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necessary to compare even so brilliant a squib as the ' Corona-
tion Soliloquy of George IV ' with Coleridge's ' Fire, Famine,



JAMES HENRY LEIGH HUNT 225

and Slaughter,' to realise how what in Hunt remains buffoon-
ery and perhaps argument can be carried to a point of im-
agination at which it becomes poetry.

Hunt has a special talent, connected with his feeling for
whatever approached the form of the epigram, for the writing
of brief narrative poems. Can it be denied that so masterly an
anecdote as ' AboubenAdhem' has in it some of the qualities,
as it seems to have some of the results, of poetry? Read the
same story in the French prose of the original : nothing is
changed, nothing added; only the form of the verse, barely
existent as it is, has given a certain point and finish to the
prose matter. Here and in the two or three other stories there
is a very precise and ingenious grasp on story-telling, worthy
of Maupassant ; and there is a kernel of just, at times of pro-
found, thought, which suggests something of the quality of
an Eastern apologue. Was it the more than half prose talent
of Hunt that gave him, when he concentrated so tightly
his generally diffuse and wandering verse, this particular,
unusual kind of success? When, as in blank verse pieces such
as 'Paganini/ he tried to get a purely emotional effect, not by
narrative but in the form of confession, his failure was com-
plete ; all is restlessness and perturbation. But, once at least,
in a little piece called 'Ariadne Walking,' there is something
of the same happy concentration, the same clean outlines;
and the poem may be paralleled with a lovely poem of Alfred
de Vigny. The technique, as in almost, or, perhaps, every-
thing of Hunt, is not perfect; and there are words of mere
prose, like 'the feel of sleep.' How was it that a man, really
poetically minded, and with so much knowledge of all the
forms of verse, was never quite safe when he wrote in metre?

A stanza in a poem on poppies may be compared, almost
in detail, with a corresponding sentence in prose, which occurs
in a rambling essay. They both say the same thing, but the
verse says, —



op THE



226 ROMANTIC MOVEMENT IN ENGLISH POETRY

'We are slumberous poppies,
Lords of Lethe downs,
Some awake and some asleep,
Sleeping in our crowns.
What perchance our dreams may know,
Let our serious beauty show.'

And the prose says, 'They look as if they held a mystery at
their hearts, like sleeping kings of Lethe/ and comes nearer
to poetry.

From the epigram to the sonnet there is but one step, and
Leigh Hunt's finest and most famous line, —

'The laughing queen that caught the world's great hands,' —

is found in a sonnet on the Nile, written impromptu in rivalry
with Keats and Shelley, and more successful, within its limits,
than its competitors. And the sonnet, written against Keats,
on the subject of 'The Grasshopper and the Cricket,' would
be good as well as characteristic if it were not flawed by words
like 'feel' and 'class' and 'nick/ used to give the pleasant
charm of talk, but resulting only in a degradation of refined
and dignified speech. Three sonnets called 'The Fish, the
Man, and the Spirit/ which might easily have been no more
than one of Hunt's clever burlesques, seem to me for once to
touch and seize and communicate a strange, cold, inhuman
imagination, as if the very element of water entered into chill
communion with the mind. Lamb might have shared the
feeling, the epithets are like the best comic Greek compounds ;
the poetry, which begins with a strange familiarity, ends with
a strangeness wholly of elemental wonder : —

' Man's life is warm, glad, sad, 'twixt love and graves,
Boundless in hope, honoured with pangs austere,
Heaven-gazing ; and his angel-wings he craves :
The fish is swift, small-needing, vague yet clear,
A cold, sweet, silver life, wrapped round in waves,
Quickened with touches of transporting fear.'

There, at least, Leigh Hunt speaks the language of poetry, and
with a personal accent.



ALLAN CUNNINGHAM 227



ALLAN CUNNINGHAM (1784-1842) *

Allan Cunningham has been praised, with and without dis-
crimination, by many more famous persons, from Scott, who
christened him 'honest Allan,' to Southey, who called him
'Allan, true child of Scotland'; but he has never been better
characterised than by a Mr. McDiarmid, at a banquet given in
his honour at Dumfries : ' As a poet he leans to the ballad style
of composition, and many of his lyrics are eminently sweet,
graceful, and touching.' So much may be said in his favour,
though it is difficult to be very precise in dealing with one who
had so little sense of the difference between what was his and
what came from others. He began by inventing a series of
Scotch 'remains' for the inveterate Cromek, who rewarded
him with ' a bound copy ' of a book not even published under
his name. There is generally in his verse, which is equally tell-
ing in a Scotch ballad in the manner of Burns, such as 'My
Nannie 0/ or an English sea-ballad in the manner of Dibdin,
such as 'A wet sheet and a flowing sea,' some sort of imitation,
something not wholly individual, and at his best he does not
go beyond a pleasant spontaneity in which there is no really
lasting quality. His kindest critic, Scott, who called him a
man of genius, noted in his diary that he 'required the tact
of knowing when and where to stop ' ; and in a letter to him he
said candidly: 'Here and there I would pluck a flower from
your posy to give what remains an effect of greater simplicity.'
The same luxuriance renders his prose vague, as his facts are,
in the 'Lives of British Painters,' meant to be instructive,
and in their way really sympathetic. He had many lively
and attractive qualities, as a man and as a writer; and received
at least his due measure of fame during his lifetime.

1 (1) Songs, Chiefly in the Rural Dialect of Scotland, 1813. (2) Remains
of Nithsdale and Galloway Song, 1820. (3) Sir Marmaduke Maxwell, 1822
(4) The Songs of Scotland, Ancient and Modern, 1825. (5) The Maid of
Elwar, 1833.



223 ROMANTIC MOVEMENT IN ENGLISH POETRY



REV. CHARLES STRONG (1785-1864) 1

Charles Strong is remembered only by two sonnets, his
best, which are to be seen in anthologies, the one beginning
'Time, I rejoice, amid the ruin wide/ and another beginning
' My window 's open to the evening sky.' The greater number
of the other sonnets in his single book of original verse are
worked up a little consciously towards a final effect in the
last line, and are somewhat obvious in the meditations over
foreign sites which make up much of their substance. Occa-
sionally we meet with a good separate line or two, such as : —

' On the blue waste a pyramid of sails ' ;

or as this : —

'And, on the true vine grafted, there remain
A living branch, until the vintage bears.'

A more carefully cultivated sonority distinguishes the trans-
lated verse in the ' Specimens of Sonnets from the Most Cele-
brated Italian Poets/ a chill and literal rendering of Italian
sonnets from Dante to Metastasio. They take no new growth
in English soil, but retain that formal eloquence which in so
much of Italian verse takes the place of poetry. Could Fraca-
storo have desired a translator more after his heart than the
writer who follows him, slow-pacing, with : —

' Whether it be Achilles' high disdain
Or wise Ulysses' toilsome pilgrimage'?



HENRY KIRKE WHITE (1785-1806) 2

The discovery of Kirke White was one of the unlucky dis-
coveries of Southey, who tells us that, but for him, 'his papers

1 (1) Specimens of Sonnets from the Most Celebrated Italian Poets;
with Translations, 1827. (2) Sonnets, 1835.

2 (1) Clifton Grove, 1804. (2) Life and Remains, edited by Southey
2 vols., 1810.






HENRY KIRKE WHITE 229

would probably have remained in oblivion, and his name, in a
few years, have been forgotten.' 'Unhappy White,' as Byron
called him in a passage which has been remembered for its
imagery, died in his twenty-second year, and his papers were
handed over to Southey, who tells us ' Mr. Coleridge was pre-
sent when I opened them, and was, as well as myself, equally
affected and astonished at the proofs of industry which they
displayed.' He adds: 'I have inspected all the existing manu-
scripts of Chatterton, and they excited less wonder than these.'
'He surely ranks next to Chatterton,' said Byron, when
Southey published the ' Remains ' with a memoir and some
five and thirty pages of memorial verses by various hands.
Kirke White had published a small volume at the age of eigh-
teen, and a judicious critic in the ' Monthly Review ' had said
of the writer: 'We commend his exertions, and his laudable
endeavours to excel; but we cannot compliment him with
having learned the difficult art of writing good poetry.' This
opinion, which seemed to Southey a 'cruelty,' a 'wicked in-
justice,' requires no revision.

'It is not possible,' says Southey, 'to conceive a human
being more amiable in all the relations of life,' and he as-
sumes that the reader 'will take some interest in all those
remains because they are his; he who shall feel none must
have a blind heart, and therefore a blind understanding.'
There is, indeed, no other reason for interest in these gen-
erally unaffected but always conventional verses than because
they are the expression, tinged with reluctant resignation, of
one who is, as he says, about to 'compose his decent head,
and breathe his last.' What Byron called his ' bigotry i is a
genuine but not very individual sense of piety, and all his
verse is an amiable echo of such literature as most appealed to
one who found ' a nervous strength of diction and a wild free-
dom of versification, combined with an euphonious melody
and consonant cadence, unequalled in the English language'
in the sonnets of Bowles, and said of Milton's sonnets that



230 ROMANTIC MOVEMENT IN ENGLISH POETRY

'those to the Nightingale and to Mr. Lawrence are, I think,
alone entitled to the praise of mediocrity.' Nothing can be
more inoffensive than the mild fancies and plaintive pieties of
a young writer who has often been wrongly characterised as
immature. The crop was ripe enough, but it was a thin crop.
They are alone, I think, entitled to the praise of mediocrity.



THOMAS LOVE PEACOCK (1785-1866) »

Peacock's novels are unique in English, and are among the
most scholarly, original, and entertaining prose writings of
the century.

' A strain too learned for a shallow age,
Too wise for selfish bigots,'

Shelley denned it, and added prophetically : —

' let his page
Which charms the chosen spirits of the time
Fold itself up for the serener clime
Of years to come, and find its recompense
In that just expectation.'

His learned wit, his satire upon the vulgarity of progress, are
more continuously present in his prose than in his verse ; but
the novels are filled with cheerful scraps of rhyming, wine-
songs, love-songs, songs of mockery, and nonsense jingles,
some of which are no more than the scholar's idle diversions,
but others of a singular excellence. They are like no other
verse; they are startling, grotesque, full of hearty extrava-
gances, at times thrilling with unexpected beauty. The mas-
terpiece, perhaps, of the comically heroic section of these
poems is 'The War-Song of Dinas Vawr,' which is, as the
author says in due commendation of it, 'the quintessence of
all war-songs that ever were written, and the sum and sub-

1 (1) Palmyra, 1806. (2) The Genius of the Thames, 1810. (3) Rhodo-
daphne, 1818. (4) Paper Money Lyrics, privately printed, 1825.



JOHN WILSON 231

stance of all the appetencies, tendencies, and consequences of
military.' Is there any casual reader who has ever been able
to put out of his head the divinely droll first lines : —

'The mountain sheep are sweeter,
But the valley sheep are fatter;
We therefore deemed it meeter
To carry off the latter.'

Was comic verse ever more august? And of wine-songs is
there any, outside Burns (and with how great a difference!),
in which a poetic decorum dignifies revel more effectually
than in the refrain : —

' And our ballast is old wine,
And your ballast is old wine'?

There is another after-dinner ballad, 'In life three ghostly
friars were we,' and a ' Hail to the Headlong,' mere cataract
of sound, as 'The Three Little Men' and the chorus of 'Our
balances, our balances' are afterwards to be, in the later
parodies of politics: all these have their place among Pea-
cock's cleverest ingenuities. When he is serious and lengthy,
as in the 'Rhododaphne,' which Shelley thought worth liking,
every poetical quality deserts him except a faint and ineffect-
ual eloquence. But there are two lyrics of a delicate tender-
ness, ' In the Days of Old' and ' Love and Age,' in which he is
content to remember the past and to sing from memory out of
a lover's experience.



JOHN WILSON (17S5-1S41) "

Wilson left minor poems in which he tries to be a 'Lake-
poet,' even writing lines on an ass, though on an Ass in a
Dutch picture. Much of the verse is almost as prettified as

1 (1) The Isle of Palms, 1812. (2) The City of the Plague, 1816. (3) Works,
1855-58.



232 ROMANTIC MOVEMENT IN ENGLISH POETRY

that of Thomas Moore, though the sentiment of it is better.
None of the reflections on the subjects of the day, ruined
abbeys, the banks of Windermere, moonlight at sea, midnight
on Helm Crag, the voice of departed friendship, can now be
read with any attention. The continual faint fancy of these
and of the long poem, 'The Isle of Palms,' which is too thin a
cobweb for a spider to hang by, wearies the reader who asks
for imagination. The longest poem of all, 'The City of the
Plague,' a rhapsody divided into acts and scenes, is one of the
weakest and most lavish pieces of sensational extravagance in
our language, much fiercer and feebler than anything in the
Elizabethan tragedy of blood. Beddoes might have made
something, within a brief space, of this nightmare subject, but
there is none of his mastery of the grotesque in this long
eloquent raving, these 'horrid demons in a dream.' 'The
Convict,' which is shorter, and aims at a kind of realism,
though it is nearly as horrible, has some of the merit of melo-
drama. But whether we are served, as in the minor poems,
with sighs, or, in these lengthy compositions, with yells, there
is an equal failure to make any articulate form of art out of
either. Everything that is superficial and second-rate in the
'Noctes Ambrosianae,' their haste and heat, are here; but no
more than a glimpse of the qualities to which Christopher
North owes a name better known than his own.



SIR AUBREY DE VERE (1786-1846) •

Wordsworth said of the sonnets of Sir Aubrey de Vere that
they were ' among the most perfect of our age ' ; and the author,
in dedicating them to him, hoped 'to be named hereafter as
one among the friends of Wordsworth.' Not always perfect
as sonnets, they have often both intellectual symmetry and
moral distinction; many of them are 'trophies,' resonant

1 (1) Julian the Apostate, 1822. (2) The Duke of Mercia, 1823. (3) The
Song of Faith, 1842. (4) Mary Tudor, 1847.



CAROLINE ANNE BOWLES SOUTHEY 233

with the clarions of Crusaders, and with homages and con-
demnations of kings. There is in some of them, not least in
such religious ones as that on 'Universal Prayer,' a noble
Wordsworthian quality, worthy of Wordsworth's praise.



CAROLINE ANNE BOWLES SOUTHEY (1786-1854) »

The poems of Mrs. Southey, now as forgotten as her hus-
band's, are of a far finer quality. They show the continual
influence of Wordsworth, but at its best the influence passes
almost into personal creation. She is full of gentle meditation
over passing things, flowers and animals, above all, dogs,
and there is a genuinely womanly quality in her poems, full
of tenderness and quiet observation. Often a phrase has fine
precision, as in : —

' Finding thine own distress
With accurate greediness.'

The lyrics, though they tend to become monotonous, are more
than facile; they have often a distinction of a personal kind.
There is no strong emotion in them, but delicate insight,
natural simplicity, a choiceness of phrase and cadence. A
long poem in blank verse, which has almost a suggestion of
Jane Austen in its slightly formal detail, is written in a style
of easy colloquialism which seems midway between the verse
of 'The Prelude' and that of 'Aurora Leigh.' Lines like these
might almost have been found in ' Bishop Blougram ' : —

'True, they seem starving; but 't is also true
The parish sees to all those vulgar wants ;
And when it does not, doubtless there must be —
Alas ! too common in this wicked world —
Some artful imposition in the case.'

Caroline Southey was an artist, and has been undeservedly
forgotten.

1 (1) Ellen Fitzarthur, 1820. (2) The Widow's Tale, 1822. (3) Tales of
the Factories, 1823. (4) Solitary Hours, prose and verse, 1826. (5) The
Birthday, 1836.



234 ROMANTIC MOVEMENT IN ENGLISH POETRY



GEORGE BEATTIE (1786-1823) »

George Beattie was a crofter's son, who, having fallen in
love with a woman who had encouraged him until she came
into some money, ' died of despair,' his strange biographer, a
Mr. Mt. Cyrus, tells us. The last confession which he wrote
before going out to shoot himself ('a dying man may surely
be allowed to state what he believed or rather knew to be the
fact ') is a document of value in the study of human nature.
We see, in the incoherent assurances, the wild, scarcely sane
excitement of a man brooding over 'the deep and indelible
wrongs ' done to him. Most of his poems are personal, and
delineate bad dreams, or shipwreck, or the scene of murder;
but there are one or two lyrics, like the ' Fragment ' with the
refrain ' Igo and ago,' which have a lilt of their own. His best
work was the ballad of 'John O'Arnha,' done under the in-
fluence of Burns ; there is a wild hurrying fancy in it, tossed
about by weird demons, 'grisly ghaists,' and 'whinnering gob-
lins ' ; ' a waesome, wan, wanliesum sight ! ' The verse gallops
like a witch on her broomstick, riding against the wind.



MARY RUSSELL MITFORD (1787-1855) 2

Miss Mitford tells us that the need of making money ' made
it a duty to turn away from the lofty steep of Tragic Poetry
to the every-day path of Village Stories.' We may have
gained, in getting ' Our Village,' but there is a nearer approach
to both poetry and drama in the plays, now completely for-

1 George Beattie, of Montrose, a Poet, a Humourist, and a Man of
Genius, by A. S. Mt. Cyrus, M. A., no date [1863?].

2 (1) Poems, 1810. (2) Christina, 1811. (3) Blanche of Castile, 1812.
(4) Watlington Hill, 1812. (5) Narrative Poems on Female Characters,
1813. (6) Julian, 1823. (7) Foscari, 1826. (8) Rienzi, 1828. (9) Charles
I, 1834. (10) Sadak and Kalasrade, 1836. (11) Dramatic Works, 2 vols.,
1854.



MARY RUSSELL MITFORD 235

gotten, than most people are likely to imagine. The most
serious of them is 'Charles I,' which George Colman, then
Censor, would not allow to be acted. There was no danger
to the state in it, and it has some fine characterisation, to-
gether with dignified and pathetic speech. In several of the
other plays the action is allowed to run quite wild, and pre-
posterous horrors traverse the stage in an almost artless pro-
fusion. What is curious is, that even in scenes of chaotic im-
possibility, there is a certain kind of human feeling which
comes through a thin and uncertain verse, which can pass un-
consciously from such dreadful dissonances as : —

' That on a point of time so brief, that scarce
The sand wags in the hour-glass, hangs man's all,'

to so assured a cadence as : —

1 The mind of man
When fashioning the myriad sounds that lend
A winged life to thought, ne'er framed a name
For the slayer of his children.'

The people are for the most part martyrs, fanatics, parricides,
always headstrong, often light-hearted in the midst of disas-
ters partly of their causing; and the action turns generally
about a tangle of unlikely crimes. These unnatural deeds,
which were meant to create a vivid drama, defeat the nature
in the words of characters whose speech is often so probable.
It is all a woman's world, a kind of soft and touching, some-
times thrilling melodrama. The people, in the midst of con-
fusions and catastrophes, are intensely alert, and their frenzies
are often touched by a kind of irrelevant and not quite
achieved beauty. You feel behind them a capable, enthusias-
tic woman, writing too loosely, with too feminine a sense of
romance, but not without a natural impulse, a ready and
human eloquence.



236 ROMANTIC MOVEMENT IN ENGLISH POETRY

BRYAN WALLER PROCTER: BARRY CORNWALL

(1787-1874) *

When Leigh Hunt reviewed the ' Lamia ' volume of Keats in
the 'Examiner/ in the summer of 1820, he did not think it
necessary to tell the story of 'Isabella/ as the public had
'lately been familiarized with it in the "Sicilian Story" of
Mr. Barry Cornwall.' How lately, we know from a letter of
Keats to Reynolds, at the end of February, 1820, in which he
says that Barry Cornwall has sent him not only his ' Sicilian
Story/ but his 'Dramatic Scenes.' 'I confess they tease me/
he says; 'they are composed of amiability, the Seasons, the
Leaves, the Moon, etc., upon which he rings (according to
Hunt's expression) triple bob majors. However that is nothing
— I think he likes poetry for its own sake, not his.' The
' Sicilian Story ' is a faint, pretty telling, rather in the manner
of Leigh Hunt, of the story out of Boccaccio which Keats
had been telling in his own way. The difference between them
may be sufficiently indicated by Barry Cornwall's note: 'I
have ventured to substitute the heart for the head of the lover.
The latter appeared to me to be a ghastly object to preserve.'
In the same volume is an equally faint, but not even pretty,
Spanish tale done after Byron in ottava rima. Of this poem
Shelley wrote to Peacock: 'The man whose critical gall is
not stirred up by such ottava rima as Barry Cornwall's, may
safely be conjectured to possess no gall at all. The world is
pale with the sickness of such stuff.' 'Marcian Colonna,'
which preceded 'A Sicilian Story/ is indistinguishable from
it in manner; both are the kind of work which follows closely
upon good originals, and often gets the earliest credit; for
Byron is in the story, and Leigh Hunt and Keats are both in

1 (1) Dramatic Scenes, 1819. (2) A Sicilian Story, 1820. (3) Marcian
Colonna, 1820. (4) Mirandola, 1821. (5) Poetical Works, 3 vols., 1822.
(6) The Flood in Thessaly, 1823. (7) English Songs, 1832.



BARRY CORNWALL 237

the style. In the same volume there is a curious fragment in
modern drama, called ' Ametra Wentworth/ which in its at-
tempt at a kind of plaintive realism may have filled some
intermediate gap between the romantic group and Tennyson.
1 Mirandola ' followed, and was acted, and had its success, as
everything of Barry Cornwall had, for its moment. The par-
ticular dim echo which he contrived to get from the Eliza-
bethan drama, which Lamb had not so long ago revealed to
the poets of that time, seemed to give out a real music, and
the tune was easy to follow. When that tune turned to the
borrowed but easier jig of the 'English Songs,' Barry Cornwall
seemed to have found his place among English poets.

'Taken altogether/ said Lamb, of the 'English Songs/
' 't is too Lovey ' ; but he immediately qualifies this good
criticism by adding : ' But what delicacies ! ' And he names
his favourites, of which one is 'glorious 'bove all.' If we read
the particular songs which Lamb liked we shall see perhaps a
kind of novelty, or what was a novelty in 1832, and must re-
member that it is not always easy to appreciate such things
immediately at their true value. The songs are indeed 'too
Lovey ' ; they are also as much too diluted in sentiment as they
are too carelessly improvised in form. Such music as is in
them is rarely more than a child's forefinger could pick out on
a piano. It has been let out by candid friends that they have
no personal sincerity; but this is a secondary matter, for such
a song as ' The sea ! the sea ! the open sea ! ' is not more worth-
less as a poem because the author was only once on the sea,
and was then seasick. Sincerity to his art is what was not in
Barry Cornwall ; he liked it, as Keats said, for its own sake, but
his liking was far too platonic ever to become creative.

Few writers were more loved in their own day, or more
quickly forgotten, than Barry Cornwall. Praised by Landor,


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