1751
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Progress of Envy: Preface.

The Progress of Envy. A Poem. In imitation of Spenser, occasioned by Lauder's Attack on the Character of Milton. Inscribed to the Right Honourable the Earl of Bath.

Robert Lloyd


Robert Lloyd's preface compares the generous Addison's attempt in The Spectator to revive Milton's reputation with William Lauder's attempt to blacken it in an Essay on Milton's use and Imitation of the Moderns (1750). Lloyd speculates that the Scotsman was motivated by poverty as much as by envy. More interesting are his remarks on imitating Spenser. The preface was not reprinted in Lloyd's collected works, and consequently has not received much attention in the scholarship on Spenser imitations. Lloyd refers to Lauder's retraction in A Letter to the Reverend Mr. Douglas (1751).

The Progress of Envy introduces a new form of Spenserian stanza: "As I did not suppose that Imitations were bound to transcribe the Faults as well as Excellencies of their Original, I made no Scruple of making a slight Alteration in SPENSER'S Stanza, which is universally condemned for the Redundancy of its correspondent Rhimes. The Difficulty I should have found in the Execution had perhaps some Share in this voluntary Omission. Allowing this to be certain, my judicious Reader will be so far from thinking it a Blemish, that I am persuaded he will readily compound for the Loss of some of My Bells, provided I can entertain him more rationally" p. x. While never so popular as the Prior variation, Lloyd's nine-line, four-rhyme version was used by several later writers.

Lloyd's sentiments on imitating Spenser's mannerisms are the antithesis of those expressed by James Beattie in the preface to The Minstrel, written twenty years later. Lloyd writes: "I have, in general, rather wished to fall into SPENSER'S Way of Thinking than his Manner of cloathing his Sentiments, because I think his Imagery infinitely superior to his Stile. I have, however, been so far from neglecting his Language, that except those Places where I found the old Words express less than the modern, I always gave them the Preference" p. x.

William Lyon Phelps: "Boyse was not the only vagabond among the Spenserians; another rascal was the poet Robert Lloyd (1733-1764). He led a terribly dissipated life, was more often drunk than sober, and spent a large portion of the time in prison for debt. He was a professed imitator of Prior, and had a keen and penetrating wit, which he used unsparingly. In some directions his tastes seemed to favor the new school. He wrote an epistle to Garrick, in which he praised the English dramatists, and Shakspere's departure from Classic rules of art.... In 1751 he published his Progress of Envy. It is a defense of Milton. Lloyd attacks a disreputable Scotchman who had made an onslaught on the reputation of the Puritan poet. Besides the main object of the poem, it is also a panegyric on Spenser, and even Shakspere and Chaucer come in for praise. It is allegorical in form, with the customary number of personified abstractions. The stanza is Spenserian, with nine lines, but with a curious riming scheme" Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement (1893) 79-81.




To be studious of bringing Merit in Obscurity to Light, is so strong an Instance of Benevolence, that it has in all Ages been constantly attended with the highest Commendations; while the Destroyer of a Man's Reputation (in whatever it consisted) has been accounted a more odious Criminal than even the Assassin of his Body. On this Remark is founded one of the most beautiful Passages in SHAKESPEARE:

Who steals my Purse, steals Trash;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been Slave to Thousands:
But he that filches from me my good Name,
Steals from me that which not enriches him,
But makes me poor indeed.
OTHELLO.

This is so true an Observation, that few, I believe, will doubt, that MILTON was less offended at the low Price his inestimable Poem was rated at on its first Publication, than he would have been at the late mean Attempts to subvert a Fame so well established.

To view the Character of this SON OF DARKNESS in its most genuine Form, let us contrast it with another no less eminent for its Splendor, which is the properest I could chuse for my present Purpose, as it is particularly so in relation to that DIVINE AUTHOR we have lately seen so well vindicated from the groundless Aspersions of almost his only Enemy.

In the Course of the Spectators, Mr. ADDISON (who was perhaps the most candid Critick that ever wrote, without deviating from Impartiality) took a particular Pleasure in producing latent unregarded Worth, that he might show those Cavillers who were daily complaining of a Dearth of good Poetry, what noble things of this Kind they neglected.

Agreeably to this End is his Criticism on the old English Ballad of Chevy Chace; but his most glorious Works of this Kind are his Observations on the PARADISE LOST. There is not a stronger Instance of Prejudice, and the Force of Party, than the Reception this Poem met with in the Author's Life-time, whose unhappy Attachment to wrong Principles, render'd all his Attempts at Fame (while living) fruitless. His admirable Poem lay in Obscurity till Mr. Addison removed those envious Clouds which had been suffered to obstruct its Splendor. With what Pleasure does he discover its Excellencies, and instruct an ordinary Reader to judge of its Beauties! With what Regret does he speak of the few Blemishes of that Divine Piece, which (says he) is like writing a Treaties upon the Spots of the Sun.

These Remarks are so universally read and approved, that, I believe ever body but LAUDER (and his Friends, if he has any) will concur with me in the following Observation: Had Mr. ADDISON never wrote a Line but his Critique upon MILTON, that would alone have been sufficient to have established his Reputation as a fine Writer and a good Man.

If the Reader would view the exact Reverse of the above Character, let him turn his Eyes on LAUDER: A Being so utterly void of Candour and Benevolence, that he has thought it worth his While to commit the grossest Forgeries, to disturb, if possible, the Ashes of our Poet, and has been more industrious to depreciate the Paradise Lost than the Writers in the Beginning of this Century were to heap Encomiums upon it. The Inhumanity and amazing Impudence of these Proceedings have puzzled all, to devise a likely Reason for so strange a Piece of Malice. The faint Excuses alleged for this Behaviour in LAUDER'S Recantation, by no Means palliate his Crime, notwithstanding the florid Dress he has cloathed them in. Though I am far from being admitted into his secret Counsels, I believe I may venture to mention one, which, out of his usual Regard to Truth, he has purposely omitted. It is very possible the same thing which has often made Poets, tempted LAUDER to unmake one, viz. Poverty and the Hopes of a Subscription.

These potent Arguments once induced him to commend with some Warmth the very same Poem he has lately been at so much Pains to brand, as a Work of Genius: But as Honesty would no longer procure him a Dinner, his Conscience did not prevent him from turning the Tables.

Rem faciam Rem,
Si possim, recte, si non, quocunque modo Rem.

But we will urge this no farther, remembering, that it is not right to speak illl of the Dead.

PREFACES are commonly intended for Discourses to the Reader on the Book he is entering upon; but the Consideration of a Being quite divested of Modesty and Humanity, naturally led me into the foregoing Reflections, arising from the Subject of these Sheets.

I shall not trouble the Reader with an Account of the Time I was employed in writing it, or insipidly petition the Favour of the Criticks, but commit it to the World,

With all its Imperfections on its Head.

An Attempt to overthrow the bold Assertions of LAUDER by Poetry, till he had been foiled at his own Weapons, would hardly have succeeded. But when so invincible a Champion as Mr. DOUGLAS had taken the Field, and returned victorious, the MUSES, who were particularly interested in the Contest, should adorn him with the Insignia of a Triumph.

This Hint has already given Rise to the Pandemonium and the following Stanzas, in Imitation of SPENSER. The Design of our several Pieces are so very different, that it is almost impossible they should clash in point of Merit. If we both meet with Success, according to our various Models, we need not be disheartened at any accidental Rivalship or absurd Comparison an injudicious Reader may draw between us.

Mr. DRYDEN, in some Part of his Works, has an Observation hinting at Poetical Genealogy. We have amongst us (says he) our Lines and Descents, in as regular a manner as the noblest Families. In deducing the best English Writers from their Poetick Original, he observes, that MILTON is the first Descendant from SPENSER. This Remark of so great a Judge as Mr. DRYDEN induced me to chuse SPENSER for my Model, and to place him by the Side of APOLLO in my Poem, imagining there was a peculiar Propriety in shielding the Son under the Protection of the Father.

As I did not suppose that Imitations were bound to transcribe the Faults as well as Excellencies of their Original, I made no Scruple of making a slight Alteration in SPENSER'S Stanza, which is universally condemned for the Redundancy of its correspondent Rhimes. The Difficulty I should have found in the Execution had perhaps some Share in this voluntary Omission. Allowing this to be certain, my judicious Reader will be so far from thinking it a Blemish, that I am persuaded he will readily compound for the Loss of some of My Bells, provided I can entertain him more rationally. I have, in general, rather wished to fall into SPENSER'S Way of Thinking than his Manner of cloathing his Sentiments, because I think his Imagery infinitely superior to his Stile. I have, however, been so far from neglecting his Language, that except those Places where I found the old Words express less than the modern, I always gave them the Preference. Whether I have transfused any of the divine Spirit of SPENSER into the following Stanzas, and whether his Style is successfully imitated, the Reader must judge for himself.

The Mention I made of the slight Variation from SPENSER'S Stanza, was merely to prevent the Nibblers of the Age from imputing it to Ignorance. These would-be Criticks take great Pains to pervert the Movements of the human Mind, which certainly has more Pleasure in bestowing Commendations than Dispraise. I beg Leave to show the Truth of this Assertion by an Instance drawn from myself as an Author. Whatever Satisfaction it may have afforded me to stigmatize the Malice of LAUDER'S Proceedings, nothing in the whole Course of this Work pleased me so much as celebrating Mr. DOUGLAS. If the following Trifle should meet with the Approbation of the Publick, I hope that Gentleman will think it an acceptable Present to Himself.


[pp. v-xii]