1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Whetstone

Thomas Park, in Censura Literaria 4 (1807) 270-71.



Of George Whetstone very little is known. From being kinsman to the Recorder of London, it is presumed that he was of a reputable family. From his own works it is further supposed that he first tried his fortune at court, where he consumed his patrimony in fruitless expectation of preferment. He therefore, like Churchyard and Gascoigne, commenced soldier, and served abroad; though in what capacity is not told. Such however was his gallant behaviour, that he was rewarded with additional pay: but he returned home with more reputation than fortune, and his prospects of advancement were so unpromising, that he determined to convert his sword into a ploughshare. Yet here proving unsuccessful, like many needy gentlemen who become speculating farmers, he was compelled to resort to the generosity of his friends. This having proved to be a broken reed, he had recourse to the navy for support, and embarked on an expedition to Newfoundland, which was rendered abortive by an accidental rencountre with the Spanish fleet. From this period he is thought to have depended upon his pen for subsistence; and, if we may judge from the mediocrity of talent shewn in his writings, this must have been a very precarious support. Yet Webbe spoke of him, in 1586, as a man singularly well skilled in the faculty of poetry; and Meres placed him, in his little calendar of contemporary authorship, between the names of Shakspeare and Gascoigne, as one of the most passionate poets of that age, to bewail and bemoan the perplexities of love. These partial panegyrics, resulting perhaps from personal acquaintance, refer to some amatory trifles in his Heptameron and Garden of Unthriftiness, which in truth are little deserving of such praise.