1867 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Chamberlayne

Thomas Corser, in Collectanea Anglo-Poetica III (1867) 275-76.



The poem of Pharonnida, with all its interest and its merits, had long lain forgotten and unnoticed by the world, until its claims to public attention and its high poetical worth were recognised by Southey, afterwards by Campbell in his Specimens of British Poets, and since then by a writer in the Retrospec. Rev. vol. 1. p. 21. The author, who was born in 1619, was a physician at Shaftesbury, in Dorsetshire, distinguished for his loyalty in the cause of Charles I., and is supposed to have been present at the second battle of Newberry. From his own account he appears to have been suffering from poverty, and mentions in his preface that "Fortune had placed him in too low a sphear to be happy in the acquaintance of the Ages more celebrated Wits:" and that therefore his poem had been ushered in without any train of encomiums. Little further is known of him than that he was the author of a play called Loves Victory, a tragi-comedy, printed in 1658, 4to, but owing to the troubles attendant on the civil wars, and the closing of the theatres, not acted till 1678, under the title of The Wits led by the Nose, or a Poets Revenge. He died in January 1689, at the age of 70, and was buried at Shaftesbury, in the churchyard of the Holy Trinity there, where a monument to his memory was erected by his son Valentine Chamberlayne.

The work has a dedication "To the right Worshipfull Sir William Portman Baronet," dated from "Shaftesbury May 12, 1659," after which is an address to the Reader from the author. The poem is written in rhyming heroic verse of ten syllables in five books, each book containing the same number of Cantos, each Canto being preceded by an Argument in two four line verses.

From a note appended to his Joan of Arc, Southey appears to have felt much interest in this poem, and speaks of the author as a poet to whom he had been indebted for many hours of delight, and whom he one day hoped to rescue from oblivion. This has since been done by a writer in the Retrospec. Rev., who in a very elaborate and copious article extending to twenty-eight pages, has entered largely into the merits of the poem, and given a full analysis of the rather intricate and complicated, but highly interesting story.