1823 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Philip Sidney

William Hayley, ca. 1820; in Memoirs of William Hayley (1823) 1:23.



The early passion of the young Hayley for poetry arose, as the same passion is said to have arisen in the bosom of our royal Alfred, from hearing poems read to him with taste and feeling by his mother.... It was one of his favourite pleasures, in his childhood, to hear her read, of which he gave a singular proof on a remarkable occasion. Having accidentally caught the small-pox, soon after he regained the use of his legs, and it being the medical fashion of the time to confine a patient in that disorder to his bed, the mother of the young poet found it rather difficult to reconcile him to such tiresome discipline. But as she appeared very anxious on this point, he said to her, "Well, I will promise you to continue in bed as long as you desire, if you will only promise to read to me Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, as long as I am confined." A bargain so tender was rapidly settled, and the young patient, whose distemper was particularly mild, enjoyed the gratification of hearing the whole Arcadia (at that time a favourite of his fancy) read to him by the voice in which he most delighted.