1793 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Edwards

John Wolcot, in Review of Bannister, Translation of Pindar; The Monthly Review NS 11 (August 1793) 455.



The famous Canons of Criticism, by Edwards of Lincoln's Inn, (written in a justifiable spirit of revenge for the aggressor's insolence,) prove what little dependence is to be placed on the Bishop's [Warburton's] skill in the art of illustration. It will be no deviation from truth to assert, that his taste was generally cold, phlegmatic, and sometimes vulgar; and that he was by no means qualified for being the Petronius of literature. That he was far from the first, or even a first-rate scholar of the day, his dreaded antagonist, the late learned and worthy prelate, Lowth, threatened to prove: but, from a motive of candour, he desisted. In all the pride of authority, Dr. Warburton deemed himself nulli secundus; a few, however, knew him to be pluribus impar. Could haughtiness, intolerance, and self-sufficiency have conferred a claim to universal homage, he would have been the deity of his time. The constitution of letters had been voted a republic until the appearance of this Hyder Ally in literature; who seemed immediately resolved, in virtue of his own arbitrary claim, to erect his throne; and, with all the overwhelming spirit of an Eastern despot, he wished to bestride the world of opinion. His triumph continued for a time; his slaves admired, feared, and crouched; until one or two daring little Davids courageously encountered, and brought to the ground, the Giant of Gath! The mighty sound of DIVINE LEGATION is lowered by the interposition of a few years to the mere echo of an echo — The noise which he made, when in the zenith of his powers, astonished and deceived the multitude; which mistook a sudden gust of wind for the majesty of A STORM.