1782
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To the Lernede Deane Percy: Greteying.

Strictures upon a Pamphlet intituled, "Cursory Observations on the Poems attributed to Rowley, a Priest of the Fifteenth Century." With a Postscript on Mr. Warton's Enquiry into the same Subject.

Edward Burnaby Greene


Edward Burnaby Greene appends a burlesque sonnet to a pamphlet ridiculing Edmond Malone and Thomas Warton for doubting the authenticity of Chatterton's Rowley forgeries. While the sense of the sonnet is less than clear, Greene seems to be asking Thomas Percy, who had published poems by the contemporaries of Chaucer and Spenser, to encourage him give justice its due by denying favor to Chatterton ("Rowlie's shadowe"). The concluding line of the poem is a Spenserian alexandrine. It is dated "Kensington, March 12, 1782."

Critical Review: "Mr. Burnaby Greene, the reputed author of this pamphlet, is a pindaric poet, and the translator of Pindar himself. We therefore first thought of Mr. Garrick's receipt, and attempted to read it, like a witches prayer, or a birth day ode, backward. It had however no effect. We then read it from the right to the left, but it was still unintelligible. As last, resolved effectually to discharge our duty to the public, we followed Swift's advice, and submitted it to a distillation, with every precaution that Paracelsus or Basil Valentine could have suggested" 54 (1782) 24.

Monthly Review: "Chaos is come again!" 62 (September 1782) 235.

A short sample might convey the tenor of Greene's argument: "The transcriber [Chatterton] may be in fault, but not the original composer, for errors of this motley complexion: 'Before the Urchin well could go, | He stole the whiteness of the snow.' Thus is our Stripling all-accomplished represented to have mastered, after a dunciad-childhood, the old, and obtained an exceeding familiarity with modern English writers! The Tragedy of Aella is [by Malone] marked to have originated from 'the Elfrida and Caractacus of Mr. Mason.' Opinion revolts from the idea of this derivative excellence. The poetry conveys not a characteristic resemblance to the poetry of those dramatic models from Greece; the minstrels may at first sight be presumed counter-parts of the Grecian chorus, but our English traditionary records have a retrospect to the times of 'Aella; a name,' which our Pamphleteer, loth to lose a fight of prepossession, asserts 'Chatterton to have probably found from Dr. Percy's reliques of English poetry'" p. 29.

Greene's pamphlet aroused the sardonic wrath of George Steevens, who wrote to Thomas Warton, 31 May 1782, "Pray read Burnaby Greene's Sonnet address'd to Dr. Percy. An advertisement in the Papers tells us it is prefixed to the Pamphlet, but it appears only in the last leaf of it. Perhaps this mode of prefixing is to be considered as a compliment to an Irish Bishop" Correspondence of Thomas Warton, ed. Fairer (1995) 455.



PERCY, of Poetes olde, wythe balade clere,
Whose precious stories hertes of fere to thawe
Full marvayleouslie flowe wythe Pitie's tere,
Or bende stoute Chivalrie to Cupyde's law,
Thie skylle hathe fetelie wove, great Clerke of fame,
The guerdon swete to sente, ere CHAUCER'S tale
Stepede in nature's dewe han rered his name,
Tyl SPENCER dreste hys Allegorycke vayle;
Thanne to the hygh renome of Anna's daies,
Noughte ceasynge tuneful lore, whyles neddere's byte
Syke bismarelie anoyethe BRUNSWYCKE'S praise:
Teachen mie mynde, ne frende of foule despyghte,
To yeven glorie dygne, ne blason guyle;
Ne ROWLIE'S shadowe dyghte wythe favoure's beemie smyle.

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