1911 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Maginn

George Saintsbury, in History of English Liteary Criticism (1911) 440-41.



Very few people nowadays, in all probability, think much of "bright, broken Maginn" as a critic; and of those few some perhaps associate his criticism chiefly with such examples of it as the article on Grantley Berkeley, which almost excused the retaliation on its unfortunate publisher, or the vain attempt to "bluff" out the Keats matter by ridiculing Adonais. Even as to most of his exercitations in this very unlovely department, or rather corruption, of our art, there is perhaps something to be said for him. He fights, as a rule, not with Lockhart's dagger of ice-brook temper, nor with Wilson's smashing bludgeon, but with a kind of horse-whip, stinging indeed enough, but with a kind of life and breaking no bones at worst and heaviest, and at lightest not much more than switching playfully. Had there, however, been nothing to plead for him but this, there would have been no room for him here. But his favourite way of proceeding in his lighter critical articles, though not invented by himself (as it was not of course invented even by Canning and his merry men, from whom Maginn took it), the method of parody-criticism is, if not a very high variety, and especially not in the least a convincing one, still one which perhaps deserves a few lines of reference, and of which he was really a great master.