1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edward Thurlow

Anonymous, in Review of Thurlow, Poems; The Literary Gazette (31 August 1822) 543.



Here, said we, are two British barons, two peers of parliament, two who have reached the dignity by a nepotal course, two young men, two Benedicts, two travellers, above all two poets — in short, two peas — how like, and yet how different! Here are four publications by Lord Thurlow, which within the space of twelve months, have accumulated on our table (besides the lord knows, and so does Mr. Booth, how many others which we may not have seen,) and we have not had the grace to pay our critical respects to his lordship; while, on the other hand, there is Lord Byron, the moment he is announced he is fastened on, and the moment he is published he is pirated. His stories are wormed out of Canterbury Tales (not as Lord Thurlow's are, "after the excellent poet Geoffrey Chaucer,") his productions are abused, and quoted, and he is as notorious a nine days' wonder as a Royal journey or a shocking accident, even though the performance should prove so indifferent that, as Spenser's Shepherd's Kalendar has it,

The vaunting Poet's found not worth a pease,
To put in preace among the learned troupe.

This unequal usage of the two peas, we be pardon, the two Lords, is quite unaccountable. There is much poetry and much affectation in Thurlow; if not so immoral, the former is sometimes as prurient as the other, and though not a contemner of Christianity, he makes very free with heathen divinities. He occasionally writes nonsense too, as we shall show by and by; so that upon the whole it seems to us that gross injustice is done to both bards, — to the one in an insufficient measure of regard, to the other in a superabundant measure of censure. Be it ours, as far as our means go, to remove this complaint, and

—even
All the good time will give us.

... The "Select Poems" are a strange mixture. We can hardly tell how to characterize them. Laughing outright at what seems to us to be genuinely ridiculous, we are often startled, not merely with delightful epithets, but with delightful images and thoughts. We would say, therefore, that Lord Thurlow's genius is really poetical, as being deeply imbued with the beauties of our elder bards; but so ill regulated, so defective in taste and judgment, and so prone to eccentricities, as to repulse the reader with a feeling bordering on contempt, who might otherwise find much to approve of and admire.