Home  »  Volume XII: English THE ROMANTIC REVIVAL The Nineteenth Century, I  »  § 25. William Sotheby; John Abraham Heraud; Robert Pollok; Robert Montgomery

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

V. Lesser Poets, 1790–1837

§ 25. William Sotheby; John Abraham Heraud; Robert Pollok; Robert Montgomery

Not very much Pye’s junior was William Sotheby, a friend of Scott and other good men, and, apparently, quite a good man himself; but one who certainly ran his neck into danger of, if he did not fully deserve, the gibbeting which befell another poetaster by epics, dramas, translations, odes and everything that readers of poetry could wish or not wish. Edwin Atherstone may be not unfairly called the Blackmore of the nineteenth century, with his Fall of Nineveh, in thirty books, and others to suit, besides prose romances. A certain grandiosity may, perhaps, be allowed him; as, also, to the still younger, but even more long-lived, John Abraham Heraud (Thackeray’s not unkindly treated original of “Jawbrahim Heraudee”). It is doubtful whether anyone living can boast of having read Atherstone and Heraud through; but they might be more preferable to the galleys than the shorter and not uncommonly read work of Robert Pollok, who, having barely thirty years of life to set against their eighty or ninety, might, perhaps, have equalled them in production had he lived. His youth, his profession (he was a licentiate of one of the sectarian churches in Scotland), his ill-health, his early death and so forth, together with the exceptional propriety in sentiment of The Course of Time, have secured not merely reading, but some professions of admiration for it: But the only thing that can sustain attention to its ponderous commonplace and gradus decorations is a search for the fine things that have been discovered in it. A conscientious enquirer must clearly read it through in this quest; if he is not more fortunate than the present writer, he will reach the end without having found them. In fact, if anyone cared to do so, it would be as easy as it would be cruel and unnecessary to treat Pollok as Macaulay treated his immediate successor, Robert Montgomery (born Gomery). But the thing has already been done, in the case of The Omnipresence of the Deity and Satan, once for all, and by no means so unfairly as it is sometimes the fashion to say now. There are passages in both Pollok and Montgomery which a hasty, forgetful, or, perhaps, actually not very well-read person might take for poetry. But, in no case will any real originality, either of substance or of expression, be found; nor is there, in either versifier, the slightest approach to that technical excellence which, whether it be ever a supreme positive quality or not, certainly covers a multitude of minor defects. Nor, finally, is there, in either, that suggestion of something better—that aura of unachieved success—for which full (some may think too full) allowance is made here.