1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Gray

Bryan Waller Procter, in Effigies Poeticae, or, the Portraits of the British Poets (1824) 88-89.



From a Picture, by Echardt, in the Collection at Strawberry Hill.

There is not a poet in the whole poetical history of England, who, by the same means, ever attained such a reputation in his life-time or preserved it after his death, as GRAY. He has been praised till we are fatigued with eulogy. Horace Walpole thought him a profounder man than Hume, and Miss Seward has placed him upon the clouds. There are no heights or depths which his fame has not reached, so warm has been the fancy of his admirers and so active the exertions of his friends. Dr. Johnson has been abused for underrating him, by persons who could read that learned biographer's account of Milton without anger. In short, so much has been said of the author of "The Bard" and of "The Elegy in a Church Yard," that we shall not add to the heap of remark; the more especially as our colder calculation of Gray's talent might probably be considered to have been written in an invidious spirit. Yet, we are not without our admiration of Gray. We like his letters, portions of his odes, parts of his "Elegy," (indeed the whole perhaps, in moderation,) but his Pindarics are not altogether to our taste. His poems are laboured and extremely wanting in originality, and are by no means rich in imagination. The portrait has a neat, finical, affected look, smooth as "my lady's cheek;" and his hair, his eyebrows, his dress, &c. are all tamed down to precise and polished order. There is certainly not much of the fine audacity of Pindar in this look of his imitator, Gray.