1850 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Jackson Pratt

John Britton, in Autobiography (1850) 1:114-15.



At the house of this new and respected friend [William Fordyce Mavor] I was introduced to MR. S. J. PRATT, who had lately published the popular novel, called Family Secrets, Literary and Domestic, in 5 vols.; also A Letter to the British Soldiers; and another to The Tars of Old England. These, with many other works, had rendered the name of this author eminent amongst a large class of readers of novels and poetry, and imposing to a literary novitiate. I therefore felt proud and happy to be admitted to the familiar converse of two such stars in the literary hemisphere. Thenceforward I continued on friendly terms with both, personal and by letter, as long as they lived. Pratt was then preparing his poem of Bread, or the Poor, 4to., which attained much praise in the periodicals of that age, and was afterwards republished with beautiful illustrations from the effective designs of Loutherbourg. At that time he had commenced writing his Gleanings in England, a work which was published in 3 vols. 8vo., and excited much popularity, as may be inferred by a third edition being required in little more than three years. From the time I thus met Mr. Pratt, till his decease in 1814, he continued to write for the press, and produced many volumes both in prose and verse, some of which passed through several editions. They are, however, scarcely known to the readers of the present day, and would not be tolerated, or certainly not sold to any great extent, if printed; for they are so prolix and attenuated, so verbose and artificial, that the critical reader suspects the truthfulness of every statement, and the honesty and sincerity of every sentiment. The private as well as the literary character of Mr. Pratt has been strongly drawn by Miss Seward, in a letter to the Rev. R. Polwhele, and published in the Traditions and Recollections of the last author, 2 vols. 8vo. 1826. Her story of him shows that he was heartless, artificial, vain, false, arrogant, cruel, a cheat, and an imposter through life.