1785 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anne Hunter

Anna Seward to Mary Knowles, 27 March 1785; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 1:46-47.



March 27, 1785.

So your fair friend, Mrs. Hunter, disavows poetic inspiration. This is being very ungrateful to the god of the silver bow, and the nine nymphs in his train. I give her credit for a very feeling heart; but it might have thrilled, and glowed, and melted long enough before it had produced such verses as I have seen of hers, unless she had obtained those delphic irradiations which she, thankless princess as she is, disclaims. When she assures me that they were produced without any efforts of study, I do not doubt her veracity, but the belief doubles my conviction of her obligations to their high mightinesses on the mountain. When you and she would exalt simplicity, that nymph of the valley, into your patron and inspiring goddess, you put me in mind of the children of Israel worshipping the calf in Horeb. That gentle-faced idol was just as capable of protecting them, as she is of producing the wit and oratory of Mrs. Knowles, and the poetry of Mrs. Hunter. O! to be sure it was simplicity solely who set "Mary Knowles upon one leg in the temple of fame." Arch and humorous imagination was no agent in producing that odd idea! — but, in truth, all that Simplicity ever did for that gentlewoman was to put on her cap.