1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Lisle Bowles

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 2:345-46.



The REV. WILLIAM LISLE BOWLES enjoys the distinction of having "delighted and inspired" the genius of Coleridge. His first publication, a volume of sonnets, was published in 1793; and falling into the hands of the enthusiastic young poet, converted him from some "perilous errors" to the love of a style of poetry at once tender and manly. The pupil outstripped his master in richness and luxuriance, though not in elegance or correctness. In 1805 Mr. Bowles published another volume of poetry, The Spirit of Discovery by Sea, a narrative poem of considerable length and beauty. He has also published hymns and other poems. He prepared an edition of Pope's works, which, being attacked by Campbell in his Specimens of the Poets, led to a literary controversy, in which Lord Byron and others took a part. Bowles insisted strongly on descriptive poetry forming an indispensable part of the poetical character; "every rock, every leaf, every diversity of hue in nature's variety." Campbell, on the other hand, objected to this Dutch minuteness and perspicacity of colouring, and claimed for the poet (what Bowles never could have denied) nature, moral as well as external, the poetry of the passions, and the lights and shades of human manners. In reality, Pope occupied a middle position, inclining to the artificial side of life. Mr. Bowles has outlived most of his poetical contemporaries, excepting Rogers. He was born at King's-Sutton, Northamptonshire, in the year 1762, and was educated first at Winchester school, and subsequently at Trinity, college, Oxford. He has long held the rectory of Bremhill, in Wiltshire.