1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Merry

Robert Southey, in Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807) 3:445-46.



The career of Della Crusca will form a curious chapter in literary history. We have seen other writers obtain as sudden reputations, by gratifying the common itch for calumny; or by addressing themselves to the vilest and basest passions of our nature; but never, perhaps, did one who wrote to the ear, and to the ear only, obtain such rapid and such extensive success. Lady-Poets, and Gentlemen-Poets out of number became his imitators, and ranted and languished in publick correspondences with him. The news-paper in which these effusions appeared, extolled them in a style as new as their own, and even more extraordinary; every-body read them, because they were published in this form, and they were afterwards collected into volumes of more beautiful typography, than the publick had then been accustomed to see.

One satire swept away the whole brood; seasonable it was, but it was too acrimonious, and lavished upon folly that indignation, which is due only to guilt. The publick were as easily excited to contempt as they had been to wonder, and Della Crusca's sky-rocket reputation fell, and was extinguished as rapidly as it had risen, and burst into light.

Poor Merry's was an unhappy life, and might prove an instructive one, if it were written with a sound judgment and a fair mind — few men have been gifted with such advantages of person, accomplishments, and manners; and those colloquial talents which are of every-day use. His poems present the same sort of brilliance as the colour of the prism. Not one of them is good for anything, and yet amid the disgust which they excite, they still leave a feeling, that he who produced them could have been no ordinary man.