1801 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Brown

William Gilpin to Samuel Rogers, 23 January 1801; P. W. Clayden, The Early Life of Samuel Rogers (1887) 416-17.



Your epic ["Columbus"], which you mention so enigmatically that I hardly know whether you are in jest or in earnest, reminds me of an anecdotes of Dr. Brown, author of the famous "Estimate;" though I think I have seen it in some memoirs of him in print. Bishop Warburton (whose practice, I have heard, it was, to write civil letters, and do civil things, to ingenious young men to 'list them in his service) put into Brown's hands an epic poem, which had been planned by Pope. The story, I think was the discovery of Britain by one of the heroes who had escaped from Troy. Brown finished three or four books. He was very intimate with my father, though but an unpleasant man to live with; and I remember he showed me his first book, when I was a lad at Oxford. At the pillars of Hercules his hero makes a pause on entering the great Ocean. But alas! there his muse, like yours, forsook him. So that, it seems, the Atlantic is the gulph of epic poetry. Homer prudently kept snug in the Aegean; and Virgil in the Mediterranean. If they had ventured through the Straits, they had probably been drowned, like Brown and you.