Anna Seward

Richard Polwhele to J. T., 20 December 1811; Polwhele, Traditions and Recollections (1826) 2:646-47.

Dec. 20, 1811.


You spoke highly of Miss Seward's Letters, at our last interview. I have since read them with the pleasure of a common reader such as yours; and I have read them with the additional pleasure of a friend. With her scenes in general I am little acquainted; but I am well acquainted with many of her characters. Besides, I was her immediate correspondent.

In the first volume of the Letters, Miss H. More and the Bristol milk-maid are introduced. I know something of this transaction: Miss H. More treated Lactilla contumeliously — I mean, as a poet would treat a poet! But how infinitely superior was Lactilla's poetry to Miss Hannah's!

In the second volume is printed (very incorrectly) an Ode of your humble servant to Miss Seward. In the same volume we have notices of Opie and Wolcot; on which I could throw much additional light.

In the fifth volume, Miss Seward, addressing Mr. Cary, says: "Several of the simply beautiful and touching parts in Shenstone's charming pastorals have been laughably travestied." — This burlesque occurs in our Devon and Cornwall poets. It is ostensibly my old friend Major Drewe's. Had I told Miss Seward, that the ridicule which has thus raised her indignation, was started and pursued by the Major and myself, tete-a-tete, over a bottle of Claret, my name would never have occurred in the list of her honoured friends!

In the same volume, Miss S. thus addresses T. Park, Esq.: "I have never seen a British Critic since the arrogant nonsense of its pages respecting Mr. P—'s Poems met my eye, and, sickened me afresh of that publication."

We will now recur to the second volume, in which she has inserted my lyrical effusion. I have said that it was printed incorrectly. And by a strange mistake Miss S. says, in a note on "Yoxal's shade," — "Wroxal, the name of the place where Mr. P— lived." — It is the name, however, of the place, at no great distance from Miss Seward's own residence, where a friend of Mr. P. (and of Miss S. herself) then lived — a friend, whom Mr. P. had congratulated on his recent marriage. — "I am tempted to hazard (says Miss S.) a seeming vanity, by inserting an Ode presented to me by that ingenious, learned, and able writer, Mr. P. whose didactic poem on Eloquence, and translations from the classics, are so deservedly admired." — I give you the Ode corrected.

Yours, &c.

R. P.