1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Congreve

John Aikin, in Letters to a Young Lady (1806) 252-53.



About the same period there were two dramatic writers of great eminence, CONGREVE and ROWE, the first in comedy, and the second in tragedy; who, besides, obtained reputation in other kinds of poetry, and are received among the English poets. Yet they are now little read in that capacity, and only a few of their compositions deserve attention. If Dr. Johnson's sentence be just, that Congreve's miscellaneous pieces "show little wit and little virtue," I should be wrong to recommend them at all to your perusal; and indeed the little that is good in them is scarcely worth the pains of selecting from the bad or indifferent. I may, however, just mention his Ode on Mrs. Arabella Hunt singing, which has something at least very like fine poetry, with a mixture of something equally like nonsense. The description of Silence personified, with its accompaniments, is carried much beyond the power of the most vigorous conception to follow.