1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edward Fairfax

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 1:103.



The celebrated translation of Tasso's Jerusalem, by EDWARD FAIRFAX, was made in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and dedicated to that princess, who was proud of patronising learning, but not very lavish in its support. The poetical beauty and freedom of Fairfax's version has been the theme of almost universal praise. Dryden ranked him with Spencer as a master of our language, and Wailer said he derived from him the harmony of his numbers. Collins has finely alluded to his poetical and imaginative genius—

Prevailing poet, whose undoubting mind
Believed the magic wonders which he sung!

The date of Fairfax's birth is unknown. He was the natural son of Sir Thomas Fairfax of Denton, in Yorkshire, and spent his life at Fuystone, in the forest of Knaresborough, in the enjoyment of many blessings which rarely befall the poetical race — competence, ease, rural scenes, and an ample command of the means of study. He wrote a work on Demonology, which is still in manuscript, and in the preface to it he states, that in religion he was "neither a fantastic puritan, nor a superstitious Papist." He also wrote a series of eclogues, one of which was published in 1741, in Cooper's Muses' Library, but it is puerile and absurd. Fairfax was living in 1631, but the time of his death has not been recorded.