1853 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charlotte Smith

Frederic Rowton, in Female Poets of Great Britian (1853) 191.



Mrs. Charlotte Smith, one of the most admired of our female poets, is also a noble specimen of womanly excellence. She was the daughter of Nicholas Turner, Esq. of Stoke House in Surrey, where she was born in 1749. Deprived of her mother at an early age, she was induced in her fifteenth year to marry Mr. Smith, the son of a rich merchant: the bridegroom's age being only twenty-one. Carelessness and extravagance on Mr. Smith's part, and the death of his father, whose will was so complicated that all the property was swallowed up in lawsuits, reduced the unhappy pair to great embarrassments. The husband was thrown into prison, which the wife shared with him: and it was while labouring under these difficulties that Mrs. Smith turned her literary talents to account. In 1782 she published a volume of Sonnets, which was favourably received by the public, and passed through no fewer than eleven editions. The domestic life of Mr. and Mrs. Smith becoming more and more unhappy, a separation at length took place; and Mrs. Smith retired to a cottage near Chichester, where she applied herself assiduously and cheerfully to literary pursuits. She here produced her well-known novels of Emmeline, Ethelinde, and Celestina, and various other works in prose and verse. She died, at Tilford, near Farnham, in 1806.

Mrs. Smith's poetry is at once forcible and elegant: her descriptions of nature are peculiarly true and pleasing: and her sentiments, although somewhat sombre in their tone, are marked by great purity of thought, and clearness of expression. Her love of flowers is exquisitely developed.