The idea emerged during the 19th century that there was a literary club dedicated to the reformation of English poetry known as the Areopagus Club, the members of which included such literary luminaries as Edmund Spenser, Gabriel Harvey, Edward Dyer and Sir Phillip Sidney. The existence of such a club was first suggested by Henry Richard Fox Bourne in his Memoir of Sir Philip Sidney (1862), but there was probably never any such formalised organisation.
In a letter dated October 1579, Spenser wrote to Harvey:
As for the twoo worthy Gentlemen, Master Sidney and Master Dyer, that haue me, I thanke them, in some use of familiarity : of whom, and to whome, what speach passeth for youre credite and estimation, I leaue your self to conceiue, hauing alwayes so well conceiued of my vnfained affection and zeale towardes you. And nowe they haue proclaimed in their [areopagus][a]Spenser used the Greek spelling of the word a generall surceasing and silence of balde Rymers, and also of the verie beste to : in steade whereof, they haue, by authoritie of their whole Senate, prescribed certaine Lawes and rules of Quantities of English sillables for English Verse : hauing had thereof already great practise, and drawen mee to their faction.
The Greek word aeropagus, which translates as “Rock of Ares”, referred originally to the meeting place of an ancient Athenian judicial body, and the literary historian Edward Fulton has suggested that Spenser’s remark was therefore “more than probably meant to be taken as a jest”. But there is no doubt that there was a group of English poets who during the 16th century shared a common interest in reforming the structure of English verse based on quantity[b]Quantity is a property of syllables, how long or short they are. rather than syllable count or word accent, whether or not they were ever members of an Areopagus Club.