1753 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Lauder

Anonymous, in Cibber-Shiels, in Lives of the Poets (1753) 2:130-31.



Had Mr. Lauder pursued his plan of disclosing Milton's resources, and tracing his steps through the vast tracts of erudition that our author travelled, with candour and dispassionateness, the design would have been noble and useful; he then would have produced authors into light who were before unknown; have recommended sacred poetry, and it would have been extreamly pleasing to have followed Milton over all his classic ground, and seen where the noblest genius of the world thought proper to pluck a flower, and by what art he was able to rear upon the foundation of nature so magnificent, so astonishing a fabric: but in place of that, Mr. Lauder suffers himself to be overcome by his passion, and instead of tracing him as a man of taste, and extensive reading, he hunts him like a malefactor, and seems to be determined on his execution.

Mr. Lauder could never separate the idea of the author of Paradise Lost, and the enemy of King Charles. Lauder has great reading, but greater ill nature and Mr. Douglas has shewn how much his evidence is invalidated by some interpolations which Lauder has since owned. It is pity so much classical knowledge should have been thus prostituted by Lauder, which might have been of service to his country; but party-zeal seldom knows any bounds. The ingenious Moses Brown, speaking of this man's furious attack upon Milton, has the following pretty stanza.

The Owl will hoot that cannot sing,
Spite will displume the muse's wing,
Tho' Phoebus self applaud her;
Still Homer bleeds in Zoilus' page
A Virgil 'scaped not the Maevius' rage,
And Milton has his Lauder.

But if Lauder is hot and furious, his passion soon subsides. Upon hearing that the granddaughter of Milton was living, in an obscure situation in Shoreditch, he readily embraced the opportunity, in his postscript, of recommending her to the public favour; upon which, some gentlemen affected with the singularity of the circumstance, and ashamed that our country should suffer the granddaughter of one from whom it derives its most lasting and brightest honour, to languish neglected, procured Milton's Comus to be performed for her benefit at Drury Lane, on the 5th of April, 1750.