1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. John Aikin

Anonymous, Review of Aikin, Select Works of the British Poets; Monthly Review NS 97 (March 1822) 328.



We know not whether our readers have ever experienced the same feeling, but to us it is a very great relief, after having "taken our fulness" of the modern poets, to recur to the old standard-writers who were the favourites of our youthful days. We are contented with a perusal or two of Childe Harold, and with again glancing over Moore's beautiful songs: but to Spenser, and Milton, and Dryden, and Pope, we perpetually turn as to the high models of our poetic taste. It has been too much the fashion of late years to study the great art of poetry only in the productions of modern bards; and, while their names are mentioned with all reverence, to neglect the cultivation of our older writers. We have therefore noticed with pleasure the appearance of a compilation, which places before us the best portions of our best poets in a very accessible form; and in the selection of which we have the benefit of the sound taste, and critical abilities, of a gentleman so long and so usefully known to the world of letters as Dr. Aikin. The plan of the present volume is both comprehensive and judicious; containing, as it does, a chronological series of our classical poets from Ben Jonson to Beattie, without mutilation or abridgement, enriched with biographical and critical notices of the authors. It is certainly a great improvement not to subject the poems to the caprice of the compiler, but to give them in an entire state; and the biographical prefaces are executed in a very neat and perspicuous manner.