Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

After 1600, the attention of Nicholas Breton (BREHT-uhn) turned to prose essays, dialogues, and fiction, including proverb collections and character sketches. Auspicante Jehova: Maries Exercise (1597) and Divine Considerations of the Soule (1608) are devotional treatises; such works as Wits Private Wealth (1607) and Crossing of Proverbs (1616) collect proverbs and other practical advice; and Wits Trenchmour: Or, A Conference Between a Scholler and Angler (1597) and The Figure of Foure (1597) discourse on daily life, including angling and other country pleasures. Breton’s dialogues of youth and age, country and city, traveler and stay-at-home include A Dialogue Full of Pithe and Pleasure (1603), The Wil of Wit, Wits Will or Wils Wit (1597), and An Olde Mans Lesson and a Young Mans Love (1605). The vogue for travelers’ tales appears not only in the dialogues but also in prose tales such as Wonders Worth the Hearing (1602) and A Mad World, My Masters (1603), while contemporary events are addressed in A Murmurer (1607), on the occasion of the Gunpowder Plot. Breton’s romantic fiction, The Strange Fortune of Two Excellent Princes (1600) and Grimellos Fortunes (1604), frequently contains lyrics within the narrative, including the frequently anthologized “I would thou wert not fair, or I were wise.” Always highly popular in London’s booming pamphlet market, Breton was particularly successful with the epistolary A Poste with a Packet of Mad Letters, a much-reprinted series begun around 1603. His modern reputation as a prose writer depends chiefly on his contributions to the prose character, as in his Characters upon Essaies, Morall and Divine (1615), The Good and the Badde (1616), and especially Fantasticks (1626), containing characterizations of love, money, the seasons, the holidays, the times of day, and the months of the year. Many of the aforementioned titles (those without dates) may be found in Alexander B. Grosart’s informative volumes on The Works in Verse and Prose of Nicholas Breton (1879). Breton’s prose works were immensely successful best sellers.