1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Winstanley

Thomas Park, "The Muses Cabinet" Censura Literaria 5 (1807) 129-31



William Winstanley reveals his claim to the initials in the above title, by his dedicatory verses "to the truly and excellent well accomplished gentleman, Mr. William Holgate." From a similarity of name, and of plebian taste in poetry, there is much reason to believe this picklock of the Muses Cabinet, was the barber-biographer, who impudently as falsely declared "the fame of Milton would go out like a candle in a snuff, and his memory always stink;" while, in the same book, he delivers the following truism, adverting (it is presumable) to his own despised volume: — "I have known (says this auctorial shaver) a well-writ poem, after a double expence of brain to bring it forth, and of purse to publish it in the world, condemned to the drudgery of the chandler or oylman, or, which is worse, to light tobacco." Great indeed is likely to have been the candle-lighting consumption of Winstanley's poetry, since the copy now before me, is the only one that has met my observation; and was purchased by its present owner from the curious library of Major Preston. That thirty years afterward the poetaster became ashamed of his own metrical performances, is to be inferred from a short article of John Taylor, in his Lives of the English Poets, where he says that "one" bestowed the following epitaph upon the Water Poet, which one proves to be himself, as the lines occur at p. 21 of the Muses Cabinet.

Here lies the Water Poet, honest John,
Who rowed on the streams of Helicon;
Where, having many rocks and dangers past,
He at the haven of heaven arriv'd at last.

These lines form a tolerable "picture in little," of the talent and accomplishments of Mr. Winstanley. The following tribute becomes interesting only from its allusion.

ON SIR PHILIP SIDNEY'S ARCADIA.
When I that learned work of his peruse,
And read the lines indited by his Muse:
It makes me think, so sweet of love he sings,
His pens were quills pluckt off from Cupid's wings.

One more specimen addressed to a contemporary verse-man may suffice.

TO MR. SHEPPARD, ON HIS MOST EXCELLENT EPIGRAMS.
Sheppard, thou hast
Martial o'repast,
Ausonius conquered;
Thou Harrington
Hast overcome,
And Owen stricken dead.

These, in their time,
For wits the prime,
Of poets counted were:
But if to thee
Compar'd they be,
We see they nothing are.

Then sit thee down,
Whilest we do crown
Thy head with wreaths of bays:
The Muses nine
Do all combine
To warble forth thy praise.