Reference > Cambridge History > The Romantic Revival > Lesser Poets, 1790–1837 > Charles Whitehead
  Richard H. Horne Thomas Wade  


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

V. Lesser Poets, 1790–1837.

§ 16. Charles Whitehead.

It was, perhaps, not surprising that, in 1831, with the great poets of the early nineteenth century all dead, silent or producing things hardly worthy of them, and with Tennyson and Browning but just visible to any, and actually seen by few, the Spenserians of the third Whitehead’s 9  Solitary should have seemed to promise a poet. But, if the poem be examined carefully, it will be found to belittle more than a clever mosaic of variously borrowed fancy, phrase and cadence, super-excellent as a prize poem, but, like most prize poems, possessing hardly any symptomatic or germinal evidence in it. At any rate, though before his dry-and wet-rot in the Bohemia of fancy and, latterly, the Australia of fact, Whitehead wrote one successful play, The Cavalier, one or two quasi-historical tales or novels of some merit (Jack Ketch, Richard Savage) and some other work, even his eulogists have only discovered in his later pieces a sonnet or two of distinction; (As younder Lamp in my Vacated Room is that usually quoted).  10    32

Note 9. After Paul and William, Charles. The difference ofthe “minority” of his predecessors and himself would make a fair text for a comparison of eighteenth and nineteenth century poetry of the lesser kind. [ back ]
Note 10. And “vacated,” here, is not exactly a felicity. Whitehead was a friend of Dickens; and, at least, thought himself to have “passed on” the composition of Pickwick to the greater writer. He suggests himself as a possible original for the reflections on “Horace Kinch and the Dry-rot in Men” (The Uncommercial Traveller), though the circumstances are artistically altered: and though Dickens, no doubt, had more than one painful example in his mind. [ back ]

  Richard H. Horne Thomas Wade  

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