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ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Wits Miserie, and the Worlds Madnesse.

Wits Miserie, and the Worlds Madnesse: discovering the Devils incarnat of this Age.

Dr. Thomas Lodge


Thomas Lodge decries the quarrels of authors, recently taken to new heights by Gabriel Harvey and Thomas Nashe. Edmund Spenser, "best read in ancient poetry," appears in a catalogue of virtuous poets.

William Beloe: "I know of no other copy of this Tract but that in the possession of Mr. George Chalmers.... The old Serpent the Devill, is represented as sending out into the world seven Devills to draw the word to capital sinne, as God had appointed seven capital Angels" Anecdotes of Literature 2 (1807) 159-60.

William Minto: "Lodge's mention of Drayton confirms my opinion (p. 268) that he and not Shakespeare is the Aetion of Spenser's 'Colin Clout.' True, 'diligent and formal' are epithets very different from Spenser's high eulogium; but the expression 'choice in word and invention,' applied to Daniel, is not more unlike Spenser's praises of the poet. The fact is that Lodge's epithets apply, and apply with much discrimination, chiefly to the sonnets of the two poets. And apart from this mention of Drayton by Lodge, I doubt very whether 'Venus and Adonis' would have suited the taste of Spenser. The man who considered it necessary to apologise for the sensuous freedom of his own descriptions of earthly beauty, may well be supposed to have looked coldly on the rampant paganism of the first heir of Shakespeare's invention. No; I believe that Shakespeare struggled into fame in the teeth of strong prejudices, and that the established potentate of the literary world, the refined and haughty Spenser, did nothing to help this ascent" Characteristics of English Poets (1874) 345.

Thomas Corser: "A strong vein of satire, mixed with some coarseness, runs through the whole of this tract, which reminds us occasionally of the style of Nash, whom Lodge in this piece calls 'the true English Aretine,' and is not inferior, in our opinion, to any of the other productions of Lodge" Collectanea Anglo-Poetica 8 (1878) 380-81.

Charles Walters Whitworth Jr.: "While Lodge's familiarity with and admiration for Spenser is evident, it would be misleading to classify him as a Spenserian.... His debt to Spenser was modest but significant, and he generously acknowledged it" Spenser Encyclopedia (1990) 438.




The mischiefe is that by grave demeanure, and newes bearing, hee hath got some credite with the greater sort, and manie fooles there bee that because hee can pen prettilie, hold it Gospell what ever hee writes or speakes: his custome is to preferre a foole to credite, to despight a wise man, and no Poet lives by him that hath not a flout of him. Let him spie a man of wit in a Taverne, he is an arrant dronckard; or but heare that he parted a fray, he is a harebraind quarreller: Let a scholler write, Tush (saith he) I like not these common fellowes: let him write well, he hath stollen it out of some note booke: let him translate, Tut, it is not of his owne: let him be named for preferment, he is insufficient because poore: no man shall rise in his world, except to feed his envy: no man can continue in his friendship, who hateth all men. Divine wits, for many things as sufficient as all antiquity (I speake it not on slight surmise, but considerate judgement) to you belongs the death that doth nourish this poison: to you the paine, that endure reproofe. Lilly, the famous for facility in discourse: Spencer, best read in ancient Poetry: Daniel, choise in word, and invention: Draiton, diligent and formall: Th. Nash, true English Aretine. All you unnamed professours, or friends of Poetry, (but by me inwardly honoured) knit you industries in private, to unite your fames in publike: let the strong stay up the weake, and the weake march under conduct of the strong, and all so imbattell your selves, that hate of vertue may not imbase you. But if besotted with swinish vain-glory, emulation, and contempt, you fall to neglect one another, Quod Deus omen avertat, Doubtless it will be as infamous a thing shortly, to present any book whatsoever learned to any Maecenas in England, as it is to be headsman in any free citie in Germanie:

Claudite iam rivos pueri sat prata viverunt,

The meane hath discoursed, let the mighty prevent the mischiefe.


[pp. 56-57]