1831 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Phineas Fletcher

Robert Southey, in British Poets, Chaucer to Johnson (1831) 749.



PHINEAS FLETCHER was elected from Eton to King's College. Sir Henry Willoughby gave him the living of Hilgay, in Norfolk, in 1621, which he held twenty-nine years: then it is supposed that he died; and these brief notices comprise all that is known of his history.

The two Fletchers are the best poets of the school of Spenser. A villainous edition of the Purple Island was published in 1783; in which the text was modernised and mangled upon the suggestion of James Hervey, author of the Meditations; a book, not more laudable in its purport than vicious in its style, and, therefore, one of the most popular that ever was written. His brother Giles's poem was published with it, and underwent the same process of debasement.

Deservedly eminent as they were in their own age, neither Browne nor the Fletchers are noticed in Cibber's Lives of the Poets. Their poems were first included in a general collection by Dr. Anderson; to whom, more than to any other person, the early poets are indebted for rescuing them from neglect; and the present generation, for having better models in sentiment, language, and versification, set before them, than would otherwise have been generally or easily accessible.