Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/John Day

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From volume VI of the work.
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DAY, John, a lyrical dramatist of the age of Elizabeth, of whose life no particulars have been transmitted to us, except that he was a student of Caius College, Cambridge. The first work which he is known to have produced is The Isle of Gulls, printed in 1606, a comedy founded upon Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia. In 1607 he published a curious drama, written by him in conjunction with William Rowley and George Wilkins, The Travels of Three English Brothers, which detailed the adventures of Sir Thomas, Sir Anthony, and Robert Shirley. In the same year appeared The Parliament of Bees, the work on which Day's reputation mainly rests. This exquisite and unique drama, or rather masque, is entirely occupied with "the doings, the births, the wars, the wooings" of bees, expressed in a style at once most singular and most charming. In 1608 Day published two comedies, Law Tricks and Humour out of Breath. In 1610 there was licensed by him a comedy of The Mad Pranks of Merry Moll, which has not survived. It is not known when he died, but his works were frequently reprinted before the civil wars, and as late as 1659 one of them, The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green, first saw the light. The six dramas by John Day which we possess testify to a talent somewhat out of sympathy with the main poetic current of his day. Except The Parliament of Bees, which is all in rhyme, his plays are in prose, with occasional rhymed passages of great lyrical sweetness. He preserved, in a great measure, the dramatic tradition of John Lyly, and affected a kind of subdued euphuism. It is, indeed, not impossible that the Maid's Metamorphosis, 1600, wrongly supposed to be a posthumous work of Lyly's, may be attributable to the youth of Day. It possesses, at all events, many of his marked characteristics. The beauty and ingenuity of The Parliament of Bees were noted and warmly extolled by Charles Lamb; but no effort has been made in our generation to revive his fame, and the works of this writer of very distinct and peculiar genius remain still unedited.