1821 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Susanna Duncombe

Rowland Freeman, in Kentish Poets (1821) 2:383-84.



It would be an unpardonable neglect were we to conclude this article without reverting to one of whom already honourable mention has been made, and whose compositions have, in the account of Dr. Hawkesworth, given additional value to our pages. Mrs. Duncombe survived her husband many years, and died at an advanced age at Canterbury, October 28th, 1812. This lady possessed considerable talent, and enjoyed during her life the best literary society. Before her marriage with Mr. Duncombe, she might boast in the number of her friends, the distinguished names of Young, Harris, Hawkesworth, Richardson, Isaac Hawkins Browne, Chapone and Carter. "After the decease of Mr. Duncombe," says Mr. Nichols, "she adopted a more retired life, accompanied by her only surviving daughter; and although her advanced years cast their autumnal tints on her once brilliant mind, yet they sufficiently marked the beauty of the days that had passed, and rendered perhaps more eminent the 'light that now shines more and more in the perfect day.' She has not left any literary works to perpetuate her name, except some small contributions to the Poetical Calendar and Nichols's Poems, and a few transient effusions of genius principally in the Gentleman's Magazine."

We have been favoured with a sight of a small manuscript volume of poems by Mrs. Duncombe, but they were principally written in very early life, on private occasions, and are not well adapted to the public eye. The following sonnet addressed to her by Mr. Edwards, does her honour, and the answer to it is creditable to her poetic talents.

TO MISS HIGHMORE,
On Valentine's Day.
Fair Valentine, and of the muse's train
If not yourself a muse, accept these lays,
Mean though they be, not worthy of your praise,
Yet still ambitious such approof to gain.
When in Honoria's travels you explain
The safest path 'mid life's bewilder'd ways,
And guide your pilgrim through th' intangled maze;
Her virtuous toils instruct and entertain.
Why then, with shame-fac'd diffidence withdraws
Your bashful muse far from the public view,
And well-deserv'd applause, which fans the fire
Of emulous virtue in an honest cause?
A larger share of fame is but your due,
Who write so well, and, while you praise, inspire.