1710
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Tatler 194 [Courtship in The Faerie Queene.]

The Tatler No. 194 (4-6 July 1710).

Sir Richard Steele


Sir Richard Steele presents a prose paraphrase of Faerie Queene 4.10 (the Temple of Venus), concluding with a few remarks on allegory and commerce between the sexes: "Womanhood is drawn like what the Philosophers call an Universal Nature, and is attended with beautiful Representatives of all those Virtues that are the Ornaments of the Female Sex, considered in its natural Perfection and Innocence."

The prototypes of the Tatler, including the advice columns in the Athenian Mercury of the 1690s, were quickly forgotten as Steele and Addison quickly invented and refined their successful program for uniting morality and fashion, taste and commerce, literature and politics. The difference becomes apparent if one compares Steele's elaborate presentation of Spenser with that in the Athenian Mercury for 11 July 1691: "Shakespeare deserves the Name of sweetest, which Milton gave him. — Spenser was a noble poet, his Fairy-Queen an excellent piece of Morality, Policy, History. Davenant had a great genius...."

While most of the anonymous authors of Tatlers, Spectators, and Guardians were male, the new periodicals deliberately cultivated a mixed readership, introducing generations of female readers to Spenser and Milton — plainly Steele believed a female readership that doated on romances would receive both pleasure and instruction from the Faerie Queene. While the evidence for female readership remains slight before the second half of the century, we may suppose that Spenser was read by a number of polite women who didn't deign to publish their thoughts on the subject. Abraham Cowley was surprised that his mother who "only" read the Bible possessed a copy of the Faerie Queene.

Thomas Green: "Looked over the first Vol. of the Tatlers — a happy design; which, however unequally executed, claims our esteem, as the venerable parent of a literary progeny, that has rendered inestimable service, in quickening the understandings, enlarging the knowledge, refining the taste, and improving the morals, of the people of this country" 30 April 1797; Extracts from the Diary of a Lover of Literature (1810) 33.

William Goodhugh: "The English writers who really unlocked the rich sources of the language, are those who flourished from the end of Elizabeth to the end of Queen Anne's reign; who used a good Saxon dialect with ease, correctness, and perspicuity; learned in the ancient classics, but only enriching their mother tongue where the attic could supply its defects, not overlaying it with a profuse pedantic coinage of foreign words; well practiced in the old rules of composition, or rather collocation of words which united natural ease and variety with absolute harmony, and give the authors ideas to develope themselves with the more truth and simplicity when clothed in the more ample folds of inversion, or run from the exuberant to the elliptical, without ever being redundant or obscure" The English Gentleman's Library Manual (1827) 157.

Leigh Hunt: "Truly curious was it, and lucky for the world that Dick Steele and Joseph Addison should have grown up together from childhood, and become the Beaumont and Fletcher of social ethics. But they had tastes in common, and admirable was the result; a music more charming for the counter-point; Addison's hand the staider and the calmer, the more artful, the more informed, yet playful withal, though never losing its self-possession; — Steele's the more wandering and capricious, the lighter, the less solemn, yet now and then touching forth notes of a more tender sweetness, and such as fill the eye with tears. Addison knew nothing of those" Leigh Hunt, Selections from English Authors, in Works (1854) 3:42.

Edmund Gosse: "The name of Isaac Bickerstaff had been borrowed from a shop-front by Swift as a pseudonym under which to tease Partridge the almanac-maker; and when Steele, on the 12th of April 1709, issued the first number of the Tatler, he also adopted it. This famous newspaper, printed in one folio sheet of 'tobacco-paper,' with 'scurvy letter,' ran to 271 numbers, and abruptly ceased to appear in January 1711. It enjoyed an unprecedented success, for, indeed, nothing that approached it had ever before been issued from the periodical press in England. The division of its contents was thus arranged by the editor: 'All accounts of gallantry, pleasure, and entertainment shall be under the article of White's Chocolate House; poetry under that of Will's Coffee-House; learning under the title of Grecian; foreign and domestic news you will have from St. James's Coffee-House; and what else I shall on any other subject offer shall be dated from my own apartment.' The political news gradually ceased to appear. It is pretended that Addison himself did not suspect Steele's authorship of the new paper until the fifth number, and the eighteenth is certainly the first which came from Addison's hand. Of the 271 Tatlers, 188 were written by Steele, 42 by Addison, and 36 by both conjointly. Three were from the pen of John Hughes (1677-1720), a graceful minor writer, author of the very successful tragedy of The Siege of Damascus (1720). These, at least, are the numbers usually given, but the evidence on which they are based is slight. It rests mainly upon the indications given by Steele to Tickell when the latter was preparing his edition of Addison's Works. The conjecture may be hazarded that there were not a few Tatlers written by Addison which he was not anxious to claim as his particular property" History of Eighteenth-Century Literature (1889) 188-89.

Herbert E. Cory: "That Steele read Spenser con amore is further confirmed by a very representative article in the Tatler for July 6, 1710. 'I was this morning reading the tenth canto of the fourth book of Spenser, in which Sir Scudamour relates the progress of his courtship of Amoret under a very beautiful allegory, which is one of the most natural and unmixed of any in that most excellent author.' Steele appends a brief prose paraphrase 'for the benefit of many English Lovers, who have, by frequent letters desired me to lay down some rules for the conduct of their virtuous Amours.' Spenser is adroitly turned into the graceful eighteenth century style. Surely we may conclude that Dick Steele, devoted if not always thoughtful lover of Prue, could hardly have resisted the fascination of Spenser's court of love" "Critics of Edmund Spenser" UCPMP (1911) 143.

Steele's redaction of Spenser drew a riposte from the Tories in The Examiner (5-12 October 1710). In this allegorical vein, compare Joseph Spence's "Allegory of Art and Nature" (1748) printed in Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Barbauld (1804) 2:319-27.

In No. 195, Steele reports that "I am at present forming my thoughts upon the foundation of Sir Scudamore's progress in Spenser, which has led me from all other amusements, to consider the state of love in this island; and from the corruptions in the government of that, to deduce the chief evils in life."




I was this Morning reading the Tenth Canto in the Fourth Book of Spencer, in which Sir Scudamore relates the Progress of Courtship to Amoret under a very beautiful Allegory, which is one of the most natural and unmixed of any in that most excellent Author. I shall transpose it, to use Mr. Bay's Term, for the Benefit of many English Lovers, who have by frequent Letters desired me to lay down some Rules for the Conduct of their virtuous Amours; and shall only premise, That by the Shield of Love, is meant a generous constant Passion for the Person beloved.

When the Fame, says he, of this celebrated Beauty first flew Abroad, I went in Pursuit of her to the Temple of Love. This Temple, continues he, bore the Name of the Goddess Venus, and was seated in a most fruitful Island, walled against all Invaders. There was a single Bridge that led into the Island, and before it a Castle garrison'd by 20 Knights. Near the Castle was an open Plain, and in the midst of it a Pillar, on which was hung the Shield of Love; and underneath it, in Letters of Gold, was this Inscription:

Happy the Man who well can use his Bliss;
Whose ever be the Shield, Fair Amoret be his.

My Heart panted upon reading the Inscription: I struck upon the Shield with my Spear. Immediately issued forth a Knight well mounted, and compleatly armed, who, without speaking, ran fiercely at me. I receiv'd him as well as I could, and by good Fortune threw him out of the Saddle. I encounter'd the whole Twenty successively, and leaving them all extended on the Plain, carried off the Shield in Token of Victory. Having thus vanquish'd my Rivals, I passed on without Impediment, till I came to the outermost Gate of the Bridge, which I found locked and barred. I knocked and called, but could get no Answer. At last I saw one on the other Side of the Gate, who stood peeping tho' a small Crevice. This was the Porter; he had a double Face resembling a Janus, and was continually looking about him, as if he mistrusted some sudden Danger. His Name, I afterwards learned, was Doubt. Over-against him sat Delay, who entertain'd Passengers with some idle Story, while they lost such Opportunities as were never to be recover'd. As soon as the Porter saw my Shield, he open'd the Gate; but upon my entring, Delay caught hold of me, and would fain have made me listen to her Fooleries. However, I shook her off, and pass'd forward, till I came to the Second Gate, the Gate of good Desert, which always stood wide open; but in the Porch was an hideous Giant that stop'd the Entrance. His Name was Danger. Many Warriors of good Reputation, not able to bear the Sternness of his Look, went back again. Cowards fled at the first Sight of him, except some few, who watching their Opportunity, slip'd by him unobserved. I prepared to assault him; but upon the first Sight of my Shield, he immediately gave Way. Looking back upon him, I found his hinder Parts much more deformed and terrible than his Face; Hatred, Murther, Treason, Envy, and Detraction, lying in Ambush behind him, to fall upon the Heedless and Unwary.

I now entered The Island of Love, which appeared in all the Beauties of Art and Nature, and feasted every Sense with the most agreeable Objects. Amidst a pleasing Variety of Walks and Allies, shady Seats, and flowry Banks, sunny Hills, and gloomy Vallies, were Thousands of Lovers sitting or walking together in Pairs, and singing Hymns to the Deity of the Place.

I could not forbear envying this happy People, who were already in Possession of all they could desire. While I went forward to the Temple, the Structure was beautiful beyond Imagination: The Gate stood open. In the Entrance sat a most amiable Woman, whose Name was Concord.

On either Side of her stood Two young Men, both strongly armed, as if afraid of each other. As I afterwards learn'd, they were both her Sons, but begotten of her by Two different Fathers; their names were Love and Hatred.

The Lady so well tempered and reconciled them both, that she forced them to join Hands; tho' I could not but observe, that Hatred turned aside his Face, as not able to endure the Sight of his younger Brother.

I at length entered the Inmost Temple, the Roof of which was raised upon an Hundred Marble Pillars, decked with Crowns, Chains, and Garlands. The Ground was strow'd with Flowers. An Hundred Altars, at each of which stood a Virgin Priestess cloathed in White, blazed all at once with the Sacrifice of Lovers, who were perpetually sending up their Vows to Heaven in Clouds of Incense.

In the Midst stood the Goddess her self upon an Altar, whose Substance was neither Gold nor Stone, but infinitely more precious than either. About her Neck flew numberless Flocks of little Loves, Joys, and Graces; and all about her Altar lay scattered Heaps of Lovers, complaining of the Disdain, Pride, or Treachery, of their Mistresses. One among the rest, no longer able to contain his Griefs, broke out into the following Prayer:

"Venus, Queen of Grace and Beauty, Joy of Gods and Men, who with a Smile becalmest the Seas, and renewest all Nature; Goddess, whom all the different Species in the Universe obey with Joy and Pleasure, grant I may at last obtain the Object of my Vows."

The impatient Lover pronounced this with great Vehemence; but I in a soft Murmur besought the Goddess to lend me her Assistance. While I was thus praying, I chanced to cast my Eye on a Company of Ladies, who were assembled together in a Corner of the Temple waiting for the Anthem.

The foremost seemed something elder, and of a more composed Countenance, than the rest, who all appeared to be under her Direction. Her Name was Womanhood. On one Side of her sat Shamefacedness, with Blushes rising in her Cheeks, and her Eyes fixed upon the Ground. On the other was Chearfulness, with a smiling Look, that infused a secret Pleasure into the Hearts of all that saw her Heart; Courtesy, with a graceful Aspect, and obliging Behaviour; and the Two Sisters, who were always linked together, and resembled each other, Silence and Obedience.

Thus sat they all around in seemly Rate,
And in the Midst of them a goodly Maid,
Ev'n in the Lap of Womanhood there sat,
The which was all in Lilly white array'd;
Where Silver Streams among the Linen stray'd;
Like to the Morn, when first her shining Face
Hath to the Gloomy World it self bewray'd.
That same was fairest Amoret in Place,
Shining with Beauty's Light, and Heav'nly Virtue's Grace.

As soon as I beheld the charming Amoret, my Heart throbbed with Hopes. I stepped to her, and seized her Hand; when Womanhood immediately rising up, sharply rebuked me for offering in so rude a Manner to lay hold on a Virgin. I excused my self as modestly as I could, and at the same Time displayed my Shield; upon which, as soon as she beheld the God emblazoned with his Bow and Shafts, she was struck mute, and instantly retired.

I still held fast the fair Amoret, and turning my Eyes towards the Goddess of the Place, saw that she favoured my Pretensions with a Smile, which so emboldened me, that I carried off my Prize.

The Maid, sometimes with Tears, sometimes with Smiles, entreated me to let her go: But I led her through the Temple-Gate, where the Goddess Concord, who had favoured my Entrance, befriended my Retreat.

This Allegory is so natural, that it explains itself. The Persons in it are very artfully described, and disposed in proper Places. The Posts assigned to Doubt, Delay, and Danger, are admirable. The gate of Good Desert has something noble and instructive in it. But above all, I am most pleased with the beautiful Grouppe of Figures in the Corner of the Temple. Among these, Womanhood is drawn like what the Philosophers call an Universal Nature, and is attended with beautiful Representatives of all those Virtues that are the Ornaments of the Female Sex, considered in its natural Perfection and Innocence.


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