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

VII. The Prosody of the Nineteenth Century

§ 11. Warner’s Metronariston

John Warner’s Metronariston (1797) is a remarkable book, dealing partly with classical, partly with English, prosody, and is well worth the study of specialists; but it is not easy to give brief account of it. Steele’s notions, after lying for some time neglected, attracted attention from three writers: Odell, a Cambridge man; the revolutionist and elocutionist Thelwall; and Richard Roe of Dublin. Of these, Odell deals with the subject chiefly a priori, his starting-points and methods being either musical or phonetic; and Roe is an intensified Odell. But Thelwall goes farther than either of them in the direction of repeating and exaggerating Steele’s impossible scansions. One will do:

  • To &pipe; momentary &pipe; consciousness a&pipe;woke.
  • The hexameters of Southey’s A Vision of Judgment naturally caused not a little discussion; in fact, if what was written on them were taken with the renewed discussions about the time of Longfellow’s Evangeline, and with the third stage of the controversy reached in more recent years, the whole of this chapter could easily be occupied by summary and criticism. A writer in The Edinburgh Review not merely disapproved of the English hexameter as such, but expanded the reasons for his disapproval into a general anathema on equivalence, and a reaffirmation, in the strongest terms, of the old belief, not merely in the allowableness, but in the necessity, of pronouncing “feath’ry” and “wat’ry.” Another enemy of the verse, but, in this case, a friend of the versifier, Tillbrook of Peterhouse, was almost the first to show real acquaintance with earlier prosodists from Elizabethan times downwards, but did not treat his subject quite in the right way.