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

§ 4. Ernest Jones

The most “occasional” poet among the semi-official spasmodics, as we may call them, was, probably, Ernest Jones, son of a soldier of distinction, a king’s godson in Germany, presented at court in England, and a barrister, but a violent chartist agitator, a two-years’ prisoner for sedition, an industrious journalist and lecturer, later a not unsuccessful practitioner in his profession, a frequent candidate for parliment and, at last, just before his death, a successful one, after a fashion. This brief biography does not sound very promising; but, as a matter of fact, Jones was not a bad poet. Even his Songs of Democracy redeem their inevitable claptrap with less spitefulness than Ebenezer Elliott’s (though Elliott was a prosperous, and Jones a very unlucky, man) and by an occasional humour of which the Sheffield poet was incapable. It is impossible for the bitterest reactionary who possesses a sense of that inestimable quality not to recognise it in The Song of the Lower Classes, with its mischievous, rickety, banjo-like quasi-refrain of

  • We’re low—we’re low—we’re very very low!
  • And, when Jones would let politics alone—politics which, on whatever side the subject be taken up, seldom inspire any but the satiric muse—he could, as in some of his pieces on the Crimean war and in others, more general, such as The Poet’s Parallel, show real poetic power.