Sidney: The Critical Heritage

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The Gentleman’ s Magazine


This anonymous attempt to defend Arcadia against Walpole’s strictures appeals for careful reading rather than generalization and, more briefly, for literature of different periods to be judged according to different standards. See Introduction, pp. 52-3.

The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 37, 1767, pp. 58-60.

It is but justice to the illustrious dead, and in some cases a duty to the public, to endeavour to vindicate their fame, and rescue it from any unfair attacks, that may be made upon it.

‘There can be no motive, [Walpole] observes, but just criticism, for calling in question the fame of another man at this distance of time.’ But surely it cannot be accounted just criticism, to aggravate the supposed defects in any character, and entirely suppress what may be found in it of the reverse. He professes to scrutinize this favourite character. But a scrutiny is an exact and impartial examination on both sides; which does not seem to be the case here: The only thing he mentions as tolerable in Sir Philip’s writings, is his answer to the libel called Leicester’s Commonwealth; in which he acknowledges he defends his uncle with great spirit. But no man will imagine from the manner in which he has treated the Arcadia that there was any thing of spirit to be found in that performance; which so far from being the production of the greatest poet, and noblest genius, that have wrote in any modern language (as Sir William Temple represents him) Mr W. pronounces a tedious, lamentable, pedantick, pastoral Romance.

Upon which I must observe, that the pastoral is the most inconsiderable part of the work, which may be read without it; and is not necessary to the main design. Why he calls it pedantick, appears from what he observes of two tragedies written by Sir Fulke Greville, which have the chorus, after the manner of the ancients; a pedantry (says he) like Sir Philip’s English Hexameters. The whole of


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