1751 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Lyttelton

Horace Walpole, 1751; in Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of King George II (1847) 1:202-03.



Absurdity was predominate in Lyttelton's composition: it entered into his politics, his apologies, his public pretences, his private conversations. With the figure of a spectre, and the gesticulations of a puppet, he talked heroics through his nose, made declamations at a visit, and played at cards with scraps of history, or sentences of Pindar. He had set out on a poetical love plan, though with nothing of a lover but absence of mind, and nothing of poet but absence of meaning; yet he was far from wanting parts; spoke well when he had studied his speeches; and loved to reward and promote merit in others. His political apostasy was as flagrant as Pitt's: the latter gloried in it: but Lyttleton, when he had been forced to quit virtue, took up religion, and endeavoured to persuade mankind that he had just fixed his views to heaven, when he had gone the greatest lengths to promote his earthly interest; and so finished was his absurdity, that he was capable of believing himself honest and agreeable.