1713
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Guardian 152 [Allegorical Battle of the Sexes.]

The Guardian No. 152 (4 September 1713).

Joseph Addison


Joseph Addison, whose view of Spenser had obviously changed considerably since the publication of An Account of the Greatest English Poets (1694), acknowledges his debt to Spenser for the allegories in the Spectator: "I have also by this means revived several antiquated ways of Writing, which though very instructive and entertaining, had been laid aside, and forgotten for some Ages.... Though this kind of Composition was practiced by the finest Authors among the Ancients, our Countryman Spencer is the last Writer of Note who has applied himself to it with Success." He then relates the prose design for an imitation of Spenser which he never made time to write.

John Hughes: "I cannot however conclude this Essay on Allegory without observing, that we have had the satisfaction to see this kind of Writing very lately reviv'd by an excellent Genius among our selves, in the true Spirit of the Antients. I need only mention the Visions in the Tatler and Spectator, by Mr. Addison, to convince every one of this. The Table of Fame, the Vision of Justice; that of the different Pursuits of Love, Ambition, and Avarice; the Vision of Mirza, and several others; and especially that admirable Fable of the two Families of Pain and Pleasure, which are all imagin'd and writ with the greatest Strength and Delicacy, may give the Reader an Idea more than any thing I can say of the Perfection to which this kind of Writing is capable of being rais'd. We have likewise in the Second Volume of the Guardian a very good Example given us by the same Hand, of an Allegory, in the particular manner of Spenser" "Essay on Allegorical Poetry" Works of Spenser (1715) 1:lvi

Joseph Warton: "Addison wrote fifty-two papers in the Guardian, the plan of which was far inferior to that of the Spectator. For what he the Guardians of the Sparkler to do with Subjects of Criticism and Philosophy? The secret charm of the Spectator consisted in interesting the reader in the characters and actions of the several members of the club, and consequently in the dramatic cast of those Essays" in Works of Alexander Pope, ed. Warton (1797) 9:381n.

Eclectic Review: "We have only one more general fault to find with allegories. There is a wearisome sameness and repulsive formality in most that we have read. Who is not sick of queens and goddess, in their palaces and temples, with their trains of attendants, their nymphs and worshippers, which appear in almost every dream in the Spectators and Tatlers, and in every imitation of them since? Mrs. Tighe has too many of these" review of Tighe's Psyche, 9 (March 1813) 228.

Herbert E. Cory: "He regrets the little cultivation of allegory and, in the Guardian for September 4, 1713, leaves us his most interesting tribute to Spenser: 'Though this kind of composition was practised by the finest authors among the ancients, our country-man, Spenser, is the last writer of note who has applied himself to it with success[....]' The 'fable' is then transcribed. It is apparent that Spenser was not only favored by Addison the critic, but was no small force in the making of those graceful and attractive allegories which were widely imitated by the host of urbane essayists in the eighteenth century who took Addison for their model" "Critics of Edmund Spenser" UCPMP (1911) 131-32.

Since the Spectators and Guardians were commonly attributed to Joseph Addison, this brief essay must have been of some importance in encouraging other eighteenth-century writers to imitate an "obsolete" poet. One of the first in the field was Samuel Wesley, whose The Battle of the Sexes (1723) versifies Addison's fable in Prior stanzas. While most later imitations of the Faerie Queene owe little if anything directly to Addison, William Hayley's forgotten Triumphs of Temper (1781) — after the School-Mistress and Castle of Indolence, the most widely-read of all the Spenser imitations — owes a great debt to the Spectator. The Squire of Dames by Moses Mendez (1755) and The Concubine (1761) by William Julius Mickle are both concerned with manners, though neither is allegorical.

Harko Gerrit De Maar argues that Addison's fable inspired Samuel Croxall to write An Original Canto of Spencer, which appeared in December 1713; History of Modern English Romanticism (1924) 78. This seems unlikely; perhaps a more interesting question might be whether Addison's allegory was inspired by Pope's Rape of the Lock (1712), or whether the fairies in Pope's revised Rape of the Lock (1714) might have been suggested by Addison's design for a Spenserian allegory. Relations between the two friends, by this time competitors, became strained over Addison's resistance to Pope's ideas for expanding the Rape of the Lock.




There is no Rule in Longinus which I more admire, than that wherein he advises an Author who would attain to the Sublime, and writes for Eternity, to consider, when he is engaged in his Composition, what Homer or Plato, or any other of those Heroes in the Learned World, would have said or thought upon the same Occasion. I have often practised this Rule, with regard to the best Authors among the Ancients, as well as among the Moderns: With what Success I must leave to the Judgment of others. I may at least venture to say with Mr. Dryden, where he professes to have imitated Shakespear's Stile, that in imitating such great Authors I have always excelled my self.

I have also by this means revived several antiquated ways of Writing, which though very instructive and entertaining, had been laid aside, and forgotten for some Ages. I shall in this Place only mention those Allegories wherein Virtues, Vices and human Passions are introduced as real Actors. Though this kind of Composition was practiced by the finest Authors among the Ancients, our Countryman Spencer is the last Writer of Note who has applied himself to it with Success.

That an Allegory may be both delightful and instructive; in the first place, the Fable of it ought to be perfect, and if possible, to be filled with surprising Turns and Incidents. In the next, there ought to be useful Morals and Reflections couched under it, which still receive a greater Value from their being new and uncommon; as also from their appearing difficult to have been thrown into emblematical Types and Shadows.

I was once thinking to have written a whole Canto in the Spirit of Spencer, and in order to it contrived a Fable of imaginary Persons and Characters. I raised it on that common Dispute between the comparative Perfections and Pre-eminence of the two Sexes, each of which have very frequently had their Advocates among the Men of Letters. Since I have not time to accomplish this Work, I shall present my Reader with the naked Fable, reserving the Embellishments of Verse and Poetry to another Opportunity.

The two Sexes contending for Superiority, were once at War with each other, which was chiefly carried on by their Auxiliaries. The Males were drawn up on the one side of a very spacious Plain, the Females on the other; between them was left a very large Interval for their Auxiliaries to engage in. At each Extremity of this middle space lay encamped several Bodies of Neutral Forces, who waited for the Event of the Battle before they would declare themselves, that they might then act as they saw occasion.

The main Body of the Male Auxiliaries was commanded by Fortitude; that of the Female by Beauty. Fortitude begun the Onset on Beauty, but found to his cost, that she had such a particular Witchcraft in her Looks, as withered all his Strength. She played upon him so many Smiles and Glances, that she quite weakened and disarmed him.

In short, he was ready to call for Quarter, had not Wisdom come to his aid: This was the Commander of the Male Right Wing, and would have turned the Fate of the Day, had not he been timely opposed by Cunning, who commanded the Left Wing of the Female Auxiliaries. Cunning was the chief Ingineer of the fair Army; but upon this occasion was posted, as I have here said, to receive the Attacks of Wisdom. It was very entertaining to see the workings of these two Antagonists; the Conduct of the one, and the Stratagems of the other. Never was there a more equal Match. Those who beheld it gave the Victory sometimes to the one, and sometimes to the other, tho' most declared the Advantage was on the side of the Female Commander.

In the mean time the Conflict was very great in the Left Wing of the Army, where the Battel began to turn to the Male Side. This Wing was commanded by an old experienced Officer called Patience, and on the Female Side by a General known by the Name of Scorn. The latter, that fought after the Manner of the Parthians, had the better of it all the beginning of the Day; but being quite tired out with the long Pursuits, and repeated Attacks of the Enemy, who had been repulsed above a hundred times, and rallied as often, begun to think of yielding. When on a sudden a Body of Neutral Forces began to move. The Leader was of an ugly Look, and gigantick Stature. He acted like a Drawcansir, sparing neither Friend nor Foe. His Name was Lust. On the Female Side he was opposed by a select Body of Forces, commanded by a young Officer that had the Face of a Cherubim, and the Name of Modesty. This beautiful young Hero was supported by one of a more Masculine turn, and fierce Behaviour, called by Men HONOUR, and by the Gods PRIDE. This last made an obstinate Defence, and drove back the Enemy more than once, but at length resigned at Discretion.

The dreadful Monster, after having overturned whole Squadrons in the Female Army, fell in among the Males, where he made a more terrible Havock than on the other Side. He was here opposed by Reason, who drew up all his Forces against him, and held the Fight in suspence for some time, but at length quitted the Field.

After a great Ravage on both Sides, the two Armies agreed to join against this common Foe. And in order to it drew out a small chosen Band, whom they placed by Consent under the Conduct of Virtue, who in a little time drove this foul ugly Monster out of the Field.

Upon his Retreat, a second neutral Leader, whose Name was Love, marched in between the two Armies. He headed a Body of ten thousand winged Boys that threw their Darts and Arrows promiscuously among both Armies. The Wounds they gave were not the Wounds of an Enemy. They were pleasing to those that felt 'em; and had so strange an Effect that they wrought a Spirit of mutual Friendship, Reconciliation, and good Will in both Sexes. The two Armies now looked with cordial Love on each other, and stretched out their Arms with Tears of Joy, as longing to forget old Animosities and embrace one another.

The last General of Neutrals, that appeared in the Field, was Hymen, who marched immediately after Love, and seconding the good Inclinations which he had inspir'd, joined the Hands of both Armies. Love generally accompanied him, and recommended the Sexes Pair by Pair to his good Offices.

But as it is sometimes usual for several Persons to dress themselves in the Habit of a great Leader, Ambition and Avarice had taken on them the Garb and Habit of Love, by which means they often imposed on Hymen, by putting into his Hands several Couples whom he would never have joined together, had it not been brought about by the Delusion of these two Impostors.


[unpaginated]