1851 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. Erasmus Darwin

David Macbeth Moir, in Sketches of the Poetical Literature of the Past Half-Century (1851; 1856) 16.



The parts of Darwin's writings worthy of admiration (and the finer portions are well worthy of it) are, without an exception that strikes me, only those passages which are subsidiary to the main objects of his poetry, and introduced by way of apostrophe or illustration. We do not think of the Digitalis purpurea, but of philanthropy and Howard; we do not think of the embryo seeds, but of Hershel and the starry firmament; not of the Carline thistle, but of the ascent of Montgolfier; not of the Orchis, but of Eliza and the battle of Minden; not of the vegetable poisons, but of the desolation of Palmyra. Incongruity, instead of being disclaimed by, seems a favourite axiom of Darwin and his school — subjects hopelessly prosaic being artificially stilted into eminence, and loaded with epithet and embellishment.