All the productions of this author, it appears to us, bear very distinctly the impression of an amiable mind, a cultivated fancy, and a perverted taste. His genius seems naturally to delight in the representation of domestic virtues and pleasures, and the brilliant delineation of external nature. In both these departments, he is frequently very successful; but he seems to want vigour for the loftier flights of poetry. He is often puerile, diffuse, and artificial, and seems to have but little acquaintance with those chaster and severer graces, by whom the epic muse would be most suitably attended. His faults are always aggravated, and often created, by his partiality for the peculiar manner of that new school of poetry, of which he is a faithful disciple, and to the glory of which he has sacrificed greater talents and acquisitions, than can be boasted of by any of his associates.
ON SOUTHEY’S LAUREATE LAYS
[From The Edinburgh Review, June, 1816]
The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale. By ROBERT SOUTHEY, Esq., Poet Laureate, &c., &c. 12mo. pp. 78. London, 1816.
A poet laureate, we take it, is naturally a ridiculous person: and has scarcely any safe course to follow, in times like the present, but to bear his faculties with exceeding meekness, and to keep as much as possible in the shade. A stipendiary officer of the Royal household, bound to produce two lyrical compositions ever year, in praise of his Majesty’s person and government, is undoubtedly an object which it is difficult to contemplate with gravity; and which can only have been retained in existence, from that love of antique pomp and establishment which has embellished our Court with so many gold-sticks and white rods, and such trains of beef-eaters and grooms of the stole—though it has submitted to the suppression of the more sprightly appendages of a king’s fool, or a court jester. That the household poet should have survived the other wits of the establishment, can only be explained by the circumstance of his office being more easily converted into one of mere pomp and ceremony, and coming thus to afford an antient and well-sounding name for a moderate sinecure. For more than a century, accordingly, it has existed on this footing; and its duties, like those of the other personages to whom we have just alluded, have been discharged with a decorous gravity and unobtrusive quietness, which has provoked no derision, merely because it has attracted no notice.
The present possessor, however, appears to have other notions on the subject; and has very distinctly manifested his resolution not to rest satisfied with the salary, sherry, and safe obscurity of his predecessors, but to claim a real power and prerogative in the world of letters, in virtue of his title and appointment. Now, in this, we conceive, with all due humility, that there is a little mistake of fact, and a little