1859 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Joseph Hall

David Masson, in Life of John Milton (1859-94; 1965) 1:470-71.



On inquiry it is found that Donne might have the better claim to absolute priority, his satires having been written about 1594. But Hall's were first published; they were written without knowledge of Donne's; and they were after a more orderly type of satire. The first book of the Toothless Satires was directed against the faults, literary and other, of the poets of the age; the second treated of academical abuses; the third anticipated the Biting Satires by treating of public manners and morality. The author's acknowledged models are Juvenal and Persius; and he professes that it was to their nervous and crabbed style of poetry, rather than to the imitations of Virgil and Spenser, that his genius inclined him:—

Rather had I, albe in careless rhymes,
Check the misordered world and lawless times.

What Hall's satires did towards "checking the world" may not have been much; but, as compositions of the satirical order, they have kept a place in our literature. Interesting still on historical grounds for their references to contemporary manners, they are admired for their direct energy of expression, their robust though somewhat harsh tone of feeling, and the wonderfully modern appearance of their metrical structure.