1786 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Headley

Samuel Parr, Review of Headley, Poems; The Monthly Review 75 (December 1786) 467-68.



Mr. Headley, we understand, was a Member of Trinity College, Oxford, and now resides at Norwich. The greater part of these poems, or, as he himself quaintly says, "the majority," have been before made public. They are dedicated to Doctor Parr, as a mark of the gratitude and respect, which an ingenious scholar thought due to his able and faithful master. The application of the passage from Laurent. Valla, does credit to the judgment of Mr. Headley, and expresses, very justly and fully, the merits of Dr. Parr. In the Poems themselves there is much taste, and some poetry; many nervous expressions, some harmonious verses, a few sentiments that have traces of originality, and a general facility in the choice of subjects. The character of Lothario is well drawn; and we were much pleased with the Invocation to Melancholy, which seems to mark, not merely the powers of the writer, but the peculiarities of his character. — A young man, educated under Dr. Parr, cannot but reflect, with pity and reverence, upon the neglected genius and virtues of Peter Elkington, to whose memory Mr. H. has paid a handsome tribute of respect in an ingenious prose epitaph. We think, with Mr. H. that many of these pieces were originally "published too hastily;" and we allow that his attempts "to render them somewhat less exceptionable" have not been totally unsuccessful. Many of the lines are, however, languid and inharmonious: the diction is sometimes incorrect, and sometimes even coarse; and there is a general deficiency in that art of finishing, which every young writer should endeavour to attain, before he presumes to encounter the discerning eye of the Public. We think favourably of Mr. Headley's abilities; we are willing to encourage his exertions; and we advise him not to slight those powerful and judicious objections, which his Master is well known to employ against precipitate publication.