1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Lisle Bowles

George Daniel, in Virgil in London, or, Town Eclogues (1814) 111-12n.



What would induce the Rev. William Lisle Bowles to publish the Works of Pope, "with additional observerations, and memoirs of the life of the author," it is impossible to say; unless it were to defame the character and detract from the high poetical reputation of that immortal Bard. Pope lived to see dullness encouraged, and genius unrewarded; and surely it could be no great crime to satirize a Prince, who was a declared enemy to all polite learning, and whose ignorance made him lament, "that Paradise Lost was not written in prose!" The herd of dunces that attacked him during his life-time, his pen has justly consigned to eternal infamy; and the puny attempts that have been made by succeeding ones, have gradually sunk into oblivion. The Champion to the Prince Regent has shown himself as incapable of appreciating, as of writing, good poetry; and the fatality which too often pursues great writers, of having their works abused by dull scribblers, will never prove the fate of our Reverend Critic; for what modern Aristarchus would ever take the trouble to criticize either his Life, or his Sonnets?

E'en such small Critics some regard may claim,
Preserv'd in Milton's or in Shakespere's name.
Pretty! in Amber to observe the forms
Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms!
The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare,
But wonder how the devil they got there.