1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Amphlett

John Aikin, Review of Amphlett, Triumphs of War; The Monthly Review NS 21 (November 1796) 338.



The advertisement prefixed to this volume informs us that it is "the first production of a young person born and educated in the country, who has never enjoyed the advantages of academical instruction;" — that it is "the fruit of miscellaneous reading, and some observation; the offspring of a warm imagination, and a susceptible heart." This is a candid account of its origin and pretensions. The poems are, indeed, such as might be expected from a young person of desultory reading, without solid instruction, and who mistakes a relish for poetry for the faculty of producing it. One of the most striking features is a turgescence of style, venting itself in the unbridled invention of new uncouth words derived from the learned languages, with which the half-learned are generally inclined to make the more free than regular scholars. Within the compass of the first page and half we have "niveous" breast, "adure" brow, "fumid" clouds, "caudent" rocks "informous;" and many still more curious specimens might be picked up on a cursory survey. Nor can we discover any of those simple and natural beauties which are supposed (though, in general, falsely,) to distinguish untutored verse. There is, indeed, no want of thought in the several pieces, but it has little advantage from the manner in which it is disposed, and the language in which it is cloathed. We are sorry not to be able to say more in recommendation of an author whose principles seem laudable, and whose character appears estimable: but we have too many daily proofs that there is more true kindness in discouraging, than in forwarding, the inclination which unqualified writers have to produce themselves before the public.