"Picture-books." Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 81.497 (Mar. 1857): 315-316. Excerpt.

The Poets of the Nineteenth Century* is a more ambitious work of the same kind, but differs in so far that it is a great deal better done, and is really a graceful selection, without any ulterior design or classification, from our modern poets. The examples are generally chosen with good taste and judgment, though several of them are very well worn and familiar-the stock examples, which suggest themselves at once to every one moderately well-read in poetry; as, for instance, Keats' Nightingale, which represents that hapless poet everywhere, though we own with thankfulness that the Sensitive Plant, which is about as well worn as the Nightingale, does not appear this time under the name of Shelley. We are puzzled to find out, moreover, why, in any book above the rank of a youthful poetry-book, the May Queen should be selected as the example of Tennyson. It is a very sweet, simple, touching little poem; but it is not Tennysonian, and scarcely could be cited even as an instance of his "early manner," as connoisseurs class pictures. Locksley Hall is a stock "piece" also, but it is a much more true example of its author, and would have borne illustration better, had it been substituted in place of the other. Wordsworth, too, is very inadequately represented. Coleridge fares better, perhaps because Coleridge spent all his vagaries in prose, and left no poem behind him which is not exquisite.

Among the illustrations of this volume, most people will look first at the two designs of Millais, the art-hero of the day-the first of which illustrates Byron's, Dream, and the second Genevieve. Liking, of course, will differ largely as to these pictures. We do not ourselves like very much the embrace of the two long-limbed and thick-clad figures which represent the poet and his bride, nor does the lady's attitude at all express to us the action of the poem-the flutter of "all thoughts, all passions, all delights," the sudden impulse which was

"Partly love and partly fear,

And partly was a bashful art."

Mr Millais has a special gift for the expression of extreme emotion; but it is not, perhaps, within the reach of "black and white" to express that tenderest blending of impulses, or to come up to the description of this unrivaled poem. This sketch, however, we have no doubt, will charm that reader most who has an eye best trained and educated for the excellent in art. For ourselves, we prefer the boy Byron and his leave-taking. A lesser member of the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood also contributes to this book; and we cannot, [sic] help being strongly reminded of the expressive negro description, "Cæsar and Pompey very much alike-specially Pompey," when we see what Mr Maddox [sic] Brown does for the Prisoner of Chillon. We need not point out to anyone, however, how marked is the speciality of Pompey in this case, nor what a pugilistic ruffian he has made of the long-suffering and last-surviving brother of that dismal captivity.

* The Poets of the Nineteenth Century. Selected and Arranged by the Rev. R. A. Wilmott. Routledge & Co.


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Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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