1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas James Mathias

William Henry Ireland, in Scribbleomania (1815) 96-99 & n.



In lieu of a pen, with a slaught'ring Pean mawl,
Mine eyes I next glance on Mathias's scrawl,
Who, of rancour possess'd, must all talents abuse,
Since one sea of gall his dark pages infuse;
While a rivulet narrow of poor stinted praise
Scarce sheds a pale gleam o'er his impotent lays.
Each scholar must grant thee true classical knowledge;
But to please, we want more than mere scraps from the college.
Thy notes, oft lugg'd in, to the purpose don't speak,
Being solely impress'd to quote Latin and Greek.
I feel, testy Sir, that, in daring thus write,
On my head I may draw down your virulent spite:
Still boldly I dare it, nor deign budge one jot O;
I speak as I think, sir, for candour's my motto:
And, in conning our volumes, the reader I'll swear
Will allow that my comments than yours are more fair.
As a Bard, if I scan you, your labour rehearses
But specimens few of satirical verses;
The charm that commanded your poem's quick sale
Was the vein of ill-nature that ran thro' your tale:
With petulance fraught, you assum'd wisdom's guise,
While invective alone met the cool critic's eyes,
Scurrility's banner — envelop'd in gloom,
You fain would have woven in Wit's sterling loom:
But, alas! sir, the rag, by your noddle unfurl'd,
Was a patch-work to please the mere gossiping world.
Now buried your labours, as you are forgot,
May such always prove of dark rancour the lot.

Mr. Mathias's Pursuits of Literature were purchased with avidity, not as I conceive from the work being so generally read and understood, but in consequence of the unvarying ill-nature which characterised its pages, and the fame which it acquired with a set of scholastic critics who haunt the shops of the Piccadilly publishers, and gave it celebrity as a most classical production. For my own part, I must confess this work did not appear to me as deserving of the encomiums lavished upon its style, particularly on reference to the poetry, which never struck me as being above a certain degree of mediocrity; but when the candour of its decisions are examined, no man can regard the Pursuits of Literature but as a vehicle of the most unprovoked abuse, and rancorous ill-nature. Every individual who publishes certainly lays himself open to criticism; but where the wound can be healed with a salve, there is no need to apply the amputating knife: this, however, was not the opinion of Mr. Mathias, who perhaps indulged in such strictures, conceiving them mere badinage; but I would reply, in answer to a supposition of this nature, Tolle jocos — non est jocus esse malignum. Away with such jests — there is no jest in being malignant.