1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Melmoth

Nathan Drake, in "Literary Life of Dr. Johnson" Essays Illustrative of the Rambler (1809-10) 1:249.



The last author who contributed, previous to the appearance of the Rambler, to the improvement of English style, was MELMOTH. His "Letters of Sir Thomas Fitzosborne, on several subjects," were published in the year 1742, and have passed through numerous editions; the first edition also of his translation of the Letters of Pliny the Consul, was printed in the year 1746, the second in 1747, and the third in 1748.

The style of Melmoth, both in his original and translated works, is easy, perspicuous, and elegant. He is more correct in grammatical construction, more select in his choice of words, than any preceding writer, but he is sometimes languid and verbose. His taste, which was very refined and pure, has seldom permitted him to adopt ornament not congenial to the subject of discussion, and his diction is therefore singularly chaste and free from inflation. His language, however, where the topic demands it, is often truly animated and warm, and the encomium which he has given to the style of a friend, may be justly applied to that of his own works; "his expressions," says he, "are glowing, but not glaring, his metaphors are natural but not common, his periods are harmonious but not poetical."