1751
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sonnet to Miss H. M[ulso].

The Canons of Criticism and Glossary, being a Supplement to Mr. Warburton's Edition of Shakespear ... The Sixth Edition.

Thomas Edwards


This later sonnet by Thomas Edwards was not included in Dodsley's Collection of Poems, but first appeared posthumously in an appendix to Edwards's Canons of Criticism (1758). It was written in answer to verses by Hester Mulso Chapone that praise Edwards as a son of Spenser, to which he replies: "How shall my verse thy melody repay? | If my weak voice could reach the age to come, | Like Colin Clout's, thy name would ever bloom." His poem was was the first to appear in print; hers was published much later, in Miscellanies (1775). John Dussinger suggests the emending "her tuneful fire" to "tuneful lire" in line twelve.

Edwards enclosed the sonnet in a letter to Samuel Richardson discussing his controversy with William Warburton: "Your linnet twitters most enchantingly. I am exceedingly obliged to her for her music, and have endeavoured to chirp to her again as well as I can in the inclosed sonnet, which I beg you to present to her from me, if you think it worth her acceptance. There is, and I doubt not but you have felt it, there is something more deliciously charming in the approbation of the ladies, than in that of a whole university of he-critics; and if I can deserve their applause, let the sour pedants rail as much as they please, 'For theirs the claim to each instructive tongue, | 'And theirs the great monopoly of song.' Good night, good Mr. Richardson! Remember me to all your good family, to all your pretty disciplesses, and all friends" 30 March 1751; in Correspondence, ed. Barbauld (1804) 3:17-18.

Samuel Richardson to Thomas Edwards: "I send you inclosed copies of your charming [unnamed] sonnet.... Mrs. Dunnellan, Miss Sutton, Miss Mulso, and I, have had much talk about you. It would be needless to say, it was to your advantage. Mr. Duncombe tells me that Mr. Edwards being spoken of at the Archbishop of Canterbury's table — his Grace asked, if it was 'good' Mr. Edwards that they meant. The ladies above named wished you had talked more. But Miss S. did me the distinction of saying she feared that my love for Mr. Edwards made me think very unfavourably of another gentleman, whose first patronage was that of her late father. I said, I valued that other gentleman for his good qualities, and was concerned for his bad" 9 January 1750; in Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Barbauld (1804) 3:4-5.

Samuel Richardson to Thomas Edwards: "Now your linnet: now other birds of as fine feathers: your linnet itself a nightingale. — You never heard her sing; did you?" 30 December 1751; in Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Barbauld (1804) 3:28-29.

Thomas Edwards to Samuel Richardson: "I often entertain myself with reading over those charming Odes of Miss Mulso's, and admire them more and more every time I read them. I am so proud of the honour she has done me in one of them, that my gratitude has forced from me another sonnet, (you see how bold I grow upon encouragement,) which I desire you to give her; and, in hopes of seeing more of her verses, I have presumed to give her a subject. I send you a copy: but as there is a name in it which you have scratched out of better verses, I have taken the precaution to seal up that which is for Miss Mulso; and if you either sink it, or alter the name to Robinson, or any thing else, I will have the sonnet printed, and hawked about under your window 'in terrorem'" 28 February 1752; Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Barbauld (1804) 3:36-37.

Thomas Edwards to Samuel Richardson: "It gives much great pleasure to hear that our friends are well, and remember me: I am much obliged to you for the sonnet [by Miss Mulso]; it is very pretty, and would make one wish one's self a Robin for such entertainment. I am glad to be so well countenanced in one of my favourite amusements, for I have been bribing all this winter, in order to get a full concert about me in spring; and have a good number of blackbirds, robins, wrens, and other birds of note, who regularly attend my study-window, morning and evening, for a dole" 5 March 1753; Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Barbauld (1804) 3:53-54.

J. W. Croker: "Miss Mulso, afterwards Mrs. Chapone, one of Richardson's female coterie. When about three and twenty, she had been one of the few contributors to the Rambler. She was born in 1727, married Mr. Chapone in 1760, and died in 1801. She was much connected with Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Montagu, and all the Blues" Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Croker (1831; 1868) 7:315n.

John Nichols: "Thirteen of his Sonnets are printed in Dodsley's Collection, eight in Pearch's, and four in Nichols's Select Collection, 1780. Forty-nine appear in the last edition of his Canons of Criticism, 1765.... A beautiful Ode was addressed to him by Miss Mulso, afterwards Mrs. Chapone; to which he replied in as elegant a Sonnet." Literary Anecdotes of the XVIII Century (1812-15) 2:200-01n.

Robert Southey: "In the dark age of English poetry, Edwards had feeling enough to admire and study the great masters of the art" Common-Place Book (1849-51) 4:351.

Austin Dobson: "Edwards must at once have been made free of the North End consistory of 'Muses and Graces,' for in the second letter printed by Mrs. Barbauld, he has already become acquainted with two of [Samuel] Richardson's 'high-life' touchstones, Mrs. Delany's clever Irish friend, Miss Anne Donnellan, and Miss Sutton. (The latter was apparently a little 'difficult,' as her father, Sir Robert Sutton, had been Warburton's earliest patron.) He had also visited Miss Hester (or Hecky) Mulso, in later years Mrs. Chapone, who was already known (to her circle) as an ode-writer. She had a beautiful voice, which induced Edwards to call her 'the Linnet,' and they speedily interchanged compliments in verse. The contribution of Edwards is Sonnet xxiv in the Canons. He was also 'sonnetized' by Miss Highmore, the daughter of the painter" "Edwards's Canons of Criticism" in Later Essays, 1917-20 (1921) 22.



Sweet Linnet, who from off the laurel spray,
That hangs o'er Spenser's ever-sacred tomb,
Pour'st out such notes, as strike the Woodlark dumb,
And vie with Philomel's inchanting lay,
How shall my verse thy melody repay?
If my weak voice could reach the age to come,
Like Colin Clout's, thy name would ever bloom
Through future times, unconscious of decay:
But such frail aid thy merits not require;
Thee Polyhymnia, in the roseate bowers
Of high Parnassus, 'midst the vocal throng,
Shall glad receive, and to her tuneful fire
Present; where, crown'd with amaranthine flowers,
The raptured choir shall listen to thy song.

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