John Skelton: The Critical Heritage

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

Henry VIII. is mentioned here, only as his gross style and measures reflect back some honor to Chaucer, by a comparison: and he seems further remarkable, as he had sufficient confidence to satirize Wolsey, in the plenitude of his power. Puttenham…calls him ‘a rude rayling rhymer and all his doings ridiculous.’ Yet he was this for want of taste, not learning; as his scholarship excited a high encomium from Erasmus.

Though neither the manner, nor versification of Skelton, could recommend his poems, the justness of his satire rendered them popular. Wolsey’s profligacy, arrogance, and oppressions were so excessive, that it required a very ingenious poet to invent a charge against him, that would not have application: and the generality of the court, constrained through fear, to flatter a man they secretly detested, were gratified in the boldness of one, who, without hesitation or reserve, dared utter their common sentiment.


32.

ROBERT SOUTHEY ON SKELTON’S GENIUS

1814

From an unsigned review by Southey in the ‘Quarterly Review’, XI (1814), pp. 484-5, of Chalmers’s 1810 reprint of the 1736 edition of Skelton. Southey (1774-1843) was a prolific poet and man of letters.

Mr. Chalmers has done well in including Skelton, but he has merely reprinted the imperfect and careless edition of 1736. ‘It yet remains,’ he says, ‘to explain his obscurities, translate his vulgarisms, and point his verses. The task would require much time and labour, with perhaps no very inviting promise of recompense.’ Let the reader judge whether this be a sufficient excuse for an editor who makes Skelton speak


Of Tristem and King Marke
And all the whole warke
Of bele I sold his wife! (p. 294) [‘Philip Sparrow’, lines 641-3]

-84-

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