The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

V. Lesser Poets, 1790–1837

§ 15. Richard H. Horne

His friend, eulogist and very close contemporary Richard H. Horne presented himself somewhat more seriously as a candidate for distinction in letters, both prose and verse. He was a man of many adventures in life as well as in literature, but a fanciful moralist might have drawn evil prognostications, and might now draw tragic warning, from the rather well-known story of Horne snow-balling Keats when the latter, as “an old boy,” came to his Edmonton school, where Horne actually was a scholar. Horne bombarded the temple or castle of the muses with many balls of both verse and prose for many years; but they were apt to be cold shot. His New Spirit of the Age, written, it is true, in a sort of collaboration with Mrs. Browning (then Miss Barrett), contains, with a few better things, some of the most inept criticism in English; and what it is possible to know of his immense journey-work does not seem to be much better. His tragedies from Cosmo de Medici and The Death of Marlowe (both of 1837) to Laura Dibalzo, more than forty years later, are, as wholes, rather indigestible, with really poetic passages here and there, but not enough to season the rest. His own rather puerile and, at first, at least, somewhat costly, jest of publishing his one poem of merit, the quasi-epic Orion, at the price of one farthing, though it may have attracted attention at first, has, probably, done more harm than good in the long run by inviting cheap epigram. Orion is worth a very consdierable number of farthings, and, provided that its reader goes no farther in its author’s work, he will probably think Horne a better poet than any other of the group here immediately associated with him. It is, no doubt, permeated by that dangerous notion about poetry illustrating the growth of a poet’s mind for which Wordsworth, though he made atonement for it in his own case, was mainly responsible, and its allegory has offended some who have forgotten Hazlitt’s final phrase on this subject—that allegory will bite nobody if people will let it alone. In fact, the final passage, as to the end of Akinetos (the “Great Unmoved”—the representative of obstinate conservatism, who is literally petrified at last), may commend itself, as really fine poetry, to persons who rather sympathise with Akinetos himself. Nor does this stand alone.