Two noteworthy and successful vernacular rhetoric manuals printed in sixteenth-century England are actually writing manuals, books on how to compose letters: William Fulwood's The Enimie of Idlenesse (1568), and Angel Day's The English Secretorie (1586). Both works reflected and sought to influence literacy habits in the book-reading public, and reveal a wider range of cultural engagement than has previously been thought. In particular, three aspects are likely to have stirred reader interest: a connection for vernacular learners with both the humanist and dictaminal epistolary traditions that formed the core of prestige education; a focus on practical letter exchanges that carry familial and social significance; and a large collection of model letters, in which readers would have found exemplary discourse coupled with proto-fictional and amatory elements that could be enjoyed as entertainment. Understanding the varied appeals of these two books helps us fill out the larger picture relating to how vernacular literacy was valued, developed, and applied.

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