Famous Reviews eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 678 pages of information about Famous Reviews.
error of judgment.  The laurel which the King gives, we are credibly informed, has nothing at all in common with that which is bestowed by the Muses; and the Prince Regent’s warrant is absolutely of no authority in the court of Apollo.  If this be the case, however, it follows, that a poet laureate has no sort of precedency among poets,—­ whatever may be his place among pages and clerks of the kitchen;—­and that he has no more pretensions as an author, than if his appointment had been to the mastership of the stag-hounds.  When he takes state upon him with the public, therefore, in consequence of his office, he really is guilty of as ludicrous a blunder as the worthy American Consul, in one of the Hanse towns, who painted the Roman fasces on the pannel of his buggy, and insisted upon calling his foot-boy and clerk his lictors.  Except when he is in his official duty, therefore, the King’s house-poet would do well to keep the nature of his office out of sight; and, when he is compelled to appear in it in public, should try to get through with the business as quickly and quietly as possible.  The brawny drayman who enacts the Champion of England in the Lord Mayor’s show, is in some danger of being sneered at by the spectators, even when he paces along with the timidity and sobriety that becomes his condition; but if he were to take it into his head to make serious boast of his prowess, and to call upon the city bards to celebrate his heroic acts, the very apprentices could not restrain their laughter,—­and “the humorous man” would have but small chance of finishing his part in peace.

Mr. Southey could not be ignorant of all this; and yet it appears that he could not have known it all.  He must have been conscious, we think, of the ridicule attached to his office, and might have known that there were only two ways of counteracting it,—­either by sinking the office altogether in his public appearances, or by writing such very good verses in the discharge of it, as might defy ridicule, and render neglect impossible.  Instead of this, however, he has allowed himself to write rather worse than any Laureate before him, and has betaken himself to the luckless and vulgar expedient of endeavouring to face out the thing by an air of prodigious confidence and assumption:—­and has had the usual fortune of such undertakers, by becoming only more conspicuously ridiculous.  The badness of his official productions indeed is something really wonderful,—­though not more so than the amazing self-complacency and self-praise with which they are given to the world.  With the finest themes in the world for that sort of writing, they are the dullest, tamest, and most tedious things ever poor critic was condemned, or other people vainly invited, to read.  They are a great deal more wearisome, and rather more unmeaning and unnatural, than the effusions of his predecessors, Messrs. Pye and Whitehead; and are moreover disfigured with the most abominable egotism, conceit and dogmatism, than

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