1813 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas John Dibdin

Francis Hodgson, Review of Dibdin, A Metrical History of England; The Monthly Review 71 (August 1813) 436-37.



This is neither an useless nor an unpleasing compilation; and we recommend it to the notice of those guardians and instructors of children who deem it expedient to add artificial allurements to the natural charm of history. Indeed, it must be confessed that a taste for historical knowledge is not so general as it should be among the younger students of the day. They have been sickened with novels before they have fed on sounder food; and, whether from this or from more general causes, it has become necessary in numerous cases for the teacher to adopt factitious means of exciting an inclination, which we have called natural from feeling that it ought to be so. Since, then, we are of opinion that, in the instruction of boys and girls at an early age, it may be our duty to tempt many pupils in the present times to the study of history, (all attractive as it should be of itself, and without any such temptation,) we cannot be approve of Mr. Dibdin's endeavours to facilitate the attainment of so desirable an end.

Having bestowed this praise on the design of versifying an abridge history of our country, we must, however, find fault with the execution of that design in a great number of passages. Many proper names are pronounced improperly; and a low buffoonery and a dull species of punning pervade the two volumes. Yet we will not dwell on this defect. Those who allow that we may "laugh and be wise" must not be captious in their censure of that mode of information which prefers not only wit to judgement, but humour to wit. Mr. Dibdin's "Metrical History of England," in a word, is an amplification of the well-known "Chapter of Kings:" but it is something more. From Andrews, and from other collectors of anecdotes, he has compiled a very amusing miscellany of historical narrative; and if he sometimes indulges in too broad a grin, and on other occasions writes neither sense nor English, yet on the whole he conveys much instruction to the boyish reader in a very lively manner.