John Scott's protest against the Quarterly


Although I am aware that literary squabbles are of too uninteresting and interminable a nature for your Journal, yet there are occasions when acts of malice and gross injustice towards an author may be properly brought before the public through such a medium.-Allow me, then, without further preface, to refer you to an article in the last Number of The Quarterly Review, professing to be a Critique on 'The Poems of John Keats.' Of John Keats I know nothing; from his Preface I collect that he is very young-no doubt a heinous sin; and I have been informed that he has incurred the additional guilt of an acquaintance with Mr Leigh Hunt. That this latter Gentleman and the Editor of The Quarterly Review have long been at war, must be known to every one in the least acquainted with the literary gossip of the day. Mr L. Hunt, it appears, has thought highly of the poetical talents of Mr Keats; hence Mr K. is doomed to feel the merciless tomahawk of the Reviewers, termed Quarterly, I presume from the modus operandi. From a perusal of the criticism, I was led to the work itself. I would,

Sir, that your limits would permit a few extracts from this poem. I dare appeal to the taste and judgment of your readers, that beauties of the highest order may be found in almost every page-that there are also many, very many passages indicating haste and carelessness, I will not deny; I will go further, and assert that a real friend of the author would have dissuaded him from an immediate publication.

Had the genius of Lord Byron sunk under the discouraging sneers of an Edinburgh Review the nineteenth century would scarcely yet have been termed the Augustan aera of Poetry. Let Mr Keats too persevere- he has talents of no common stamp; this is the hastily written tribute of a stranger, who ventures to predict that Mr K. is capable of producing a poem that shall challenge the admiration of every reader of true taste and feeling; nay if he will give up his acquaintance with Mr Leigh Hunt, and apostatise in his friendships, his principles and his politics (if he have any), he may even command the approbation of the Quarterly Review.

I have not heard to whom public opinion has assigned this exquisite morceau of critical acumen. If the Translator of Juvenal be its author, I would refer him to the manly and pathetic narrative prefixed to that translation, to the touching history of genius oppressed by and struggling with innumerable difficulties, yet finally triumphing under patronage and encouragement. If the Biographer of Kirke White have done Mr Keats this cruel wrong, let him remember his own just and feeling expostulation with the Monthly Reviewer, who 'sat down to blast the hopes of a boy, who had confessed to him all his hopes and all his difficulties.' If the 'Admiralty Scribe' (for he too is a Reviewer) be the critic, let him compare the Battle of Talavera with Endymion.

[Read the biographical context.]