1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bryan Waller Procter

Anonymous, in "The Augustan Age in England" The Album 1 (1822) 220-21.



Mr. CORNWALL rose to the heights of fame with a rapidity of which we have scarcely any precedent. The two or three volumes of exquisite verses, which he showered forth upon us with lavish haste, placed him at once in the first rank of poetry. He may be considered as the successor and representative of Goldsmith, not in the least in his style, but very much in his spirit. It is not necessary to have written in the same measure with another poet to resemble him. It is the bent of mind — the spirit of the poetry that are the real points of likeness. It is in this view that Barry Cornwall reminds us of Goldsmith. He has the same tenderness — the same touches of simple pathos — the same love of simple images, and of pure and peaceful feelings in general. Accordingly, we do not consider Mr. Cornwall to have caught much of the spirit of the elder dramatists; he has spoken in their language, indeed, but the sentiments bear them no resemblance. They have his own sweetness, not their vigour — his own tenderness, not their passion. This was made strongly apparent when he wrote a regular tragedy; it had none of the discursive fancy, the wildness, or the energy, of our old writers. A close and successful imitation of their diction was all the likeness it bore to them; and it was, consequently feeble and ineffective. In his own real style of poetry, however, we do, as we have said, rate Mr. Cornwall very highly. He has softness, sweetness, and simplicity, which breathe a delightful air of peacefulness over his writings, of which we, consequently, prefer the more contemplative and less ambitious portion. It is one of our literary luxuries to turn from the stormy ocean of Lord Byron to the pure and refreshing green of Mr. Cornwall's poetry.