Quotations about Thomas Harriot

Copyright © 2024 J. M. Spivey
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A favourite theory is that [in Love's Labours Lost] Biron (Berowne) is attacking a group of savants known as the School of Night, or by some the School of Atheism, who were very interested in mathematics, the new astronomy, and various kinds of occultism. The School is said to have included Raleigh and 'the wizard earl' of Northumberland, as well as the poet Chapman, translator of Homer, believed by some to have been the Rival Poet of the Sonnets and the author of the splendidly obscure poems The Shadow of Night and Ovid's Banquet of Sense. But the chief brain of the group is said to have been Thomas Hariot, a dependant of Raleigh's and a man of versatile genius – navigator, astronomer, maker of horoscopes, and an early smoker. The existence of a School of Night, so called, depends heavily on a line of Berowne's about 'the hue of dungeons and the school of night' (IV.iii.251), in which the reading and sense of 'school' are debatable. Nevertheless such groups of students did exist. They had a reputation for far-out learning but also for pedantry and dullness, and they were therefore disliked by more sprightly men who were more interested in wit and poetry.

Frank Kermode, The Age of Shakespeare, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2004, pp. 68–69.