1780 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Phineas Fletcher

Anonymous, "The Purple Island" Whitehall Evening Post (15 July 1780).



It is well known to those who are acquainted with the English writers under James the Ist. that most of their Poets thought it their indispensable duty to treat of religious subjects; and as poetry delights in fiction, in order to give that degree of obscurity which they imagined necessary to keep alive the attention of the reader (and to comply with the taste of the Monarch and of the times) whenever they found an opportunity they gave their subjects an aenigmatical air. Among those Poets none hold a more conspicuous place than the Author of the Purple Island; for though the poem, considered as a whole, is monstrous and and ridiculous; yet the beauty and simplicity of particular passages, and even the false wit which abounds in this work, and which was then esteemed its greatest ornament, could not have been produced but by a Poet.