1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Lauder

Alexander Campbell, in Introduction to the History of Poetry in Scotland (1798) 281.



I am often moved, by turns, to smile at the silly attempts of some, and execrate the bold attempts of others, on the works of a Shakespeare, or a Milton. Is it of any moment, if an original and great genius happening to hit on the same train of thought, with either an ancient, or a modern, or a contemporary should express himself in a similar manner? Yet, how often do we see much pains wasted, in tracing resemblances, and calling them plagiarisms, or imitations. Thus Lauder exposed himself. Had he been content to shew that Ramsay and Milton, in treating the same subject, had fallen in many similar passages, on very similar modes of expression, and shewn a remarkable coincidence in both these respects, there had been nothing unfair in all this; but to mix truth with falsehood, is the peculiar art of all detractors, and such as wriggle into notice, by traducing merit, and blighting the reputation of matchless excellence.