1728
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Tragedy of Richard I: Preface.

The Tragedy of Richard I. King of England. To which are annexed, some other Papers. By George Sewell.

Dr. George Sewell


A comment on Shakespeare as an imitator of Spenser, with Samuel Garth's remark that Milton is a bad model for young writers. In fact, the poem referred to in The Passionate Pilgrim is not by Shakespear at all: it is Richard Barnfield's "To Maister R. L."

George Chalmers reprints this passage in his Supplemental Apology for the Believers in the Shakspeare-Papers (1799) 40n. to demonstrate that George Sewell anticipated Edmond Malone in discovering Shakespeare's admiration for Spenser.

Bell's Fugitive Poetry: "Born at Windsor, (where his father was treasurer and chapter clerk of the college) [Sewell] received his education at Eton and Cambridge, and after studying under Boerhaave, practiced physic in London. Towards the close of life he retired to Hampstead, where he died, and was meanly buried. The amiableness of his temper was a pass-port to the best company, and procured him very general esteem. He was the author of various pieces both of poetry and prose, and was principally concerned in the ninth volume of the Spectator" (1789-97) 6:189-90.




We find, to wander no farther, that Spenser, Cowley, and many others, paid their first fruits of poetry to a real, or an imaginary Lady. Upon this occasion, I conjecture, that Shakespeare took fire on reading our admirable Spenser, who went but just before him in the line of life, and was in all probability the Poet most in vogue, at that time. To make this argument the stronger, Spenser is taken notice of in one of these little pieces [The Passionate Pilgrim] as a favourite of our Author's. He alludes certainly to the Fairy Queen, when he mentions his Deep Conceit; that Poem being entirely allegorical. It has been remarked, that more Poets have sprung from Spenser, than all our other English Writers; to which let me add an observation of the late Dr. Garth, That most of our late ones [Poets] have been spoiled by too early an admiration of Milton. Be it to Spenser, then, that we owe Shakespeare, "The fairest Scyon of the the fairest tree!"


[vii; Chalmers, Supplemental Apology (1799) 40n.]