Obrázky na stránke

reserved long since in the study of a Norfolk Gentleman, and now first published by J. S.” and dedicated “to the worthiest poet, Master Ed. Spenser.” This edition is sometimes found with the surreptitious date of 1602, prefixed to the first part, or Toothless Satires ; while the correct date of 1599 still remains to the second part, or Biting Satires. Warton describes the edition of 1599, as the “last and best” of those published by the author.

The Satires had two evils of an opposite description to encounter,--hostility at first, and neglect afterwards. No sooner was the first edition issued from the press, than it was condemned by the High Commission Court to the flames, through the instigation of Archbishop Whitgift and Bishop Bancroft:* while the character of the author, as well as that of the book, was attacked nearly half a century afterwards with relentless severity by no less an antagonist than John Milton.t For two whole centuries they were then almost forgotten. An edition indeed appeared at Oxford, in 1753, under the superintendence of the Rev. W. Thompson, formerly Fellow of Queen's College ; and Pope I and Gray were both of them

* See note to Book 1. Satire viii. line ult. (page 20.)
+ In his Apology for Smectymnus, published in 1642.

$ In the catalogue of Mr. West's library, sold in 1773, occurs the following article :-"No. 1047. Hall's (Bp.) Virgidemiarum, 6 books, impr. by Harrison, 1599-1602 ; rare edit. Mr. Pope's copy, who

[ocr errors][merged small]

alive, and endeavoured to enliven others, to an appreciation of their merits. But it was not till the mąsterly analysis by Warton, which appeared in the fourth volume of the History of English Poetry, that the Virgidemiarum Libri Sex of Bishop Hall took their place among the classical poetry of the land. The praises bestowed by Warton were repeated by Campbell in his Specimens of the British Poets, and copies of the Satires began to multiply. In the tenth volume of Mr. Prætt's edition of the works, a variety of illustrations had been given already from the pen of Mr. Henry Ellis, of the British Museum. A facsimile of the first edition was now printed by Mr. Constable, of Edinburgh: in 1824, another edition, under the care of Mr. S. W. Singer, with the illustratrations of Warton, and additional notes interspersed : and another, in 1825, limited to one hundred copies, but elaborately revised and elucidated.

[ocr errors]

presented it to Mr. West, telling him that he esteemed them the best Poetry and truest Satire in the English language; and that he had an intention of modernizing them, as he had done some of Donne's Satires.” Mr. Thompson, the editor of the Oxford reprint, mentions, that “Mr. Pope saw these Satires, but so late in life, that he could only bestow this commendation on them, which they truly deserve, to wish that he had seen them sooner. Bp. Warburton told Mr. Warton, that, in a copy of Hall's Satires, in the library of Mr. Pope, the whole of the First Satire of the Sixth Book was either corrected in the margin, or interlined; and that Pope had written at the top, Optima Satira.

“ The Satires,” says Mr. Warton, “are marked with a classical precision, to which English poetry had yet rarely attained. They are replete with animation of style and sentiment. The indignation of the satirist is always the result of good sense. Nor are the thorns of severe invective unmixed with the flowers of pure poetry. The characters are delineated in strong and lively colouring; and their discriminations are touched with the masterly traces of genuine humour. The versification is equally energetic and elegant, and the fabric of the couplets approaches to the modern standard. It is no inconsiderable proof of a genius predominating over the general taste of an age, when every preacher was a punster, to have written verses, where laughter was to be raised, and the reader to be entertained with sallies of pleasantry, without quibbles and conceits. His chief fault is obscurity; arising from a remote phraseology, constrained combinations, unfamiliar allusions, elliptical apostrophes, and abruptness of expression. Perhaps some will think, that his manner betrays too much of the laborious exactness and pedantic anxiety of the .scholar and the student. Ariosto in Italian, and Regnier in French, were now almost the only modern writers of satire ; and I believe there had been an English translation of Ariosto's Satires. But Hall's acknowledged patterns are Juvenal and Persius, not without some touches of the urbanity of Horace.



His parodies of these poets, or rather his adaptations of ancient to modern manners,—a mode of imitation not unhappily practised by Oldham, Rochester, and Pope,—discover great facility and dexterity of invention. The moral gravity, and the censorial declamation, of Juvenal, he frequently enlivens with a train of more refined reflection, or adorns with a novelty and variety of images.”

They are full of spirit and poetry,” observes Mr. Gray, in a letter to Dr. Warton; “ as much of the first as Dr. Donne, and far more of the latter."

Mr. Campbell adds :-“ In the point, volubility, and vigour of Hall's numbers, we might frequently imagine ourselves perusing Dryden.”—“ They are neither cramped by personal hostility, nor spun out to vague declamation on vice; but give us the form and pressure of the times, exhibited in the faults of coeval literature, and in the foppery or sordid traits of prevailing manners.”—“Human nature, in all its varieties, is their subject; and although not free from the obscurity of occasional allusions, they betray great knowledge of mankind, and contain much that will be found interesting and intelligible in every age.”

It was a strange remark of Warton's, nevertheless, that, in the writings of Bishop Hall, “ the poet is better known to posterity, than the prelate or the polemic;" and that “his Satires have outlived his Sermons." The truth is, that almost the whole of

his devotional and practical pieces have retained their popularity. The Contemplations, more especially, are continually appearing in all the varieties of new and cheap publication; and without a set of the works of Bishop Hall no theological student would consider his library complete. With the Satires, the case is different. Having, for nearly two centuries, almost perished out of remembrance, they have met, of late years, with a revival. Whether the claim asserted by the author be allowed him, as the earliest of English Satirists, will depend on the value attached by readers to the previous efforts of Lodge, Skelton, and Sir Thomas Wyatt : but to the judgment inscribed by Lord Hailes, a cold and sagacious critic, on a copy formerly in his possession, few will be found to demur: “Hall's Satires have merit, and will be remembered.”

Of the Miscellaneous Poems which close the volume, it only remains to be observed, that the Psalms and Anthems were published by the Bishop while presiding over the see of Exeter; and that the rest are taken from the publications, into which, according to the custom of the times, they were respectively introduced.

P. H.
September 3, 1838.

« PredošláPokračovať »