Nashe's Insults


Nashe, as his adversary Gabriel Harvey found out to his cost, had a vicious tongue. In one of his elegies, Michael Drayton describes Nashe’s writing as explosive in its ferocity:


“These words shall hardly be set down with ink,

Shall scorch and blast as his could, where he

Would inflict vengeance”

(‘To my dearly loved Friend Henry Reynolds, Esq; of Poets and Poetry’, 1627)


This reputation for viciousness was started by Nashe himself, through his thinly-veiled persona of ‘Pierce Penilesse’. He warns:

“if I bee evil intreated, or sent away with a Flea in mine eare, let him looke that I will raile on him soundly: not for an houre or a day, whiles the injury is fresh in my memory: but in some elaborate pollished Poem, which I will leave to the world when I am dead…I have tearmes (if I be vext) laid in steepe in Aquafortis,& Gunpowder, that shall rattle through the Skyes and make an Earthquake in a Pesants eares.” (Pierce Penilesse, 1592)

Aqua fortis, a solution of nitric acid used to refine metals, would continue to be used by Nashe’s detractors and fans alike to describe the corrosive effect of his words.

You can find some of our favourite Nashean insults* which you can find on the page below. We will be using the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) , one of the collaborators on the Nashe Project, to check the attribution of these neologisms, as well as any later usage by writers inspired by Nashe's acerbic wit.

* To be used with caution

Crusty cum-twang

from Nashe's "Lenten Stuffe"

Last modified: Mon, 05 Sep 2016 13:12:06 BST

Squitter-books & Ink-squittering

from 'Summer's Last Will', 'The Unfortunate Traveller', and 'Have with you to Saffron-Walden'

Last modified: Tue, 06 Sep 2016 14:34:24 BST