1748
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sonnet XIII. To the Right Hon. Mr. [Onslow], with the foregoing Sonnets.

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

Thomas Edwards


The anonymous sonnet addressed to Arthur Onslow (1691-1768) appears as the concluding poem of the reorganized second volume of A Collection of Poems. Robert Dodsley may have placed it there because of its theme of linking literary to political heroism; the Speaker of the House of Commons is imagined "Sometimes retiring from the toils of State, | Thou turn'st th' instructive Greek or Roman page, | Or what our British Bards of later age | In scarce inferior numbers can relate." In Edwards's sonnet, modeled on the dedicatory sonnets to the Faerie Queene, the Shakespeare-Spenser-Milton triad makes one of its earlier appearances. It became much more conventional after the publication of Joseph Warton's An Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope (1756).

Isaac Reed: "Arthur Onslow, Esq; Speaker of the House of Commons, afterwards Lord Onslow" in Dodsley, Collection of Poems (1782) 2:349n.

Austin Dobson: "Of yet another friend of Edwards there are definite indications, since he sends him, with No. xlv, a batch of sonnets. This was Arthur Onslow, the genial and cultivated Speaker of the House of Commons from 1728 to 1761. At Imber or Ember Court, a pleasant country seat near Thames Ditton, with the Mole running through its grounds, Onslow was wont to draw about him a host of sympathetic or lettered guests. Edwards's Sonnet xxviii is addressed to his son George, afterwards first Earl of Onslow" "Edwards's Canons of Criticism" in Later Essays, 1917-20 (1921) 20-21.



Thou, who successive in that honour'd seat
Presid'st, the feuds of jarring Chiefs to 'swage,
To check the boisterous force of Party rage,
Raise modest worth, and guide the high debate,
Sometimes retiring from the toils of State,
Thou turn'st th' instructive Greek or Roman page,
Or what our British Bards of later age
In scarce inferior numbers can relate:
Amid this feast of mind, when Fancy's Child,
Sweet SHAKESPEAR, raps the soul to virtuous deed,
When SPENSER warbling tunes his Doric lays,
Or the first Man from Paradise exil'd
Great MILTON sings, can ought my rustic reed
Presume to sound, that may deserve thy praise?

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