1887 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Richard Polwhele

P. W. Clayden, in The Early Life of Samuel Rogers (1887) 314-15.



Another very satisfactory sign of the recognised place he had taken in literature was given in the reception accorded by the critics to the Rev. R. Polwhele's dull poem called "The Influence of Local Attachment with Respect to Home." So much was said by the reviewers of the similarity of this poem in some parts to the beautiful poem, as they all called it, "The Pleasures of Memory," that Mr. Polwhele was obliged to come forward with a laboured vindication. His apology was in the form of a tu quoque. He had been accused of copying some of Rogers's notes verbatim, and he admitted that he had written his own notes hastily with Rogers's before him. But as to plagiarism, had not Rogers borrowed from him? He had written an "Epistle to a College Friend," which he was almost inclined to consider as the prototype of the first part of "The Pleasures of Memory." Only one of his comparisons need be given. He had written in his "Epistle to a College Friend"—

While yet 'tis mine to trace the feeling hour
And win young Fancy from the Muse's bower
Ere pressing cares, too numerous, intervene
To disenchant the bosom-soothing scene,
Come, nor too soon, alas! to memory fade
Ye views fast fainting into sombre shade!

The passage with which Polwhele compares this — which he intimates was suggested by it — is this: speaking of childhood's loved group revisiting every scene, "the tangled wood-walk and the tufted green," Rogers proceeds—

Indulgent Memory wakes, and lo, they live!
Clothed with far softer hues than Light can give.
Thou first, best friend that Heaven assigns below,
To soothe and sweeten all the cares we know;
Whose glad suggestions still each vain alarm
When Nature fades, and life forgets to charm;
Thee would the Muse invoke! to thee belong
The sage's precept and the poet's song.
What softened views thy magic glass reveals
When o'er the landscape Time's meek twilight steals!

The comparison of these passages — and they are put in juxtaposition by Mr. Polwhele himself — not only shows the ridiculous nature of his suggestion of plagiarism, but conclusively and sufficiently exhibits the immense superiority of Rogers's poem to the boasted productions of the poetasters of the time.