1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William King

Isaac D'Israeli, in Quarrels of Authors (1814) 73-76.



The new species of literary burlesque which KING seems to have invented, consists in selecting the very expressions and absurd passages from the original he ridiculed; and framing out of them a droll dialogue or a grotesque narrative, he adroitly inserted his own remarks, replete with the keenest irony, or the driest sarcasm. Our arch Wag says, "The bulls and blunders which SLOANE and his friends so naturally pour forth cannot be misrepresented, so careful I am in producing them." KING still moves the risible muscles of his readers. The Voyage to Cajamai, a travestie of SLOANE's valuable History of Jamaica, is still a peculiar piece of humour; and it has been rightly distinguished as "one of the severest and merriest satires that ever was written in prose." The author might indeed have blushed at the labour bestowed on these drolleries; and he might have dreaded that, humour so voluminous, might grow tedious; but KING, often with a LUCIANIC spirit, with flashes of RABELAIS, and not seldom with the causticity of his friend SWIFT, dissipated life in literary idleness, with parodies and travesties on most of his contemporaries; and he made these little things often more exquisite, at the cost of consuming on them a genius capable of better. A Parodist, or a Burlesquer, is a wit who is perpetually on the watch to catch up, or to disguise, an author's words; to swell out his defects, and pick up on his blunders — to amuse the public! KING was a wit, who lived on the highway of Literature, appropriating, for his own purpose, the property of the greatest passengers, by a dextrous mode no other had hit on. What an important lesson the labours of KING offer to real genius! Their temporary humour has become like a paralytic limb, which refusing to do its office, only impedes the action of the vital members.