John Skelton: The Critical Heritage

By Anthony S. G.Edwards | Go to book overview

26.

AN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY CRITIC IN PRAISE OF ‘ELYNOR RUMMYNG’

1718

‘To the Reader’ in a reprint of ‘The Tunning of Elynor Rumming’ (1718). The authorship of these prefatory remarks is unknown.

A View of past Times is the most agreable Study of humane Life. To unveil the former Ages, call back Time in his Course, and with a contracted View prie thro’ the Clouds of Oblivion, and see Things that were before our Being, is certainly the most Amusement, if as Martial tells us,


- - - - - - hoc est
Vivere bis, vita posse priore frui. ( 1)

how additional a Happiness is it to enlarge and draw it into the Ages that were before?

This, Reader, is the Editor’s Reason for publishing this very antient Sketch of a Drinking Piece; and tho’ some of the Lines seem to be a little defac’d by Time, yet the Strokes are so just and true, that an experienc’d Painter might from hence form the most agreeable Variety requisite in a Picture, to represent the mirth of those Times. Here is a just and natural Description of those merry Wassail Dayes, and of the Humours of our great Grandames, which our Poet hath drawn with that Exactness, that, as Mr. Dryden says of Chaucer’s Characters, he thought, when he read them himself, to have seen them as distinctly as if he had sup’d with them at the Tabard Inn in Southwark, so I may truly say, I see before me this Variety of Gossips, as plainly as if I had dropt into the Alehouse at Leatherhead and sate upon the Settle to view their Gamball’s.

It may seem a Trifle to some to revive a Thing of this Nature: The Subject, they say, is so low, and the Time so long since, that it would be throwing away more to peruse it. What have we to do to puzle our Brains with old out-of fashion’d Trumpery, when we have since had ingenious Poets in our own Times easily to be understood, and much more diverting too.

As for Those nice Curiosoes, who can tast nothing but Deserts; whose chief Perfection is to discover the fine

-74-

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