Toward an Augustan Poetic: Edmund Waller's 'Reform' of English Poetry

Toward an Augustan Poetic: Edmund Waller's 'Reform' of English Poetry

Toward an Augustan Poetic: Edmund Waller's 'Reform' of English Poetry

Toward an Augustan Poetic: Edmund Waller's 'Reform' of English Poetry

Excerpt

HE WAS, said the Biographia Britannica in 1766, "the most celebrated Lyric Poet that ever England produced." And if this seems a curious statement to have been made about Edmund Waller, a still greater curiosity is that it was probably true.

The sources of his celebrity were not solely literary. He was esteemed for the charm of his address and the wit and good sense of his conversation -- for a cluster of personal and social gifts not unlike those which Richard Brinsley Sheridan exhibited in a more robust form a century later. And to these he added the virtue of surpassing wealth. He was nevertheless also greatly admired as a literary artist. Thomas Rymer wrote of his early work that "his Poetry then distinguish'd him from all his contemporaries, both in England and in other Nations; And from all before him upwards to Horace and Virgil." And Lord Buckhurst believed, or is represented as having believed, that even Greece and Romecould produce "nothing so even, sweet, and flowing, as Mr. Waller." The more general eulogies dwelt on his smoothness and sweetness. The more specific singled out his diction . . .

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