1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Jackson Pratt

Anonymous, "Anecdotes of the Author" European Magazine 1 (January 1782) 53-54.



This very multifarious and not less successful writer began his literary career very early in life, and produced several compositions of length, which required thought and application, before young persons in general begin either to think or to apply. Those, who have penetrated into the recesses of his domestic story, report, that he has known many severe reverses of fortune, and these have been various attributed to different causes, as severity or candour were permitted to decide. We have, however, without difficulty, collected great choice of instances that determine the goodness of his heart; and it is out of the line of the present publication to look too cynically for venial blemishes in public characters. Mr. Pratt is a man of good family, and the world is indebted to him for great variety of entertainment; though as yet, only of an age, when still greater things may be expected. The effort of his acknowledged writings has been given under the signature of Courtney Melmoth, in the manner of Sterne, who adopted, on some occasions, the name of Yorick. It appears, however, that our author has lately engaged in some commercial affairs of considerable extent, and, of course, transacts business in his own proper character. His establishment at Bath is represented as an object on a very large scale, and of which he has the principal direction. It is very unusual, perhaps not precedented, at least in this country, for a man scarce more than thirty years of age, to have written so much and so well as Mr. Pratt, and in so many styles too, upon so many different occasions. And although we wish he had written much less upon the whole, our objections to particular parts or passages cannot warrant us to say by any means that we could dispense with the loss of any one work he has given us entirely; for, in the least accurate, we shall find much of that which merits preservation, and, in the major part of the most perfect, a great deal to justify the very warm reception they have met with. A general list of his writings is comprehended, so far as we have yet been able to learn, in the following articles:

Liberal Opinions, or the History of Benignus, 6 volumes.
The Pupil of Pleasure, a severe illustration of the late Lord Chesterfield's letters, 2 volumes.
The Tutor of Truth, being a contrast to the above, 2 volumes.
The Sublime and Beautiful of Scripture, 2 volumes.
The Tears of Genius, a poem, on the death of Dr. Goldsmith.
Travels of the Heart, 2 volumes.
Observations on Dr. Young's Night-Thoughts, and on Poetic Composition, 1 volume.
Shenstone Green, or a new Paradise Lost, being a history of human nature, 3 volumes.
Charles and Charlotte, a novel, 2 volumes.
Emma Corbett, or the Miseries of civil War, 3 volumes.
Sympathy, a poem, and
The Fair Circassian, a tragedy.

These and very many other works, not mentioned, especially some essays in the magazines, (most of which were sufficiently noticed to encourage the author to a collection and republication,) are ascribed to the pathetic pen of our author. Not a few of the above-cited compositions require particular remarks, as being received with particular approbation, and conferring a high and well-deserved fame, especially the historical novel of Emma Corbett, and the poem of Sympathy, both which are esteemed exquisite in their kind. But we must defer saying more to a future opportunity, and confine ourselves at present solely to a few observations on his tragedy of the Fair Circassian; that being the most immediate object of the town, to which it still affords frequent entertainment.