chapter  15
5 Pages

From an unsigned review of TILL YARD 'S edition of Wyatt's poems, 1929

Writers of histories of English literature and kindred works are obliged to take notice of Sir Thomas Wyatt. In the history of English poetry and of English prosody he must be assigned his very important place as a reformer and an adventurer. Students must learn about the anarchy into which rhythms and metres had fallen, and how first Wyatt and then Surrey, learning mainly from Italian and a little from French, took firm hold on the broken rhythms of the fifteenth century and sternly and rather laboriously imposed order. Wyatt's sonnets must be held up for view, because the strict and rigid form of the sonnet helped, as it has been said, almost automatically to produce order ; and his rondeaus come in for a share of the same sort of attention. And Wyatt's work as a reformer of English verse is so interesting to watch in progress as well as so great in scope and so fruitful in result that no wonder what Mr. Tillyard calls his 'text-book glory' has diverted attention from his work as poet. In Mr. Tillyard's own book ofWyatt . . . it is the poetry that comes first. Says Mr. Tillyard :-

It is not clearly thought nor perfectly expressed ; but it reminds one that Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, an old lover of Wyatt's poetry and an old enemy of all sorts of pedantry, has a Chair of English Literature in the university where Mr. Tillyard is Reader in the same school. His comment as a whole is not so slapdash as the sentence quoted suggests. Indeed, he sometimes gets a voice of thin-lipped frigidity which makes him seem like a schoolmaster who has 'set' Wyatt as a 'subject' and i s now correcting the papers ; and one o r two of his comments seem to be addressed to a class of elementary school children. But his book does well that which we believe it to be the fIrst to do-offer a selection of the best of Wyatt's poetry to readers who like poetry and are not 'getting up' anything in particular. It is in their interest, also, that Mr. Tillyard has adopted modern spelling. Those who have read Wyatt before in Miss Foxwell's edition, which was the fIrst to establish and reproduce the precise text, in many cases from Wyatt's own hand­ writing, will feel the modern spelling to be rather flat and meagre.