1808 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Charles Churchill

Walter Scott, in Life of Dryden (1808; 1834) 404-05.



Churchill—

Who, born for the universe, narrow'd his mind,

And to party gave up what was meant for mankind—

Churchill was one of the first to seek in the MacFlecknoe, the Absalom, and the Hind and Panther, authority for bitter and personal sarcasm, couched in masculine, though irregular versification, dashed from the pen without revision, and admitting occasional rude and flat passages, to afford the author a spring to comparative elevation. But imitation always approaches to caricature; and the powers of Churchill have been unable to protect him from the oblivion into which his poems are daily sinking, owing to the ephemeral interest of political subjects, and his indolent negligence of severe study and regularity. To imitate Dryden, it were well to study his merits, without venturing to adopt the negligence and harshness, which the hurry of his composition, and the comparable rudeness of his age, rendered in him excusable. At least, those who venture to sink as low, should be confident of the power of soaring as high; for surely it is a rash attempt to dive, unless in one conscious of ability to swim.