1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Francis Quarles

Thomas Campbell, in Specimens of the British Poets (1819; 1845) 187.



This voluminous saint was bred at Cambridge and Lincoln's-inn, and was appointed cup-bearer to Elizabeth, Electress of Bohemia, after quitting whose service he went to Ireland, and was secretary to Archbishop Usher. On the breaking out of the rebellion in that kingdom he was a considerable sufferer, and was obliged to fly, for safety, to England. He had already been pensioned by Charles, and made Chronologer to the city of London; but in the general ruin of the royal cause his property was confiscated, and his books and manuscripts, which he valued more, were plundered. This reverse of fortune is supposed to have accelerated his death.

The charitable criticism of the present age has done justice to Quarles, in contrasting his merits with his acknowledged deformities. That his perfect specimens of the bathos should have been laughed at in the age of Pope, is not surprising. His Emblems, whimsical as they are, have not the merit of originality, being imitated from Herman Hugo. A considerable resemblance to Young may be traced in the blended strength and extravagance, and ill-assorted wit and devotion of Quarles. Like Young, he wrote vigorous prose — witness his Enchiridion. In the parallel, however, it is due to the purity of Young to acknowledge, that he never was guilty of such indecency as that which disgraces the Argalus and Parthenia of our pious author.