1773 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Jennens

George Steevens, 1773 ca.; Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the XVIII Century 3:121.



He wrote, or caused to be written by some of his numerous parasites, a pamphlet against Dr. Johnson and Mr. Steevens, the editors of Shakspeare, whom he suspected (perhaps justly enough) of having turned his commentatorial talents into ridicule. This doughty performance he is said to have had read aloud to him every day for at least a month after its publication, while he himself kept a constant eye on the newspapers, that he might receive the earliest intelligence of the moment at which these gentlemen should have hanged or drowned themselves in consequence of his attack on their abilities and characters. But, alas! while they were only laughing, he, poor man, was so much hurt by the playful severity they had exerted, that he rarely met with a forlorn object in the street, but he was ready to ask what unsuccessful work of literature had reduced him to such wretchedness, being unwilling to admit that any thing

—could have subdued nature
To such a lowness, but his unkind criticks.

In short, his companions having continually intercepted every approach of unwelcome truth to his ears, he was confounded when it reached him through the pen of an opponent; and he saw himself publicly represented as the only Editor to whom the scenes of Shakspeare had not even the most inconsiderable obligation. He might indeed with equal prudence have enlisted his age under the banners of Venus, where it would have appeared to as much advantage as in the service of Literature.