Roger Lonsdale

Roger Lonsdale is a fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. His edition of John Bampfylde’s poems is due from the Perpetua Press on 17 March, nearly two hundred years after such a book was first envisaged. In the introduction to this edition, and in the present issue, he tells Bampfylde’s sad story.

Mr Lion, Mr Cock and Mr Cat

Roger Lonsdale, 5 April 1990

Harriet Guest’s starting-point is Donald Davie’s suggestion in 1958 that Christopher Smart might be considered ‘the greatest poet between Pope and Wordsworth’. Her intelligent and carefully argued book does not deliver quite the far-reaching reassessment of Smart’s status Davie must have had in mind. He wanted Smart to be judged over the whole range of his poetic output, both conventional and unconventional, ‘light and ribald as well as devotional, urbane or tender as well as sublime’. Concentration on Smart as an eccentric, perhaps insane, religious poet, encouraged by the unexpected publication of his ‘madhouse’ poem, Jubilate Agno in 1939, was unbalanced. Davie reinforced the point in The Augustan Lyric (1974), drawing attention to the ‘delicacy and refinement’ and ‘variable flexibility’ of Smart’s secular verse.

The Strange Case of John Bampfylde

Roger Lonsdale, 3 March 1988

If John Bampfylde has any continuing public existence, it must be as the man on the right in this unusual double portrait by Joshua Reynolds. An interested enquirer might learn that Bampfylde was a minor poet of the later 18th century and, in the absence of much hard information, encounter what is scarcely more than a striking anecdote of frustrated love and subsequent insanity. To probe the few available facts about a man who vanished from sight in his mid-twenties is to discover that the Reynolds portrait, the poetry and the story of ill-fated love are inextricably woven together. Eventually, the young poet confronts us, as he did his embarrassed contemporaries, with disconcerting immediacy.

Tit for Tat

Margaret Anne Doody, 21 December 1989

The publication of this anthology is an important event – as significant as the appearance of Roger Lonsdale’s earlier Oxford Book of 18th-Century Verse, that unmarmoreal volume. As...

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Barbara Everett, 17 October 1985

Even Swift, who liked to think he was half author of the Dunciad, had trouble with its allusions and wrote grumblingly to warn Pope that twenty miles from London ‘nobody understands hints,...

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