1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Randolph

Anonymous, in Retrospective Review 6 (1822) 63-64.



The poems speak for themselves. In listening to their voice, however, it should be remembered, that they appear without the stamp of authority, and are not entitled to be considered as undoubted testimonies of his poetical talent. He himself did not publish them, nor write them for publication, doubtless reserving himself for some effort worthy of his gifted muse. Such as they are, they bear evidence of a most varied and highly-endowed nature; for they are full of lively sallies of wit and fancy, deep learning, shrewd observations on man, and eloquent descriptions of passions. It is to be lamented that their only fault is one of very constant recurrence, which unfortunately casts a shade on too many of the productions of this writer's time. They are not only marked by a coarseness of language and plainness of expression, but too common among his contemporaries, but likewise indulge in warm and highly-coloured descriptions, and dwell upon themes of an indelicate nature. While we regret that our poet should have thus given the reins to a prurient imagination, it must be recollected that he intended the circulation of his poems to be limited, and that many were probably written in moments of elevation, and thrown aside, and forgotten until after his death, when they were raked together by his brother, for the purpose of publication. Being, however, disfigured by this blemish, and rendered unfit for general perusal, while at the same time there is much which is deserving of notice and admiration, they come precisely within the plan of our work, whose principle it is to rescue the remains of neglected genius from oblivion, and whose pride it will ever be, while it promotes the cause of literature, never to forget the interests of virtue and morality.