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

V. Lesser Poets, 1790–1837

§ 35. Ebenezer Elliott

The condition of Ebenezer Elliott is different. He had much more poetical quality than Montgomery, and very much more than Barton, but he chose, too frequently, to employ it in ways which make the enjoyment of his poetry somewhat difficult. A man is not necessarily the worse, any more than he is the better, poet for being “a Corn Law Rhymer,” whether his riming takes the form of defence or, as in Elliott’s case, of denunciation. Dryden and Canning are not unpalatable to intelligent liberals, nor Shelley and Moore, in their political poems, to intelligent tories. But Elliott seldom (he did sometimes, as in his Battle Song) put enough pure poetic fire in his verse to burn up, or to convert into clear poetic blaze, the rubbish of partisan abuse which feeds his furnace. Still, he does, in this and one or two other instances even of the political poems, establish his claim, which is fortunately reinforced by a not inconsiderable number of poems sometimes lyrical, sometimes in other form, where a real love of nature finds expression in really poetic numbers. He began to write before the end of the eighteenth century, and, therefore, naturally enough, echoed Thomson and Crabbe for some time; but Southey, that Providence of poetical sparrows, took him in hand, and Elliott’s later and better verse shows no copying, either of Southey himself or of any of the greater new poets, only a beneficial influence of the new poetry itself. In few, if any, instances do locality and environment provide more stimulating contrast than in the case of Sheffield (Elliott’s abode) and its neighbourhood; and it is fair to say that, in very few instances, has a poet, not of the absolutely first class, taken better advantage of this opportunity.