Reference > Cambridge History > The Victorian Age, Part One > Lesser Poets of the Middle and Later Nineteenth Century > Thomas Ashe
  Lord de Tabley John Addington Symonds  


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

VI. Lesser Poets of the Middle and Later Nineteenth Century.

§ 50. Thomas Ashe.

Something more than a neighbourhood of birth-years connects Thomas Ashe with Noel and de Tabley, though he was certainly inferior to both of them as a poet. He, too, began with a classical drama, The Sorrows of Hypsipyle, which, at the time, tempted some who read it, though they knew the danger and deception of these closet dramas, to expect not a little from him. After leaving Cambridge, he was, for the greater part of his not very long life, a schoolmaster and, latterly, a working man of letters; but he never left off verse-writing, and divided his practice between longer poems, such as the drama just mentioned, a narrative piece on the story of Psyche—often told but so charming that nobody but a blockhead could spoil it wholly—and lyrics. The general impression of Ashe’s work is that given by much modern poetry, namely, that compression, distillation—any of the metaphorically allied processes which, without importing actually foreign qualities, bring out and bring together those which exist in a too diffused condition—might have made of him a poet of real value. In further comparison with some of his near contemporaries, he takes far higher rank; for, in almost his least good work there is always what analysts call a “trace” of poetry. But the trace rarely rises to a distinctly appreciable, and, perhaps, never to a high, percentage.   90
  To this decade, likewise, belonged Theodore Watts, in the later years of his life known as Watts-Dunton, a solicitor, a sonneteer and the author of a novel, Aylwin, which had a great popularity for a time, as well as a frequent, a voluminous and a highly serious critic of poetry. He was, and, no doubt, still more will be, best known from the generous and faithful friendship and hospitality which he showed to the poet Swinburne. Only coterie enthusiasm could regard him as being himself a very noteworthy poet, 37  but he had cultivated his natural gifts that way by much frequentation, not merely of Swinburne but of the Rossettis and others, and some of his sonnets are not unworthy of his society.   91

Note 37. He was, at any rate, a better one—he certainly belonged to a better school—than his namesake Alaric Alexander Watts, who might have been noticed in the last chapter on this subject, but most of whose work belonged to the earlier part of this. The elder Watts was unlucky enough to provoke the wicked wit of Lockhart and to live (with perversion of his second name) in the “singing flames” of
I don’t like that Alaric Attila Watts,
His verses are just like the pans and the pots, etc.
The pans were neatly enough polished, and the pots were quite clean; but they were turned out by mould and machinery, and there was very little in them. Their author was an industrious and ingenious, though not very fortunate, journalist and bookmaker, and his principal collection Lyrics of the Heart (1850), besides serious things very much of the kind suggested by the title, contains the rather well-known alliterative amphigouri,
An Austrian army awfully arrayed,
which has had an unexpected illustration in very recent times. Alaric “Attila” was a very harmless person, but not a very meritorious poet.
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  Lord de Tabley John Addington Symonds  

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