1795 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Joseph Hall

Richard Hurd, "Joseph Hall" 1795 ca.; Commonplace Book in Kilvert, Memoir of the Life and Writings of Richard Hurd (1860) 236-37.



Joseph Hall, Bishop of Exeter, and afterwards of Norwich, one of the most considerable churchmen and most extraordinary persons of the seventeenth century. He was educated at Cambridge in Emmanuel College, where he was admitted soon after the foundation of it, about the year, I believe, 1590, and of which he was afterwards Fellow. He very early distinguished himself by two anonymous works, the one his volume of Satires, the first in our language, and a moral fiction called Mundus alter et idem, which he composed at college, when very young. His Satires, if they have not the depth and sense of Donne's, are infinitely more classical and poetical. They were very much admired by Mr. Pope. The Mundus alter et idem is ingenious, and abounds in fine strokes of satire. But the allegory is often hard and displeasing. He had a fruitful and inventive genius.

He wrote a fine book of Characters after the manner of Theophrastus, which will bear reading after La Bruyere's. He was the first modern who introduced the way of Epistolary Writing, and of Meditations; the former of which gave such a character afterwards to Balzac, and the latter to Mr. Boyle, not to speak of those puerile trifles, the Meditations of James Hervey.

There is great learning and fancy in all his writings. But the disorders of the times broke his spirits and prevented his being altogether what might have been expected from his first essays and compositions. He was a very pious, devout, and for the times a moderate divine; as may appear from his being with Laud on the one hand, and the Sectaries on the other. He was one of the principal assertors of Episcopacy, and therefore drew upon him the invectives of Milton, who treated him with the malignity peculiar to that poet's nature, and with a contempt which his controversial writings on that subject did not deserve. In a word, he was a learned man, a fine genius, and an exemplary bishop.