1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Jackson Pratt

William Henry Ireland, in Scribbleomania (1815) 47-51 & n.



This poet is now, alas! equally insensible to censure and to praise. While this proof was passing through the press, I read the account of his death in the public papers, which took place on the 4th of October, near Birmingham. He was a man of genuine benevolence. His character as an author has been variously appreciated. And if any opinion of mine is worthy consideration, I most freely give it in his favour.

Long vers'd in the flights of Apollo, I hail
The feeling enditer of Sympathy's tale;
Whose versatile talent claims bays and the rod,
For Genius will often prove drowsy, and nod:
Since quantity cannot at all times rank ev'n,
The children of earth are no tenants of heaven;
Great Shakespeare himself from sublime could descend,
And bathos with pathos at intervals blend.
Time was, when, O Pratt! I beheld thee oft feast on
That vase far renown'd by the name of Bath Easton;
From whence 'twas thy fortune the bright bays to claim,
That rank'd thee a Poet deserving some fame;
Nor wou'd I for kingdoms that verdant sprig blight,
Wherewith fancy's hand had thy temples bedight:
Ne'ertheless, as before, I repeat — thy worn quill
Too often hath needed Apollo's sharp drill;
But he that for booksellers e'er hath been drudge,
For one flash of talent a twelvemonth must trudge:
Such truth I proclaim, to poor wretches that feed 'em,
Wou'd those that have bled were in turn doom'd to bleed 'em!

Public characters of every description, but more particularly those of a literary stamp, are peculiarly subject to the attacks of virulence and ill nature: it is therefore little to be wondered at that Mr. Pratt, in the progress of his long career, should have felt the lash of malice and ill nature. As I am far from desirous of interfering with the private characters of individuals, I shall refrain from adverting to any of these insidious attacks, and content myself with referring to the literary requisites of this author, which, however chequered by inequalities, are, upon the whole, far above mediocrity. Mr. Pratt has certainly indulged too much in the flimsy Della Cruscan style; nor do any compositions of that description display the real talent of this writer, who never pleases so much as when eliciting the unsophisticated effusions of the heart. He has been by far too exuberant in his encomiums upon individuals; and the frequency of this strain of eulogy has, in too many instances, prompted our author to become a plagiarist upon himself, by committing a poetical felo de se. With all his literary lapses, however, Mr. Pratt is, in many instances, deserving the meed of approbation. Neither have his efforts to procure relief for the suffering been unattended by success; although the most ill natured construction has been put upon this gentleman's motives for such humane interposition. As a specimen of Mr. Pratt's extempore, the subjoined lines are transcribed from the fly leaf of the first volume of his works, in volumes, presented to a friend.

As books, and of the lighter kind,
Are for your villa fam'd design'd;
By way of pastime to unbend,
Accept the volumes which I send.
When hawks, and hounds, and horses tire,
And winter heaps the Christmas fire,
My muse, to variegate your board,
Her tuneful banquet may afford:
Her labours shall memorials be
Of what the poet owes to Thee.