Hawes, Stephen (DNB00)

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HAWES, STEPHEN (d. 1523?), poet, was probably a native of Suffolk, in which county several families of the name of Hawes (variously spelled) are met with; in pedigrees of one or two of the branches of this family, given by Davy in his ‘Suffolk Collections’ (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 19134), ‘Stephen’ appears as a common christian name. The poet was educated at Oxford, and afterwards travelled in Europe; he studied English poetry and literature, and the knowledge acquired by study and travel seems to have procured him an entry into Henry VII's household, where he became groom of the chamber. In this capacity he obtained in 1502 (on the occasion of the funeral of Henry VII's queen) an allowance of four yards of black cloth for mourning. This is the earliest contemporary mention of him known. While groom of the chamber in 1506, he wrote and dedicated apologetically to the king ‘The Passetyme of Pleasure.’ On 10 Jan. 1506 the king's private accounts show a payment to Hawes of 10s. ‘for a ballett that he gave to the kinge's grace.’ How long he retained the post of groom of the chamber is not known, but his name does not occur among those officers who received mourning on the occasion of Henry VII's funeral (1509). Henry VIII's coronation took place in 1509, and the event was commemorated by Hawes in ‘A Joyfull Medytacycon.’

Henry VIII's household accounts show, under date of 6 Jan. 1521, a payment to ‘Mr. Hawse for his play’ of 6l. 13s. 4d. He died before 1530, when Thomas Feylde, in his ‘Conversation between a Lover and a Jay,’ refers to him as ‘Yonge Steven Hawse, whose soule God pardon,’ and as one who ‘treated of love so clerkly and so well.’ In the archdeaconry court of Suffolk, under date 16 Jan. 1523, is proved the will (made two years before) of one Stephen Hawes, whose property, all in Aldborough, is left to his wife Katharine. It is possible that the testator was the poet. Bale says that his whole life was ‘virtutis exemplum.’

Hawes's earliest and most important work, ‘The Passetyme of Pleasure, or the History of Graunde Amoure and la Bel Pucel, conteining the Knowledge of the Seven Sciences and the Course of Man's Life in this Worlde,’ was first printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1509. A copy of this edition is at Ham House, Surrey, in the library of the Earl of Dysart. Another edition by the same printer, with woodcuts (a copy is at Britwell), is dated 3 Dec. 1517; J. Wayland printed a third in 1554 (without woodcuts), with the title altered to ‘The Historie of graunde Amoure and la bell Pucel, called the Pastime of pleasure, conteining the knowledge of the seven sciences and the course of man's life in this worlde.’ This is the earliest edition in the British Museum. Subsequent editions, with woodcuts, followed by Richard Tottel in 1555, and by John Waley in the same year (cf. Censura Lit. i. 35). The first modern reprint (from Wayland's edition) appeared in Southey's ‘English Poets,’ 1831. A reprint of Tottel's edition was published by the Percy Society in 1845. Another reprint was promised by Professor Arber. The poem is an elaborate allegory in forty-six chapters, each consisting of a varying number of seven-line stanzas rhyming thus a b a b b c c. In caps. xxix. and xxxii. the speeches of a dwarf, Godfrey Gobilyue, are in couplets. The whole consists of about six thousand lines. The hero, Grande Amoure, first visits the Tower of Doctrine, whose seven daughters, personifying the seven sciences of the Quadrivium and Trivium, give him instruction. After sojourns at the Castle of Chivalry, Tower of Chastity, and the like, and encounters with a giant with three heads, named respectively Falsehood, Imagination, and Perjury, Grande Amoure reaches the palace of ‘la Bel Pucell,’ marries her, is threatened by Old Age, Policy, and Avarice, and dies attended by Contrition and Conscience. Towards the end of the poem are the well-known lines (cap. xlii. st. 10, lines 6, 7):

    For though the day be never so long,
    At last the belles ringeth to evensong.

The words, although Hawes gave them general currency, may possibly embody an older proverbial expression. A similar adage appears in John Heywood's ‘Proverbes,’ 1546 (ed. J. Sharman, p. 141).

In the dedication, and in cap. xiv., Hawes acknowledges much indebtedness to his master, Lydgate, ‘the chefe orygynal of my learning,’ and with Gower and Chaucer he was also obviously well acquainted (cap. xiv.). He imitates two French fabliaux in cap. xxix., and displays elsewhere knowledge and appreciation of Provençal poetry. The passages relating to the Quadrivium and Trivium prove that he was widely read in the philosophy and science of his time. The prolixity of the poem makes it, as a whole, unreadable. The allegorical detail is excessive and often obscure; the rhythm is nearly always irregular, and often very harsh. Nevertheless there are many descriptive stanzas which charm by their simplicity and cheerful view of life. From an historical point of view, Hawes marks a distinct advance on Lydgate. The ‘Passetyme’ is indeed a link between ‘The Canterbury Tales’ and ‘The Faery Queen.’ Mrs. Browning justly regarded Hawes as one of the inspirers of Spenser, and claims for him true ‘poetic faculty’ (Greek Christian Poets and English Poets, 1863, pp. 122–5). Hallam found a parallel to Hawes's general management of his allegory in Bunyan's ‘Pilgrim's Progress,’ but Hawes's diffuseness hardly admits the parallel to be pressed. The resemblance between him and Spenser is, however, at times undoubted.

Hawes's other works are chiefly remarkable as bibliographical rarities. They are: 1. ‘The Conversyon of Swerers,’ Wynkyn de Worde, 1509 (Cambridge Univ. Library and imperfect copy at Britwell). Another edition of this was printed in London by ‘Willyam Copland for Robert Toye’ in 1551; a copy of a third edition, without date (perhaps 1550), printed in London by John Butler, is in the Huth Library. 2. ‘A Joyfull Medytacyon to All Englande’ (1509), Wynkyn de Worde, 4to, n.d. (Cambridge Univer. Library), a single sheet with woodcut of the coronation of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. These two last-named works were reprinted by the Abbotsford Club under the editorship of Mr. David Laing in 1865. 3. ‘A compendyous story … called the Exemple of Vertu in the whiche ye shall finde many goodly Storys and naturall Dysputacyons bytween four ladyes named Hardynes, Sapyence, Fortune, and Naturo, compyled by Stephen Hawys, one of the gromes of the most honourable chambre of oure soverayne lorde Kynge Henry VII,’ printed about 1512, apparently by Wynkyn de Worde (cf. imperfect copy in the Pepysian Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge). Another edition by Wynkyn de Worde, dated 20 April 1530, is at Britwell (another copy belonged to Corser). 4. ‘The Comfort of Lovers’ (Wynkyn de Worde), n. d.; a copy is at Ham House. ‘The Temple of Glasse,’ a work in imitation of Chaucer's ‘Temple of Fame,’ which has been ascribed to Hawes, is, as Hawes himself says in his ‘Passetyme’ (cap. xiv.), by Lydgate. Of this rare work editions were printed respectively by Caxton about 1479 (Cambridge University Library); by Richard Pynson about 1500 (Bodleian Library); by Wynkyn de Worde (a copy belongs to the Duke of Devonshire); and by Berthelet (Bodleian Library). The last edition is described as in many places ‘amended,’ and was possibly edited by Hawes. Bale and his successors also attributed to Hawes works entitled ‘The Delight of the Soul,’ ‘Of the Prince's Marriage,’ and ‘The Alphabet of Birds.’ But nothing further seems known of them.

[Notes from documents at the Public Record Office and elsewhere, supplied by Mr. W. J. Hardy; Preface to the reprint of the Conversyon of Swerers, &c., by the Abbotsford Club, edited by David Laing; Mr. J. Churton Collins in Ward's English Poets, i. 175 sq.; Ellis's Early English Poets, i. 402 sq.; Corser's Collectanea; Warton's Hist. of English Poetry, ed. Hazlitt, 1871; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 9; Bale's Script. Bryt. Cent. 1557, p. 632; Southey's English Poets (1831), pp. 76 sq.; Hallam's Lit. Hist. i. 317–18; W. C. Hazlitt's Bibliographical Handbook and Collections; Collier's Bibliogr. Cat. i. 366 sq.; Heber's Cat. of Early English Poetry, ed. Collier.]