John Skelton: The Critical Heritage

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

33.

WILLIAM GIFFORD IN PRAISE OF SKELTON

1816

From ‘The Works of Ben Jonson’, edited by William Gifford (1816), VIII, p. 77. Gifford (1756-1826) was a satirist, editor and scholar. This passage is from his annotation of Jonson’s masque ‘The Fortunate Isles’.

Jonson was evidently fond of Skelton, and frequently imitates his short titupping style, which is not his best. I know Skelton only by the modern edition of his works, dated 1736. But from this stupid publication I can easily discover that he was no ordinary man. Why Warton and the writers of his school rail at him so vehemently, I know not; he was perhaps the best scholar of his day, and displays, on many occasions, strong powers of description, and a vein of poetry that shines through all the rubbish which ignorance has spread over it. He flew at high game, and therefore occasionally called in the aid of vulgar ribaldry to mask the direct attack of his satire. This was seen centuries ago, and yet we are now instituting a process against him for rudeness and indelicacy!

[Goes on to quote Grange—see above No. 11.]


34.

THOMAS CAMPBELL ON SKELTON’S BUFFOONERY

1819

From Thomas Campbell’s ‘Specimens of the British Poets’ (1819), I, pp. 101-3. Campbell (1777-1844) is best known as a poet. The original footnotes have been deleted.

John Skelton, who was the rival and contemporary of Barklay, was laureate to the University of Oxford, and tutor to the prince, afterwards Henry VIII. Erasmus must have been a bad judge of English poetry, or must have

-86-

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