1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

William Taylor of Norwich to Robert Southey, 6 July 1804; in J. W. Robberds, Memoir of the Life and Writings of William Taylor (1843) 1:513-14/



I cannot agree with you that Dryden is only at the head of our second-rate writers; he appears to me, both in prose and verse, a master of his art. Translate anything he says into any language, it is still excellent, — the thought or matter being always valuable. He has more ease than any other negligent writer who ever composed, for ease usually results from polishing away roughnesses. His powers of expression are boundless; he always rises with his subject, and can attain a vividness of imagery, or a condensation of eloquence, which panting Pope toils after in vain: our best narratives are Dryden's fables.