1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alaric Alexander Watts

James Montgomery to Alaric Alexander Watts, 28 December 1824; in Alaric Alfred Watts, Alaric Watts, a Narrative of his Life, by his Son (1884) 1:202-03.



Sheffield,

December 28, 1824.

DEAR SIR,

I have been too long in your debt for the first copy of your "Literary Souvenir;" but as it was accompanied by a promise of another, my politic indolence immediately calculated on killing two birds with one stone; for though they were birds of paradise in plumage, and nightingales in song, my stones, methought, were too precious to be thrown away unnecessarily. The truth is, I could write ten letters in the time that I lose in hesitating to write one.

Think what you may of my remarks on your "Kirkstall Abbey" verses, they came warm from my heart as well as pure from my head; and, of the two, the former is always the best critic in cases where its genuine sympathies are interested as they were indeed in the very subject of these stanzas. I have spent many of the most poetic hours of my life among those ruins, when I was a boy at Fulneck School. There was the rich skeleton of a window in the tower, which we used to call the Giant's Window; and the winding staircases, now closed up, that led to the roofless walls and broken arches, on which, in all the joy of terror, we schoolboys loved to clamber and risk our lives for the pleasure of escaping with them. There is a couplet in your lines which I dare say you wrote almost unconsciously, and yet you will perhaps acknowledge to be worth all that ever came by more elaboration from your pen—

The steps in youth I loved to tread,
Have sunk beneath the foot of Time.

Write always so; and Time will, in vain, attempt to wear out the everlasting flint of those steps by which you shall have ascended as high in the Temple of Fame as you ever climbed up Kirkstall Abbey. I was glad to see Campbell's noble Ode reclaimed by you from neglect. How could the parent of such an offspring have abandoned it? I would thank you for a copy of Archdeacon Wrangham's verses. We had much talk about you at Hunmanby last October; and, in spite of your Toryism, allowed you credit for as much talent as you would be disposed to lay claim to.

Your friend,

JAMES MONTGOMERY.