1825 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Collections for the History of English Literature and Poetry. Spenser.

Southey's Common-Place Book. Fourth Series. Original Memoranda, Etc. Edited by his Son-in-law, John Wood Warter, B.D.

Robert Southey


For decades Robert Southey compiled passages from books and periodicals he read, collecting annotations and ideas for poems and essays. The whole was posthumously published in four enormous, double-column volumes with a thoroughly inadequate index. Southey seems to have collected references to Spenser whenever he found them, many of which are gathered together under the heading "Spenser."

This Commonplace Book which Southey quarried for use in his essays and poems is, of course, one of the early progenitors of the present compilation.

Southey's library was the stuff of legend. He had amassed a collection of 4000 volumes by 1803 when he settled at Greta Hall, and by the time of his death the collection had grown to 1400. Only a small fraction of the collection as it appears in the sale catalogue was poetry (though some titles concealed in batch lots). Southey evidently read old poetry in modern editions, though he had the Shepheardes Calender from the 1611 edtion; the catalogue lists one of the 1758 editions of the Faerie Queene, Warton's Observations on the Faerie Queene (and two editions of his Poems) and Joseph Warton's Essay on Pope; see A. N. L. Munby, Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons (1971-75) 9:214, 232

Thomas De Quincey: "Wordsworth lived in the open air: Southey in his library, which Coleridge used to call his wife. Southey had particularly elegant habits (Wordsworth used to call them finical) in the use of books. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was so negligent, and so self-indulgent in the same case, that, as Southey, laughing, expressed it to me some years afterwards, when I was staying at Greta Hall on a visit — 'To introduce Wordsworth into one's library is like letting a bear into a tulip garden'.... Southey's beautiful library was his estate; and this difference of habits would alone have sufficed to alienate him from Wordsworth" "Literary Reminiscences" ca. 1839, in Works (1889-90) 2:312, 314.

Sara Coleridge to Henry Taylor: "My Uncle Southey used to ink over his penciled notes, 'that nothing be lost,' as he said, with his usual diligence. When shall we see such diligence again, such regularity, with such genius and versatility? I think, if he had not been a poet, he would have been called a plodder, and have become a respectable and useful writer by sheer industry" 26 February 1846; in Memoir and Letters (1874) 256.

Horace Smith: "Not without a reverent curiosity did I gaze upon the books, of which his collection was so large that they overflowed their appropriate receptacles, and thickly lined the sides of the stairs up which we ascended. What array of powdered lacqueys, what parade of glittering soldiers, so grand, as thus to be silently ushered into the presence of the intellectually crowned laureate, through a double column of sages, philosophers, and poets, gathered from every age and from every clime? Truly this was a dignified reception, but it rather tended to make my spirit quail at the thought of maintaining a conversation with a man whose naturally exuberant mind was replenished from so many additional fountains" "A Graybeard's Gossip about his Literary Contemporaries" New Monthly Magazine 81 (December 1847) 422.




Unfinished parts, — or rather, indications, of what the remaining books were to contain.

Fradubio and Fraelissa. B. I, c. 2, xliii.

"We may not change, quoth, he, this evil plight,
Till we be bathed in a living well."

Final action of the poem. B. I, c. II, vii.

"Fair Goddess, lay that furious fit aside,
Till I of wars and bloody Mars do sing,
And Briton fields with Sarazin blood bedide,
'Twixt that great Faery Queen and Paynim king,
That with their horror heaven and earth did ring."

Though he very rarely carries on the sentence from one stanza to another, he seems fond of carrying on the sound, and continuing the rhyme, or at least repeating, the word at, the beginning of one stanza with which the last ended. Some link of allusion or of sound he evidently liked to introduce.

Guyon was one who—

"knighthood took of good Sir Huon's hand,
When with king Oberon he came to Faery Land." 2, I, vi.

Spenser's feeling concerning suicide. 2, I, lviii.
Concerning burial. 2, I, lviii. 1, 10, xlii.
Sansjoy is a person who must have been intended to be brought forward again.
If the allegorical names were always as happy as in the instances of Una and Duessa, the effect would be altogether so. Here they are good in themselves, and their significance not too apparent.
Sir Hudibras. 2, 2, xvii.
2, 3, xxvi. A hemistich in the last line. 2, 8, lv.
2, 4, xli. A line of twelve syllables in the penultimate.
3, 4, xxxix. Hemistich, seventh line.
"As Arthegall and Sophy now been honoured. 2, 9, vi.
Arthegall. 3, 3, xxvii.
B. 3, c. 2, st. iv. An oversight, — Guyon instead of the Red Cross Knight.
"Achilles' arms which Arthegall did win." 3,2, xxv.
In the Bernardo of Bernardo de Balbuena, the hero wins the armour of Achilles. C. 9.
Angela, the martial queen of the Angles, whose armour
Britomart wears. 3, 3, lv.-vi.-viii.
B.3. An oversight concerning Florimel, c. 1. Prince Arthur, Guyon, and Britomart see her flying from the Foster, follow her, and separate. Britomart passes the night in Malecasta Castle, proceeds on her way, and encounters and wounds Marinel, c. 4. And, c. 5, Prince Arthur meets her dwarf, who tells him that she had left the Court in consequence of Marinel's wound.
In the Ruins of Time, he speaks of the Paradise

—"which Merlin by his magic slights
Made for the gentle Squire to entertain
His fair Belphoebe." 523-5.

"Our posterity within few years will hardly understand some passages in the Faery Queen, or in Mother Hubbard's, or other tales in Chaucer, better known at this day to old courtiers than to young students." — JACKSON, 3, 746.

Pasquier had the same notion that models were as unfixed as they had been before his time.

KENT is said to have frequently declared that he caught his taste in gardening from reading the picturesque descriptions of Spenser. However this may be, the designs which he made for the works of that poet, are an incontestable proof that they had no effect upon his executive powers as a painter — Notes to Mason's English Garden, vol. i. p. 395.

Nor on his imaginative, Mr. Burgh might have added.

I think the versification of the Prothalamion an Epith. was formed upon some of Bernardo Tasso's Canzoni. See vol. i. p. 95, 118.

Mother Hubbard's Tale was published separately in 12mo. 1784, "with the obsolete words explained."

"Die hem in zijn luister zien wil, leze slechts zijn eigen bruilofsdicht; het geen alle my bekende epithalainien overtreft." — BILDERDIGK. Notes to his Essay on Tragedy, p. 173.

POPE says, "After my reading a canto of Spenser, two or three days ago, to an old lady between seventy and eighty, she said that I had been showing her a collection of pictures. She said very right. And I know not how it is, but there is something in Spenser that pleases one as strongly in one's old age as it did in one's youth. I read the Faery Queen when I was about twelve, with a vast deal of delight; and I think it gave me as much when I read it over about a year or two ago." — SPENCE'S Anecdotes, p. 86.

BILDERDIGK (ut supra, 174) says, "Emblemata en Allegorien waren eeuwen lang t' troetelkind onzer Natien. Ik sta toe dat beide nuttig zijn, en hare verdienste en sehoonheden hebben; maar zy toonen de eeuw van scherpzinnigheid, niet van het Dichterlijk gevoel, en dus, niet die der Poezy.

"SPENSER (SIR EGERTON BRYDGES says) gave rise to no school of imitators, — unless we attribute to his example the translations of Ariosto and Tasso by Harrington and Fairfax."

His peculiar language was the probable cause. But no poet has produced more effect in kindling others.

"The literary characters of men of inferior genius are made by the character of the age in which they live; and the main features, of their writings are entirely of that artificial form: but master minds impose their own shapes and colours upon their compositions, which, if tinged with any marks of their age, only betray them in subordinate parts. If Spenser's designs and characters took the costume of days of chivalry, the prima stamina of his poem, his main thoughts and language are founded on the truths of universal nature." — SIR E. BRYDGES, Theat. Poet. p. 34.

BRAGGADOCHIO is to be found in Gyron le Courtoys, and I think also in "Peele's Old Wives' Tale;" but certes in Gyron.

SYMPSON concludes his notes on B[eaumont]. and F[letcher]. [1750] by saying, "This is my first essay in criticism, and its good or ill success will either encourage me in, or deter me from prosecuting an edition of Spenser, toward which I have these several years been collecting materials. And, as I wish to see a good edition of that fine poet, so I would invite all the learned and ingenious part of the world to contribute their assistance toward the effecting of it. For I am persuaded, that Spenser will make a figure no way inferior to the best Greek or Roman writers, when published like them, cum notis variorum."

Pageants and court masques accustomed the people to such personifications as Spenser's.

LORD CHATHAM'S sister, Mrs. Anne Pitt, used often in her altercations with him to say, 'that he knew nothing whatever, except Spenser's F. Queen.' And no matter, says Burke, how that was said, for whoever relishes and reads Spenser, as he ought to be read, will have a strong hold of the English language." — HARDY'S Life of Lord Charlemont, vol. ii. p. 286.

SIR K. DIGBY published Observations on the twenty-second stanza in the ninth canto of the second book of Spenser's F. Queen. 1644.

"If it were put to the question of the Water Rhymer's works against Spenser's, I doubt not but they would find more suffrages; because the most favour common vices, out of a prerogative the vulgar have to lose their judgments, and like that which is naught." — B. JONSON, Discoveries, vol. ix. p. 174.

1780. "JOHNSON told me he had been with the king that morning, who enjoined him to add Spenser to his lives of the poets. I seconded the motion. He promised to think of it, but said the booksellers had not included him in their list of the poets." — HANNAH MORE, Vol. i. p. 175.

1759. Two editions of the Faery Queen, published by Upton and Church. — Monthly Review, vol. xx. p. 566-7.

Ditto, vol. xxx. p. 33. Spenser blasphemed by Michael Wodhull and his reviewers.

Ditto, vol. xliii. p. 306. "The Faery Queen is frequently laid down almost as soon as it is taken up! because it abounds with loathsome passages!"

Ditto, vol. xliv. p. 265. The tiresome uniformity of his measure!

Ditto, vol. lii. p. 111. Specimen of the Faery Queen in blank verse, canto I, 1774. See the Review.

Ditto, vol. lx. p. 324. Prince Arthur, an allegorical romance. The story from Spenser. 2 vols. 1778. (prose.)

WHEN HORACE WALPOLE was planning a bower at Strawberry Hill, he said, "I am almost afraid I must go and read Spenser, and wade through his allegories and drawling stanzas, to get at a picture." — Letters, vol. iii. p. 25.


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