Reference > Cambridge History > The Romantic Revival > Lesser Poets, 1790–1837 > Henry James Pye
  Sara Coleridge William Sotheby; John Abraham Heraud; Robert Pollok; Robert Montgomery  

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

V. Lesser Poets, 1790–1837.

§ 24. Henry James Pye.


The most interesting groups which the subject of this chapter offers have been noticed; but, before we come to individuals, some of whom, also, are interesting, one or two other batches of minor bards may be dealt with. For traditional dignity of form, though certainly for little other merit, a small band of professed epic writers may have precedence, and they may themselves be as properly headed by the laureate for nearly a quarter of a century, Henry James Pye, who crowned the efforts in all sorts of verse which he made during close on that time—prize poems and Pindaric odes, verse-essays on beauty and ballooning, and the dreadful duty ditties of his post—with an Alfred in six books of technically faultless, but poetically null, eighteenth century couplets. Pye, though a convenient butt for the usual anti-laureate jokes, was, in fact, not so much a bad poet as no poet at all. 12  He was not specially rhetorical, or specially silly, or specially extravagant, or ridiculously sentimental and pseudo-romantic. His house was the house of typically eighteenth century verse, empty and swept of all poetical life, not even garnished by any poetical stuff, not inhabited by devils at all—but simply empty. He is thus an interesting figure in a historical museum of the subject.   46

Note 12. As a prose writer, Pye was far from contemptible. He had a fancy for commentaries and summaries. His Summary of the Duties of a J. P. (he was himself Bow street magistrate) was found useful, but hardly concerns us here. His Commentary on Shakespeare’s commentators, and that appended to his translation of the Poetics, contain some noteworthy matter. A man, who, born in 1745, could write “Sir Charles Grandison is a much more unnatural character than Caliban,” may have been a poetaster but was certainly not a fool. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Sara Coleridge William Sotheby; John Abraham Heraud; Robert Pollok; Robert Montgomery  
 
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