The character of Phineas Fletcher appears to have been amiable and respectable. His contemporaries bestow very liberal encomiums on his learning and piety. His poetry also received from them a fuller compliment of praise, than it has gained from their successors. He is complimented with the title of "the Spenser of this age" by Quarles, the most popular poet of his time, and a man of true poetical genius; whose memory has been branded with more than common abuse, and whose writings have been censured merely from the want of being read. Pope mentions him with Blackmore, as a miserable rhymer; and, at the same time, in a note, abuses Benlowes for being his patron. Quarles too often, no doubt, mistook the enthusiasm of devotion, for the inspiration of fancy; but notwithstanding some gross deficiencies of judgment, and the infelicity of his subjects, he has a great deal of genuine fire, is frequently happy in similes, admirable in epithets and compound words, and superior to almost all his contemporaries in the unstudied flow of his versification.
The best pieces of Quarles would bear republication, and were selected for that purpose; but could not be received into this collection, without enlarging the proportion originally assigned by the proprietors, to the works of our older poets.
The critic must be more fastidious than clear-sighted, who can be displeased with the following description of the "Goddesse of Night," in his Argalus and Parthenia, which rivals the fanciful and sublime manner of Milton.
—her body was confinde
Within a coale-black mantle, thorowe linde
With sable furrs; her tresses were of hew
Like ebony, on which a perly dewe
Hung, like a spider's web; her face did shroud
A swarth complexion, underneath a cloud
Of black curld cypresse; on her head she wore
A crown of burnisht gold, beshaded o'er
With foggs and rory mist; her hand did bear
A scepter and a sable hemisphere;
She sternly shooke her dewy locks, and brake
A melancholy smile—