1805 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Sotheby

Visconti, in "Present State of Engish Poetry" Literary Miscellany [Cambridge MA] 1 (October 1805) 371-72.



Hurdis, Hoole, Hole, Jephson, and others of inferior name are dead; but Sotheby, Boyd, Rogers, and Scott, are alive. Sotheby has built a fairy palace in England, for he has translated the Oberon of Wieland, and he has introduced Roman agriculture among the English cultivators, for they read and admire his version of the Georgics. These two works alone will give him immortality. His "battle of the Nile" and his "siege of the Cuzco," a tragedy, are known to me only by name, or report; but that report is favorable. From the translations we have a right to expect, that the Aeneid will finally be translated, that the advocates of Dryden and Pitt will give up their respective favorites, and bow to Sotheby, as to the "god of their idolatry." All nations have a right in Homer and Virgil, as all nations feel honored in the Apollo and the Venus; but, as only the Greek can preserve the inimitable excellencies of Homer, and as the graces of Virgil are durably consecrated only in Latin, so the Grecian statues can exist to perfection only in the marble, from which they were chiselled; and therefore every language should be dignified with translations of the poets as perfect, as possible; as every national repository of the fine arts should be furnished with the noblest copies of the wonderful statues. It is reserved for Sotheby to introduce Virgil to general admiration. The former translations of the Georgics have been now superseded, and the Aeneid will ere long be so honored, that Dryden's will be known only by the researches of the critic. The temple of English poetry is dignified by her own hierophants, who are full of sacred inspiration; but, if it was formerly a proud subject of national glory to know, that the ancient high priest of poetry, the venerable Homer, was elevated in the sanctuary of that temple by one of the officiating ministers, is it not now a noble cause of pleasant anticipation to believe, that Virgil, in the robes of majesty, piety, goodness, and reverence, who is now only waiting at the portal, we ere long be conducted by a youthful priest to the sacred recesses of the building, and will there be favored by the congratulations of holy poets, and by the homage of an admiring nation?