1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Fitz-Greene Halleck

Anonymous, in Review of Halleck, Alnwick Castle; United States Review and Literary Gazette 2 (April 1827) 8-9.



The author of these poems is understood to be Mr. Halleck, a name already too well known in the literature of this country, and, moreover, too closely associated with many of these compositions, to justify us in affecting to speak of this collection as an anonymous work.

Some of these poems have never appeared before, but the greater part of them have, we believe, already been published. Two of these, "Marco Bozzaris" and "Connecticut," were printed in the New York Review; and two others, "Burns" and "Wyoming," appeared in some of the late numbers of this journal. We are glad to see these scattered gems now brought together, in company with others fresh from the mine. Those among us, who have watched with any interest the growth of our native literature, have long been impatient with the author for delaying to do, what he has at length done, in this collection; and now that it is given to the public, we believe there are not a few who will complain of the frugality with which he has dealt out his treasures. The work before us is a pamphlet, with sixty pages of poetry, and two of notes, printed with a liberal allowance of margin, and ample spaces between the lines. The eye glides swiftly over the jetty type and smooth hot-pressed paper, and the most deliberate reader would finish it in less than a couple of hours. We are disposed to expostulate with one who writes so well for writing so little, particularly when be writes so much to the taste of the public. An unsuccessful author is, it is true, under no obligation to write what nobody will read, or to publish what nobody will buy. But the author of these poems has been a favorite with his countrymen from his first appearance several years since. We understand that the greater part of this collection is already sold while we are writing this notice, and we dare say the whole of it will be disposed of before our article issues from the press. It is matter of some vexation, that one thus qualified, and whose talents are thus fortunately appreciated, should he so reluctant in coming before the public, when so many of doubtful pretensions are pressing forward with such eagerness in the competition for the public favor. Of native American poetry, such as it is, there is no want. The rank soil of our literature is shooting up luxuriantly into rhyme. Almost every month produces several thick volumes of indifferent poetry, manufactured on this side the Atlantic, the titles of which are seen for a few days in large letters at the doors of the booksellers' shops, and then are forgotten. Innumerable adventurers, of various degrees of talent, but all flushed with hope and confidence, are continually entering upon this barren department of letters, and one after another challenging the admiration of the world. That prosaic world, however, minds its ordinary business, utterly insensible to the efforts made to give it pleasure; and the disappointed poets turn somewhat sadly to more lucrative employments, and are generally, we believe, as well provided for in the end as the rest of the community. But here we have the phenomenon of a writer, whose works are universally admired, and scrambled for as fast as they appear, coming before the public as if he were actually afraid of an unfavorable reception, and, like a prudent merchant, trying the market with a small cargo. After this experiment, we hope he will have no apprehensions concerning the fate of what he may hereafter write. We shall expect him to attempt something that will more fully call forth and occupy his powers than the specimens contained in the few pages before us.