1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Isaac Watts

Thomas Campbell, in Specimens of the British Poets (1819; 1845) 411.



Dr. Watts's devotional poetry was for the most part intentionally lowered to the understanding of children. If this was a sacrifice of taste, it was at least made to the best of intentions. The sense and sincerity of his prose writings, the excellent method in which he attempted to connect the study of ancient logic with common sense, and the conciliatory manner in which he allures the youthful mind to habits of study and reflection, are probably remembered with gratitude by nine out of ten, who have had proper books put into their hands at an early period of their education. Of this description was not poor old Percival Stockdale, who in one of his lucubrations gives our author the appellation of "Mother Watts." The nickname would not be worth mentioning if it did not suggest a compassionate reflection on the difference between the useful life and labours of Dr. Watts, and the utterly useless and wasted existence of Percival Stockdale. It might have been happy for the frail intellects of that unfortunate man, if they had been braced and rectified in his youth by such works as Watts's Logic and Improvement of the Mind. The study of them might possibly have saved even him from a life of vanity, vexation, and oblivion.