1793
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Knight of the Rose: Advertisement.

The Knight of the Rose. An Allegorical Narrative; including Histories, Adventures, &c. designed for the Amusement and Moral Instruction of Youth. By the Author of the Adventures of the Six Princesses of Babylon, &c.

Lucy Peacock


In a brief preface Lucy Peacock, writing anonymously, defends the use of moral allegory and acknowledges her debt to the Faerie Queene.

In making chivalric romances accessible to a broader public, she addresses a difficulty noted by Lamb's friend George Dyer: "Spenser's Faerie Queene is one tissue of allegory, and calculated, too, as a national poem, very highly to please. Its being not so much read as Shakespeare's plays we must ascribe, not altogether to the high coloring of the invention, or mysterious application of the allegory, but partly to the length of the narrative, and the perplexity of the plot" Poetics (1812) 2:99.

Nineteenth-century adapters seem to have believed firmly that the Faerie Queene, being a didactic romance, was intended for the instruction of youth, and went about their business excerpting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. After all, hadn't Abraham Cowley read the Faerie Queene as a boy?

European Magazine: "No doubt, if we were acquainted with the occupations of [Spenser's] infant days, but we should find a considerable portion of them devoted to the perusal of fairy tales, and other productions of a similar character. These productions, perhaps, during the course of his earlier reading, were the only works to which he could find access. In this case, they must have made a much stronger impression upon his mind, than on children who read from a more varied and heterogeneous selection. It is also certain, that the earlier and the more he read of them, the more powerful they swayed his plastic and tender mind, then capable of the slightest impressions, though tenacious only of those which were deep and frequently repeated. There is no subject, which gives stronger exercise to the imagination of a child than fairy tales, enchanted castles, and romantic imagery; and where a passion for them is cherished in our infancy, they will ever after continue to give a romantic cast or character to the mind" "The Spenserian School of Poetry" 82 (October 1822) 339.




The approbation with which the author has been honoured in a former work of this kind, viz. the Adventures of the six Princesses of Babylon, (though she is sensible it must in a great measure be attributed to the generous allowance made for her youth at the time it was written) has encouraged her to attempt the present. Excess being the consquence of many vices, without it perhaps few would exist, she has chosen the destruction of that, as the principal work of her hero: The idea she has borrowed from the second book of Spencer's Fairy Queen: to that, also, she is indebted for the allegory of Wrath and Provocation.

Allegory is by many considered an unfavourable vehicle to convey instruction: To children, it undoubtedly is; but the following sheets are designed for the perusal of youth: and for that class of readers, the author cannot think that moral truths will make the less impression, for being addressed strongly to the imagination. This, however, she must submit to the opinion of better judges than herself: Should she have erred, she rests in the hope of their indulgence, as she has endeavoured to render the moral of the work unexceptionable.


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