The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

XIII. Robert Burton, John Barclay and John Owen

§ 6. Euphormionis Satyricon

The first part of Euphormionis Satyricon was published when Barclay was only one-and-twenty. Before considering this, it is convenient to note briefly some other productions. His short account of the 1605 plot was written in the November of that year, but its appearance was postponed because of James’s own manifesto. The king’s sagacity is, of course, applauded; at the end are placed the lines already referred to.

In 1609, Barclay introduced a posthumous work of his father, De Potestate Papae, in which William Barclay, already known as the champion of the rights of monarchy against Buchanan, was now seen as the opponent of the papal court in its claims to overrule the secular power. In reply to the attacks provoked by the work, Barclay wrote his Pietas, sive publicae pro regibus ac principibus et privatae, pro G. Barclaio contra Bellarminum Vindiciae. In 1614 appeared Icon Animorum, Englished by Thomas May in 1631 as The Mirrour of Mindes. In this, he treats of the principal nations of Europe and their characteristics, beginning with the French, the various dispositions of mankind and the qualities peculiar to times of life, station and profession. It shows Barclay’s alertness of observation, soundness of judgment and happiness in expression, and has caused him to be compared with Montaigne. Merits and failings are skilfully presented, habits of thought as well as of demeanour. Of the English, he writes: se ipsos, et suae gentis mores, ingenia, animos, eximie mirantur. The practice of the duello in France here condemned was glanced at in Euphormio, and its discouragement by Louis XIII made a merit of that king in the dedication to Argenis. The criticisms are in no unkindly spirit, but, some thirty years later, a Pole was moved to protest against Barclay’s account of his country.

Much in Barclay’s writings had been eagerly welcomed by the opponents of Catholicism, but his Paraenesis ad sectarios, written soon after his settlement at Rome in 1617, served to justify his attitude in the eyes of the Catholic church.

Barclay’s main importance, however, for the history of literature rests on his two adventures in fiction, Euphormionis Satyricon and Argenis, the one a contribution to the development of the picaresque novel of real life, the other a finished example of a type of ideal romance. The first part of Euphormio is said to have appeared in London in 1603, but no copy is forthcoming. The 1605 edition (Paris) of this part is described on the title as Nunc primum recognitum, emendatum, et variis in locis auctum. Until the earlier edition is found, the extent of the changes must remain unknown. In his Apologia Euphormionis pro se, Barclay has ingenuously confessed his reasons for choosing satire: youth and desire for fame. “I decided,” he says, “to accuse the whole world with guiltless violence, more in the hope of winning praise for myself than of bringing shame on others.” In plot, Barclay’s satirical novel is a string of adventures. In the first part, the narrator Euphormio becomes, in a foreign land, the slave of an ennobled parvenu, Callio. He is persecuted, feigns insanity, and wins his master’s favour. Sent on journeys with a fellow slave, he undergoes a variety of experiences, is flogged and branded and escapes. The narrative breaks off on a sudden. Interspersed are an account of a lecture on Roman law, details of supernatural phenomena, ghost stories and witchcraft, a play acted in a Jesuit college, an attack on physicians (whose pretensions Barclay was as ready to satirise as Fielding) and a long dissertation on the present state of learning, on the faults of verbal and antiquarian scholarship, and the extremists in Latin style, whether erring through obscurity or ultra-Ciceronianism, on mistakes in systems of education; in which last there is excellent good sense. Besides unworthy nobles, there are many other objects of the author’s satire; and we have in especial an account of the eager and intrusive ambition of the followers of Acignius, who typifies the Society of Jesus. With much that is vigorous and interesting, there is a lack of connection. An elaborate episode in the earlier pages, which shows promise of continuance, is abruptly dropped, and we miss sureness in tone and touch. The saeva indignatio of the opening is not sustained, and one can understand, without accepting, Scaliger’s criticism: il y a un pédant à Angers qui a fait un Satyricon qui au commencement semble estre quelque chose mais puis n’est rien du tout.

Through the second part of Euphormio (1607), there runs a more distinct clue. We have Euphormio’s first impulse to follow the life of the philosophers (enter a religious order), his recognition of his mistake, his pursuit of fortune and pleasure, his fresh attraction to “philosophy” and the wiles by which Acignius attempts to secure him for his Society. From these, he frees himself with difficulty, and, finally, reaches the court of Tessaranactus (James), who admits his service. The scene is laid in Delphium (Pont-à-Mousson), Marcia (Venice), Ilium (Paris), Boeotia (Germany) and Scolimorrhodia (England). The atmosphere is more spacious and the interest wider than in part I. There are again many episodes—a long dramatic performance, a literary display at a Jesuit college, an account of the habits of the emperor Rudolf and a puritan household in England. Euphormio was placed on the Index; the latter part gave especial offence, and, in reply to attacks, Barclay wrote his Apologia. He justifies his satire, never scurrilous, on the Jesuits, and adheres to the view he had given of the dispute between Venice and the papal court. On the charge of libelling individuals, he tries to show the absurdity of some identifications; in other cases, he maintains that the praise outweighs the blame, but, at times, his defence is disingenuous. Hoping for the favour of princes, he felt bound to explain away what might prejudice his career. How far was fact blended with fiction? According to one view, part I closely follows the elder Barclay’s experiences, part II the son’s, the characters being largely based on originals. This is supported by Père Abram’s Histoire de l’université et du collège de Pont-à-Mousson. A recent critic has endeavoured to minimise the element of exact imitation. Certain characters (for example, Protagon-Henri IV) and incidents are, undoubtedly, real, and, without following any “headstrong allegory,” the safer course is not to assign too important a share to imagination pure and simple. Barclay’s habit was to build fiction on fact.

It is a separate task to trace the indebtedness of Euphormio to preceding writers and its influence in subsequent literature. In the mixture of verse with prose, and in style and expression, Barclay betrays frequent reminiscences of Petronius, while adhering to his own standard of decency. Echoes of other writers are frequent and two most prominent qualities are a display of erudition and a taste for rhetoric. His annotator of 1674 was ludicrously unable to cope with his references to Greek history. There is a general resemblance between Euphormio and the picaresque novels of Spain, but the chief of these were later than Barclay’s satire, and, as yet, few had appeared in a French form. Some effects of Euphormio may be felt not only in subsequent Latin writings, but in the vernacular literature of France and Germany, for example in Grimmelshausen’s Simplicissimus. It is a curious fact that those who have written on Euphormio in recent times have often failed to read it through. Körting, in describing the first part, believed that he was giving an account of the whole, and Dukas, in his useful contribution to the bibliography, confessed he had left some pages unread.

Apologia Euphormionis pro se was printed later as a third part of Euphormio; to this was added, as a fourth, Icon Animorum, though it had no connection with the other three. After Barclay’s death, the publishers included as part V Alitophili Veritatis Lachrymae, nominally a continuation of Euphormio, though the connection is of the slightest. Claude Morisot was the author of this indifferent piece, which Robert Burton quoted several times without naming the source. A sixth part, Alitophilus castigatus, appeared in the 1674 annotated edition of Euphormio. It is a slight production, giving the stories and discussions of a group of friends who meet at one another’s houses during a three days’ vacation. Dukas, who refrained from reading it, gives a completely erroneous account, and, in dealing with the question of the authorship, attributed to L. G. Bugnot, overlooks the most important pieces of evidence.