The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 5. Ebenezer Jones
His namesake, Ebenezer, was also bitten with the chartist mania, having some excuse in the facts that his circumstances, never very bright or prosperous, became steadily worse, while, though never quite in Alton Locke’s straits, he was so like him in his infirm health and in other ways, that, if dates and other things did not make it extremely unlikely, there might be suspicions of his having been taken as a model, to some extent, by Kingsley. Studies of Sensation and Event (1843), his only substantive published work, shows a quite unmistakable poetic faculty, though undeveloped (he was only 23) and never fully to be developed (for he died in 1860 and the interval had been sterilised by ill-health, domestic misfortune and office work). But it appeared in that disastrous interval of poetic taste and poetic criticism which has been more than once mentioned, the only cheerful side of which is the hard discipline it gave to the two great capacities—great enough to meet and withstand and conquer it—of Tennyson and Browning. Ebenezer Jones had no such greatness—would probably never have attained it even if circumstances had been more favourable; and they were not favourable at all. But The Hand and The Face— these are the stock extracts, but it is as silly to neglect as it is degrading to rely on stock matter—have something that is not like other people, and is poetry. The ill-success of his first book and the possibly unfortunate, but certainly unusual and respectable, variety of “poetic irritability” which seems to have determined him, in consequence of that ill-success, to destroy what unpublished verse he had and write little more, prevented him from being much more than a promise of a poet. Such posthumous work as we have shows little new merit. But, in the circumstances, it would be a vulgar error to expect such merit, and an error even more vulgar to cancel the praise due to the promise. Judging by that, Ebenezer Jones might have been at least as good a poet as most of those mentioned in this chapter; and there is hardly a case in it in which the phrase Dis aliter visum is at once more obvious and more explicable.