John Clare: The Critical Heritage

By Mark Storey | Go to book overview

56.

From an unsigned review, Monthly Magazine

November 1821, lii, 321-5

Naturâ fieret laudabile carmen an arte
Quœsitum est: ego nec studium sine divite venâ,
Nec rude quid prosit video ingenium: alterius sic
Altera poscit opem res, et conjurat amicè.1

Under the sanction of this high authority, we trust it may be permitted us to express, without reserve, the reflexions that have been suggested by the perusal of these interesting, but very unequal, volumes; without being suspected of a wish to crush the attempts of any meritorious, though humble, aspirant to public fame, or incurring the imputation (to use the language of the eulogium prefixed as an introduction to the work) of cherishing ‘an illiberal spirit of criticism, which, catching its character from the bad temper of the age, has let slip the dogs of war in the flowery fields of poesy. ’ The present production contains much that is good, and even beautiful; and we are disposed not only to point out its merits with readiness, but to acknowledge them with pleasure, as sincere, perhaps, as that of eulogists, whose undiscriminating praises have a tendency rather to alienate, than to conciliate, more discerning judges. But considering these poems with reference only to their literary excellence, the meed of commendation to which some parts of them may be justly entitled, is altogether a distinct question from the necessity, or even the propriety of bringing them before the tribunal of the public. The latter is what Partridge would have termed a non sequitur. We are willing to give full credit to the motives of those, whose benevolence has prompted them to introduce the effusions of the Northamptonshire peasant to general notice, but we may reasonably doubt how far they have been the means of enriching, in any great degree, our stores of national poetry, or are likely to bind a wreath

1 ‘It is asked whether a praiseworthy poem comes into being through nature or through art. I myself do not see the use either of study without nature’s rich vein, or of raw talent; each in fact asks help of the other, in friendly co-operation’, Horace, Ars Poetica, 408-12.

-150-

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