1837 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Joseph Hall

Henry Hallam, in Introduction to the Literature of Europe of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries (1837-39; 1882) 2:225.



Hall's Satires are tolerably known, partly on account of the subsequent celebrity of, the author in a very different province, and partly from it notion, to which he gave birth by announcing the claim, that he was the first English satirist. In a general sense of satire, we have seen that he had been anticipated by Gascoyne; but Hall has more of the direct Juvenalian invective, which he may have reckoned essential to that species of poetry. They are deserving of regard in themselves. Warton has made many extracts from Hall's Satires: he praises in them "a classical precision, to which English poetry had yet rarely attained;" and calls the versification "equally energetic and elegant." The former epithet may be admitted; but elegance is hardly compatible with what Warton owns to be the chief fault of Hall, — "his obscurity, arising from a remote phraseology, constrained combinations, unfamiliar allusions, elliptical apostrophes, and abruptness of expression." Hall is in fact not only so harsh and rugged, that he cannot be read with much pleasure, but so obscure in very many places, that he cannot be understood at all; his lines frequently bearing no visible connection in sense or grammar with their neighbors. The stream is powerful, but turbid and often choked.