1779 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Sheffield

Vicesimus Knox, in "Minor English Poets" Essays Moral and Literary (1779) 2:275-76.



For the honour of English literature, most of the poetical productions which were admired in the reign of Charles, should now be consigned to everlasting oblivion. They display, indeed, much genius and a sportiveness of fancy, but they are incorrect and licentious beyond the example of any age. Some of the best poets of the times, among whom were Mulgrave, Dorset, and Roscommon, though possessed of Wit and taste, produced nothing worthy of immortality. The morals of the age were as licentious as the taste; and the love of pleasure introduced an indolence, which admitted not an application sufficient to give the last polish of correct elegance. The study of the antients, and of the French, has gradually refined the national taste to a degree of fastidious delicacy, and writers who possessed classical beauty were read, even though they had nothing to recommend them to the notice of a Charles the Second or a Sedley.