1850 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Dudley Fosbroke

John Britton, in Autobiography (1850) 1:152-53.



At that time [1830] I wrote a line to my respected friend and correspondent, the Rev. T. D. Fosbroke, who was living at Wolford, a short distance from the town, to spend an hour with me "at mine inn." He promptly obeyed the summons, came whilst we were at dinner, partook of the same, with a few glasses of old port — lingered, and talked, and talked, and drank, whilst time glided on imperceptibly to friends who had thus met for the first time, and whose hearts were warmed, and enthusiasm not a little excited, by converse on the charms of "hoar antiquity;" on the fascinations of the Wye; the intense interest of the many important ruined buildings on its banks; on poetry — for my friend was a poet as well as an antiquary; topography, and other branches of literature. Tea-time came, supper-hour also, and bed-time arrived; but my friend seemed fixed to his seat, and at the hour of eleven Mrs. Britton retired to bed: a succession of glasses of rum-toddy made my loquacious friend still more voluble in speech, as well as more firmly seated in his chair! The clock struck twelve — an unreasonable hour for a country clergyman, and a young antiquary to be "tippling in a tavern," — when I claimed the privilege of retiring, though I could not feel quite at ease to send my friend across the fields and through bye-lanes, at that "witching time of night." He therefore willingly accepted a bed, and a breakfast the next morning, when he pressed me to visit Walford, and his church. My duty and inclination impelled me, however, to pursue my journey. Mr. Fosbroke was a rapid and prolific writer, and favoured me with several sheets of manuscript on antiquities and topography; but on comparing them with printed publications, I found his extracts so copious, and his own compositions so blended and confused with the former, that I was afraid of using much of his communication. He published, however, many works: the first of which, I believe, was, The Economy of Monastic Life in England; a Poem, with Philosophical and Archaeological Illustrations, 4to. 1795. This publication provoked the hostility of the Roman Catholic writers; but, in spite of these, and even of some Protestant critics, Mr. Fosbrooke (as he then spelt his name) soon afterwards continued his lucubrations on the same subject, and further impeached the doctrines and practices of the same religionists, in British Monachism; or, Manners and Customs of the Monks and Nuns of England, 2 vols. 8vo. 1802. This work was referred to me, for comment and criticism, by the editor of the first volume of The Annual Review, 1803, in which I ventured to find fault with the author. "It is an unpleasant part of our task" — I truly said — "to censure, where we wish to praise: in the present instance we are certainly compelled to this disagreeable duty, for it is not easy to find another such an undigested mass of materials in any published book. It seems as if the author had sent the result of his readings to the press, as they occurred in his memoranda, without attempting to put them in any order; as irregularity and careless inattention are everywhere conspicuous. This is the more to be regretted, from the curious and valuable information which the work contains."