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Donna N. Murphy
Thomas Nashe's Writing


Thomas Nashe engaged in a pamphlet battle with his enemy, Gabriel Harvey. One of Harvey’s works was a large book entitled Pierce’s Supererogation, which criticized Nashe. In Have With You to Saffron-Walden, 1596, Nashe poked fun at its colossal size (modern spelling and punctuation, paragraph spacing added):
 
Such a huge dryfat of duncery it is he [Harvey] hath dunged up against me, as was never seen since the reign of Averrois. O, ‘tis an unconscionable vast gorbellied volume, bigger bulked than a Dutch hoy, and far more boisterous and cumbersome than a pair of Swissers’ omnipotent galleass breeches. But it should seem he is ashamed of the incomprehensible corpulency thereof himself, for at the end of the 199th page he begins with one 100 again, to make it seem little, (if I lie you may look and convince me), and in half a quire of paper besides hath left the pages unfigured.
 
I have read that the Giant Antaeus’ shield asked a whole elephant’s hide to cover it; bona fide I utter it, scarce a whole elephant’s hide and a half would serve for a cover to this Gogmagog Jewish Talmud of absurdities. Nay, give the devil his due, and there an end, the giant that Magellan found at Caput Sanctae Crucis, or Saint Christopher's picture at Antwerp, or the monstrous images of Sesostris, or the Egyptian Rapsinates, are but dwarfs in comparison of it.
 
But one epistle thereof, to John Wolfe, the printer, I took and weighed in an ironmonger's scales, and it counterpoiseth a cade of herring and three Holland cheeses. You may believe me if you will, I was fain to lift my chamber door off the hinges only to let it in, it was so fulsome a fat bona-roba and terrible Rouncival. Once I thought to have called in a cooper that went by and called for work, and bid him hoop it about like the tree at Gray's Inn gate, for fear it should burst, it was so beastly; but then I remembered me the boys had whooped it sufficiently about the streets, and so I let it alone for that instant.
 
Credibly it was once rumoured about the Court that the Guard meant to try masteries with it before the Queen, and, instead of throwing the sledge or the hammer, to hurl it forth at the arm's end for a wager. Aye, aye, everyone may hammer upon it as they please, but if they will hit the nail on the head pat, as they should, to nothing so aptly can they compare it as Afric, which being an unbounded, stretched-out continent, equivalent in greatness with most quarters of the earth, yet nevertheless is (for the most part) overspread with barren sands, so this, his Babylonian tower or tome of confutation, swelling in dimension and magnitude above all the prodigious commentaries and familiar epistles that ever he wrote, is, notwithstanding, more dry, barren and sandy in substance than them all.


From The Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. Ronald B. McKerrow (London: A. H. Bullen, 1904-10; reprinted by Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958), vol. III, 35-6.





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