1816 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Cumberland

John Neal, in "Life of Richard Cumberland" in The Portico [Baltimore] 2 (July 1816) 26-27.



Cumberland is an eminent example of the mischievous influence of this contrariety between the instrinsick qualities and predominant passion of the mind; between its desire to be distinguished, and its capacity to produce such supreme beauty as would entitle it to indisputable fame. Misled by the consciousness of the former, he never could be brought to the slightest suspicion of the deficiency of the latter, but bewailed the malice of his enemies, and pitied the insensibility of the age. The decree of criticism he considered as the verdict of envy; the neglect of the world was the persecution of malevolence; and he consoled his disappointment, and soothed his pride, by referring the question to a future age, and looking to posterity for the just measure of his well earned renown. Nor was his judgment singular or unsupported. The world was partly divided on the opinion of his powers; and many who could not perceive the features of a stupendous genius imprinted on the face of his works, were disposed, from charity, good nature, or temporary admiration, to yield him the applause of an expansive mind, and a fruitful invention; whose thoughts were comprehensive, and whose fancy was brilliant; who possessed an uncommon mass of knowledge, vivified by a sprightly genius, that could give it the shape of beauty, array it in the colours of eloquence, and stamp it with the attributes of perfection.