1896 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Love Peacock

George Saintsbury, in English Prose, ed. Craik (1896) 5:286, 287; Moulton, Library of Literary Criticism (1901-05) 6:476.



There is no obscurity in Peacock; there is no gush; and there is a great deal of very active and poignant ridicule of gush, of obscurity, and of affectation.... He began by making fun of the times of our grandfathers, he ended by making fun of the times which are almost, if not quite our own; and if, as perhaps he did, he showed himself rather obstinately blind to many of the higher aspects of life in general, he saw what he did see with an unmatched clearness of vision, and expressed the ironic results of his sight with powerful distinction and scholarship.... Peacock had a more poetical, a more ironic, and a less popular temperament than Macaulay's: but there was a good deal in him which might be called Macaulayish, on the negative side. He was nearly as knock-down in his depreciation as Macaulay was in his eulogism of progress and reform; he was, also like Macaulay, an omnivorous reader, and he had to a great extent the same clear, emphatic, unshadowed and unclouded caste of thought. Being, as has been said, an unpopular Macaulay, he never pushes his positiveness even in the negative direction to the extent of Philistinism; but he is open to the charge as being as hard if not as hollow as Macaulay at his worst. His special merits, however, will always, while they indispose towards him those whom Macaulay fully satisfies, enchant those who, while they fully admit the merits of Macaulay, are half disgusted by his demerits.