1818 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Barbara Hofland

Anonymous, "Mrs. Hofland," in Ladies' Monthly Museum (January 1818) 1-3.



The subject of our present memoir, its the daughter of Mr. Robert Wreaks, who was a partner in the most extensive manufactory in the town of Sheffield. Her mother was a descendant from an ancient and respectable family in Cumberland. The former of these invaluable connections, she had the misfortune to lose when only three years of age. He was a person of superior education, talents, and character; and his young widow, with three small children, had necessarily those changes in her prospects and situation to suffer, which are inseparable from the loss of a husband dependent on commerce for support.

About nine years afterwards, Mrs. Wreaks again entered the marriage state, and her brother took upon himself the guardianship of her children; a trust which he executed in such a manner as to load their early life with embarrassments and sorrow. To the subject of our memoir, trials still more painful succeeded. It was her happiness to form a connection with Mr. Hoole, a young man, whose solid worth, amiable disposition, cultivated mind, and disinterested affection, promised years of felicity, and whose situation in life realized all that she desired; but she had scarcely been married one year, when he fell into a decline, which in the next removed him at twenty-six years of age to "another and a better world," leaving his widow with her only surviving child, a son about four months old.

"When such friends part, 'tis the survivor dies!" is the assertion of Dr. Young; he observes too, that "misfortunes love a crowd," which was verified in the case of the person before us; for Mr. Hoole's property being engaged in a mercantile house, suffered from all those chances which have by turns injured every country in Europe; and, in a few years, his widow had little left besides the consciousness of integrity, and the desire of independence, to support her.

When her son had attained his tenth year, her anxiety to assist his education, overcame her reluctance to appear before the world as an author, and she was induced to publish a volume of poems by subscription. When this work was advertised, her friends and townsmen evinced a generous eagerness in their encouragement, which the writer of this article never heard her relate without perceiving the tear of grateful exultation glisten in her eye. It is a fact, that, in nine days, she received one thousand one hundred names, which were eventually increased to two thousand. The work was published by Mr. Montgomery, the justly celebrated poet, to whose friendly attentions she holds herself highly indebted on that, and many other occasions.

A short time after this, (being stimulated to the undertaking, and instructed in its duties, by Mrs. Haugh, of Doncaster) we find her venturing to open a boarding-school at Harrogate for ten young ladies. She met with every mark of kindness and encouragement she could desire; but as she married Mr. Hofland (whose name is known to the world as a landscape-painter), it was thought by his friends, that a residence in the metropolis was more consonant to his views; and, after deliberating a year or two, they removed thither.

From her earliest recollection, Mrs. Hofland was addicted to poetry, and other compositions; but as this disposition was checked by her friends, and her temper was timid to a fault, this pursuit was rarely indulged, and frequently abandoned for very considerable periods. In London, she was a stranger; and the late avocations of her active life being closed, she now found that leisure she had long desired, and seized upon it with avidity. In the first year of her residence in the south, she produced The Daughter-in-law, 2 vols. Says she to her Neighbour, 4 vols. The Sisters; The Young Northern Traveller; and The Son of a Genius. Her name was not yet given to her works; but as, on reading the first and last mentioned productions, Her Majesty was graciously pleased to offer her permission to dedicate any future work to her; we find Mrs. H. avail herself of it in her Emily; and since then, her name is prefixed to all she has published.

About the same period, she received a letter from Mr. Edgeworth, through the medium of her publisher, and with this excellent man, and his admirable daughter, she has since been happy in a most friendly correspondence, interrupted, alas! by the lamented death of the former.

Mrs. Hofland has only published one work in the last two or three years, viz. The Good Grandmother. It has been said, and probably with truth, that she wrote too rapidly to do justice to her conceptions; and is now determined not to offer any hasty production to the public. We do not pretend to add a critique to our memorial, but will venture to say, that although her language may occasionally be incorrect, or insufficiently polished, yet her works abound in lessons of integrity and religion, and situations of simple, but pathetic interest.