1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ben Jonson

Anonymous, in Retrospective Review 1 (1820) 183.



Though much talked of, he is little read. He speaks to us with the gravity and command of an instructor, and the age is too weak and petulant to bear with his severities. He is of all authors the most perfect writer, because he is an exemplification throughout of his own precepts. His works are a grammar of classical sentiment and dramatic propriety. But let it not be supposed, that we mean to degrade him to the mere rank of a critic: to shew that he is fit to become the instructor of others, we shall prove not only that his rules are true, and his precepts golden, but that he affords proofs of a mighty poetical genius, which his art frequently rather prevented from making use of unworthy means, than fettered from the attempt and attainment of its legitimate objects.