1795 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard West

Robert Anderson, in Works of the British Poets (1795) 10:250.



On his character, which appears to have been truly amiable and excellent, it is unnecessary to enlarge. The reader will acquire the best idea of it, if, after perusing his poems, he use his own memory as a mirror, and collect into one assemblage the scattered features.

As a poet, it is sufficient praise, that the "blossoms of genius" were thought worthy of being associated with the correct and manly performances of Gray. They show what he would have been, if he had been allowed, like him, to produce "fruits worthy of Paradise." He resembles Gray in many instances. Among others, they were both deeply enamoured with the excellencies of ancient literature, and strongly attached to the cultivation of Latin poetry. Their Latin poems discover an extraordinary copiousness and command of phraseology, a remarkable perspicuity of contexture, and a native felicity and fluency. They may be justly considered as legitimate classical compositions. In his elegies, Tibullus was professedly West's model for language and versification. With Tibullus in view, he has, however, a manner and character of his own, and shows inherent powers of invention and sentiment. In his English Poetry, he discovers taste and delicacy of sentiment, joined to a great share of poetical imagination.  His images are pleasing, his language chaste and elegant, and his versification correct and harmonious. The epistle Ad Amicus, is characterised by that nervous and eloquent simplicity which appears so easy, and which is yet so difficult to imitate. It unites the spirit and propriety of Pope's versification, with the elegance and harmony of Parnell. The Ode to May has not received from Gray more praise than it deserves. It is an extraordinary effort of fancy, expression, and versification. It is characterised by energy and melody in the highest degree, and may be justly considered as the choicest specimen of classical composition that English poetry can produce.