JAMES HANNAY, from A Brief Memoir of the late Mr. Thackeray (1864)
He was not essentially poetical, as Tennyson, for instance, is. Poetry was not the predominant mood of his mind, or the intellectual law by which the objects of his thought and observation were arranged and classified. But inside his fine sagacious common-sense understanding,
there was, so to speak, a pool of poetry,—like the impluvium in the hall of a Roman house, which gave an air of coolness and freshness and nature to the solid marble columns and tessellated floor. The highest products of this part of his mind were the Chronicle [of the Drum], the Bouillabaisse, the lines on Charles Buller’s death at the end of one of his Christmas Books, and the ‘Ho, pretty page with dimpled chin’ of another of them. A song or two in his novels, and some passages in which rural scenery is quietly and casually described, might also be specified. But all this is chiefly valuable as showing that his nature was complete, and that there wanted not in his genius that softer and more sensitive side natural to one whose observation was so subtle and his heart so kind. He was essentially rather moralist and humourist,— thinker and wit,—than poet; and he was too manly to overwork his poetic vein as a man may legitimately work his mere understanding. This honourable self-restraint, this decent reticence, so natural to English gentlemen, was by some writers of the Gushing School mistaken for hardness….