1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Allan Ramsay

Charles Brockden Brown?, "Adversaria: Allan Ramsay" Literary Magazine and American Register [Philadelphia] 5 (February 1806) 111.



Allan Ramsay certainly deserves to be placed first in the rank of Scottish poets. He appears to have studied Dryden with much attention, since his verses flow with the most pleasing volubility. A vein of solid good sense, a nice discrimination of character, a nervous elegance, and a pathetic simplicity of expression; in a word, the genuine language of nature, of passion, and of poetry, place his pastoral comedy of the Gentle Shepherd almost beyond our praise. From the closet of the philosopher, to the maid at her distaff, the poet's eloquence enraptures every heart, and irresistibly commands our tears. It is true that here are no licentious tales, no amorous suicides, no wire-drawn soliloquies, no pedantic ill-pointed epithets, no raving despot, such as never existed but in the distempered fancy of modern dramatists.

But the Gentle Shepherd does not rest its reputation on the caprice of a theatrical audience. Were all the copies of Ramsay's comedy destroyed, the grateful memories of his countrymen would eagerly supply the loss. Many of his readers have almost the whole poem by heart, and what other Scottish author can boast of such indelible admiration?

It deserves to be remembered, that the first circulating library in Scotland was kept by Allan Ramsay. He frequently mentions his original profession, and, to those who are weak enough to despise it, we may reply, that Ramsay "was not a man who could become mean by a mean employment."