« PreviousContinue »
Cowley, exhibit the progressive improvement of this species of literary homage, and, perhaps, the perfection of the style in which it should be conveyed.
But it is not sufficient merely to have enumerated such writers as Spenser, Daniel, Drummond, Carew, Waller, and Habington.
Among these poets, who successively advanced the refinement of our language, and ameliorated our taste, it will be found that Daniel, possessing the pathetic delicacy of Spenser, anticipated the melodious simplicity of Drummond. On the merits of Drummond, whose sonnets are so extensively read, and so generally admired, it were superfluous to enlarge. His poetical character, and the circumstances by which it was determined, are amply detailed in the course of the ensuing work.
Nothing is more capricious than the customary distribution of fame. After the perusal of Spenser, Daniel, and Drummond, by whom he was preceded, and an attentive consideration of the pretensions of Carew and Habington, with whom he was contemporary, who can avoid expressing some surprize at the predominating reputation enjoyed by Waller?-a poet, whatever estimable qualities he otherwise possessed, who must be pronounced essentially deficient in the chief constituents of amatory excellence ; whose compliments were often hyperbolical and unnatural, whose passion was
destitute of tenderness, and whose wit was sometimes disgraced by indelicacy. To Carew, however censurable for moral discrepances, the praise of unaffected thinking, of a considerable portion of originality, and of fascinating numbers, is not to be denied. Habington is among the last of those poets in whose writings pleasure is wholly divested of licentiousness, and where the imagina tion is sublimed by the heart.
V. Thé dissoluteness of manners introduced by the Restoration was not unproductive of concomitant effects on the minds of men of talent. Under the ruins of the old monarchy seems to have been buried the spirit of chivalric feeling : the wits of the court of Charles the Second evince neither the vigour nor pathos of those who ornamented a former reign ; with few exceptions, all is elegant trifling, or disgusting voluptuousness. It is an im mutable truth, nor can it be too often reiterated, that whatever contaminates the morals has a tendency to impoverish the mental resources.
VI. Partly owing to the prevalence of political disquisition, and partly to the fluctuations of fashion, the encouragement before extended towards amatory writing seems rapidly to have declined subsequently to the Revolution. It is not only that such publications as the “ Astrophel and Stella" of Sidney, the “Castara" of Habington, or the $6 Lucasta” of Lovelace, no longer diversify the annals of literature, but personal attachment almost ceased to inspire the impulse of poetic enthusiasm ; our principal poets, as Pope in his "Eloise," frequently adopting either the epistolary or didactic form, for the expression of amatory emotion.
Without derogation from the applause due to intervening poets, it is principally during the last sixty years, but particularly in the present age, that Love can be considered as having regained, with augmented splendour, her empire over Poetry. Of the validity and importance of this remark, those who shall feel incited to inspect the following pages must be fully convinced. It is gratifying to bear this honourable testimony to existing merit; and to know, at the same time, that the opinion of the individual will be ratified at the tribunal of the public.
SURVEYING the extensive
our poetical writers, and estimating the general taste, it appeared that an undertaking like the present, if satisfactorily accomplished, could not fail of sufficient encouragement.
To impart to the plan all the novelty of which it might be supposed susceptible, biographical notices are prefixed to the various articles. These, being intended chiefly to illustrate the amatory performances of the writers, do not profess to discuss, otherwise than incidentally, the particulars of literary or political history.
Better to ascertain the progressive improvement of our poetry, and to award honour only where it is merited, the chronological arrangement, as far as it was discoverable, has been settled according to the dates at which the respective productions seemed to have been written; and, where this could not be decided, according to the time of their publication.
A few original verses by the Editor, under the department “ Amoretta," may be found at the conclusion of the work.
LONDON, November 30, 1805.
VOLUME THE FIRST.
ATTERBURY, Francis, Bishop of Rochester ........
Carew, Thomas ....