1762 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lewis Theobald

Thomas Warton, in Observations on the Fairy Queen of Spenser (1762) 2:264-65.



Pope laughs at Theobald for giving us, in his edition of Shakespeare, a sample of — "All such READING as was never read." But these strange and ridiculous books which Theobald quoted, were unluckily the very books which Shakespeare himself had studied; the knowledge of which enabled that useful editor to explain so many difficult allusions and obsolete customs in his poet, which otherwise could never have been understood. For want of this sort of literature, Pope tells us, that the DREADFUL SAGITTARY in Troilus and Cressida, signifies Teucer, so celebrated for his skill in archery. Had he deigned to consult an old history, called the DESTRUCTION of TROY, a book which was the delight of Shakespeare and of his age, he would have found that this formidable archer, was no other than an imaginary beast, which the grecian army brought against Troy. If Shakespeare is worth reading, he is worth explaining; and the researches used for so valuable and elegant a purpose, merit the thanks of genius and candour, not the satire of prejudice and ignorance. That labour, which so essentially contributes to the service of true taste, deserves a more honourable repository than The TEMPLE of DULNESS.