1778
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Poetical Works of Edmund Spenser. In Eight Volumes.

The Poetical Works of Edmund Spenser. In Eight Volumes. From the Text of Mr. Upton, &c. With the Life of the Author.

Edmund Spenser


A significant edition: the first printing of the 109 volumes of John Bell's "Poets of Great Britain from Chaucer to Churchill" was large, consisting of some 3000 copies, making the Faerie Queene, for the first time, widely available in an inexpensive edition. And since the rival bookseller's edition of the English Poets (with lives by Johnson) did not include Spenser, this became the "standard" standard edition.

Bell's Poets was not permitted to be sold by London booksellers and was maligned by the London critics. On the remarkable story of its publication, see Thomas F. Bonnell, "John Bell's Poets of Great Britain: The 'Little Trifling Edition' Revisited" Modern Philology 85 (1987) 128-52.

Advertisement: "In this edition of Spenser's Works, the Text of The Faery Queene is printed from the 4to of 1758, by Mr. Upton, Prebendary of Rochester, and Rector of Great Rissington in Gloucestershire, who informs the reader in his Preface, p. 40, 41, that he 'Never had but one scheme in publishing this Poem, and that was, to print the Context as the Author gave it, and to reserve for the Notes all kind of conjectural emendations. — The reader will be pleased to remember, that the spelling is not the Editor's, but the Poet's; nor will he be surprised to see it so different from his own times, if he is at all acquainted with our old English writers, who sometimes consulted etymology, sometimes vulgar pronunciation, and oftentimes varied from themselves in spelling the same word. — Spenser was so careful to preserve the old spelling, that in the Errata he orders 'renowned' to be spelt 'renowmed.'" — And indeed this attention to Spenser's own spelling seems indispensably necessary, 'not only to shew the true state of our language as Spenser wrote it, but to keep the exact sense, which would sometimes be changed by the variation of a syllable or a letter,' as Mr. Hughes very properly observes, Preface to 12mo. edition, p. III. — To Mr. Upton's spelling, therefore, we have adhered; and, in the general, have also followed his pointing, from which no deviations are made, excepting in cases where the Author's meaning and sense was either obscured or perverted by the use of false points, of which many examples will be found, if the reader compares this with the edition of Mr. Upton, or indeed any prior editions of Spenser. — The small letter after the point or full stop, when that occurs in the middle of the verse, has been rejected, and the capital letter restored, for which we have the authority of some of the folios, as well as the later edition of Spenser by Hughes: the practice, indeed, is neither useful to the reader nor ornamental to the book. — In order, as far as was practicable, to preserve an equality amongst the volumes as to thickness, it was found necessary to annex the Glossary to the eighth and last volume of this edition; and as this Glossary is taken partly from that of Hughes, and partly from that of Upton, including the words omitted in either, it will be found more comprehensive, as to the number of words explained, than any former Glossary to Spenser's Works" 1:lxxxviii-ix.

Robert Southey: "Bell's comprised only three earlier writers, Chaucer, Spenser, and Donne: and it is not to the honour of our country that his collection, which was not a bookseller's affair [like Johnson's], and on which no care or attention was bestowed, should still contain the only and most convenient edition of the works of the great father of English poetry" Life and Works of Cowper (1835-37) 2:149.

Leigh Hunt first encountered Spenser in this edition: "It included Chaucer and Spenser. The omission of these in Cooke's edition [of British Poets] was as unpoetical a sign of the times, as the existing familiarity with their names is the reverse. It was thought a mark of good sense. As if good sense, in matters of literature, did not consist as much in knowing what was poetical in poetry, as brilliant in wit," Lord Byron and some of his Contemporaries (1828) 398.

Jewel Wurtsbaugh: "Hughes's biography and observations and remarks on the various poems and Upton's observations on the Faerie Queene are prefatory to Bell's edition" Two Centuries of Spenserian Scholarship (1936) 139-40.



A Gentle knight was pricking on the plaine,
Ycladd in mightie armes and silver shielde,
Wherein old dints of deepe woundes did remaine,
The cruel markes of many a bloody fielde;
Yet armes till that time did he never wield:
His angry steede did chide his foaming bitt,
As much disdayning to the curbe to yield:
Full jolly knight he seem'd, and faire did sitt,
As one for knightly guist and fierce encounters fitt.

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