1851 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Maginn

Robert Pearse Gillies, in Memoirs of a Literary Veteran (1851) 3:152-53.



At our first meeting in Edinburgh, when I earnestly pressed on his attention the plan of sojourning there, he designated himself as a mere "scrap-writer," for which occupation London, as he said, afforded the best field. The term jarred on my ears then, as it does now. Too true it was, that in consequence of his daily engagements to the organs of a party, he had become a scrap-writer, and not having any independent fortune, he never could emancipate himself from the yoke. By talents, by acquirements, by unconquerable patience and equanimity, Maginn was qualified for works of long laborious research, and the nicest critical investigations. Nor was he less capable of romantic and poetical invention. But a family depended on his exertions; the wants of the day and of the week must be supplied. He must write, although "invita Minerva," on the topics of last night's debate, evanescent and paltry as their interest might be. The longest and most sustained efforts which circumstances allowed him to make, were only fugitive chapters for magazines and reviews.