1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Hookham Frere

Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 20 February 1820; Life and Correspondence (1849-1850) 5:21.



A fashion of poetry has been imported which has had a great run, and is in a fair way of being worn out. It is of Italian growth, — an adaptation of the manner of Pulchi, Berni, and Ariosto in his sportive mood. Frere began it. What he produced was too good in itself and too inoffensive to become popular; for it attacked nothing and nobody; and it had the fault of his Italian models, that the transition from what is serious to what is burlesque was capricious. Lord Byron immediately followed; first with his Beppo, which implied the profligacy of the writer, and, lastly, with his Don Juan, which is a foul blot on the literature of his country, an act of high treason on English poetry. The manner has had a host of imitators. The use of Hudibrastic rhymes (the only thing in which it differs from the Italian) makes it very easy.