1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Southey

Joseph Dennie, Headnote to "Defence of Southey's Thalaba" Port Folio [Philadelphia] S3 2 (July 1809) 57-58.



The politest Scholars and the ablest Critics have differed widely in their opinion of the merits, or demerits of the Muse of SOUTHEY. That he is a man of Genius and a Poet of great sensibility, we are by no means disposed to deny; moreover, in a spirit of the most liberal candor, we declare distinctly, that Mr. S. is incomparably a wiser man, and a more correct and elegant writer now, than he was some years ago. From the most accurate authority, we have good reason to believe that his character has materially changed; and that, however disposed to quarrel with, or laugh at him once, we have no inclination now to assail with vehemence, either his principles, or his poetry. Of late he has written much which reflects lustre upon his heart and his understanding. In his Chronicle of the Cid, we discern the plainest proofs of his attentive perusal of the Bible, and a very pleasing copy of the sublime simplicity of its style. But of the innovations, which he has hazarded in his "Thalaba," we doubt somewhat of the propriety. This our readers will readily allow to be very natural, when they reflect, that we are orthodox believers in the creed of the High Church of Criticism. Every scholar remembers the powerful onset made against Southey's light troops by the tremendous charge of the Edinburgh Review. The strongest defence is by H. K. WHITE, a spirited gallant, if not a successful volunteer. The ensuing paper is perfectly well written, and if we may not concede in the argument, we must commend its ingenuity. EDITOR.