1834 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Allan Cunningham

Allan Cunningham to Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, 27 September 1834; Sharpe, Letters (1888) 2:381-82.



I have some notion of writing the Lives of the Poets, north and south, not included in the admirable Biographies of Johnson. There are many who would do this better, but no one comes forward. If Southey would do so, it would give me great pleasure to give way to him. I shall, however, do my best, and I hope, by writing them in the same calm clear way of the Lives of the Painters, to obtain readers. The work will extend to twelve volumes, and much research and reading, as well as consideration, will be required. I intend to bestow upon it my whole leisure. I have ceased to write verses, though some of my songs are my best performances and will likely live, and I shall let no small matter interrupt the stream of study. I see my way to a well-wanted history of English and Scottish poetry. I hope you will be tempted to help me with some letters, anecdotes, and snatches of character for some of the lives; at any rate, I beg of you to write me a few words of caution or encouragement. I am likely to need both. My friend Southey says of my prose, my biographical prose, that it is a purer English style than any one of my countrymen, with the exception perhaps of Hume, has hitherto attained.