1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. John Armstrong

Bryan Waller Procter, in Effigies Poeticae, or, the Portraits of the British Poets (1824) 91-92.



From a Miniature by Shelley, in the possession of the Publisher.

"DOCTOR ARMSTRONG'S poem on Health is very well." — This is the report of Horatio Walpole. Nevertheless, it is, for a didactic poem, an agreeable poem; and it is moreover the poem which has alone given fame to its author. Armstrong is almost entirely unknown, except as to his poem on "Preserving Health." — The face before us has a cunning look. Walpole asserts that the original Doctor was proud: — "His pride is most disgusting," he says; and adds, in a very pleasant unconscious way — "An author should either know or suppose, that there are in this enlightened country thousands of readers, who might perhaps write as well as himself on any topic — (!!we deny this, on the part of both poets and physicians) — but, who at any rate may be superior judges, though they be too lazy to call their taste into active exertion." We almost wonder that Walpole's vanity should get the better of his natural shrewdness so far as to induce him to let these sentences escape. For our own parts, we are glad of it, partly because it is a trait in the critic's character, and partly because we are quite sure that it relieved him from a fit of the spleen.