On "The pleasant Fable of Ferdinando Jeronomi"

It is very near two years past since (I being in Holland in service with the virtuous Prince of Orange) the most part of these Posies were imprinted. And now at my return, I find that some of them have not only been offensive for sundry wanton speeches and lascivious phrases, but further I hear that the same have been doubtfully construed, and therefore scandalous.
The Posies of George Gascoigne Esquire: Corrected, perfected, and augmented by the Author, 1575

The 1573 edition of George Gascoigne's works came wrapped in worried protestations of innocence, ignorance, and anonymity -- all laughably transparent given Gascoigne's desire to make a quick name for himself:

... as I seek advancement by virtue, so was I desirous that there might remain in public record some pledge or token of those gifts wherewith it hath pleased the Almighty to endue me, to the end that thereby the virtuous might be encouraged to employ my pen in some exercise which might tend both to my preferment and to the profit of my Country. For many a man which may like mine outward presence might yet have doubted whether the qualities of my mind had been correspondent to the proportion of my body.

Succès de scandale proved no boost to a court career, and, given the printing practices of the time, couldn't even profit Gascoigne financially. So, two years later, using equally half-assed reasoning, he attempted to redeem himself with a new and morally improved edition.

I must take the ford as I find it: Sometimes not as I would, but as I may. And since the oversight of my youth had brought me far behind hand and indebted unto the world, I thought good in the meantime to pay as much as I had until it might please God better to enable me. For commonly the greediest creditor is appeased if he see his debtor willing to pay when he hath any thing. And therefore, being busied in martial affairs (whereby also I sought some advancement), I thought good to notify unto the world before my return that I could as well persuade with Pen as pierce with lance or weapon: So that yet some noble mind might be encouraged both to exercise me in time of peace and to employ me in time of service in war.

In place of the original's interlocking pseudonymous initials, the prefaces this time strode beneath his own full honest name: "George Gascoigne, Esquire by birth, and Soldier by profession" -- nothing to hide here!

Conversely, the contents became less scandalously personal. "Gascoigne's Lullaby" was revised into "The Lullaby of a Lover." A harmless little poem exhorting the virtues of the letter "G" over his rival's initial "B" was removed to forestall further roman à clef speculations.

Most modified, being most scandalous, were "The Adventures of Master F. J.":

... now have I yet a further consideration which moveth me most earnestly to sue for this second edition or publishing of the same. And that is this: I understand that sundry well disposed minds have taken offence at certain wanton words and sentences passed in the fable of Ferdinando Jeronimi and the Lady Elinora de Valasco, the which in the first edition was termed "The adventures of master F. J." And that also therewith some busy conjectures have presumed to think that the same was indeed written to the scandalizing of some worthy personages whom they would seem thereby to know. Surely (right reverend) I smile to see the simplicity of such, who being indeed stark staring blind, would yet seem to see far into a millstone. And the rather I scorn their rash judgments, for that in talking with .xx. of them one after another, there have not two agreed in one conjecture. Alas, alas, if I had been so foolish as to have passed in recital a thing so done in deed, yet all the world might think me very simple if I would call John, John, or Mary, Mary.

But for the better satisfying of all men universally, I do here protest unto you (reverend) even by the hope of my salvation, that there is no living creature touched or to be noted thereby. And for the rest you shall find it now in this second imprinting so turquened and turned, so cleansed from all uncleanly words, and so purged from the humor of inhumanity, as percase you would not judge that it was the same tale. For although I have been heretofore contented to suffer the publication thereof only to the end men might see my Method and manner of writing, yet am I now thus desirous to set it forth eftsoons to the end all men might see the reformation of my mind. And that all suspicions may be suppressed and thoroughly satisfied by this mine unfeigned protestation which I make unto you in that behalf. Finally, were it not that the same is already extant in such sort as hath moved offence, I should rather be content to cancel it utterly to oblivion then thus to return it in a new patched coat.

As far as "cleansing" goes, details of the lovers' first night together were taken out, as was the sonnet "treating of a strange seed, but tasting most of rye." But for the most part, the two editions of Gascoigne's story are word for word the same.

Instead, Gascoigne seems to have assumed, understandably, that the offensiveness of his innovative work sprung from its most innovative qualities: its status as realistic autobiographical fiction. Most of his changes are accordingly in the presentation of the tale rather than the tale itself:

Unsurprisingly, there's no evidence that these changes were sufficient to improve Gascoigne's fortunes. They did, however, help to obscure the extent of Gascoigne's achievement for close to four centuries.

I had alleged of late by a right reverend father that, although indeed out of every flower the industrious Bee may gather honey, yet by proof the Spider thereout also sucks mischievous poison. Whereunto I can none otherwise answer but that he who will throw a stone at every Dog which barketh had need of a great satchel or pocket. And if the learned judgments and honest minds do both construe my doings aright and take therein either counsel or commodity, then care I the less what the wicked conceive of my conceits. For I esteem more the praise of one learned Reader than I regard the curious carping of ten thousand unlettered tattlers.

... Amen. From my poor house at Waltamstow in the Forest, this last day of January, 1574.

Opening of the 1575 edition End of the 1575 edition

The Adventures of Master F. J. by George Gascoigne, 1573