1698
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Notes on Dryden's Virgil.

Notes on Dryden's Virgil. In a Letter to a Friend. With an Essay on the same Poet. By Mr. Milbourne.

Rev. Luke Milbourne


A comment on Spenser's versification. Luke Milbourne picks nits in John Dryden's commentary on Virgil, which had appeared the year before. Dryden, who had become an object of opprobrium to certain Whig critics, responded to Milbourne in his preface to Fables (1700).

Samuel Johnson: "This translation was censured by Milbourne, a clergyman, styled by Pope 'the fairest of criticks,' because he exhibited his own version to be compared with that which he condemned" "Life of Dryden" in Lives of the English Poets (1779-81); ed. Hill (1905) 1:388.

Percival Stockdale: "Dryden retaliates on our churchmen, through his works, in verse, and prose, with an unremitting severity. A sable troop of the church militant had ranged themselves under the standard of the cross; and under the auspices of the Colliers, and Milbournes of the age. Clamorous for the tolerant, and beneficent religion of the mild, and merciful Jesus, they were eager to destroy the finest feelings, and the finest accomplishments, in the person of Dryden; who was already struggling with persecution, and with want: — they were eager to assassinate his poetical talents, and his moral reputation: — ardent to exterminate the gay pictures of the poet; the seducing allurements to pleasure; but blind, or lenient, to the still more unevangelical, and obnoxious vices of spiritual pride; of that implacability, which, I have every possible reason to believe, is too common a characteristick of a sacred profession. Need I request you to forgive his memory, if, from time to time, he played off the lightning of poetry, against the pharisaical dullness; against the malice of these men?" Lectures on the truly eminent English Poets (1807) 1:242-43.

Walter Scott: "This person appears to have had a living at Great Yarmouth, which, Dryden hints, he forfeited by writing libels on his parishioners; and from another testimony, he seems to have been a person of no very strict morals. Milbourne was once an admirer of our poet, as appears from his letter concerning 'Amphitryon.' But either poetical rivalry, for he had also thought of translating Virgil himself, or political animosity, for he seems to have held revolution principles, or deep resentment for Dryden's sarcasms against the clergy, or, most probably, all these united, impelled Milbourne to publish a most furious criticism, entitled, 'Notes on Dryden's Virgil, in a Letter to a Friend'" Life of Dryden (1808; 1834) 336-37.

W. Davenport Adams: "Luke Milbourne, clergyman and poet (b. 1667, d. 1720), was the writer of a rhythmical version of the Psalms, and various ridiculous publications. He is referred to by both Dryden and Pope" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 393.

R. M. Cummings: "Dryden himself, and later Pope answered both Milbourne's objections" Spenser: The Critical Heritage (1971) 228.




The Alexandrine Line, which we call, tho' improperly, the Pindaric; tho' sillily, he means sure; for none who understood anything of Poetry, could call that the Pindaric Line in contradistinction to Lines of other Measures: And since Mr. Spencer uses it to close his Stanza, without any Thought of Pindarizing in it, why should Mr. Cowley's using it give it that Name now. Nor indeed does the Nature of a Pindaric Poem shew itself in the Irregularity of Measures, any more than a Chorus in Euripides, from the same Inequality, should be called a Pindaric....

"Spencer, and Milton are nearest in English to Virgil, and Horace in the Latine." But which of them resembles Horace? Spencer aim'd at an Heroic Poem, and so did Milton, (tho neither of 'em with that success which might have been wish'd) but Horace never attempted such a thing as Mr. D. well observes before; unless either of them be remarkable for that Curiosa Felicitas, formerly admir'd in Horace; but Mr. D. knows his own meaning well enough, tho I don't.


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