1789 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Sargent

Anna Seward to T. S. Whalley, 10 April 1789; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 2:259.



My acquaintance, Mr. Sargent, has lately reprinted his Mine, with two additional odes. The first, the Vision of Stone-Henge, we should think sublime, if it were possible to forget Gray's Welch Bard; but servilely imitative, yet, strikingly inferior, we are inclined to quarrel with it. The second ode, Mary Queen of Scots, has much charm for the imagination, and interest for the heart; and, though we find the author there a little too much in debt to Gray, and with high obligations to Ossian, yet has it three or four pictures as original as they are sublime.

There is fine use made of the Ossianic machinery; but you, as well as myself, will quarrel with the disingenuous note upon the very finest passage in the ode, speaking, as it does, with a degree of contempt, of the source whence the author has drawn its sublimity, and containing an insinuation against the originality of Ossian. It is impolitic, as well as disgraceful to his sensibility, which ought to furnish internal evidence of originality, powerful enough to do away all the testimony which Macpherson's disingenuous pretences have thrown into the opposite scale.