1851 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Sotheby

David Macbeth Moir, in Sketches of the Poetical Literature of the Past Half-Century (1851; 1856) 38.



William Sotheby particularly distinguished himself as a translator from the German, and William Roscoe from the Italian; but, in their own compositions, the former wanted originality and the latter — who was of the Hayley school — threws and sinews. Roscoe's strength lay in another path — that of historical composition — wherein he achieved the eminence he deserved. Sotheby was never great, except when treading in some beaten path. His Saul, an epic poem, and his Constance of Castille, a romance in the manner of Scott, as well as his Italy, a descriptive poem, contain each fine and spirited passages; but even these are almost always reflections of has attracted his own particular attention in others. As a translator it would be difficult to name his superior. He had the good sense to discover that his great forte lay in the translation of ideas from one language into another; and he not only enthusiastically, but industriously, employed himself in thus enriching English literature. Wieland himself acknowledged the spirit and accuracy which pervaded his version of Oberon; his Georgics called forth the admiration of Jeffrey; and his Iliad and Odyssey, alike in elegance and correctness, were placed by Professor Wilson at the head of all our translations of Homer. With three such testimonials for his epitaph, it cannot be said that Sotheby, as a literary labourer, lived in vain.