1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Moultrie

Anonymous, in "The King of Clubs" The Etonian (1820; 1823) 1:9-10.



The next member of the club who offers himself to our notice is the Hon. GERARD MONTGOMERY, the son of a rich Warwickshire Peer, whose bodily habits have been rendered weak and effeminate, owing to the over-abundant attentions bestowed on him in the nursery, by his maiden aunt, Lady Deborah Mildmay. This character, with reference to the former two, forms the same connecting link which twilight does between the opposite extremes of day and night. His genius is a brilliant of the first water, but his talents have been suffered to run wild, owing to their very luxuriance. Gifted with wonderful quickness and retentiveness of memory, and an ardent imagination, always on the wing in search of variety, his progress in classical attainments was the theme of universal admiration, and his instructors argued highly of the future reputation of their pupil. But the success which he met with in his studies was the means of preventing him from ever becoming a solid scholar. The facility with which he was able to master all his tasks engendered presumption, and an unbounded confidence in his own powers, than which nothing can be more detrimental to the cause of learning. Hence Gerard indulged in habits of procrastination, because he could write his verses off-hand, and therefore the performance of his duty might be safely delayed till the last moment, and then slurred over as a disagreeable task. Hence also, not being accustomed to find any difficulties in the mere school business which was required of him, he determined not to seek for them of his own accord, in the more arduous pursuits of knowledge, which demand effort and application. In his course of reading, he skimmed with volatile eagerness along the gayer and more pleasing paths of literature: he flew from author to author, as the bee sips the sweets from, every flower, without troubling herself with inquiries into the nature and properties of each one that she visits. By these means Montgomery amassed an extensive stock of information on almost every branch of the belles lettres; but in spite of the ability with which he would discuss a question, and support his share of conversation among the members of the Club, he has often been found to be but superficially acquainted with the subject which he has been adorning with all the beauties of a fluent and persuasive eloquence. Eton, however, cannot boast of possessing another youth of whom it may be as truly averred, that he has quaffed copious draughts of the genuine Hippocrene. His natural talent for poetical composition has been greatly improved and strengthened by his acquaintance with the mighty master-spirits of the old time of Greece and Rome. His sense of pleasing emotions was so refined, and his perception of the beautiful and pathetic so acute, that a tear has been observed glistening in his eyes, while contemplating the parting of the Trojan hero with his Andromache, or while tracing the agonizing feelings of the impassioned Dido on the departure of Aeneas. But the eagerness with which he delivered himself up to the sway of the potent wands of our own native magicians, Shakspeare and the elder tragedians, with Scott, Byron, and Coleridge of the present day, was carried to an excess. I believe he had reached the perfection of human happiness, when, having locked himself in his room, this poetical enthusiast indulged in sentimental tears over some favourite poem which he was reading aloud with energy and feeling. This, sensibility often led Gerard into many other extravagancies; and he was looked upon as a romantic visionary by those of the common mould. He would frequently steal away from a comfortable fire-side to wander on a chilly autumn evening in the gloom of Poet's Walk, with his arms folded, to commune with solitude, to watch the fleecy clouds as they passed over the glimmering moon, and, I was going to add, to meditate on some ideal beauty. But no! Gerard was not a shadow hunter: unexistent creatures of the imagination were by no means to his taste, for he knew well how to attach sufficient value to the liquid blue eyes of a substantial Charlotte, or the graceful figure and auburn ringlets of a real Sophia. Hence, his pockets were crammed with billet-doux and sonnets on the charms of the adorable Miss R. T—, or the last dying speech and confession of the love-lorn Gerard, previous to his quenching the flames of passion in a cold bath. This amorous disposition led our Romeo into many ludicrous scrapes. He has been shot at for a black cat; has narrowly escaped a man trap; has been well soused by his Juliet, and soundly horsewhipped by the stout old Capulet of the premises.