1785 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Peter Cunningham

Anna Seward, in "The Minstrel of Woodlow" Gentleman's Magazine 55 (March 1785) 169-70.



Some five years since, Mr. Cunninghame by accident discovered this literary flower of the desart [William Newton]. A retired disposition, and the most unobtrusive modesty, had cast a veil over his talents, which few has possessed sagacity to pierce, though his inventive industry had raised his reputation as a workman. He was employed, I am told, not only to execute, but to construct, machines for the Derbyshire Cotton-mills, besides being one of the head carpenters at the Duke of Devonshire's splendid buildings at Buxton.... To have found, in the compositions of a laborious Villager, some bright sparks of native genius, amidst the dross of prosaic vulgarity, had been pleasing, though perhaps not wonderful; but the elegance and harmony of William Newton's language, both in prose and verse, are miraculous, when it is remembered that, till Mr. Cunninghame kindly distinguished him, he had associated only with the unlettered vulgar. He is now only 30 years old.