The Natural History of The Silkewormes and their Flies
39 - 45
Cahiers Elisabethains: late medieval and renaissance English studies
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This study examines the overlap between natural philosophy and humanist imitation in two works by Thomas Moffet: his reference work Insectorum sive Minimorum Animalum Theatrum (written c.1589) and his poem The Silkewormes, and their Flies (1599). Both works draw extensively on contemporary and classical authors in order to create intertextual collages that look backwards towards the natural unity found in the Garden of Eden. This leads me to argue that The Silkewormes’ compositional style shares more in common with Guillaume de Saluste, Sieur Du Bartas's Sepmaine (1578, 1584) than with Virgilian didactic poetry. I consider throughout Elizabethan notions of authority, composition and originality, and conclude that Silkewormes merits critical attention for its skilful synthesis of diverse material in creating a work appropriate for Mary Herbert and her household at Wilton.