Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
Critical Introduction by Henry Austin Dobson
William Lisle Bowles (1762–1850)
 
[The Rev. William Lisle Bowles was born at King’s Sutton in 1762. His chief work is his Sonnets, first published in 1789. He died at Salisbury in 1850.]  1
 
IT was the candle of Bowles that lit the fire of Coleridge. We have it on record in the Biographia Literaria that to the author of The Ancient Mariner, bewildered at seventeen between metaphysics and theological controversy, and utterly out of sympathy with the artificialities of the Popesque school, the early sonnets of Bowles came almost in the light of a revelation. In a copy preserved at South Kensington he writes of them later as ‘having done his heart more good than all the other books he ever read excepting his Bible.’ Those who to-day turn to the much-praised verses will scarcely find in their pensive amenity that enduring charm which they presented to the hungry and restless soul of Coleridge, seeking its fitting food in unpropitious places. They exhibit a grace of expression, a delicate sensibility, and above all a ‘musical sweet melancholy’ that is especially grateful in certain moods of mind; but with lapse of time and change of fashion they have grown a little thin and faint and colourless. Of Bowles’s remaining works it is not necessary to speak. He was overmatched in his controversy with Byron as to Pope, and the blunt
 ‘Stick to thy sonnets, Bowles,—at least they pay’
of the former must be accepted as the final word upon the poetical efforts of the cultivated and amiable Canon of Salisbury.
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