1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Francis Meres

Joseph Haslewood, in "Palladis Tamia" Censura Literaria 9 (1809) 39-41.



Francis Meres was the son of Thomas Meres of Kirton in Holland, in the county of Lincoln. He was entered of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and took the degree of B.A. 1587, and of M. A. 1591. He was incorporated at Oxford July 10, 1593, and about that period was a minister and schoolmaster. He became rector of Wing, in the county of Rutland, sometime in or near 1602, and held the same for the remainder of his life, which terminated in 1646, at the advanced age of 81.

The Wits' Commonwealth was first printed 1598, and there is one, if not more, editions of the above. Wood considers it "a noted school book," which accords with the engraved title as "set forth chiefly for the benefit of young scholars." From the comparative discourse upon our English poets, the work obtained considerable repute. [Thomas] Heywood, in his Apology for Actors, calls him an approved good scholar, and tells us his account of authors is learnedly done. [William] Oldys speaks of him "of no small reputation at that time for his moral and poetical writings." His reading was general and extensive, and the connecting his numerous transcripts shows taste, research, and strong critical judgment. It is not to depreciate his labour upon the subject of the "comparative discourse," that I notice the greater portion to be derived from the first book of Puttenham's Art of English Poesy, in particular the thirty-first chapter. By the additions it forms a valuable chronology for that period, and the discovery of Henslow's latent papers established its credit as being just and correct. As a new edition of Puttenham's work is reported to be in the press, and as it is not probable the booksellers will venture to reprint the Wit's Treasury, though scarce and of some pecuniary value, giving the whole discourse at this juncture appeared a useful article. To the readers of the Censura Literaria many of the names must be familiar as household ones; but to some I have ventured to add a few notes, and trust they will obtain candour and indulgence amidst their imperfections.