1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Chamberlayne

Anonymous, in Retrospective Review 1 (1820) 258-59.



There is frequently an admirable propriety in his thoughts, but he wanted judgement in the selection, and taste in the disposition of them. He is fond of illustrating the grand and the beautiful in nature and in feeling, by allusions to objects of art and of science, more especially in his own profession, which sometimes leads him into conceit and sometimes into meanness. — It was, indeed, the fault of his age. — But the mind of Chamberlayne was not of that high order which pierces into the "hidden secrets of the heart," and displays it in all its awful and solemn workings; — he does not suspend our breathing with the depth and intensity of passion, or flood our eyes with delicious tears — nor does he delight us with those sudden transitions from the dark to the bright, in the inward motions of the soul, which come over the intellectual eye, like a gleam of sunshine on the dark bosom of the heaving ocean. Yet there is feeling — there is passion — gentle — equable — noble — dignified; but the one is not deep, nor the other intense — he does not "storm the soul." Poets, like painters, are distinguishable by the style and colouring of their works — Chamberlayne is peculiarly so; he is, indeed, a complete mannerist — he rings the changes on his favourite conceptions incessantly — he varies them and dresses them up, but they still bear striking marks of identity. He has hollowed out a channel in which his genius flows: sometimes with a gentle and delightful murmuring, rising against its rocky sides and embossing them with its white spray; and at its flood tide, rolling on a noble and majestic stream in a continuous course, but seldom flowing over its banks, or breaking out into grand irregularities.