1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Charles Churchill

Robert Southey, in Review of Chalmers's English Poets; Quarterly Review 11 (July 1814) 488-89.



The editor bestows due commendation upon the powers of Churchill, wasted as they were upon worthless subjects, and comments with not undeserved severity upon the errors and vices of the poet. Yet it is not in a tone of unmitigated censure that the life of this extraordinary man should be written. To one who died in his thirty-fourth year something may be allowed on the score of hot youth, unsubdued passions, and principles which were rather unsettled than depraved. It ought also to have been remembered that he was not without some redeeming virtues, that he had an open heart and a liberal hand, and was as steady as he was ardent in his friendships. Temporary as were the topics upon which he squandered himself, and wicked as was the malignity of his personal satire, the general strain is of that character which, now that all party and personal feelings are gone by, elevates the reader by its manliness and generous spirit. This it is which, like spice in a mummy, has preserved, and will continue to preserve his works from the dissolution to which the subject would otherwise have hastened. The life of such a man should be written in the spirit of philosophy: it is not difficult to trace the self-delusions by which he was misled, and the lesson which such a life holds out would be most impressive, when expressed with most charity for one who deserves compassion even more than condemnation