The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 47. Alfred Austin
That Alfred Austin hardly deserved to be made poet laureate is a proposition which very few persons, whatever their personal or political attitude towards him, are likely to deny now, and which, in after times, nobody at all, except out of mere whim, is likely to dispute. But, as in other cases, the penalty of the error fell unfairly on himself. It could not be said of him, as we said of Pye, that he was not a poet at all; but it could be, and was, said that, though a really vigorous and accomplished writer of prose, and a tolerable master of unambitious form in verse, his poetical powers were of the most mediocre kind. He began with cheap satire in an exploded style; and, though he fortunately abandoned this, neither his longer nor his shorter poems possessed pathos, power or beauty enough to give them much attraction even for a time or to keep them in memory after their writer’s death. Browning’s nickname “Banjo Byron,” in the exceedingly ill-mannered and not extraordinarily witty attack prefaced to Pacchiarotto, was not very happy; for, though Austin was a professed admirer of Byron, he cannot be said to have copied him much except in satire, where Byron himself was a copyist. He could keep up poems of some length like Prince Lucifer and The Human Tragedy without being so tame as Lewis Morris, and he could come rather nearer to vigour and passion in lyric than (with the exception here noted) Edwin Arnold. So that, had only the three been available, his appointment would have been fully justified.