1833 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Horace Smith

Allan Cunningham, in "Biographical and Critical History of the Literature of the last Fifty Years" The Athenaeum (30 November 1833) 811.



HORACE SMITH became known to the world by his successful parodies on some of the chief poets; and so close were his imitations, that some of them might have been mistaken for the work of Crabbe and Scott — they were like as lark resembles lark. In his imitation of Scott as a romance writer he was in earnest, but not so successful: and yet he achieved much. In his Brambletye House, Tor Hill, and other tales, he constructed his stories with skill, place his characters at their proper posts, combined into one clear and comprehensive narrative, a succession of incidents, domestic and historic, and gave the whole the hue and costume of the times in which they were laid. But he lacked somewhat of the air and life which distinguish the narratives of the great magician of the north: he had the shape, and hue, and look, and but little more; he mustered his forces, but they marched like raw recruits, rather than disciplined heroes: the reader felt conscious that they were described, rather than exhibited; he took them not into his friendship, nor spoke of them as new acquaintances. The want of reality is a sore want; yet, in several instances, the author showed that he could both create and feel; in his female characters nature triumphed — he drew them from flesh and blood, and not from tapestry; their words and actions continue with us, while we remember but the outlines of his Roundheads and Cavaliers. There is an occasional excess of the descriptive in his stories, and this is true of his characters as well as of his scenes: in equipping his warriors, he enumerates their weapons, and by whom made, and wearies us with delineations of halls and chambers, and lines of road, and plots of garden ground. He is, nevertheless, a good describer, has considerable humour, not a little wit, a quick eye for the ludicrous, and a sympathy with noble natures and heroic deeds, which give him a worthy place among the novelists of these prolific times. He is famous for lively sallies in rhyme, and for pictures of city life and manners in both prose and verse.