1831 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Caroline Norton

William Maginn, "Gallery of Illustrious Literary Characters: Mrs. Norton" Fraser's Magazine 3 (1831) 222.



Fair MRS. NORTON! Beautiful Bhouddist, as Balaam Bulwer baptizes you, whom can we better choose for a beginning of our illustrious literary portraits, when diverging from the inferior sex, our pencil dares to portray the angels of the craft? Passionately enamoured, as we avowedly are, of L. E. L. — soul-struck by the wonders of Mrs. Hemans's muse — in no slight degree smitten by Mary Ann Browne — venerating such relies of antiquity as Lady Morgan or Miss Edgeworth — pitying, (which is akin to loving,) the misfortunes of Mrs. Heber or Miss — we yet must make Mrs. Norton the leader of the female band. She writes long poems — she is a sprig of nobility — and she is the granddaughter of that right honourable gentleman whose picture is suspended above her head, and whom the ingenuity of our lithographer has contrived to represent rubicund in the nasal feature, even in spite of the want of colours.

A caricature of this lady appeared in a rival publication, which is commonly called by the name of the New Monthly. There her characteristic features were lost in a nonsensical straining after effect. What has a lady, the head of a household, to do with staring at the stars or any other wondrous body stuck over head? We display her as the modest matron making tea in the morning for the comfort and convenience of her husband. He does not appear, because we had no notion of wasting a lithograph upon any male creature this month. But there she is, with delicate finger, preparing to concoct that fluid which, in Ireland and France, is called "the," and which the people of England, in obedience to the villanous mincing of the cockneys, dwindle to the name of T.

Authoresses are liable to many rubs. Mrs. Norton, it would appear by her picture, at breakfast, has escaped some. Happy in all the appliances of wealth and fame, there is nothing to alter the beauties of that symmetrical form. And her look, as depicted in the sketch before us, is enough to shew that she has not passed the night in any sublunary matters; but in the contemplation of that divine philosophy and sublime poetry which is best indulged in without intrusion. The consequences are upon her countenance. "Sweet are the sorrows of Rosalie." She is evidently composing a poem which no doubt will be as fluent, as clear, as lucid, and as warm as the liquid distilling from the urn.

Of a life like hers what can be told? Spent in elegant retirement, the grace of her private circle, or blazing forth the ornament of brilliant society; there is no unfeminine display about her which can supply matter for the anecdote monger. We all know that she is Tom Sheridan's daughter — and that she has wooed successfully the muses from her earliest days, beginning with the Dandies' Ball, and ending [for the present] with the Undying One. If we wished to speak epigrammatically, in the manner of rising young gentlemen in debating societies, we should say that she has married her thoughts to immortal verse, and herself to the Honourable Mr. Norton.

Of her poetry enough has been said in this our Magazine, and we hope she has met that gentle usage at our hands which it becomes us to bestow, and her to receive. We shall be always found ready to attend her whenever she makes another expedition into the realms of prose, as we understand she meditates, or of rhyme, with the due devotion of critical cavaliers. We think that a lady ought to be treated, even by Reviewers, with the utmost deference — except she writes politics, which is an enormity equal to wearing breeches.

But we must hasten to an end, conscious that going further would intrude; and, wishing the fair theme of our pen every degree of honour and happiness, "With all humility we make our bow."