1826 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Francis Davison

Anonymous, in Review of Poetical Rhapsody, ed. Nicholas; New Monthly Magazine NS 18 (September 1826) 359.



Poetical miscellanies, by "divers hands," have an earlier origin than the time of Dryden, though it was not until his days that they became universally fashionable. "The Poetical Rhapsody," says the present intelligent editor, "first appeared in 1602. It consisted of sonnets, odes, elegies, madrigals, and other poems, by some of the most distinguished writers of the reigns of Elizabeth and James the First; and was edited by Francis Davison, the eldest son of that victim of Queen Elizabeth's cowardice and treachery, William Davison, one of her secretaries of state. The contributors were Sir Philip Sydney, Edmund Spenser, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Henry Wotton, Henry Constable, John Donne, Robert Greene, Thomas Campion, Thomas Watson, Joshua Sylvester, Charles Best, Thomas Spelman, Francis Davison, and his brother Walter; and a very extensive proportion, extending to nearly one hundred pages, was by a poet whose initials are said to have been A. W., but whose name has never transpired — a circumstance which his merit renders equally an object of surprise and regret."

How say you, reader? is not the above a glorious pageant of poets? Does not the mere enumeration of them beget in thee a longing to explore the pages which contain their bright thoughts and tuneful lines? Are not the very names of better sound and promise than the miscellanies of subsequent times, — the Stepneys, Yaldens, Higgonses, Sprats, Hopkinsons, Ayloffes, and the rest of the rhyming crew of the reign of Charles the Second? We confidently anticipate your favourable answer; and as firmly expect that you will encourage the publisher of Davison's Rhapsody, and enable him to go on in his laudable endeavour to circulate the literature of the age of Elizabeth.