No. 540. Wednesday, November 19, 1712. Steele.

--Non Deficit Alter--'


'There is no Part of your Writings which I have in more Esteem than your Criticism upon Milton. It is an honourable and candid Endeavour to set the Works of our Noble Writers in the graceful Light which they deserve. You will lose much of my kind Inclination towards you, if you do not attempt the Encomium of Spencer also, or at least indulge my Passion for that charming Author so far as to print the loose Hints I now give you on that Subject.

'Spencer's general Plan is the Representation of six Virtues, Holiness, Temperance, Chastity, Friendship, Justice and Courtesy, in six Legends by six Persons. The six Personages are supposed under proper Allegories suitable to their respective Characters, to do all that is necessary for the full Manifestation of the respective Virtues which they are to exert.

'These one might undertake to shew under the several Heads, are admirably drawn; no Images improper, and most surprizingly beautiful. The Red-cross Knight runs through the whole Steps of the Christian Life; Guyon does all that Temperance can possibly require; Britomartis (a Woman) observes the true Rules of unaffected Chastity; Arthegal is in every Respect of Life strictly and wisely just; Calidore is rightly courteous.

'In short, in Fairy-Land, where Knights Errant have a full Scope to range, and to do even what Ariosto's or Orlando's could not do in the World without breaking into Credibility, Spencer's Knights have, under those six Heads, given a full and a truly Poetical System of Christian, Public, and Low Life.

'His Legend of Friendship is more diffuse, and yet even there the Allegory is finely drawn, only the Heads various, one Knight could not there support all the Parts.

'To do honour to his Country, Prince Arthur is an Universal Hero; in Holiness, Temperance, Chastity, and Justice super-excellent. For the same Reason, and to compliment Queen Elizabeth, Gloriana, Queen of Fairies, whose Court was the Asylum of the Oppressed, represents that Glorious Queen. At her Commands all these Knights set forth, and only at her's the Red-cross Knight destroys the Dragon. Guyon overturns the Bower of Bliss, Arthegal (i. e. Justice) beats down Geryoneo (i. e. Phil. II. King of Spain) to rescue Belge (i. e. Holland) and he beats the Grantorto (the same Philip in another Light) to restore Irena (i. e. Peace to Europe.)

'Chastity being the first Female Virtue, Britomartis is a Britain; her Part is fine, though it requires Explication. His stile is very Poetical; no Puns, Affectations of Wit, forced Antitheses, or any of that low Tribe.

'His old Words are all true English, and numbers exquisite; and since of Words there is the Multa Renascentur, since they are all proper, such a Poem should not (any more than Milton's) subsist all of it of common ordinary Words. See Instances of Descriptions.

'Causeless Jealousy in Britomartis, V. 6, 14, in its Restlessness.

'Like as a wayward Child whose sounder Sleep
Is broken with some fearful Dream's Affright,
With froward Will doth set himself to weep,
Ne can be stil'd for all his Nurse's Might,
But kicks, and squalls, and shrieks for fell Despight;
Now scratching her, and her loose Locks misusing,
Now seeking Darkness, and now seeking Light;
Then craving Suck, and then the Suck refusing:
Such was this Lady's Loves in her Love's fond accusing.'

Curiosity occasioned by Jealousy, upon occasion of her Lover's Absence. Ibid, Stan. 8, 9.

'Then as she looked long, at last she spy'd
One coming towards her with hasty Speed,
Well ween'd she then, e'er him she plain descry'd,
That it was one sent from her Love indeed;
Whereat her Heart was fill'd with Hope and Dread,
Ne would she stay till he in Place could come,
But ran to weet him forth to know his Tidings somme;
Even in the Door him meeting, she begun,
And where is he, thy Lord, and how far hence?
Declare at once; and hath he lost or won?'

Care and his House are described thus, IV. 6, 33, 34, 35.

'Not far away, not meet for any Guest, They spy'd a little Cottage, like some poor Man's Nest.'


'There entring in, they found the Good-Man's self,
Full busily unto his Work ybent,
Who was so weel a wretched wearish Elf,
With hollow Eyes and raw-bone Cheeks forspent,
As if he had in Prison long been pent.
Full black and griesly did his Face appear,
Besmear'd with Smoke that nigh his Eye-sight blent,
With rugged Beard and Hoary shaggy Heare,
The which he never wont to comb, or comely shear.'


'Rude was his Garment and to Rags all rent,
Ne better had he, ne for better cared;
His blistred Hands amongst the Cinders brent,
And Fingers filthy, with long Nails prepared,
Right fit to rend the Food on which he fared.
His Name was_ Care; _a Blacksmith by his Trade,
That neither Day nor Night from working spared,
But to small purpose Iron Wedges made:
These be unquiet Thoughts that careful Minds invade.'

'Homer's Epithets were much admired by Antiquity: See what great Justness and Variety there is in these Epithets of the Trees in the Forest where the Red-cross Knight lost Truth, B. I. Cant. i. St. 8, 9.

'The sailing Pine, the Cedar proud and tall,
The Vine-prop Elm, the Poplar never dry,
The Builder Oak, sole King of Forests all.
The Aspine good for Staves, the Cypress Funeral.
The Laurel, Meed of mighty Conquerors,
And Poets sage; the Fir that weepeth still,
The Willow worn of forlorn Paramours,
The Yew obedient to the Bender's Will.
The Birch for Shafts, the Sallow for the Mill;
The Myrrhe sweet bleeding in the bitter Wound,
The warlike Beech, the Ash for nothing ill,
The fruitful Olive, and the Plantane round,
The Carver Helm, the Maple seldom inward sound.'

'I shall trouble you no more, but desire you to let me conclude with these Verses, though I think they have already been quoted by you; They are Directions to young Ladies opprest with Calumny. VI. 6, 14.

'The best_ (said he) _that I can you advise,
Is to avoid the Occasion of the Ill;
For when the Cause whence Evil doth arise
Removed is, the Effect surceaseth still.
Abstain from Pleasure, and restrain your Will,
Subdue Desire, and bridle loose Delight,
Use scanted Diet, and forbear your Fill,
Shun Secrecy, and talk in open Sight;
So shall you soon repair your present evil Plight.'


Translation of motto:
VIRG. AEn. vi. 143.
'A second is not wanting.'