1772 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Browne of Tavistock

Gilbert Stuart, Review of Browne, Works, ed. William Thompson; The Monthly Review 46 (May 1772) 526-28.



The compositions of this poet, who began to flourish in the reign of the elder James, certainly deserved to be recovered from that obscurity into which they had fallen. If he has many of the faults, he has also some of the beauties of the writers of his age. There is an amiable simplicity in most of his pieces, and he knew how to move the heart by strokes of genuine nature and passion. It must be acknowledged, at the same time, that his writings abound with point and conceit; and those frivolous and disgusting ornaments which are the sure indications of a vitiated taste. His imagination was fertile, and his mind vigorous; but his judgment was corrupted by those Italian models which the fashion of his day taught him to imitate. His descriptions, though picturesque, have an air of extravagance; his conceptions, though strong, have marks of deformity; and his language never flows in a strain of continual purity. He could not plan with precision and delicacy, and was unable to join correctness with spirit.

The elegy which he composed on the death of Henry, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of James I. whose merit rendered him so much an object of national regret, may be appealed to as a proper specimen of his talents [omitted].

The life of this Author, compiled by the present Editor, is so very slight a sketch as scarcely merits the title which he has given to it; but, we suppose, the materials for a fuller account were not to be procured. The notes and observations on the Britannia's Pastorals are also few, and of little importance. We account it highly meritorious to do justice to neglected worth; but we could wish that the task were always undertaken by those who are fully equal to it. The public are, however obliged to this Editor for rescuing from oblivion the works of a real genius, to whose memory time has by no means done justice.