Who named Edmund Spenser as the "poet's poet"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

English essayist and poet Charles Lamb (1775 - 1834) named Edmund Spenser the "poet's poet" for his unique innovations in poetry. While scholars often begin English literature with Chaucer, Edmund Spenser advanced English poetry in a way that influenced and inspired later poets of various national identities. Arguably, were it...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

English essayist and poet Charles Lamb (1775 - 1834) named Edmund Spenser the "poet's poet" for his unique innovations in poetry. While scholars often begin English literature with Chaucer, Edmund Spenser advanced English poetry in a way that influenced and inspired later poets of various national identities. Arguably, were it not for Edmund Spenser, English literature would have remained national; however, Edmund Spenser's work elevated English poetry to world-class, significantly contributing towards the English Renaissance.

Other poets and writers who drew inspiration from Edmund Spenser include John Milton, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Alexander Pope, John Keats, Lord Byron, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Oscar Wilde.

Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene in particular earned his ongoing status as the "poet's poet". Prior to Charles Lamb coining the phrase "poet's poet," Edmund Spenser's contemporary Walter Raleigh poetically praised The Faerie Queene for being the most valuable work in the English language. In Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae, an entire chapter is dedicated to Edmund Spenser's epic poem and its singular importance to all of Western art and literature.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Edmund Spenser was first called the "Poet's Poet" by the English essayist Charles Lamb. Although the phrase does not appear in any of Lamb's writings, Leigh Hunt attributes it to him in his critique of Spenser in Hunt's book Imagination and Fancy (published in 1844), which is an anthology of English poetry with accompanying commentary.

In his book The Allegory of Love, C. S. Lewis explained the reasoning behind Lamb's title for Spenser by noting that he is "so called in virtue of the historical fact that most of the poets have liked him very much." However, Lewis was not particularly fond of labeling anyone as the best or greatest of poets. In his opinion, it caused "incalculable damage" to the poet because readers expected him to always produce great poetry.

Visit the links below for more information.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team