1851 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bernard Barton

David Macbeth Moir, in Sketches of the Poetical Literature of the Past Half-Century (1851; 1852) 288-89.



Bernard Barton, like his predecessor John Scott of Amwell, whom he somewhat resembled in genius, first attracted attention principally from the novelty of one of his sober sect giving utterance to his emotions in verse: but he had merit also of a certain kind; and he continued to sustain the respectable measure of popularity acquired by his first appearance in a series of poems, each characterised by the same observant views of man and nature, the same correct sentiment, and the same mild cheerfulness of tone. Although, in the warp and woof of his loom, there might be observed a thread or so of egotism, it was not glaringly obtrusive. His chief fault was diffuseness. He wrote fluently, and was thereby induced to write a great deal too much; for, had he elaborated more, he would have used the pruning-knife with greater freedom. One indication of good taste Barton uniformly exhibited, — that of adapting his tone and style to his subject. He is sometimes even striking and picturesque, as in his Solitary Tomb, his Evening Primrose, and the verses to The Ivy; but he is seldom bold or varied, and, in general, rather satisfies than surprises the reader. He wanted strength and originality to float the succession of volumes which he from time to time unhesitatingly launched forth for public favour; but from the unweeded garden a bouquet might be culled, sweet in its perfume and varied in its hues of simple beauty.