1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anna Seward

David Rivers, in Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) 1:244-45.



MISS ANNA SEWARD, a lady who has acquired considerable reputation by her Poetical Talents; and who has also been celebrated for her great excellence in the art of reading. She is the daughter of the late Rev. Thomas Seward, Rector of Eyam in Derbyshire, Prebendary of Salisbury, and Canon Residentiary of Litchfield. From this parent she received the advantage of a good education, discovered early symptoms of the rhyming propensity, and, becoming acquainted with the late Lady Miller of Bath-Easton, was a frequent and, sometimes, a successful candidate for the myrtle wreath of the poetic institution of that villa. Her first regular publication was a beautiful Elegy on Captain Cook, which, together with an Ode to the Sun (a Bath-Easton Prize Poem) was published in a quarto pamphlet, in 1780. In the year following, she produced a Monody on her gallant and amiable friend Major Andre; and, it is said, that Dr. Darwin, speaking of this poem and the one on Captain Cook, used to tell her she was the inventress of Epic Elegy. Miss Seward's subsequent productions have been, a Poem to the Memory of Lady Miller; Louisa, a poetical novel; an Ode on General Elliot's Return from Gibraltar; and Llangollen Vale, with other Poems, published in a quarto pamphlet, in 1796.

Of these productions, perhaps, the first, in point of popularity, is the poetical novel; while the one held in highest estimation for poetical value, by the fair author herself, is, we are told, the Ode on General Elliot's Return. Miss Seward's perpetual study of uncommon and poetical expression has not unfrequently led her into affectation and obscurity; yet, the general harmony of her numbers, her refined sentiment, her elegant description, and her copious imagery, will always insure her many admirers. Beside the poems above mentioned, she has contributed many original fugitive Pieces, and some Translations of Ode of Horace to the Gentleman's Magazine; and has announced for speedy publication, a collection (in quarto) to be entitled, Sonnets and Horatian Odes.