I too can hunt a Poetaster down


Greenough-Bemis-Duplicates funds, 1985 – *85-644

BOWLES! in thy memory let this precept dwell:
Stick to thy Sonnets, man! at least they sell.

William Lisle Bowles (1762-1850). Fourteen Sonnets, Elegiac and Descriptive, Written during a Tour (Bath, 1789).

Bowles is credited with reviving the sonnet form in England, which found gifted practitioners throughout the Romantic period from Wordsworth to Keats. On display is his first book, a slender quarto printed at his own expense in an edition of only 100 copies. But it was his ten-volume edition and unflattering biographical sketch of Pope (1806) that raised Byron’s ire in English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers. A debate ensued over artificial versus natural poetic diction that has come to be known as the “Bowles-Pope controversy.” Interestingly, Byron’s friend Hobhouse contributed a fourteen-line passage on Bowles (including the line “Stick to thy Sonnets, man! at least they sell”) to the first edition of the satire, later expunged by the poet and replaced with lines of his own.