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Markham, Gervase (1568? – 1637)
« Markham, littérateur et polygraphe anglais, né vers 1570, mort vers 1655. Ancien officier de cavalerie, il était versé dans l’Art militaire, connaissait plusieurs langues étrangères et avait des connaissances étendues en agriculture. Cet auteur a publié un grand nombre d’ouvrages dont plusieurs intéressent la cavalerie et l’hippiatrique. Le premier est A Discourse of Horsemanshippe publié en 1593, dont des extraits et des réimpressions parurent en 1596, 1599; Huth cite de lui 9 autres ouvrages hippiques, dont deux semblent avoir paru après sa mort, et le catalogue Huzard en cite trois non signalés par Huth, parmi lesquels celui traduit par Foubert.
On l’a accusé, non sans raison, d’avoir tiré ses ouvrages de ceux de Blundewill, sans cependant citer son nom. « Il fut, dit M. Neumann, l’écrivain vétérinaire le plus heureux de son temps, comme il en était le plus impudent hâbleur. » Solleysel, dans l’Avis au Lecteur de la 3e édition de son Parfait Maréchal, dit : « Gervais Markham a amplement traité des maladies; il a été traduit depuis peu (sous le nom d’un Écuyer) par un « médecin, qui ne sçachant pas les termes propres à cet Art, a tellement embarrassé et mis de la confusion dans les matières dont il traite, qu’on ne peut espérer aucune utilité de sa traduction ». Solleysel voulait-il ainsi contester sa qualité d’Écuyer à Foubert qui aurait été simplement médecin, ou prétendait-il que Foubert n’aurait fait que donner son nom à la traduction qui serait en réalité l’œuvre d’un médecin ? La première interprétation a été adoptée, mais je crois que la seconde est la véritable.
Foubert était bien, en effet, Écuyer du Roi, car, dans sa dédicace à Louis de Lorraine, il le remercie « de ses Lettres d’Escuyer du Roy » qu’il doit, dit-il, à la bienveillance du père de ce seigneur. Solleysel ne pouvait l’ignorer, la 3e édition du Parfait Maréchal étant postérieure de 6 ans à la traduction de Foubert. Quoiqu’il en soit, Solleysel, volontairement ou non, a supprimé ce passage dans les éditions du Parfait Maréchal, postérieures à la 3e. » Mennessier de La Lance (1915-1921)
« Gervase Markham (1568?-1637) came from an ancient Saxon family, already important before the Norman Conquest. A Markham was Sheriff of Nottingham at the time of Robin Hood and from then on Markhams were prominent as royal servants. Gervase’s grandfather Sir John was knighted by Henry VIII at Tournai in 1513. Sir John split his lands in Nottinghamshire between his sons: Gervase’s father Robert (1536-1606) only got Cotham, Markham and Tuxford, while his younger brother Thomas, who was Standard Bearer to the Pensioners, got the remainder. Relations between the brothers remained cool. Robert’s aunt Isabella shared Princess Elizabeth’s imprisonment at Hatfield and this gave Robert an introduction at her Court. Life there was expensive though, and Robert proved ‘a valiant consumer of his parental inheritance’. Little is known about Gervase Markham’s childhood. He was probably brought up in the household of the Earl of Rutland at Belvoir Castle, close to home, where there were many horses. His work suggests that he was well-educated and he was possibly one of the Markhams who entered Kings College Cambridge in 1583. It is plausible that Markham may also have met the Earl of Southampton at Cambridge. In 1624 he wrote that he « lived many years where [he] daily saw this Earle’ and ‘knew him before the warres, in the warres, and since the warres. » Horsemanship was Markham’s special subject, but it was only one of many topics upon which he wrote. « I have ever from my Cradle beene naturally given to observe », wrote Markham, one of the most prolific and popular English writers of his day. He blamed curiosity for the extraordinary range of his literary output : « my nature being evermore full of inquisition, I could not indure to have anything hidde, that practise, argument, or discourse could reveale unto me. » It is likely that from the age of 20-25 he was at Cotham training horses for his father. When in 1593 he dedicated his first book on ‘Horsemanship which you have always favoured’ to his father, he claimed that he was already thoroughly familiar with the horse « with whose nature and use I have been exercised and acquainted from my Child-hood. » He had received some fashionable training as a horseman. In his Cavelarice Markham says that he had taken a course at Master Thomas Story’s riding school at Greenwich where he was taught by the celebrated Prospero and other Italian riders. In 1595 Gervase’s father was arrested for debt. Markham composed most of his serious poetry in the five years following the imprisonment of his father. He was probably a follower of Rutland who became very keen on the theatre at this period. Markham saw some of Shakespeare’s plays and it is likely that he knew Shakespeare and Sir Philip Sidney. Markham was a minor poet with a few fine passages, but his association with the earl of Essex led Robert Gittings to suggest in Shakespeare’s Rival (1960) that he might be the rival poet referred to in Shakespeare’s sonnets. Gittings also maintained that Markham was partially the inspiration for the character of Don Armado in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Markham’s poetry identified him closely with the interests of the Earl of Essex and his faction. Essex, who may have been the son of Robert Dudley, inherited his office as Master of the Horse and his role as favourite. In 1596 Markham’s ‘Poem of Poems’ was dedicated to Elizabeth, daughter of Philip Sidney. ‘Devoreux, or Vertue’s Tears’ (1597) was a lament for the death in battle of Walter Devereux, Essex’s brother, and was dedicated to his sisters Dorothy, Countess of Northumberland and Penelope, Lady Rich. His religious poetry, ‘Tears of the Beloved’, or, the ‘Lamentation of St John’ (1600), and Mary Magdalene’s ‘Lamentations for the Loss of her Master’ (1601) shows the Puritanism dear to Essex’s faction. Some extracts from Markham’s poems published in England’s Parnassus (1600) have long been misattributed to Marlowe. This period also saw Markham’s principal military service. At some point he served in the Low Countries under Sir Francis Vere, and probably under Sir Robert Dormer, Sir Edward Wingfield and Sir Thomas Bromley. Markham seems to have returned to Essex in 1600. Sir Robert Sidney described a visit by Queen Elizabeth to his house where she was entertained by Markham’s horsemanship : « The younger Markham did several gallant feats on a horse before the gate, leaping down and kissing his sword, then mounting swiftly on the saddle, and passing a lance with much skill. » Markham later wrote of his career « Now for my selfe, although a piece of my life was Schollar, a piece Souldiour, and all Horseman; yet did I for nine years apply my selfe to the Plow. » These were almost certainly the ploughing years, when the newly-married Markham lived quietly in the country as a tenant of relatives in Huntingdonshire and perhaps on the Harington estate near Bath. He must also have been writing, for in 1607 he began to publish again. The Most Famous History of Mervine (1607) was a translation of a medieval French story; Rodomonth’s Infernall (1607) was translated from Ariosto; volume one of his prose completion of Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia also appeared that year. Fluent, if slow moving, it provides further evidence of Markham’s leaning towards radical Protestantism. Markham was highly productive Similar books covering broader topics followed quickly, such as The English Husbandman (1613-14), The Pleasures of Princes (1615) on angling and fighting cocks, and the later Hunger’s Prevention (1621) on fowling. Markham’s first book on horsemanship had appeared in 1593 with the title A discourse of horsemanshippe, re-edited in 1595 with the title How to choose, ride, traine, and diet, both hunting horses and running horses, with added cures for horses. These may or may not have been supplied by Markham but they gave the book its lasting popularity: a further four editions were published between 1596 and 1606. If Markham’s remarks can be taken at face value he was not happy about how Horsemanship had gone to press and he designed Cavelarice (1607) as a comprehensive guide to supersede his earlier work. There seems little doubt that Markham needed money and that he was now writing to raise cash. Markham’s Maister-piece (1610) was probably a response to a perceived demand for cures for horses. General Smith, who regarded Markham as a charlatan, wrote of it that « No work published in this country has done more damage to veterinary progress. » It was still in daily use in the nineteenth century, however, and was re-edited at least 20 times between 1615 and 1734. An abridged edition for farriers was published in 1630 with the title Markham’s faithful farrier and with later editions till 1883. A translation into French was published in 1666. Books on horses continued to pour from Markham’s pen after 1593. Eventually, there came a point when five different books by Markham on horses, some with very similar content, were on the market simultaneously. Markham has usually been blamed for this. However, sometimes a publisher who had bought material from a popular author found it profitable to reissue it repeatedly in different forms without paying the author again. Markham seems to have seen himself as poorly-rewarded and exploited by a cartel of unscrupulous publishers. He viewed selling similar material to different printers as a legitimate counter-measure. The issue came to a head on 14 July 1617 when Markham was forced to sign an unprecedented agreement with the Stationers’ Company : « I … do promise hereafter never to write any more book or books to be printed of the deseases or Cures of any Cattle, as Horse, Oxe, Cowe, Sheepe, Swine, Goates etc. ». If he secured higher payments for future publications from them in exchange, the record has not survived. During his last years, Markham lived in poverty in London, writing on Kent, on garden design, and producing a series of books including The Souldiers Accidence (1625) on military tactics. His work provides a magnificent source for the historian – full of authentic detail on the patterns and structures of everyday life. He was a very popular writer in his own day and has not been praised sufficiently for what he did well. Literature: Frederick Noel Lawrence Poynter, A Bibliography of Gervase Markham, 1568?-1637 (Oxford 1962). Thomas Quayle, ‘Gervase Markham: A Re-appraisal’, in: Agriculture, 66 (1960), pp. 563-7 » Dejager (2014)