1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bernard Barton

Anonymous, in Review of Poems by Bernard Barton; The Literary Gazette (22 April 1820) 260-61.



This volume will, we believe, be published on Monday and we are led to take so early a notice of it, as much on account of its merit, as of the rather peculiar circumstances of its being the production of one of the Society of Friends. We hail this as a strong proof of the progress of liberality — of true liberality, and not of that spurious principle which has usurped the name, and converted a virtue nominally into a real vice. It has been told, probably without foundation, that when the amiable Quaker poet, Scott of Amwell, was upon his death-bed, some sour bigot exhorted him to repent of his sin of poetry. He died and made no sign: and in that world to which the enthusiasm of poetic inspiration is the nearest approach in this, in that heaven where the hymning of praises is the highest enjoyment of blest spirits; he now, we firmly trust, enjoys the reward of a well-spent life, refined, exalted, and improved, by one of the purest studies of mankind.

It has been said, that there was something in Quaker doctrines inconsistent with the Bardic character; and it has been held by many, that in Quaker habits and manners there was an insuperable barrier to poetical cultivation. If these opinions have not been overthrown before, the author now under review has set them at rest for ever. He has shown us fancy in a sober brown garb, tenderness in a broad beaver, and nature in a staid demeanour.