1829 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Gordon Brooks

Nathaniel Parker Willis, in Review of Brooks, The Rivals of Este and other Poems; American Monthly Magazine [Boston] 1 (May 1829) 137-38.



We were about inditing some remarks upon this volume of Poems, when we received from a correspondent a long review, from which we extract a few passages below. The writer thinks highly, very highly, of talents of both authors; and we are not disposed to differ from him materially. Mr. Brooks has a fixed reputation, and we know that by many of those whose good opinion is worth having, he is considered a poet of the first water. We do not know that our objections, such as they are, interfere even with this degree of appreciation, being founded not on all, but a part only of what he has done. We have seen poetry of his which we could not forget, and we have seen verses signed "Florio" (we dare say somebody else's — there are people wicked enough to steal signatures) which made us wish the author a "kind friend" to burn his manuscripts for him. When we remember that he is an Editor, however, we can conceive that the worst of them may be his, and still forgive him. The wonder is that the muses did not "cut" him incontinently after his first "article." Of Mrs. Brooks's poetry we long ago wrote ourselves admirer. She writes carelessly, however — most carelessly; and her meaning is sometimes dim, though that may be in the reader. There are both faults and beauties in Norna's poetry, which we suspect are the result of that same carelessness, and would be equally affected by its amendment. We fancy she writes as a friend of ours paints — in a passion. He advances and retreats and flourishes before his easel in the legitimate "fine frenzy," and we are positive that Norna paces her boudoir and pours out her passionate musings, like an improvatrice in solitude, to the shadowy auditors of her own ideal world — (the most uncritical and undiscriminating set, by the way, that ever spoiled an author by indulgence.) We have no doubt that, in this same world, she is understood to the most impalpable shadow of meaning — but, ungracious though we seem, we must remind her that we have not the "fine ear" and the "subtle faculty" which can hear the inaudible, and supply the unexpressed.