1813 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Roscoe

Maria Edgeworth to Mrs. Ruxton, 6 April 1813; Life and Letters, ed. Hare (1895) 1:204-06.



Liverpool is very fine and very grand, and my father soon found out Mr. Roscoe; he was so good as to come to see us, and invited us to his house, Allerton Hall, about seven miles from Liverpool. He is a benevolent, cheerful, gentlemanlike old man; tall, neither thin nor fat, thick gray hair. He is very like the prints you have seen of him; his bow courteous, not courtly; his manner frank and prepossessing, without pretension of any kind. He enters into conversation readily, and immediately tells something entertaining or interesting, seeming to follow the natural course of his own thoughts, or of yours, without effort. Mrs. Roscoe seems to adore her husband, and to be so fond of her children, and has such a good understanding and such a warm heart, it is impossible not to like her. Mr. Roscoe gave himself up to us the whole day.... At dinner Darwin's poetry was mentioned, and Mr. Roscoe neither ran him down nor cried him up. He said exactly the truth, that he was misled by a false theory of poetry — that everything should be picture — and that therefore he has not taken the means to touch the feelings; and Mr. Roscoe made what seemed to me a new and just observation, that writers of secondary powers, when they are to represent either objects of nature or feelings of the human mind, always begin by a simile; they tell you what it is like, not what it is.