1787 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Warner

Henry Headley, in Select Beauties of Ancient English Poetry (1787; 1810) 1:lxv-vi.



By far the most valuable parts of this writer have been restored to the notice which they so much deserve by Dr. Percy, Mr. Ritson, and the authoress of the Muses' Library; many parts of great merit are still left, which I have availed myself of. There is in Warner occasionally a pathetic simplicity that never fails of engaging the heart. His tales, though often tedious, and not unfrequently indelicate, abound with all the unaffected incident and artless ease of the best old ballads, without their cant and puerility. The pastoral pieces that occur are superior to all the eclogues in our language, those of Collins, only excepted. Drayton, his contemporary, speaks in the following terms of him:

Then Warner, though his lines were not so trimm'd,
Nor yet his poem so exactly limn'd,
And neatly jointed, but the critic way
Easily reprove him, yet thus let me say
For my old friend, some passages there be
In him, which I protest have taken me
With almost wonder, so fine, so clear, and new,
As yet they have been equalled by few.
Of Poets and Poesy.

He appears to have been patronised by Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, whom he thus addresses in his preface. "Having dedicated a former booke to him that from your Honor deriveth his birth, now also present the like to your Lordship, with so much the lesse doubt, and so much the more dutie, by how much the more I esteeme this my latter labour of more valew, and I owe, and your Lordship expecteth especiall dutie at the hands of your servant." Epist. Dedicat. Albion's Eng. Lond. 1602. He is said to have been born in Warwickshire, and educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxon; and is considered by Meres, in his Wit's Treasury, edit. 1598, as an improver of the English language. Phillips calls him, "a good honest writer of moral rules and precepts in that old-fashioned kind of seven-footed verse which yet sometimes is in use, though in different manner, that is to say, divided into two. He may be reckoned with several other writers of the same time (i.e. Elizabeth's reign), who, though inferior to Sidney, Spenser, Drayton, and Daniel, yet have been thought by some not unworthy to be remembered and quoted, namely, G. Gascoign, &c." Theat. Poet. p. 193.