1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Gabriel Harvey

Samuel Egerton Brydges, in Restituta or ... English Literature Revived 2 (1815) 358-59.



The names of Tom Nash and Gabriel Harvey seldom fall together in the same plain of paper without reminding the reader of the story of the tiger and the rhinoceros, never meeting without attacking each other; and we expect, as a natural consequence, a spiritual skirmish, if not a desperate battle. Though their hatred was little inferior to those animals, and their warfare nearly as rude and ferocious, yet the result was never equally tragical. Their mode of attack was uncertain: sometimes tilting with wit and irony, as courtly as knights errant; and anon, rudely struggling and wrestling to exhibit each other as bedaubed with the filth of the fashionable Ajax. Had either of their restless minds been content with an occasional triumph, their waspish bickering would never have made their controversy to have lasted nearly as many years as the siege of Troy: but a temporary respite seems only to have been considered as preparatory to a new encounter. Notwithstanding the occasional mendicity which their pages display, the whole are richly diversified with matter and local allusions; enlivened with witticisms, or a studied vein of caustic humour: and furnish such an assemblage of amusing traits of manners and authors, that the controversy may be called the granary for commentators, and those whose research has turned to the Elizabethan era. More notes have been gathered from the light tracts of Tom Nash than from the voluminous productions of any one of his contemporaries. It may therefore be regretted that the whole of this literary controversy has never been reprinted compactly in an octavo volume. Even an epitome, done by a well versed hand, would be valuable; but it is not easy to compress all their best flights, or determine what may be rejected, as not likely to elucidate an enigmatical passage in some other writer. This hint is thrown out for those whom it may concern. Certainly in the case of reprints, several have been announced of less value, and undoubtedly more prosing in point of subject.