1826 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. James McHenry

Sumner Lincoln Fairfield, in "Four Months in Europe" New-York Literary Gazette and American Athenaeum 3 (30 September 1826) 37.



Though James M'Henry is not an American, yet his surreptitious success has reflected so much disgrace on America, that I am bound to notice him here. It will be apparent, I think, to any one who has suffered through the "Wilderness" of his vague descriptions, or shook hands, fearlessly, with his terrible "Spectre of the Forest," or waded through Irish bogs with Sir Geoffrey Carebow, or "O'Halloran," or endured inexpressible pains amid the "Pleasures of Friendship;" that the little man is not a very great novelist or poet. But the mania, both in England and America, of novel reading, throws encouragement in the way of the most ordinary men, while such poets as Percival may exist as they can. James M'Henry, a man below mediocrity, succeeded well in the United States, in spite of the exposures of Colonel Stone, and others; and he did the same in England. He obtained one hundred and fifty guineas for a new novel, the publication of which nearly ruined a young man who had just started in the trade. His "Blessings of Friendship," (a new name for an old book) was praised by Mr. William Jerdan, the editor of that immaculate, exquisite, delightful and infallible hebdomadal, called the London Literary Gazette; a weekly paper, which is praised and copied as an oracle in America and despised, as the standing macaroni of literature, in London. He is welcome, however, to the applauses of all such critics. But let him, at least, proclaim himself what he is, an Irishman of Ulster, not a citizen of the states of America. Let him talk of Hibernian "roues" and bulls and shilalas, but avoid, as a rock of offence, the history of our revolution and the amorous character of our great Washington. He is now in Ireland; where, it is to be hoped, he will for ever remain.