1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Walter Scott

Anonymous, in "The Augustan Age in England" The Album 1 (1822) 214-15.



It may, perhaps, be considered strange that we have yet made no mention of SIR WALTER SCOTT'S poetry — but we do not think it likely to add much strength to our hypothesis. As a poet, indeed, we do not think that Sir Walter's name will be much known to posterity. The taste for his writings was one of those public manias, which rise with violent rapidity, and as rapidly decline. The rage for Master Betty began about the same time as that for "quarto ballads," and both have now equally passed away. Seriously, we always considered Sir Walter Scott's poems to be immeasurably overrated. We looked on them as interesting stories told in a lively and agreeable manner — but not as poetry. Great facility of verse — a peculiar skill in making use of names-much antiquarian knowledge pleasantly worked into the composition — and, above all, perfect novelty — these appear to us to have caused the extraordinary success of the Lay of the Last Minstrel and its successors. But for the fire of poetic composition — for the rapidity and energy of impassioned writing — we should in vain look in any of them. The fancy for these works has now gone by — the novelty wore away, and their attraction ceased. Accordingly by the time his last poem appeared, Sir Walter Scott found that his hold over the public mind was lost, and he wisely ceased to publish. Who read Harold the Dauntless? We have said that we do not think Sir Walter's name will be much known hereafter as a poet. If, however, he be the "Author of Waverley," as he is so confidently said to be, his name will live, and that in the highest roll of literary fame. But of these works, we shall speak when we come to our living prose writers.