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Page 262

Rodney M. Baine

Although in England reprints and collections of Elizabethan and seventeenth-century poetry and drama were popular throughout the eighteenth century, this eminently critical age lacked easy access to its rich heritage of literary criticism. Only slowly were the classics of Elizabethan and seventeenth-century criticism reprinted, and for these there was so little demand that the editors usually had to share or assume the financial risk of publication. No history of English criticism appeared to supplement Thomas Warton's History of English Poetry. In 1737 Elizabeth Cooper promised "some Account of the Progress of Criticism in England; from Sir Philip Sidney, the Art of English Posey (written by Mr. Puttenham, a Gentleman Pensioner to Queen Elizabeth:) Sir John Harrington, Ben Johnson, &c."[1] But the volume which was to contain this account never appeared, nor did Dr. Johnson ever write his more ambitious "History of Criticism . . . from Aristotle to the present age."[2]

The first separate English reprint of Elizabethan literary criticism seems to have been that of Sidney's Defence of Poesy issued in 1752 by G. Robert Urie, one of Glasgow's foremost publishers. This book, though neatly printed and adorned with a portrait, was an isolated phenomenon, since it did not promote further republication of literary criticism.

The unpretentious forerunner of future scholarly collections was published in 1787 by Joseph Warton. Warton had acquired experience as an anthologist by assisting Dodsley to select material for his Collection. He had established a reputation as literary critic by his edition of Virgil, his critical papers in The Adventurer, and his Essay on the Writings and Genius of Alexander Pope. On 18 April 1784 Warton suggested to the printer John Nichols the small compendium which appeared in 1787 as Sir Philip Sydney's Defence of Poetry, and Observations on Poetry and Eloquence, from the Discoveries of Ben Jonson:

I have a little Printing-Scheme to mention to you and imagine you will not mislike to join with me in the Profit and Loss. We all know what a Taste is diffused for reading our old Poets. I think some of our old Critics might be made as popular and pleasing.[3]
For this venture Warton thus offered to share the expenses and undertook to furnish copy, supply notes, and read proof. Nichols promptly accepted and,


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evidently on 27 April, Warton sent copy to the printer. For some reason publication was delayed until early in 1787, possibly because Warton was remiss in performing his editorial duties. Of the second volume of his Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope two hundred pages had lain in the warehouse for more than a score of years while the publishers waited for him to complete the volume. Finally, on 12 December 1786, Warton sent in the preliminaries for his collection of literary criticism, suggesting that publication might coincide with his presence in London about January the sixth or seventh. About that date, probably, it appeared, published by G.G.J. and J. Robinson and J. Walter.

This slender compendium was possibly Joseph Warton's greatest service to English scholarship; but it had its deficiencies. Warton did not attempt to reproduce the original texts, or probably even to consult them. Instead he used for copy eighteenth-century editions of Sidney's and Jonson's Works, even further modernizing the punctuation and paragraphing and marking for omission several passages in Jonson's Timber, or Discoveries. Nor did the edition include the explanatory notes which the editor had intended to supply. Despite these modernizations, however, sale of the book was slow. Indeed most copies were evidently still unsold when on 8 February 1808 Nichols's warehouse burned with all his stock, so that soon Warton's book was difficult to obtain.

Meanwhile at the very end of the eighteenth century, in 1800, accurate scholarly methods were finally applied to the editing of literary criticism. For his edition of Dryden's Critical and Miscellaneous Prose Works Warton's friend Edmond Malone used and collated originals, employing methods which he had helped to perfect in editing Shakespeare.

In 1810, two years after most of Warton's edition burned, Sidney's Defence was reprinted by Edward Hovell, Lord Thurlow. He was prompted to replace Warton's editon and, possibly, to help satisfy interest aroused in Sidney by Thomas Zouch's Life and Writings of Sir Philip Sydney, published in 1808. In his edition of The Defence, which appeared in December, 1810, Thurlow made no attempt to apply Malone's scholarly methods to the editing of Sidney. Instead he merely reprinted Warton's text, modernizing the capitals and prefacing five original sonnets. This edition, elegantly printed by W. Bulmer in quarto on large wove paper, evidently found so few purchasers at the shop of White and Cochrane on Fleet Street that Thurlow decided to get rid of some copies by preparing a private or gift issue. For this issue he used the original sheets containing the text of Sidney's Defence but printed new preliminaries. He deleted the publishers' names on the title-page, acknowledged there the sonnets included in both issues, changed the date of publication to 1811, suppressed the advertisement, and added a two-leaf gathering to include an additional original poem. The leaves he had only slightly cut and gilded; and the whole issue he had elegantly bound.[4]


Page 264

Thurlow's edition of Sidney's Defence probably helped to lead Joseph Haslewood, who was already editing scarce and curious Elizabethan material, to publish in 1811 an edition of Puttenham's Arte of English Poesie. At least Haslewood in 1815 omitted Sidney's Defence from his anthology of criticism because it had already been edited by Thurlow's "noble hand." In his edition of Puttenham, Haslewood followed Malone in the tradition of scholarly accuracy and on some points was even more meticulous than his predecessor had been. Haslewood's edition is a page by page reprint of the 1589 Field edition. Even in bibliographical features such as pagination, signatures, and gatherings all the accidental oddities of the original were reproduced. Haslewood skipped page numbers 93 to 100, which had in his original been left unused to compensate for four unpaginated leaves, omitted from many copies, including that used by him. He signed his leaves in the style Field had used, C, C ij, C iij, C iiij, etc., though why he signed leaf aiij as a 5 and aiiij as a 7 does not appear. In reproducing the original gatherings he was just as scrupulous, imitating the original two-leaf gathering I and only the three leaves that he saw of the original AB gathering. Haslewood's leaves [Bij] and Biij are conjugate and correspond to Field's [ABij] and A B iij. The single leaf B, blank like Field's leaf AB, Haslewood had his binder paste onto the preceding leaf. Since in Haslewood's copy of Field's edition the original leaf [ABiiij], containing the woodcut portrait of Queen Elizabeth, had been removed from its original position, Haselwood, thinking that he was following Field, omitted this leaf from his B gathering, but had the portrait printed with sheet a to face his general title-page.

Accompanying the publication of Puttenham's Arte, Haslewood announced his intention of publishing a uniform edition of all the essays on poetry up to Dryden. Meanwhile he continued to edit and encourage the publication of rare old volumes. In 1812 he helped to found the Roxburghe Club for this purpose. During the same year he became, with Sir Edgerton Brydges, joint editor of The British Bibliographer; and in the fourth volume he printed critical extracts from Henry Reynold's Mythomystes.

In 1815 finally appeared Haslewood's anthology of critical essays, The Arte of English Poesie, &c., later designated, with the Puttenham volume, as Ancient Critical Essays on Poets and Poesie. Complaining of the difficulty of locating copies, Haslewood here renounced his project of reprinting a complete series of critical essays, but this 1815 volume is in itself a magnificent collection. It comprises Gascoigne's Certayne Notes of Instruction, Webbe's Discourse of English Poetrie, King James VI's Treatise of the Airt of Scottis Poesie, Harrington's Apologie of Poetrie, Meres's Comparative Discourse of our English Poets, Campion's Observations in the Art of English Poesie, Daniel's Defense of Rhyme, Bolton's Hypercritica, and five letters on poetry by Spenser and Harvey. Here Haslewood again tried to reproduce his originals as accurately as possible, and he indicated variant


Page 265
readings when he could locate more than one authoritative text. At least some of the volume is, again, a page for page reprint; and though he could not here follow the original pagination and signatures, he varied the style of his signatures to follow his originals. It was beautifully printed in an edition of 220 copies by T. Bensley, Sir Edgerton Brydge's printer. It was a worthy culmination of the renaissance of interest in older criticism begun with Warton's thin collection in 1787. Only a century later was it superseded, and even then the modern editors like G. Smith frequently abstracted what Haslewood had printed in full and modernized punctuation which he had reproduced faithfully.



The Muses Library; or a Series of English Poetry, from the Saxons, to the Reign of King Charles II, ed. Elizabeth Cooper (London, for J. Wilcox et al., 1737), p. xvi.


Sir John Hawkins, The Life of Samuel Johnson (2nd ed., London, 1787), pp. 81-82.


Bodleian MSS., Montagu d. 2, fol. 62. This letter and two subsequent letters concerning the volume Nichols printed, with omissions, in his Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, vol. VI (1812), Part I, pp. 172-73n.


The identity of these 1810 and 1811 "editions" has, it seems, not hitherto been pointed out.