1785 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Frances Brooke

Anna Seward to Frances Brooke, 21 April 1785; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 1:65-66.



Lichfield, April 21, 1785.

I deplore what you tell me of our good Baron Dimsdale's illness; and am a fellow-sufferer with him, from a frequent and oppressive pain at my stomach, and shortness of breath. It has made me seem of late to neglect many of my correspondents.

It is with regret that I hear you say we are not likely to see another charming work of yours. I pity you for the harassing number of those complex circumstances, which force into exertion the energies of your spirit, without the power to interest your affections, or awaken your imagination.

What needs a mind-illumin'd breast for those,
Heart-melting thoughts, or fancy like the sun?

There is no parodying a passage in Milton, without speaking of the late literary treasure, Mr. T. Warton's edition of Milton's juvenile poems. Its critical notes have all the eloquence and strength of Johnson, without his envy. Johnson told me once, "he would hang a dog that read the Lycidas twice." "What then," replied I, "must become of me, who can say it by heart; and who often repeat it to myself, with a delight 'which grows by what it feeds upon.'" "Die," returned the growler, "in a surfeit of bad taste."

Thus it was, that the wit and awless impoliteness of the stupendous creature bore down, by storm, every barrier which reason attempted to rear against his injustice. The injury that injustice has done to the claims of genius, and the taste for its effusions, is irreparable. You, my dear Madam, I am assured, have sense to perceive, and generosity to deplore its consequences.