1850 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Merry

Leigh Hunt, in Autobiography of Leigh Hunt (1850) 1:255-56.



The Baviad and Maeviad — so called from two bad poets mentioned by Virgil — was a satire imitated from Persius, on a set of fantastic writers who had made their appearance under the title of Della Cruscans. The coterie originated in the meeting of some of them at Florence, the seat of the famous Della Cruscan Academy. Mr. Merry, their leader, who was a member of that academy, and who wrote under its signature, gave occasion to the name. They first published a collection of poems, called the Florence Miscellany, and then sent verses to the London newspapers, which occasioned an overflow of contributions in like taste. The taste was as bad as can be imagined; full of floweriness, conceits, and affectation; and, in attempting to escape from commonplace, it evaporated into nonsense:

Was it the shuttle of the morn
That wove upon the cobweb thorn
Thy airy lay?

Hang o'er his eye the gossamery tear.

Gauzy zephyrs, fluttering o'er the plain,
On twilight's bosom drop their filmy rain.
&c. &c.

It was impossible that such absurdities could have had any lasting effect on the public taste. They would have died of inanition. But Mr. Gifford, finding the triumph easy and the temptation to show his superiority irresistible, chose to think otherwise; and hence his determination to scourge the rogues and trample on their imbecility.