1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. Hugh Downman

Margaret Oliphant, in The Literary History of England (1882) 2:376-77.



Exeter, like Lichfield, was full of gentlemen who could all compose agreeable verses, the chief among them being Dr. Downman, "a poet and physician, and the best of men." The names of Hole and Hayter say little to posterity, and of all the group the only well-known name is that of the composer [William] Jackson, who was also, according to Lord Beaconsfield [Benjamin Disraeli], "an author of high aesthetical speculation." "It was said," the same authority adds, "that the two principal if not sole organs of periodical criticism at that time, I think the Critical Review and the Monthly Review, were principally supported by Exeter contributions." It is not usual nowadays to find a little local school of letters in every country town, and society is no longer parcelled out into pieces, but hangs together from one centre in a way perhaps more complete but not so picturesque as of old; but it is curious to find starting up about us, as we pursue our investigations, another and long-forgotten circle, all conscious of excellence, and many perhaps looking for nothing less than immortality.