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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

VI. Lesser Verse Writers

§ 23. Duke, Stepney Yalden and William King

A single paragraph must suffice for the quartette whom we subjoin to these two. In Duke, Johnson found little to be praised, and, in searches made at different times, the present writer has found still less. The bulk of his work is translation, in which, as elsewhere, he shows a certain ease. The absurd and, in fact, almost meaningless commendation of Stepney, that his work “made grey authors blush”—which Johnson quotes without assigning its author, but which he had printed elsewhere in its original context—is the chief thing memorable about him. Yalden, as stout a tory as Lansdowne, and a suspect about the time of Atterbury’s fall, wrote pindarics which are not the worst of that too generally bad kind, and fables which, though unequal, are sometimes quite light and good. Luckily for him, he did not, like Lansdowne, lay himself open to the charge of “profanity,” and Lansdowne’s censor has given him high and detailed praise for a Hymn to Darkness, apparently written in emulation of Cowley’s Hymn to Light. It is, fortunately, not in pindarics; though its stanza—a decasyllable, two octosyllables and an alexandrine—is not very graceful. But the present writer is quite unable to discover how and why

  • Thou dost thy smiles impartially bestow,
  • And knowest no difference here below;
  • All things appear the same by thee;
  • Though Light distinction makes, thou giv’st equality
  • is “exquisitely beautiful.” The last of the four, Dr. William King, though a rambling and unequal writer, is, perhaps, the most readable. He wrote, in mixed verse and prose, The Art of Cookery, which is quite interesting; one piece of his Orpheus and Eurydice, beginning
  • A roasted ant that ’s nicely done,
  • is familiar to all who were brought up on the old-fashioned Speakers and Readers; humour and good-humour abound in his work; he could turn little songs with a great deal of neatness; and he contrives almost everywhere neither to offend nor to bore.