John Skelton: The Critical Heritage

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

46.

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL ON SKELTON AND ‘PHILIP SPARROW’

1875, 1889

(a) From an article entitled Spenser in the ‘North American Review’, CXX (1875), pp. 334-94; this extract is from p. 340.

Lowell (1819-91) was a distinguished American poet and critic.

One genuine English poet illustrated the early years of the sixteenth century, —John Skelton. He had vivacity, fancy, humor, and originality. Gleams of the truest poetical sensibility alternate in him with an almost brutal coarseness. He was truly Rabelaisian before Rabelais. But there is a freedom and hilarity in much of his writing that gives it a singular attraction. A breath of cheerfulness runs along the slender stream of his verse, under which it seems to ripple and crinkle, catching and casting back the sunshine like a stream blown on by clear western winds.

But Skelton was an exceptional blossom of autumn. A long and dreary winter follows.

(b) From Lowell’s Address to the Modern Language Association of America in 1889, as printed in ‘Publications of the Modern Language Association of America’, V (1890), pp. 5-22; this extract is from p. 15.

Shall I make the ignominious confession that I relish SKELTON’S ‘Philip Sparowe’, pet of SKELTON’S Maystres Jane, or parts of it, inferior though it be in form, almost as much as that more fortunate pet of Lesbia? There is a wonderful joy in it to chase away what SKELTON calls odious Enui, though it may not thrill our intellectual sensibility like its Latin prototype.

-147-

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