One eye not overgood,
Two sides that to their cost have stood
A ten years’ hectic cough,
Aches, stitches, all the various ills
That swell the devilish doctor’s bills,
And sweep poor mortals off.
Scott is almost alone in his generosity towards the learning and industry of an editor who helped to make infamous the title of critic. His original poems (The Baviad and The Moeviad) have a certain sledge-hammer merit; and he did yeoman service by suppressing the Della Cruscans.
It was Gifford also “who did the butchering business in the Anti-Jacobin.” He was far heavier, in bludgeoning, than Jeffrey; while Hazlitt epitomized his principles of criticism with his accustomed vigour:—“He believes that modern literature should wear the fetters of classical antiquity; that truth is to be weighed in the scales of opinion and prejudice; that power is equivalent to right; that genius is dependent on rules; that taste and refinement of language consist in word-catching.”
* * * * *
Gifford’s review of Ford’s Weber is, perhaps, no more than can be expected of the man who had edited Massinger six years before he wrote it; and produced a Ben Jonson in 1816 and a Ford in 1827. Of these works Thomas Moore exclaimed “What a canker’d carle it is! Strange that a man should be able to lash himself up into such a spiteful fury, not only against the living but the dead, with whom he engages in a sort of sciomachy in every page. Poor dull and dead Malone is the shadow at which he thrusts his ‘Jonson,’ as he did at poor Monck Mason, still duller and deader, in his Massinger.” Mr. A.H. Bullen, again, remarks of his Ford, “Gifford was so intent on denouncing the inaccuracy of others that he frequently failed to secure accuracy himself.... In reading the old dramatists we do not want to be distracted by editorial invectives and diatribes.”
The review of Endymion called forth Byron’s famous apostrophe to—
John Keats, who was killed off by one
Just as he really promised something great,
If not intelligible, without Greek
Contrived to talk about the gods of late
Much as they might have been supposed to speak.
Poor fellow! his was an untoward fate;
’Tis strange the mind, that very fiery particle,
Should let itself be snuff’d out by one article.
It is but just to say, however, that the Blackwood review of the same poem, printed below, was scarcely less virulent; and later critics have scouted the notion of the poet not having more strength of mind than he is credited with by Byron. It is strange to notice that De Quincey found in Endymion “the very midsummer madness of affectation, of false vapoury sentiment, and of fantastic effeminacy”; while one is ashamed for the timidity of the publisher who chose to return all unsold copies to George Keats because of “the ridicule which has, time after time, been showered upon it.”