By George Saintsbury
This Elibron Classics e-book is a facsimile reprint of a 1910 version through Macmillan and Co., restricted, London.
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Enthusiastic as Sidney's love for poetry and for literature was, it was enthusiasm not at all according to knowledge. In the Apologv, by his vindication of the Unities, and his denuncia- tion of the mixture of tragedy and comedy, he was (of course without knowing it) laying down exactly the two principles, a fortunate abjuration and scouting whereof gave us the greatest possessionin mass and variety of merit that any literature possesses-the Elizabethan drama from Shakespere and Marlowe to Ford and Shirley.
But in the handling there is one novelty which makes all others of no effect or interest. It is the novelty of a new poetry. It has already been remarked that these two important books were not immediately followed by any others in poetry corresponding to their importance. The poetry of the first half of Elizabeth's reign is as mediocre as the poetry of the last half of her reign is magnificent. K metresalreadyreferredto seemsto haveprevented them from cultivating anything better. Yet the pains which were spent upon translationduring this time were considerable,and undoubtedlyhad muchto do with strengthening and improvingthe language.
Thee one vtterlie ignorant, the oother meanlyeletterd. Thee ignorant wyl imagin, that thee passagewas nothing craggye,in as much as M. Fhaere hath broken thee ice before me : Thee meanerclarcks wyl supposemy trauail in theeseheroical versestoo carrye no 1 This and the next extract are given literatim to show Stanyhurst's marvellous spelling. 24 FROM TOTTEL'S "MISCELLANY" TO SPENSER CHAP. greatdifficultie, in thatyt layin mychoice toomake whatwordI wouldshort or long,hauingno English writerbeefore meein thiskindof poetrye with whosesquire I should leauel my syllables.
A History of Elizabethan Literature by George Saintsbury