Re-imagining Spenser: A Review of ‘Virtue’s End’ by Joseph Sale The Society May 10, 2022 Poetry 19 Comments . Reviewed Book: Virtue’s End by Joseph Sale by James Sale In writing this review I have to come clean and confess an interest that not many poets or critics often have to do: and the confession is this—I am reviewing an epic poem by my own son! There is pleasure in saying this—I am extremely proud of him—but a certain trepidation too; for can I write an objective review without becoming overly biased in favour of seeing all the good in what he is attempting, and thereby discounting the less than good? I hope I can; and I hope you will find this article interesting whether or not you like my son’s poem. The alternative—not reviewing him at all because of our relationship—seems a worse crime than the risk of favouritism. And besides, those who have read my many reviews on these pages and for The Epoch Times will be aware that I try to be fair to poets, even ones I am not so keen on. Indeed, on these pages I have reviewed several poets who have attempted the epic form (as I have myself with HellWard). Almost certainly of those I have read, the best for epic is Frederick Glaysher which is a remarkable and sustained poem. There are a number of things that Glaysher does that seem to me vital if one is to write a contemporary epic: one, he uses classical models to great effect; two, he generates a language and a style that utilises both the archaic, the ordinary and the colloquial, so that the writing can be elevated where required, yet intelligible and sui generis; three, there is that mixture of very high and very low incidents and behaviours that we find in Milton and Dante, and which keeps us interested by its variation; four, solid ideas—by which I mean political, philosophical, aesthetic, psychological and spiritual most of all—that intrigue and fascinate; finally, five, there is a strong narrative propulsion without which the whole thing falls flat. Glaysher pulls all this off, though if you read my review I make several qualifications as to what I consider to be his achievement. And if we apply what I have said to a much more famous writer, J.R.R. Tolkien, we could use these criteria on Lord of the Rings—in my view the best novel—and an epic one to boot—of the twentieth century. If it fails to be a true epic—leaving aside the fact that it is a novel anyway—then surely it is to do with the weakest link of these five elements that I have identified: his classical models are great; his high and low incidents (the high achieving sublimity in places) are excellent, indeed, structurally vital (as it is the ‘low’ characters who carry the day); there are—despite it being a fantasy—strong ideas in the story; and the narrative propulsion is outstanding—once you start, it is difficult to put down! But it is his language and style of writing that falls short. In places Tolkien’s use of language overall is stuck in his nineteenth century, William Morris-type models and is often clunky and certainly overwrought. Which, of course, is why it is so much better as a novel than it could have been as a poem. When one thinks about it, this is somewhat odd as Tolkien himself was a philologist and linguist of the first order, including his speciality in creating languages, such as Elven-speech. But not so odd if one realises that scholarship of this magnitude is not in itself compatible with the linguistic inventiveness that great poets display; after all, Shakespeare’s formal learning stopped at school! What, then, has Joseph Sale done with his Virtue’s End? Well, I do think I ought to say at the outset that this is truly an amazing poem: he attempts to complete Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen! Spenser has been called The Prince of English poets (presumably Shakespeare is the King and Milton the Queen—as he was known as ‘The Lady of Christ’s’ because of his hair!) And if Milton had not written Paradise Lost, we would be thinking that The Faerie Queen was our greatest English epic. The aim of the poem was to write 12 books, each one dealing with the 12 virtues: holiness, temperance, chastity, friendship, justice and courtesy. These are covered in the first six books Spenser writes; but he did not finish the last six, which Joseph Sale identifies as truth, magnificence (charisma), liberality, pride (honour), courage, and magnanimity (generosity). So his work is divided in to six books, and each contains nine cantos of varied lengths but approximately 200 or so lines. It is, therefore, a very substantial work of some 392 pages, including a short foreword by the American novelist, Christa Wojciechowski. So taking the first point: his models are clear, explicit and up-front. Spenser, pre-eminently-providing the thematic overlay and inspiration, as well as being very specifically referenced (he is a character in the drama) and alluded to in critical places in the poem. For example, the central character is Horus (the name itself referencing Egyptian mythology at the same time as it mirrors—as the Son of the Father God—Christ. And I need to add here, Horus manifestly is a persona of the author in the same way we have Dante the poet distinct from Dante the pilgrim in The Divine Comedy: the poem is both intensely personal yet objective too). Horus is given in Joseph Sale’s poem the reforged blade Chrysaor (the golden blade of Justice), which once belonged to Artegal (from the Faerie Queen). This is interesting in that Chrysaor is the subject of some debate in scholars because there is seemingly a small plot hole in The Faerie Queene. Midway through Book 5, the sword is shattered by Radigund the Amazonian. However, in Canto 12, during the final fight with Grantorte the Giant, Artegal does use the sword to pierce the giant. Some have argued he uses the broken blade (the edge of which is still sharp). Some have said there is an omitted reforging scene Spenser forgot to put in. The reforging of the blade via magic in Virtue’s End therefore homages this and supplies the “missing” scene! But it’s not just the spirit of Spenser (and persona) that infuses his poem. So, too, do Milton, Charles Maturin (a man whose career was ruined by S.T. Coleridge, and whose Melmoth creation is a key character in the poem), Tolkien and more beside. And less it be thought that the poem is merely a treasure trove of classical—as in, archaic—allusions, there are modern texts too, not all poetry. My favourite is the use of writers like Ching-Ning Chu. Who, you cry? For those with a long memory, they will know that Ching-Ning Chu wrote an American best-seller in 1995 called Thick Face, Black Heart. It is a fabulous read, and basically, the book fuses the wisdom of the East and West, and explores how ancient Asian battle strategies and cultural mindsets can be applied today to achieve mental toughness and winning business techniques! The result of following its advice is to create a hero who is “a person of unceasing contemplation and unfettered action.” Surely, a kind of character we might want in an epic? How is this utilised in the poem? First, Chin-Ning Chu is a character in it! Second, she wields the enchanted spear carried by Britomart in Books 3, 4, and 5 of The Faerie Queene. The idea of Chin-Ning Chu becoming the successor of the spear connects to Chin-Ning’s ideas on sexuality, which strangely correlate with what, I think, Spenser intended in having the super-sexual Britomart as the subject of Chastity. This from Thick Face, Black Heart: “The euphoria of sex mirrors the bliss of the Divine. What I am about to reveal is not a statement to encourage indulging in carnal pleasure. It merely points out that God’s bliss is present everywhere, and we can gain a glimpse of it during our sexual encounters.” The spear is a phallic symbol and Britomart spends a lot of time unseating knights with it, which of course can be read sexually as an act of reversed penetration, a reclamation of sexual power, or else simply a psycho-sexual act. Therefore, Chin-Ning, who was a sexually liberated woman and understands the divine implications of sex, bears the phallic spear of Britomart. Phew! It’s pretty intense stuff. But now leaving the ‘models’ issue, let me consider my second point: the language issue. Here, unlike Tolkien, Joseph Sale is strong. First, one should say that he uses meter and rhyme (and other devices) extremely effectively, though he won’t please purists; the basic meter is iambic, but he varies line length and he deviates frequently from strict iambic. But take the opening of Book 1, Canto 2, and we find a powerful language with the iambic beat strongly palpable: . Into that charnel house I stepped,sulphuric gas sweeping me back,and though flames burned,was colder than the frosts of Dante’s hell. . There are allusions here: Dante; perhaps nowadays a less familiar word, ‘charnel’; but the diction and meter sweep us forward (even as he is swept back!). The poem is, in other words, completely accessible—it is ‘heightened’ speech and very befitting an epic style.. The language can be brilliantly condensed and aphoristic, as in this line: . the Sleepless Queen, who makes all men afraid. . Or it can be superbly evocative in its imagery: . We climbed the mount, a thousand stepsor more, through gorse and sedge,up ancient stone, flanks of a giant drudgeslaving under adamantine thongs. . Notice (spoiler alert: purists turn away at this point) the mimetic effect of the sedge/drudge pararhyme. And if we like perfect rhymes, look at this wonderful imagery and its concluding couplet: . I tried the stair, and soon feltunreal weight, as twin gravities began to pull,two worlds to turn, two winds blewupon my face; neither herenor there, but slipping in between,a toy fallen down a crack,forever lost in seamless black. . At this point one may become aware, from the quotations alone, that Joseph Sale is already a consummate prose writer of fantasy and horror fiction; the noticeable aspect of his prose is its ‘poetic’ and metaphorical ‘feel’. Thus, perhaps, it is not surprising that the poet in him would ‘out’ eventually. But whereas prose needs to ‘explain’ what is going on, poetry directly accesses the symbolic action and we can move into a textured world where the imagination reigns supreme and takes us wherever it wants to. Which leads us to that mixture of very high and very low incidents and behaviours that we find in Milton and Dante, and which keeps us interested by its variation. Essentially, the story follows the hero, Horus, as he and his band of weird, eccentric, (including the non-human, fictional and long-dead) followers attempting to prevent the triumph of evil and the end of the cosmos as we know it. Clearly, Miltonic and Tolkienesque in its premise: . There is a king, anointed by himself,who threatens us, our world and yoursin one dark fate combined. . Given the premise, there is much conflict, fighting and war in Virtue’s End; this of course allows plenty of scope for the highest kind of writing—the sublime. Not that writing about any of these three things in themselves will easily achieve sublimity. But we see it writ large in Milton—the retort of Abdiel against the massed forces of Hell, the squaring up of Satan against the Cherubim upon being discovered in Eden, or even the actual onset of the war in heaven in book 6 (almost the dead center of the whole poem) when Christ speaks: . So spake the Son, and into terrour chang’dHis count’nance too severe to be beheld And full of wrauth bent on his Enemies.At once the Four spred out thir Starrie wingsWith dreadful shade contiguous, and the OrbesOf his fierce Chariot rowld, as with the soundOf torrent Floods, or of a numerous Host. . This is sublime writing—the verse carries you away with it and one is hypnotised by the language, by the spell it creates. In Virtue’s End we too find this ability to conjure up a scene of sublimity. Horus is the protagonist hero, but one of his friends and allies is the marvellous hero, Thoth, and as the poem approaches near but not at its climax, Thoth encounters his evil nemesis, the Qliphoth Drake, a dragon (Qliphoth: a Kabbalistic concept and again an important strand in the poem). The passage of his defeat is some 60 lines long, so too long to quote in full, but even its ending is striking enough: . …and into that dark gulf, Thoth fell;I screamed, could not process,as Shells of deeper kind, concealed within,swarmed him, like wolves upon a fawn,but one last glimpse of hope,one last defiant act from that supremest mage:the litany Thoth had begun, his talecontinued on, as he, curling in foetal mode,recited all he knew, starting again,and backward lurched the mindless Shells,repelled by meaning in that dismal place,where all was brought to formless mush;immune to that Qliphoth, immune to their disease,Thoth spun into the endless void,eyes closed, like one unborn,and never ceasing his defiant lines:trapped, surrounded on all sides,but never conquered, nor beaten,he’d go on speaking, unyielding,until the final dregs of dimming Time. . That is sublime writing; grasping the idea that Egyptian Thoth knew all knowledge, but knowledge here not enough to save him against the forces of chaos (though they are ‘repelled by meaning in that dismal place’), and yet—like a true mage—repeating the spells, the language—‘like one unborn’—as he spirals into the void. Wonderful. It recalls both Gandalf’s fall with the Balrog and also Abdiel confronting the demonic hosts, alone. But if this is a high, we have the lows too. A great example of this kind of thing from Dante is in the Inferno, Canto 21, where the leader of the devils, Malacoda, ‘ed elli avea del cul fatto trombetta’, or ‘and their leader had made a trumpet of his behind’, or Malacoda farted! Many subsequent critics think this line unworthy of the ‘great’ Dante, because it is such a low thing to say (about the action, or Malcoda’s ‘doing’) in his ‘noble’ poem, but of course that view is mere pedantry. Shakespeare himself was a master of introducing the ‘low’ even in the most heroic and sublime of his plays: the Porter scene in Macbeth, for example. And this variation can provide us with relief from the unremitting heights to which great writers aspire, as well as sometimes providing a critical commentary from an unexpected source on the main theme. This, then, occurs in Virtue’s End. For example, Book 4, Canto 1 (the Book of the Virtue of Pride), the master villain, Isaac, paints on the mainsail of his enemies’ ship, Daggerswift, a bathetic image which says all we need to know about the puerility of his mind. Or Book 2, Canto 8, where we discover an idolatrous statue equipped with a comical phallus. These moments convey not just light relief, but also shed a light on the self-defeating nature of evil. Our fourth criteria is sturdy ideas. It should, I hope, be clear already from the commentary so far that this poem is full of sturdy ideas: not least the fact that it is about the perennial struggle of good versus evil, and that each of the six books has a thematic link to each of the six virtues, and explores them in a fascinating way. I have already commented on the Chin-Ning Chu and Britomart connection, but let me just reprise that for a moment to consider how unusual it is: first, that Spenser himself seems to take the position that the heroes are people who do not exhibit the virtues, but are overcome by them! Britomart being this example: there is a hyper-sexual drive in her that has to be diverted into its proper end. Virtue is not something we have; it is something we have to strive for. In this sense Virtue’s End is a profound psychological and spiritual odyssey (another model of course) in which the journey is everything. Finally, our fifth criteria is strong narrative propulsion. This is possibly Joseph Sale’s very best suit, and this may derive from the fact that he is also a novelist. But how many novels since—and how many poems for that matter—lack narrative impetus? I always remember reading at university the much-acclaimed novel, The Waves, by Virginia Woolf—what a tediously dull, uneventful, over-hyped novel that is! Simply nothing seems to happen in it, and if it did, I had already fallen asleep by that time. And if we take a poem that I like a lot—the pseudo-epic by Tennyson, The Idylls of the King, the trouble with it is, despite brilliant flashes of writing, imagery and language, the whole poem is essentially static—like a Pre-Raphaelite painting in fact. But Virtue’s End is deeply otherwise: it has an un-put-downable-ness: you have to keep reading to find out what happens next. The actions, the incidents, and the sheer imaginary creation keep you reading on and on. And wow, there are some truly epic moments. My favourite ‘narrative’ moment in the whole poem is in volume 6, Canto 6, The Broken Vow. Here I have to make a further confession that the ill-disposed reader of this review might seize upon to dismiss it all as done by one who is specially pleading for his son’s merits as a writer. Fair enough, but you need to know that I—James Sale—am also a character in my own son’s poem! But as I explain what is happening here, I want not only unpack the brilliance of the narrative drive and invention, but also to highlight the psychological depth that the poem displays throughout. The situation is that Horus (the narrator, equivalent of Dante-pilgrim as it were) has his father, The Emperor, who is also the sun-god, Hyperion, in the poem. One may note at this point that just as earlier the poet had attempted to solve a conundrum about Britomart’s sword for Spenser, is he here attempting the same for Keats, for we know that the two Hyperion fragments were unfinished? Hyperion’s role in the poem is relatively as a minor figure, but nevertheless he is awesome, peerless, and high in the heavens beaming bright, which is, if we think about it, just as fathers are for their children. Within the plot we have reached the comparable point of The Battle of the Pelennor Fields in The Lord of the Rings. Like its predecessor, it is epic in scope and detail, but as day draws to its long end, and the dark starts to descend, Virtue is worn out, and Evil is reinvigorated; some of the heroes have perished and now defeat is inevitable. This, of course, is a classic dualism, but it is at this point the poet brings in an imaginative stroke of genius. Drawing perhaps on several ancient mythologies, and not least that of Joshua (Joshua 10 v 12) and even more, Hezekiah (2 Kings chapter 20 and Isaiah 38.10), we find Hyperion, the father, the sun, now deciding to act on behalf of his child: . Hyperion, his face a grimmer maskthan any menpo forged in Eastern Isles,strained with effort to controlhis steeds confused, why they were backward leashed,the clouds conspired, and earth trembled,never had he broken Law,never disobeyed his one eternal Quest,but now, at virtue’s end, he broke his vow:the Sun was rising in the West. . The regaining of the light turns the tide in this battle to the complete disbelief and incredulity of the forces of evil. Notice the mimetic metrical fluency: the missing unstressed syllable with ‘strained’, ‘never’ and ‘never’—the law of the strict iambic beat broken, but as the god strives with the reins, we end with two perfectly iambic lines and the joy of the Quest/West rhyme—a satisfying sense of completion, much like Shakespeare using couplets at the end of a scene. But what a breath-taking last line which finally clarifies (what syntactical suspense) what the preceding 9 lines (and 52 words) have sought to establish—the Sun was rising in the West! And here is where the psychology is so powerful (and where we get an answer to Keats): for the next Canto, albeit briefly (for Hyperion is not the center of the poem), we learn that the king of the gods has stripped Hyperion of his immortality—he is no longer a god. Isn’t that what happens when every child grows up and realises the parents they thought were, are not, and are not immortal either; instead, they are mortal as they are. Sadly, for me too, the poem implies further decline: for of course it is Apollo in the Keats’ poem who is about to take over the regency of the sun; and Apollo, of course, is also the god of poetry. In some Freudian sense the poem prophesies how the son, Horus, will supersede his father, although in this case the supersession results from an act of love, not enmity. I regard this as a brilliant conceit—the sun turning backwards to prolong the day, so that virtue itself might live—and the hairs went up on the back of my neck when I read it. Genuinely, I think that this is a wonderful read in itself, but for poets like the classic poets on the SCP pages I think it is even more. For what do all of us want to read? Well, great poems and great stories, but especially ones from which we can learn new tricks, techniques and ideas for our own work. With that thought in mind, then, let me wholeheartedly recommend this epic story to you. NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets. NOTE TO POETS: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here. CODEC News:Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 19 Responses Joseph Sale May 10, 2022 My deepest and profoundest gratitude to you, my father, for this amazing review. I am a shadow of your poetic genius, but each of us must answer the Muse as we are called. Though of course you have quite rightly declared your bias, the light of the Sun is pure enough that it only illumines the inner truth of the human heart. Reply Michael Pietrack May 10, 2022 This book is full of imagery uniquely expressed. Joseph is a prolific writer who pops out books like chicken eggs. Remarkable! The Sales—two apples on the same tree. Hey Joe, with works like these, you’re in no one’s shadow. Reply James Sale May 10, 2022 Thanks Michael – I totally agree with your last sentence! Reply Joseph Sale May 10, 2022 Haha, I like the image of popping out books like chicken eggs, although I am slowing down a little of late! Poetry takes a bit more time to polish than prose as I am sure you know with your incredible work. Your last sentence truly humbles and moves me. Thank you. Reply jd May 10, 2022 Father and son, you are both blessed in more ways than this. Reply Joseph Sale May 10, 2022 Thank you, JD! God bless you! Reply James Sale May 10, 2022 Thanks JD – yes, you are of course right: our mutual interest in poetry and literature is merely a symptom of a deeper connection, and this connection is of course love – which is the deepest blessing of all. Really appreciate your commenting in this way. Reply Joseph S. Salemi May 10, 2022 A very incisive and intelligent review of what would seem to be a very remarkable book. Don’t worry about “nepotism,” James — why should a father not be able to give honest praise to a deserving son? Your review is lucid and scholarly, and not a puff-piece like so many reviews today are. I often wonder how The Faerie Queen might have turned out if Spenser had managed to complete the work. In its current unfinished state, most readers (like me) only deal with it in quotations and snatches. Its heavy allegory hearkens back to the medieval period, and this can be turn-off for some. Reply Joseph Sale May 10, 2022 Thank you so much for your kind words! It is a fascinating question re: The Faerie Queene and one I had to answer / discover. However, one intriguing thing about the Faerie Queene is that much like Virgil’s Aeneid it ends at a strangely meaningful and perfect point despite being supposedly unfinished! You are right the allegorical element is extremely off-putting for most modern readers, but Spenser’s allegories are so complex and nuanced that I don’t believe it can be reduced to allegory in the simple “medieval morality play” sense. His characters are sinuous and devious, and often actively go against the supposed role they have been typecast in… A truly great mind and one so many writers have stolen from (including me, hahaha) Reply James Sale May 11, 2022 Thanks for your kind comments, Joe, and I am really pleased you liked the article since you are a very demanding (correctly so) critic! Talking about epic is a favourite occupation of mine and I sincerely believe that this is a form – given its narrative nature – which can help revitalise people’s reading habits – though I won’t hold my breath! Reply AB Brown May 10, 2022 Love your list of the five criteria that make up an epic. This review itself has epic qualities. Incidentally, I notice a stylistic influence from father to son! Not only in the use of near rhyme, but of syntax and mood. Could the Sales be the modern day Bach or Breughel family? …We will find out in a few more generations. My admonishment to Joseph Sale is: have lots of kids, and put them through a rigorous poetical training program a la John Stuart Mill. One thing that Sale the Elder neglected to mention in this review was the original inspiration for this epic that Joseph describes in his opening author’s note: his religious experience at Glastonbury! I would also add that the narrative propulsion in VE is more fast-paced that Spenser’s FQ. While I would never call Spenser boring, as it is full of exciting fight scenes and knight errantry, much of the delight stems from the almost static quality of Spenser’s imagery. With his long stanzas, he draws out his descriptions of things. The effect is glorious and almost unsurpassed in English narrative poetry save for Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer, but I can understand why almost nobody today has read FQ all the way through. Reply Joseph Sale May 11, 2022 Thank you so much for your kind words, ABB! Yes, when first conceiving of writing a “sequel” to FQ, I naturally tried to write it using Spenser’s stanzas. They are glorious and his descriptions are simply mind-blowing. However, the effect produced in modern English something that was far too static for my liking. Spenser had more rhymes available to him due to the archaic diction and syntax he deliberately employed, and overall it seemed like it was better to capture the spirit of the epic, rather than try to be literal in following him. Haha, I will try to raise some poets, although often if we push children in a certain direction they tend to resist, so better to let them discover its joys themselves perhaps! As to my experience in Glastonbury, it was truly life changing, and I would never have returned to poetry without it. Thank you again! Reply ABB May 11, 2022 It seems your father is more keen on the idea of a rigorous educational program than you are. The test is: if they are not reading Homer in the original Greek by age 3, give them up for adoption. Incidentally, I once told my wife that if we had children I would subject them to such a program. This statement may have influenced her decision to not have children. James Sale May 11, 2022 Thank you Andrew – the suggestion that as a result of his poem Joseph now starts a serious program of begetting offspring so that they too can write more poems is fascinating! As for the five criteria I am sure a lot more could be said about them. Again, thanks for your perceptive comments: I do occasionally read Joe’s work and think I am reading myself! Reply Margaret Coats May 11, 2022 Thank you, James Sale, for bringing your son’s work to our attention. As someone who has read all of Spenser’s works at some time in my literary career, I am most interested in Joseph Sale becoming part of the Spenserian tradition. I will put “Virtue’s End” on my reading list. Joseph Sale, congratulations on your choice to become part of the Spenser tradition–especially as you did so with a work of considerable extent. I am glad to hear that it will be faster flowing than the Faerie Queene. So few readers at present have time or inclination to bask in the literary atmosphere Spenser creates, which is the great joy of reading him. Please let me take this opportunity to recommend, to all who do not know of it, the database by Professor David H. Radcliffe of Virginia Technological University. Its title is “Spenser and the Tradition: English Poetry from 1579-1830.” The end date clearly excludes Joseph Sale, but it is a unique and thorough exploration of a major tradition, because Radcliffe believes that ephemeral and unsuccessful works are just as important as those considered valuable by major critics. Perhaps, Joseph, you already know where Spenserians have been before you, but even you will find items of interest here. In your father’s review, I find great reason to hope you will take a significant place among Spenserian poets. For the rest of us, this quirky and sometimes uncooperative database can provide a sense of where and how we fit into whatever literary traditions we intend to follow. Reply Joseph Sale May 11, 2022 Thank for your kind words, Margaret, and for putting Virtue’s End on your reading list–truly humbled and grateful for that! I totally agree with you re: the majesty of atmosphere that Spenser creates. Even though his locations are arguably allegorical, they are vividly (and visually) imprinted in my mind: the Bower of Bliss, the Cave of Despair, the Mines of Mammon… It truly is a fantasy-author’s paradise. I also am of the opinion that Spenser is one of those writers who, as you say, rewards patience, rewards “basking”, which is not something many of us have time for these days. In many respects I feel like FQ was the extremely long-running TV show of its day, the kind of show nowadays where people say “You have to watch until season 2 and 3 before it gets REALLY good.” I personally adore The Faerie Queene right from the very first lines, but I do find that he goes to another level in books 2, 3, and 4. 4, Friendship, is arguably my favourite book of all of them for how it intersects the characters’ journeys and decides to flesh out the minor characters such as the Squire. Sadly, often students only ever study book 1 of the FQ, so people never get to appreciate the full scope of his genius. Thank you also for recommending such a fabulous resource! I’ll be sure to check it out. Reply James Sale May 11, 2022 Thank you Margaret for your comments and it is good to find another ‘fanatic’ for Spenser alongside my son. Whereas I do love Spenser, I could not claim to have read him in the detail that he has – and clearly you too. It’s good when like finds like! Reply Susan Jarvis Bryant May 11, 2022 This is a delightful review for a book that intrigues me. How wonderful to have two talented writers in one family. Joseph, I wish every success with “Virtue’s End”. Reply Joseph Sale May 11, 2022 Thank you so much for your kind words, Susan, it really means a lot. Yes, my dad is a wonderful mentor, and it has been wonderful to have someone with whom one can share ideas about writing, creativity, and literature–and for all of my life! Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. Δ This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.