1800 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Christopher Smart

Thomas Dermody, in "Notice of Delacour" 1800 ca.; Raymond, Life of Thomas Dermody (1806) 2:272-73.



When expatiating on the productions of a poetic mind while labouring under the horrors of actual derangement, I cannot pass in silence the disastrous fate of Christopher Smart. Who that has perused his prize-essays on the Attributes of the Deity (scarcely inferior to the hymns of the Divinity's own minstrel, the divine Milton); his picturesque description of the hop-garden; or his Hilliad, a most admirable burlesque on sir John Hill, the botanist, and editor of the Inspector; but must deplore the melancholy destruction of such combined erudition and talent? Who could imagine that such a person would allow his name to an insipid prose translation of Horace; or degrade his fame by a metrical version of Phaedrus, unworthy of a school-boy's pen? While in confinement for his malady, he likewise versified the Book of Psalms; and it is remarkable that though many illustrious writers have chosen that task, none succeeded much better than Sternhold and Hopkins, whose tuneful excellence may rest in peace without any injury to their palms of honour.