1751 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elijah Fenton

Thomas Birch, in "Life of Spenser" Faerie Queene (1751) 1:xxiii-xxiv.



Mr. FENTON, [in Observations on Waller] instead of deploring the Fate of these six Books, which are said to have perish'd, declares himself of Mr. DRYDEN's Opinion, that upon Sir PHILIP SIDNEY's Death, SPENSER was depriv'd both of Means and Spirit to accomplish his Design; and thinks, that "this Story of their being lost in his Voyage from Ireland seems to be a Fiction copied from the Fate of Terence's Comedies, which itself has the Air of a Fiction"; or that "at best it was but a Hearsay, that pass'd the Biographers without due Examination." But this ingenious Poet and Commentator will scarce convince his Readers, that the Death of Sir PHILIP SIDNEY was an Event sufficient to prevent SPENSER from finishing his Poem, when it is evident, that he gave the World, after the Loss of his Patron, six Books of it, at the same Time promising the rest, of which we actually have remaining two Cantos upon Mutability, equal, if not superior, to any of the rest; and two Stanzas of another Canto. And the Authority of so considerable a Writer as Sir JAMES WARE, who liv'd near the Time, and was in a Situation of informing himself about the Fact, cannot justly be rejected as a mere unsupported Hearsay, propagated "without due examination."