1748
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sonnet II. [To John Clerke, Esq.]

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

Thomas Edwards


One of three Spenserian sonnets by Thomas Edwards included in Dodsley's revised second volume. In later editions the sonnet was explicitly addressed "To John Clerke, Esq." Sonnets had been extremely rare for well over a century; the appearance of Edwards's sonnets in such a prominent anthology encouraged further experimentation by others. As Edwards himself became better acquainted with the form he experimented with other rhyme patterns; not all of his Spenserian sonnets were published; he mentions "six" in his letter to Samuel Richardson of 18 July 1754.

John Duncombe: "All these Sonnets were by Thomas Edwards, author of the Canons of Criticism, who died on a visit at his friend Mr. Richardson's on Parsons-Green. Several more of his Sonnets are in Pearch's Collection. Some others are in a late edition of the Canons of Criticism, and a few are still in MS. The first in Dodsley is to the Hon. Mr. Yorke, the present Earl of Hardwicke" "Dodsley's Collection" Gentleman's Magazine 50 (March 1780) 123.

Rowland Freeman: "Some of his sonnets, which are among the purest and best in the English language, may be found at the end of his work entitled The Canons of Criticism; and others in the volumes of Dodsley, Pearch, and Nichols. They are rigidly formed upon the genuine Italian model, and have been strangely overlooked by more modern collectors. He died 1757" Kentish Poets (1821) 2:379n.

Dennis G. Donovan: "In the second volume of Dodsley's Miscellany (1748), 'that important collection through which many of the new impulses in English poetry found expression' [Havens], Edwards published thirteen sonnets. In all, he was to publish fifty-two, but none of the other thirty-nine appeared until ten years later — after his death. All are (as the Advertisement in the 1765 Canons of suggests) 'in the same taste with those in Dodsley's volume, correct, simple, not aiming at points or turns, in the phrase and structure rather ancient, for the most part of a grave, or even of a melancholy cast; formed in short upon the model of the Italians of the good age, and of the Imitators among us, Spenser and Milton'" The Sonnets of Thomas Edwards, Augustan Reprint Society (1974) vii.



Wisely, O C, enjoy the present hour,
The present hour is all the time we have,
High God the rest has plac'd beyond our pow'r,
Consign'd, perhaps, to grief — or to the grave.
Wretched the man, who toils ambition's slave;
Who pines for wealth, or sighs for empty fame;
Who rolls in pleasures which the mind deprave,
Bought with severe remorse, with guilty shame.
Virtue and knowledge be our better aim;
These help us Ill to bear, or teach to shun;
Let friendship chear us with her gen'rous flame,
Friendship, the sum of all our joys in one:
So shall we live each moment fate has giv'n;
How long, or short, let us resign to heav'n.

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