1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Wither

Joseph Dennie, "Headnote to Wither, On his Muse" Port Folio [Philadelphia] NS 2 (27 December 1806) 392-93.



Among those early English poets who have been too much neglected in Great Britain, and who are almost wholly unknown in America, we may enumerate the once celebrated George Wither. This ingenious man, by suffering his mind to become clouded with faction and fanaticism, rendered himself extremely obnoxious to many of his cotemporaries; and the poet was sacrificed to the shrine of the politician. In consequence of his puritanical pranks, he was at length shut up in prison, by certain Cavaliers, who did not much care for religious liberty. In the joyless hours of imprisonment, the poet very wisely abstained from libelling either Caesar, or Caesar's household, and solaced himself with the sweets of song. We are indebted to the fine taste of George Ellis, Esq. for the following delightful lines [from Shepherd's Hunting]. That admirable passage, in which the poet describes his triumph over misfortune, by the aid of the muse, will be read with rapture by every man of genius and sensibility.