1785 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Scott of Amwell

John Hoole, in Life of John Scott of Amwell; Scott, Critical Essays (1785) lxvi-lxviii.



Mr. Scott had often professed himself a great admirer of the critical and poetical abilities of the the Wartons, and had long desired to be known to the learned and elegant author of the Essay on Pope. His literary opinions had always nearly coincided with those of the two brothers, and about Christmas 1781, I had the pleasure of introducing him to Dr. Warton, and the Rev. Mr. Thomas Warton.

The Doctor was much struck with the unaffected frankness and amiable simplicity that appeared in the conversation of my friend Scott, who was highly pleased with this interview, and expressed the warmest wishes to cultivate that acquaintance, which the Doctor and his brother seemed no less desirous to improve. We parted, but, alas! we parted to meet no more.

In the spring of 1782, he published his long projected volume of poetry. His mind had been very anxious for the success of this publication; he had spared no pains to render the pieces that were to compose it as correct as possible; and the volume was elegantly decorated with a number of engravings.

The greater part of Scott's poems are turned on rural imagery, in which it will be found that his principal merit is novelty in description, and a laudable endeavour to introduce an occasional simplicity of stile, perhaps too much rejected by the present fastidious readers of poetry. He was certainly no servile copyist of the thoughts of others: for living in the country, and being a close and accurate observer, he painted what he saw, though he must unavoidably sometimes fall on ideas and expressions common to all pastoral writers. He cultivated the knowledge of natural history and botany, which enabled him to preserve the truth of nature with many discriminating touches, perhaps not excelled by any descriptive poet since the days of Thomson.