1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Adam Smith

John Wilson, et. al., in Blackwood's Magazine (April 1827); Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 3:272-73.



NORTH. Mr. Wordsworth, nettled by the Edinburgh Review, speaks, in a note to a Lyrical Ballad, of "Adam Smith as the worst critic, David Hume excepted, that Scotland, a soil favourable to that species of weed, ever produced." Now Adam Smith was perhaps the greatest political economist the world has yet produced — Ricardo excepted, and one of the greatest moralists, — I do not know whom to except. Witness his Wealth of Nations, and Theory of Moral Sentiments. But he was not a critic at all, nor pretended to be one, James, and therefore Mr. Wordsworth had no right to include him in that class. He may have occasionally uttered sentiments about poetry (where authentically recorded?) with which Mr. Wordsworth may not sympathize; and I am most willing to allow that Mr. Wordsworth being himself a great poet, knows far more about it than Father Adam. But 'tis childish, and contemptible, in a great man like Mr. Wordsworth, to give vent to his spleen towards a man, in many things as much his superior as in others he was inferior; and erroneous as some of Adam Smith's vaguely and inaccurately reported opinions on poetry may be, not one of them, I will venture to say, was ever half so silly and so senseless as this splenetic note of the Great Laker.

SHEPHERD. Wordsworth canna thole any thing Scotch — no even me and the Queen's Wake.

NORTH. He's greatly to be pitied for his narrow and anti-poetical prejudices against "braid," and poetical Scotland, "and stately Edinborough, throned on crags!" Why, James, we have the highest authority, you know, for calling ourselves a nation of gentlemen.

SHEPHERD. We didna need a king to speak nonsense about us, to mak us proud. Pride and Poverty are twuns.