1714
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Another Original Canto of Spencer: Preface.

Another Original Canto of Spencer: design'd as Part of his Fairy Queen, but never printed.

Rev. Samuel Croxall


Writing anonymously, Samuel Croxall coyly plants doubts about the authenticity of the poems: "I was oblig'd sometimes to make good the Sense of the Author by Supplement of my own." He hints that a third canto, as well as pastorals by Ironsides, are ready for the press. Neither appeared.

Richard C. Frushell: "Croxall, the first masterly imitator of Spenser's stanza, diction, and pictorialism, wrote two important imitations early in the century.... Both are topical pro-Whig allegories in verse startlingly similar to Spenser's own" Spenser Encyclopedia (1990) 397.




The Canto I lately publish'd having met with a very kind Reception; I found my self oblig'd, partly in point of Gratitude, and partly by Promise, to search among my Remains of Antiquity for some other Piece which might be instructive and entertaining. What lay most fairly presented to my View, were two entire Pastorals of Sir Caleb Ironside; of which I formerly gave one Stanza as a Specimen: these I pitch'd upon to transcribe for the Press. But, as I was sifting the whole Heap, in hopes to find something of an agreeable kind to have accompany'd them, this Canto fell into my Hands, being so remarkably blotted and interlin'd that I could not forbear looking into it; otherwise it might easily have pass'd all Notice: nothing of the Contents being to be discover'd without a close Attention.

Immediately upon perusing the Argument, I found it had some Relation to what I have already publish'd: and, as I endeavour'd to decypher it, I perceiv'd it contain'd a foregoing Part of the Narrative; tho, whether design'd as the immediately preceding One, I can't determine. This Oversight (which the candid Reader will excuse, when he considers what Devastations Time generally makes in Manuscripts of so long standing) was the occasion of the other Canto's appearing in the World first, and robbing the elder Brother of his Birth-right. Now, since the Case is so, I can only crave Pardon of the Reader for my Neglect; and with Horace say,

—Nunce retrorsum
Vela dare, atq; iterare Cursus
Cogor relictos.—

I have this to advertise concerning the present Canto: There are two or three Reasons why it must not be expected to come up to the other in the Spirit and Strength of the Poesy. First, it was so obscur'd by Blots and Erasements, and in many other places so totally deficient, that, according to the Example of other Editors, I was oblig'd sometimes to make good the Sense of the Author by a Supplement of my own. Secondly, the Beauties of this Allegory fall short of the other; by the Ground-work of it not being capable of admitting that agreeable Contexture of Colours, and Variety of Flowers which furnish out the Embellishments of the other Piece; where the Invention of the Poet has taken a larger Scope, and provided a great number of moving Incidents.

But that which I am afraid will stand most in prejudice of this Canto, is, that I can no where trace in it either Mr. Spencer's or Sir Caleb's Words it being strangely confus'd by a motly Variety of scarce legible Characters. This may excusably throw it under a Suspicion of not being genuine and all I can say in its Defence, it, that I believe Men of so distinguishing a Taste as the Ironsides, whould not have given it Sanction among such valuable Memoirs, unless they had thought it a legitimate Offspring. I must own, that by those few Lineaments which I discover in it, I am inclin'd to think them both written by the same Author, or at lest sketch'd out and delineated by him: It not seeming probable that any other Person would take the pains to trace the Thred of his Story upwards; especially that Part of it which be had thrown by, as useless and foreign from the Purpose he afterwards design'd. This I say, to obviate the Criticisms to which it might otherwise be liable; and as for what real Blemishes there are in it, I aquit Mr. Spencer of them, and take all upon my self.

But if any should ask, what necessity there was for my making that publick, which I know and confess to be imperfect: To these I answer, That tho there are some visible Imperfections in these Posthumous Works, yet I presume they are not altogether without their Use; and that which we can't ascribe to the refin'd Pen of Spencer, may yet deserve a Regard from the Curious of this Age, for that uncommon Novelty which it discovers in its Dress and Behaviour. And perhaps the Ruff and Farthingal, which the Muse is dress'd in (tho now unfashionable) may set off her natural Graces with a becoming Simplicity.

The passionate Fondness I have for this great Man's Writings, may be some Apology for my publishing any thing of his, tho ever so maim'd and deform'd: I am bias'd to believe some others may behold the least Relique of him with the same Lover's Eye.

As for the two Pastorals above-mention'd, they shall come out the first convenient Opportunity: And I have now under my Hands a third Canto, carrying down the History of the other two; but withal, so torn, mangled, and disfigur'd, that till I can furnish it out with proper Materials, I must defer the Publication of it; as

—Spatiis exclusis iniquis.

and beg a favourable Acceptance from the Reader of these and all other my Endeavours.
NESTOR IRONSIDE.