1821 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Gray

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 21 April 1821; Table Talk (1884) 301.



As we walked up Mr. Cambridge's meadows towards Twickenham, he [Coleridge] criticized Johnson and Gray as poets, and did not seem to allow them high merit. The excellence of verse, he said, was to be untranslatable into any other words without detriment to the beauty of the passage; — the position of a single word could not be altered in Milton without injury. Gray's personifications, he said, were mere printer's devils' personifications — persons with a capital letter, abstract qualities with a small one. He thought Collins had more genius than Gray, who was a singular instance of a man of taste, poetic feeling, and fancy, without imagination.