1748
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sonnet I. [To Philip Yorke.]

A Collection of Poems in three Volumes. By Several Hands. Second Edition. [Robert Dodsley, ed.]

Thomas Edwards


One of three Spenserian sonnets, signed "T. E.," published in Robert Dodsley's revised second volume. The asterisks stand for "Yorke" and "Hardwick"; the sonnet was later titled, "To Philip Yorke, Esq; now earl of Hardwicke." Raymond Dexter Havens believes that this is the first sonnet Thomas Edwards wrote; Influence of Milton (1922) 494n. This would stand to reason since this sonnet appears to be modeled on Spenser's commendatory verses in the Faerie Queene, which is likely where Edwards, like many other eighteenth-century readers, would first have encountered a renaissance sonnet.

Philip Yorke (1720-90), second earl of Hardwicke, was a minor literary figure and high steward of Cambridge University, 1764-90; his literary circle included Thomas Birch, Daniel Wray, and John Dyer. Dustin Griffin points out that Yorke was friendly with both Edwards and his nemesis William Warburton; Literary Patronage in England (1996) 22, 58-60.

Isaac Reed: "Lord Hardwicke married Lady Jemima Campbell, only daughter of John Earl of Breadalbin, by the Lady Annabel Grey, eldest daughter and co-heir of Henry de Grey, Duke of Kent," note in Dodsley's Collection (1782) 337n.

Thomas Edwards to Samuel Richardson: "The reading of Spenser's Sonnets was the first occasion of my writing that species of little poems, and my first six were written in the same sort of stanza as all his and Shakespeare's are. But after that Mr. Wray brought me acquainted with the Italian authors, who were the originals of that sort of poetry, and whose measures have more variety and harmony in them, — ever since, I wrote in that stanza; drawing from the same fountains as Milton drew from; — so that I was complimented with having well imitated Milton when I was not acquainted with his Sonnets. I hope I shall never be ashamed of imitating such great originals as Shakespeare, Spenser and Milton, whom to imitate with any degree of success is no small praise" 18 July 1754; in Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Barbauld (1804) 3:91-92.

Henry Augustus Beers: "All but four of Thomas Edwards' fifty sonnets, 1750-65, are on Milton's model. Thirteen of them were printed in Dodsley's second volume. They have little value, nor have those of Benjamin Stillingfleet, some of which appear to have been written before 1750. Of much greater interest are the sonnets of Thomas Warton, nine in number and all Miltonic in form" Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century (1899) 161.

Raymond Dexter Havens: "The real father of the eighteenth-century sonnet, 'the only begetter' whom his contemporaries knew as such, and accordingly the one who may have done much to settle the kind of poem it was to be, was Thomas Edwards ... It is to be noted that Edwards does not distinguish between Shakespearean and Spenserian sonnets, that his published work contains none on the Shakespearean and but four on the Spenserian model, and that these four recall the Elizabethan productions only in their rime-scheme and in the fact that one of them touches on love" The Influence of Milton (1922) 492, 494.



O *, whom virtue makes the worthy heir
Of **'s titles, and of *'s estate;
Blest in a wife, whose beauty, though so rare,
Is the lest grace of all that round her wait,
While other youths, sprung from the good and great,
In devious paths of pleasure seek their bane,
Reckless of wisdom's lore, of birth, or state,
Meanly debauch'd, or insolently vain;
Through virtue's sacred gate to honor's fane
You and your fair associate ceaseless climb,
With glorious emulation, sure to gain
A meed, shall last beyond the reign of time:
From your example long may Britain see,
Degenerate Britain, what the great should be.

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