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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

§ 10. Percival Leigh; W. J. Prowse; Mortimer Collin

The first group or sub-group to be noticed should consist of the earlier mid-century “Bohemians,” whom, however, we can discuss here only in part, Maginn and “Father Prout” being reserved for other divisions; Thackeray himself rising higher; and other for other reasons being, also, excluded. Here, however, may be mentioned Percival Leigh, a great contributor to Punch in its brilliant second early period; and W.J. Prowse, “Nicholas,” who died young and took little care of the work which his short life and his weak health enabled him to do, but whose talent has appealed very strongly to some good judges and can hardly be denied by any. The City of Prague—which has sometimes been attributed to others, particularly to James Hannay, but which is really by Prowse—wants only a very few revising touches to make it a masterpiece. With one of such touches, so slight that the reading is a common one in quotation, and can be constructed out of the printed poem itself, we get the stanza:

  • Though the latitude’s rather uncertain,
  • Though the longitude’s possibly vague—
  • The people I pity who know not the city—
  • The beautiful city of Prague
  • —a thing of much sweetness. But the wisest sojourners in Bohemia have admitted that its capital is not a good city to abide in; and we shall find that the best of the group now under mention were only visitors of the spiritual Prague, if even that. More of a scholar than Prowse was Mortimer Collins, who frittered away, if not in actual idleness yet in hasty and desultory work, talents perhaps greater than any one else of the class, except Maginn, possessed. He left, however, some charming love-poetry, as To F. C., and some brilliant satiric verse, as The British Birds.