1869 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Henry Kett

John Forster, in Landor, a Biography (1869) 35-36 & n.



The grave, good-natured writer [George Somers Clarke], older than Landor by many years, and to whom a living had just fallen from his college, can thus without anger refer to some lines addressed to Doctor Warton, containing a personal attack on himself which seems to have been altogether wilful and unprovoked:—

Deign from thy brother's works to cull us
What bold Lucretius, sharp Catullus,
Divinely elegant Tibullus,
And all the grand Aonian quire
Would envy, or at least admire.
Then Oxford shall no more regret
The twofold night 'twixt C— and K—.

—the offence of Clarke and Kett being explained in a note to have been, that the last had published Juvenile Poems at the age of forty, and the first an Oedipus in prose. "Ouvrez, Messieurs! c'est mon Oedipe en prose." The note, however, does not say all. The person with whom Clarke is coupled had done worse than publish Juvenilia at forty, having in fact been the solitary dissentient among the fellows of Trinity from Doctor Chapman's good-humored invitation that Landor should return [following his rustication]; and to the close of Kett's unhappy life Landor resented this ill word. On the other hand there was no sufficient reason for putting Clarke into the pillory erected in the volume for Kett; and Landor seems himself to have regretted it, when from the letter just quoted he saw how good-naturedly it was taken....

"You are also somewhat severe," he says, "on my contemporary and fellow-collegian Mr. Kett, whom you have also made collinear with myself, father to the diversion of all our friends." He cannot help adding an epigram which had just come out as a reply to Landor:—

K— not a poet! who dare say so?
Though not an Ovid, yet a Naso.

This shows that Kett was not strong in friends, even among men of his own standing. He must have had some merit (he was one year chosen Bampton Lecturer), but nothing he did seems to have done successfully; and what is said to have induced him finally to commit suicide (not by hanging, as Landor supposed, but drowning) was some formal censure passed upon him in the University.