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“Behold in these what leisure hours demand,
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" Authors are martyrs, witnesses to the truth, or else nothing.”— CARLYLE.
* Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.”
THOSE who have the pleasure of attending meetings of
Literary Institutes and Mutual Improvement Societies are generally expected at the same time to offer a few observations such experience may suggest to those about to enter on a literary career. I have at many such gatherings, taken the opportunity of dwelling on the delights and advantages we enjoy from reading the best authors of ancient and modern times, and I can only hope that the quotation in prose and verse occurring in the following lectures may afford as much pleasure to my readers as they have afforded myself. The following are the titles of a few of the lectures I have-during the past forty years-delivered to various Literary Societies and Clubs: “ Oliver Goldsmith,” 1865; "The Poetry of Byrom," 1876; "Thomas Campbell,” 1877; “Wordsworth,” 1878; "Thomas Moore," 1879; “Longfellow," 1879; “Robert Burns," 1880; " The Natural System of Botanical Classification," 1882; " What the Great Poets have said about Flowers," 1883; Thomson, Wordsworth and Tennyson as Descriptive Poets,” 1883 ; "What the Minor Poets have said
about Flowers," “Erasmus Darwin,” 1886; "The early song writers of Ireland," 1887; John Ruskin,” 1888; "The later song writers of Ireland," 1888; "The Rarity of Inherited Genius," 1889; “Ben Jonson,” 1890; "Dean Swift," 1890; "Daniel Defoe," 1891; “Sir Walter Raleigh,” 1891 ;
1884; “Manchester Authors," 1892;
" The First and Second
Chapters of British Eloquence and Literature," 1895
and 1896; and “Birds,” 1897.
LANCASHIRE POETS OF THE 16TH, 17TH, AND 18TH
is my first lecture of the series, and is a very fit subject to write about for one who has lived among and mixed much with our local authors for nearly forty years. Lancashire authors may naturally be divided into two classes, namely, prose and verse. I have confined
myself to the latter.
The poets of this county are positions of the minor poets who lived in the reign of Queen Anne. Witness the following from Mrs. Hemans' lines on “ Books" :
so numerous that I had to limit my observations to those born previous to the beginning of the present century. That a remarkable number of short, sweet poems have proceeded from the pens of our Lancashire lyrists nobody, I think, will deny. The poets born during the 19th century are, in my opinion, greater than those who lived in the 16th, 17th and 18th
In a future lecture I intend to deal with
those who have lived in the Victorian era, and in the works of these will be found pungent wit, jollity, and fun in large store indeed. I have not exhausted the subject, but I hope I have done so much that I shall attract others to dig deep into what I must regard
as a mine of literary wealth. There is no county in England, to my knowledge, that has given birth to a larger number of writers in prose and verse, who, if they are not of the highest class of genius, display at least abundant talent. In many of the smaller poems of our lyrists there is a beauty, a simplicity, and a grace that is only to be compared to the com
“Come, let me make a sunny realm around thee,
Of thoughts of beauty. Here are books and flowers, With spells to loose the fetters which hath bound
The ravelled coil of this world's feverish hours."
And again, in “The Departed":
Are ye for ever to your skies departed ?
Oh! will ye visit this dim world no more?
Ye, whose bright wings a solemn splendour darted
Through Eden's fresh and flowery shades, no more.
Here is another beautiful thought of hers on “The Cottage Homes of England”:
“The cottage homes of England! By thousands on
our plains, They are smiling o'er the silvery brook, and round
the hamlet fanes; Through glowing orchards forth they peep, each from
its nook of leaves,
And fearless there, the lowly sleep, as birds beneath
The above short quotation from the works of Lancashire's greatest poetess proves the truth of my statement, namely, that our local poets have style as well as beauty and simplicity.
Mrs. Lydia Sigourney's beautiful tribute to Mrs. Hemans is here worth remembering :