The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 11. The Prophecy of Famine
A year’s rest given to the prose of The North Briton seems to have invigorated Churchill for the production of his best satire, The Prophecy of Famine. Its main object was to decry and ridicule Bute and the Scots, although there is an undercurrent of deserved mockery at the reigning fashion of pastoral. Churchill, as he owns, was himself half a Scot; but the circumstance did not mitigate his national and perfectly sincere prejudice against his northern kinsfolk. The probable reason was that Bute was Wilkes’s enemy, and the warmhearted poet was wroth, too, in a fascinated sympathy with his friend. The wit and humour of the piece are in Churchill’s most forcible and amusing vein. His hand is heavy, it is true; more dreary irony was never written; and he belabours his theme like a peasant wielding a flail; but the eighteenth century must have found him all the more refreshing. Compare him with the prose polemics of his day, and he is not specially venomous. He only repeats in sinewy verse the current topics of reproach against the Scots.