1753 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Bankes

Anonymous, in Cibber-Shiels, Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) 3:174-77.



This gentleman was bred a lawyer, and was a member of the society at New Inn. His genius led him to make several attempts in dramatic poetry, in which he had various success; but even when he met with the greatest encouragement, he was very sensible of his error, in quitting the profitable practice of the law, to pursue the entertainments of a stage, but he was fired with a thirst of fame, which reconciled to his mind the uneasy sensations, to which the precarious success of his plays, and the indigence of his profession naturally exposed him: Mr. Banks no doubt has gained one part of his design by commencing poet, namely, that of being remembered after death, which Pope somewhere calls the poor estate of wits: For this gentleman has here a place amongst the poets, while nine tenths of the lawyers of his time, now sleep with their fathers secure in oblivion, and of whom we can only say, they lived, and died.

Mr. Banks's genius was wholly turned for tragedy; his language is certainly unpoetical, and his numbers inharmonious; but he seems not to have been ignorant of the dramatic art: For in all his plays he has very forcibly rouzed the passions, kept the scene busy, and never suffered his characters to languish [list of works omitted].

We cannot ascertain the year in which Banks died. He seems to have been a man of parts; his characteristic fault as a writer, was aiming at the sublime, which seldom failed to degenerate into the bombast, fire he had, but no judgment to manage it; he was negligent of his poetry, neither has he sufficiently marked, and distinguished his characters; he was generally happy in the choice of his fables, and he was found in a way of drawing tears, which many a superior poet has tried in vain.