Home  »  Volume XII: English THE ROMANTIC REVIVAL The Nineteenth Century, I  »  § 26. Bryan Waller Procter (Barry Cornwall)

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

V. Lesser Poets, 1790–1837

§ 26. Bryan Waller Procter (Barry Cornwall)

After swans, wrens; through the specific quality, not very excellent in either case, is, perhaps, a little better in the smaller birds. It was impossible that the remarkable achievement, and still more the immense popularity, of Moore should not produce a large following of imitators, for most of whom the “twitter” which was protested against above in his case is scarcely an injurious term. Of writers already noticed, as has been frankly confessed, there are touches of it even in Hood and Praed, much more in others; while it is strong in L.E.L., and not weak in Mrs. Hemans. It is difficult to put Bryan Waller Procter (“Barry Cornwall”) in any higher group than this, though the allocation may surprise some readers. Procter’s great personal popularity; his long life (during the latter part of which he wisely did nothing to compete with the far greater poets who had arisen since his early days, and provoked no enquiry into the grounds of his former acceptance), and some domestic accidents connected with the character of his wife and the talents of his daughter, saved him alike from total forgetfulness, and from the unpleasant revulsion or revolution which death often brings upon a man’s fame. He was very well read, and had had the wits and taste to catch up beautiful old rhythms. He would sometimes mould pretty things on them as in Sit down, sad soul and the Song for Twilight. But, anyone who wishes not to disturb the pleasant atmosphere of praise and affection which has been raised round Procter by great writers from Lamb to Swinburne had better not explore the context of the still vaguely known lines

  • The sea! the sea! the open sea!
  • The blue, the fresh, the ever free!
  • which Ethel Newcome most excusably quoted. Nor, with Moore to go to, do we want things like
  • O! the summer night
  • Has a smile of light,
  • And she sits on a sapphire throne.