1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Philip Sidney

Anna Laetitia Barbauld, in "Life of Mr. Richardson" Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Barbauld (1804) 1:xvii-xviii.



In the earlier periods of English history, we had our share in the rude literature of the times, and we were familiar, either by translations or stories of our own growth, with the heroes of the chivalrous times, many of whom belonged to our own country. We had also, in common with our neighbours, the monkish legends, a species or romance abounding with the marvellous, and particularly suited to the taste of a superstitious age. Many of these merit attention as a branch, and no small one, of fiction; they have been properly exploded for their falsehood; they should now be preserved for their invention: they are now harmless; they can no longer excite our indignation, let them be permitted to amuse our fancy.

In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, we had the once famous romance Sidney's Arcadia, of the pastoral heroic kind, if the expression may be permitted. It is a book that all have heard of, that some few possess, but that nobody reads.