1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Cottle

Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 26 August 1800; Thomas Noon Talfourd, Literary Sketches and Letters ... of Charles Lamb (1849) 76.



Now I am touching "deeply" upon poetry, can I forget that I have just received from D— [Joseph Cottle] a magnificent copy of his Guinea Epic. Four-and-twenty books to read in the dog-days! I got as far as the Mad Monk the first day, and fainted. Mr. D—'s genius strongly points him to the Pastoral, but his inclinations divert him perpetually from his calling. He imitates Southey, as Rowe did Shakspeare, with his "Good morrow to ye; good master Lieutenant." Instead of "a" man, "a" woman, "a" daughter, he constantly writes one a man, one a woman, one his daughter. Instead of "the" king, "the" hero, he constantly writes, he the king, he the hero; two flowers of rhetoric, palpably from the "Joan." But Mr. D— soars a higher pitch; and when he is original, it is in a most original way indeed. His terrific scenes are indefatigable. Serpents, asps, spiders, ghosts, dead bodies, staircases made of nothing, with adder's tongues for bannisters — Good Heaven! what a brain he must have. He puts as many plums in his pudding as my grandmother used to do; — and then his emerging from Hell's horrors into light, and treading on pure flats of this earth — for twenty-three Books together!