1808 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Cooper Walker

Thomas Percy to Robert Anderson, 4 January 1808; Nichols, Illustrations of the Literary History of the XVIII Century (1817-58) 7:184-85.



The Bishop of Dromore presents his kind respects to Dr. Anderson. It is so long since he has heard from him that he cannot but entertain very serious apprehensions of his suffering under severe and continued illness, and he shall be happy to be relieved from his anxiety on this subject. If the Doctor's silence has been occasioned by the Bishop's strictures on the conduct of Mr. J. C. Walker, it is necessary he should be informed that the first person who pointed out the base malignity of Ritson to the Bishop was Mr. Walker himself, who being engaged by Ritson to assist him in some literary researches, had received a letter from him containing some of the vile insinuations he afterwards published in his Introduction to the Romances. This, Mr. Walker brought and showed to the Bishop, with all the appearance of indignation that such unprovoked malice could excite in the most zealous friend. He at the same time complained with how little civility that man had repaid his own services. Yet, when Mr. Ritson's book came out, Mr. Walker, in a letter to Mr. Boyd, affected to pity the Bishop, perhaps because the latter did not receive his kind commiseration with all the gratitude he ought. He soon after takes care to hold up to the attention of his readers this very mass of scurrility and abuse in his Letter to Mr. Preston, referring to the Old Metrical Romances, though he was well aware that all Ritson knew on the subject had been originally pointed out to him in the Dissertation in the Reliques, &c. With regard to Ritson's Introduction, the torrent of gross and vulgar invective which is poured forth in it is too contemptible to merit attention, and every charge carries its own confutation with it, except in one place, where, having no direct accusation to bring forth, he endeavours to inflict a deeper wound by a mysterious insinuation, and there being no positive statement offered, it is impossible to answer; and it must only be submitted to candid reflection whether this wretch, who has given every possible vent to his malice, would have withheld any charge whatever if it could have been supported. Where Ritson dilates with so much parade, and marks by inverted commas how the attempts to supply the chasms in the Marriage of Sir Gawaine should have been pointed out to the reader, Mr. Walker, who is so conversant with the Italian Poets, should have vindicated the editor of the Reliques for following their example in this rifaciamento, even if the original itself had not been given verbatim at the end of the book. But enough of this poor miserable maniac, and his admirer Mr. Joseph Cooper Walker!