1740 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Design for a Literary History of England.]

The Life of Alexander Pope, Esq. Compiled from Original Manuscripts; with a Critical Essay on his Writings and Genius. By Owen Ruffhead, Esq.

Alexander Pope


An undated schema published in 1769, perhaps done when Alexander Pope was working up the English poets early in his career. In the eighteenth century the word "school" carried stronger connotations of imitation than it does today. Robert Heath is a curious choice for inclusion, if he is indeed the writer intended. But Pope was much more widely read in minor seventeenth-century verse than most of his contemporaries.

This slight design for a literary history of English poetry became a matter of some interest and served as the model for a similar scheme devised by Thomas Gray and sent in a 1770 letter to Thomas Warton first published in 1783. Nonetheless, Warton eventually adopted chronological rather than an analytical format for his History of English Poetry (1774-81).

William Warburton to Richard Hurd: "The inclosed scrap of paper is for our friend Mr. Mason. I promised it to him. It seems to be the heads of a discourse on the birth and genealogy of English poetry. It is in Mr. P.'s own hand; but seems to want a poetical decipherer to make any thing of it" 18 July, 1752; in Letters of a Late eminent Prelate (1808) 89.

Henry Headley: "It has been often alleged against Pope, that he was not averse to pilfering, snug, from obscure poetry: an attentive perusal of his works soon confirms the justice of the charge; yet he appears rather to have satisfied himself with what accident threw in his way, than to have deviated into a systematic or serious examination of such sort of reading. The sketch he has left for "A discourse on the Rise and Progress of English Poetry," imperfect as it is, may fairly be supposed to contain names of more authors that he had heard of than he had read" Specimens of Ancient English Poetry (1787; 1810) 1:xxiv.

T. D.: "Pope is another instance of the inability of great poets to become good critics. He is the poet of good sense, wit, and judgment. His style, however, is plainly the effect of intense labour. Its polish is the result of repeated touches, and its correctness of anxious and perpetual pruning. A genius like that of Pope could not cordially relish the natural and luxurious freedom of the older poets. Their thoughts rushed on like the stream of a mountain torrent, whilst his flowed on with the equable current of a canal. It was hardly possible that he could really enjoy the works of men like these; nor did he enjoy them. Spence has put it upon record that he esteemed the writings of Ben Jonson, 'upon the whole,' as 'trash.' His sentence on Young was, that he was 'a genius without common-sense' — but what tells against him most strongly is, that his edition of Shakespeare is probably the worst ever published" "Why are Poets indifferent Critics?" Blackwood's Magazine 10 (September 1821) 183-84.




[Aera I]

1) School of Provence.
2) School of Chaucer.
3) School of Petrarch.
4) School of Dante.

[Aera II.]

5) School of Spencer, and from Italian Sonnets. Translations from Italian.
6) School of Donne.

[The School of Spenser consists of:]

W. Brown's Pastorals, Ph. Fletcher's Purple Island, Alabaster, Piscatory Etc.[,] S. Daniel, Sir Walter Raleigh, Milton's Juvenalia. Heath. Habin[g]ton.

[p. 425]