William Walsh

Edmund Gosse, in The English Poets: Selections with Critical Introductions, ed. Thomas Humphry Ward (1880) 3:6-7.

The praise of Dryden first recommended to the public a poet who has since his death been solely immortalised by the praise of Pope. The lines of the latter, written in 1709, are familiar to most readers, but may be quoted here:

To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known,
And every author's merit, but his own;
Such late was Walsh — the Muse's judge and friend,
Who knew to blame or to commend;
To failings mild, but zealous to desert,
The clearest head and the sincerest heart.

The qualities which Pope attributes to the person of Walsh are found in his writings, which have certainly been unduly neglected. The Propertius of the Restoration, he alone among the writers of his age understood the passion of love in an honourable and chivalric sense. Dryden, however, was almost the only person who perceived the moral beauty of Walsh's verse, and certainly was alone in praising his very remarkable Defence of the Fair Sex, in which the young poet, in an age given up to selfish gallantry, recommended the honourable equality of the sexes and the views now understood as the extension of women's rights. He possessed little versatility, but much sweetness, in the use of the heroic measure, and a certain delicate insight Into emotion. His poem entitled "Jealousy" cannot be quoted here; but It is by far the most powerful of his productions, and a marvellously true picture of a heart tossed in an agony of jealousy and love. In studying the versification of Pope, the influence of Walsh upon the style of the younger and greater man should not be overlooked, and there will be found in Walsh couplets such as this—

Embalmed in verse, through distant times they come,
Preserved, like bees within an amber tomb,

which Pope did not disdain to re-work on his own anvil into brighter shapes. It should be noted that Walsh is the author of the only sonnet written in English between Milton's, in 1658, and Warton's, about 1750.