1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Ogilvie

Joseph Robertson, in Lives of the Scottish Poets (1822) 3:137-38.



In speaking of the literary character of Dr. Ogilvie, the first thing that must strike every one is the vast disparity between the quantity he has written and the degree of celebrity which he has acquired. The name is scarcely known in poetry, and in prose still less; notwithstanding the pile of volumes which attests the pains taken to raise it into notice.

It is difficult to imagine, that while a Beattie, a Reid, a Blacklock, have obtained their due meed of praise, such neglect could have been the portion of genius deserving of a better fate. It is unquestionably true, however, that Ogilvie was a man of very great genius, and that his works shew it. Are the public then to blame, that they have suffered them to fall into such obscurity? This it would be vain to affirm, unless it could be accompanied with some hope of seeing them yet read, of which it must be confessed there is no hope. The truth is, that the public were not to blame. Ogilvie, with powers far above the common order, did not know how to use them with effect. He was an able man, lost. His intellectual wealth and industry were wasted in huge and unhappy speculations. Of all his books, there is not one which, as a whole, can be expected to please the general reader. Noble sentiments, brilliant conceptions, and poetic graces, may be culled in profusion from the mass; but there is no one production in which they so predominate (if we except some of his minor pieces) as to induce it to be selected for a happier fate than the rest. Had the same talent which Ogilvie threw away on a number of objects been concentrated on one, and that one chosen with judgement and taste, he might have rivalled in popularity the most renowned of his contemporaries.