1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir James Bland Burges

Richard Cumberland, in Memoirs (1806; 1856) 377.



Whilst James Bland Burges inhabited the next house to mine, at Tunbridge Wells, I had ever an intimate and kind friend to resort to. He has always been a studious man, and his knowledge is very various; few men have read to better purpose, and fewer still can boast a more retentive memory, or a happier faculty of narrating what they can remember. The early part of his education he received in Scotland, and completed it at Westminster School under Doctor Smith; at the University he was the pupil of Sir William Scott; an opportunity that he has greatly profited by, and an honor that he is justly proud of. Upon his leaving Oxford he resided in the Temple, and devoted himself to the study of the law; since then he has served in Parliament, and filled an active and efficient post in public office; from both these duties he is now released, and, with a mind at leisure to pursue its natural bent, has commenced his literary career by devoting those talents, to which his country has no longer any counter-claim, to the more tranquil service of the Muse.

Reading has stored the mind of my friend with such a plenitude of matter, and nature has given him such a facility of expression, that his rapidity has hitherto been so great as hardly to allow fair leisure for his judgment of exert itself. The world, therefore, that has only seen his Richard Coeur de Lion (and in my humble opinion not yet sufficiently estimated the real merit of that extraordinary poem), has better things to expect from him, when his genius shall begin to feel the rein, and practice shall make him sensible that there is a labor as well as a luxury in composition. He is now concerned in a long and arduous work, too weighty to be moved by slight exertions, and too excursive to be circumscribed by rhyme. He must no longer caparison his Muse, as a Spaniard does his mule, and make her frisk along the road to the eternal jingle of her own bells.