1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Marston

Anonymous, in Retrospective Review 6 (1822) 113-14.



Fame seems to lose half its value by being annexed to a name only, unaccompanied with a knowledge of the biography of its owner, of the means by which he gained the difficult ascent to eminence, of the circumstances of his progress, of the obstructions he met with, and the manner in which they were overcome. There is no substance in a mere name upon which we can fix our admiration — it is a shadow, a nonentity — it might as well be Monsier Kinsayder as John Marston, or the converse. When Fame was preparing with a mighty voice to sound forth Marston's praise, he modestly laid his hand on the trumpet and stopped her before she could announce more than John Marston. "I have ever more endeavoured," says he, "to know myselfe, than to be known of others, and rather to be impartially beloved of all, than factiously to be admired of a few; yet so powerfully have I been enticed with the delights of poetry, and (I must ingenuously confesse) above better desert, so fortunate in these stage-pleasings, that (let my resolutions be never so fixed, to call mine eyes unto myselfe), I much feare that most lamentable death of him:

Qui nimis notus omnibus,
Ignotus moritur sibi.— Seneca.

But since the over-vehement pursuite of these delights hath been the sicknesse of my youth, and now is growne to be the vice of my firmer age, since to satisfie others I neglecte myselfe, let it be the curtesie of my peruser rather to pitie myselfe-hindring labours than to malice me, and let him be pleased to be my reader and not my interpreter."

The notices of his life are so scanty, that it is not worth while to transfer them to this place.