1864 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Motherwell

Andrew R. Bonar, in Poets and Poetry of Scotland (1864) 326.



The life of Motherwell was by no means eventful. Though born at Glasgow in 1787, his early years were spent in Paisley, where, having embraced the legal profession, he became depute sheriff-clerk. His taste for poetry was early developed, and continued to be cultivated to the close of a life, the more important part of which was devoted to literary pursuits, as editor of the Glasgow Courier, a paper of influence and circulation. A volume of his poems appeared in 1832; and, in conjunction with the Ettrick Shepherd, Motherwell prepared for the press an edition of Burns's works. His last literary labour was the preparation of a life of Tannahill, which was left unfinished, in consequence of his premature death, when but thirty-eight years of age, but not before he had attained deserved celebrity both as an antiquary and a poet. One or two of Motherwell's lyrics cannot be surpassed by any in our language for pathos and true-heartedness. They ring with the sound of genuine metal; and when pathetic, are natural and unaffected.