1818 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Trumbull

William Cullen Bryant, in "Early American Verse" 1818; Prose Writings, ed. Godwin (1884) 1:49.



McFingal, the most popular of the writings of the former of these poets, first appeared in the year 1782. This pleasant satire on the adherents of Britain in those times may be pronounced a tolerably successful imitation of the great work of Butler, though, like every other imitation of that author, it wants that varied and inexhaustible fertility of allusion which made all subjects of thought, the lightest and most abstruse parts of learning — everything in the physical and mental world, in art and nature the playthings of his wit. The work of Trumbull cannot be much praised for the purity of its diction. Yet, perhaps, great scrupulousness in this particular was not consistent with the plan of the author, and, to give the scenes of this poem their full effect, it might have been thought necessary to adopt the familiar dialect of the country and the times. We think his Progress of Dulness a more pleasing poem, more finished and more perfect in its kind, and, though written in the same manner, more free from the constraint and servility of imitation. The graver poems of Trumbull contain more vigorous and animated declamation.