-John Barclay Argenis

Front Cover
Royal Van Gorcum, 2004 - Fiction - 963 pages
Until the 17th century prose fiction similar to our short story or novel was rare in Latin literature. From Roman times we have only Petronius's Satyricon and Apuleius's Metamorphoses, both highly imaginative works which found no successors for more than one thousand years. From the medieval period we have epics in verse like the Waltarius and prose lives like Alcuin's Vita Caroli (Life of Charlemagne), but no prose fiction. In the Renaissance we find some translations of vernacular stories, such as Matthaeus Bandellus's Titi Romani historia, a translation of Boccaccio x.8; and original short fiction, such as the very popular Historia de duobus amantibus, by Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (later Pope Pius ii), which is very like a story from Boccaccio. We also have Sir Thomas More's Utopia (1518). This important work lacks a plot, and can hardly be called a novel, but More did provide a model for writers who wished to discuss real moral and political issues within a fictional framework.When John Barclay wrote his first novel, Euphormionis Lusinini Satyricon (here-after simply Satyricon) he followed only Petronius as a model of characterization and plot, and as a result, his Satyricon is much like Petronius's: full of lively incident and satirical descriptions of contemporary people and institutions, somewhat episodic and shapeless in plot, indeed containing some of the same plot elements, such as witches, a parody of literary criticism, the search for a free meal, and so on.1 When Barclay came to publish his second novel fifteen years later, he was better able to integrate in this work themes from Petronius and the Greek novel, particularly the Ethiopian History of Heliodorus,2 from popular romance, from the Utopia, and from his experience as an active participant in the political and religious controversies of his time.