1818 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Leigh Hunt

Anonymous, in Review of Hunt, Foliage; The Literary Gazette (4 April 1818) 210.



The phrase "School of Poetry," like the phrase "School of Painting," has of late come much into vogue. Every person who departs from received canons in either art, is said, pleasantly enough, to be the founder of a school, and all his fellow rhymesters to "belong to this school;" which in the latter case is not so far amiss, since truly they more resemble young learners than mature teachers; and so, to confess the fact, generally do their ringleaders;

—fellows
In foolscap uniforms turned up with ink,
So very anxious, clever, fine and jealous,
One don't know what to say to them, or think,
Unless to puff them with a pair of bellows.
[Beppo]

As we are not disposed to any kind of puffing, we would hint, that the substitution of the word "fashion" for the word "school," in these affairs, seems desirable. Schools are, or ought to be, grave places, where wisdom is acquired; but Fashion admits of as many follies and fripperies as you please, the last being invariably the best, the newest the most enchanting. Cottage bonnets and insipid pastorals, hussar cloaks and martial odes, lace tippets and sonnets, long skirts, and romantic tales, turbans and Eastern poems, costume a la Greque and Epics, may then be alternately and equally the rage for a month, and no great harm ensue: — we will allow the absurdity in verse, and the absurdity in dress, a like duration; the former to be laughed at over the tea-tables for four long weeks, and the latter to remain unrivalled on the frontispiece of any of the fashionable magazines, till the first day of the month ensuing that of its appearance; but it is too much to christen such things by names which give an idea of perpetuity, and we, once for all, protest against the appellation of School, whether given to the watery, cockney, be-natural, or sentimental Bards of these times, when rhyme is so plentiful, that we suspect it will soon be a difficult matter to produce even a business letter written in plain prose. If the cacoethes continue, there will shortly be no novelty in the rhyming cobbler of Gosport, who sent a lady's shoes home with the following billet,

Your humble poet, Madam, and the Muses,
Presents your La'ship with this pair of shoes-es.