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31. Jack and the City: The Unfortunate Traveler, Tudor London, and Literary History

Steve Mentz

Subject Literature » Renaissance Literature

Place United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland » England

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1500-1599

People Nashe, Thomas

Key-Topics city, fiction, literary history

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405154772.2010.00036.x


To the polypragmaticall, parasitupocriticall, and pantophainoudendeconticall Puppie Thomas Nashe … that he want not the want of health, wealth, and libertie. The Trimming of Thomas Nashe (1597) Thomas Nashe's prose narrative The Unfortunate Traveler (1594) sits uneasily within the golden world of Elizabethan literary culture. Written by a writer of notoriously varied style, whose pen produced both one of Elizabethan literature's most poignant anthology lyrics (“Adieu, farewell, earth's bliss/… Brightness falls from the air”) and a spirited pornographic poem (“Nashe's Dildo, or The Choice of Valentines”), The Unfortunate Traveler combines chronicle history, jest book, humanist satire, Petrarchan lyric cycle, travelogue, religious polemic, Italianate novella, and classical romance. Nashe mixes his genres with abandon. He celebrates and mocks an assortment of elite literary modes in late Tudor culture, from Sidney's lyricism to Spenser's epic to Marlowe's bombast, while simultaneously developing a new urban literary voice: ironic, caustic, and self – conscious. Perfectly adapted to the new medium of print, Nashe remained ambivalent about his relationship to established literary culture, leading him to write The Unfortunate Traveler as an antagonistic summary and critique of literary London in the 1590s. Nashe's rollicking street – level revision of Elizabethan literature provides ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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