1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Robert Potter

David Rivers, in Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) 2:152-53.



Minister of Scarning, and a character of the highest distinction as a classical scholar. The literary world is intrinsically indebted to him for excellent poetical versions of the three Greek Tragedians. Mr Potter published, in 1774, an octavo volume of Poems, most of the pieces in which had before appeared, separately. It contains many very pretty compositions, particularly a beautiful farewell Hymn to the country, in imitation of Spenser. Three years after this, his Translation of Aeschylus made its appearance in a quarto volume, and has, ever since, been reprinted with the addition of notes, in two volumes, octavo. Of the excellence of this translation, it is hardly possible to say too much: many of the parts are so exquisitely beautiful as to leave us in doubt whether any poet, we have ever heard of, could have accomplished the task with greater success. In 1781, Mr. Potter published, Vol. I. (in quarto) of his Translation of Euripides, to which Vol. II. was added in the year following; and, in 1788, his Translation of Sophocles was published, in a quarto volume. These last-mentioned versions are, certainly, upon the whole, inferior to Mr. Potter's first production, yet, they are, each of them, excellent performances, and far superior to those of our former translators, Mr. Wodhull and Dr. Franklin. Beside these laborious works, Mr. Potter published, in 1783, An Enquiry into some Passages in Dr. Johnson's Lives of the Poets, a quarto pamphlet; and, in 1785, a Translation of the Oracle concerning Babylon, and the Song of Exultation from Isaiah, chap. xiii. and xiv.

In his weightiest character, the Translator of the Greek Tragedians, we must again compliment Mr. Potter on the very singular service which he has done to the literary world. It was an undertaking which, to many, must have appeared too great for the life of man: and considering the success with which so much labour has been accomplished, considering also the amiable character which Mr. Potter bears, as a member of society, we are surprised that he has not, long ago, attracted the notice of those, who are able and willing to confer honours and preferments, where they meet with peculiar desert.