1837 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Giles Fletcher

Henry Hallam, in Introduction to the Literature of Europe of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries (1837-39; 1882) 3:244-45.



Giles Fletcher, brother of Phineas, in Christ's Victory and Triumph, though his subject has not all the unity that might be desired, had a manifest superiority in its choice. Each uses a stanza of his own: Phineas, one of seven lines, Giles, one of eight. This poem was published in 1610. Each brother alludes to the work of the other, which must be owing to the alterations made by Phineas in his Purple Island, written probably the first, but not published, I believe, till 1633. Giles seems to have more vigor than his elder brother, but less sweetness, less smoothness, and more affectation in his style. This, indeed, is deformed by words neither English nor Latin, but simply barbarous; such as "elamping," "eblazon," "deprostrate," "purpured," "glitterand," and many others. They both bear much resemblance to Spenser. Giles sometimes ventures to cope with him, even in celebrated passages, such as the description of the Cave of Despair. And he has had the honor, in turn, of being followed by Milton, especially in the first meeting of our Saviour with Satan, in the Paradice Regained. Both of these brothers are deserving of much praise: they were endowed with minds eminently poetical, and not inferior in imagination to any of their contemporaries. But an injudicious taste, and an excessive fondness for a style which the public was rapidly abandoning, that of allegorical personification, prevented their powers from being effectively displayed.