1762 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Hawkesworth

William Rider, in Living Authors of Great Britain (1762) 14-15.



This Author has a pretty taste for Poetry, as appears from his Songs and Oriental Tales; — pieces, which, tho' wrote in Prose, contain so much of the poetical Spirit, that no one but a Poet can succeed in composing them. His History of Almoran and Hamet, publish'd not long since, is not, however, equal to his Oriental Tales printed in the Adventurer, a periodical Paper of great Merit; tho' it may be justly reproached with one considerable Defect; the Author has so carefully copied the Stile of Mr. Johnson, that the Imitation cannot but be obvious to every body. It is with Authors as with Players; those who too servilely copy the Manner of another, however excellent in itself, will never please: For as the Tone and Gestures of one Player may no more fit another than his Cloaths, so the stile of one Author, when assumed by another, must always have something constrain'd and unnatural. 'Tis remarkable that such Authors as have been most successful in copying the Stile of others, have seldom distinguish'd themselves by the Excellence of their own; and that such Players, as have the greatest Talent for Mimickry, have seldom been so eminent for their Performance when they played in propria persona: Strader is an Instance of the Truth of the first Part of this Observation; Eastcourt and Mr. P—te of the Truth of the second.