AMONG the Royal Manuscripts of the British Library, there is an anonymous composition entitled ‘An answer to the articles of the co[m]moners of Deuonshere and Cornewall declaring to the same howe they haue ben sedused by Euell p[er]sons …’, which has been variously attributed to Philip Nicolls and Nicholas Udall, the latter of whom is now most famous for his dramatic works such as Respublica (1553) and Ralph Roister Doister (printed 1567).1 This manuscript tract against the Western rebels was evidently written while the rebellion was still ongoing.2 In the catalogue Index Britanniae Scriptorum, John Bale credited Nicolls with three works, one of which is entitled ‘Aduersus Cornubiensium rebellionem’.3 Bale also recorded a similar work written by Udall ‘scripsit contra articulos Cornubiensum’.4 Thus, we have to decide which of these records refers to the manuscript ‘Answer’. In 1884, Nicholas Pocock printed the text in full and attributed it to Udall,5 which used to be the consensus since Udall’s name had been written on the flyleaves of the manuscript by a contemporary or near-contemporary.6 However, in 1933, Gustave Scheurweghs plainly stated that this attribution was wrong. He made this revision on the basis of a single piece of internal evidence: the author of the manuscript described the Devonians as his ‘countrymen’ and the Cornishmen as his ‘neighbours’. Udall was born in Southampton and was working in London in 1549, whereas Nicolls was born in Ilfracombe, north Devon, and was living in south Devon; and therefore Nicolls must have written the ‘Answer’.7 Historians have tended to accept this argument. According to Anthony Fletcher and Diarmaid MacCulloch, the ‘Answer’ has ‘now been convincingly shown to have been written by the Devon Protestant Philip Nichols’.8 One scholar complained in 1949 that Scheurweghs’s case was ‘not entirely convincing’, although he gave no specific reasons for his scepticism.9 The manuscript appears under Udall’s name in the Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts, where Scheurweghs’s attribution is not treated as conclusive, so it is worth considering the evidence afresh.10 Udall’s biographer cast doubt on Scheurweghs’s argument by pointing out that Udall spent some time in Cornwall, which we know from the fact that his jury trial took place there, but this rebuttal is weak because spending a little time somewhere does not make one a local; and it does not explain the author’s different style of address to the Devonians and the Cornish.11 Scheurweghs’s argument, though, is not as conclusive as he claimed. In the sixteenth century, the noun ‘countrymen’ did not necessarily mean men of one’s own county, which in fact remains true in our time. A person from London could refer to Devonians collectively as ‘countrymen’. The OED records that Protector Somerset himself used the word to refer to the Scottish in 1548, in an attempt to neutralize their resistance. It could also mean a person of rural occupation, being roughly synonymous with the noun ‘rustic’.12 Certainly, the possessive adjective (‘my … countrymen’) increases the likelihood that the author was from the West, but it is clear that we need more than Scheurweghs’s observation that the author of the ‘Answer’ used certain vocatives. For what it is worth, Nicolls’s literary output proves that he was more than capable of writing the stylish ‘Answer’, and that rhetorical knowhow was not a talent confined to London. But can anything more substantial be gleaned from a knowledge of Nicolls’s life? The son of a Cornish rector, he made a name for himself as an evangelical controversialist in the 1540s, and became the public enemy of the canon of Exeter, Richard Crispin. After some private correspondence about Crispin’s reactionary sermons against Luther, Nicolls wrote Crispin an open letter in 1547, dedicated to Sir Peter Carew, which condemned Crispin for misleading his parishioners.13 This letter, printed by John Day along with Nicolls’s apology for the said letter, likely alerted the government to Crispin’s anti-Lutheran preaching and landed him in the Tower.14 This is important because the author of the ‘Answer’ spends over four sides of text dealing with the rebels’ demand for Crispin and John Moreman to be delivered to them safely.15 If Nicolls had written this work, he would have surely discussed his pet subject with specificity but, on the contrary, we get the impression that the author is speaking about a subject of which he knows little. He asks the rebels to place Moreman and Crispin in one balance of a metaphorical scale and the king in the other, to see clearly which has the greatest worth, but there is no sign that the two canons were anything to him but names.16 Even more importantly, internal evidence from the manuscript itself proves that Udall was in fact its author. Scholars have relied almost exclusively on the version of this work conveniently printed by Pocock rather than returning to the original manuscript. Neither Pocock nor anyone else has pointed out that the manuscript was composed in four different hands. Folios 14r to 18r and 37v to 38r are written in Udall’s distinctive handwriting, which we may confirm for instance by comparing them with an extant autograph letter from Udall to Thomas Wriothesley.17 Folios 3r–13r, 19r–22v, and 38v–40r are written in an unknown secretary hand. Folios 22v–24v and 27r–37v are written in a second unknown hand and, finally, a small portion of the text (ff. 25r–26r) is written in a third unknown hand. All of the unknown hands probably belonged to copyists. Nowhere is there any sign of Philip Nicolls’s hand, for which we may consult an autograph letter he sent to William Cecil in 1560.18 From only one surviving draft it is difficult to reconstruct the sequence of composition, but it is likely that Udall drew up an initial draft before correcting it or having it corrected by somebody else, and that the most heavily corrected portions were then copied out more neatly by scribes. These parts finally received further corrections in Udall’s hand before the whole lot was collected together. To explain the other entry in Bale’s catalogue, it is probable that Philip Nicolls wrote another address to the Western rebels, now lost, which may have been commissioned by his patron, Carew.19 Footnotes 1 BL Royal MS 18 B. XI, ff. 3r–40r. 2 The author refers to the rebellion throughout in the present tense, and urges the rebels to cease. 3 Reginald Lane Poole (ed.), Index Britanniae Scriptorum: John Bale’s index of British and other writers (Oxford, 1902), 324. 4 Ibid., 310. This record also appears in Bale’s printed catalogue. See John Bale, Scriptorum illustriu[m] maioris Brytannie quam nunc Angliam & Scotiam uocant catalogus, (Basel, 1557–59), I, 717. 5 Nicholas Pocock (ed.), Troubles Connected with the Prayer Book of 1549: Documents now mostly for the first time printed from the originals in the Record Office, the Petyt Collection in the Library of the Inner Temple, the Council Book, and the British Museum (London, 1884), 141–93. 6 G. Scheurweghs, ‘On an answer to the articles of the rebels of Cornwall and Devonshire (Royal MS. 18 B. XI)’, British Museum Quarterly, viii. 1 (1933), 24. 7 Ibid., 24–5. 8 Anthony Fletcher and Diarmaid MacCulloch, Tudor Rebellions, 5th edn. (Harlow, 2004), 154. 9 William Peery, ‘Udall as Time Server, Part II’, N&Q, cxciv. 7 (1949), 138. 10 Peter Beal, Index of English Literary Manuscripts (London, 1980–3), I, part 2, 551. 11 William L. Edgerton, Nicholas Udall (New York, 1965), 52 and 118, note 9. 12 ‘countryman, n.’, 1–3., OED Online (retrieved 26 June 2017). 13 Philip Nicolls, The copie of a letter sente to one maister Chrispyne chanon of Exceter (1548). 14 Frances Rose-Troup, The Western Rebellion of 1549: an account of the insurrections in Devonshire and Cornwall against religious innovations in the reign of Edward VI (London, 1913), 105–7. 15 Pocock, Troubles, 177–80. 16 Ibid., 179. 17 BL Cotton Titus MS B/VIII, f. 387r. 18 Cecil Papers, Hatfield House MS 144, ff. 73v-78v. 19 I am grateful to the AHRC for doctoral funding, provided through the White Rose consortium. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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