John Lyly

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Title page of Euphues, the book that launched Lily's writing career

John Lyly (Lilly or Lylie) (c. 1553 – 1606) was an English writer, best known for his Euphues (1579).

See also:
Sapho and Phao
Mother Bombie


  • Fish and guests in three days are stale.
    • Euphues, p. 305
  • Cupid and my Campaspe play'd
    At cards for kisses—Cupid paid:
    He stakes his quiver, bow, and arrows,
    His mother's doves, and team of sparrows;
    Loses them too; then down he throws
    The coral of his lips, the rose
    Growing one's cheek (but none knows how);
    With these, the crystal of his brow,
    And then the dimple of his chin:
    All these did my Campaspe win.
    At last he set her both his eyes—
    She won, and Cupid blind did rise.
    O Love! has she done this for thee?
    What shall, alas! become of me?
    • Poem: Cupid and Campaspe (c. 1584).
  • How at heaven's gates she claps her wings,
    The morne not waking til she sings.
    • Cupid and Campaspe (c. 1584), Act v, Sc. 1. Compare: "Hark, hark! the lark at heaven's gat sings,/And Phœbus 'gins arise", William Shakespeare, Cymbeline, act ii, sc. 3.
  • There can no great smoke arise, but there must be some fire.
    • Euphues and his Euphœbus, p. 153, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "There is no fire without some smoke", John Heywood, Proverbes, Part ii, Chap. v.
  • A clere conscience is a sure carde.
    • Euphues, p. 207, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "This is a sure card", Thersytes, circa 1550.
  • As lyke as one pease is to another.
    • Euphues, p. 215, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

Euphues (Arber [1580])

  • Be valyaunt, but not too venturous. Let thy attyre bee comely, but not costly.
    • P. 39. Compare: "Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,/ But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy", William Shakespeare, Hamlet, act i, sc. 3.
  • Though the Camomill, the more it is trodden and pressed downe the more it spreadeth.
    • P. 46. Compare: "The camomile, the more it is trodden on the faster it grows", William Shakespeare, 1 Henry IV, act ii, sc. 4.
  • The finest edge is made with the blunt whetstone.
    • P. 47.
  • I cast before the Moone.
    • P. 78. Compare: "Feare may force a man to cast beyond the moone", John Heywood, Proverbes, Part i, Chap. iv.
  • It seems to me (said she) that you are in some brown study.
  • The soft droppes of rain perce the hard marble; many strokes overthrow the tallest oaks.
    • P. 81. Compare: "Water continually dropping will wear hard rocks hollow", Plutarch, Of the Training of Children; "Stillicidi casus lapidem cavat" (translation: "Continual dropping wears away a stone"), Lucretius, i. 314; "Many strokes, though with a little axe,/ Hew down and fell the hardest-timber'd oak", William Shakespeare, 3 Henry VI, act ii, sc. 1.
  • He reckoneth without his Hostesse. Love knoweth no lawes.
    • P. 84. Compare: "Reckeners without their host must recken twice", John Heywood, Proverbes, Part i, Chap. viii.
  • That honourable estate of Matrimony, which was sanctified in Paradise, allowed of the Patriarches, hallowed of the olde Prophets, and commended of al persons.
    • P. 86.
  • Did not Jupiter transforme himselfe into the shape of Amphitrio to embrace Alcmæna; into the form of a swan to enjoy Leda; into a Bull to beguile Io; into a showre of gold to win Danae?
    • P. 93. Compare: "Jupiter himself was turned into a satyr, a shepherd, a bull, a swan, a golden shower, and what not for love", Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, part iii, sec ii, mem. i, subs. 1.
  • I mean not to run with the Hare and holde with the Hounde.
    • P. 107. Compare: "To hold with the hare and run with the hound", John Heywood, Proverbes, Part i, Chap. x.
  • Rather fast then surfette, rather starue then striue to exceede.
    • P. 108.
  • Is it not true which Seneca reporteth, that as too much bending breaketh the bowe, so too much remission spoyleth the minde?
    • P. 112.
  • It is a world to see.
    • P. 116. Compare: "'T is a world to see", William Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew, act ii, sc. 1.

"Be valyaunt, but not too venturous" is quoted in Jeeves and Wooster, when Wooster is playing golf, and getting his ball into the rough once too often. In this, he refers to Lyly simply as "The Poet"

Euphues and his England

  • Goe to bed with the Lambe, and rise with the Larke.
    • P. 229. Compare: "To rise with the lark and go to bed with the lamb", Breton, Court and Country, 1618 (reprint, page 182); "Rise with the lark, and with the lark to bed", James Hurdis, The Village Curate.
  • A comely olde man as busie as a bee.
    • P. 252.
  • Maydens, be they never so foolyshe, yet beeing fayre they are commonly fortunate.
    • P. 279.
  • Where the streame runneth smoothest, the water is deepest.
    • P. 287. Compare: "Passions are likened best to floods and streams: The shallow murmur, but the deep are dumb", Sir Walter Raleigh, The Silent Lover.
  • Your eyes are so sharpe that you cannot onely looke through a Milstone, but cleane through the minde.
    • P. 289.
  • I am glad that my Adonis hath a sweete tooth in his head.
    • P. 308.
  • For experience teacheth me that straight trees have crooked roots.
  • A Rose is sweeter in the budde than full blowne.
    • P. 314. Compare: "The rose is fairest when 't is budding new", Sir Walter Scott, Lady of the Lake, canto iii. st. 1.
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