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

V. Lesser Poets, 1790–1837

§ 17. Thomas Wade

But sonnet-making itself gives a much higher place to the last of this group, Thomas Wade. He was a friend of the Kembles and was enabled by them to bring out three plays, the first two of which were successful, and the third, The Jew of Arragon, damned, while a fourth and fifth never saw the stage. He wrote various other things, was a journalist for years and left much unpublished; but his fame must rest on the curious volume—not very easy to obtain but quite worth possessing by any lover of poetry—somewhat pretentiously (as some, but not all, think) entitled Mundi et Cordis: de rebus sempiternis et temporariis: Carmina, which appeared in 1835. The “brevities,” as its author calls them, in the same deliberate quaintness (it would be harsh to call it affection, for Wade lives very fairly up to his style and title), which the volume contains, are not all sonnets (indeed, the book has an English sub-title Poems and Sonnets) nor are some of the best of them. But Wade had an admirable gift for this form, and wrote it, perhaps, as well as anyone, between Wordsworth and the Rossettis, except Charles Tennyson [Turner]. He was much under the influence of Shelley among his forerunners, and sometimes reminds one of Darley among his contemporaries; but he has a more even taste, if a less fiery imagination, than the author of Nepenthe. He has usually had the least justice done to him of all the group; and he can never be popular. But that atmosphere or aura of poetry which hangs about most of them, and about the character, of which a few words should be said later, are present in and round him in a vaguely diffused, most unboisterous, faintly coloured and perfumed manner which is worth the notice of the student of poetry.

The tendency of the group just discussed, with the notable exceptions of Hood and Praed, was not, on the whole, towards light or jocular verse; but, by those two exceptions and others, such verse was very well represented during the first thirty or forty years of the nineteenth century. It would, indeed, have been strange if things had been otherwise, for the eighteenth had kept unbroken the traditions, and had even increased the means, of this kind of poetry, with a positive extension of its varieties and range; while the greater writers of the actual period, in not a few cases, had shown no disinclination to be wisely foolish in proper places. With Anstey, Williams and Stevenson leading the way to the brilliant political lampooning of the Rolliad, of Wolcot and of the Canning group; with Southey founding the macabre ballad and Coleridge, occasionally, showing what he might have done in that way; with Moore as agreeably effervescent in grotesque as in sentiment; with Shelley capable, now and then, of an uncertain and flickering but humorous or “humouresque” flash—there was no reason for anybody who had inclinations that way to be ashamed of indulging them. Moreover, the names of Swift and Prior were still, and justly, held great; and “divine Nonsensia” (in the good, not contemptuous, sense) had counted most of the best English poets from Chaucer, through Shakespeare, downwards as her occasional chaplains.