1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Fletcher

William Hazlitt, in Lectures chiefly on the dramatic literature of the age of Elizabeth (1820; 1845) 92.



The Faithful Shepherdess, by Fletcher alone, is "a perpetual feast of nectar'd sweets, where no crude surfeit reigns." The author has in it given a loose to his fancy, and his fancy was his most delightful and genial quality, where, to use his own word,

He takes most ease, and grows ambitious
Thro' his own wanton fire and pride delicious.

The songs and lyrical descriptions throughout are luxurious and delicate in a high degree. He came near to Spenser in a certain tender and voluptuous sense of natural beauty; he came near to Shakespeare in the playful and fantastic expression of it. The whole composition is an exquisite union of dramatic and pastoral poetry; where the local descriptions receive a tincture from the sentiments and purposes of the speaker, and each character, cradled in the lap of nature, paints "her virgin fancies wild" with romantic grace and classic elegance.