1739 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Gilbert West

Henry Fielding, in The Champion (13 December 1739) 93-94.



Perhaps there never was such a Dearth of Vice, or Folly, that Satire was in Danger of starving for Want of Food: The Severe are of Opinion 'tis at present, glutted with too great a Variety. This is certain, we have often seen her set down with a very keen Appetite, and lay about her, as if she meant to clear the Board. But then she fed so indelicately, not to say coarsely, that it might be said, she turn'd our Stomachs, while she gratify'd her own.

Some Instances indeed, there are, of her entertaining quite like a Person of Quality: And one in particular, where her Bill of Fare is exquisite, the Order incomparable, the Garniture full of Fancy, the Desert magnificent, and the Honours of her Table, worthy the high Character she then assum'd.

To quit the Metaphor, I have my Eye on a Poem, called A Canto of the Fairy Queen, in the manner of Spencer; a Piece that may be almost called a new Species of Satire, especially free from Pedantry and Licence, where the Simplicity of Truth is ornamented with the Pomp of Fable; where good Nature, and good Breeding, interchangeably sweeten Reproof, and afford us both Instruction and Entertainment. . . The Author's assuming the Person of Spencer, is beside, a happy Expedient to take off that almost universal Displeasure which we feel, when another affects to be wiser than ourselves: And how well it becomes him let the Quotation annex'd witness. . . so well indeed, that, were it not for the superior Harmony of his Versification, (together with a few modern Images) and the Correctness of his Language, I could, without Difficulty, persuade myself, 'twas really a Fragment of that happy Genius, whom I never yet read but with Love and Admiration.