1820 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edward Quillinan

Robert Pearse Gillies, 1820 ca.; Memoirs of a Literary Veteran (1851) 267-68.



Finding on the table a poetical publication of recent date by Mr. Quillinan, the editor of O'Doherty [Captain Howard] wrote a ludicrous review of it under the title of Poems by a Heavy Dragoon; obviously a "merry andrada" penned after dinner (though it is true, the author seldom imbibed aught stronger than green tea). Not long afterwards, by an odd coincidence, the said "heavy dragoon" found himself quartered on duty with his regiment in Scotland, where returning in kind the compliments paid him by O'Doherty, he wrote and published a poem consisting of sarcasm not less humorous than "tranchant," aimed against Blackwood and his magazine, the modern Athens, the unknown reviewer, indeed against all Scotland. During my long life, I cannot recollect having met with a satire more clever and appropriate than this. It was bitter as the north-east wind in March, and yet very witty and laughable. Immediately on his arrival at Edinburgh, the author sent two copies to Mr. Blackwood, accompanied by his compliments and card of address, at Shaw's Hotel, within two doors of the publisher; an act of courtesy the more marked and significant, inasmuch as Mr. Quillinan had not always been contented with a single antagonist at a time, but when quartered at Canterbury had sent divers challenges, and knocked off two or three hostile encounters on one and the same morning.

It so happened, however, that Captain Hamilton was then in a distant part of the country, and no one at first responded to the call but my insignificant self. The paternity of the obnoxious review had been erroneously ascribed to Mr. Lockhart, and right glad was I when he met Mr. and Mrs Quillinan at dinner, chez nous, within two days afterwards, when the real authorship of the badinage was in the course of the evening freely disclosed, and all animosity forgotten. Indeed the balance between poet and reviewer (as between Byron and Jeffrey), had been sufficiently adjusted; for if Mr. Quillinan felt nettled by the critique, he had already used scorpions in retaliation.