1748 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Imitation of Spenser, written at Mr. Thomson's Desire, to be inserted into The Castle of Indolence.

Miscellanies; by John Armstrong, M.D. In Two Volumes.

Dr. John Armstrong


Four Spenserians, reprinted in John Armstrong's Miscellanies (1770) from Thomson's Castle of Indolence, where they first appeared in 1748.

James Thomson to William Paterson: "Though the doctor increases in business he does not decrease in spleen, that is both humane and agreeable, like Jacques in the play; I sometimes, too, have a touch of it" 1748; Goodhugh, The English Gentleman's Library Manual (1827) 268.

London Magazine: "The character of this elegant writer is too well known to leave the Reviewers any considerable opportunity of adding to it, by a recommendation — together with his compositions formerly published, the Doctor has here given the world several new articles which he says have lain by him for many years; his preface is truly the preface of a philosopher. It contains a hearty contempt for the opinion of ignorance, and values the applause of one sensible reader beyond the admiration of a thousand fools. Among the pieces which now make their appearance is the following imitation of Spencer, written at Mr. Thomson's desire to be inserted in his Castle of Indolence" 39 (January 1770) 42.

Alexander Chalmers: "In 1770, he published two volumes of Miscellanies, containing the articles already mentioned, except the Economy of Love (an edition of which he corrected for separate publication in 1768) and his Epistle to Mr. Wilkes. The new articles were, the Imitations of Shakespeare and Spenser, the Universal Almanac, and the Forced Marriage, a tragedy, which was offered to Garrick about the year 1754, and rejected. A second part of his Sketches was likewise added to these volumes, and appeared to every delicate and judicious mind, as rambling and improper as the first" Works of the English Poets (1810) 16:517.

Henry Francis Cary: "He contributed the three stanzas which conclude the first canto. One of the alterations made in them by Thomson is not for the better" "John Armstrong" London Magazine 6 (September 1822) 242.

George Saintsbury: "Armstrong is, beyond all doubt, the most remarkable poet of the school of Thomson. It would appear that the style in his case was not the result merely of imitation of the author of The Seasons, but came from a similar cause, the study at once of the Queen Anne men and of older writers. Both Shakespeare and Spenser were sufficiently attractive to Armstrong when he was quite a boy to induce him to imitate them, and though the imitations show more zeal than appreciation, they have some merit" The English Poets, ed. Thomas Humphry Ward (1880) 3:183.

Annie Raine Ellis: "Dr. Armstrong was one of those who have been called 'the unpoetical poets' of the last century. The Art of Preserving Health was published in 1744 — the year in which Dr. Burney went to London. It is commonly to be found in the duodecimo poets of the last century, side by side of, or bound with, The Union, and the poems of Allan Ramsay and Blair. It has been lifted bodily into several collections of poetry, such as The Elegant Extracts, and Dr. Aikin's British Poets. Dr. Armstrong is said to have written four stanzas (74-5-6-7) in the first canto of his friend Thomson's Castle of Indolence. They are 'medical' stanzas, showing the ill effects of indolence and 'false luxury'" The Early Diary of Frances Burney (1889) 1:39n.



Full many a fiend did haunt this house of rest,
And made of passive wights an easy prey.
Here Lethargy, with deadly sleep oppress't,
Stretch'd on his back, a mighty lubbard lay,
Heaving his sides; and snored night and day.
To stir him from his traunce it was not eath,
And his half-open'd eyne he shut straightway:
He led I ween the softest way to death,
And taught withouten pain or strife to yield the breath.

Of limbs enormous, but withal unsound,
Soft-swol'n and pale, here lay the Hydropsy;
Unwieldy man, with belly monstrous round
For ever fed with watery supply:
For still he drank, and yet he still was dry.
And here a moping Mystery did sit,
Mother of Spleen, in robes of various dye:
She call'd herself the Hypochonriac-Fit,
And frantic seem'd to some, to others seem'd a wit.

A lady was she whimsical and proud,
Yet oft through fear her pride would crouchen low.
She felt or fancied, in her fluttering mood,
All the diseases that the Spittals know,
And sought all physic that the shops bestow;
And still new leaches and new drugs would try.
'Twas hard to hit her humour, high or low,
For sometimes she would laugh and sometimes cry,
Sometimes would waxen wroth; and all she knew not why.

Fast by her side a listless virgin pin'd,
With aching head and squeamish heart-burnings;
Pale, bloated, cold, she seem'd to hate mankind,
But lov'd in secret all forbidden things.
And here the Tertian shook his chilling wings;
And here the Gout, half tiger, half a snake,
Rag'd with an hundred teeth, an hundred stings;
These and a thousand furies more did shake
These weary realms, and kept ease-loving men awake.

[Park (1808) 124-24]