1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Merry

David Rivers, in Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) 2:40-42.



This gentleman is a native of the Metropolis, and son of a later Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. He was born in the year 1755, was educated at Harrow under the private tuition of Dr. Parr, and became, afterward, a Member of Christ's College, Cambridge, and of Lincoln's Inn. Upon the death of his father he bought a commission in the Horse-guards, and was, for several years, Adjutant and Lieutenant to the first troop, commanded by Lord Lothian. He afterwards quitted this service, and travelled, for some years, on the continent. Mr. Merry made a long stay at Florence, and was elected a Member of the famous Academy Della Crusca. A few years ago, he married the celebrated actress Miss Brunton, who then quitted the stage. During his residence at Florence, Mr. Merry was a principal contributor to the Florence Miscellany, which was written by a few English of both sexes, who had met by chance at Florence, and was superintended by Mrs. Piozzi. In 1787, he published, at London, Paulina, or the Russian Daughter, a poetical tale, founded on fact; and in the year following, Diversity, a poem. He has also published The Laurel of Liberty, a poem; Lorenzo, a tragedy, represented at Covent Garden; and Ode for the 14th of July, 1791; which was performed at the Crown and Anchor Tavern; Fenelon, or the Nuns of Cambray, a serious drama, altered from the French; and The Pains of Memory, a poem, published in 1796. An Ode on the Recovery of his Majesty, recited by Mrs. Siddons at a Gala given by the Subscribers to Brookes' Club, as well as a comic-opera, entitled, The Magician no Conjurer, acted four nights in the winter of 1792, are also to be attributed to his pen. On the 29th of June, 1787, Mr. Merry sent a pretty little poem, entitled, the Adieu and Recall to Love, to the World, a newspaper of the day, with the signature Della Crusca. It was answered by a poem, entitled, the Pen, signed Anna Matilda. The correspondence thus begun, was from poetical sympathy kept up, at intervals, for two years. Many new correspondents came forward, but the writers remained long unknown to the public and to one another. Time, at last, discovered Della Crusca and Anna Matilda, to be Mr. Merry and Mrs. Robinson, who had an interview toward the conclusion of the correspondence. In the mean time the poetry, some of which is very pretty, attracted a good deal of notice, and was reprinted, in volumes, under the title of The Poetry of the World. It has now reached a fourth edition, in two duodecimo volumes, entitled The British Album. Mr. Merry's pieces, in this collection, have the greatest claim to distinction of any. His poem, Diversity and Ambitious Vengeance, a tragic-drama, are to found in these volumes. In speaking of Mr. Merry's pretentions to fame, as a poet, we must observe that he has been loudly decried and stigmatized by an elegant satirist of the present day, (vide William Gifford, Esq.) who has said of one of his pieces [the Laurel of Liberty] that it is distinguished by "Downright nonsense, Downright frigidity, and Downright doggerel." We own that his false glitter, his negligence, and his obscurity are frequently highly reprehensible, yet, cannot but allow, that his pretentions to poetical merit are often great and striking, while the spirit of liberty and benevolence which breathes through his writings seems ardent and sincere. His poem, entitled, The Pains of Memory, has been preferred by many readers, to Mr. Rogers' popular poem The Pleasure of Memory.