1817 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Allott

Nathan Drake, in Shakespeare and his Times (1817; 1838) 347.



In 1600 the industry of Robert Allot presented the public with a large collection of extracts from the most popular poets of his time, under the title of England's Parnassus.... Had the editor of this curious volume, beside citing the names of his authors, added the titles of the works from which he culled his specimens, an infinity of trouble would have been saved to subsequent research; yet the deficiency has served in a peculiar manner, to mark the successful progress of modern bibliography. When Oldys wrote his Preface to Hayward's British Muse, which was first published in 1738, he complains grievously of this omission, observing that most of Allot's poets "were now so obsolete, that not knowing what they wrote, we can have no recourse to their works, if still extant." Since this sentence was written, such has been the industry of our literary antiquaries, that almost every poem which Allot laid under contribution in forming his volume, has been ascertained, and rendered accessible to the curious inquirer; and so far from the writers being obsolete, after nearly eighty years have been added to their antiquity, we may venture to affirm that, excepting about half-a-dozen, they are as familiar to us as the poets of the present reign. It is but just, however, to acknowledge that a considerable portion of this intimacy may be ascribed to Allot's book, which, by its numerous passages form bards rendered scarce by neglect, has stimulated the bibliographical enthusiasm of the last twenty years to achieve their detection.