1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Cumberland

George Hardinge to William Mudford, 15 November 1812; Nichols, Illustrations of the Literary History of the XVIII Century (1817-58) 3:821.



I knew Mr. Cumberland enough to form a tolerably accurate measure of him. He caught at feathers in praise, whether genuine or counterfeited, with a simplicity of self-love unexampled. But of all the sensitive plants I ever knew of a human form he was the most irritable to ridicule, if unequivocally expressed. I have seen him at a moment, in the midst of pathetic gentleness, and the most gracefully endearing philanthropies, changed by a retort courteous, but a little too keen for his nerves, into the most ill-bred and captious of all spoilt children, just like a peevish girl. You have drawn him to the life, and with a candour between two extremes, which I have seldom found in a modern painter of character, who is either on the one hand a dispenser of universal beauty, like the gallant Sir Peter Lely, or as dark as a Caravaggio and Spagnolet. He appeared always to me, though a very ingenious man, the most open to ridicule of any human creature; but the most prominent of all temptations which he gave to it was in his military character. His Works are not familiar to me, except such of his Plays (three) as I have seen acted, his two first Novels, and his Life written by himself. These five compositions gave to my superficial but unassuming judgment, a high impression of his dramatic powers, for dramatic they all of them are. But the last of them, his Life, struck me as the best for effect, though I have indulged a written laugh at the expence of it.