1790 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elizabeth Hands

Thomas Ogle, Review of Hands, The Death of Amnon; The Monthly Review S2 3 (November 1790) 345-46.



We are always thankful when authors, by addressing the public on the nature and merits of their writings, diminish our labours; and especially so, when, as in the present case, their opinions agree with our sentiments. Let Mrs. Hands, then, be judge in her own cause; while we, in the words of Miss Rhymer and the honest old Rector, report her decree:

Says she, there are various subjects indeed:
With some little pleasure I read all the rest,
But the Murder of Amnon's the longest and best.
P. 52.

The Rector reclin'd himself back in his chair,
And open'd his snuff-box with indolent air;
This book, says he, (snift, snift) has in the beginning,
(The ladies give audience to hear his opinion)
Some pieces, I think, that are pretty correct;
A style elevated you cannot expect:
To some of her equals thy may be a treasure,
And country lasses may read them with pleasure.
That Amnon, you can't call it poetry neither,
There's no flights of fancy or imagery either;
You may style it prosaic, blank-verse at the best;
Some pointed reflections, indeed, are exprest;
The narrative lines are exceedingly poor:
Her Jonadab is a — the drawing-room door
Was open'd, the gentlemen came from below,
And gave the discourse a definitive blow.

Whatever may be thought of the character of this poetry, we cannot but form the most favourable conclusions with respect to that of the writer, — forming, as we do, our judgment from the uncommonly numerous list of subscribers: among whom are many names of persons of rank, and consideration. There could be no motive for extraordinary patronage, but a benevolent regard to merit — of some kind.