1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Isaac Watts

Robert Southey, in Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807) 2:96.



A man of learning, of piety, and of genius. In his latter days he changed his sentiments concerning the Trinity. It is said of Johnson, I know not on what authority, that when a Lady in dispute with him upon the subject, observed that Dr. Watts opened his eyes when he died, — did he Madam? he answered, — then the first thing he saw was the Devil. The reply is to be imputed more to his wit than his intolerance. Watts was included in the first edition of the Dunciad for his version of the Psalms. As Pope professed to satirize none but those who attacked him, Watts observed to Richardson the painter, that he had given no provocation, and his name was accordingly omitted. Some absurdities and many beauties might be collected from his Poems. He has the rare merit of being seldom dull; and except where he has purposely stooped to the capacity of children for the best and most praiseworthy motives, he usually displays a skilful ear and an active fancy, a mind well-stored with knowledge, and a heart full of piety and goodness.