1788 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Julius Mickle

Anonymous, Character of Mickle, 1788 ca.; Poems and a Tragedy (1794) lii.



To those who are acquainted with Mr. Mickle's writings, we need not point out the beauty, the strength, or the variety of his versification, the harmony of his numbers, or the vigour of his imagination. These are so apparent that we risk nothing in declaring our opinion, that they must, sooner or later, force themselves into the notice of those who at present are strangers to them. Leaving his literary character therefore to find its own value, we shall confine ourselves to speak of him as a member of society. He was in every point of view a man of the utmost integrity; warm in his friendship, and indignant only against vice, irreligion, or meanness. The compliment paid by Lord Lyttelton to Thomson might be applied to him with the strictest truth; not a line is to be found in his works which, dying, he would wish to blot. During the greatest part of his life he endured the pressures of a narrow fortune without repining; never relaxing his industry to acquire, by honest exertion, that independence which at length he enjoyed. He did not shine in conversation; nor would any person from his appearance have been able to form a favourable judgment of his talents. In every situation in which fortune placed him he displayed an independent spirit, undebased by any meanness; and when his pecuniary circumstances made him on one occasion feel a disappointment with some force, he even then appeared more ashamed of his want of discernment of character than concerned for his loss. He seemed to entertain with reluctance an opinion, that high birth could be united with a sordid mind. He had however the satisfaction of reflecting, that no extravagant panegyric had disgraced his pen. Contempt certainly came to his aid, though not soon: he wished to forget his credulity, and never afterwards conversed on the subject by choice. To conclude: his foibles were but few, and those inoffensive; his virtues many, and his genius very considerable: he lived without reproach, and his memory will always be cherished by those who were acquainted with him.