The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

III. Critical and Miscellaneous Prose

§ 10. Traill

The Romany group has diverted our attention, for the moment, from the literary critics of the period. Among these, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, William Minto held a respectable position in the second rank; but his writings hardly rise above the level of good journey-work. Henry Duff Traill, a man of higher and more varied gifts, was among those whom the pressure of journalism deprived of the fame which he had the capacity to win. In addition to a considerable critical faculty, which is attested by his monographs on Coleridge and Sterne, and by the essays entitled The New Fiction, he had the happy knack of writing light satirical verse, one volume of which, Saturday Songs, by its title commemorates his connection with The Saturday Review. He also wrote on constitutional and political questions. In The New Lucian and in Number Twenty, he gave rein to his imagination, and, in the former, he reaches his highest point in pure literature. It was a bold conception, that of writing new dialogues of the dead; and to say that Traill completely succeeded would be very high praise. He did not. Sometimes his opinions seem to get between him and the character he delineates. Nevertheless, the book shows not merely ability but genius. It is always well written, frequently witty and sometimes eloquent.