1818 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Walter Scott

William Hazlitt, in Lectures on the English Poets (1818; 1909) 205.



Walter Scott is the most popular of all the poets of the present day, and deservedly so. He describes that which is most easily and generally understood with more vivacity and effect than anybody else. He has no excellences, either of a lofty or recondite kind, which lie beyond the reach of the most ordinary capacity to find out; but he has all the good qualities which all the world agree to understand. His style is clear, flowing, and transparent: his sentiments, of which his style is an easy and natural medium, are common to him with his readers. He has none of Mr. Wordsworth's idiosyncracy. He differs from his readers only in a greater range of knowledge and facility of expression. His poetry belongs to the class of improvisatore poetry. It has neither depth, height, nor breadth in it; neither uncommon strength, nor uncommon refinement of thought, sentiment, or language. It has no originality. But is this author has nor research, no moving power in his own breast, he relies with the greater safety and success on the force of his subject. He selects a story that is sure to please, full of incidents, characters, peculiar manners, costume, and scenery: and he tells it in way that can offend no one. He never wearies or disappoints you. He is communicative and garrulous; but he is not his own hero. He never obtrudes himself on your notice to prevent your seeing the subject.