1757 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Hughes

John Campbell, in Biographia Britannica (1757) 4:2706n.



This work [Hughes's edition of Spenser] was printed by subscription, and his reputation being now thoroughly established, was of greater consequence to Mr. Hughes, than any thing he had hitherto published. It is dedicated to John Lord Somers, whom he compliments upon his having bought Milton into reputation, by patronizing a magnificent edition of his Paradise Lost, which induced him to put Spenser, who was in some sort Milton's master, under his lordship's protection likewise. His life of Spenser is succinct, but written with great solidity, affords a fair and true picture of the author, without the least mixture of fustian panegyric. The discourse on allegoric poetry, is a clear, learned, and comprehensive system of the rules, requisite to be understood, in order to writing or judging properly of that kind of poetry; and is not only instructive and entertaining, but very curious likewise, as it was a subject untouched by any of the critics who went before him. The remarks on the Fairy Queen, are very judicious and impartial, give the reader a true idea of the nature, design, and disposition of that work, which was extremely necessary towards it's being generally and thoroughly understood. In this short piece, Mr. Hughes has pointed out the principal beauties of that singular poem, some of which are perhaps superior to those of any other, in any age or language. He has likewise shewn the blemishes in a manner becoming a candid critic, and one who thought himself obliged to furnish his reader with all the information that lay in his power. His discourse on the Shepherd's Kalendar, and the smaller pieces of Spenser, is likewise very sensibly and correctly written, and contains some new and very useful reflections on pastoral and elegiac poetry. There is likewise a short, perhaps too short, glossary, for the explanation of the antique words, which Spenser had adopted from his great veneration of Chaucer. On the whole, he may be truly said, to have given an elegant and pleasing edition of all the works extant of that admired writer, in a manner that did great credit to himself, at the same time, that it revived and restored the writings of one of our greatest poets, which had suffered exceedingly from the incorrectness and want of critical judgment in former editors. The prose works, and the letters of Spenser and his friend Mr. Gabriel Harvey, with the admirable Latin translation of the Shepherd's Kalendar, by Bathurst, are also contained in this edition, which was as kindly received by the public as it deserved.