1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Matthew Prior

Anonymous, in "The Augustan Age in England" The Album 1 (1822) 191.



The chief merit of PRIOR consists in the extreme ease of his compositions — that is, of his lighter works, for on them his fame wholly rests. They are perfect in their style our language has but few writings of this sort, and none which have the grace and point of Prior. It is in this style of poetry — if poetry it can be called — in which the French excel; and Prior is almost the only English author who has contrived to preserve the archness and malice of their manner. But this style of composition is but of a very inferior order, and if it have not been much cultivated in our language, it is probably on account of its unworthiness. Such productions are not those of a very high mind, and cannot gain for their author any advanced grade of poetical reputation. When we say that they are almost the only English works of the kind, we need scarcely observe that we are far from meaning that our language is at all deficient in comic writing in verse. Prior's light and elegant pieces are equally remote from the broad humour of Butler, and the brilliant wit and keenness of some compositions of the present day.