hath so nettled the lawyers that they are almost out of all patience; and the lord chief-justice [Coke], both openly at the king's bench and divers other places, hath galled and glanced at scholars with much bitterness; and there be divers inns of court men have made rhymes and ballads against them, which they have answered sharply enough; and to say truth it was a scandal rather taken than given; for what profession is there wherein some particular persons may not be justly taxed without imputation to the whole?’ Of ‘the rhymes and ballads’ circulated in the lawyers' defence, the earliest was written immediately after the first performance of the comedy, and was addressed ‘to the comedians of Cambridge who in three acts before the king abused the lawyers with an imposed Ignoramus.’ Similar retorts followed in ‘The soldiers counterbuff to the Cambridge interludians of Ignoramus’ (Harleian MS. 5191), and in ‘A modest and temperate reproof of the scholars of Cambridge for slandering lawyers with that barbarous and gross title Ignoramus.’ In the latter piece attention was seriously drawn to the many learned men to be found among lawyers, and special mention was made of Sir Francis Bacon (Hawkins, p. lxiii). At a later date Robert Callis, a serjeant-at-law, attempted a refutation of Ruggle's alleged calumnies in a prose tract, entitled ‘The Case and Argument against Sir Ignoramus of Cambridge’ (London, 1648). Subsequently the poet Cowley warned poets not to quarrel with scholars, ‘lest some one take spleen and another “Ignoramus” make.’

In 1620, when he was third in seniority among the members on the foundation of the college, Ruggle vacated his fellowship. He seems to have left Cambridge to become tutor at Babraham to the two sons of Toby Palavicino, and grandsons of Sir Horatio Palavicino [q. v.] His will, dated 6 Sept. 1621, was proved 3 Nov. 1622. He directed that all his papers and paper books should be burnt, but more than one copy of ‘Ignoramus’ had already been made. One copy has long been in the library at Clare College. It was first printed in 1630 by John Spencer (London, 12mo), with a fanciful portrait of ‘Ignoramus’ as frontispiece. Misprints are numerous, and before the end of the year a second and revised edition appeared. In 1658 a third edition professed to be corrected in six hundred places—‘locis sexcentis emendatior.’ Editions dated in 1659 and 1668 are both called the fourth. Others appeared in 1707, 1731, 1736 (Dublin), and 1787. The last is elaborately annotated by John Sydney Hawkins. English translations by Robert Codrington [q. v.] and Edward Ravenscroft [q. v.] were issued in 1662 and 1678 respectively. That by Codrington is a fairly literal rendering, that by Ravenscroft is an adaptation. The latter was acted in 1678 at the Royal Theatre, under the title ‘The English Lawyer,’ a comedy. The piece, in the original Latin, was acted by the scholars of Westminster in 1712, 1713, 1730, and 1747. A new fifth act, specially prepared for the Westminster performance, appears in the editions of 1731 and 1787.

John Hacket's ‘Loiola’ has been wrongly assigned to Ruggle, and, according to a manuscript note made in 1741 in a copy of ‘Ignoramus’ by John Hayward, M.A., of Clare Hall, Ruggle wrote two comedies, ‘Re vera, or Verily,’ and ‘Club Law.’ Neither is known to be extant. A manuscript play somewhat doubtfully identified with the latter, which attacked the puritans, belonged to Dr. Farmer.

[An elaborate memoir of Ruggle is prefixed to J. S. Hawkins's edition of ‘Ignoramus,’ 1787.]

S. L.