1887 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Watson

George Saintsbury, in History of Elizabethan Literature (1887; 1909) 106-07.



Watson, of whom as usual scarcely anything is known personally, was a Londoner by birth, an Oxford man by education, a friend of most of the earlier literary school of the reign, such as Lyly, Peele, and Spenser, and, a tolerably industrious writer both in Latin and English during his short life, which can hardly have begun before 1557, and was certainly closed by 1593. He stands in English poetry as the author of the Hecatompathia or Passionate Century of sonnets (1582), and the Tears of Fancy, consisting of sixty similar poems, printed after his death. The Tears of Fancy are regular quatorzains, the pieces composing the Hecatompathia, though called sonnets, are in a curious form of eighteen lines practically composed of three six-line stanzas rhymed A B, A B, C C, and not connected by any continuance of rhyme from stanza to stanza.... The quatorzains of the Tears of Fancy are more attractive in form and less artificial in structure and phraseology, but it must be remembered that by their time Sidney's sonnets were known and Spenser had written much. The seed was scattered abroad, and it fell in congenial soil in falling on Watson, but the Hecatompathia was self-sown.