1786 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ann Yearsley

Anna Seward to T. S. Whalley, 1 February 1786; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 1:121-22.



But Bristol seems the soil where poetic plants, of wonderful strength and luxuriance, spring up amidst the weeds and brambles of vulgar life. The milk-woman's celebrity must have reached you across the seas. She is said to have behaved most ungratefully to her humane and energetic patroness, Miss. H. More. Inflexible moral honesty, stern uncomplaining patience, that silently endured the bitterest evils of want, are recorded by the pen of that celebrated lady, in the anecdotes she formerly gave us of this muse-born wonder. Her writings breathe a gloomy and jealous dignity of spirit. Great delicacy was required in the manner of conferring obligation on a mind so tempered. Miss More's letter to Mrs. Montague, prefixed to Lactilla's first publication, struck me with an air of superciliousness towards the Being she she patronized; and the pride of genius in adversity revolted. So, in a similar situation, would surly Samuel Johnson have spurned the hand that, after it had procured him the bounty of others, sought to dictate to him its use; and that resentment, which, in her, is universally execrated, would, coming down to us now as a record of his emerging talents, have been generally excused, and probably, with whatever little reason, admired. I should not wonder if this sudden reverse of public esteem should send this kindred spirit of the unfortunate Chatterton's to attend his manes in the dreary path of suicide.