1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Wilson

Alexander Campbell, in Introduction to the History of Poetry in Scotland (1798) 312-14.



Another candidate for poetical fame, made his appearance in the Pantheon, about this time [1789]; this was one ALEXANDER WILSON, a Scotch pedlar. I recollect one evening, while present at a debate in the Pantheon, of Mr. Wilson's delivering his sentiments on the question before the society, in excellent Scottish verse. I was much pleased indeed. Soon after, I met with the volume of his works that lies before me; in the perusal of which, he did not, by any means, sink in my estimation. Wilson is a poet. It is indeed a pity, so rare a genius was suffered to toil in the humble sphere of a travelling merchant. He appears to be no less a philosopher than a poet (and, for the proof of this, I appeal to a short specimen, inserted in the volume alluded to, in prose, entitled Journal, dated Edinburgh, September 7, 1789. This volume has gone, according to my information, through three editions, with considerable amendments and additions. He ranks high among the poets, natives of Scotland, and it is but justice to acknowledge, that he bids fair to rival Ramsay, Fergusson, and even Burns himself. [Reprints Watty and Meg.] The ingenious author of the above piece, (Mr. (Alex. Wilson) I am told is gone to America; where, it is hoped, his merits, either in literature, or mercantile speculations, will be rewarded with independence and distinction.