alluded only to the learning of Skelton, when in one of his letters he pronounces him ‘Britannicarum literarum lumen et decus.’ There is certainly a vehemence and vivacity in Skelton which was worthy of being guided by a better taste; and the objects of his satire bespeak some degree of public spirit. But his eccentricity in attempts at humour is at once vulgar and flippant; and his style is almost a texture of slang phrases, patched with shreds of French and Latin. We are told, indeed, in a periodical work of the present day, ( 1) that his manner is to be excused, because it was assumed for ‘the nonce,’ and was suited to the taste of his contemporaries. But it is surely a poor apology for the satirist of any age to say that he stooped to humour its vilest taste, and could not ridicule vice and folly without degrading himself to buffoonery.
From Ezekiel Sanford’s ‘The Works of the British Poets’ (Philadelphia, 1819), I, pp. 259-61).
Sanford (1796-1822) was an American historian. The selection from Skelton which accompanies this introduction appears to be the first American publication of any of Skelton’s works.
JOHN SKELTON, an eccentric satyrist, was born towards the close of the fifteenth century. The two universities dispute the honour of his education; but neither seems to have established a very strong title. The poet-laureateship was then a degree of the universities. Caxton says, our author was made laureate at Oxford; and Mr. Malone tells us, that he wore the laurel publicly at Cambridge.