1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Roscoe

David Rivers, in Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) 2:220-22.



Of Liverpool. A gentleman who has acquired great and merited renown in the literary world, by the masterly manner in which he has, of late, exhibited to the public, the Life and Labours of Lorenzo de' Medici, called the Magnificent. Mr. Roscoe was brought up the profession of an attorney, but does not, we believe, at present, practice in that line. The above-mentioned work does the highest credit to his literary talents, and entitles him to rank with the very first writers on European History. The circumstances attending this publication, are not among the least singular in the annals of literature. The full, distinct, and accurate idea afforded us, with such genius and learning, of the interesting subject treated in these volumes, is the result of discoveries made in the literature of one of the most polite and learned nations of Europe, by a foreigner who had never visited that Country! By a gentleman who was not courting literature in academical bowers, but devoting his time to an active and laborious profession! Mr. Clarke a banker of Liverpool, and son of a late banker of the same name, a gentleman of very extensive information, and the intimate friend of Mr. Roscoe, had paid a visit to Italy, and had fixed his winter residence at Florence. It was through the assiduity of this gentleman, that Mr. Roscoe obtained his large stock of original and interesting information; as well as the beautiful Poems of Lorenzo de' Medici (with copies of which, as well as with beautiful and exact Translations of them, he has enriched his work) the originals of which are deposited in the Laurentian Library, although the former editors appear not to have had the slightest information respecting them! The work made its appearance in 1795, in two volumes, quarto, under the title, The Life of Lorenzo de' Medici, called the Magnificent. Such, we have understood, was the author's diffidence of its success, that the first impression consisted of only two hundred and fifty copies! So small a number disappeared very soon after publication; and, although the work was printed in the expensive style and sold at a proportional price, it has seen three editions, even in times so unpropitious as the present. Nor (as every reader can foretel) has it obtained early popularity, without the prospect of a lasting reputation. It holds the place which it fills in the History of Europe by too lawful a tenure ever to renounce its privileges.

The celebrated and excellent Letter to Mr. Pitt, by JASPER WILSON, has been improperly attributed to Mr. Roscoe. It is the production of his friend Dr. James Currie of Liverpool; and, we believe, that the largest share he had in that publication was a perusal of the original copy, and some little assistance he may have given in revising the sheets, as they came from the press. Mr. Roscoe has been engaged, for some time, we understand, upon a Life of Burns the Scotch poet.