John Skelton: The Critical Heritage

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

(b) From Joseph Spence’s ‘Observations, Anecdotes and Characters of Books and Men’, edited by J.M. Osborn (Oxford, 1966), I, p. 180, no. 414. Spence’s work was first published in 1820. Spence himself (1699-1768) was a famous anecdotist. He records this comment by Pope.

Skelton’s poems are all low and bad; there’s nothing in them that’s worth reading.


28.

ELIZABETH COOPER IN PRAISE OF SKELTON

1737

From Elizabeth Cooper, ‘The Muses Library’ (1737), pp. 48-9. Mrs Cooper was a dramatist as well as a critic.

The Restorer of Invention in English Poetry! was born of an ancient Family in Cumberland, received his Education at Oxford, and, afterwards, entring into Holy Orders, was made Rector of Dysse in Norfolk, in the reign of Henry the Eighth; tho’, in my Opinion, He appear’d first in that of Henry the Seventh, and may be said, to be the Growth of that Time. Some bitter Satires on the Clergy, and particularly, his keen Reflections on Cardinal Wolsey, drew on him so severe Prosecutions, that he was oblig’d to fly for Sanctuary to Westminster, under the Protection of Islip the Abbot; where He dy’d in the Year 1529. It appears, by his Poem, intitled, ‘The Crown of Laurel’, that his Performances were very numerous, tho so few of Them remain: In these is a very rich Vein of Wit, Humour, and Poetry, tho’ much debas’d by the Rust of the Age He liv’d in. —His Satirs are remarkably broad, open, and ill-bred; the Verse cramp’d by a very short Measure, and incumber’d with such a Profusion of Rhimes, as makes the Poet almost as ridiculous, as Those he endeavours to expose. —In his more serious Pieces, He is not guilty of this Absurdity; and confines himself to a regular Stanza, according to the then reigning Mode. His ‘Bouge of Court’, is, in my Opinion, a Poem of great Merit: it abounds with Wit, and Imagination, and argues him well

-76-

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