1825 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Edmund Reade

Anonymous, in Review of Reade, Broken Heart; New Monthly Magazine NS 15 (November 1825) 508.



There is some beautiful poetry in this little volume; but it is entangled with so much that is unintelligible, as to obstruct whatever chance it might otherwise have had of becoming popular. If, as we suspect, the author be a young man, we would fain ascribe to the immaturity of his taste, that which, coming from one of more advanced age, would be classed as hopeless affectation. A throng of half-formed ideas present themselves to him, and the very quality which renders them of no worth, namely, their vagueness, seems to endear them in his estimation; they are the more precious, being "dim," "imaginative," "sublimely obscure," — for these we believe are some of the phrases in use; and so feeling our author puts down his moods in all their dreamy confusion, expecting rational people to join in his enthusiasm. It has also been too much the fashion of late for poetical aspirants to groan under a world of melancholy and mysterious sorrow, by which they believe they imitate the excellencies of Lord Byron. To be happy is the most unlucky thing in the world; and accordingly every new poet sets about quarrelling with his friends, cherishing a hopeless passion for his neighbour's wife, and getting up a pale face. This was not the way with Chaucer and Shakspeare, who sought to be vigorous in their writings, rather than sickly, and who looked not so much at rocks and solitudes, as into the stirring world of human nature; satisfied above all things with healthy, clear, and joyous impulses. Pain and sorrow, and the wanderings of the intellect have, it is true, been delineated in the most overpowering way by these great masters; but this has been done by them in the unavoidable pursuit of their story, and as records of the calamities to which the human heart is liable. They have never deified Sadness as the all-in-all in Poetry; nor have they affected, as our present writers do, any private and personal fondness for it.