1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Jonathan Swift

K., in "Characters of some Writers during the Reign of Queen Anne, compared with the Present" Scots Magazine 58 (January 1796) 20-21.



When we consider Swift as an author, it is fair to estimate his powers by their effects, and in his political pieces, they appear to have been great: but we are to consider also, that no small part of their efficacy was supplied by the passions of their readers: if we judge them by their internal excellence, very many of the pamphlets, which are continually issuing from the press, appear to deserve equal credit: — we will name only the letters of Junius, and the Vindiciae Gallicae of Mackintosh. The force and spirit of Swift's wit was of the highest rank; but our day has produced geniuses as original in the walks of humour; and, since it is impossible to define wit, or to estimate it by any rules of composition, we have no right to condemn the taste of those who prefer the humour of Sterne, or Wolcot, to the Tale of a Tub, or the Adventures of a Gulliver.