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faculties. Here fatigued attention is not merely relieved, but fascinated and enraptured ; and, notwithstanding his figures, in many instances, are two arbitrary and fantastic in their habiliments, often disproportioned and overdone, sometimes lost in a superfluity of fog colours, and the several châracters, in general, y no means sufficiently kept apart; yet, amid such a profusion of images, many are distinguished by a boldness of outline, a majesty of manner, a brilliancy of colouring, a distinctness, and propriety of attribute, and an air of life, that we look for in vain in modern productions, and that rival, if not surpass, what we meet with of the kind even in Spenser, from whom our author caught his inspiration. After exerting his creative powers on this department of his subject, the virtues and better qualities of the heart, under their leader Eclecta, or Intellect, are attacked by the vices: a battle"ensues, and the Tätter are vanquished, after a vigorous opposition, through the interference of an angel, who appears at the prayers of Eclecta. The poet here abruptly takes an opportunity of paying a fulsome and unpardonable compliment to James the First (canto xii. stanza 55); on that account, perhaps, the most unpalatable passage in the book. From Fletcher's dedication of this his poem, with his Piscatory Eclogues and Miscellanies, to his friend Edmund Benlowes, it seems, that they were written very early ; as he calls them “ raw essays of my very unripe years, and al“ most childhood.” It is to his honour that Milton read and imitated him, as every attentive reader of both poets must soon discover. He is eminently intitled to a very high rank among our old English classics.”
Mr. Headley's Supplement furnishes us with the following luminous criticisms : “ At the bright lamp of Spenser, whose flame will never expire but with our language, many inferior bards have lighted their slender torches. The perusal of the Fairy Queen biassed the minds both of Cowley and More * to the pursuit of poetry. And to them we may add Fletcher, who, not contented with deriving his general taste for allegory and personification from him, has gone so far as immediately to adopt ima
* Preface to his Philosophical Poems, 1647.
gery and particular figures. Though it may somewhat detract from the invention of Fletcher to compare him in some instances with his original, yet it is the only method of forming a real estimate of his merits; and as Dr. Johnson well observes, “ it is the business of critical justice to give every bird of the Muses his proper feather;” nor has he himself been backward in due acknowledgment, as these instances sufficiently evince :
“Two shepherds most I love with just adoring;
“The eulogium to Spenser's memory, Cant. i. stanza 19. does equal credit to his heart as to his abilities, and deserves being brought forward to notice.
“ He again touches on the misfortune of Spenser, Cant. vi. St. 52.
“But to come more immediately to the several parallel passages, let the reader compare Fletcher's Gluttonie. Cant. vii. St. 80. with Spenser's B. l. Cant. iv. St. 21 and 22. ; compare Fletcher's Atimus, Cant. viii. St. 42, &c. with Spenser's Idleness, B. l. Cant. iv. St. 18. ; compare Fletcher's Thumos, Cant. vii. St. 55. with Spenser's Wrath, B. l. Cant. iv. St. 33.; compare Fletcher's Aselges, Cant. vii. St. 23. with Spenser's Lechery, B. l. Cant. iv. St. 24. ; compare Fletcher's Pleonectes, Cant. viii. St. 24., with Spenser's Avarice, B. 1. Cant. iv. St 27.; compare Fletcher's Envie, Cant. vii. St. 66. with Spenser's Envy, B. 1. Cant. iv. St. 30.; likewise with another description. B. 5. Cant. xii. St. 31. Some of Fletcher's lines well express what Pope with great felicity styles, “ damning with faint praise.”
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“When needs he must, yet faintly, then he praises;
“Compare Fletcher's Deilos, Caat. viii. St. 10. with Spenser's Fear, B. 3. Cant. xii. St. 12. There seems to be more nature and real poetry in Fletcher's describing him as but starting at the sight of his arms, than in Spenser, who on the same occasion represents him as absolutely “ flying fast anay;” but perhaps Spenser has heightened the image by making him equally terrified with the sound of them as the sight; this is omitted in Fletcher. No one of Fletcher's figures is more consistently habited than his Death.
\ “A dead man's skull supplied his helmet's place,
“But most who sleep in downy pleasure's bed.
“Yet the first of these terrific attributes is suggested by Spenser, who has given it to Meleager:
“ Upon his head he wore an helmet light,
“. In the preceding part of this Canto of Spenser, in which the foes of Temperance besiege her dwelling-place, we find sight, hearing, smell, and taste, personified, which remind us of Fletcher, and disgrace Spenser. I have often thought that a painter of taste might extract from the Purple Island a series of allegorical figures, which if well executed might do honour to his pencil; though in some instances he would find Fletcher “ nimis Poeta,” in others he would have little to do but to supply the colours: and as there can be no necessity for implicitly tying him down to his original, the liberty of rejecting superfluities, and supplying deficiences, should be allowed. The mottos and impresses, which in general
are very happily adapted, give Fletcher's figures an air
of life, which in that particular renders them superior to those of Spenser and of Sackville *. The following rich figure of Hope (which is represented as masculine,) is among Fletcher's best pieces; the attitude of his leaning on his attendant Pollicita, to whom every female grace might be given, seems worthy the notice of a painter. I will quote the description at length, as it affords me an opportunity of comparing it with a figure of Spenser on “ the same subject :
* Next went Elia. clad in sky-like blue f ; “And through his arms few stars did seem to peep; * “ which there the workman’s hand so finely drew, “ That rock'd in clouds they softly seem'd to sleep: “ His rugged shield was like a rocky mould, “ On which an anchor bit with surest hold : “I hold by being held, was written round in gold.
“ Nothing so cheerful was his thoughtful face,
“ The following is Spenser's personification, which is delineated with greater chastity than usual :
* “ Heschylus, in his “ Seven Chiefs ...; Thebes,” has shown much ,' fancy in the mottos and devices of the shields of the different chiefs,
* “ Pyracles, in Sidney's Arcadia, is dressed in a garment of the same “ materials: “ Upon her body she wore a doublet of sky-colour satin.” • &c. p. 42. Milton also has his “ sky-tinctured grain,” Paradise Lost, V. • 285. But Fletcher might have had a passage in Quarles in his eye, who, “ after describing Parthenia in a robe bespangled with stars of gold, adds,
“ Her dishevell’d hair “ Hung loosely down, and veil'd the backer part “Of those her sky-resembling robes ; but so, “That every breath would wave it to and fro, “ Like flying clouds, through which you might discover' * Sometimes one glimm'ring star, sometimes another. Arg, and Par. B. iii. b
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“With him went Hope in rank, a handsome maid,
“The figure is simple, and the attributes are new; Hope is here divested of her usual emblem, the anchor, (which Fletcher has preserved) and the water-sprinkle substituted in its room, which gives a religious air to the image; had it but received the sanction of antiquity for its adoption, we might perhaps have heard more in its praise. On their coins, the ancients, we find, represented Hope in the character of a sprightly girl, looking forward and holding a blossom or bud in her right hand *, whilst with her left she holds up her garment, to prevent its retarding her pace. On a coin of Hadrian, I have seen Fortune and Hope with this emblem. Mr. Spence has justly objected against Spenser, that many of his allegorical personifications are inconsistent, complicated, and overdone; he observes, that when they are wellinvented, they are not well-marked out, and instances amongst others the figure of Hope now before us. But surely though his general charge may be true, in this instance he has been misled by his classical taste, and too great a reverence for the ancients; to expect an implicit adherence to them in all their mythological appendages is unreasonable and absurd, and at once puts a stop to every exertion of fancy and genius; it is but doing justice to them to acknowledge that their emblematic figures are unrivalled ; but as their several distinct attributes are closely connected with, and indeed drawn from their religion, history, dress, and manners, they must be considered as relatively excellent only; we cannot be
* We commonly say “to destroy our hopes in the bud.