1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Cumberland

Francis Hodgson, Review of Cumberland, Retrospection; The Monthly Review 67 (March 1812) 326.



We envy not the men who can read the poem of "Retrospection" with any other feelings than those of sympathy and sorrow. We remember nothing on the present occasion, creditable as many of his other works are, but the author of the West Indian, of the Translations from the Greek Fragments, and the whole of the Observer. He is gone; — and whom he has left behind him of equal interest in the Scholar's appreciation, as a general friend to literature, and as a successful writer in many fields of composition? For our own part, we think the following passage has an irresistible charm: — Yes, who can hear the valued contemporary and associate of Johnson, of Burke, of Goldsmith, Garrick, Soame Jenyns, &c. &c. who can hear such a man as Cumberland uttering the following lines without attention and respect?

Yes, ye departed worthies! I have mourn'd
For all, and some have followed to the grave,
When Garrick was surrender'd to the dust
I stood by Johnson, and beheld his tears
Roll down his reverend cheeks; and Oh! beware,
All ye who knew him not, how ye decide
Upon a heart with charity replete
And human kindness, tho' with brow austere
And stern rebuke sometimes he would reprove
The vanities and vices of mankind, &c. &c.

Doubtless, we could find much to condemn in "Retrospection," if we set ourselves severely to the work of criticism: but one of the last (perhaps the last of the old school of English Classics, if we consider his better performances,) of our long-known favourites is gone, and we can wish him nothing

But all good titles on his tomb imprest,
And a green covering, and an easy rest.