John Dennis (1657-1737) was educated at Caius College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He combines neo-classical tastes with extraordinary open-mindedness, as his partiality for Milton, if not for Spenser, demonstrates.
(a) From The Usefulness of the Stage (1698), p. 40; repr. Critical Works, ed. E.N. Hooker (Baltimore, 1939), I. 160:
But immediately upon the Establishment of the Drama, Three Prodigies of Wit appeared all at once, as it were so many Suns, to amaze the learned World. The Reader will immediately comprehend that I speak of Spencer, Bacon, and Raleigh; Three mighty Genius's, so extraordinary in their different Ways, that not only England had never seen the like before, but they almost continue to this very Day, in spight of Emulation, in spight of Time, the greatest of our Poets, Philosophers, and Historians.
(b) From The Grounds of Criticism in Poetry (1704) sigs. ab-abv; repr. Hooker, I. 331:
When by doing this we have laid down the Rules, we come briefly to examine, Whether those Rules are always to be kept inviolable; and if they are not, in what parts, and by whom, they may be alter'd. Then we shew how Spencer, by not following those Rules, fell so very far short of the Ancients: and afterwards we endeavour to make it appear, how Milton, by daring to break a little loose from them in some particulars, kept up in several others to the Nature of the Greater Poetry in general, and of Epick Poetry in particular, better than the best of the Ancients.
(c) Ibid., pp. 113-14; repr. Hooker, I. 369: