1876 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Howitt

Robert Carruthers, in Chambers's Cyclopaedia of English Literature, 3rd ed. (1876; 1879) 8:208-10.



Mr. Howitt has been a still more voluminous writer [than Mary Howitt]. His happiest works are those devoted to rural description. The Book of the Seasons, 1831, delineates the picturesque and poetical features of the months, and all the objects and appearances which the year presents in the garden, the field, and the waters. An enthusiastic lover of his subject, Mr. Howitt is remarkable for the fullness and variety of his pictorial sketches, the richness and purity of his fancy, and the occasional force and eloquence of his language [quotation omitted]. In this spirit Mr. Howitt has written The Rural Life of England, two volumes, 1838; The Boy's Country Book; and Visits to Remarkable Places, two volumes; the latter work giving an account of old English halls, battle-fields, and other scenes of striking passages in English history and poetry. Another work of the same kind, The Homes and Haunts of the Poets, 1847, is greatly inferior, being disfigured by inaccuracies and rash dogmatic assertions. Mr. Howitt was for some years in business in the town of Nottingham, and a work from his fertile pen, the nature of which is indicated by its name, the History of Priestcraft, 1834, so recommended him to the Dissenters and reformers of that town, that he was made one of their aldermen. Disliking the bustle of public life, Mr. Howitt retired from Nottingham, and resided for three years at Esher, in Surrey. Mr. and Mrs. Howitt then removed to Germany, and after three years' residence in that country, the former published a work on the Social and Rural Life of Germany, which the natives admitted to be the best account of that country ever written by a foreigner. Our industrious author has also translated a work written expressly for him, The Student Life of Germany. After his return, Mr. Howitt embarked in periodical literature as a proprietor, but neither The People's Journal nor Howitt's Journal was a successful speculation. He then sailed for Australia, and a two years' residence in that colony enable him to publish an interesting and comprehensive work, in two volumes, entitled Land, Labour, and Gold, or Two Years in Victoria, with visits to Sydney and Van Diemen's Land. He has also published The Ruined Castles and Abbeys of Great Britain, 1861; History of the Supernatural; Letters on Transportation, 1863; Discovery of Australia, &c. 1865; The Mad War Planet, and other Poems, 1871. The last was a decided failure. But few writers have displayed greater intellectual activity than Mary and William Howitt, and to the young they have been special benefactors.