1808 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges

Senex, in Censura Literaria 6 (1808) 314.



You began [Censura Literaria] with criticism, and composition, and a rational mixture of English literature, both ancient and modern. You ought never to have descended to rival mere collectors, and makers of catalogues! The contempt between you will be mutual. You may rely on it, that, if you cannot trace the history of some black-letter penny pamphlet as well as they can, till it ends in some lucky possessor at the price of ten guineas, they will feel a sovereign scorn both for your knowledge and your genius! They will every where express their wonder at the impudence of a man, who has not been seen bidding madly for rare articles at every book-sale for the last five years, presuming to write on subjects of our ancient literature.

And do you suppose that, if you plead your love of the Muse, it will avail you at all? What signifies it to them, if you lose the long day in woodland solitudes, dreaming of the splendour of past ages, realizing in your fancy all the glories of the times of chivalry, and marshalling the Fairy Knights of Spenser in golden visions? These occupations will not enable you to tell the peculiar marks, or minute variations of a liber raris, or help you in the wonderful discovery of an unknown Caxton! Do not give heed to the exploded doctrine that to criticize a poet requires something of congenial feeling. A collector, it seems, can do it well, but, no doubt, a maker of catalogues can do it best of all!