1801
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Palace of Pleasure: To the Public.

Juvenilia; or a Collection of Poems: Written between the Ages of Twelve and Sixteen. By J. H. L. Hunt, late of the Grammar School of Christ's Hospital.

Leigh Hunt


Leigh Hunt's Preface to the Palace of Pleasure asserts that custom has long established Spenser's manner as appropriate in allegorical compositions. He mentions Gilbert West's Education (1751) and James Thomson's Castle of Indolence (1748) as instances, and Pope's Temple of Fame as the only exception he knows. Since James Beattie's The Minstrel (1771) had stemmed the fashion for formal imitations of Spenser, William Hayley and Erasmus Darwin had published very popular allegorical poems without Spenser's archaisms.

Philadelphia Repository and Weekly Register: "No work has, for a great length of time, appeared calculated to excite more surprise, than this. For a person at his early period of life to have written so much and so well, seems almost beyond probability. May of these poems, so far from seeming to be juvenile productions, would do credit to a person whose abilities and understanding had arrived at their greatest perfection" 4 (2 June 1804) 172.

La Belle Assemblee: "His first poetical step of the grand theatre of life was Juvenilia, stated to have been written between his fifteenth and eighteenth year. Under those circumstances it purchases an immunity from the severity of criticism. But we cannot forbear saying it is dull, heavy, and common-place, unirradiated by one ray of incipient genius, while the advertisement shows the budding of that overweening conceit which is now full blown" NS 27 (January 1823) 5-6.




When it is urged with respect to the present English phraseology, that expressive, as well as elegant, language, can never be wanting to the choice of an Author, upon whatever subject his pen is employed, it will, without doubt, be a sufficient apology for the simple style and obsolete diction occasionally found in the following Poem to premise, that custom has long established the manner of Spenser as a model for Allegorical Composition.* The present imitation of the verse of that immortal Poet is accompanied with language that may to some ears border upon the ludicrous; this, however, as an Annotator on Thomson somewhere observes, is necessary to bring it to a greater degree of perfection: and, in fact, it not only renders the imitative style more like the original, but tends to add considerably to that unstudied harmony and simplicity of nature, which so attract and amuse the mind in studying the bard of Mulla's admirable effusions. Where the allegory is wanting in the survey of human life, the youth and inexperience of the Author will, it is hoped, be brought to the recollection of the exusing reader; and the moral, never to be too often repeated, that is drawn from it, which endeavours to correct the vices of the age, by shewing the frightful landscape that terminates the alluring path of sinful Pleasure, supply the defects of a Muse, who is entering into public in her sixteenth year, bashful on her first exhibition, and listening with trembling expectation, as she passes, to the shouts of disapprobation or applause that burst from the surrounding multitude.

* Vide West's Education, Thomson's Castle of Indolence. — Pope's Temple of Fame is the only exception to the general rule the Author ever met with.

[Second edition, pp. 161-62]