Francis Quarles hails Phineas Fletcher as "The Spencer of this Age," and speaks of emulation among Spenser's disciples — few in number, he seems to imply, in "these dull times." The common "Foundation" is Cambridge University, where Spenser had also studied.
Samuel Austin Allibone: "It deserves to be mentioned that Francis Quarles inscribes his stanzas of three lines each, prefixed to Phineas Fletcher's Piscatory Eclogues, &c., "To my dear Friend, the Spencer of this age." The leaf of verses is frequently wanting; collectors, therefore, should carefully exmaine copies offered for sale for their inspection" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:606.
Herbert E. Cory: "By 1627 the names of Giles and Phineas Fletcher must have been prominent at Milton's own university, Cambridge, where he was a novitiate in poetry for seven years. The Fletchers seized upon subjects which were in the air. In an age of religious poetry they wrote quaintly and often beautifully, in ingenious and eccentric allegory, of the life of Christ and of the soul of man. They borrowed reverently, but with naive freedom, from the riches of The Faerie Queene, which they ransacked from end to end for allegorical figures, memorable lines, sometimes nearly whole stanzas. Over all they embroidered the curious, stiff conceits that were everywhere high in favor. They were enthusiastic imitators of the Spenserian stanza. As Spenser had given new music to the eight-line stanza by the addition of a final alexandrine, so the Fletchers experimented by adding the long line to the rhyme-royal, the ottava rima, and many other current forms. The influence of the Fletchers was far greater than has generally been realized. They founded a distinct school of poetry which outlived the chilling influence of the Restoration. Even in the eighteenth century the school survived in the work of William Thompson, one of the earliest definite romanticists of that period. In Milton's day, most of the Cantabrigians, Crashaw, Joseph Beaumont, Thomas Robinson, and others, wrote more or less in their manner. In his boyhood Milton was enlisted in the School of the Fletchers and their influence is traceable even in his mature poems. Any study of Spenserian material in Milton, then, should include an elaborate examination of the work of the School of the Fletchers" "Spenser, the Fletchers, and Milton" UCPMP 2 (1912) 313-14.
Harold Jenkins: "Quarles addressed Fletcher as 'sweet stranger,' and since he did not know the poet personally, he had presumably been shown the manuscript of Fletcher's poems by Benlowes. The legend that Benlowes was the means of introducing to one another of these two highly thought-of poets is therefore probably true. The firm friendship which came to unite all three was acknowledged in a curious way in one of the engravings that illustrated Quarles's Emblemes. It showed the Soul seated on a globe, a traditional item in religious emblems, and on the globe were marked four places: London, Roxwell, Finch[ing]field, and Hilgay. The last three were the villages where the three friends dwelt" Edward Benlowes (1952) 76-77.
I vow (sweet stranger) if my lazie quill
Had not been disobedient to fulfill
My quick desires, this glory which is thine,
Had but the Muses pleased, had been mine.
My Genius jumpt with thine; the very same
Was our Foundation: in the very Frame
Thy Genius jumpt with mine; it got the start
In nothing, but Prioritie, and Art.
If (my ingenious Rivall) these dull times
Should want the present strength to prize thy rhymes,
The time-instructed children of the next
Shall fill thy margent, and admire the text;
Whose well-read lines will teach them how to be
The happie knowers of themselves and thee.