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

§ 29. David Mallet

On the other hand, though very harsh things have been said of David Malloch, who, for prudential reasons, changed his name to Mallet, just as his father, a Macgregor, had already changed his to Malloch during the outlawry of the clan, there never has been the slightest doubt about his sanity. The transactions of his life which made him most notorious, his reception of Sarah duchess of Marlborough’s legacy for writing the life of her husband, and his neglect to perform the duty imposed; his still more famous acceptance of hire from Boling-broke to libel Pope after his death; and his much more defensible share in the attack on Byng—these do not concern us here. But, to say, as Johnson says, that “there is no species of composition in which he was eminent” is merely to exclude, as Johnson doubtless did, the one species in which he was very eminent indeed. William and Margaret, written as early as 1723 is, of course, to some extent, a pastiche of older ballads and of snatches of Elizabethan song. But the older ballads themselves were always, more or less, pastiches of each other. And, if the piece had some creditors, it had many more debtors; nor does any single copy of verses deserve so much credit for setting the eighteenth century back on the road of true romantic poetry by an easy path, suited to its own tastes and powers. As to Rule, Britannia, modern criticism has usually been inclined to assign it rather to Thomson than to Mallet, though the two undoubtedly collaborated in the play wherein it appeared. But, to tell the truth, the merit of the piece lies rather in the music and the sentiment than in the poetry. Mallet’s more ambitious poems Amyntor and Theodora, The Excursion, etc. are of little value; but the song gift of William and Margaret reappears in The Birks of Endermay (better known as Invermay). Edwin and Emma, once as well known as either and, perhaps, also possessing some schoolmaster virtue, is vastly inferior to William and Margaret.