1855 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Clara Reeve

Sarah Josepha Hale, Woman's Record; or, Sketches of all Distinguished Women (1852; 1855) 486-87.



CLARA REEVE, a novelist, born in 1738, at Ipswich, was the daughter of a clergyman, who gave her a good education. Her first work as a translation of Barclay's "Argenis," published in 1772. Her subsequent productions are, "The Old English Baron;" "The Two Mentors;" "The Progress of Romance;" "The Exile;" and Memoirs of Sir Roger de Clarendon." Her novels are all marked by good sense and pure morality, and were well received at the time they were written, especially "The Old English Baron," on which her fame now almost exclusively rests.

Mr. Chambers asserts that an early admiration of "The Castle of Otranto," induced Miss Reeve to imitate it in her "Gothic Story." He adds — "In some respects the lady has the advantage of Walpole; her supernatural machinery is better managed, so as to produce a mysteriousness and effect; but her style has not the point or elegance of her prototype." Passing strange it would have been, had this retired country maiden, who had only an imperfect education, the few works and opportunities of knowledge accessible to a woman in a provincial town, equalled Horace Walpole in the art of composition, which he had studied and practised with all appliances and means men of station and wealth can command, from his youth till he was nearly fifty, before he produced "The Castle of Otranto." That she has not failed, but rather excelled him, where genius only was concerned, is sufficient to ensure her fame. She was much respected and beloved, and led a very retired quiet life. She died in 1803.