1751
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[To Samuel Richardson, on editing Spenser.]

The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, author of Pamela, Clarissa, and Sir Charles Grandison, selected from the original Manuscripts, bequeathed by him to his family. To which is prefixed a Biographical Account of that author, and Obervations on his Writings, by Anna Laetitia Barbauld. 6 vols.

Thomas Edwards


Reluctantly embarked upon editing Spenser, Thomas Edwards learns that John Upton has already undertaken the task. Upton's "A Letter concerning a new Edition of the Faerie Queene" (1751) was addressed to Gilbert West. The "vampers" referred to are the London booksellers; Edwards is concerned that becoming involved with the lowly duties of an editor would be beneath the dignity of a gentleman-scholar: "I cannot help looking on it as a servile Gibeonitish employment: nor, in my opinion, is the judgment of Mr. Addison wrong (however superficial Mr. Warburton esteems him), who, in one of his Tatlers, will not allow the tribe of editors to rank as learned men, but calls them the lacqueys of the learned" 3:25. In the end, Edwards corrected text for Thomas Birch's edition of the Faerie Queene; see his letter to Birch dated 1 October 1751 in Gentleman's Magazine 53 (November 1783) 921.

Anna Laetitia Barbauld: "With Mr. Edwards, of Turrick, in Buckinghamshire, author of the Canons of Criticism, and Sonnets, Richardson maintained a cordial, affectionate, and long-continued friendship. His letters are not brilliant; but he seems to have been a very good, pious, and kind-hearted man. I fear, indeed, his charity did not include Bishop Warburton" "Life of Mr. Richardson" Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Barbauld (1804) 1:cxcv.

John Nichols: "Mr. Edwards was equally distinguished for his genius and the goodness of his heart. His Canons of Criticism did him great credit, both as a critic and as a scholar; and drew on him the vengeance of Dr. Warburton, who took occasion, in illustrating the names of Blackmore and Milbourne, in a note on the Essay on Criticism, ver. 463, to observe, 'These men are of all times, and rise up on all occasions. Sir Walter Raleigh had Alexander Ross; Chillingworth had Cheynel; Milton a first Edwards; and Locke a second; neither of them related to the third Edwards of Lincoln's-inn. They were Divines of parts and learning: this is a Critic without one or the other. Yet (as Mr. Pope says of Luke Milbourn) the fairest of all Critics; for, having written against the Editor's Remarks on Shakspeare, he did him justice in printing, at the same time, some of his own'" Anecdotes (1812-15) 2:199.

Austin Dobson: "The Edwards-Richardson correspondence, as we have it, is not particularly fruitful in literary gossip. There are some oft-quoted outbursts, on Richardson's part, against Fielding, to which Edwards, as might be anticipated, replies in kindred vein; and there are references to Richardson's troubles with the Irish pirates, Messrs. Exshaw, Wilson, and Saunders. Richardson seems to have been anxious to induce his friend to follow up the Canons by some more extended critical or editorial work. He suggested that he should edit his 'ever-honoured Spenser,' a new edition of whom was in contemplation. But Edwards was not to be persuaded. He knew his own limitations; and he shrank from the responsibilities of the task. His standard of editing was as high as that afterwards so amply outlined by Johnson in his Proposals of 1755; and he was as heartily sick of the hidebound Warburtons and Newtons as he was of the vamped-up subscription issues of the booksellers, with their obtrusive typography and their copperplates 'made in Holland.' Richardson next tried to tempt him with Pope — with a rival edition to that of Warburton. But here Edwards's objections were even stronger. Though he had formerly been actually in communication with Pope, and admired him as a poet, he did not care for him as an individual. If, as he argued, he was to take off the patches with which Warburton had tinkered the Essay on Man, matters would not therefore be mended. Then again (an unsurmountable reason!), Warburton had Pope's papers. In all this, it is probable that lack of authorities and opportunity had more influence than lack of ability. Editing was 'a work,' to use Edwards's own words, 'not to be done with a wet finger'" "Edwards's Canons of Criticism" in Later Essays, 1917-20 (1921) 23-24.




Turrick, June 19, 1751.

I thank you, dear Sir, for your kind letter of May 27. What do I not owe to your goodness in recommending me to the notice of such ladies as Miss Sutton and Miss Mulso? Let the daughters of the card-table bestow their smiles where they please, so I have the favourable opinion of such as love and imitate your Clarissa. I beg you, when you have an opportunity, to present my respects to both those young ladies.

I take very kindly your exhortations to me in regard to Spenser: but there are infinite discouragements in my way; others are engaged in the work, and forwarder in it than I can be: then I suppose some persons or other clame a right to the copy; and if so, it cannot be published without the vampers: and my spirit will neither let me go about begging subscriptions, nor hire myself out as a hackney writer to them. Add to this above all, that I think I feel myself unfit for the work; and indeed I cannot help looking on it as a servile Gibeonitish employment: nor, in my opinion, is the judgment of Mr. Addison wrong (however superficial Mr. Warburton esteems him), who, in one of his Tatlers, will not allow the tribe of editors to rank as learned men, but calls them the lacqueys of the learned. However, we will consider the matter further: but in all events I think I should not be willing to advertise before I were ready to publish, lest any dislike to the work, or other accident, should make me worse than my word.

I am obliged to Mr. Upton for his letter to Mr. West, and beg you to return him my thanks for it. By that pamphlet, and from what I hear passed the other day between Mr. Upton and Mr. Brindley's man, I think it is plain he is about an edition; and if Mr. West, who is so good a judge and so fine an imitator of Spenser, will oversee it, I cannot but think it will be a good one.

You do more kind things than you can remember; for my nephew wrote me word that he received my subscription books of Molly Leapor's poems of you, and that you was so good as to take notice of him on his mentioning my name.

T. EDWARDS.


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