1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Charles Churchill

Anonymous, "Desultory Selections: Churchill" Ladies' Literary Cabinet [New York] 1 (15 May 1819) 5.



Poets are often poor, and sometimes profligate; Churchill was both; and yet it deserves to be told, that after compounding with his creditors at five shillings in the pound, he realized some money by his writings, and voluntarily paid the full amount of his debts. He died at the early age of 33, when most men are only beginning to distinguish themselves; and his genius certainly contained the seeds of greater excellence than it ever brought to maturity. The poetical character which he did obtain, is that of a bold, courageous, but slovenly artist. He has more of the vehemence of Dryden than any other English satirist, but none of that majesty of thought, that pomp of diction, or harmony of numbers, which give the hostility of Dryden, in satire, the dignity of moral warfare. Cowper gives his character with considerable indulgence, but with some truth, in a passage to his memory. The reader will, perhaps, need but little criticism to perceive that there is a confusion of metaphors in Cowper's lines alluded to, when the poet is first compared to a rider, and in the next line, placed at his lyre.

Surly and slovenly, and bold and coarse,
Too proud for art, and trusting in mere force;
Spendthrift alike of money and of wit,
Always at "speed," and never "drawing bit";
He struck his "lyre" in such a careless mood,
And so disdain'd the rules he understood—
The laurel seem'd to wait on his command;
He snatch'd it rudely from the muses' hand.