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Ben Jonson Timber : or Discoveries, made upon Men and Matter, 1641 As it is fit to reade the best Authors to youth first, so let them be of the openest, and clearest. As Livy before Salust, Sydney before Donne : and beware of letting them taste Gower, or Chaucer at first, lest falling too much in love with Antiquity, and not apprehending the weight, they grow rough and barren in language onely. When their judgements are firme, and out of danger, let them reade both, the old and the new : but no lesse take heed,
that their new flowers, and sweetnesse, doe not as much 10 corrupt, as the others drinesse, and squallor, if they choose
not carefully. Spencer in affecting the Ancients writ no Language : Yet I would have him read for his matter ; but as Virgil read Ennius.
Areopagitica, 1644 That vertue therefore which is but a youngling in the contemplation of evill, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank vertue, not a pure ; her whitenesse is but an excrementall whitenesse; Which was the reason why our sage and serious Poet Spencer, whom I dare be known to think a better teacher then Scotus or Aquinas, describing true temperance under the person of Guion, brings him in with his palmer through the cave of Mammon, and the bowr of earthly blisse, that he might see and know, and yet abstain. 10
Abraham Cowley Essay 11, Of Myself, published posthumously 1668 I BELIEVE I can tell the particular little chance that filled my head first with such Chimes of Verse, as have never since left ringing there : For I remember when I first began to read, and to take some pleasure in it, there was wont to lie in my Mothers Parlour (I know not by what accident, for she her self never in her life read any Book but of Devotion) but there was wont to lie Spencers Works; this I happened to fall upon, and was infinitely delighted with the Stories of the Knights, and Giants, and Monsters, and brave Houses, which I found every where 20 there (though my understanding had little to do with all this): and by degrees with the tinckling of the Rhyme and Dance of the Numbers, so that I think I had read him all over before I was twelve years old, and was thus made a Poet.
Dedication to the Æneis, 1697 I must acknowledge that Virgil in Latin, and Spencer in English, have been my Masters.
Preface to the Fables, 1700 Spencer and Fairfax both flourish'd in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth : Great Masters in our Language ; and who saw much farther into the Beauties of our Numbers, than those who immediately followed them. Milton was the Poetical Son of Spencer, and Mr. Waller of Fairfax ; for we have our Lineal Descents and Clans, as well as other Families :
Spencer more than once insinuates, that the Soul of Chaucer 10 was transfus'd into his Body; and that he was begotten
by him Two hundred years after his Decease. Milton has acknowledg'd to me, that Spencer was his Original.
Sir Richard Steele
The Spectator, No. 540, November 19, 1712 Mr. SPECTATOR,
There is no Part of your Writings which I have in more Esteem than your Criticism upon Milton. It is an honourable and candid Endeavour to set the Works of our Noble Writers in the graceful Light which they deserve. You will lose much of my kind Inclination towards you, if you
do not attempt the Encomium of Spencer also, or at least 20 indulge my Passion for that charming Author so far as to print the loose Hints I now give you on that Subject
Spencer's general Plan is the Representation of six Virtues ... in six Legends by six Persons. . . . These one might undertake to shew, under the several Heads, are admirably drawn : no Images improper, and most surprizingly beautiful. ...
His old Words are all true English, and Numbers exquisite.
John Hughes . Essay prefixed to Spenser's Works, 1715 THE Embellishments of Description are rich and lavish in him beyond Comparison : and as this is the most striking part of Poetry, especially to young Readers, I take it to be the Reason that he has been the Father of more Poets among us, than any other of our Writers.
Letter to John Hughes, 1715 THE present you make me 1 is of the most agreeable nature imaginable, for Spenser has been ever a favourite poet to me.
Conversation with Spence, 1743–4 (Spence's Anecdotes, 1820) AFTER reading a canto of Spenser two or three days ago to an old lady, between seventy and eighty years of age, 10 she said that I had been showing her a gallery of pictures.
-I don't know how it is, but she said very right : there is something in Spenser that pleases one as strongly in one's old age, as it did in one's youth. I read the Faerie Queene, when I was about twelve, with infinite delight ; and I think it gave me as much, when I read it over about a year or two ago.
Samuel Johnson Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language, 1755 IF the language of theology were extracted from Hooker and the translation of the Bible; the terms of natural knowledge from Bacon; the phrases of policy, war, and 20 navigation from Raleigh ; the dialect of poetry and fiction from Spenser and Sidney; and the diction of common life from Shakespeare, few ideas would be lost to mankind, for want of English words, in which they might be expressed.
1 The edition of Spenser.
Thomas Gray From Reminiscences of Gray by Norton Nicholls, 1805 SPENSER was among his favourite poets; and he told me he never sat down to compose poetry without reading Spenser for a considerable time previously.
That gentle Bard,
Sir Walter Scott Autobiography, in Lockhart's Life; published 1837 SPENSER I could have read for ever. Too young to 10 trouble myself about the allegory, I considered all the knights and ladies and dragons and giants in their outward and exoteric sense, and God only knows how delighted I was to find myself in such society. As I had always a wonderful facility in retaining in my memory whatever verses pleased me, the quantity of Spenser's stanzas which I could repeat was really marvellous.
And, as its martial notes to silence flee,
A hymn in praise of spotless Chastity.