1894 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Dodsley

Austin Dobson, in "At Tully's Head" in Eighteenth-Century Vignettes 2 (1894; 1937) 2:48-49.



His reputation as an author is not now very high, and indeed, when allowance is made for the adventitious interest which attached to his first efforts, little remains to him but the merits of facility and industry. He himself doubted Johnson's comparison of Cleone with the masterpieces of Otway; and we can no longer verify that comparison where alone it could be verified effectively, since both Dodsley and the author of Venice Preserv'd, if they are not absolutely forgotten, have long ceased to be acted. As a verse-man he fails to follow Prior; but he vindicated, in a tolerable epigram, the fame of Prior against the sneer of Gilbert Burnet, while in the little song beginning "One kind kiss before we part," he has the infinitesimal distinction of recalling, by its first line, the "Ae fond kiss, and then we sever" of Burns. But — for all that he figures in the collections of Chalmers and Anderson — he is more eminent in his business than in his literary capacity. The man who, of our time, should produce the works of the leading poets, philosophers, fine gentlemen (if there were any), historians, and critics, and also contrive to acquire their esteem and affection, would certainly be entitled to rank as a remarkable personage. In such relations stood Robert Dodsley to the chief authors of his day. Besides reprinting old plays and establishing the Annual Register, he published for Pope and Gray, for Johnson and Burke, for Spence and Warton, for Walpole and Chesterfield; — and none of them spoke ill of him. This is something; enough, it may be, to justify the dedication of these brief pages to his memory.