1837 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Webbe

Henry Hallam, in Introduction to the Literature of Europe of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries (1837-39; 1882) 2:201-02.



The first English criticism, properly speaking, that I find, is a short tract by Gascoyne, doubtless the poet of that name, published in 1575: Certain Notes of Instruction concerning the Making of Verse or Rhyme in English. It consists only of ten pages; but the observations are judicious. Gascoyne recommends that the sentence should, as far as possible, be finished at the close of two lines in the couplet measure. Webbe, author of a Discourse of English Poetry (1586), is copious in comparison with Gascoyne, though he stretches but to seventy pages. His taste is better shown in his praise of Spenser for the Shepherd's Kalendar, than of Gabriel Harvey for his "reformation of our English verse;" that is, by forcing it into uncouth Latin measures, which Webbe has himself most unhappily attempted.