1817 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

Lord Byron to John Murray, 15 September 1817; Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1901) 4:169-70.



With regard to poetry in general, I am convinced, the more I think of it, that he and all of us — Scott, Southey, Wordsworth, Moore, Campbell, I, — are all in the wrong, one as much as another; that we are upon a wrong revolutionary poetical system, or systems, not worth a damn in itself, and from which none but Rogers and Crabbe are free; and that the present and next generations will finally be of this opinion. I am the more confirmed in this by having lately gone over some of our classics, particularly Pope, whom I tried in this way, — I took Moore's poems and my own and some others, and went over them side by side with Pope's, and I was really astonished (I ought not to have been so) and mortified at the ineffable distance in point of sense, harmony, effect, and even Imagination, passion, and Invention, between the little Queen Anne's man, and us of the Lower Empire. Depend upon it, it is all Horace then, and Claudian now, among us; and if I had to begin again, I would model myself accordingly. Crabbe's the man, but he has got a coarse and impracticable subject, and Rogers, the Grandfather of living Poetry, is retired upon half-pay, (I don't mean as a Banker),—

Since pretty Miss Jaqueline,
With her nose aquiline,

and has done enough, unless he were to do as he did formerly.