1787 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Thelwall

John Thelwall, "Apology" Poems on Various Subjects (1787) 1:v-vii.



Perhaps no literary adventurer had ever more impediments to struggle with than the author of the following collection. At an age when other votaries to the Muses have been refining their imaginations, and improving their judgments, by an application to the immortal productions of antiquity, in the academic shades of Cam or Isis, he has ventured to send into the world two volumes of Poems, mostly written at such short intervals as could be snatched from the avocations of a profession, perhaps the most unfriendly to the study of the liberal arts.

The reader will be informed in several parts of these volumes, (what perhaps he would have discovered without any formal declaration) that the author is unacquainted with the classical languages.

Nor is the ignorance of Greek and Latin his only misfortune. The trammels of occupations, equally discordant to his inclinations, and irreconcilable to literature, have also prevented him from acquiring that general knowledge of the world, and from making such observations on the various and instructive scenes of nature, which might in some degree make amends for the want of learning.

When, therefore, he considers what senseless trash vanity, and the flattering encouragements of a few mistaken friends, have prompted men, who possessed every adventitious superiority over himself, to send into the world, he cannot but fear, labouring as he does under these accumulated discouragements, that he is himself one of those who have been deluded, by a high admiration for poetry, into an ill-grounded conceit that they possess a genius for the composition of it.

But the die is cast. The awful moment is approaching, when these productions, such as they are, must receive their doom at the tribunal of the public. The author submits them, with trembling solicitude, to the candour and indulgence of the good-natured reader. He flatters himself, that whatever may be the decision of the critic, the moralist will not frown upon his labours. For though his Muse may sometimes glow with the ardour of a lover, he believes she will never be found to burn with the fires of a courtezan.