1747 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

David Mallet

William Collins?, in "The Essential Excellencies in Poetry" The Museum: or the Literary and Historical Register 3 (1747) 285-86.



The last new Poem that has made such an Impression on me, is the HERMIT [Amyntor and Theodora], which, I have heard, is the Work of the ingenious Mr. Mallet. In this Poem, there is not only Elegance and Variety, fine Sentiments and lofty Expression, but the essential Qualities of a Poet indisputably appear. His Imagination is not only warm and sprightly, but pregnant and sublime; his Pictures are equally majestic and striking; they are, in themselves, great and noble, and they are executed with a Force equal to the Height and Dignity of the Design. Hence it is that we see, in his Performance, that great Poetic Perfection which is at once so excellent and so rare; I mean, the rendering satisfactory and pleasing those Images which, in their own Nature, are apt to affect the Mind in a very different manner. The little barren Island of St. KILDA, which, in the Prose Description of a very accurate and sensible Author, makes but a very indifferent, though at the same time a new and strange Figure, as it is described by him, appears not only surprizing, but that Surprize is also accompanied with Pleasure. It appears the natural Scene of that affecting Story, which is the Subject of his Poem, and is so united therewith, that we cannot help seeing the whole at one View, and retaining, after one has read the Piece, a clear and distinct Notion, and, which is more, a pleasant and satisfactory Remembrance of a Place that, otherwise, would be thought scarce worthy of finding Room in our Memory, or if retained there, must owe its Station to its Singularity. But such is the Force of Poesy, such the Power of a great Genius, that even Nature is changed and heightened in his Hands, and the smallest Things become considerable, if he thinks fit to celebrate or describe them; ITHACA, in that case, becomes as well known as the finest Island of Greece, and KILDA, the smallest of the British Isles, is consecrated, by a like Genius, to Immortality.