1810 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Christopher Anstey

John Hodgson, in Review of Anstey, Poetical Works; The Monthly Review NS 62 (June 1810) 130.



The merits of the author, whose works are here presented to the public, are already so well and so generally known, that a very elaborate account of them, is unnecessary. In that species of satire which consists in the happy mixture of invective and irony, we do not know any writer who excels and but few who equal him. We should not suppose it possible to meet with the reader, who was in the least acquainted with the literature of the last half-century, to whom the Bath Guide had not been a source of frequent amusement; and if many of the author's works be less universally read and admired than that poem, it is not because in the execution they display less genius, taste, and fancy, but because the subjects of them were of more temporary interest. This observation, indeed, applies to a considerable portion of the volume before us, the satire of which is either local or personal, and of course transitory; and although this circumstance unquestionably occasions a want of interest, we fully agree in the propriety which the editor has felt, of not attempting to supply the defect by "introducing to public notice the real persons intended to be pourtrayed under the fictitious names, and by the many classical allusions and anecdotes interwoven with the subjects." Yet, making every allowance on this score, so much will yet remain in which real vigour and luxuriance of poetical imagination and native powers of genius are displayed, so much to touch the heart or to improve the mind, and so much to evince the elegant taste and correct acquirements of the author, that the work must be considered as a valuable addition to our stock of poetical literature.

Little occurs to this collection which had not been previously printed, though much, we believe, which had not been in very general circulation. Of this description, we consider the pieces entitled Envy, Winter Amusements, Liberality, Speculation, and The Farmer's Daughter, which, although we have seen them in print during Mr. Anstey's life, we may probably venture to announce as novelties to the greater part of our readers. The last of them we may recommend to all as a very favourable specimen of the writer's powers in the Pathetic; more so, in our judgment, than his celebrated verses on the death of the Marquis of Tavistock. For the reasons which we have already assigned, it is not our intention to offer much criticism on the compositions before us; and we shall be contented with giving some account of that part of them which is new, and making some genteel observations on the characteristics of the pieces comprized in the volume, particularly on the specimens of Latin poetry which it contains.