The author cannot expect such a poem as this to be popular, to make a “hit,” to produce a “sensation.” The public are but slow in recognising the claims of Tennyson whom in some respects he resembles; and the common eye scarcely yet discerns among the laurel-crowned, the form of Shelley, who seems (how justly, we stop not now to discuss), to have been the god of his early idolatory. Whatever inspiration may have been upon him from that deity, the mysticism of the original oracles has been happily avoided. And whatever resemblance he may bear to Tennyson (a fellow worshipper probably at the same shrine) he owes nothing of the perhaps inferior melody of his verse to an employment of archaisms which it is difficult to defend from the charge of affectation. But he has not given himself the chance for popularity which Tennyson did, and which it is evident that he easily might have done. His poem stands alone, with none of those light but taking accompaniments, songs that sing themselves, sketches that everybody knows, light little lyrics, floating about like humming birds, around the trunk and foliage of the poem itself; and which would attract so many eyes, and delight so many ears, that will be slow to perceive the higher beauty of that composition, and to whom a sycamore is no sycamore, unless it be “musical with bees.”
De Quincey has been said to have “taken his place in our literature as the author of about 150 magazine articles,” and, though chiefly remembered by his Confessions of an Opium Eater and by his wonderful experiments in “impassioned prose,” there can be no question that his critical work occupied much of his attention, and was nearly always original. In many respects his point of view was perverse, and towards his contemporaries occasionally spiteful; while his tendency to dwell upon disputed points was apt to obscure the general impression.