restricted access The Phoenix Nest. An unsigned review of The Phoenix Nest, Reprinted from the Original Edition of 1593, ed. Frederick Etchells and Hugh Macdonald
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22 ] The Phoenix Nest1 An unsigned review of The Phoenix Nest, Reprinted from the Original Edition of 1593, ed. Frederick Etchells and Hugh Macdonald London: The Haslewood Books, 1926. Pp. iv + 117. The Times Literary Supplement, 1303 (20 Jan 1927) 41 The Haslewood Press (Frederick Etchells and Hugh Macdonald), which has already published Englands Helicon, has now issued another and lessknown Elizabethan anthology.2 Mr. Hugh Macdonald, in his careful introduction , observes that “the contents . . . are less varied in style than those of most of the Elizabethan Miscellanies, and the poems suggest that they were to some extent the work of a group of writers more or less associated” [6-7]. Both the statement and the suggestion are true. The editor of the book was one “R. S. of the Inner Temple” – a person as to whose identity conjecture has been exhausted – and an examination of the poems, which are relatively uniform in matter and in manner, indicates that they are the work of men of similar education and training in taste, Inns of Court men,3 or at least university contemporaries. There are seventy-nine poems; twenty-eight are initialled, and the authors of some of the others are identified. Included certainly are Lodge, Nicholas Breton, Peele, Watson, the Earl of Oxford; probably are William Smith, Sir William Herbert, Matthew Roydon, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Edward Dyer.4 The volume is genuinely an anthology of unpublished poems; and poems contributed in this way are, as modern experience shows, much more likely to resemble each other than poems selected by the editor from the contributor’s published works. And that is perhaps the chief interest, no small one, of this volume; it gives a fair impression of the taste and fancy of the university wits of the day.5 There is no lyric Shakespeare, no weighty and sententious Jonson or singing Campion, not even the occasional flashes of Nashe, but a very high level of able mediocrity, very pleasing, very Elizabethan, and giving a remarkably just impression of the “school” work of the day. The influence of Spenser is evident – where, in Elizabethan poetry, is it wholly absent? – and in the [ 23 The Phoenix Nest longer poems allegory and dream imagery are frequent; the poets often express themselves in a kind of conceited frigidity which is prophetical of the greater and more excessive generation to come.6 Nicholas Breton is an author who, in a much lauded epoch, has been unduly neglected; in this miscellany he is represented by several charming poems in riddles and figures , which mark him as a predecessor of Cleveland and Benlowes.7 “The Excellent Dreame of Ladies and their Riddles” and “The Chesse Play” are characteristic of the verse of this interesting writer. Sweeter and more melodious are several of the poems contributed by Thomas Lodge; one lovely song has a prescient ring of Crashaw’s “Weeper”:8    Pine away, That pining you may please; For death betides you ease:    Oh sweete and kinde decay; To pine and die, whilst Love gives looking on, And pines to see you pining mone.9 The Earl of Oxford (for “E. O.” seems to be he) has a slight but pleasing song.10 An anonymous poem (“The time, when first I fell in Love”) has almost an eighteenth-century sound11 ; and “Ah poore Conceit, delite is dead,” has a metaphysical quality, in one verse almost that of Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts: I knowe it now, I knew it not,    But all too late I rew it, I rew not that I knew it not,    But that I ever knew it. [92]12 Mr. Macdonald has provided useful notes as well as an introduction; and the book is an extremely well made copy of the first edition. Notes 1. TSE wrote to Bruce Richmond on 30 Dec 1926: “I have just turned in a short review of The Phoenix Nest. I did not think that [it] required more than half a column” (L3 350). 2. Frederick Etchells (1886-1973), architect, writer, typographer, and Vorticist artist, exhibited with Wyndham Lewis and helped launch the Rebel Art Centre and Blast in 1914; he was also a friend and colleague of John Rodker, whose Ovid Press printed TSE’s Ara Vos Prec (1920). Hugh Macdonald, scholar and fellow founder of The Haslewood Books, which issued thirty-two fine books between 1924 and 1931. Macdonald edited the press’s edition of 1927 24 ] England’s Helicon. Reprinted from the Edition...


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