1763 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Hoole

James Beattie to Robert Arbuthnot, 12 December 1763; William Forbes, Life and Writings of James Beattie (1806) 1:67-68.



Since you left us, I have been reading Tasso's Jerusalem, in the translation lately published by Hoole. I was not a little anxious to peruse a poem which is so famous over all Europe, and has so often been mentioned as a rival to the Iliad, Aeneid, and Paradise Lost. It is certainly a noble work; and though it seems to me to be inferior to the three poems just mentioned, yet I cannot help thinking it in the rank next to these. As for the other modern attempts at the "Epopee," the Henriade of Voltaire, the Epigoniad of Wilkie, the Leonidas of Glover, not to mention the Arthur of Blackmore, they are not to be compared with it. Tasso possesses an exuberant and sublime imagination, though in exuberance it seems, in my opinion, inferior to our Spencer, and in sublimity to Milton. Were I to compare Milton's genius with Tasso's, I would say, that the sublime of the latter is flashy and fluctuating, while that of the former diffuses an uniform, steady, and vigorous blaze: Milton is more majestic, Tasso more dazzling.