1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Kirke White

Christopher Lake Moody, Review of White, Clifton Grove; The Monthly Review NS 43 (February 1804) 218.



The circumstances under which this little volume is offered to the public must in some measure disarm criticism. We have been informed that Mr. White has scarcely attained his 18th year, has hitherto exerted himself in the pursuit of knowledge under the discouragements of penury and misfortune, and now hopes by this early authorship to obtain some assistance in the prosecution of his studies at Cambridge. He appears, indeed, to be one of those young men of talents and application who merit encouragement; and it would be gratifying to us to hear that this publication had obtained for him a respectable patron; for we fear that the mere profits arising from the sale cannot be, in any measure, adequate to his exigencies as a student at the University. A subscription, with a statement of the particulars of the author's case, might have been calculated to have answered his purpose: but, as a book which is to "win its way" on the sole ground of its own merit, this poem cannot be contemplated with any sanguine expectation. The author is very anxious, however, that critics should find in it something to commend, and he shall not be disappointed; we commend his exertions and his laudable endeavours to excel: but we cannot compliment him with having already learned the difficult art of writing good poetry.

Such lines as these will sufficiently prove our assertion:

Here would I run, a visionary "boy,"
When the hoarse thunder shook the vaulted "sky,"
And, fancy led, beheld the Almighty's form,
Sternly "careering" on the eddying storm.

If Mr. White should be instructed by alma mater, he will doubtless produce better sense and better rhimes.