1789 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Wilkie

James Beattie to Robert Arbuthnot, 12 December 1789; Forbes, Life and Writings of James Beattie (1806) 2:251.



I remember that Dr. Hurd speaks somewhere of somebody who had projected an epic poem of the ancient and legitimate form; but I know not whom he meant. I have heard Dr. [John] Brown guessed to be the person; but he was by no means equal to the task; nor has either this age or the last produced a genius equal to it, except Mr. Gray. Pope himself would have failed if he had persisted in his epic project. He would undoubtedly have made something superior to the Leonidas, the Epigoniad, the Henriade, &c. but with Homer, Virgil, and Milton, he could no more cope, than "I with Hercules."