1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. John Armstrong

John Aikin, in Letters to a Young Lady (1806) 147-48.



The Art of Preserving Health, by Dr. ARMSTRONG, is, in my opinion, a poem of a much superior rank [to John Philips's Cyder]. Its subject will, perhaps at first view, seem to you too professional, and you may feel as little inclination to study physic in verse as in prose. But the author is in this work more of a poet than of a physician, and you may be assured that his purpose was not to lay open to the uninitiated the mysteries of his art. In the view he takes of his subject, it is connected with the grand system of the animal economy, both corporal and mental. The heads under which he arranges he matter will give you an idea of the variety of entertainment you may expect: they are, Air, Diet, Exercise, and the Passions. Of these, three at least are manifestly fertile of poetical imagery, and sufficiently detached from technical discussions. Armstrong was well qualified to make use of his advantages: he conceived strongly, and expressed himself with vigour Sometimes, indeed, his strength is allied to coarseness, and more delicacy in avoiding subjects of disgust would have been desirable: yet the mixture of this kind is not considerable; and upon the whole, he has presented a succession of images which agreeably affect the imagination.