1756
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Sonnet, after the Manner of Spencer. Addressed to a Lady.

Universal Visitor and Memorialist (1756) 240. [Christopher Smart, ed.]

Bp. Thomas Percy


A Spenserian sonnet, signed "P." Percy alludes to the ravages of the Blatant Beast in the Faerie Queene, with an echo of Collins's Ode to Fear: "I see, I see Thee near. | I know thy hurried Step, thy haggard Eye!" This oft-reprinted poem was later titled "Sonnet to a Lady of indiscreet Virtue, in imitation of Spencer." In 1782 it was reprinted in the Town and Country Magazine over the signature "J— Spr—g C—."

Bertram H. Davis: "It was originally addressed to 'Miss Cotton of Bridgnorth,' as Percy later noted on a printed copy" Thomas Percy: A Scholar-Cleric in the Age of Johnson (1989) 22.

Nathan Drake: "To this miscellany Johnson contributed some essays which have already been mentioned. The chief writers in it were Christopher Smart and Richard Rolt, occasionally assisted by David Garrick, Dr. Percy, and other literary characters. It appeared in 1756" in Essays Illustrative of the Rambler (1809-10) 2:342-44.

Henry Neele: "Brighter days were about to dawn on English poetical literature. The public became satiated with the mediocrity with which their poetical caterers gorged them, and they began to turn their eyes upon the elder writers, whose traditionary fame still survived, and whose works were much talked of, although they were little read. Johnson and Steevens published their edition of Shakspeare; and so laid the foundation of that general knowledge and due appreciation of the merits of the great dramatist, which form so distinguishing and creditable a feature in the public taste at the present day. Percy gave to the world those invaluable literary treasures, the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, which, although at first received with coolness and neglect, eventually, by their simplicity and beauty, extorted general admiration; and, as Mr. Wordsworth has said, 'absolutely redeemed the poetry of this country'" Russell Institution Lectures on English Poetry, 1827; in Remains (1829) 36.



While you, fair Anna, innocently gay,
And free, and open, all reserve disdain;
Where-ever Fancy leads, securely stray,
And conscious of no ill can fear no stain.
Let calm Discretion guide with steady rein,
To friendly Caution lend a patient ear,
She'll tell you, CENSURE lays her wily train,
To blast those beauties which too bright appear.
Ah me! I view the monster lurking near;
I know her haggard eye, and pois'nous tongue;
She scans your actions with malicious leer,
Eager to wrest, and represent them wrong;
Yet shall your conduct, circumspect and clear,
Her baleful touch, nor fangs envenom'd, fear.

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