1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Pinkerton

Robert Southey to Charles Bedford, 24 December 1822; Selections from the Letters, ed. Warter (1856) 3:360.



Did I ever show you a curious book published in 1785, with this title, Letters of Literature, by Robert Heron, Esq.? The copy in my possession (I beg pardon of the collectors — penes me is the phrase) belonged to Henry Kirke White, and was given to me by his brother, as having his autograph upon the title-page. Pinkerton was the author; and the name which he assumed at random happening to belong to an unlucky writer who began his career shortly afterwards, the real Robert Heron found himself in bad odour, owing to the prejudice which these very conceited and extravagant letters had excited. But it is a very odd book, as well as a most impudent one; and the most curious thing in it is a plan for improving the English language, by altering its structure. For this purpose it was seriously proposed by the said Pinkerton that the most learned men in the three kingdoms should incorporate themselves in an academy, publish a grammar and dictionary of the improved English, and use it themselves both in writing and discourse; thus asserting what they called their proper power over the mob, till the revolution in our speech (for it was nothing else) should be completely effected.