1780 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Ralph

Thomas Davies, in Life of Garrick (1780) 1:239-41.



Mr. Ralph had read a great deal, and was very conversant in the history and politics of this country. He applied himself, with great assiduity, to the study of all writings upon party matters; and had drawn together a prodigious number of pamphlets relating to the disputes between the two contending parties, the Whigs and the Tories. His Review of the Reign of Charles II. and James II. with his History of King William III. have been much and deservedly commended. But the author has taken effectual care to defeat the end he proposed, of making his work universally read. It is a book in two large volumes, which contains almost as many words as Thuanus's History. It is, indeed, a noble magazine for a future historian to consult; but to the general reader it is intolerably tedious and disgusting: the narrative is continually interrupted by a commentary three times as large as the text; the margin is all through loaded with extracts from a thousand pamphlets.

He has been called by some a great political writer; an honourable title, which no hireling of a party, a man who does not write from principle, but from pay, can possibly deserve. He was an excellent party-writer: and therefore he stands distinguished from many others of the same stamp, and especially from Oldmixon, an author paid by the Whigs, a man who had less knowledge than Ralph, and whose stile was equally petulant and mean. Mr. Ralph was, in his conversation, agreeable and instructive; and when not seized with an affected gravity and assumed importance, very entertaining. But he could never throw off entirely a certain formality, which he acquired, perhaps, from his first business of a school-master.