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Printed by Hazell, Watson, and Viney, London and Aylesbury.





PREDECESSORS. SPENSER's greatness, and his permanent place in Poetry, are to be sought mainly in the Faerie Queene, which is criticized elsewhere in this edition. But for the development and the varied resources of his genius, and for many of the new poetical forms by which he has influenced English literature from his age to our own, we must look to those other poems, which the editor has committed to my diffident and reluctant hands. In the separate Prefaces it is intended to note the growth of Spenser's genius, and the quality of each production, with such attention to chronology as their often-conjectural dates of writing may allow. What I here wish to bring out, with all the clearness (imperfect as it must be in matter of this nature) that I can command, is the novelty of the models, whether in subject or in style, which he presented from 1580 onwards ;to show how far he was a Maker, (to use the fine Elizabethan phrase,) in the literature of the day, by comparison with those who wrote during the preceding half-century.

All great poets must be in advance of their own age ; but though all must, at some period, influence those who succeed, yet this influence may neither be definite nor immediate. Spenser, however, unites both features in a very marked degree. He was, in point of style and form, singularly new; his influence was instantaneous as well as enduring. In fact, no candid reader of his lesser poems will, I think, be able to deny that whilst much, indeed, is consecrated for all time by exquisiteness and by power, yet much, also, remains of which the value is mainly relative, the interest historical. That we may judge him fairly, we have constantly to bear in mind the very peculiar position in which the development of European culture placed an Englishman during the latter half of the sixteenth century. For the Renaissance movement in literature, which we may trace back to the lyrical impulse of Provence and of Dante's age, if not even earlier, had nearly spent its creative power in its first seats when it reached Spain, Northern France, and England. The last wave of Italian poetry, we might almost say, wafted the Renaissance to our shores, And it was hence here mingled with elements absent from the original outburst in Italy ;-—with the genius of Greece and Rome, reawakening after the long sleep which followed the Barbarian conquests,--the spirit of theological reformation,—the spirit of physical science. These powers, penetrating our writers in very varying degrees, give a wider scope than was covered by the early poets of Italy and Provence to the Elizabethan lyrists. They had also a richer and longer national history behind them ; they had even, in Chaucer and his followers, a noble literature wherein Mediævalism

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