1789 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Hamilton Reid

Anonymous, "W. H. Reid" Town and Country Magazine 21 (December 1789) 567-68.



Genius independent of acquirements, or unlettered, has been much talked of these few years past; and, according to some critics, if they were not ironical, it is now frequent! Pretensions to it may have become frequent. Chatterton, Robert Burns, Mrs. Yearsley, and W. Hamilton Reid, in the poetical world, have set it on this foot; but it was the untimely death of the former, more than his merit, that made his advocates so warm in his favour; and, with Dr. Gregory, every susceptible mind is liable to be transported with pity and indignation. Burns' claim is admitted — Mrs. Yearsley has many admirers — and the public have long been delighted with Reid's inspiration, in every channel he has appeared in; and, in some of them, his abilities have been mentioned by some of the first characters in the literary or poetical world.... it is an unfounded notion, that a capacity for writing good prose is not congenial with a poetical genius. — For who that had a genius for poetry but excelled in prose? Pope's was the most musical, Swift's the most correct, and Milton's eminently nervous; and, without any ideas of composition, we could even point out some prose pieces of Mr. Hamilton Reid's, which, deriving their excellence from his reading, scientific taste, and powers peculiarly discriminating, would, like the versatility of his poetical talents as must excite astonishment at his obscure situation, as they would tend to gratify any other affection.