Edmund Spenser, the Critical Heritage

By R. M.Cummings | Go to book overview

127.

Sir Richard Steele

1710, 1712

Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729) was educated at Charterhouse, where he met Addison, and proceeded to Christ Church and Merton. The Spectator piece comes in response to a letter from one M.R., reprinted in Bond, IV. 432: 'I am now in the country, and reading in Spencer's fairy-queen. Pray what is the matter with me? When the poet is sublime my heart burns, when he is compassionate I faint, when he is sedate my soul is becalm'd.' The writer asks for a stanza [a canto?] to be treated each week, but the request was never met. The Tatler piece may be by Hughes (see G.A. Aitken, The Tatler (1899), IV. 7), but the possibility is not in my opinion at all strong.

(a) The Tatler, No. 194, 4-6 July 1710:

I was this Morning reading the Tenth Canto in the Fourth Book of Spencer, in which Sir Scudamore relates the Progress of his Courtship to Amoret under a very beautiful Allegory, which is one of the most natural and unmixed of any in that most excellent Author. I shall transpose it, to use Mr Bays's Term, for the Benefit of many English Lovers, who have by frequent Letters desired me to lay down some Rules for the Conduct of their virtuous Amours; and shall only premise, That by the Shield of Love, is meant a generous constant Passion for the Person beloved.

When the Fame, says he, of this celebrated Beauty first flew Abroad, I went in Pursuit of her to the Temple of Love. This Temple, continues he, bore the Name of the Goddess Venus, and was seated in a most fruitful Island, walled by Nature against all Invaders. There was a single Bridge that led into the Island, and before it a Castle garrison'd by 20 Knights. Near the Castle was an open Plain, and in the midst of it a Pillar, on which was hung the Shield of Love; and underneath it, in Letters of Gold, was this Inscription:

-239-

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