1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Roscoe

Thomas James Mathias, in Pursuits of Literature (1798) 184-85 & n.



But hark, what solemn strains from Arno's vales
Breathe raptures wafted on the Tuscan gales!
LORENZO rears again his awful head,
And feels his ancient glories round him spread;
The Muses starting from their trance revive,
And at the ROSCOE'S bidding, wake and live.

See The Life of Lorenzo de Medici, called the Magnificent, by William Roscoe, 2 vols. 4to. I cannot but congratulate the publick upon this great and important addition to Classical History, which I regard as a phaenomenon in Literature, in every point of view. It is pleasant to consider a gentleman, not under the auspices of an university, or beneath the shelter of academick bowers, but in the practice of the law and business of great extent, and resident in a remote commercial town, where nothing is heard of but Guinea ships, slaves, blacks, and merchandise, in the town of Liverpool; investigating and describing the rise and progress of every polite art in Italy at the revival of learning with acuteness, depth, and precision; with the spirit of the poet, and the solidity of the historian. It is pleasant to consider this. For my own part, I have not terms sufficient to express my admiration of his genius and erudition, or my gratitude for the amusement and information I have received. I may add, that the manner in which Mr. Roscoe procured, from the libraries at Florence, many of the various inedited manuscripts with which he has enriched the appendix to his history, was singularly curious: not from a Fellow or Traveller of the Dilitanti, but from a commercial man in the intervals of his employment. I shall not violate the dignity of the work by slight objections to some modes of expression, or to a few words, or to some occasional sentiments in the Historian of a Republick. But I recommend it to our country as a work of unquestionable genius, and of uncommon merit. It adds the name of ROSCOE to the very first rank of English classical Historians.