Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Jacobean and Caroline Criticism > Minor forms of criticism
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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XI. Jacobean and Caroline Criticism.

§ 3. Minor forms of criticism.


Despite changes of taste, a number of Elizabethan survivals may be found in the very heart of this period. The chapter on poetry in Peacham’s Compleat Gentleman (1622) forms a kind of text-book borrowed from Puttenham and Scaliger. The chapter begins with a long and enthusiastic defence of poetry and a rhapsody on its history, quite in the Elizabethan manner, and this is followed by a brief survey of Latin and English poetry; but Peacham has nothing to say concerning the Latin poets that had not already been uttered by Scaliger, and nothing concerning the English poets that had not been said by Puttenham. In similar manner, Sir William Alexander, in his Anacrisis (1634?), reverts to the tradition of Sidney’s Defence of Poesie, and summarises the taste begun with Arcadia and culminating, after his own day, in the heroic romances. Yet, even here, the new ideals of Caroline taste are beginning to assert themselves. Not only is modern poetry summed up in the prose romances, not only are Tasso and Sidney, Vergil and Lucan, his idols, but a comparison of poetry to a formal garden stands side by side with an attack on Scaliger and a defence of poetic freedom. Balzac’s letters and the writings of other men of the new French school furnish us with the models of his style, and we are here on the threshold of D’Avenant’s preface to Gondibert in manner and feeling. A new and tentative classicism was struggling through the ordeal of préciosité. To this period, too, belongs Suckling’s Session of the Poets, with its casual and ironical judgments of some of his contemporaries; and a few minor essays of like character illustrate similar tendencies of the time.   8

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  Ben Jonson The new theory of translation  
 
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