1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Francis Quarles

Anonymous, in Retrospective Review 9 (1824) 135-36.



The most popular of our books of Emblems is that written by Francis Quarles, the darling, as Phillips calls him, of our plebeian judgements, and, we may add, the scorn of our refined wits. The contempt with which he has been treated is, however, at a much greater distance from a just appreciation of his works than the vulgar preference. In his poetical compositions, which are chiefly of a religious cast, there is a passionate earnestness well calculated to please the common sort of people, and a want of taste and propriety in his application of the terms and feelings of earthly to divine love, likely enough to disgust the man of cultivated mind. Perhaps nothing more readily captivates the unlearned than quaint and antithetical phraseology, which has frequently the appearance without the reality of pithiness. Quarles is particularly distinguished by this quality of style, with which, however, he combines a great variety of new and poetical turns of expression. This character applies to his other works as well as to his Emblems, which alone demand our attention at this time; but as they still enjoy a considerable portion of public favour, we shall on that account appropriate a much less space to them than we should otherwise have done.