1803 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Cumberland

Robert Southey to G. C. Bedford, 12 June 1803; Life and Correspondence (1849-50) 2:214-15.



If Cumberland must have a Greek name, there is but one that fits him — Aristophanes — and that for the worst part of his character. If his plays had any honest principle in them, instead of that eternal substitution of honour for honesty, of a shadow for a substance — if his novels were not more profligate in their tendency than Matthew Lewis's unhappy book — if the perusal of his Calvary were not a cross heavy enough for any man to bear who has ever read ten lines of Milton — if any man were innocent of all these things, he ought never to be forgiven for his attempt to blast the character of Socrates. Right or wrong, no matter, the name had been canonized, and, God knows, wisdom and virtue have not so many saints that they can spare an altar to his clumsy pickaxe. I am no blind bigot to the Greeks, but I will take the words of Plato and greater Xenophon against Richard Cumberland, Esq.