1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Wilson

Oliver William Bourne Peabody, in "Wilson's and Bonaparte's Ornithology" North American Review [Boston] 24 (January 1827) 116.



In the strictest sense of the terms, Wilson was a man of genius; his perceptions were quick, his impressions vivid; a bright glow of feeling breathes through his compositions. In the professed walks of poetry his attempts were not often fortunate, but his prose writings partake of the genuine poetic spirit; a lively fancy, exuberance of thought, and minute observation of the natural world, are strongly indicated in whatever has flowed from his pen. He travelled for the double purpose of procuring subscriptions to his book, and searching the forests for birds; and some of his graphic descriptions of the scenery of nature, and the habits of the winged tribes, are inimitable. Sometimes he walked; at others descended rivers in a canoe; again he was on horseback, in a stagecoach, or a farmer's waggon, as the great ends of his wanderings could be most easily attained. The cold reproaches of the many, from whom he solicited subscriptions, he bore with equanimity, undaunted by disappointment, unsubdued by toil and privation; the acquisition of a new bird, or of new facts illustrating the habitudes of those already known, was a fountain of joy in his gloomiest moments; it poured the waters of oblivion over the past, and gave him new energy in his onward course.