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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

§ 13. The framework of Boccalini

The Italian poet Caporali, taking a hint from Lucian, had first systematically used mythological allegory for the purpose of literary criticism or satire; and, in Spain, Cervantes had followed his example in the Voyage to Parnassus. But it was the Italian proseman Boccalini who, in his Ragguagli di Parnaso, gave European prestige to this form; his work was translated and imitated in all the languages of Europe; and, in England, besides Suckling, Sheppard’s Socratic Session, or the Arraignment and Conviction of Julius Scaliger (1651) and Wither’s (?) Great Assises holden in Parnassus (1645) illustrate the character of its influence. This framework transfigures the dead bones of the old roll-call, and, in Suckling and others, gives wit and fancy an opportunity to enliven the casual utterances of criticism.

As we follow the course of the seventeenth century, we note that the tags which follow the names of the roll-call develop in amplitude. They still remain more or less conventional, but they have been extended from a brief clause or a succession of adjectives to sentences and paragraphs. Thus, D’Avenant, in a page or two, traces the growth of epic poetry from Homer to Spenser, devoting to each poet a paragraph of his own; and though, for example, that on Spenser merely objects to the “obsolete language,” “the unlucky choice of the stanza” and the allegory, critical utterance has become more facile and self-expressive, has, in fact, developed a manner of its own.