1780 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sarah Fyge Egerton

J. N. [John Nichols?], "Mrs. Egerton" Gentleman's Magazine 51 (October 1781) 455.



Oct. 4, 1781.

MR. URBAN,

I have lately met with a copy of the poems described by your correspondents (in 1780, p. 562, and in p. 121. of the present volume), which proves that the manufacturing of title-pages is of still older date than the days of Curll. Whether the name of "J. Nutt" was found to be inauspicious, or the initials "S. F." were thought not sufficiently descriptive of the poetess, the title-page was altered to "A Collection of Poems on several Occasions; viz. On Friendship, &c. &c. [here follows a large enumeration] With several others. Dedicated to the Right Honourable the Lord Halifax. To which is added a Pastoral, entitled, The Fond Shepherdess, dedicated to Mr. Congreve. By Mrs. Sarah Fyge Egerton. London, Printed, and are to be sold by the Booksellers of London and Westminster. 1706. Price 1s. 6p." The recommendatory verses, your "New Correspondent" says, are "of coarse and common manufacture." The signature to one of these will, perhaps, claim for its author an exemption from this censure. Remove but a single word in the fourteenth line (perhaps an error of the transcriber or the press), and your readers may agree with me in being not unwilling to suppose these verses some of the early dawnings of the all-accomplished Prior. Let the critics judge. I will only premise, that Mrs. Egerton had visited Cambridge, and published a poem on her leaving that university; and that the hero of Prior's "Despairing Shepherd" is (perhaps accidentally) the namesake of Mrs. Egerton's inamorato.

TO MRS. S. F. ON HER POEMS.
Hail to Clarinda, dear Euterpe Hail,
Now we shall conquer, now indeed prevail;
Clarinda will her charming lines expose,
And in her strength we vanquish all our foes.
To these triumphant lays let each repair,
A sacred sanction to the writing fair;
Mankind has long upheld the learned sway,
And tyrant custom forc'd us to obey.
Thought art and science did to them belong,
And to assert our selves was deem'd a wrong.
But we are justified by thy immortal song:
Come ye bright nymphs a lasting garland bring,
In never-fading verse, Clarinda's praises sing;
Read o'er her works, see "how" genuine nature fires,
Observe the sweetness which her Pen inspires.
From thence grow wise, from thence your thoughts improve
Here's judgment piercing sense and softer love;
To idle gaieties true wit prefer,
Strive all, ye thinking fair, to copy her.
M. P.

By one of this lady's poems, it appears that she had been highly complimented by the learned Joshua Barnes. Her other encomiasts sign themselves J. H. S. C. and E. C. Query, who were they?

J. N.