1713
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Original Canto of Spencer: The Preface.

An original Canto of Spencer: design'd as Part of his Fairy Queen, but never printed. Now made Publick, by Nestor Ironside, Esq.

Rev. Samuel Croxall


The transparent ruse in Samuel Croxall's Original Canto of Spencer was not intended to fool any one; the political burlesque makes pointedly obvious allusions to Robert Harley and the Tories, who of course responded to the open invitation made in Croxall's final paragraph in the Examiner (14-18 December 1713).

Alexander Pope (as Esdras Barnivelt): "But if any of these Malevolents have never so small a Talent in Rhime, they principally delight to convey their Malice in that pleasing way, as it were, gilding the Pill, and concealing the Poyson under the Sweetness of Numbers. Who could imagine that an Original Canto of Spencer should contain a Satyr upon one Administration; or that Yarhel's Kitchin, or the Dogs of Egypt, should be a Sarcasm upon another" A Key to the Lock (1715) in Prose Works of Alexander Pope, ed. Norman Ault (1936) 182.

Henry John Todd: "This and the next article [Another Original Canto] are political poems; and, if we may rely on Giles Jacob's information in his Lives of the Poets, are the production of the Revd. Mr. Croxall" Works of Spenser (1805)1:clxxxii.

William Lyon Phelps: "In 1713 appeared An Original Canto of Spencer, design'd as part of his Fairy Queen, but never printed, now made publick by Nestor Ironside. This was written by Rev. Dr. Samuel Croxall, previously alluded to. The Preface contains a fictitious account of the supposed unpublished piece of verse; the poem is in truth a satire against the Earl of Oxford's (Harley's) administration. The next year (1714) Croxall brought out Another Original Canto, under the same assigned name. Croxall afterwards acknowledged the authorship of these cantos, for his Vision (1715) mentions them on the title-page. It is interesting to notice that he employed the Spenserian stanza for the purpose of political satire. In 1714 Croxall also published an Ode to George I. on his arrival in England, 'written in the stanza and measure of Spenser'" Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement (1893) 54.

Edward Payson Morton: "The early eighteenth-century poets who used Spenser's stanza made it a vehicle for political satire — led thereto presumably by Spenser's use of allegory" "The Spenserian Stanza before 1700" Modern Philology 4 (1907) 11.

Harko Gerrit De Maar: "Croxall's prefaces show an intimate knowledge of both The Faerie Queene and The Shepheardes Calender. His first poem proves that if he is not much of a poet, he is at least a fluent versifier" History of Modern English Romanticism (1924) 80.

Oliver Elton: "In 1713 a young Cantab, Samuel Croxall, had published a tolerable pastiche, in the correct measure, and in the nature of a practical joke. He stated that his great-grandfather, 'a schoolfellow and intimate acquaintance of the poet,' had transmitted — what had been 'never before printed' — an Original Canto of Spenser's Faerie Queene. In the next year Croxall came out with a second production of the kind, and with an ode in honour of the arrival of George the First. These works show facility, and also a genuine feeling for Spenser's colour and music" Survey of English Literature 1730-1780 (1928) 1:362.




I am not insensible with what Reason the following Piece of Spencer's will be suspected to be spurious, if a true and fair Account be not first given of it. I am therefore to inform the Reader, that my Great Grandfather, Sir Caleb Ironside, was a Schoolfellow and intimate Acquaintance of Mr. Spencer's. There are Traditions in the Family of many concurring Circumstances that very much tend to the Confirmation of this Assertion: As, that the Poet communicated all his Writings to Sir Caleb, before he made the Publick; whether out of Compliment to an old Friend, or because he thought his Judgment really good, I can't say. It is further said, that the Author, out of Raillery, us'd to call him Talus; there being some Affinity of the Name of the one to the Person of the other.

Upon rummaging my Father's Study, after his Death (I remember I was then but of two Years standing in the University) among other Family-Reliques, I found several Sonnets and Pastorals, written by Sir Caleb; one of which describes a Summer's Evening prettily enough, where Spencer is introduc'd under the Title of Colin, walking and talking with him upon the Banks of the Mulla in Ireland; near which, a considerable Part of the Estate of the Ironsides then lay. One stanza of which Pastoral runs thus:

See, gentle Colin, Silver Mulla weeps,
And wets the dewy Shore when you lament;
And eke her plaining Stream in silence sleeps,
If you but smile her Pleasure to augment:
Thy powerful Pipe, O lovely Shepherd's Boy,
Can tune insensate Floods to Grief or Joy.

From a dusty heap of this antiquated Poetry, I drew the following Canto; which I found a little disfigured with Interpolations and Amendments, all seeming to be written by the same Hand. At the end of it was written, in Sir Caleb's Hand; This is my dear Friend and Schoole-fellow, Munne Spencer's own Handwryting; but never imprinted, because not approved of by him, though I think it inferiour to none of his Allegories. This Observation I my self further made: on the Margin was written in a small Character by the Author himself; Memorandum, To relate Mother Hubberd's Tale in Verse, if it pleaseth God to recover me from my Fevor. From whence I conclude, that this Canto was written in the Time of that Fever; and must therefore take the Liberty to dissent from Sir Caleb, in averring that I think it inferiour to all his other Allegorical Writings: which doubtless was one Reason why the Author rejected it. Several Parts of it seem to be written with an unusual Flatness, with a languid faint Spirit the Author at other times was a stranger to: and several of the Alexandrines, at the Close of the Stanza's, were undoubtedly breath'd out in the Height of a Phrenzy. But be that as it will, we may see by his differing a little from the Thred of his History as it now stands, that it could not be made a Part of it, though probably so design'd when first drawn. For though all the Persons here mention'd, but one, are introduc'd by him somewhere or other, yet he never represents them under such Circumstances. It seems rather that he revers'd his first Design; for he has made Arthegall to be enthrall'd by Radigund, who is set at liberty by Britomart, inform'd of his Captivity by Talus: and Burbon and Flourdelis are brought in, in the Eleventh Canto of the Fifth Book, as suing to Arthegall for Succour, after a very humble and peaceable manner. Why the Author chang'd his first Design, it is none of my Business to enquire.

I need make no Apology for publishing and obliging the World with any thing written by so celebrated a Person as England's Arch-Poet Spencer; though I foresee how ill it will be relished in this Age, where the Stile will be thought obsolete, and the allegorical way of writing has been so long disus'd. Who all the Persons are he would have hinted at in those Times, it is hard to tell; though the Vices which he aims at are very conspicuous: nor is it improbable, but he might have it in his Mind to dissuade Posterity, by this Example, from suffering the Liberties of their Constitution to be infring'd by the pretending Zeal of insinuating Traitors. God forbid we should ever stand in need of such a Precaution.

I shall further inform the World, that among some Verses made in praise of the Author, and publish'd at the end of his Works in the Edition I have, is a Copy subscribed Hobynoll, which I have by me in Sir Caleb's Hand, no doubt of his composing; who also seems to be introduc'd in his Pastorals under that Title, as Colin's most intimate Friend. I must own, I was prevail'd upon with no small Importunity to make this Publick; but the Obligations I have to those Gentlemen who persuaded me to it, will more than excuse me: I shall shortly, at their instances, and according to the Welcome this Piece of Antiquity meets with, publish the Poems of the Ironsides, written upn divers Subjects, by Men of different Ages and Genius's; being persuaded they will appear with no disagreeable Confusion in a Miscellany. For you must know, all the Ironsides have had some smattering of Poetry more or less; or at least have pretended to it. There the Reader shall be entertain'd with the fashionable Flourishes of every Age, from the Ballad of Sidrophel Ironside, in the Reign of Henry the Fourth, to the Satyr of Nestor Ironside, Esq; in the Time of Charles the Second.

I shall only assure the Reader, that what I have or shall publish, is done with a sincere Design to inform and please him, who is at liberty to turn it to Instruction or Ridicule as he thinks fit. Though I must warn him not to censure the present Fragment, unless he knows himself to be well acquainted with Spencer, and his manner of writing: for whoever pretends to find fault before he can give his Reasons for it, will shew either his Ill-Nature of Ignorance; and expose himself much more than his,

Humble Servant,

Nestor Ironside.


[pp. 3-6]