1817 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Cowper

Leigh Hunt, in "Poems by John Keats" The Examiner (1 June 1817) 345.



It has been thought that Cowper was the first poet who re-opened the true way to nature and a natural style; but we hold this to be a mistake, arising merely from certain negations on the part of that amiable but by no means powerful writer. Cowper's style is for the most part as invented and artificial as that of the others; and we look upon him to have been by nature not so great a poet as Pope: but Pope, from certain infirmities on his part, was thrown into the society of the world, and thus had to get what he could out of an artificial sphere: — Cowper, from other and more distressing infirmities, (which by the way the wretched superstition that undertook to heal, only burnt in upon him) was confined to a still smaller though more nature sphere, and in truth did not much with it, though quite as much perhaps as was to be expected from an organization too sore almost to come in contance with any thing.