1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Isaac Watts

Anonymous, "English Worthies: Watts" European Magazine 68 (October 1815) 326-27.



To refrain from evil is merely our duty; but if we do all the good which is in our power, we deserve both commendation and honour. Few have more opportunities of meriting these rewards than a learned versatile genius, one who can excel in most departments of knowledge, and in each discover several valuable truths. The unaffected penetrating Watts was, fortunately for his country, a man of this description, who, though he soared not so high in the intellectual world as a Newton or a Clarke; yet, probably, his productions have been of as much advantage as the writings of those great characters. In his writings are concentrated divinity, philosophy, ethics, and poetry, with an extensive knowledge of books and mankind, expressed in a style which please and instruct the infant, the youth, and the sage. There is a benevolence throughout; and if there is not always originality, there is sure to be the light of simplicity dispersing the mists of the Schools from off the works of literature, and bringing the sentiments of great men to our view which were before either hidden from the sight, or not properly understood.

How useful is his Improvement of the Mind, his Logic, and his Sermons; how devout and poetical are many of his divine Hymns; how interesting and simple was his preaching; how unaffected his piety; and how benevolent his life. "To the poor," says Dr. Johnson, "while he lived in the family of his friend, he allowed the third part of his annual revenue, though the whole was not a hundred a-year."

You who with bigotry declaim against dissenters, read this, blush, and imitate.