1821 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dennis

Anonymous, in "On the Personalities of the Augustan Age of English Literature" Blackwood's Magazine 10 (October 1821) 312-13.



Old Dennis, the Jeffrey of Queen Anne's time, says of Pope, in his Reflections, Critical and Satirical, on a Rhapsody called an Essay on Criticism, printed by Bernard Lintot, "One would swear that this youngster (the Poet,) had espoused some antiquated muse, who had sued out a divorce from some superannuated sinner upon account of impotence, and who being p—d by the former spouse, has got the gout in her decrepid age, which makes her hobble so damnably." This is pretty plain and free criticism. Match it if you can even from the writings of the Whigs of our own time. Cobbett himself has nothing so rich and perfect. But this, it will be said, is only metaphorical, and applicable to The Essay on Criticism. The author is spared, indeed! Then read on, "He is a little affected hypocrite, who has nothing in his mouth but candour, truth, friendship, good nature, humanity, and magnanimity. He is so great a lover of falsehood, that whenever he has a mind to calumniate his cotemporaties, he brands them with some defect which is contrary to some good quality, for which all their friends and acquaintances commend them." But did Pope prosecute Dennis for this? No — he had more sense — he did as you would have done in his age and situation; he wrote the Dunciad.