CHAPTER XXXVI. THE NEW ROMANTIC POETRY (CONTINUED).
Robert Burns. His Poems. His Career. George Crabbe. Thomas Campbell.
Samuel Rogers. P. B. Shelley. John Keats. Other Writers.
If Moore was, in the opinion of his age, an Irish prodigy, Burns is, for all time, a Scottish marvel. The one was polished and musical, but artificial and insidiously immoral; the other homely and simple, but powerful and effective to men of all classes in society. The one was the poet of the aristocracy; the other the genius whose sympathies were with the poor. One was most at home in the palaces of the great; and the other, in the rude Ayrshire cottage, or in the little sitting-room of the landlord in company with Souter John and Tam O'Shanter. As to most of his poems, Burns was really of no distinct school, but seems to stand alone, the creature of circumstance rather than of the age, in an unnatural and false position, compared by himself to the daisy he uprooted with his ploughshare:
Even thou who mourn'st the daisy's fate,
That fate is thine—no distant date;
Stern Ruin's ploughshare drives elate,
Full on thy bloom,
Till crushed beneath the furrow's weight
Shall be thy doom!
His life was uneventful. He was the son of a very poor man who was gardener to a gentleman at Ayr. He was born in Alloway on the 25th of January, 1759. His early education was scanty; but he read with avidity the few books on which he could lay his hands, among which he particularly mentions, in his short autobiography, The Spectator, the poems of Pope, and the writings of Sterne and Thomson. But the work which he was to do needed not even that training: he drew his simple subjects from surrounding nature, and his ideas came from his heart rather than his head. Like Moore, he found the old tunes or airs of the country, and set them to new words—words full of sentiment and sense.
HIS POEMS.—Most of his poems are quite short, and of the kind called fugitive, except that they will not fly away. The Cotter's Saturday Night is for men of all creeds, a pastoral full of divine philosophy. His Address to the Deil is a tender thought even for the Prince of Darkness, whom, says Carlyle, his kind nature could not hate with right orthodoxy. His poems on The Louse, The Field-Mouse's Nest, andThe Mountain Daisy, are homely meditations and moral lessons, and contain counsels for all hearts. In The Twa Dogs he contrasts, in fable, the relative happiness of rich and poor. In the beautiful song
Ye banks and braes of bonnie Doun,
he expresses that hearty sympathy with nature which is one of the most attractive features of his character. His Bruce's Address stirs the blood, and makes one start up into an attitude of martial advance. But his most famous poem—drama, comedy, epic, and pastoral—is Tam o' Shanter: it is a universal favorite; and few travellers leave Scotland without standing at the window of “Alloway's auld haunted kirk,” walking over the road upon which Meg galloped, pausing over “the keystane of the brigg” where she lost her tail; and then returning, full of the spirit of the poem, to sit in Tam's chair, and drink ale out of the same silver-bound wooden bicker, in the very room of the inn where Tam and the poet used to get “unco fou,” while praising “inspiring bold John Barley-corn.” Indeed, in the words of the poor Scotch carpenter, met by Washington Irving at Kirk Alloway, “it seems as if the country had grown more beautiful since Burns had written his bonnie little songs about it.”
HIS CAREER.—The poet's career was sad. Gifted but poor, and doomed to hard work, he was given a place in the excise. He went to Edinburgh, and for a while was a great social lion; but he acquired a horrid thirst for drink, which shortened his life. He died in Dumfries, at the early age of thirty-seven. His allusions to his excesses are frequent, and many of them touching. In his praise of Scotch Drink he singscon amore. In a letter to Mr. Ainslie, he epitomizes his failing: “Can you, amid the horrors of penitence, regret, headache, nausea, and all the rest of the hounds of hell that beset a poor wretch who has been guilty of the sin of drunkenness,—can you speak peace to a troubled soul.”
Burns was a great letter-writer, and thought he excelled in that art; but, valuable as his letters are, in presenting certain phases of his literary and personal character, they display none of the power of his poetry, and would not alone have raised him to eminence. They are in vigorous and somewhat pedantic English; while most of his poems are in that Lowland Scottish language or dialect which attracts by its homeliness and pleases by its couleur locale. It should be stated, in conclusion, that Burns is original in thought and presentation; and to this gift must be added a large share of humor, and an intense patriotism. Poverty was his grim horror. He declared that it killed his father, and was pursuing him to the grave. He rose above the drudgery of a farmer's toil, and he found no other work which would sustain him; and yet this needy poet stands to-day among the most distinguished Scotchmen who have contributed to English Literature.
GEORGE CRABBE.—Also of the transition school; in form and diction adhering to the classicism of Pope, but, with Thomson, restoring the pastoral to nature, the poet of the humble poor;—in the words of Byron, “Pope in worsted stockings,” Crabbe was the delight of his time; and Sir Walter Scott, returning to die at Abbotsford, paid him the following tribute: he asked that they would read him something amusing, “Read me a bit of Crabbe.” As it was read, he exclaimed, “Capital—excellent—very good; Crabbe has lost nothing.”
George Crabbe was born on December 24th, 1754, at Aldborough, Suffolk. His father was a poor man; and Crabbe, with little early education, was apprenticed to a surgeon, and afterwards practised; but his aspirations were such that he went to London, with three pounds in his pocket, for a literary venture. He would have been in great straits, had it not been for the disinterested generosity of Burke, to whom, although an utter stranger, he applied for assistance. Burke aided him by introducing him to distinguished literary men; and his fortune was made. In 1781 he published The Library, which was well received. Crabbe then took orders, and was for a little time curate at Aldborough, his native place, while other preferment awaited him. In 1783 he appeared under still more favorable auspices, by publishing The Village, which had a decided success. Two livings were then given him; and he, much to his credit, married his early love, a young girl of Suffolk. In The Village he describes homely scenes with great power, in pentameter verse. The poor are the heroes of his humble epic; and he knew them well, as having been of them. In 1807 appeared The Parish Register, in 1810 The Borough, and in 1812 his Tales in Verse,—the precursor, in the former style, however, of Wordsworth's lyrical stories. All these were excellent and very popular, because they were real, and from his own experience. The Tales of the Hall, referring chiefly to the higher classes of society, are more artificial, and not so good. His pen was most at home in describing smugglers, gipsies, and humble villagers, and in delineating poverty and wretchedness; and thus opening to the rich and titled, doors through which they might exercise their philanthropy and munificence. In this way Crabbe was a reformer, and did great good; although his scenes are sometimes revolting, and his pathos too exacting. As a painter of nature, he is true and felicitous; especially in marine and coast views, where he is a pre-Raphaelite in his minuteness. Byron called him “Nature's sternest painter, but the best.” He does not seem to write for effect, and he is without pretension; so that the critics were quite at fault; for what they mainly attack is not the poet's work so much as the consideration whether his works come up to his manifesto. Crabbe died in 1832, on the 3d of February, being one of the famous dead of that fatal year.
Crabbe's poems mark his age. At an earlier time, when literature was for the fashionable few, his subjects would have been beneath interest; but the times had changed; education had been more diffused, and readers were multiplied. Goldsmith's Deserted Village had struck a new chord, upon which Crabbe continued to play. Of his treatment of these subjects it must be said, that while he holds a powerful pen, and portrays truth vividly, he had an eye only for the sadder conditions of life, and gives pain rather than excites sympathy in the reader. Our meaning will be best illustrated by a comparison of The Village of Crabbe with The Deserted Village of Goldsmith, and the pleasure with which we pass from the squalid scenes of the former to the gentler sorrows and sympathies of the latter.
THOMAS CAMPBELL.—More identified with his age than any other poet, and yet forming a link between the old and the new, was Campbell. Classical and correct in versification, and smothering nature with sonorous prosody, he still had the poetic fire, and an excellent power of poetic criticism. He was the son of a merchant, and was born at Glasgow on the 27th of July, 1777. He thus grew up with the French revolution, and with the great progress of the English nation in the wars incident to it. He was carefully educated, and was six years at the University of Glasgow, where he received prizes for composition. He went later to Germany, after being graduated, to study Greek literature with Heyne. After some preliminary essays in verse, he published the Pleasures of Hope in 1799, before he was twenty-two years old. It was one of the greatest successes of the age, and has always since been popular. His subject was one of universal interest; his verse was high-sounding; and his illustrations modern—such as the fall of Poland—Finis Poloniae; and although there is some turgidity, and some want of unity, making the work a series of poems rather than a connected one, it was most remarkable for a youth of his age. It was perhaps unfortunate for his future fame; for it led the world to expect other and better things, which were not forthcoming. Travelling on the continent in the next year, 1800, he witnessed the battle of Hohenlinden from the monastery of St. Jacob, and wrote that splendid, ringing battle-piece, which has been so often recited and parodied. From that time he wrote nothing in poetry worthy of note, except songs and battle odes, with one exception. Among his battle-pieces which have never been equalled are Ye Mariners of England, The Battle of the Baltic, and Lochiel's Warning. His Exile of Erinhas been greatly admired, and was suspected at the time of being treasonable; the author, however, being entirely innocent of such an intention, as he clearly showed.
Besides reviews and other miscellanies, Campbell wrote The Annals of Great Britain, from the Accession of George III. to the Peace of Amiens, which is a graceful but not valuable work. In 1805 he received a pension of L200 per annum.
In 1809 he published his Gertrude of Wyoming—the exception referred to—a touching story, written with exquisite grace, but not true to the nature of the country or the Indian character. Like Rasselas, it is a conventional English tale with foreign names and localities; but as an English poem it has great merit; and it turned public attention to the beautiful Valley of Wyoming, and the noble river which flows through it.
As a critic, Campbell had great acquirements and gifts. These were displayed in his elaborate Specimens of the British Poets, published in 1819, and in his Lectures on Poetry before the Surrey Institution in 1820. In 1827 he was elected Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow; but afterwards his literary efforts were by no means worthy of his reputation. Few have read his Pilgrim of Glencoe ; and all who have, are pained by its manifestation of his failing powers. In fact, his was an unfinished fame—a brilliant beginning, but no continuance. Sir Walter Scott has touched it with a needle, when he says, “Campbell is in a manner a bugbear to himself; the brightness of his early success is a detriment to all his after efforts. He is afraid of the shadow which his own fame casts before him.” Byron placed him in the second category of the greatest living English poets; but Byron was no critic.
He also published a Life of Petrarch, and a Life of Frederick the Great; and, in 1830, he edited the New Monthly Magazine. He died at Boulogne, June 15th, 1844, after a long period of decay in mental power.
SAMUEL ROGERS.—Rogers was a companion or consort to Campbell, although the two men were very different personally. As Campbell had borrowed from Akenside and written The Pleasures of Hope, Rogers enriched our literature with The Pleasures of Memory, a poem of exquisite versification, more finished and unified than its pendent picture; containing neither passion nor declamation, but polish, taste, and tenderness.
Rogers was born in a suburb of London, in 1762. His father was a banker; and, although well educated, the poet was designed to succeed him, as he did, being until his death a partner in the same banking-house. Early enamored of poetry by reading Beattie's Minstrel, Rogers devoted all his spare time to its cultivation, and with great and merited success.
In 1786 he produced his Ode to Superstition, after the manner of Gray, and in 1792 his Pleasures of Memory, which was enthusiastically received, and which is polished to the extreme. In 1812 appeared a fragment, The Voyage of Columbus, and in 1814 Jacqueline, in the same volume with Byron's Lara. Human Life was published in 1819. It is a poem in the old style, (most of his poems are in the rhymed pentameter couplet;) but in 1822 appeared his poem of Italy, in blank verse, which has the charm of originality in presentation, freshness of personal experience, picturesqueness in description, novelty in incident and story, scholarship, and taste in art criticism. In short, it is not only the best of his poems, but it has great merit besides that of the poetry. The story of Ginevra is a masterpiece of cabinet art, and is universally appreciated. With these works Rogers contented himself. Rich and distinguished, his house became a place of resort to men of distinction and taste in art: it was filled with articles of vertu ; and Rogers the poet lived long as Rogers the virtuoso. His breakfast parties were particularly noted. His long, prosperous, and happy life was ended on the 18th December, 1855, at the age of ninety-two.
The position of Rogers may be best illustrated in the words of Sir J. Mackintosh, in which he says: “He appeared at the commencement of this literary revolution, without paying court to the revolutionary tastes, or seeking distinction by resistance to them.” His works are not destined to live freshly in the course of literature, but to the historical student they mark in a very pleasing manner the characteristics of his age.
PERCY B. SHELLEY.—Revolutions never go backward; and one of the greatest characters in this forward movement was a gifted, irregular, splendid, unbalanced mind, who, while taking part in it, unconsciously, as one of many, stands out also in a very singular individuality.
Percy Bysshe Shelley was born on the 4th of August, 1792, at Fieldplace, in Sussex, England. He was the eldest son of Sir Timothy Shelley, and of an ancient family, traced back, it is said, to Sir Philip Sidney. When thirteen years old he was sent to Eton, where he began to display his revolutionary tendencies by his resistance to the fagging system; and where he also gave some earnest in writing of his future powers. At the age of sixteen he entered University College, Oxford, and appeared as a radical in most social, political, and religious questions. On account of a paper entitled The Necessity of Atheism, he was expelled from the university and went to London. In 1811 he made a runaway match with Miss Harriet Westbrook, the daughter of the keeper of a coffee-house, which brought down on him the wrath of his father. After the birth of two children, a separation followed; and he eloped with Miss Godwin in 1814. His wife committed suicide in 1816; and then the law took away from him the control of his children, on the ground that he was an atheist.
After some time of residence in England, he returned to Italy, where soon after he met with a tragical end. Going in an open boat from Leghorn to Spezzia, he was lost in a storm on the Mediterranean: his body was washed on shore near the town of Via Reggio, where his remains were burned in the presence of Lord Byron, Leigh Hunt, and others. The ashes were afterwards buried in the Protestant cemetery at Rome in July, 1822.
Shelley's principles were irrational and dangerous. He was a transcendentalist of the extreme order, and a believer in the perfectability of human nature. His works are full of his principles. The earliest wasQueen Mab, in which his profanity and atheism are clearly set forth. It was first privately printed, and afterwards published in 1821. This was followed by Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude, in 1816. In this he gives his own experience in the tragical career of the hero. His longest and most pretentious poem was The Revolt of Islam, published in 1819. It is in the Spenserian stanza. Also, in the same year, he published The Cenci, a tragedy, a dark and gloomy story on what should be a forbidden subject, but very powerfully written. In 1820 he also published The Prometheus Unbound, which is full of his irreligious views. His remaining works were smaller poems, among which may be noted Adonais, and the odes To the Skylark and The Cloud.
In considering his character, we must first observe the power of his imagination; it was so strong and all-absorbing, that it shut out the real and the true. He was a man of extreme sensibility; and that sensibility, hurt by common contact with things and persons around him, made him morbid in morality and metaphysics. He was a polemic of the fiercest type; and while he had an honest desire for reform of the evils that he saw about him, it is manifest that he attacked existing institutions for the very love of controversy. Bold, retired, and proud, without a spice of vanity, if he has received harsh judgment from one half the critical world, who had at least the claim that they were supporting pure morals and true religion, his character has been unduly exalted by the other half, who have mistaken reckless dogmatism for true nobility of soul. The most charitable judgment is that of Moir, who says: “It is needless to disguise the fact—and it accounts for all—his mind was diseased; he never knew, even from boyhood, what it was to breathe the atmosphere of healthy life—to have the mens sana in corpore sano.”
But of his poetical powers we must speak in a different manner. What he has left, gives token that, had he lived, he would have been one of the greatest modern poets. Thoroughly imbued with the Greek poetry, his verse-power was wonderful, his language stately and learned without pedantry, his inspiration was that of nature in her grandest moods, his fancy always exalted; and he presents the air of one who produces what is within him from an intense love of his art, without regard to the opinion of the world around him,—which, indeed, he seems to have despised more thoroughly than any other poet has ever done. Byron affected to despise it; Shelley really did.
We cannot help thinking that, had he lived after passing through the fiery trial of youthful passions and disordered imagination, he might have astonished the world with the grand spectacle of a convert to the good and true, and an apostle in the cause of both. Of him an honest thinker has said,—and there is much truth in the apparent paradox,—“No man who was not a fanatic, had ever more natural piety than he; and his supposed atheism is a mere metaphysical crotchet in which he was kept by the affected scorn and malignity of dunces.”
JOHN KEATS.—Another singular illustration of eccentricity and abnormal power in verse is found in the brief career of John Keats, the son of the keeper of a livery-stable in London, who was born on the 29th October, 1795.
Keats was a sensitive and pugnacious youth; and in 1810, after a very moderate education, he was apprenticed to a surgeon; but the love of poetry soon interfered with the surgery, and he began to read, not without the spirit of emulation, the works of the great poets—Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton. After the issue of a small volume which attracted little or no attention, he published his Endymion in 1818, which, with some similarity in temperament, he inscribed to the memory of Thomas Chatterton. It is founded upon the Greek mythology, and is written in a varied measure. Its opening line has been a familiar quotation since:
A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
It was assailed by all the critics; but particularly, although not unfairly, by Jeffrey, in the Edinburgh Review. An article in Blackwood, breathing the spirit of British caste, had the bad taste to tell the young apothecary to go back to his galley-pots. The excessive sensibility of Keats received a great shock from this treatment; but we cannot help thinking that too much stress has been laid upon this in saying that he was killed by it. This was more romantic than true. He was by inheritance consumptive, and had lost a brother by that disease. Add to this that his peculiar passions and longings took the form of fierce hypochondria.
With a decided originality, he was so impressible that there are in his writings traces of the authors whom he was reading, if he did not mean to make them models of style.
In 1820 he published a volume containing Lamia, Isabella, and The Eve of St. Agnes, and Hyperion, a fragment, which was received with far greater favor by the reviewers. Keats was self-reliant, and seems to have had something of that magnificent egotism which is not infrequently displayed by great minds.
The judicious verdict at last pronounced upon him may be thus epitomized: he was a poet with fine fancy, original ideas, felicity of expression, but full of faults due to his individuality and his youth; and his life was not spared to correct these. In 1820 a hemorrhage of brilliant arterial blood heralded the end. He himself said, “Bring me a candle; let me see this blood;” and when it was brought, added, “I cannot be deceived in that color; that drop is my death-warrant: I must die.” By advice he went to Italy, where he grew rapidly worse, and died on the 23d of February, 1821, having left this for his epitaph: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” Thus dying at the age of twenty-four, he must be judged less for what he was, than as an earnest of what he would have been. The Eve of St. Agnes is one of the most exquisite poems in any language, and is as essentially allied to the simplicity and nature of the modern school of poetry as his Endymion is to the older school. Keats took part in what a certain writer has called “the reaction against the barrel-organ style, which had been reigning by a kind of sleepy, divine right for half a century.”
OTHER WRITERS OF THE PERIOD.
In consonance with the Romantic school of Poetry, and as contributors to the prose fiction of the period of Scott, Byron, and Moore, a number of gifted women have made good their claim to the favor of the reading world, and have left to us productions of no mean value. First among these we mention Mrs. FELICIA DOROTHEA HEMANS, 1794-1835: early married to Captain Hemans, of the army, she was not happy in the conjugal state, and lived most of her after-life in retirement, separated from her husband. Her style is harmonious, and her lyrical power excellent; she makes melody of common-places; and the low key in which her poetry is pitched made her a favorite with the multitude. There is special fervor in her religious poems. Most of her writings are fugitive and occasional pieces. Among the longer poems are The Forest Sanctuary, Dartmoor, (a lyric poem,) and The Restoration of the works of Art to Italy. The Siege of Valencia and The Vespers of Palermo are plays on historical subjects. There is a sameness in her poetry which tires; but few persons can be found who do not value highly such a descriptive poem as Bernardo del Carpio, conceived in the very spirit of the Spanish Ballads, and such a sad and tender moralizing as that found in The Hour of Death:
Leaves have their time to fall,
And flowers to wither, at the north-wind's breath,
And stars to set—but all,
Thou hast all seasons for thine own, O Death!
Such poems as these will live when the greater part of what she has written has been forgotten, because its ministry has been accomplished.
Mrs. Caroline Elizabeth Norton, (born in 1808, still living:) she is the daughter of Thomas Sheridan, and the grand-daughter of the famous R. B. Sheridan. She married the Hon. Mr. Norton, and, like Mrs. Hemans, was unhappy in her union. As a poet, she has masculine gifts combined with feminine grace and tenderness. Her principal poems are The Sorrows of Rosalie, The Undying One, (founded on the legend of The Wandering Jew,) and The Dream. Besides these her facile pen has produced a multitude of shorter pieces, which have been at once popular. Her claims to enduring fame are not great, and she must be content with a present popularity.
Letitia Elizabeth Landon, 1802-1839: more gifted, and yet not as well trained as either of the preceding, Miss Landon (L. E. L.) has given vent to impassioned sentiment in poetry and prose. Besides many smaller pieces, she wrote The Improvisatrice, The Troubadour, The Golden Violet, and several prose romances, among which the best are Romance and Reality, and Ethel Churchill. She wrote too rapidly to finish with elegance; and her earlier pieces are disfigured by this want of finish, and by a lack of cool judgment; but her later writings are better matured and more correct. She married Captain Maclean, the governor of Cape Coast Castle, in Africa, and died there suddenly, from an overdose of strong medicine which she was accustomed to take for a nervous affection.
Maria Edgeworth, 1767-1849: she was English born, but resided most of her life in Ireland. Without remarkable genius, she may be said to have exercised a greater influence over her period than any other woman who lived in it. There is an aptitude and a practical utility in her stories which are felt in all circles. Her works for children are delightful and formative. Every one has read and re-read with pleasure the interesting and instructive stories contained in The Parents' Assistant. And what these are to the children, her novels are to those of larger growth. They are eighteen in number, and are illustrative of the society, fashion, and morals of the day; and always inculcate a good moral. Among them we may particularize Forester, The Absentee, and The Modern Griselda. All critics, even those who deny her great genius, agree in their estimate of the moral value of her stories, every one of which is at once a portraiture of her age and an instructive lesson to it. The feminine delicacy with which she offers counsel and administers reproof gives a great charm to, and will insure the permanent popularity of, her productions.
Jane Austen, 1775-1817: as a novelist she occupied a high place in her day, but her stories are gradually sinking into an historic repose, from which the coming generations will not care to disturb them. Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility are perhaps the best of her productions, and are valuable as displaying the society and the nature around her with delicacy and tact.
Mary Ferrier, 1782-1855: like Miss Austen, she wrote novels of existing society, of which The Marriage and The Inheritance are the best known. They were great favorites with Sir Walter Scott, who esteemed Miss Ferrier's genius highly: they are little read at the present time.
Robert Pollok, 1799-1827: a Scottish minister, who is chiefly known by his long poem, cast in a Miltonic mould, entitled The Course of Time. It is singularly significant of religious fervor, delicate health, youthful immaturity, and poetic yearnings. It abounds in startling effects, which please at first from their novelty, but will not bear a calm, critical analysis. On its first appearance, The Course of Time was immensely popular; but it has steadily lost favor, and its highest flights are “unearthly flutterings” when compared with the powerful soarings of Milton's imagination and the gentle harmonies of Cowper's religious muse. Pollok died early of consumption: his youth and his disease account for the faults and defects of his poem.
Leigh Hunt, 1784-1859: a novelist, a poet, an editor, a critic, a companion of literary men, Hunt occupies a distinct position among the authors of his day. Wielding a sensible and graceful rather than a powerful pen, he has touched almost every subject in the range of our literature, and has been the champion and biographer of numerous literary friends. He was the companion of Byron, Shelley, Keats, Lamb, Coleridge, and many other authors. He edited at various times several radical papers—The Examiner, The Reflector, The Indicator, and The Liberal; for a satire upon the regent, published in the first, he was imprisoned for two years. Among his poems The Story of Rimini is the best. His Legend of Florence is a beautiful drama. There are few pieces containing so small a number of lines, and yet enshrining a full story, which have been as popular as his Abou Ben Adhem. Always cheerful, refined and delicate in style, appreciative of others, Hunt's place in English literature is enviable, if not very exalted; like the atmosphere, his writings circulate healthfully and quietly around efforts of greater poets than himself.
James Hogg, 1770-1835: a self-taught rustic, with little early schooling, except what the shepherd-boy could draw from nature, he wrote from his own head and heart without the canons and the graces of the Schools. With something of the homely nature of Burns, and the Scottish romance of Walter Scott, he produced numerous poems which are stamped with true genius. He catered to Scottish feeling, and began his fame by the stirring lines beginning;
My name is Donald McDonald,
I live in the Highlands so grand.
His best known poetical works are The Queen's Wake, containing seventeen stories in verse, of which the most striking is that of Bonny Kilmeny. He was always called “The Ettrick Shepherd.” Wilson says of The Queen's Wake that “it is a garland of fresh flowers bound with a band of rushes from the moor;” a very fitting and just view of the work of one who was at once poet and rustic.
Allan Cunningham, 1785-1842; like Hogg, in that as a writer he felt the influence of both Burns and Scott, Cunningham was the son of a gardener, and a self-made man. In early life he was apprenticed to a mason. He wrote much fugitive poetry, among which the most popular pieces are, A Wet Sheet and a Flowing Sea, Gentle Hugh Herries, and It's Hame and it's Hame. Among his stories are Traditional Tales of the Peasantry, Lord Roldan, and The Maid of Elwar. His position for a time, as clerk and overseer of Chantrey's establishment, gave him the idea of writing The Lives of Eminent British Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. He was a voluminous author; his poetry is of a high lyrical order, and true to nature; but his prose will not retain its place in public favor: it is at once diffuse and obscure.
Thomas Hope, 1770-1831: an Amsterdam merchant, who afterwards resided in London, and who illustrated the progress of knowledge concerning the East by his work entitled, Anastasius, or Memoirs of a Modern Greek. Published anonymously, it excited a great interest, and was ascribed by the public to Lord Byron. The intrigues and adventures of the hero are numerous and varied, and the book has great literary merit; but it is chiefly of historical value in that it describes persons and scenes in Greece and Turkey, countries in which Hope travelled at a time when few Englishmen visited them.
William Beckford, 1760-1844: he was the son of an alderman, who became Lord Mayor of London. After a careful education, he found himself the possessor of a colossal fortune. He travelled extensively, and wrote sketches of his travels. His only work of importance is that called Vathek, in which he describes the gifts, the career, and the fate of the Caliph of that name, who was the grandson of the celebrated Haroun al Raschid. His palaces are described in a style of Oriental gorgeousness; his temptations, his lapses from virtue, his downward progress, are presented with dramatic power; and there is nothing in our literature more horribly real and terror-striking than the Hall of Eblis,—that hell where every heart was on fire, where “the Caliph Vathek, who, for the sake of empty pomp and forbidden power, had sullied himself with a thousand crimes, became a prey to grief without end and remorse without mitigation.” Many of Beckford's other writings are blamed for their voluptuous character; the last scene in Vathek is, on the other hand, a most powerful and influential sermon. Beckford was eccentric and unsocial: he lived for some time in Portugal, but returned to England, and built a luxurious palace at Bath.
William Roscoe, 1753-1831: a merchant and banker of Liverpool. He is chiefly known by his Life of Lorenzo de Medici, and The Life and Pontificate of Leo X., both of which contained new and valuable information. They are written in a pleasing style, and with a liberal and charitable spirit as to religious opinions. Since they appeared, history has developed new material and established more exacting canons, and the studies of later writers have already superseded these pleasing works.