1818 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Gifford

Anonymous, in "The Editor of the Quarterly Review" The Examiner (14 June 1818) 378.



He is no danger of exciting the jealousy of his patrons by a splendid display of extraordinary talents, while his sordid devotion to their will, and to his own interest, at once ensures their gratitude and contempt. Of an humble origin himself, he recommends his performances to persons of fashion by always abusing "low people," with the smartness of a lady's waiting-woman, and the independent spirit of a travelling tutor. Raised from the lowest rank to his present despicable eminence in the world of letters, he is indignant that any one should attempt to rise into notice, except by the same regular trammels and servile gradations, or go about to separate the stamp of merit from the badge of sycophancy. The silent listener in secret circles and menial tool of noble families has become the oracle of Church and State. The purveyor to the prejudices of a private patron succeeds, by no other title, to regulate the public taste. Having felt the inconveniences of poverty, this man looks up with low and grovelling admiration to the advantages of wealth and power: having had to contend with the mechanical difficulties of ignorance, he sees nothing in learning but its mechanical uses. A self-taught man naturally becomes a pedant, and mistakes the means of knowledge for the end, unless he is a man of genius, and Mr. Gifford is not a man of genius.