1760 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Hawkins of Oxford

Anonymous, in Review of A Review of the Works of the Rev. Mr. W. Hawkins, late Professor of Poetry in the University of Oxford; The Critical Review 9 (March 1760) 214-15.



The present review of the works of Mr. Hawkins is supposed to be written by a friend; but when we come to examine the performance, this friend appears pretty plainly to be no other than Mr. Hawkins himself. It seems his works, in three volumes, had passed in review before us in our critical capacity some months ago, and we thought them but indifferent; they paraded it a second time, before the profound authors of the Monthly Review, and they thought them indifferent; they solicited the public attention to the usual methods of publication, and if we may judge by the success, they also were thought but indifferent; so many witnesses in one story would probably have convinced any reasonable being of his own mediocrity. Mr. H. however, was not to be convinced; he has undertaken to review his own writings; has published a comment that almost no body will read, upon writings that almost no body has read; has survey'd himself on all sides, and thinks himself on every side invulnerable. "O te balane celebri felicm fecerunt divi."

A man who reviews his own works is indeed a curiosity, and the reader is undoubtedly impatient to hear in what manner he treats himself. Our reviewer therefore sets off with informing us, "That he is apt to think the candid and judicious reader will acknowledge his stile, whether Latin or English, in verse or in prose, to be pure, easy, fluent, manly, and elegant. It is sometimes perhaps too voluble and diffusive, but, I think, seldom so as to be perplexed and unintelligible. In short, I presume, in this respect, Mr. H.'s Miscellanies are fit to lie upon the same shelf with the works of the most celebrated modern writers, either in our own or the Latin tongue. — It will be but justice to our author to add, that he sufficiently sustains the compound character both of a verse and prose writer; the merits of each are as distinct as may be; nor does the one seem be the whit the worse for the other." The reader now sees the great difference between us and this gentleman; he is for putting his own works upon the same shelf with Milton and Shakespeare, and we are for allowing him an inferior situation; he would have the same reader that commends Addison's delicacy to talk with raptures of the purity of Hawkins; and he who praises the Rape of the Lock to speak with equal feelings of that richest of all poems, Mr. Hawkins's THIMBLE.

But we, alas! cannot speak of Mr. H. with the same unrestrained share of panegyric that he does of himself; and tho' we despise the crowd upon other occasions, yet we must join them in this instance, and leave this gentleman to his self-applauding singularity. We allowed him, indeed, some small share of merit in a former article; and this is most certain, that whatever he may say of our partiality, or our malevolence, the manner in which his works were treated then, betrayed neither; but bore a greater share of indulgence than our duty to the public should, in strict justice, have permitted. In whatever places we were good-natured enough to make no objections, this gentleman has imagined we had nothing to object: we passed over the merits of his stile in silence, and he has though proper to regard this as a symptom of malevolence, which was in reality the strongest instance of our moderation.

After he has sufficiently "bedunced" us through several pages, he at last has the tenderness to answer to our particular objection, and that with sufficient prolixity. In this dispute, he at least has the advantage of being as tedious as he thinks proper, because he seems no way solicitous about trespassing on the reader's patience. We must, on the other hand, study conciseness, because we write in order to be read.