1825 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Kirke Paulding

John Neal, in "American Writers" Blackwood's Magazine 17 (February 1825) 199.



PAULDING — good prose writer, with audacity enough, some years ago, to publish a volume of poetry, which others have had impudence enough to praise: a Yankee — born, we believe, in Connecticut. His works are — 1. JOHN BULL AND BROTHER JONATHAN; a small book, (1 vol. 18mo,) giving some account, in the style of Scripture, as we see it, in the Chronicles, of our squabbles with America, — We have not seen it, for many years; have no safe recollection of it; and shall, therefore, pass it over: — 2. Papers in SALMAGUNDI (see IRVING, p. 61.) most of which are capital; but ill-tempered. No two writers could be more thoroughly opposed, in everything — disposition — habit — style — than were Irving and Paulding. The former was cheerful; pleasant; given to laughing at whatever he saw — not peevishly — satirically or spitefully — but in real good humour: the latter — even while he laughed — as Byron says of Lara — sneered. Irving would make us love human nature — wish it well — or pity it: Paulding would make us ashamed of it; or angry with it. One looks for what is good — in everything; the other, for what is bad: 3. LETTERS FROM THE SOUTH, (one vol. 12mo,) a well-written book — not very malicious — nor very able; giving some account, but a very imperfect one, of the southern habits; and western habits of his countrymen: 4. THE BACKWOODSMAN — NATURE AND ART — &c. &c.: one vol. 12mo. — purporting to be poetry — absolute prose, nevertheless; a little in the style of Goldsmith: — 5. A new SERIES OF SALMAGUNDI, altogether by himself: quite equal to the first; but, — such is the miserable caprice of popular opinion — altogether neglected. Only a few numbers — five or six, if we are not mistaken — were published: — 6. Mr. P. is charged with having written the Letters on OLD ENGLAND, by a NEW ENGLANDMAN; a mischievous, wicked, foolish book: with little or no plain truth in it: a few downright lies — a multitude of misrepresentations. We do not say that Paulding is the author of this book — in fact; we have some reason to believe that he is not — but he is universally charged as the author, passes, thus far, for the author: and will, of course, be treated as the author, so far. He is a man of good, strong talent; a hearty republican: a sincere lover of his country — a cordial hater of ours — with little or no true knowledge concerning us, or it: of a most unhappy disposition; sarcastic humour; and — we are afraid — not a very good heart. — His caricatures are too serious for pleasantry. There is nothing like fun or frolic in his misrepresentations: — He is the author, too, of a novel, the name of which we forget, published, we believe, about one year ago, by the Whitakers. It was a satirical affair — of course; cuts up the city of Washington speculators in good style; with no pathos; no passion — but is full of meaning.