1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anna Seward

Samuel Egerton Brydges, Obituary in Censura Literaria 10 (1809) 408-09.



March. 25. "At the Episcopal Palace of Lichfield, in her sixty-sixth year, Miss Anna Seward, author of Louisa, of A Monody on Major Andre, of a Life of Dr. Darwin, and of various other productions. Few women ever exhibited more strength of intellect or more delicacy of taste. Her poetry is particularly distinguished by beauty of imagery and vigour of sentiment. She has sometimes been though affectedly elaborate; but her pictures are never indistinct, and the whole is exquisitely finished. In critical acumen she was always unrivalled; and no latent excellence nor defect could escape her observation. She had the poet's taste and the poet's eye. In her moral temperament there was no ill-nature, no malignity; nothing selfish, nothing base. She was generous without ostentation; but she was generous in the extreme. She was fond of praise; but she was liberal in bestowing it. Her friends were very numerous; and they composed no small part of the virtue and genius of the times. Taste so refined, sentiments so elevated, affections so glowing with kindness, and worth so void of guile, have seldom been conveyed, in the person of the same individual, to the silent tomb." Such is the character given of her genius in one of the Newspapers; but there may be some reasonable difference of opinion on the style of her poetry, and the purity of her taste. She was sometimes happy in her efforts, but generally laboured, and often affected. She loved cumbrous ornament; and surely indulged too frequently in the artifices and tricks of composition, which have marked modern versifiers. Whenever her feelings rose above her rules she did well, but her judgment in the art of writing may be fairly suspected to have been very faulty. Her fancy was strong; and her powers of description original and splendid. Her first publications were her best; and indeed so much superior to her last, as to form a subject of rational wonder. But neither space nor time will allow me to discuss these points any farther at present.